Elephants and Stick Fishermen

January 11, 2008

 TomWe were up to shower and have breakfast at 5am.  A Fulbright driver in a Toyota Land Cruiser picked us up at 6am and we started down the Galle Road toward Matara.  I was instructed to sit up front because it makes it easier to get through the security check points with an American in view.  The road follows the southwest coast of the island and the further south you go the better the views and beaches.  We passed many temples (Buddhist) and kovils (Hindu) on our route.  Other interesting sites included a work elephant and his handler ahead of us in our lane, about 30 men pulling a huge fishing net into shore, and stick fishermen.  The stick fishermen have several poles that they place in a line out to sea.  The closest is short because the water is shallow the furthest is long because it is in the deepest water.  As the tide changes, the stick fisherman moves to the next pole with his fishing pole.


We were right on-time for our 11am meeting with theVice Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna, Chair of the Physical Education Department and faculty representative to the Sport Council.  I explained the Fulbright process, gave them a synopsis of my background and then answered their questions.  After ending the meeting with some tea and cake, we were given a tour of facilities and then I was shown a PowerPoint presentation related to a course they were developing.


I was surprised to learn that they had just started a new course titled Physical Fitness and Health Management (FSC3242).  It is an elective but they had so much interest that they had to limit enrollment to 200.  The course is divided into two sections, 15 hours of theory (mass lecture for entire group) and 30 hours of practical sessions (in subgroups of about 30).  The theory part was taught by visiting instructors from Colombo.  The practical sessions, taught by the department, include some weight training and then the student chooses one of three games: volleyball, net ball, or badminton.  The rest of the physical education program is really recreational sport – they have inter-faculty (intramurals) and inter-university competitions (athletics). 


Returning to the Vice Chancellor’s office we agreed that I could help Ruhuna instructors both revise and teach the theory part of the course as well as provide ideas for reorganization.  The Vice Chancellor took us for a fish lunch at a small rebuilt restaurant on the Matara beach, one of the beaches that took the full brunt of the 2004 tsunami.  I agreed to move to Matara and provide professional assistance for at least 3-4 weeks.    


On the way back to Colombo we stopped to have coffee with a Fulbright couple in Galle.  They have not been happy campers and are trying to get approval to leave the country early.  They complained about bugs, dirt, heat, humidity, no hot water, power outages, little cooperation, and a feeling of isolation.  We brought them a bottle of wine – a temporary fix!  On the way back, Ranjan called to say that he would pick us up at ten the following morning and that we could then use his car and driver to go shopping.  Got back to Colombo at 8pm and learned that a bomb had just gone off at the train station.


Helen – The drive was horrific but the scenery beautiful.  Getting out of the city on a working morning was so bad I just laid down on the back seat and listened peeking out of the window.  I thought that I had seen everything in the streets (cows, dogs, jaywalkers, carts) until I spotted this huge elephant in front of us in our lane going with the traffic.  Of course, he was going to work at the lumber yard where he moves the large tree trunks.  We drove through the area where the tsunami hit and you could still see so much of the destruction though rebuilding was evident.  We saw three antique shops but they were closed…they looked awesome with lots of structural pieces outside.  After about three hours we stopped at Galle for tea.  We drove into the fort area which is a small city in itself with shops and hotels…looked over the point at the clear blue water and tried to get some tea here but it was too early so continued a little further before stopping at a neat outdoor restaurant with a breakfast buffet.  It wasn’t anything we knew and so we only had tea.  Just before reaching our destination we stopped at a little roadside lace factory (two women).  I bought a couple of pieces but didn’t bargain because one woman was telling the driver she lost three sons in the tsunami.


The university was nice.  Looks modern with what are considered new buildings (though when you see the restroom you wouldn’t think so!).  The gymnasium is large but was being used for student testing at the moment.  The director said that it is the only room large enough on the campus to accommodate the students for testing and sometimes they lose its use for three months, once for 6 months.  He complains but nothing changes. 


They were not ready for us and will be looking for living accommodations this week…the city isn’t as small as I thought but the university is a little outside of town.  This is the best beach area and I don’t think it is far from campus.      

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