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How Dee fell in love with Sri Lanka

How Dee fell in love with Sri Lanka

Author -  Dee Evans


For months I agonized over the decision of what to do after leaving high school.

I decided that what I wanted to do was travel abroad and see what was out there past our little remote island in the pacific ocean.

But my own doubts and lack of confidence in my ability to fully rely on myself held me back. I wished that I had a friend I could go with but my sister and my friends had chosen different paths. After some time passed I realized I was letting my fear get in the way. I took inspiration from an idea I had read somewhere to ‘make decisions out of love not fear.’ I didn’t want to be someone who regretted not doing what excited them. So I started researching volunteering programmes.

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 1.jpg

Traditional Sri Lankan dress

I found IWH online and spent many hours poring over their different programmes all over the world. There were so many options and places I had never considered!! I always knew once I finished high school I wanted to travel outside of New Zealand but I had never given much thought to where exactly. Everywhere offered different exotic landscapes and rich history, it seemed impossible to narrow it down to one place. At first I was set on either Bali or Thailand, both very touristic destinations. After talking to Shelby from IWH and mentioning that I wanted to learn to surf while I was away, she suggested I consider Sri Lanka. And so I impulsively said yes. Sri Lanka it was. I knew absolutely nothing about the place or the culture but I saw it as an opportunity to embrace the unknown.

The night before my flight I was packing my bags when I was hit by a wave of anxiety and was on the verge of panicking. My family was asleep when my best friend called me up. She drove to my house and we talked until late. She was also on the brink of something new, about to move cross country and start life as a university student.

We were both so full of excitement and nerves, it was a crazy feeling. With no idea when we would see each other next, it was a hard goodbye.

My first flight was to Sydney where I had a 5 hour layover. I had asked Dale to extend my layovers because I was fretting about missing a flight, not realizing that I only had to check in once and could go straight to the gate at every airport. This meant that I ended up spending way too much time in uncomfortable plastic chairs. From Sydney I flew to Singapore where I had an even longer layover. My mum was generous enough to pay for me to spend a night in one of the transit motels. There was a rooftop pool, a free meal and a tiny room to myself. It felt like the height of luxury. As I floated on my back in the pool I listened to the planes flying past. The world had never felt so big and full of opportunity!! A mother and her kid paddled by the side of the pool. In the lukewarm spa a group of young Europeans spoke in accented English. I wondered where they were going and what they hoped to find there.

 

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 2.jpg

The baby turtles at the Sanctuary

The next morning I woke up feeling well rested thanks to the cushy bed. Today was the day where I actually arrived at my destination. My mum had bought me the Lonely Planet guide book to the country so I passed the time flipping through the pages. It was a short flight to Colombo, the capital of the island nation. After finally stepping off the plane I followed everyone else to the arrival lounge. We walked into a large hall where rows of seats were filled with men holding signs with names. I looked through the crowd getting nervous as I didn’t see my name. I looked again and it still wasn’t there. I could see some of the men were noticing my uncertainty. A couple of them approached me offering taxis. I shook my head and instead, wandered over to the money changers and exchanged some dollars for Sri Lankan Rupees. I went back to the crowd and this time I saw my name immediately. He was standing right in the middle. How I could have missed him? Maybe he had just got there. In any case there was no way of knowing as he didn’t have too much English and I had zero Tamil or Sinhalese, the two dialects spoken in Sri Lanka. We shook hands and then he led towards the back of the hall where another girl was sitting with her luggage. She introduced herself as Miriam from Germany. Her father was from the U.S so she spoke perfect English with an American accent. At the time I didn’t know that Miriam would be one of the few volunteers who spoke English natively. Most of the volunteers were girls and most of them were German. I got very used to hearing rapid fire German spoken around me. And I also got very used to my Kiwi accent being misunderstood and misheard!!!

