Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Fabulous Expat/Friend of Dawn Weekend

I've decided to update you on what I did while away from the net over several days of posts. Today is what I wrote last Monday about the weekend...So we just had a four-day weekend – Mohammad’s birthday and a Poya combined with a Saturday and Sunday. I was supposed to go to India for that responsible tourism conference (yes, I’m still bitter), but since that didn’t work out I’m now in A’bay. I’m writing this as I sit facing the wonderful Indian Ocean (though it won’t be posted for a few days as I have no internet connection).

I didn’t come to A’bay because I suddenly felt wealthy and needed to travel.
No, Dawn, the American in Ampara, decided we all needed a long weekend of fun and relaxation. When I say “we all” I mean basically every youngish expat in the country and a few locals from the east coast thrown in for good measure.

It is really amazing how many people Dawn knows.
I don’t think I could bring together this many people in the States. It was an interesting mix of various European and U.S. aid organizations, the U.N., and Sewalanka. Yes, this means we were the poorest among the troops, but we were set up in the cheapest hotel so it was o.k.

Despite being fabulously rich in a lower-middle income country, everyone was pretty nice. Dawn hoped the weekend would spur some tourism over here as there haven’t been any guests in the hotels for two months. She arranged a discount on the tours so we could enjoy them and then rave when we returned home. She scheduled a bonfire and drumming on the beach so we’d have something to do in the evenings. She planned dinners at the various restaurants so that everyone would benefit from all the tourists. She even painted 100 easter eggs and organized an Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday. It was pretty incredible.

Yes, this means I finally went on a CEGA tour. These tours are part of my portfolio here and it is frankly incredibly sad that I haven’t been on one yet, but that fact does speak volumes about my role here. This isn’t from my lack of trying -- it is a time and laziness issue on behalf of my coworkers. Anyway, I did the Buddhist Cave tour and the Lagoon tour. The guide got lost on the Buddhist cave tour and we ended up in the car for four hours! This wasn't so awful for me because we go t a little wildlife tour on the side.

For the lagoon tour the guide was on the other boat and then he got into a huge argument after the tour with the fishermen’s society in regards to their payment. Other than those incidents, they were nice tours. I am supposed to have a meeting with everyone later today to settle what the prices should be and to determine some steps to strengthen the tours and make them better. If you are coming this way, I highly recommend the lagoon tour.

So what wildlife have I seen? Well, I have seen several crocodiles up-close and in-person. I saw a few elephants, including one that was pregnant. I saw spotted-billed pelicans on the lagoon tour – maybe one hundred of these incredible, endangered species. Of course, we saw some black-faced languers. Oh and some dogs and crows thrown in for good measure. Highlights include seeing a family of wild boar (I haven’t seen boar in Sri Lanka before) and some painted storks, which are always nice to see because they are so beautiful.

But mostly I’ve just been enjoying the beach. The water isn’t too rough right now, which is good for me for swimming, but bad for surfers. The temperature has been very nice and it hasn’t rained once, even though they had flooding just last week.Barbara and I took a walk around town yesterday. Clearly I am the right person to teach a photography workshop as I have been overexposing all my photos for the past several days. Apparently at some point I switched my settings from aperture priority to completely manual, which means I should have been changing the shutter speed. Yep, I'll make a great photography teacher.

Now I’m here in the east awaiting my photography workshop in Batti on Friday. It would be stupid to go home and then return in less then a week, but without internet I feel a bit disabled. I had to go into Potuvil today to use an internet cafĂ© to edit an HIV proposal for the Global Fund. That was fun – always like editing with five men standing around staring. Oh and that little excursion cost me 800 ruppees (a little less than $8)! Five hundred just for the internet use. That is highway robbery my friends.

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