As I sit here in the main lobby of the St. Andrews Hotel in Newara Eliya, I decided to reflect on my recent life and times out here in Sri Lanka. I suppose I will start with the most recent of development. I am in a very rural town called Newara Eliya which is in the heart of tea country. There are literally tea plantations for as far as the eye can see. I could take a short stroll and pick my own tea leaves. It is really quite amazing. The thing about these plantations that I didn’t expect was that they are all on hills. There is nothing flat about the terrain that is surrounding these areas. It must be very difficult for the tea pluckers to do their work. I can hardly imagine having a bag tied to my forehead all day as I walk up and down steep hills plucking tea leaves. It seems like quite a difficult life indeed.
The land here is really truly beautiful though. The hills are rolling and covered with all kinds of greenery. The area is known as little England mostly because of the weather. It was cloudy all day long and it rained cats and dogs for about 1 hour this afternoon. There was also a heavy fog kicking around that really slowed the driving we were doing down. We would not have been hauling butt one way or the other because the road we were on was in such disrepair. The funny thing is that the road was on the way to one of the more exclusive hotels in the area. The hotel is situated on a functioning tea estate and is aptly named the Tea Factory. It was a nice place but for some odd reason it was totally booked and the only rooms available were deluxe rooms which were total rip offs. It is a shame really since the place was quite a ways off the beaten path. All worked out well though. We came back in to town and wound up at the aforementioned St. Andrews. This place is rather nice as it was once a tea grower’s club. This is a nice enough venue. The price is right and supposedly the food is outstanding. I am anxious to find out.
We are out in the country doing some school visits. We are very encouraged by the things that we see. I think that our work here is really going to make a significant difference in the lives of the children of Sri Lanka. I say this because we walked in on one of the provincial master trainers we had a week ago in our workshop. He was training teachers how to use PowerPoint and they were just clicking away with lessons that they would use in their classrooms. This is very good news and I am looking forward to the work we are doing getting down to the level of the teachers themselves. In general schools are taking initiative in the development of CAL materials and they are also making an effort to raise funds to buy equipment themselves. The people out here are really making what they have count. They are not sitting around complaining about the things they don’t have. Instead they are taking the resources that are currently available and using them to the very best of their abilities.
At the end of last week I went to Kandy, the old hill kingdom of the Sri Lankan kings. We had a great time out there. The country out there is also very hilly but it is not as lush as my current location. Kandy is a nice city but it is not well taken care of. The Tooth of Buddah, one of the most significant Buddhist relics in the world, is housed in Kandy but the city around it takes much away from the significance of the temple and the relic within. What I mean is there is so much pollution and trash strewn about that you really loose the joy that could envelop the entire experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very nice with century old hotels and a nice lake in the immediate vicinity but it could be much better.
When I took a walk along the lake I was exposed to the same old panhandlers who bugged the heck out of you. One was really getting on my nerves so I talked to him in Spanish. To my surprise, he talked right back! I was taken completely by surprise but I got it together and got rid of him. Seeing the beauty and yet desperate situations around Kandy lake made me so thankful for my own circumstances and for my life in general. It is just amazing to think that I could easily have been born in a different country under different circumstances and lived a very different life. For that matter I could have made different choices in my own life and wound up with dramatically different results. You really can’t place a value on your own life.
Both of the hotels we stayed in were very nice. They were blessed with little imperfections but noting major. The price was definitely right at both locations and the hotels were rather charming. Each was set in a place that was at least a century old. They were quite nice indeed. Town was very nice overall. I mentioned the sites which were nice and we also had some very nice meals. The quality of the shrimp we had at a local Chinese restaurant was the best Gary said he has ever had. This is saying quite a bit since Gary has eaten shrimp in many different places all over the world. I was glad to be part of his best situation. The food at the St. Anthony’s was also immaculate. They had a set menu that included a good variety of fine cuisine. All in all this was a wonderful trip and I really relished the opportunity to get out and see the rest of the country. I look forward to further opportunities to get out and experience the real Sri Lanka.