Before any event begins, the oil lamp is lit by all the dignitaries in attendance. I've seen this ritual go down several times before, but this is my first time actually getting the in-the-moment nod to light the lamp. Not sure why. Think they just felt sorry for me standing there sweating and taking pictures. Please notice the rag sticking out of my pocket.

Even though I’ve helped arrange over a half-dozen media events at the hospital already, I still get a kick out of them. Virtually nothing is the same as back home, yet they still serve the exact same purpose – big cheeses get to feel important and give speeches, the media gets a story and a snack, and I get to hand out the press releases that I wrote.

Everyone’s happy.

Here are a few of the highlights from yesterday’s event regarding the launch of a hot line that provides support to people suffering from dementia and the people that care for them:

  • Proposed start time is 9:30 a.m.  Number of people in the hall at that time: 2. Actual start time is 10:20 a.m.
  • It’s 40 above in the hall, yet no one else is sweating except me. There are fans, but there’s not enough power to have them move any faster than the water buffalo who walks across my road.
  • The room is packed. Not sure how it’s done exactly, but people come from out of the woodwork for events like these and there are never any empty seats.
  • The head table of guests all talk to one another while speeches are going on. In fact, they will also talk to the person giving the speech – interrupting in mid-sentence. Yesterday, someone yelled at the person speaking to remember to thank me, which he already did five minutes ago. He didn’t hear it because he was in a discussion with someone else at the time. (Two public thank yous and the oil lamp – it was my lucky day.)
  • Phones are never turned off. And if someone calls, you answer it and have a chat. No problem.
  • Props are encouraged. At the event yesterday, a live phone was setup to simulate the first call on the hot line. The only hitch was that the phone ringer was amplified on a microphone and someone kept calling it during the speeches. Eventually the phone was unplugged until it was time for the fake call. I really hope that wasn’t the actual hot line….yikes.
  • The event is never over until everyone has some milk tea and cake. As long as the refreshments hold out, the event is deemed a success and everyone goes back to their day smiling. Yesterday was no different, a true success.
  • What lasts 20 minutes max in Canada, is a 2 hour minimum in Sri Lanka. No one seems to mind though, so neither do I. Just glad to help.

World Mental Health Day is coming up in a few weeks and this promises to be a doozy. Three days of events spread out all around Colombo. Should be a true test on my mental health.

In other news, it’s my birthday today and we’re headed out tonight with our neighbours and other volunteers to an Irish pub to celebrate. Why not go Irish?

Take care.