Monday, March 31, 2008

My Adventures Out East -- Part II

So after the fun and excitement of the weekend in Arugambay the rest of the week may be a bit of a let down. I worked on a proposal with Dawn both Monday and Tuesday. Luckily we stayed in A'bay, so I got to eat very good food, but it was a bummer to be inside instead of swimming. Monday we wrote most of what we needed to make the Tuesday COB deadline. Then Dawn woke up Tuesday, opened her computer and POOF, nothing was there. I'm not just talking about the last few edits... I mean everything we did the day before. Her computer seemed to completely forget it was even turned on on Monday. I checked everywhere. So we did it all over again on Tuesday. Luckily we both got a good night's sleep because we both felt it was a better proposal the second time around even though it was totally tiring to get it in on time (we were nine minutes late, actually, but apparently it all worked out).My reward for this hard work: shrimp fishing. The lagoon behind the Ampara Coastal Office was swarming with people fishing for shrimp. Many of you already know how I feel about trawling for bottom dwellers, but they do it much more sustainably here. First, they light a lantern, which attracts the shrimp to the surface (they are basically just sea bugs) and then they net them. Very cool. I spent about an hour with my tripod working to get a good shot. Unfortunately, I needed a long shutter speed and the fisherman kept moving! How dare they actually try to do their jobs while I'm taking pictures.
Wednesday I was shipped up to Ampara Inland Office. Despite them having no prior knowledge of my visit, they managed to get me out to see a project. Again, I found myself following a film crew. This time from Oxfam. I have to say, their film crew was far more professional than the Germans -- when they were about to film they actually yelled out for people to be quiet rather than just expect us to know when the camera is on.Unfortunately, one of the directors was starting to get on my nerves. They were all lovely people, but she kept going on and on about how America brought plastic bags to India (the film crew was from India) and how America was using all the water in India to make Coca-Cola, etc. I don't mind so much when people complain about my country because, frankly, there is a lot to complain about, but it seemed to me that a lot of the problems she was bringing up weren't just America's fault (and for those of you who are in North and South America I would like to point out that she used the word "America," but I'm pretty sure she meant the U.S.). As far as I know most plastic bags are actually made in China. I'm not really sure you can blame the U.S. on plastic bag usage in India -- what you use to carry groceries is a choice (thought I would hope you would choose to avoid the plastic). Coca-Cola is headquartered in the U.S., but it is India's politicians who have granted them water rights. Also, Coca-Cola made in India is consumed in India. They don't ship this stuff around -- they use local water sources for all their products. I just think it is a little too easy to blame these things on the U.S. I don't mind taking the blame when it is our fault, but you have to take some personal responsibility too. Anyway, the project they were filming was a micro-finance project with a women's group who pooled their money and bought a rice dehusker. They buy the raw rice for 30 rupees per kg and sell the processed for 70 rupees per kg. Not a bad profit.The next day I was shipped up to Batticoloa, where I sat in a hotel until it was time for my photography workshop. Then the photography workshop took only three hours. I was expecting it to take all day because 1) it was being translated, and 2) these concepts are sort of difficult and I expected a lot of questions. The translator gave up after an hour and I think everyone was just struggling to understand something and thus couldn't even begin to develop their thoughts into questions. For future workshops I've sent the text of my presentations out ahead of time for the translators to get used to the language. Not that it really matters, I don't think there is a translation for f-stop or ISO. Oh yeah and there was only one camera for all eight participants, so we couldn't actually practice.On the way home we stopped at a famous beach. Not sure how famous it is, but Manju Sri (Buddhist Monk) thought it would be a good idea. I have never, ever before seen so much dead coral on a beach.


jimbo said...

Is that some kind of funky Sri Lankan cuckoo?

Jessica L. said...

It is a Greater Coucal -- pretty common bird, but I've only seen them twice. I think they are scary looking -- like a crazy crow!