Lubomír Jiřišta

Lubomír Jiřišta
Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová
Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová

My Sri Lankan Journey – Lubomír Jiřišta 

My first day in Sri Lanka started at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake (aka Colombo Airport) after eleven hours of flight from the Czech Republic. After a short time I was sitting in a Tuk Tuk (three-wheeler) to Colombo Fort Railway Station. That was the place, where I met my girlfriend Klara, who was teaching English as a volunteer in Mahawilachchiya village for Horizon Lanka Foundation. Our journey started there and it was big! 🙂

We came back to Negombo for a one night stay near the beach. There were very nice and huge waves, but there were also plastic bags everywhere in the sea. In the morning we rented a motorbike (Yamaha FZ 150) for one week and started our sightseeing tour to Mahawilachchiya, where we should meet all Klara’s friends and host family. Our day was sometimes filled with rain, but we were lucky to meet so many good people. One family invited us to their house and made us a cup of hot tea during our stay under the palm tree no rain spot. We ended in Ridi Vihara Temple, which is carved into the rock with lying Buddha statue. We met the Buddhist monk of Ridigama, who offered us food and place where we could sleep. He showed us their second temple in the forests, which they usually use for meditation and a biggest sitting Buddha statue in Sri Lanka. Thank you very much, Ridigama!

Near Ridi Vihara Temple
Near Ridi Vihara Temple

After this we moved slowly to Dambulla. This city was a bit dirty and very crowded. The GoldenTemple on the top of the hill, which is also carved in the caves, was full of tourists and entrance fee for foreigners was so big, that I can’t recommend it.

The Golden Temple, Dambulla
The Golden Temple, Dambulla

Next day was awesome. We started early in the morning and headed to Sigiriya Rock. If you don’t like crowded places like us, go about five more kilometers to Pidurangala Ancient Forest Monastery and climb the hill. It has same height as Sigiriya rock, but there was no one in the morning. There is an amazing view to Sigiriya with crowded upstairs and whole landscape.

Pidurangala
Pidurangala

After Pidurangala we went straight to Trincomalee for some beach relax. 🙂 This part of Sri Lanka was hit by tsunami wave in 2004. It looked like we have no chance to stay here, because all accommodation places were totally full. We finally found a last free room in Nilaveli resort near the beach. The hotel was a few days before opening and we were so lucky to meet the owner here. Nilaveli beach was so clean and nice!

Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová in Nilaveli
Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová in Nilaveli

Our next point was a nice historic city called Anuradhapura. We met Klara’s friends Ramani with her husband Udaya first. They are a very nice couple. 🙂 We slept in Kalhari’s (student from Klara’s and Ramani’s English class) family house. I will always remember our night trip to Jethavanaramaya pagoda, Anuradhapura and a great talk with Kalhari’s father Susil, who is a psychologist, about differences between our countries. It was perfect, because it is nearly impossible to go to the city centre without buying a ticket for $25 per person and day only for entrance.

Near Jethawanaramaya Pagoda, Anuradhapura
Near Jethawanaramaya Pagoda, Anuradhapura

In the morning we started our trip to Ritigala (temple in woods) and it was full of new experiences. I met for the first time Bathiya, Sisira, Jeewan, Jeewani and Janaka. We drove through the forests with high risk of wild elephant appearance. Everything was fine and we had a tasty lunch from palm leaves. After this hot day we swam in a big reservoir called Nachchaduwa Wewa. It was very nice refreshment after the whole day. I was little bit scared from the elephant danger in the morning, so message about possibility of crocodiles didn’t please me much. 🙂

At Ritigala
At Ritigala

After our whole day motorbike trip we got at early night to Mahawilachchiya to house of Wanni’s family (Wanni is a teacher and founder of Horizon Lanka.) He and his family have a nice house with a beautiful garden. Classes where children can learn subjects from English to computers are very near. Our stay was full of discussions, meetings of new people from the village and delicious meals! Yeah Jeewani is a great cook. 🙂

Lubomir, Wanni and Klara
Lubomir, Wanni and Klara

If you are interested in volunteering, (teaching English or computers) I can totally recommend you Horizon Lanka Foundation. All the people here are very friendly, kind and bright.

