Thursday, January 7, 2016

Back in Batticaloa

The bus from Giritale to Kadurawela was easy. I thought Kadurawela would come before Polonowurra but actually it is the commercial center of Polonowurra and the exact locality of the Polonowurra train station, which is where we caught the bus to Batticaloa. 

After the Mahaveli Oya (River) the transition to the east sped up. Through Manampitiya, Sewanipitiya, and finally Welikanda the transition to Tamil-language Sri Lanka was complete. We kept a lookout through the three towns east of the Mahaveli for a guesthouse. There are numerous tanks there I want to explore on foot, all within walking distance of the towns. It looks like easternmost Welikanda is the best bet. At least two guesthouses there will give us a good base once things dry up. It has been raining.

Back in Batticaloa Mr. Thavurajah told me that the day before it rained more, and harder, than he'd ever seen in his life. He's 75. The rain started at about. 9 AM and kept up for at least five hours. Our reunion was a happy one and I think Julia was favorably impressed by the warm greetings we received from everyone at the guesthouse. We are paying guests wherever we go but the feelings on our side and also from our hosts are sincere. 

A great walk to the beach, where I got to share ideas about beach development, sand deposition, and coral erosion with the best scientist I know (Julia) was followed by some luxurious pool time and dinner with fellow Fulbrighter Kim Kolor, who's working out here in Kattankudy, just south of where we're staying. No word from Jose, who separated from us a couple of days ago to work with his YMCA colleagues down south. I hope the experience is good for him because actually I had wanted to bring him east to experience one of the most socially ambitious Ys in Sri Lanka here in Batticaloa. 

If you read my earlier posts about Batticaloa you may remember that Mr. Thavurajah, my guesthouse host, was instrumental in developing the YMCA here, especially the school for hearing-impaired children connected to it. I brought a box of zometools out here as a gift and either this morning or tomorrow Thavurajah will take me to the school where I'll get a chance to introduce the kids to the amazing zometools. There's a lot of stress on teaching them "handwork" and I wonder how the zometools can help develop other cognitive activities. It's my understanding that profoundly deaf children like these have well-developed abilities in other realms. I've watched zometools open up so many learning modalities from all kinds of people in all kinds if settings. It will be fascinating to see how these kids respond. Not that I have any particular mission in mind. Just want to see how people interact with this amazing toy. 

The morning dawned bright with lots of roosters and canned music from the nearby kovil though as I write  The place we're staying ("Riviera Resort") is so comfortable and relaxing. And all around is the pulsing intensity of the community around us, the continued strange beauty of this place, and the living reality of thirty years of suffering people here have gone through. 

Batticaloa is such an "ahhhhh..." for me I've been playing with the idea of moving my Sri Lanka experience out in this direction for the interim or maybe even for the long term. Colombo is fine but I find myself less and less happy the longer I'm there. Moratuwa has tended to not use me that much and I've felt a waning  compunction to develop a program there. Janaka should be here on the 30th with his students to work with the RISD people (I set up the collaboration for him) and I'll have a better sense of how he wants to move forward. Putting myself in his shoes I consider how slightly weird it might have been for him to get "stuck" with me, a non-architect and someone who by Sri Lankan university standards should be retired. I'm sure there was no formalized letter of agreement with the Fulbright so I guess the way forward is as much in my hands as anything. The flexibility of the situation is something I'm coming to savor as I become more aware of my privileged position in the scheme of things here. 

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