Friday, July 11, 2008

Another Failed Attempt at Sinharaja

Wednesday Paolo, the new VSO volunteer at Sewa Finance, came to visit Sewalanka to check out the office and learn a bit more about Sewa Finance's sister organization. Jo-Anne and I took him out to the exciting (read sarcasm) bakery next door for lunch. He mentioned he was going to Deniyaya the next day and I felt compelled to mention that I'd been promised a trip to this now mythical town many times that never happened (o.k. I was whining). In fact a trip had been schedule at least once a month over the entire year I've been here (yes, more than 12 trips were scheduled). Every single trip canceled for unknown reasons.So Paolo, feeling adequately bad for me and my crazy place at Sewalanka, said I could come with him. He called his co-workers at Sewa Finance and they said it was o.k. Thus, yesterday, two weeks before I leave Sewalanka, I got my trip to Deniyaya.
Deniyaya is the town on the eastern side of Sinharaja -- the last of the primary rainforest left in Sri Lanka and a UNESCO site. It is very different from the western side, where there is actually a buffer zone of secondary forest for about a kilometer before you reach the actual park. On the Deniyaya side it is tea cultivation all the way to the park line.
Also, I'd like to note here, that the staff at Sewa Finance rock! They explained everything to us -- everything. They showed us the CBO books they were there to review. They introduced us to the CBO members and allowed us to ask questions. After the CBO members left they would say what decisions they made on the micr0-loans that were being sought and why. I've never, ever been provided so much unrequested, but desired information on a field trip. Usually it is like pulling teeth to get people to explain things to you.So clearly my issues have been related to Sewalanka and not to Sri Lankans in general.

That said, they still have the problem of not telling you things prior to doing it. At some point they decided we needed to go to Sinharaja even though they had a very long day planned. Yes, I went hoping to go into they park, but I also did not want to get in the way of their jobs. So we took the van, then a tuk and then we walked, trying to reach the park. We weren't told of the intention of going to the park until a tuk was hired. As we were walking the Sewa Finance guy got tired from our half-kilometer trek towards the park border and we turned around. Thwarted again!Still, I could see the forest at a distance and thus be happy it exists. It would have been nice to go in before I left Sri Lanka, but clearly it is not meant to be.

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