Brigid Travels

Updates from The Road

Sri Lanka - Follow up from i-to-i [2005]


In some of the previous posts, I talked about how we all thought i-to-i was looking pretty shady. After arriving home, I wrote to the US and UK coordinators to clarify. Here's the content of our exchanges. I feel better about them, but some of the folks that stayed in Sri Lanka continued having logistics problems, especially in trying to switch assignments.


July 25 (excerpt from Brigid to Susanna and Melanie): ... But I do have some questions about i-to-i, as do the rest of my placement-mates. We all have the best of intentions, but it seemed to us that the project was sorely underfunded and not very well organized. If our activities were a bit more organized, with a long term plan in mind, we all felt it would have been a much more productive placement. We also had some situations where there was not enough equipment for us to use (rakes, shovels) and some of sub-par quality. Even materials for teaching English, or toys for the camps had to be purchased by the team members.

I am very aware of cultural sensitivity, and I do not want to give the impression that I (we) were trying to imposed our culture on the situation. We do understand that the government is moving very slowly and until they do their thing much of the rebuilding cannot occur. We do understand that we cannot give things or money to individuals. But there is so much we could have done given a bit more organization, planning and funding, so much more to be done for the community at large/in common.

We brought these points up to the in country coordinator, who visited us this past Wed. He said we are the first group to bring up these concerns, and that it is all out of his control. He said he cannot talk about money details. But he did say that he only gets $1000 per month for transportation for the project, and everything we do needs to cost no money. This does not make any sense to us. How could he get no more money considering all the money we all paid to go to the placement?

He mentioned that he put together a budget asking for that amount of money a long time ago when they were just doing beach cleanup, and now it is impossible to change. That also makes no sense to me, as the project itself has changed.

We also mentioned that most, if not all, of the trash did not look like tsunami leavings, but rather regular beach trash. He admitted that it was in fact normal monsoon season beach trash because the tsunami rubble in the area has already been cleared. He said maybe in the next few weeks, part of the group would be moved down the coast to where there was still tsunami rubble to be cleared. So we were not, in fact, doing tsunami cleanup and the project is mislabled.

And what is probably the biggest black mark, we found out later that every single group has brought up these points to him. The fact that he acted like it was all new is an insult to our intelligence and our desire to help make the future groups more effective. We did expect to see corruption and greed, but in the Sri Lankan govenrnment, not in i-to-i.

I am fully aware that i-to-i is a profit-making entity, and that is fine with all concerned if the profit margins are reasonable. But according to my calculations, profits from the 20 people in the placement were on the order of 85% of the fees (assuming $15/night per person, $1000/month for truck, $4000 for coordination and staffing). That seems like i-to-i is taking advantage of people's good will and willingness to help. ...


July 29 (excerpt from Susanna to Brigid and Melanie): ... When the Tsunami Relief project first began, it was funded by i-to-i and sufficient equipment was purchased to assist with the work involved. Monthly donations have been made to the project from the Helping Hand Foundation (i-to-i's charity arm) and there is still more funding available for this project. If we are notified by our in-country team that more funding is required for equipment etc., we will transfer more funds over to Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, many of the items that have been used or purchased by previous groups have been stolen or misplaced, and that may be the reason why there was not enough equipment. Volunteers should most certainly not be purchasing items of equipment for the community and should not be made to feel like they should have to.

The future plan for the Tsunami Relief project is to continue the work with the equipment that has already been purchased, but not to continue with the funding once it has run out. We have found that the money going to the communities has changed the relationship of the volunteers to the community members and they are more interested in what they can get rather than how they can be helped. Our in-country team have told us that they do not want volunteers to give money to the project or to individuals in the community, and in fact they do not really want any more funding from the Helping Hand Foundation. We are aware that the communities have become too reliant on volunteer money and we would prefer to wean them off these donations and concentrate on providing help rather than funding, which was the original aim of this project. This is being stressed in the orientation, so that all volunteers are aware when they arrive that they should not be making financial contributions to the communities.