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 3.jpg

Amazing Sri Lanka beaches


Miriam had had little sleep and was exhausted from her long flights so she fell asleep soon after we got on the highway. We drove in a white van which fortunately had air conditioning; about a week later it broke and the heat rising from the engine was enough to put you to sleep! After about an hour we reached the house, which was deserted. It was a Sunday afternoon and most everyone had gone away for weekend trips. We went through our induction then were taken to our dorm and left alone. After lying on my bed sweating for a few minutes I asked Miriam if she wanted to go to the beach. We had been told of somewhere a short walk away where surfboards could be hired by the hour. We changed into togs and lathered on sunscreen then set off with maps open on her phone. After walking in what we thought was the right direction we reached a busy main road.

This was my first experience with roads and traffic in Asia and I was more than slightly overwhelmed. Tuk tuks tooted, car horns beeped, cyclists threaded in and out of the vehicles. There’s no way that a beach is anywhere near this madness I thought to myself as we began to realize we were a little lost. We asked a man where the beach was and he pointed wordlessly in a different direction. After another 20 minutes of walking, from across the road Miriam spotted a gap between buildings behind which the ocean was visible. We followed a gravel path and immediately were transported to another world. Golden sand glittered as the last few rays of sun sank below the horizon. Somewhere nearby reggae played softly, harmonizing with the soft lapping sound of the waves. Across the beach homey surf shacks had chairs and boards laid out in front of them. It didn’t feel crowded in the least but locals and tourists alike mingled with fresh coconuts in hand. It was paradise.

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 4.jpg

The volunteer center


That night exhausted from the sun and travel I went to sleep early and awoke even earlier the next day. I crept down the ladder of the top bunk and headed for the stairs. Some girls had mentioned that the roof was usually open and one of the few places where you could get some privacy. At the top of the landing I found it unlocked and slipped through the gap. The warm air promised another scorcher of a day. A slight breeze carried the tantalizing smell of fresh bread. The house was surrounded on three sides by tall coconut trees and palm trees. Across the dirt road that ran in front of the house a few cows ambled about a green field. Washing lay out across the fences that separated the houses from the street. Today was Monday and also my first day volunteering. All the turtle project volunteers had the mornings off so we headed to the beach once again. After hours of swimming, surfing and sunbathing we walked back to the house and had some traditional Sri Lankan food prepared by locals. Shortly after, the van arrived at the gate to drive us to the turtle hatchery. I had been warned of the long drive and came prepared with headphones. Though it was only an hour long the midday heat was enough to quell any efforts at conversation as many drifted to sleep.

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 5.jpg

Another amazing beach


The van came to a slow stop at the end of a long sandy driveway lined by coconut trees. We all clambered out and were greeted by the team at the hatchery. ‘Ayubowan,’ I bowed my head as was customary. The sanctuary was dotted with small, concrete, above ground pools which the turtles lived in. Painted illustrations were sketched onto the outsides of the tanks. For the next few hours we emptied, scrubbed and refilled a few of the tanks.The turtles were happy to be petted and scratched and whenever we took a break they were spoiled with attention. It was messy and sweaty work. By the time we were finished we were all covered in wet sand and the green goo that clung to the walls of the tank. We got back in the van ready for a shower and dinner.


Slowly but surely I fell in love with Sri Lanka.

I loved the pace of life, the delicious curries and samosas, the beaches and the heat. I spent three weeks volunteering and one week sightseeing but it all passed so quickly it’s hard to believe. I will always be grateful for all the experiences I had and the lovely people I met. I’m sure that i’ll be back again one day and can’t wait for whenever that is.

To find out more about Dee Evans projects check out

https://www.iwh.co.nz/volunteer-in-asia-pacific-regions/sri-lanka/turtle-conservation

How Dee fell in love with Sri Lanka

I didn’t want to be someone who regretted not doing what excited them. So I started researching volunteering programmes.


For months I agonized over the decision of what to do after leaving high school.

I decided that what I wanted to do was travel abroad and see what was out there past our little remote island in the pacific ocean.

But my own doubts and lack of confidence in my ability to fully rely on myself held me back. I wished that I had a friend I could go with but my sister and my friends had chosen different paths. After some time passed I realized I was letting my fear get in the way. I took inspiration from an idea I had read somewhere to ‘make decisions out of love not fear.’ I didn’t want to be someone who regretted not doing what excited them. So I started researching volunteering programmes.

