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Sri Lanka Journal: June 2005


Sri Lanka Journal:
Entry Number 2

Sri Lanka, Saturday, June 25, 2005

Today is the first day we have taken off. Yesterday our driver, Brian, drove Katie Poole back to Colombo so she could get her earlier flight back to the U.S. Betty and I, not having a car or translator, took today as a break. We are staying at the Unawanatuna Beach Hotel just outside of Galle. This place had about 12 feet of water at the time of the tsunami and they are still repairing and repainting parts of the building. We are right on the ocean and can hear the surf all the time. Since the tourist industry here has not recovered, we are able to stay here at a very reasonable rate including two meals.

Every day we have driven to the survivor camps which are all along the coast. From my time here in March, most of the tents have been replaced with small wooden structures on concrete slabs. The camps are still very spartan, hot, dusty and unpleasant. The people are receiving food and shelter but not much else. Most of the workers are still unemployed even though it is six months since the tsunami.

We drove all the way to Hambantota the other day and visited the two large camps there. One was primarily Muslim and was located behind a large unfinished mosque. The other was Buddhist and located near a Buddhist temple. Both places had long lines of people waiting to talk with us. Brain, our translator, has been excellent. He was educated in England so has a full grasp of English. We usually set up some chairs outside and people come one by one and talk about their losses. We have had mothers and fathers who have lost children; children who have lost parents and many who lost spouses. Almost everyone has expressed deep grief and spoken with us a long time. Many tears have flowed followed by heartfelt gestures and words of gratitude. Apparently, there has been little or none of this sort of grief counseling. Hambantota alone has over 14,000 persons affected by the tsunami.

We did have the help of some local aid workers in translating in our first few days here but developed a group approach using only Brian. Betty, Katie and I would all interview the individual and get the whole story of the losses incurred. It has been very successful but the number of people waiting has been overwhelming. Starting tomorrow, Betty, Brian and I will go back to camps where we were unable to finish talking to the large numbers who wished to speak with us. We have tried to keep driving to a minimum but the line of camps in-between here and Martara provides us with a concentrated number of persons and so we cut down on the unproductive driving time. We are pretty exhausted at the end of the day and coming back to this nice hotel on the beach is a real blessing.

At one camp, with the rail lines running right through it, I have done art therapy with a number of children ages 6 to 15. I have given drawing classes and they have responded very well. I have been there twice and the leader, a fifteen year old, negotiated with me to return once more – which I will. I will have to go to Galle and buy more paper and materials since they have used up the small supply I had.

Due to the “once-in-a-while” only dial up internet service, I have not been able to send out many journal entries and no photographs since I was in Galle. So, most of this story will need to be told when I return to the U.S.

Charles

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June 2005 Journal Entries
Introduction | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5