The funding that we will be sending through to Sri Lanka in the future will be for long-term projects and, depending on government approval, we will be building permanent centres for the communities. Unfortunately we cannot help everywhere, but through the Helping Hand Foundation we aim to provide structured and well-thought-out donations. The work that is being done by i-to-i volunteers is beneficial to the local communities because it improves their outlook in terms of cleaning the environment, entertainment and education, as opposed to financial aid.

I have attached a document which explains how volunteers' placement fees are distributed (this is also available to all volunteers in the Guide to Volunteering in Sri Lanka, p. 20-21) (content: 1/3=administration and training costs; 1/3 recruitment and project development costs; 1/3 in-country support, including donation to Helping Hand foundation). As you will see, your fee covers a whole host of expenses that make your volunteer experience possible, and our profits are minimal. The profits that we do make go back into the business, in terms of developing new projects, destinations and products. As explained above, we generally do not make financial donations directly to the projects because we do not want to encourage financial dependency on volunteer money. Unfortunately, a lot of corruption can exist in developing countries, and if we were to give a financial donation for each volunteer we could not guarantee that the money was going directly to benefit the projects and not into someone's back pocket.

You mention that you had a discussion with your in-country coordinator regarding the funding for the Tsunami Relief project and also nature of the clean-up activities. I presume you are talking about Harinda, who supervises the Tsunami Relief project for i-to-i. Harinda does receive finances from i-to-i for transportation etc., but he is not responsible for managing the funding of the Tsunami Relief work. This is probably why he was unable to discuss in detail the funding of the project with the volunteers. I am not sure why Harindra said that he had not had similar discussions with previous groups of volunteers, but Sri Lankans typically avoid conflict and therefore he may have tried to avoid the issue rather than entering into a confrontation with a group of volunteers.

I have recently been made aware that there is not so much to do in Kalutara in terms of beach clearance, as our volunteers have now been working there for several months and much of the work has been done. You are correct in thinking that we are moving down to Galle in the near future, and dividing the group in two so that half can continue the community work in Kalutara. I believe that in Galle there is more beach clearance work to do. However, I would say that part of the role of volunteers is to improve the appearance of the environment of affected communities, and to educate them about long-term conservation issues. Part of this may be clearing up general beach trash and encouraging the communities to use bins rather than dumping rubbish in unsafe areas.

I do not believe the Tsunami Relief project is mislabled, as it is not called "Beach Clearance" or "Tsunami Clean-up" - it is called "Sri Lanka Tsunami Relief work". When we originally started this project, we did call it "Sri Lanka Beach Clearance Challenge", but we advised volunteers at a later stage that we were changing it to a Community Development project because the activities now involved community work as well as beach cleaning activities. I have recently sent the Tsunami Relief project information and web copy to the team in Sri Lanka so that they can review the information and if there are any inaccuracies in terms of the activities listed, we will change it accordingly. ...


August 8 (excerpt from Brigid to Susanna and Melanie): ... By the way, the contact I was referring to was not Harinda (who I think is doing a good job), but the older gentleman that did the initial orientation, and then came and visited the last Wed. I'm not sure of his name or role but he said he was an i-to-i representative in Sri Lanka.

I guess we didn't realize the project is being phased out - we were under the impression people would be there for the long haul.

So one of our main concerns was that there was really no long term planning... and knowing now that the project will be phasing out, I think it is even more of a concern. Your comment that i-to-i is looking for this type of opportunity is encouraging, but are there any plans for Kalutara specifically?

The teams (and especially the longer term volunteers) are trying to establish a rapport with the local community. This would be for things like the teaching at the community center and visiting the camps, ignoring for the moment the one-off cleanup and tree/sign installation. The project in general has now established a pattern of being there so that the locals now expect the services to continue. Do you know if there are any plans to get permanent resources or at least let the community know when things will change?

