All entries for February 2006

February 21, 2006

Sri Lanka

We leave for Sri Lanka at 10am on Sunday morning. I can't believe we are leaving so soon. I have spent the past week locked in a room with ten lovely people, to devise a piece of theatre related to Tsunami: The Politics of Aid. We have brainstormed ideas, emotions, snapped at each other's throats…

I mean't to post the above paragraph over a week ago. I get back from Sri Lanka just after 5am yesterday morning and collapsed into bed.

It felt strange coming home. It was as though we'd been away for months, but I simultaneously felt as though the travelling had been cut short. We did so much in 7 days, more than I imagined we could have done, and the trip was a wonderful balance of creativity and travel. We managed to drive through a quarter of Sri Lanka in under three days and somehow pulled off our play, which went down very well with the ISTA festival crowd.

One of the most moving moments of the week was driving along the south coast of Sri Lanka, along many of the beaches which had been utterly devistated by the Tsunami. There was still much to be rebuilt. We stopped at one particular beach to see a temple which had survived the impact of the tsunami and remained the only unscathed building along the shoreline for miles. It was a miracle of sorts, to be hit by a 15 metre wave and not shed a brick. We took a look inside the temple and saw how the painted celing was unmarked but for a few saltlines.

We had spent the past two weeks locked in Union North researching the Tsunami – survivor stories, press conferences, aid organisations, politics, poems, songs, pictures of the devistation, discussions between ourselves about how should depict all of this information – but I think being on the beach and seeing the temple was the first time that the reality of the Tsunami hit us.

Having researched how much aid, how many millions of pounds had been pumped into the country, it was sad to see that the rebuilt shacks were no better than what they'd been before. It was sad to still see wrecked buildings with messages scrawled on the side asking for assistance for people trying to rebuild their homes.

The rest of the trip look us along most of the south coast, Hikaduwa beach being one of the highlights. We did body boarding and poy on the beach. Some o the local guys also brought out some firesticks and to our surprise Karl turned out to be a genius with fire. From the beach we drove to Yala national park and then inland towards Nureliya, the tea county. Miles and miles of tea fields later, we found ourselves on white water rafts, heading down the river where 'Bridge over the River Kwai' was filmed. A picture gallery will be uploaded as soon as people get their snapshots to me.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country. The scenery and landscape is one of exceptional vibrance and, strangely, even the shanty towns scattered amonth the trees had an aesthetic quality to them. I was secretly gutted that I hadn't taken a camera with me, however wrong it seems to take visual pleasure from another's life of poverty. The Sri Lankan people were friendly too, on the whole. They were intrigued by our white skin and loved to stare/smile/wave at us, very keen to have photos taken. They were eager to know what we though of Sri Lanka and we happy to hear that we were in love with their homeland. The only trouble we ran into was with a couple of trishaw (motorised rickshaw) drivers who tried to drastically overcharge us. Trishaws are a lot of fun, weaving through the traffic, honking at each other, and really up for racing :)

The festival was great too. Stressful – we were told that we had to do tech and rigging ourselves but we roped in some ISTA festival kids to help out. There was a wonderful moment for me in the dress rehearsal when, for the first time, I thought with confidence this show is actually going to work, and it did.

So, overall I'm glad that I did this. It was a trip that was productive and amazing fun. This blog entry is probably really jumbled, but hey, I'm jet lagged and a little fuzzy and thinking about how I'm going to catch up with the mountain of work I've built up for myself! Watch this space for pictures and more thoughts/memories as they come.

February 2006

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