One week in and I think I’m over my jet lag and the general feeling of wtf did I just do (although that thought does still cross my mind). I still wake up every night at 4 a.m. wondering where the hell I am, but I suppose that will never change and really isn’t much different than life in Regina.

The last week has been filled with VSO orientation, which includes three hours of Sinhala language classes everyday (including Saturday). For those who aren’t familiar with Sinhala, it’s the most widely spoken language in Sri Lanka and is very difficult to learn, especially for someone like me, who took over 13 years of core French and the only phrase I can count on regularly is “zut alors.” Some Sinhala words are starting to stick, although I don’t think there’s anyway I could successfully ask where the bathroom is yet. Maybe that will come in week two.

We’ve also been learning more about the work VSO is doing in Sri Lanka through it’s participation and governance program and mental health program (the area I’ll be working in). I’m blown away by the intelligence and experience of the office staff and how dedicated they are to their projects. It’s been motivating to me for sure.

We’ve also been exploring the city a bit in our free time. Here’s a quick list of some of the things I’ve observed:

• Sri Lanka is shaped like the palm of your hand. When explaining where a place is located in Sri Lanka, all you have to do is point to the corresponding location on your hand. Using your hand as a map doesn’t work so well for Canada.

• The food is incredible. I know they’ve been dumbing down the spice for the white people, but everything I’ve eaten has been great. I haven’t even craved Tumblers pizza yet.

• I’ve got more sweat in me than anything else. I’ve successfully sweat through my shirt everyday, even after using all the great tips from everyone. Sweat rags are a must if you plan on visiting.

• Generally speaking Sri Lankans are a very reserved people with a genuine warmth and willingness to help out others just below the surface. Where in some other countries I’ve visited I’ve felt the first thing people think is – “how can I make a quick buck off this foreigner”, this is not the case, generally speaking, in Sri Lanka. What I’ve experienced from people is the “how can I help this sweaty guy, so he doesn’t die on this bus.”

• Flush toilets are the norm in Colombo – and maybe in the entire country. Wasn’t sure about this after a previous experience in Thailand, but for now, my knife edge technique has been put on the shelf.

That’s about it at the moment. We just moved into our own apartment, so stay tuned for pics of that. It’ll definitely be nice to get settled and stop living out of a backpack. I’ll be starting my work placement fully in a couple weeks, and Trina got a job teaching at the Overseas School in Colombo, so we won’t have to eat at the food bank after all. Good news! Later.

Shaun

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