I could go on for ages about my experiences volunteering in Kandy but I am going to keep it succinct. Those of you who know me will hear about it in great detail when we next speak and those who don’t probably don’t care!
For my second and third weeks with Green Lion I volunteered at a centre for disabled girls and women and at a local pre-school. I taught monks for a day but swiftly decided it wasn’t the right project for me. I’m glad I switched to the disabled project instead as I felt like my help was much more needed there.
Both experiences were rewarding in different ways. The disabled centre was very challenging but it was inspiring to meet so many selfless volunteers, some of whom have been there for months or even years. It’s possible to volunteer at the centre without going through an organisation, and I would definitely do this if I were ever to come back. It is run by nuns and the main sister was particularly charming. She ran little meditation sessions each morning before the project began, reminding the volunteers to ‘love than to be loved’ and do other similarly selfless things. I loved the ‘Joy’ class I helped out in and was inspired by the teacher who runs it because it must be a truly exhausting job. The centre did have certain problems, but I will not expand on these here. If I’d had longer to volunteer I would definitely have spent more time on this project because I can only imagine that you get more and more attached to the place as time goes on.
However, I was still happy with my decision to change projects every week because there were so many to choose from and it’s what most volunteers do.
In my second week, I decided to help at a local pre-school called Asiri. My friend Rita worked there the first week and she raved about it, so I thought it would be a nice change from my previous week. I imagined it would be physically exhausting but not as mentally challenging as the disabled centre.
I absolutely loved my week at Asiri. It is run by a family who really care about the volunteers who go there – this is somewhat unusual for Green Lion as volunteers on most projects complained about not being put to very good use! It happened to be ‘clay’ week so we spent most of our time in the garden making things out of clay (a rather dull activity when the kids destroy everything you make…). We also danced and sung with the children first thing in the morning, which was particularly enjoyable on the Friday, when they celebrated Independence Day with their lovely teachers!
For the rest of the day, we helped the children with typical arts and crafty type activities.
It was quite difficult communicating with them at times (and it made me appreciate how much more useful I must have been when I did the same thing in Ecuador…), but the kids were charming nonetheless and I had particular favourites from day 1.
Unlike the disabled project, where we got some unappetising noodles for lunch most days, the pre-school project finished in time to head home for midday. Meals in the Kandy house were always served buffet style, but with 50 or so people living there you never got to eat that much. However, there were only about five of us there for lunch and we served some truly delicious meals, always involving rice and some variation of dhal and curry.
This also meant we had the afternoons free to explore. Feeling more brave in my third week in Kandy, I decided to walk into the city and was amazed by how easy it was. The views were stunning as well.
We also started visiting a hotel near to our accommodation, where we paid a fiver for use of their pool.
At the weekend, we visited the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, a few kilometres south-west of the city. These were really beautiful and filled with amazing trees and flowers, such as rare palm trees from the Seychelles and wonderful slanting pines.
The following weekend, we went to the Millennium Elephant Foundation where we were able to wash the elephants and feed them snacks. This was an incredible experience for an elephant lover like myself!
Kandy doesn’t have many amazing restaurants but I did my best to try a fair few of them!
My favourite was probably Empire Cafe, a colourful little restaurant serving both western dishes and classic Sri Lankan food. The juices were particularly delicious and we had a very nice mango ice cream when we went for a goodbye dinner for some of our friends at the end of the second week. Service was painfully slow though, but the Lonely Planet recommendation keeps the tourists coming despite this!
White House was a favourite for curries. The restaurant upstairs serves yummy Indian dishes while the downstairs canteen offers a range of Sri Lankan ‘short eats’, which are usually fried pockets of veggies and rice. Here, I tried my first ‘lamprais’, a dish of rice, various curries and a boiled egg wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.
When I passed back through Kandy last week, I met up with the remaining volunteers for fried ice cream at a popular place called Cool Corner. I had banana and peanut butter ice cream and watched them ‘fry’ it and then roll up with a pizza slice!
I was sad to leave Kandy but probably ready to go. It had its own peculiar charm but the city was much busier than anywhere else I’ve been in Sri Lanka and I was looking forward to getting some peace and quiet.
(Sorry for any weird formatting. A combination of awful wifi and a small iPhone screen doesn’t make for easy blogging!)