Thursday, 1 April 2010

Day 7-10 Colombo Uptown

Day 7
We all met again at Lanka Hands, this was our daily morning meeting point, where we were passed over to our next hosts Rotary Club of Colombo Uptown. Dr Suresh and Michael were very keen to take us to the Turtle Hatchery, south of Colombo. Dr Suresh had led the outgoing team to the UK last October and Michael was one of the team members. We arrived at an exclusive beach club and hotel called Serendip. With our own room we changed, and then sampled the sea, sun, sand and spirit known as Olde Reserve.
We dipped in the Indian Ocean and all realised just how strong the currents were; but the water was lovely and warm. Lunch followed including Jim eating a whole chilli and crying for over 10 minutes. Then the wonderful trip to the Turtle Hatchery only 15 minutes away.

It was a two hour drive back to Colombo along the notorious Galle Road in the dark. We all realised exactly why this road had such a reputation.
That evening Jim watched a live football match from Stamford Bridge which did not finish until 3am! But the fact that it was a live match just showed how technology has made the world such a smaller place.
Day 8
An interesting morning was had “going Dutch”. David took us around the Dutch Museum and Wolvendall Dutch Reformed Church. Lunch was arranged at Old Oriental Hotel which had a picture window overlooking the port. The lunch was excellent and we lazily watched to movement of container ships out of the harbour.
The afternoon was spent visiting the General Hospital which had 3800 beds. This hospital had a specialist ‘emergency trauma unit’ which was developed in response to the recurrent terrorist attacks during the war. The hospital now housed all major specialist sections, from orthopaedics to neurology, surgery to paediatrics, and even included a specialist burns unit, where the resident Occupational Therapist gave some time to speak to Dan. The team were struck by the sheer numbers of patients in the hospital, with space at a premium and the ‘open’ wards which made infection control something of a difficult challenge. The efficiency of the hospital process seemed evident, and staff appeared motivated and enthused with their work. Gill was quick to point out that the security measures on one of the wards seemed somewhat extreme, as an armed guard could be seen at the entrance to the ward. This effect was somewhat spoiled as we noticed the guard was soundly asleep clutching the rifle.
That evening the team found themselves preparing for their second club presentation, with a G&T in their hand, in the fading sunlight of the Galle Face Hotel veranda.
This was our first “shorter presentation” designed for meetings where keynote speakers had already been booked. The presentation centred around our individual profiles and an insight into Rotary in District 1280.
We were warmly welcomed by the Club; President Prabath and Jim exchanged banners; after which time we listened to a very interesting guest speaker who spoke about the future proposals and changes to Education. The proposals almost mirrored what was happening in the UK especially as regards testing and were met by some members with similar concerns. After each Rotary meeting there is the “time of fellowship”; a drink chat and opportunity to plan for the future. What was evident was the way that members relaxed at the meetings and kept proceedings as informal as possible. This made the team feel much more at ease.
Day 9
Colombo Uptown had arranged a very prestigious visit with Dr Peter Hayes the British High Commissioner. Dr Hayes spent an hour with us answering questions about the situation in Sri Lanka and its regeneration following both the Tsunami and the end of the conflict. Photographs were then taken outside as banners were given. Our guide Hadjeern was absolutely excellent and afterwards took us to the museum BMICH (Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall) dedicated to the politician Bandaranayake whose assassination shocked the world. Include in the exhibits was the shirt with the bullet holes and the pistol. After this we visited the Independence Hall an impressive piece of architecture celebrating the handover of Ceylon by the British on Feb. 4th 1948. It became apparent later that this structure was based upon the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy.
We then made our way down to the Panadura Village a project sponsored by 4 Rotary Districts including 1280. The project consists of 86 dwellings with its own shop outside which Gill practiced her cricketing prowess. We had time to talk to the local people and see just how valuable the project had been.
One of our hosts was from the Rotary Club of Panadura who was also keen to show us the houses (44) rebuilt by themselves following the tsunami. When we saw where this village was situated we realised just how vulnerable they must have been. Considerable damage was done by the tsunami at Panadura; there was nothing to stop it.
That evening the previously postponed dinner with DG Suri took place at the Galle Face Hotel. We met with Nadira and Adam again and had an excellent meal in a beautiful setting. Our thoughts were now starting to focus on the conference and the challenges that would present.
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