I am concerned that the locals were very resistant to accepting the Westerners but as I was leaving they were getting more comfortable. And once they are completely comfortable and start relying on that situation, it may be pulled out from under them.

As far as the volunteers buying things, we were definitely told not to buy anything for any individuals, but as people saw the need for supplies or things that could be shared at the camps they did willingly buy things that would make their 'job' or teaching or comforting easier - books, crayons, makeup, beads, etc.

I can definitely appreciate that there may be a disconnect between volunteer expectations/impressions, i-to-i assumptions and the reality of the team running the projects, especially in developing countries. I guess it really would have helped us to have the context of the local team... not just what were expected to do for the 2 weeks, but more of the long term plans for the effort. Thinking back, I guess they did try to do that at the intial orientation, but it just didn't mesh with our experiences. ...


August 9 (excerpt from Susanna to Brigid and Melanie): ... At the moment, we are planning to continue the same kind of work in Kalutara until the end of this year. We have also just started to do similar work in Galle. Our long-term plan (i.e. from the beginning of next year onwards) would be to establish more permanent, sustainable projects such as work in community centres and schools, rather than the kind of "relief" work we have been doing so far, the need for which is finite. We are certainly not going to be abandoning the areas we have been working in, particularly because (as you have noted) it takes a long time to gain the trust and acceptance of the locals, but the type of work we will be doing will evolve into something different. Already we are finding that there is less and less beach clearance and rebuilding to do, and the focus has shifted to more long-term types of assistance such as teaching English. It makes sense to redefine the project as a long-term venture in the next few months, as the needs of the communities change. ...

Home again [2005]

Well, the trip home was fine... a little hectic in Singapore but in the end I made it home on the right flight, and as a bonus, my luggage was there too (of course on the wrong baggage carousel, though - it could not have been completely stress-free). I drove the 2+ hours home, was clean again and in my bed by 10.

The last night in Negumbo was great - not as wild as some of the earlier nights because we were missing 2 major instigators of wackiness, Joann and Damien who stayed behind in Kalutara when most of the rest of us went up to Negumbo. Unfortunately I stopped using the deet insect repellent one night too soon, and got 50 bites (no exaggeration) that last night - I think at the Italian restaurant. Anyway, I had decided not to go to bed (taxi was to come at 4:30am), so Gillian, Nia, Colin and Louise stayed up with me. At 4am Colin, Louise and I went in the sea for one last burst of craziness. Unfortunately my taxi was a bit early, so I rushed to change while Nia let the guy know I was coming, all the wet stuff went into the luggage (I had to check it - I wonder what the baggage handlers thought!) and I was still a bit sandy when I got on the plane!

I will definitely miss everyone - it was almost like a concentrated college experience. But this is one group that I think will keep in touch, and then there's the London reunion in Oct!

As far as i-to-i, I sent the US and UK coordinators an email yesterday, and will post any response I get onto this site. A number of you have mentioned to me that what I wrote last time was very disconcerting... I agree, and hopefully we can at least get some clarity on the situation.

I'll be posting my pics to . If you want to see them, but I didn't email you individually about it, feel free to drop me a line at and I'll add you to the list :)

Oh, and today I got some great news from the orthodontist - I can get my braces off!! It's scheduled in 2 weeks -- I can't wait!


Final Day in Sri Lanka [2005]

Last Day Out

I'm up in Negumbo now, north of Colombo and about a half hour from the airport. We rode up yesterday afternoon in the lorry (that's British-speak for an open back truck). That was adventure! You can't imaging the looks of wonder and stares that followed us every honk of the way -- about a dozen obvious westerners crammed in the back of the truck with luggage. As someone said, now we know how the migrant workers feel.

