I became a little lazy about blogging during the last three sessions, and I’m sorry because re-reading my old entries makes me realise how valuable it is to record events when they are fresh in your mind. This and the next three entries are late, and will be briefer because of it (perhaps a good thing), but I’m going to try to ensure I never write in retrospect again!
If you would like to view just the workshop report, click here.
Kamal was on time this morning, and we were ten minutes late. We set off into the cold, grey morning (so unusual for dry and dusty Vavuniya) and I couldn’t help but muse on how different it has started to look. So much more green, so much more rain, and so much more COLD. It’s beginning to look a lot more like the wet zone, and I don’t feel like I am so far up north any more. And somehow the tight-lipped wildness has disappeared, to be replaced by a kind of briefly-sumptuous expansiveness.
We got to Kakkaiyankulam pretty much on time, but there was only one little boy in the sodden school playground. As they trickled in, they confessed to us that they’d thought it was still 6am because of the gloomy grey sky – and I’m embarrassed to say it never occurred to me to think they might not have alarm clocks! Although I confess that poverty in Sri Lanka is a little inexplicable to me – my little friend Gowry uses what I’m assuming is the family mobile phone quite liberally, and I wonder how they have the money for that, so I’m always ready to be surprised at what these families do and do not have.
Fathima, Sabiba, and a few others who lived close by wandered in, and offered us bubblegum and murukku to eat while we waited for Kamal to drive around the village and pick up the other children. Apparently, Farvin’s mother had told her she couldn’t go for the workshop in this rain, but she had cried and her mother had let her go. Hassa, meanwhile, was late because her mother was dressing her to come. Somehow, these snippets of information, filtered to me through Irfadha’s translations, were very heartening.
After many stops and starts to pick up all the little participants, we were on our way. Farvin seemed to be uncomfortable during the drive, and put her head down to sleep. Unfortunately this didn’t help her at all, and quite suddenly she was miserably screwing up her face. We tried to open a window, but it was too late. She threw up on the floor of the van. I am so indescribably thankful to have had Irfadha and Minky at this point, and that Kamal is such an understanding driver – I don’t know who did what, but somehow the van was stopped, all the children bundled out, Farvin’s face and hands washed, the van carpet cleaned, and all the children bundled back in to the van, and we were hurtling down the dirt road again, before I quite realised it. I know that if I’d been alone I would have been a lot more incompetent and a lot more frustrated. Irfadha often tells me that she admires what I’m doing (and oh how nice it is to hear a friend being so warmly supportive), and Minks declares she is here for the Vavuniya food, but the truth is that I wish they could accompany me every week – they’re both so instinctive when it comes to children, but in two completely different ways. It’s fun to watch how the children have taken to them!
The children began to get restless, and got louder and louder over the course of the ride, which stopped quite abruptly when we got to the bridge to Chiraddikulam, and realised that the river, tamely flowing under just the day before, was pouring over it with such force that I was startled. After sternly telling all the children not to dare to get out of the van, I went down to inspect it with Minky and Irfadha, and called Major Edirisinghe. I’d called Lieutenant Kodituwakku previously, and he hadn’t told me anything about an overflowing river, and I felt frustration creep over me again. Turns out Lt Kodituwakku wasn’t even in the area, he was somewhere else on training, and Major Edirisinghe had just gotten back from Colombo, or wherever he’d come from. Irfadha and Minky were a lot more stoic and sensible, and we finally agreed that there was no point risking anybody’s life for the sake of a small workshop. So we did the only thing we could do – we turned back and went back to Kakkaiyankulam. The children, cooped up for almost two hours, began to get incredibly naughty, but I really couldn’t blame them.
Once back in Kakkaiyankulam, we played a few games because the children like them, and I gave them two buns and two juice boxes each – there was no point in keeping them! We played an indoor game of Fruit Bowl, and a bit of a slippery game of Dog and the Bone (or “kambu vilaiyaatu” – Stick Game – as the children called it), before coming to a rather fizzled out end. I won’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed, but felt that the postponement must mean that the Right Time was yet to come. We got back to Thai Hotel, had lunch, and set off for the station.
Since this was a holiday weekend, 2nd class tickets had been completely sold out – Mr Premadasa was only able to get us three tickets in third class. It really wasn’t bad, though, for Rs. 350! I admit I was a little more stiff at the end of the journey than when I travel in second class, and there were definitely a lot more people crowding up the aisles, but all in all, it was pretty good. We bought way too much food the day before at Cargills, however, and I felt uncomfortably full after snacking on manioc chips, biscuits, and juice, when I got off the train at Fort. I think I see a recurring theme.
All in all, despite the fact that we came to a disappointing end, I am grateful for many things – the presence of Minks and Irfadha this weekend, having a network of people in V-town (Kamal, Mr P, and more!), and for my incredible set of kids.