Miss Thalia Fotaki, an AIESEC intern from Greece worked at Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya from November 2009 to December 2009. She must be the quietest volunteer to visit Horizon Lanka. But she was very smart in teaching and students liked her a lot.
A few months ago I wouldn’t dare to imagine me being in Sri Lanka. I wanted to go somewhere totally different and experience a humble life with plain people who are happy with small everyday things. So when I arrived in Mahawilachchiya the first thing I thought was, “Yes, this is exactly what I wanted.” Another tempting thing about Sri Lanka was the tea!!! I love tea.
During my stay I met some interesting people. Marijn was one of them. She was another volunteer from the Netherlands who was also in Mahawilachchiya the same period as me. We stayed at the same house. We made a lot of trips. We also taught together.
I stayed at a hospitable family. I was really touched by their generosity. They were very compassionate and warm-hearted. They were also great cooks which is very good when you live in a village that has just the essential things. Sometimes the food was too spicy but fortunately it was still eatable. The funny thing is that generally I don’t eat much salt and spices but strangely I enjoyed it.
I’m also happy that my host family was a traditional Sri Lankan one with principles and morals. That fact helped me to get closer to the cultural understanding I was seeking. What captured my attention was the fact that people believe in stars and sometimes they let them determine their life. Another funny thing is that some people told me that I look like a Sri Lankan girl. Some others told me that I look like Cleopatra because of my short hair.
Every morning I woke up by the singing of the birds, it was amazing and exotic. We had breakfast by the sound of their traditional Sinhalese music.
It was so cheerful so it was a really good start of the day. After breakfast we went to Horizon Lanka where small kids were having a class. In their breaks we were playing. I will never forget them calling us teacher. It was such a sweet and innocent sound.
A lot of times I was considering about the similarities between Greece and Sri Lanka and I found many. In villages we also greet everyone and we also have a lot of sun (I didn’t expect it to be so sunny in Sri Lanka because it was the rainy season and that’s why the first days I had sunburns.) Greece has also mountains and beaches. And of course another similarity is that people in Sri Lanka love taking pictures. I love taking pictures and capturing every moment. :))
As for people, at first they stared at me but the funny thing is that they smiled immediately after I smiled. It was such an honest smile and every time it was the same. I loved it. The people didn’t speak English; they just knew a few English words so they were very proud of themselves when they had the chance to use them. Such words were ‘where going?’, ‘Where from?’ or just a ‘hi’.
Based on my little experience as a teacher I can say that it’s very difficult to teach a language when you don’t speak the native language of the students. Indeed it’s challenging but simultaneously there is uncertainty about the result. Also their alphabet has nothing to do with the Latin alphabet so children had many difficulties in English. However heir thirst for knowledge overcame all the difficulties. I loved it when the students called me Thalia teacher. There was also a bird whose singing was the word teacher. For a long time Marijn and I thought that it was in our imagination. It was so funny when we discussed about that and we figured out that it actually sings the word teacher.
The students were really cute and beautiful. Girls picked flowers for us and boys, fruits. Too bad the fruits were not ripe enough that season. After some time of teaching they always wanted to play so they said teacher play. 🙂
Although there were a lot of computers most of them were broken so me and Marijn focused on teaching English.
Horizon Lanka is a place with great potentials, the building is very beautiful and colorful and the most important thing is that there are students willing to learn. I’m glad that while I was there some important steps were made for its developing. More and more people were coming to check Horizon Lanka and donors were found to repair the damaged computers. I’m so glad that I took part in such a great venture.
It’s been almost one week since I left Sri Lanka and I already miss it. I hope that one day I will visit Sri Lanka again and see the evolution.
Thalia Fotaki, Greece : January 3, 2010