This last week has been hotter, and harder, but still very good. We have been painting signs, nailing together frames to put around saplings, planting palm saplings at the edge of the beach and erecting those frames surrounded with chicken wire to prevent the goats from eating them, plus the standard beach cleanup, visiting camps and doing activities at the community center. It has been a great trip, and I think in our little way we have made a difference. Finally, in the last few days, we had some locals helping us to clean the beach, plant trees, nail frames, etc. I think that is an indication that the group has finally been accepted, at least a bit, by the local community. When we first got there there wasn't any interaction and apparently there has been a lot of resentment. But now they are starting to see things get a little bit better, cleaner beaches, new trees, activities for their children. It's not dramatic but seems to slowly be taking root - the beginnings of what could be a great partnership. Still I think there is a lot of 'us' and 'them', but hopefully in time it will get better. Hopefully they will understand what the team is trying to accomplish, that it is for them, and hopefully the team can be more aware of what it is that the locals want/need. But right now it seems that assumptions are made on both sides which leads to less progress that potentially could be achieved.

The Sri Lankan people are wonderful, though - all the children are so happy to say hello, very eager to learn, just a very happy people. Considering all that has happened with the tsunami, it is amazing they are starting to rebuild their lives however they can. But there is a tremendous amount of apathy and depression and even fear that another one will come. The waves destroyed houses about a football field or two in from the edge of the beach, so the depth of devastation is not deep, but it is pervasive. The wall of water was about 7 feet high. On Monday I actually found a wedding photo in the rubble - one corner was mangled but the people were clear. Luckily there was a man standing by, watching us, and when I showed it to him, he indicated that he know who it was so I gave it to him. Think about it, though - it has been 7 months, and this was 20 feet away from where people are living. Western countries would have had that rubble cleared by now. But in Sri Lanka things are different, and that must be respected if not wholly understood.

There were lots of little houses on the beach, many fishermen who now have been moved to camps inland, so they are no longer near the sea. Plus they lost absolutely everything so even if they were by the sea, they couldn't fish without equipment. Some boats have been given, but not enough and not consistently. So there is a big problem with resentment -- if one person gets a gas cooker, or a boat, then everyone feels they should including not only the ones that lost their homes, but the ones whose homes were partially destroyed. It's a catch 22 situation... A different example is the gas cookers - one volunteer bought a whole bunch and distributed them. But they have no gas canisters and no money to but them since the government is not consistently giving them their allocated stipend. Now volunteers are encouraged not to give anything to individuals, only to organizations, in addition to stuff for the community center that will be shared.

It is hard to know how things were before the tsunami, though, since we have no real point of reference. The country's people are devastatingly poor so it is difficult to see what is just the way of life, and what is the aftermath of the tsunami - trash, state of disrepair of buildings, etc.

Many of us feel that things are just starting to happen, and it is a shame that we all have to leave. But some are staying on with the project and others are staying on their own, so at least there will be some continuity.

(*** note - these were my impressions at the time. I wrote to i-to-i to clarify and found that some of my assumptions were incorrect... see below for summary and details in entry from Aug 11 ***)

One thing I think the whole group agrees on is that i-to-i is not the purest of organizations. The country coordinator came on Wed and there was venting to be had, and no explanations given, other than the i-to-i person saying it is i-to-i's fault they don't have sufficient money for the project... but he represents i-to-i, so that doesn't wash with me, or others. All our activities were supposed to be ones that did not require money (beach cleanup, visiting camps, etc). They say up front that they are profit-making, but doing the math leads to a clear indication that they are taking advantage of their ability to find placements, and play on people's desire to help. The lodging was probably $15 a night (including meals) and there is $1000 a month that is used for truck rental. Even factoring in another $4000 for the 3 or 4 people that coordinate, averages say $6,000 per month for 20 volunteers. But each volunteer gives $1000 for 2 weeks ($40,000 for 20 volunteers)... leading to a profit of $34k. That's crazy, especially considering that they need supplies, and having some more money to spend on items would make the volunteers so much more efficient and effective (not enough nails, not enough hammers, etc).

