Show me the way to Hambantota, you’re sure to meet some special people there.

IMGA0333IMGA0328We found ourselves the morning of August 14th waking up in the town of Hambantota to the thunder of crashing waves from the Indian Ocean. Our hotel rooms were probably about 20 feet from the water, but this beach was one you’d never want to swim on. There was only about 10 feet of sand, and it plummeted into the water at about a 45 degree angle. It’s apparently been this way since the Tsunami. Every wave built and crash against the wall of sand. You’d actually see waves hit the shore then bounch back into the ocean around 3 feet high. I’ve never seen anything like it. I slept pretty poorly because I was awakened so often by the violent waves.

The hotel itself was mostly pretty nice. We pulled in the early evening of the 13th and were greeted by a bunch of monkeys. Not a good start to our stay if you ask me (see my previous post as to why). The grounds were very nice, the hotel was pretty large, but it turned out to be practically empty. It was actually kind of dark and pretty eerie. A dinner buffet was included in our stay. I think all the guests ate at about the same time, and if there were 20 people staying in the hotel that night, I’d be surprised.

Back to the 14th. That morning I turned on the hot water in the shower. Water came out but then slowed until there’s just a trickle then completely stopped. Of course the cold water worked just fine!

The minor discomfort experienced from the strange silence, darkness,  and cold water at the hotel was nothing compared to the discomfort of those we visited first thing that morning. Our friends Amila and Hisham met us and took us to a community in another part of town where sanitation workers and their families live. This was the poorest community we visited while in Sri Lanka. The homes were shacks many with dirt floors and walls of coconut leaves, mud or tin. The fortunate ones lived in small homes build not too long ago by a non-governmental organization with cider block walls and concrete floors which were nice in comparison.

When we arrived and stepped into the first hut, there was a little baby girl sitting up on the hard floor with a fly crawling on her face. It brings a tear to your eye seeing how the people, especially the children, have to live. There were tons of children around.

Amila is a doctor and has been serving this community. Sanitation workers are ostracized and have to live in areas away from others. These people are what some would consider untouchables. Their community was actually spared from the Tsunami because of the very large dune between them and the ocean.

At the end of our visit we gave the children some of our CFP bracelets, and they loved them! They referred to me as Uncle when asking for them and would stick their little hands up to the open window. It’s common in Sri Lanka for children and youth to refer to others in familial terms even if there is no relation.

I think we were a very unusual sight in their neighborhood. I’m so glad we went there, but I left with a lump in my throat. It’s a shame anyone has to live like that. At least they have strong family units, and access to quality health care. It really makes you appreciate your blessings. I will never forget my visit to the sanitation village.

Here’s a video of a home in the village: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KYFTCRnouk .

Daman

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