Today I went to Galle and it was so quiet and picturesque. I worked out how to get a bus rather than a trishaw, went back to the shop where I had had to buy a new phone charger and they still had the umbrella I had left behind – you need them in the heat here as much as the rain. and then I spent 2-3 hours just wandering around this walled city going in all the arty shops. No one was busy so they wanted to talk so I spoke at length to this old Muslim guy outside his house, a jeweller etc. I was chilled. I cut out of the wall at the side rather than the main entrance to walk back to Galle so you have the sea one side, the wall the other. I heard a bike come up behind me and thought nothing of it. Trishaw drivers come up behind you all the time. The next thing a guy on the back of a bike was dragging my bag off my shoulder. I just held on. It did occur to me that I could get dragged along the road, then he let go. I don’t know why they didn’t speed up, I don’t know why they didn’t come back for a second try because there was no one around, but they didn’t and I was very, very lucky. That bag had my passport, all my bank cards including my new Sri Lankan card and my money and phone.
It’s weird. I have had three previous assaults in my life, two of which were life threatening, one with a weapon and I have always felt an immeasurable calm. It’s good to know I can angst about relative trivia, but when I am in danger I keep my head. It is a wake-up call to be more safety conscious though. Other volunteers had their bags snatched in Africa, but it never happened to me, but I had a rucksack style over there. This current one has a long strap so I must start to wear it across my shoulder.
When I got back I went to the beach and then this evening out for dinner with the other two volunteers. They are very different from the swimming pool ones who could slide into the party pages of ‘Hello’ magazine. They do similar economic/community development work as I did in England, both may be 5-6 years younger than me and came here after redundancy.
I am enjoying being able to bare some flesh and feel the sun on my skin. I will not be able to do that in the East.
There is high incidence recording of alcoholism and smoking drugs among the men and domestic violence. An NGO operating in one rural area has recorded 425 cases of severe alcoholism. These men are buying legal arrack, not producing their own illegal alcohol. In Batticaloa alone there are 40 arrack selling points. A head of family making Rs 500 a day could be spending 400 of that on arrack rather than feeding his family.
There is frustration amongst government officials that there are so many schemes and so much energy going in to these areas and that ‘people expect all things free’. Other phrases used included ‘the wrong mind set’, ‘not willing to change’.
Development Plan Focus
A public campaign on misuse of alcohol and tighter government controls on licensing to sales points.
To look at a more holistic approach to addressing the issues of the rural poor.
Batticaloa District Development Plan DRAFT 2013