(*** More info gathered after I got home - see entry from Aug 11, 2005 The money paid to i-to-i is allocated in thirds: content: 1/3=administration and training costs; 1/3 recruitment and project development costs; 1/3 in-country support, including donation to Helping Hand foundation. The profit was stated as 'minimal' but no number was given. About the resources, the in-country people running the project told i-to-i they did not want/need additional monies and the lack of tools was due to some of the originally purchased equipment being lost or stolen. The in-country people running the project (not positive who that would be) did not want to replace that equipment.

Long term, i-to-i does expect to introduce a new more permanent project of English teaching, etc when this project winds down at the end of the year, which seems to be their forte. ***)

Anyway, I probably won't go through the organization again -- Earthwatch was much better. That said, I do think it was a wonderful experience, I think we did make a difference in a small but progressive way that others can leverage, and it was totally worth it. It's just that almost all of us feel it could have been so much better with the proper coordination, planning and resource allocation, even factoring in the concept of 'Sri Lankan' time... they need Charlene! And there are roadblocks put in place by the government - for example we couldn't actually take down the rubble of houses because the government hasn't inventoried which houses are total losses and which are repairable. Plus, the community itself had not agreed to let us help in that way. Once the government does its thing, they will know how much money to give each family and hopefully the rubble can be completely cleared and people can rebuild. But until then, ones that have 2 or 3 walls left are still lived in by families. Bricks that had been dislodged, blown out during the tsunami and deposited in the surrounding area are stacked on concrete slabs, waiting to be used to rebuild.

I am sad to leave but will be happy to have a nice hot shower and clean clothes.

I'll check in again from home - I head for the airport at 4am, for the 7am flight... and then about 22 hours til I touch down in LA, then about 2 hours' drive home. Ah home - I can't wait to sleep in my bed :)


Monday night - halfway through [2005]

We had a great weekend in Kandy - in the hill country so it wasn't so hot. Friday we only worked a half day, this time back at the community center, sanding and starting to paint everything we had cut the day before. A good morning.

Friday at half past 1 (the Irish, English and Scottish way to say 1:30), we left for Kandy, stopping to pick up 2 people who were in different assignments. Unfortuantely Friday afternoon traffic was as bad as LA and it took us 6 hours to get there instead of tyhe normal 4. It was raining most of the way, too, which doesn't help. And I must reiterate that driving here is like none I have ever seen. The middle line, if there is one, is simply a suggestion. With tuk tuks (roughly the size of golf carts) and motorcycles and bikes and trucks... there are often 3 or 4 vehiles passin each other at the same time. Once, on our drive back, we actually had to go into oncoming traffic because there was no opening in our direction's "lane". Especially fun is when this passing happens around blind curves. I had a good/bad seat because i was in the middle right behind the driver, so I could see all the near misses... quite an experience.

I woke up early Saturday and sat on the balcony, as monleys came roaming along the balcony rails. There was one momma and baby that decided to camp out on the corner of my rail :) Very cute. But eventually they got beyond just curious, one jumping down and brushing my leg, and then 3 slowly kinda creeping towards me... so it was time to go back inside :)

Saturday it was shopping, shopping, shopping. We went to a silk 'outlet' where we all tried on saris, and I actually ended up buying one - I'll wear it to the Brandes Christmas party :) We also went to a beautiful botanical garden and a woodcarving studio/shop. Lots of cool stuff.

Saturday afternoon a bunch of us got massages (yes, I'm roughing it here doing volunteer work) and at night we went to the "PUB" - big neon sign that we couldn't avoid :) There was some interesting dancing and later we went back to the hotel (Thilanka) and had a little party by the pool... late night, let's just say we all bonded very well and some got wet in the pool.

