Catching the bus for school

My alarm woke me at 5:00am. It was a stressful and early morning because I was going back to school. There was a preschool about an hour way in a town called Hikkaduwa. I was going there to photograph a day in the life of the school for a church back in Colombo. Father John who I met at a dinner party heads the church.

Father John told me that his church helps generate money to open preschools in different parts of Sri Lanka. Knowing that I was looking for photo projects, he wondered if I would be interested in photographing the school to show donors the results of their generous contributions.

I agreed to take on the job then, and now I find found walking through Unawatuna to a bus stop at 5:30 this morning. Usually, this stretch of road is littered with dozens of tuk-tuks (3-wheeler taxis) drivers asking you if you need a ride but there isn’t a soul in sight.

I made my way to the bus stop and caught an early morning bus heading into Gaul where I hoped to find another bus going into Hikkaduwa. I arrive at the main and very large bus station in Gaul and preceded to try to find the bus I needed. I eventually, just started repeating loudly, “Hikkaduwa” a few times and a nice gentleman pointed me to the bus I needed.

I got on the bus and asked the driver if it was going to Hikkaduwa. He said yes and I asked him if he could tell me when to get off since most busses make many multiple stops. He bobbled his head yes. I wasn’t confident, in the very least, that he understood what I meant and just shook his head anyway.

See, most towns along the main road merge into one another so I have no way of knowing when I have arrived at my destination. The towns also don’t have any signs saying which town you are in. If they do they are not in English or are hard to read when the bus is hurling down the road.

I jumped on and hoped for the best. There were only a few people on the bus and the ride was nice. It had been about an hour, and then the driver motioned that it was my stop. He slows down the bus and I jump off. I don’t think busses ever truly stop unless they’re parked at the station.

It’s about 6:30 in the morning and I’m on the side of a road in the town of Hikkaduwa. Some locals were brushing their teeth near where I was standing and I asked if they knew of a pre-school near by. They had no idea. I showed them a map and asked where were we in simple English and some hand gestures. They pointed on the map. Great, the hotel I’m staying out is on the other side of town, which is about a mile away. I tighten up my pack and start heading down the road.

Along the way I found the local Pastor’s phone number. He’s my contact for the school, which he looks after in the town. I called and he told me he’d pick me up in 45 min at the Blue Ocean Ville. I said, “perfect, I’ll see you then.” I got off the phone and hoped I could find the place.

My room at Blue Ocean Villa.

A short time later I found the hotel and met Sriyani the hotelkeeper. She showed me a great room that had a balcony that looked right over the ocean. The waves were almost deafening. I really liked it there.

The Pastor arrived on his motorcycle. We introduced ourselves and we spoke about the timeframe of the day. Then he asked if I was “ready to go?” I just smiled looking at the bike and thinking in my head, “this is going to be interesting.” I told him that I have never been on a motorcycle, which produced a strange face. Nearly everyone in Sri Lanka drives motorcycles at one time or another. He told me it was no problem. So with my backpack on I jump on the back and we headed out.

School in Hikkaduwa.

I arrived at the school and met with the principal and his wife who was the head teacher. I had and amazing day photographing and spending time with the kids. More photos to come in a later post.

It was about 11:30 when the tuk-tuk (3-wheeler taxi) came to the school to pick me up and take me back to my hotel.

I headed back to the hotel where Sriyani greeted me and asked if I wanted tea. I sat with her for a long while. We talked about her life and where I was from. I learned a lot about Sri Lankan culture from her. I watched as she made dinner for her family who ran the hotel. I also spent time and talked with her son who was really into music. I got a little peak into the life of a 20-year-old living in Sri Lanka.

Sriyani at the Blue Ocean Villa.

Sriyani offered me to stay for dinner and have some authentic Sri Lankan food with her and her son. I agreed, stayed, and watched her make fish curry and coconut sambol.

As we ate and talked, she told me about her life and the dating rituals in Sri Lankan. She talked about how kind I was and how she liked how I spoke slow and was easy to understand. Even though her English was good it was still tough for her at times.

She made comments and alluded to getting married to me, which has already happened here a few times. The women, and I would guess men to, have really nowhere to go and no money to get there. Marriage to foreigners is really their only way out.

Knowing Sriyani was cooking dinner, I went and bought a few chocolate bars which is a very expensive here. It’s a treat for most and I bought some for our dessert. After we ate the chocolate and drank tea I headed back to my room for the evening.

My plans are to leave in the morning but Sriyani and her son have asked me to stay one more day. They are such nice people and this place is so relaxing that I might just stay another night. There’s really nothing like falling asleep to the sound of ocean waves.

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