A Travellerspoint blog


32 °C

Maybe it's because my grandfather was a teacher. Or maybe its because it's that I spent my first several years of school at an unconventional school. Either way, I've always thought that homeschooling was a rather foolish idea (sorry homeschoolers).

During Kaito's afternoon naps Audrey and I have been taking the two older Ines and working on their reading, writing and math. The kids have been doing a little writing everyday often in the form of a blog entry and practicing their times tables, and addition/subtraction every day. We also try to find fun practical science experiments to do, like figuring out what sinks and what floats in the sink and where all the garbage goes. Our most successful science project so far was measuring the water bottles to fine the least wasteful way to consume our bottled water. When one of the kids asked how many small 500mL bottles it took to make one large 5L bottle Audrey seized the learning opportunity. We did some calculations, the scrounged up an assortment if 500mL, 1.5L and 5L bottles. The first step was to check if the calculations were correct (yes indeed, 10x 500mL=5L) using water from the pool. Lacking a calibrated scale, we weighed the bottles against each other using a balance scale made of an aluminum tent pole and dental floss.

Weighs just a little bit more..

That's pretty close to equal given the accuracy of our scale

The results were actually a little surprising: the least wasteful way is actually to consume the water from 1.5L bottles followed very closely 5L.  Science actually can be fun and interesting. Funny how we all can learn something with a bit of time, curiosity, a tent pole, dental floss and some garbage. Our next project is to figure out where the garbage all goes.

Posted by McNouye 08:54 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged water bottles family_travel mirissa garbage Comments (4)

Life of Tina

32 °C

This is my friend Tina and her husband.
OK, so she's not really my friend, she is a shopkeeper with a shop between our hotel and the beach. We walk past her about a dozen times a day, going back and forth from the hotel and we have built up a bit of a rapport with her the last few days. Today we bought a couple of kids t-shirts from her and I took the opportunity to chat and find out a little more about what life as a small shopkeeper is like.

Kovalam beach is on almost on the south tip of India and it is a nice little place with many international tourists at this time of year. People flock here from the rich northern climates, cook themselves in the sun and enjoy the delicious south Indian food. The crowd here is definitely older; there are very few backpackers or families. Most of the things purchased are small, cheap gifts for people to take back to their loved ones.

Tina and her husband have a little shop is just off the beach side sidewalk. In all of our walks past I have never seen another person looking in her shop, let alone buying anything. For that matter, I haven't seen anyone buying anything from any of the half dozen shops on her strip. There are shopkeepers hanging around, talking to each other, chatting with our kids and tidying things up, but none of them seem to be making any sales.

We spent $10 on two kids shirts. I know I overpaid a little, but its really hard to put much effort into haggling over a $5 shirt with a nice woman who greets your kids by name several times a day. She also has three daughters the same ages as our boys, and another baby on the way.

Their rent is $3500/yr (about $10/day) for the shop where she signs an annual lease. She has inventory to pay for and a little electricity too, (though the lights and fan are off until you enter the shop). This is high season and I can't imagine she is averaging over $50/day in sales. If I had to guess, I would say $30 might be more accurate and January, February and March is high season. Hotel prices drop to about 20% of their current prices in June to September so one can only imagine how quiet it is here then. She told me that this year has been particularly hard as the low Russian ruble has curtailed the Russian tourists who have been frequenting the area the last few years.

Let's say she is making $50/day now. After expenses she is making more like $30. If you guess that she is actually pulling in $30/day that comes closer to $15/day. Again, this is high season; make hay while the sun shines.

Maybe she is lying to me about her rent. Maybe my guesstimate of her income is totally wrong and she is actually pulling in $100 a day. But most likely, this entrepreneur and her husband are just barely scraping by with their little shop, just off the beach in Kovalam.

Posted by McNouye 08:53 Archived in India Tagged kovalam family_travel Comments (4)

Thumbe School: An interview with Taro and Kiyoshi

sunny 30 °C

KIDS:  I liked the dancers  because they wore cool costumes and did cool cool dances. 

KIDS:  They talked to m a lot.  They all wanted to talk to me at the same time.  They spoke in both English and Sinhala.

KIDS: What is my name?  How old am I?

KIDS: They did dancing, singing, drumming, and a parade.

KIDS:  Most of the kids wore only flip flops.  Some kids had bare feet.  Thank you for making Christmas cards.  They really appreciated it.  They needed it a lot, more than us.  They don't have a lot of things at their school.  They like them a whole bunch.  It was a great day. 

KIDS: Some had no shoes.  They don't have a lot of money to buy things the children need.  They needed things because they don't have a lot of stuff.  The schools don't get enough money. 

- the students were nicer than at our schools
- the students wore uniforms
- the classrooms were like little tiny huts
- there is no field in the school yard
- the chairs are different
- many of the desks were broken
- there were not enough desks for 160 students
- there were only about 10 desks in each classroom
- no smartboard or computers, only a blackboard
- no pictures or posters on the walls
- the playground was smaller and he play structures were old
- no shelves, no toys no books in classrooms

Posted by McNouye 08:51 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (2)

A big thank you to UKFG and Thumbe School!

sunny 30 °C

When my British cousin Rob mentioned that his son donated money to a school in Sri Lanka through an organization called United Kingdom Friends of Galle (UKFG), I thought that would be a great project for us too.  We could donate a few hundred dollars and in exchange, the boys would learn about fundraising, philanthropy and get to see a rural school in Sri Lanka country. 

Taro (9 years) did a bake sale and Kiyoshi (7 years) made Christmas cards.  Other major contributors were the Grades 1 and 2 classes at McKernan with special help from Mme. Lewis and Mme. Rosa.   These two classrooms made over 150 creative and colourful cards and raised over $350 at the McKernan Christmas concert. Well done!  Their contribution alone raised enough money to buy a pencil case filled with school supplies for each of the 160 students!  In addition, with generous donations from our friends and family, we raised over $1000 to buy a new pair of shoes for each of the students.  A later donation will be used to buy a printer, scanner, and USB stick.   


To set the stage here, the rural schools in Sri Lanka operate with very little money.  Thumbe school is a lovely and well maintained school, but the classrooms are not well resourced.  The students who attend the school also have very little money.   An $8 pair of shoes is a bargain to us but is very difficult to afford if you make less than $10/day.  Can you imagine spending your day's income so one of your children could wear shoes to school? 


Our small gift to Thumbe school paled in comparison to what the school gave to us.  We simply hoped that we could see the classrooms and meet the students but what we got was so much more.  We drove an hour outside of Matara city through lush green forest, palm trees, hills and streams to where all the students dressed in sparkly regalia awaited to parade us with a colourful Sri Lankan dance up the laneway to the school.  This was followed by a Sri Lankan feast with too many delicious dishes to even count along with a sweet cup of ginger tea. This epic event was attended by Mr. Gamage the founder of UKFG, the principal, teachers, and even some local school directors.


After all this, the main event was still yet to come!  Each of the classrooms performed entertaining dances and songs as you will see from the photos.  This is a group of very very talented young people!  We were completely overwhelmed with their warmth and kindness and the amount of work that went into our very special day.  We got so much more than we ever could have expected. 


This event would not have been possible without Devsiri and Mr. Gamage from UKFG.  I'm sure we have no idea the countless hours of work that happened behind the scenes to organize all of this for us.  The performance that the school put on was a very special gift.  THANK YOU to the teachers and students for all of your hard work.  You gave us so much more than our small gift to you.

Click on this link to see our slide show!


Posted by McNouye 08:50 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (5)

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