Sunday morning most were slow getting up, but we still had lots to do. We went to an enormous Buddah statue (there are lots of ~1 story ones around, but this one was about 4 stories high). Then we went to a nice spice garden where we all got nice mini-massages. After that, we went to a gem place (kinda like Montana... but not really, Danielle and Mary). Then it was time for elephant rides and visiting the orphanage... I have to leave it there - gotta go - they are waiting for me and I can't walk home alone... I'll write again soon...

finally got some arrak [2005]

So right now, a few of us are in town to do some shopping for the community center. This morning we painted probably 30 or 40 signs, and this afternoon we will put lettering on them... not sure what they will say... I'll let you know next time :)

Yesterday we did beach cleanup again in the morning, and in the afternoon half of us went to the community center and half to the camp. I went to the camp and helped to teach a few adults appropriate Englist to use - one was a fisherman and we taought him how to say that he is a fishgerman that uses a net and a canoe, and he needs a net and a canoe. We aloso supervised some coloring, and others made leis of the gorgeous plumeria blooms wil a bunch of the women and girls.

This morning we did the signs as well as cutting out shapes with the spare wood - letters, animals, shapes. It was fun using the jigsaw! This afternoon after we get back from shopping, we will sand them and paint them.

Last night was a treat - we went down to a nearby nice hotel - the Tangerine. Gorgeous... our guesthouse is very nice, much like a dorm but the Tangerine was a beautiful western hotel, full of people from Europe. We had some good food and enjoyed listening and dancing to the local band, performing lots of random stuff, from Tom Jones to Abba, and lots of Ricky Martin :) I got some great pics of the group, including Damien taking over the mike to sing an Irish song.


Back at the guesthouse, we hung out for a while, got the guys that work there to write our names in Singhalese on our hands - a beautiful language. We got our first taste of the local alcohol, Arrak, which tasted alot like vodka. A few of us ended up playing a game similar to baseball - not sure if it is Irish or English or Scottish - that is the mix of folks here. Gillian, Joanne and Damien are Irish, but Nia is Scottish Hailey is English and then there was ne - I'm bad at baseball to begin with. But it was really fun. Unfortunately we were a bit loud, so at 2 or so in the morning Joanne, Hailey, Nia and I went out to the sea (accompanied, of course - we don't go out the gates of the place alone, and should not go out even in a group (especially of women) at night. It sounds worse than it is... you just don't know who you can run into. Then there was the 'motorbike' to try -- before we finally called it a night. Getting up at 7:30 wasn't very easy, and I was glad to do the work at the community center instead of the beach.

One thing that really struck me yesterday while cleaning the beach -- most of the trash is your 'normal' beach trash but what was a bit heartbreaking was the number of flip flops. I probably picked up around 30 or 40, of all shapes and sizes.

On a happier note, tonight a troupe of traditional dancers are coming to the guesthouse. Should be great, for 2000 rupees ($20).

Gotta go shopping -- not sure if I'll be able to check in before we go away this weekend. We leave tomorrow afternoon for Kandy.


End of work day number 1 [2005]

Well, I got my luggage this morning at 6am. It was nice to finally get the rest of my stuff, and more clothes to wear :) But it did take quite a few calls to the airline and the courier. Luckily, another teammate, Damien, had lost his bag so between the two of us I think the delivery was accelerated. They say Sri Lankan time does not go by the clock, and that's definitely true.

Today was our first day of beach cleanup. So far the plan is to do that every morning this week, and plant trees every morning next week. There are about 20 of us, and I think we gathered about 60 bags of trash in 3 or 4 hours. Afterwards, a bunch of us frolicked in the sea for a bit to wash the sand and grime off. A good morning.

In the afternoon each day we either go to the camp of about 35 displaced families or go to the community center.Yesterday we arrived in the afternoon and went to the camp for a bit, so today I opted for the community center. A few of us drew some learning posters - letters, numbers, colors, etc. Others worked with the 5 or 6 kids that came to learn about 3pm, and the other 10 or 20 that came in to color and play around 4pm. We went back to the lodging about 5:30pm, a very productive day.

