Saturday, May 21, 2005

Batty in Batticaloa

It turns out that not only is there an internet cafe in Batticaloa, but the computer is a lot faster than the ones in Colombo! Probably has to do with all those NGOers writing home.

After traveling through the beautiful and surprisingly congested (trafficwise) area just outside of Colombo, and after skirting by the jungle and the mountains of central Sri Lanka, we emerged into the eerily quiet and war-ravaged areas of the east. We didn't quite know what to make of it, with army camps every few miles and frequent roadblocks. What we found out was that these camps were for the Sri Lankan government and not the separatist army of the north. Because it's a contested area, it's clearly not kept up as well as other parts of the country -- the roads were deplorable and the surroundings quite impoverished.

All this made us realize that even prior to the tsunami, this area surrounding Batticaloa was already struggling. You would think this would leave people feeling defeated or hopeless. Yet, we have seen some of the most beautiful smiles on people here. Our friend, Ajayan, took us to an orphanage last night where we were entertained by some of the happiest kids we've met ... anywhere.

This morning we were privileged enough to witness the launching of the first fishing boat to re-enter the water since the tsunami struck close to six months ago. The bravery of those men, who had lost four of their co-workers (along with countless family members and friends), was inspiring to see. The catch was not large because the season has not yet begun, but the men were not discouraged. Rather, there was an air of excitement and achievement. It's these sorts of local efforts that we are encouraged to see and hope to support.

Alex can't believe he has to leave the continent in order for the Cubs to put on a winning streak.
Kiran is reminded of how exhausting equatorial heat can be.
Wildlife update: Alex found a rather large frog on the toilet this morning.
We've found that mosquito nets provide a better sleep.
Alex is worried that we've given NGOs a bad name; they do great work, but it can't end there.
Kiran had her singing debut last night at the Orphanage. "Hard Times," of course.
We are both loving the Indian rice and curry meal, which generally serves as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The landscape in the tsunami-hit areas is dramatic, to say the least. Whole homes wiped away with only the wells remaining. It's almost impossible to comprehend what took place here. Again, the fact that those fishermen were willing to launch their boat just in front of the ruined homes is testimony to the hope that we can all have.

We've learned to play it by ear and will be doing so in the days to come. It turns out there's a huge Buddhist holiday this coming Monday and Tuesday, so everything will be closed up. We may be able to meet with some people during that time, but we'll have to see.

Talk to you soon,

K and A in S L


At 10:27 AM, Blogger Mary Beth said...

Praying, praying, praying...

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Aunt Alison said...

Hi K & A,
I love picturing you in the setting--heat, mosquitoes, frogs...! What kind of bird life are you seeing? I remember the bright green--noisy!-- budgies flocking to the trees to roost each night outside our flat in Vaddukodai.
How is the photo and video documentation coming? Be diligent! It will be wonderful to have pictures to put with your stories.

Love and hugs,

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Peg said...

Dear Kiran and Alex,
The kids in Sunday School tomorrow will love the story of the frog on the toilet! :) We continue to pray for your safety and for eyes open to see the needs and for wisdom to know how we can help. I'm picturing the faces of the children in the orphanage! I look forward to your new postings. God bless you!
Keith, Peg and Mere

At 4:11 AM, Blogger Sloane said...

I noticed mention of photo and video documentation... if ya'll need help with any kind of post production editing or whatever (Photoshop, making DVDs, compiling it all into a movie), let me know. Ya'll may be alumni and not living in Princeton any more, but I still work in the Media Lab and I'll be there all summer with pretty much nothing to do since no one's around to need things media.


At 10:11 AM, Blogger JoshG said...

K and A.

Hope all finds you well. Pictures eh? Any chance of posting here? We would love to see them. Service was nice today. The women did a great job!!! Cubs / Sox today. Should be a good match up.



At 11:09 AM, Blogger mkgunzenhauser said...

Ken Said,,,Sends his love to two awfully nice loving people,,be careful ,and can be sure your experience will be a addition to both of your heads full of smart Our prayers are with you both

At 11:13 AM, Blogger mkgunzenhauser said...