It was very hard to leave, but we had to. We had two thirds of our trip in front us. We went back to Negombo to return the motorbike. We caught an early morning bus to Kandy (city in the mountains.) We got a tip from Wanni to meet his friend Mahesh, who offers accommodation. We stayed there two days and really enjoyed our time with Mahesh and his family. There is a very nice Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya and the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy. We also saw Kandy Esala Perahera procession. It was so beautiful! We sat on the pavement with local people and there wasn’t any mistake, except our stone bottom 🙂

Kandy Esala Perahera procession
Kandy Esala Perahera procession

From Kandy we took a train to Hatton. After that we took a bus to Delhouse. The trip was full of views to valleys with tea plantations. That was our starting point to Adam’s Peak. It was 5500 steps to the top, where is a temple, but it is worth the effort. Even for reaching the top feeling. You can ring the big bell on the top. We weren’t allowed to see Adams foot in the rock, because it’s hidden.

Train to Hatton
Train to Hatton
Adam's Peak
Adam’s Peak

Back to Hatton, which is not so nice, but we visited two nearby waterfalls and a tea museum. I finally got a local Gun Powder tea. 🙂 From Hatton we moved to Haputale planning to visit the Lipton’s Seat the next day. It is a shade that it was cloudy everywhere.

Dambatenne Tea Factory
Dambatenne Tea Factory

Our last point on our train tour was Ella, a small town, which is full of bars and restaurants to satisfy all tourists’ needs. We climbed the Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock next morning. View to the city and down the valley was delightful. That was the end of our trip in the mountains.

Klara at Haputale
Klara at Haputale
Klara at Lipton’s Seat
Klara at Lipton’s Seat

We looked forward to our last days on the beach, so we moved from Ella to Arugam Bay.  We were lucky to catch a cheap Tuk Tuk, which traveled the same way and wanted someone to go with him. 🙂 On the other day we got a surf lesson from a local guy. That was my most successful day for sliding down the waves, because he pushed us in the right moment. Klara was better and slid few waves like a pro during next days. After our surf session we started to return to Colombo through the south coast (Tangalle, Galle and Kalutara). On our last day before the flight we met again Mahesh with his two boys. It was a perfect surprise!

I want to thank everyone for the hospitality and kindness. Wanni and Udaya for our talks. Jeewani and Ramani for tasteful meals. Thanks also to Bathiya, Sisira and Jeewan for our discussion. I think you won’t get lost in this world J I had luck to meet you and I wish you the best possible future.  I also want to thank to Mahesh and his family for a nice accommodation, tips and present we got!

I hope to see you all again. This holiday is on my personal top because of you.  – Lubomír Jiřišta

Feasibility Study to Provide an Internet Connection to Horizon Lanka from LankaCom Services

Asanka Gtamanna, A telecommunication engineer from LankaCom.
Asanka Gtamanna, A telecommunication engineer from LankaCom.

An engineer from LankaCom, led by Mr. Asanka Gatamanna​ and some technicians from their subcontractor, Sanit Technologies in Anuradhapura visited Horizon Lanka computer lab and the Dialog Axiata communication tower on October 17, 2015. They wanted to see if LankaCom can provide a leased internet line using the Dialog tower to provide unlimited access to the internet for Horizon Lanka. Dialog has been very helpful to us in the past. And these are the facilities they offered us so far.

(1)  First, the Dialog provided Horizon Lanka Foundation a low cost phone packages for 5 staff members and 10 parents.

(2)  Then Dialog provided mobile phone access to Horizon Lanka around a 50 meter radius of Horizon Lanka building at a time none of the other places in Mahawilachchiya had mobile phone coverage. So, not only we, mobile users from the whole village came to make calls using the coverage at Horizon Lanka.

(3)  Dialog donated 6 brand new PCs and 6 computer tables for the students to use in December, 2006. The company also donated 120,000 LKR as the allowance for one of our instructors for the year 2007. The cost of the total donation was 500,000 LKR (4637.35 USD during that time.)

(4)  Dialog provided first mobile coverage to Mahawilachchiya using the Lanka Bell communication tower, on Horizon Lanka Founder, Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka’s request to Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, the CEO of Dialog Axiata.

(5)  Dialog expanded the coverage to the Left Bank of Mahawilachchiya on February 27, 2009 using Dialog’s own high tension tower in Kiralpetiyawa, Mahawilachchiya on Horizon Lanka Founder, Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka’s request to Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, the CEO of Dialog Axiata.

(6)  Dialog Axiata permitted to use its Kiralpetiyawa, Mahawilachchiya base tower for LankaCom to install Horizon Lanka’s mesh internet equipment in the Dialog tower without charging a penny. It helped us expand our mesh internet network to Kiralpetiyawa, a forgotten and backward area of Mahawilachchiya when it comes to infrastructure facilities.

(7)  Dialog Axiata provided first and only 3G coverage by using the Lanka Bell tower in Pemaduwa, Mahawilachchiya in June, 2011 on Horizon Lanka’s Founder, Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka’s request to Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, the CEO of Dialog Axiata. But this was not sufficient as Horizon Lanka Foundation is situated in the Left Bank of the village.