By the way, the food is excellent (especially for a vegetarian!).The team is great, and it is really helpful that there are 2 people that have already been here for 3 weeks, so they can fill us in, in addition to the project team members.

Today during the lunch break, a few of us rode into town, checked out the scene and used the ATM. Quite an adventure. Tonight 5 of us rode in the tuk-tuk (meant to hold 3) so the ride home will be another adventure, screaming by busses, inches away from motorcycles and bicycles... driving is an experience.

This weekend, some of us are going to the jungle and others to Kandy, a cultural center. I opted for Kandy, which will include a visit to the Temple of the Tooth (a sacred Buddha relic) and the elephant orphanage where I should be able to join the elephants in the river. Plus, it will be 2 nights in a nice hotel with air conditioning :)( It is quite muggy - reminds me alot of Georgia (the weather, not the environ!). And I shouldn't complain -- my roommate (Paula, a barrister from London) and I got the best room :)

Gotta go -- this internet connection is a bit spotty. I'll try to write again soon~

L Brigid.

Arrived in Sri Lanka... [2005]

...but unfortunately my luggage is not joining me just yet.

The flight in was fine, up until my backpack failed to appear. I put in a claim, they gave me some money to buy some clothes (4500 roughly equivalent to $45). My pickup from i-to-i was starting to wonder, I think, but I got in the transport safely.

The hour drive to the Blue Seas Guesthouse was quite an adventure. The road is shared by pedestrians, bikes, scooters, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, farming tractors (one had 4 people on board), what looks like motorized plows, and of course cars and trucks. Very interesting, and at times gripping (as in my hands gripping the seat). They have no respect for lanes or lines, which makes it interesting. All in all it was a fun ride, and took my mind off my lost luggage. Later I found out that a girl who lost her luggage on Tues go it on Sat, so I need to be prepared to manage for a few days. They assured me they would deliver it down to where we are staying, but she did call this afternoon to check on my flight number, which isn't encouraging - I gave that to her this afternoon. Luckily it is almost all clothes in that bag, so I should be fine.

I checked in and got a pretty nice room with a balcony - cold showers (which was welcome) and the water from the shower drained onto the outside wall and eventually the street below... interesting. But the proprietor was nice enough to give me soap - a very good thing! And he was very sweet about the lost luggage.

We all did a little walking tour this afternoon, and then hung out at a nice hotel - the Mount Lavinia - where I bought some clothes for an exorbitant sum (for here) - $16 for 2 tshirts and a skirt.

In any case, there are about 30 of us going to 4 or 5 different projects. Tomorrow we do orientation together and then go to our respective areas. Tonight I need to stay up to help proactively get over jetlag (13 hour time difference) so I'm going out for a beer with the ones who have either been here a little while, or who like me want to try to adjust schedules.

Gotta go - and tomorrow we leave the capital city (which to me is a cross between Nairobi and Antananarivo Madagascar...) and head down the coast.


Arrived in Singapore [2005]

The flight was good - 16 hours, and we arrived an hour early. In a half hour I check in for my last flight on Emirates/SriLankan Air that goes through Kuala Lumpur before arriving in Colombo. I was able to sleep, watch 3 movies and read so I'm in good shape here on the 10th at 5am (I skipped the 9th!). It was weird to not see sunshinme, though, since we were chasing dawn the whole way and the sun still has not risen here.

I'll write again soon, and hopefully it will be more interesting than just logistics :) Brigid

Ready to go! [2005]

Ready to go! I'm ready a whole 20 minutes early - not sure that has ever happened to me before :) Just waiting for Danielle to pick me up - she's driving me up to LAX. Hopefully it won't take more than 2 hours, but we'll see how the traffic is. Thanks Danielle!!!!!

It still doesn't feel real, but I am ready!

Some websites: Sri Lanka Beach Cleanup Project: Home base - Kalutara: Sri Lanka news: Sri Lanka Tourism site: