Sri Lanka Immersion

IMG_4813.JPG​​

Hot weather, donkeys, the Hokey Pokey and UNO, what more could you want from an overseas immersion? Amidst the organised chaos of the city of Negombo, on  June 29, eleven tired STCC students, accompanied by Mr Matt Webb and Mrs Sharon Lucht, stepped off the plane and into the thick, warm Sri Lankan air, ready to begin the experience of a lifetime.
 
After recovering from our combined 12-hour flight, we awoke to the smell of curry and the gentle crash of waves outside of the Paradise Beach Hotel.
 
Venturing into the city later that day was an experience that none of us will ever forget. Thousands of tuk-tuks, bikes, cars, tractors and random livestock all weaving in and out of each other, distracting us as we tried to locate the local markets and purchase some sporting equipment for the students in Kalpitiya. 
 
After lunch (more curry), Brother Navinda and Chathu arrived at our hotel to take us on the 3 1/2 hour bus ride to the Brother’s house in the small village of Kalpitiya, our new home for the next two weeks.
 
Breakfast in Sri Lanka was an interesting experience, to say the least. Every morning it was sugar buns, bread with sugar, toast with sugar and carbs galore (sometimes even hot chips!!). But we soon realised that we needed all of the energy that we could get to sustain us through the long and exhausting days.
 
Immersion 2.jpgOur usual mornings consisted of visiting different schools, where we were always instantly swamped by smiling kids, a book clutched in one hand and our arms clamped in the other, dragging us to their classrooms, eager for us to teach them more English. Although we were all hesitant to begin with, we quickly found our feet and discovered ways to work around the language barrier and teach the students new concepts whilst reinforcing the basics. With every student that we taught, with every school that we visited, we left knowing that not only had we had a significant impact on their lives, but also knowing that they had changed us. Whilst we were teaching them the different parts of the body and how to describe their family in English, they were teaching us the purest forms of humility, gratitude and love, indirectly revealing to us the true nature of humanity, all within the sheer happiness of an innocent child. 
 
Lunch, the true insight into local cuisine, every day consisted of curries, rice and other delicious foods that we all tasted and learned to love.
 
In the afternoons, we would visit various outstations (homework centres), arriving on the back of a truck to once again be treated like celebrities and welcomed with mischievous grins hidden behind colourful flowers (which would ultimately end up being threaded through the girls’ hair). The connections that we made with the kids before launching into the actual teaching made it so much easier to communicate and teach them. We continued classwork, reciting the ABCs and numbers, however, through the use of flashcards and small books, we created an outdoor classroom environment where the kids were encouraged to express their knowledge of English.  Crowd favourite games such as “Hokey Pokey” and “Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes,” reinforced the learning that we often focused on, allowing the kids to both have fun and remember what we had taught them. We also found ways to incorporate counting through a new and improved “Macarena,” a game that was second only to playing soccer and cricket. Some students took us to visit their homes as a sign of gratitude and respect for us as teachers. All of us approached this opportunity with an open mind as we gained an authentic insight into how these impoverished communities lived, and how these conditions did not discourage the kid’s outlook on life.
 
Immersion.jpgOur once tunnelled visions from the society we live in today, were broadened completely to allow a new perspective on just how lucky we are and how rewarding this Immersion program is for the individuals who choose to undertake it. We can all agree that the happiness that overwhelmed us when sitting with the children - the giving of a sticker, a high five or even a hug, is truly cherished as a key part of our growth as young adults upon returning to Australia. It’s incredible to believe that this journey was only two weeks and yet we feel as if we accomplished so much, shared so many memories and were filled with so much joy and gratitude, all from teaching the children, visiting of temples and being fully immersed in a culture very different to our own.
 
Thank you to the Marist Brothers for being incredible hosts and allowing us to experience Sri Lanka with them, Chathu and Ransolu for being genuine human beings who kept entertaining us every step of the way and the local boys who put up with us continually singing backstreet boys, laughing and enjoying ourselves in their company.
 
And finally Mr Webb and Mrs Lucht. Thank you for also putting up with us and our loud nature, our staying up late but mainly, thank you for keeping us safe on a trip that was nothing short of “Wow.”
 
Joseph McAneney and Olivia Jeffrey 
Yr. 12 Pilgrims