(8)  Dialog Axiata expanded its 3G coverage to the Left Bank of Mahawilachchiya in September 2011 on Horizon Lanka Founder, Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka’s request to Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, the CEO of Dialog Axiata.

(9)  Dialog permitted LankaCom, one of the rival companies of Dialog when it comes to Internet facilities to use its Kiralpetiyawa tower without charging a penny for Horizon Lanka to get internet access through LankaCom. Unfortunately the signal strength to the computer lab was too weak as the heavily grown tree canopy blocked signals. But still there is hope that if install a 120 feet tower at Horizon Lanka, LanCom will be able to direct the antenna to Dialog tower and get the signals.  Anyway Thank you Dialog for all what you did over the years for us and we will do the maximum justice to your helping hand by producing more English and ICT savvy youth from Horizon Lanka Foundation as we did in the past.

It was LankaCom that provided internet to Horizon Lanka from April, 2004 till February, 2011 (almost 7 years) with maximum breakdowns less than of 10 times during the whole period. They charged us a nominal fee for the internet connection till Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) sponsored our monthly internet bill from 2005 onward. We are incompletely satisfied with LankaCom’s Internet connection and its maintenance services. So, thought of getting their services again.

After hours of checking signals to the computer lab from the Dialog base tower in Kiralpetiyawa we did not get a positive result from Asanka Gatamanna, the engineer from LankaCom. According to him, we cannot directly get internet signals from the Dialog tower in Kiralpetiyawa, Mahawilachchiya due to heavily grown tree canopy around Horizon Lanka computer lab. So, we need to install our own tower at Horizon Lanka (like in 2004) and aim it to either Dialog tower in Kiralpetiyawa or to LankaCom’s base station tower in Anuradhapura. We will have to install a 120-feet tower and it will cost us in the range of 600,000 LKR to 700,000 LKR (4270.00 USD to 4981.67 USD.) We will publish another article once we get the full budget from them.

Setting up the disc antenna.
Setting up the disc antenna.
Erecting a temporary tower at Horizon Lanka to test the signal reception.
Erecting a temporary tower at Horizon Lanka to test the signal reception.
Asanka checking signals
Asanka checking signals
Checking signals inside the lab.
Checking signals inside the lab.
Not good, not good.
Not good, not good.
Finally, some refreshment from Jeewani to already tired team
Finally, some refreshment from Jeewani to already tired team

Parents Meeting at Horizon Lanka

Parents meeting at Horizon Lanka
Parents meeting at Horizon Lanka

We held a parents’ meeting at Horizon Lanka on September 18, 2015 to discuss about the forthcoming annual concert. Parents were happy that we are resuming the annual concert that had been abandoned for the last 10 years with the departure of Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka. But now he is back in the village for good, we will again practice dancing items, songs, etc. for the annual concert.

We held a parents' meeting at Horizon Lanka on September 18, 2015 to discuss about the forthcoming annual concert. Parents were happy that we are resuming the annual concert that had been abandoned for the last 10 years with the departure of Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka. But now he is back in the village for good, we will again practice dancing items, songs, etc. for the annual concert. 

parents-meeting3

parents-meeting4

Networking and Getting Internet to the Horizon Lanka Computer Lab

LankCom staff with Mr. Wanni at LankaCom's meeting room.
LankCom staff with Mr. Wanni at LankaCom’s meeting room.

Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation met LankaCom staff on September 25, 2015 at LankaCom Head Quarters in Colombo to discuss about networking the computers at Horizon Lanka computer lab and getting a leased internet line with unlimited access to the Internet. It was LankaCom that provided internet to us from April, 2004 till February, 2011 with the maximum number of breakdowns being less than 10 times during the whole period. They charged us a nominal fee for the connection till the ICTA (Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka) sponsored our monthly internet bill from 2005 onwards. We are completely satisfied with LankaCom’s Internet connection and its maintenance services. So, we decided to stick to their services again. LankaCom is the best Internet Service Provider (ISP) especially in rural areas like our village, Mahawilachchiya which is 40 km away from the nearest city, Anuradhapura. When they provided us internet there wasn’t a single landline or mobile operator that covered Mahawilachchiya till LankaBell (CDMA based telephone coverage) and Dialog Axiata (mobile coverage with 2G technology) covered the village in 2006. So, we had to erect a 120 feet tower in Horizon Lanka compound to get internet signals from LankaCom’s base internet tower from Anuradhapura which cost us around 500,000 LKR (5124 USD) in 2004. That was the biggest fundraising we did for Horizon Lanka. Mr. Wanni took us to a cybercafé in Anuradhapura and let us use Internet there. We were excited a lot and wanted to get internet to Horizon Lanka. So we decided to collect some money ourselves before asking others to contribute. So, we organized a fair at Horizon Lanka and we brought vegetables and fruits from our homes and sold them at the fair. We collected a small amount of money and deposited that money in the institute’s bank account and put up a website about that fundraising and requested Horizon Lanka donors and well-wishers to contribute to that fund. Mr. Kumara Badhuge from Qatar, Mr. Mark Frazier (Openworld) from the USA, Mr. Leif Smith (Explorer’s Foundation) from the USA and late Dr. Gamini Premadasa (through LearnAid, Kuwait) donated necessary money to erect the tower and install the other equipment needed to get internet. So, by April, 2004 we were able to get 24X7 internet to Horizon Lanka. We had to abandon the tower we built in 2011 as we had to close down the project for 3 ½ years due to various challenges we faced with Mr. Wanni’s departure from the village in January, 2006. We hope you will contribute for us to get internet again. Now that he is back in he village for good, we are confidant that we can prosper again.

