microa on Mar 23rd 2010
It’s funny how once you fix one thing in your house it can spur a host of other home-improvement projects. When we started to install the doors and windows in the Nagakanni home—the second project in Batticaloa—the family tidied up the inside of the house; mended and straightened the fence surrounding the property, and used one of the old corrugated metal doors as a new gate; cleaned the rubble from the yard; and put potted plants around the perimeter. Pride of home ownership, I guess.
At both project sites it was nice to see neighbors stopping by to see the work, but also just to hang out in a complete, sunny household.
One note about the fence-mending at the Nagakanni’s: he was using barbed wire purloined from the big empty lot next door leading to the beach. He made it clear that during the war, before and after the tsunami, the area was a fortified military zone. Batticaloa was the Tamil Tiger base and gateway to rebel-held territory to the north. “New York Times” articles saying how beautiful the beaches are out here on the east coast and “National Geographic” ranking Sri Lanka as the second most desirable travel destination in the world not withstanding, some people may avoid visiting an area where the paths leading to those spectacular beaches are lined with barbed wire and there are signs warning of the danger of being blown up by land mines if you stray off them. Another thing that just might deter the average tourist from visiting right at this moment is the fact that the government just imprisoned a presidential candidate—because he ran against to the incumbent—and is now charging him with treason, and may eventually put him to death. Not that there is a sense of danger in general, but there is an inkling of instability and portent under the surface.
I’m back in Hambantota now, where we are fabricating the windows and doors for the Soodin house. On the drive back through the jungle the other evening—which for some reason took twice as long as the drive in the opposite direction—we saw so many elephants grazing by the side of the road, I had to tell the driver to stop pulling over to position the headlights to illuminate them. At some point, I was so tired of being in the car that I just wanted to get back to my room in Hambantota, and no number of baby elephants chewing on leaves, or tusked bulls shredding branches from trees twenty feet from the vehicle, could divert my attention.
Now that I am back in this town, I realize I haven’t seen another westerner since I left Colombo seven weeks ago—anywhere. A couple of Japanese tourists, the odd Chinese worker from the ports project nearby, but that’s it. No wonder I’m such an oddity to the locals—they don’t see many of us. And certainly not walking around in the heat, up and down the alleys, wearing a broad brimmed hat—always with a smile and a “Hello,” “I am fine,” “I’m from the US.A.” and “This way” in response to people staring at me and saying, “Hello,” “How ah you?” “Whar you from?” and “Whar you going?” You know people are taking a special interest when, the other day, I was walking along the main drag and some guy come out of the shadow of his shop and says, “You shave.” Dude’s been monitoring the length of my stubble!
The last MicroAid project here: The other day I had a meeting at the Women’s Development Federation to fund the scholarships for the two tsunami orphans. It was really heartfelt as the girls’ guardians brought them to express gratitude and sign the forms, and everyone applauded as I handed them their passbooks. This fantastic program sets up a bank account for the girls on which their guardians can draw—for specific educational needs only—and it is closely monitored. You can get details in the new “Completed Projects & Update” section by clicking on that tab in the banner above. In the future, we will have a hot-button from the main MicroAid website to access this area.
So we are nearly there, almost all MicroAid project accomplished: two house completions in Batti, two tsunami orphans education funded, and a new house for the Soodins. That should just about do it for this trip, and our budget. But it’s not over yet—I had to extend for two more weeks ‘til April 12—to oversee the house construction—so stay tuned.
Regards from Sri Lanka,
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