Miss Marijn Mostart from the Netherlands visited Mahawilachchiya to volunteer for 3 months at Horizon Lanka. She was at Horizon Lanka from (sic) to (sic) in 2009. She was a soft spoken, yet very energetic young lady who was very close to the students. She always wore a beautiful and natural smile which was very inviting to the students. She came to Horizon Lanka through AIESEC, Sri Lanka.
Marijn Mostart’s Report
After a 5-hour train trip from Colombo to Anuradhapura, I thought that I had almost reached my final destination. When I arrived at the railway station, there was a lady from Horizon Lanka who picked me up and told me she was Nanda’s sister, Ramanee. Together we waited for the bus to Mahawilachchiya, which showed up one hour later. I knew that the village was near Anuradhapura, only 40 kilometers away, but the bus trip took another 1.5 hours! Unbelievable to travel 1.5 hours for 40 kilometers! My first acquaintance with the Sri Lankan time management was born.
Time doesn’t play a role in Sri Lanka. Nobody is in a hurry. Everybody is relaxed and easy. There is no stress at all: being on time isn’t a priority here. This is something I wasn’t used to, and so I had to find my way through this tranquil way of living. I saw some villagers doing nothing all day long, which I couldn’t understand in the beginning. Now I know that many things are just different here, and I will describe a little bit about my stay in Mahawilachchiya in this report.
My host family has four members: Ramanee, her mother Achchi (which means grandmother) her sister in law Lanka, and her brother Rathne. I’m very glad to have stayed there: the family is so friendly and hospitable. Once Thalia (the other intern who stayed at Ramanee’s as well) and me were waiting near the road for the bus to Anuradhapura to arrive (time management) and Ramanee brought us tea and biscuits outside, at 6.00 in the morning. As you can see, they took care of us very well, and besides, they are really good cooks. I was surprised that I liked the Sri Lankan food that much. I have a lot of admiration for the way they prepared the meals. Cooking takes a lot of time as they use their hands for everything, and real fire instead of kitchen machines and a hot plate. The moments at which the food was especially spicy, we knew that Lanka was the cook. While waiting in the kitchen we had a lot of fun together. Although Achchi does not speak any English, we understood each other very well. I’m going to miss the black tea with two spoons of sugar in it. We had tea in the morning, tea at 10.30 with Achchi, and tea in the afternoon. Liked it!
With Ramanee I talked a lot about life, Buddhism, Sri Lanka, men etc. She is smart and speaks English well, which is rare in these areas. I was glad that after a week Ramanee told me that Thalia would stay with us as well. She arranged that for me, so that I wouldn’t feel lonely. From that moment on, Thalia and I did everything together; breakfast, teaching, lunch, walking, dinner, washing clothes, going to the lake, making trips etc. We were a good team. Ramanee showed us Mihintale, a very beautiful place near Anuradhapura, and with the whole family we went to Tantirimalai on a tractor, which was a great experience.
At Horizon Lanka I started to teach English in the classical way, but after one hour the children were starting to get bored and wanted to play all the time. Afterwards, Wanni told me that teaching at Horizon could best be done by means of playing and exploring, rather than writing down words and grammar. I was surprised by the fact that a lot of children didn’t even know the ABC, and how to write down letters. Thalia and I started to show them ABC songs on a big white screen. With the girls we went to the lakes quite often, and they loved us to take photos of them with our cameras. The pupils are sweet and cheerful. They are happy and funny. I like them all.
I started to realize that Horizon Lanka is not only a school for children to learn English. Horizon Lanka is the heart of Mahawilachchiya where people come together. It’s is an institution: A place where children play, make friends, get in touch with foreign volunteers, learn how to work with computers and learn bit by bit to speak English. The village has wireless internet, which is unique for Sri Lanka. Horizon Lanka is a great example for the rest of the country and a pioneer in this field. Many people from far away come to Mahawilachchiya to visit Horizon Lanka, to see how the impossible became possible: a real E-village. Can you imagine not to find a piece of toilet paper in the whole village, while wireless internet is available everywhere?
Sri Lanka is a beautiful country. Especially the nature with its animals is wonderful. To see a monkey is still a great moment for me. It’s so funny to see them crossing the streets via the electricity cables. Once a monkey stole my pack of biscuits out of the shop at the moment I was paying for it!
In the beginning I was afraid of all kinds of insects, but now I really don’t care anymore to see insects and other animals. Frogs and lizards in the bathroom? No problem! Spiders and ants between my dirty clothes? Simply sweep them away. I’m proud of the fact that I got used to the simple nature life after all. Sleeping on a hard mattress was no big deal, neither to have a cold shower every morning. City girl has turned into jungle girl!
Being in Mahawilachchiya for two months was a meaningful experience which I never will forget. It changed my way of looking at the world. I’ve learned a lot about Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan way of living, and myself. I hope that Mahawilachchiya and the children of Horizon Lanka have learned something from me as well.
Marijn Mostart, The Netherlands – December 17, 2009