LankCom staff with Mr. Wanni at LankaCom's meeting room.
LankCom staff with Mr. Wanni at LankaCom’s meeting room.
LankCom staff with Mr. Wanni at LankaCom's meeting room.
LankCom staff with Mr. Wanni at LankaCom’s meeting room.

Google Vehicle Updates Maps in Mahawilachchiya

Google Map Updating Car
Google Map Updating Car

I accidentally met this Google vehicle in Mahawilachchiya two months ago (to be exact on August 13, 2015) that was updating Google maps of Mahawilachchiya. I waved at the driver and signaled that I wanted to take few photos. So, the driver stopped till I finished photographing the vehicle. I had a small chat with the Google officer after taking the photos. He was kind enough to explain me what they were doing. According to him, they were updating Google maps in Mahawilachchiya. They were covering all the newly made byroads in the village.

I have read the story of Google’s rise from the humble beginning to the search giant and how the Google Guys Sergey Brin and Larry Page designed the other innovative Google products in the book “Google Story” written by David A. Vise and Mark Malseed. Read my blog post about the book here.

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation.

Google Maps Car Updating Mahawilachchiya Roads and Byroads
Google Maps Car Updating Mahawilachchiya Roads and Byroads
Google Maps Car Updating Mahawilachchiya Roads and Byroads
Google Maps Car Updating Mahawilachchiya Roads and Byroads

Miss Klára Gebhartová’s tour report of Horizon Lanka and Sri Lanka

Klára Gebhartová with the Horizon Lanka children
Klára Gebhartová with the Horizon Lanka children

My Experiences at Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya, Sri Lanka

Spending almost five weeks in an environment where time flows without stress and where you can feel how living in the present moment is the right essence of life is an experience absolutely priceless.

Horizon Lanka was founded by Wanni.  A son of parents that worked very hard to give him and his siblings the very important thing in these days, education. English and computers are for Wanni, very important to get connected with other people in the world and how to get an opportunity of a better job in this village. His effort is to give this opportunity also to others. So that is what Wanni offers to children in Mahawilachchiya. The same as he got. And I am very honoured that I could be a part of it. A lot of people are still trying to find there sense of life. Wanni can be a beautiful and simple inspiration for everyone.

Read more in this link. http://www.horizonlanka.org/volunteering/klara-gebhartova/

Three Computers from Lankanatha Udaya Karunaratne, Washington DC, USA to Thakshila School, Mahawilachchiya

Children with the computers
Children with the computers

Mr. Lankanatha Udaya Karunaratne, who is an IT Specialist at United Nations Foundation, Washington DC, USA donated 4 good-quality used PCs and two LCD monitors to Horizon Lanka in January, 2015. Since Horizon Lanka already had 10 new PCs donated by Dr. Tissa Jinasena, with Mr. Karunaratne’s approval, we decided to donate three of the computers to Thakshila School in Mahawilachchiya. This is the school which was the alma mater of Horizon Lanka’s Founder, Mr. Nanda Wannnayala. Mr. Kularathna Rajapaksha, a director of Horizon Lanka Foundation and the vice principal of Thakshila School coordinated the donation.

Mr. Lankanatha Udaya Karunaratne
Mr. Lankanatha Udaya Karunaratne

Read about Mr. Karunaratne’s past computer donations to Horizon Lanka Foundation.

More Computers from Lankanatha Udaya Karunaratne, Washington DC, USA. Read full story here.

Mr. Karunaratne had donated us computers in 2009 as well. Read the story here.

Thakshila-computers-3Thakshila-computers-4Thakshila-computers-1