Thinking about you folks certainly the experince will add to your heads of smart,,be careful awaiting your return our love and prayers ken

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Papa said...

Having your ear to the ground in Batticaloa, I wonder if you're hearing what the BBC reported -- dramatic decline of church attendance in the aftermath of the disaster, loss of faith, anger toward God, ... . Didn't sound implausible, but I had the feeling that the correspondent who filed the report might have put himself into the story more than the people he was there to interview. That's how he might have felt, but is it how they feel? The story of the fishermen is most encouraging. Have any idea whether they're Tamil Hindu or Tamil Christian or Tamil Muslim?

I'm curious about Ajayan. Your guide, interpreter, a friend -- all three? I seem to recall that Silan had a relation from Australia by that name who was on the island doing some volunteer medical work. Same guy?

Any sign of Tigers -- I mean the armed variety? I assume not, that the areas you're in are fairly secure in the hands of gov't, though outside the city to the north you would soon be in a no-man's land.

If you're in Batticaloa on the Buddhist poya holiday (or is it poson?) Monday and Tuesday, I wouldn't drop into any temples (which in any case won't be numerous in Batticaloa). In a contested region, they symbolize Buddhist/Sinhalese hegemony -- and make good target practice! Save your temple visits for the South. When you do go, though, try to initiate some conversations with the monks about the tsunami. Since Theravada isn't theistic, there's no comparable 'God' problem of theodicy. How, then, do they handle the problem of suffering on a scale like the tsunami?

I can handle curry for two meals a day -- piles of it. But for breakfast I gotta have eggses and baconses. Don't know how you manage to start the day that way.

I do hope Alex is taking advantage of his absence to grow a nice, thick beard.

luv to luv u,

At 3:07 PM, Blogger scott and clara welsh said...

Hey Kiran and Alex, the kids and I stumbled onto a tv program Friday night of an orphanage in Batticaloa. They showed how the volunteers were put to work "playing" with the children .Playing cricket,tag, and duck duck goose! How wonderful that work sounds. We saw how the guards are stationed outside of the camp to keep people from kidnapping the children. We pray for the children, for the volunteers, and for the people of Sri Lanka. And we pray for you both also.
Watch out...Peg might be taking over your job for childrens time!! Love, Scott, Clara, Jess and Matt
We're off to youth group now!! Josh is going to print off your blog notes to take to church for non- computer users! Great idea he had!!!

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Irene and Bob said...

Kiran & Alex, wow, it all sounds so overwhelming!! You are very special people doing God's work. We continue to pray for you and your safety. Church service today was really nice. Everyone loved the ice cream! God be with you.
Irene and Bob

At 4:10 AM, Blogger Peg said...

Good morning Kiran and Alex. Our middle school Sunday School lesson yesterday was about living on the edge and talked about the apostles being put in prison and beaten for the sake of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel. I think about the two of you in a country that has some political instability and great devastation. We are praying that God will protect you as you serve Him in this place. We look forward to your return! :)

At 5:39 AM, Blogger The Cleavers said...

Hi Alex and Kiran,

Good to hear from you. We hope all is going well - sounds like an exciting trip. We look forward to reading about your adventure every day! Take care and know that we continue to pray for both of you!
Audrey, Dan and Lauren

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Kit said...

I love the fact that we were all having Indian food for lunch this weekend, but confess that I'm glad I didn't have to have it for breakfast, too. I'm with your Papa on that one!

Did marking Trinity Sunday in Batticaloa give you any sermon ideas for next Trinity Sunday?

You know Aunt Jane is going to be jealous that you had a real live frog in your bathroom....

Love you both!

At 4:36 AM, Blogger scott and clara welsh said...

Hey over there in the heat. Do they serve bottled Dasani water at meals?I'm sending an attatchment of people absent from church on Sunday. Just kidding. As I look at the gloomy day here in Honey Brook( wet and cool). I thank God for it. We needed the rain this week. Then I think of you two and the much needed relief over there. Which then led me to send you those few messages to make you laugh-Clara


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