Down by the boardwalk

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June 30th 2012
Published: June 21st 2017
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Geo: 7.70483, 81.6771

This was my first experience of couch surfing on a social level, although I booked into my accommodation I then met up with Pushpa on the beach, who delighted me with meeting his family first of all before taking me round to his friends house for dinner then to the beach for beers with them all! I was invited into his home and introduced to his mother, sister and cousins and his mum makes me tea while we all sit in the hall. Although they do have a couch available if I need it, I'm already booked into hotel and he needs to leave tomorrow anyway for work so I thank him but opt to stay where I am. After tea we walk round to one of his friends houses and I meet a young Belgian guy that I had strangely enough met before in Tangalle in one of the restaurants… small world. He is staying with Pushpa's friend for a few weeks although he leaves in the morning, he was a lovely young guy and I can't believe I've met him again hundreds of miles away. It's an interesting night with drinks on the beach, one of his friends offered to show me around the village and his work the following day which I take him up on, which turns out to be a school nearby.

The beach here is really nice and even has a boardwalk on it, it is full of fishing boats of red, yellow, blues and greens all beautifully hand decorated making each one unique. There are many locals having picnics, flying kites, swimming or just paddling about with their ice creams in hand, no one bothers me here and I am free to just sit and chill out with the rest of them, there really is nothing like being alone on a beach, I absolutely love it. You're at peace with your own thoughts and at one with your senses, listening to the waves crashing in while breathing in the salt air and pouring sand through your fingers and toes, ahh…this really is my heaven. This is the first beach that I have sat so long on because no-one at all has hassled me, there's a nice young family sitting near me and the kids are in the sea while people stroll up and down chatting away, there are balloon and ice cream sellers
passing, and it's just like sitting on a beach at home.

I'm collected the following morning by motorbike and we head for breakfast before going out to the school, this which was a brilliant experience. Firstly I was taken round all the children's classes and as soon as they see me they're shy and full of the giggles, although immediately stand up to say good morning and it was a really touching experience, I feel like a VIP who has come to visit with all the teachers having a few words with me. Some classes sing to me and others practice their English conversationalist skills, several think I am a new teacher who has come but unfortunately I am not, although it's at times like this that I appreciate the gift teachers have, it must be such a rewarding job seeing first hand results of everyone's efforts.

The school is very much open plan, there are no windows or doors needed out here in the heat, I'm really surprised to see the school is full of bullet holes… the walls, ceilings and floors are full of them. It turns out that this area was one of the main trouble areas
when the Tamil Tiger's were still active in Sri Lanka and many, many suffered loss of family and friends in this area. And not only that this area was hugely affected by the Boxing Day Tsunami, everyone has been affected by death here, it's terrible to think of. Although I'm given a bit of a history lesson regarding Sri Lanka, I'm just extremely glad that the war is over and that it's now regarded as a safe country for tourist. Next Ben takes me to visit a family where some of the school kids helped build a water storage tank for nearby fairly remote villages, we end up talking to one of the families who have just had a brand new stand alone water pump put into their garden, they're delighted by it. We sit for a while and chat which once again is a real one off experience, I can't believe the welcome and hospitality that people show me, it can be quite overwhelming especially when you can see that they literally have nothing.

It's been a real educational visit to Batticaloa, there has been too much sadness in this place between the fighting and the tsunami that I find
their efforts to rebuild their homes and lives second to none. The tsunami badly affected this area, with much of the front line never being built on since – you can still see the shells of houses and the sorrow in people's eyes, it just makes you think and put things into perspective.

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