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 1.jpg

Traditional Sri Lankan dress

I found IWH online and spent many hours poring over their different programmes all over the world. There were so many options and places I had never considered!! I always knew once I finished high school I wanted to travel outside of New Zealand but I had never given much thought to where exactly. Everywhere offered different exotic landscapes and rich history, it seemed impossible to narrow it down to one place. At first I was set on either Bali or Thailand, both very touristic destinations. After talking to Shelby from IWH and mentioning that I wanted to learn to surf while I was away, she suggested I consider Sri Lanka. And so I impulsively said yes. Sri Lanka it was. I knew absolutely nothing about the place or the culture but I saw it as an opportunity to embrace the unknown.

The night before my flight I was packing my bags when I was hit by a wave of anxiety and was on the verge of panicking. My family was asleep when my best friend called me up. She drove to my house and we talked until late. She was also on the brink of something new, about to move cross country and start life as a university student.

We were both so full of excitement and nerves, it was a crazy feeling. With no idea when we would see each other next, it was a hard goodbye.

My first flight was to Sydney where I had a 5 hour layover. I had asked Dale to extend my layovers because I was fretting about missing a flight, not realizing that I only had to check in once and could go straight to the gate at every airport. This meant that I ended up spending way too much time in uncomfortable plastic chairs. From Sydney I flew to Singapore where I had an even longer layover. My mum was generous enough to pay for me to spend a night in one of the transit motels. There was a rooftop pool, a free meal and a tiny room to myself. It felt like the height of luxury. As I floated on my back in the pool I listened to the planes flying past. The world had never felt so big and full of opportunity!! A mother and her kid paddled by the side of the pool. In the lukewarm spa a group of young Europeans spoke in accented English. I wondered where they were going and what they hoped to find there.

 

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 2.jpg

The baby turtles at the Sanctuary

The next morning I woke up feeling well rested thanks to the cushy bed. Today was the day where I actually arrived at my destination. My mum had bought me the Lonely Planet guide book to the country so I passed the time flipping through the pages. It was a short flight to Colombo, the capital of the island nation. After finally stepping off the plane I followed everyone else to the arrival lounge. We walked into a large hall where rows of seats were filled with men holding signs with names. I looked through the crowd getting nervous as I didn’t see my name. I looked again and it still wasn’t there. I could see some of the men were noticing my uncertainty. A couple of them approached me offering taxis. I shook my head and instead, wandered over to the money changers and exchanged some dollars for Sri Lankan Rupees. I went back to the crowd and this time I saw my name immediately. He was standing right in the middle. How I could have missed him? Maybe he had just got there. In any case there was no way of knowing as he didn’t have too much English and I had zero Tamil or Sinhalese, the two dialects spoken in Sri Lanka. We shook hands and then he led towards the back of the hall where another girl was sitting with her luggage. She introduced herself as Miriam from Germany. Her father was from the U.S so she spoke perfect English with an American accent. At the time I didn’t know that Miriam would be one of the few volunteers who spoke English natively. Most of the volunteers were girls and most of them were German. I got very used to hearing rapid fire German spoken around me. And I also got very used to my Kiwi accent being misunderstood and misheard!!!

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 3.jpg

Amazing Sri Lanka beaches


Miriam had had little sleep and was exhausted from her long flights so she fell asleep soon after we got on the highway. We drove in a white van which fortunately had air conditioning; about a week later it broke and the heat rising from the engine was enough to put you to sleep! After about an hour we reached the house, which was deserted. It was a Sunday afternoon and most everyone had gone away for weekend trips. We went through our induction then were taken to our dorm and left alone. After lying on my bed sweating for a few minutes I asked Miriam if she wanted to go to the beach. We had been told of somewhere a short walk away where surfboards could be hired by the hour. We changed into togs and lathered on sunscreen then set off with maps open on her phone. After walking in what we thought was the right direction we reached a busy main road.

This was my first experience with roads and traffic in Asia and I was more than slightly overwhelmed. Tuk tuks tooted, car horns beeped, cyclists threaded in and out of the vehicles. There’s no way that a beach is anywhere near this madness I thought to myself as we began to realize we were a little lost. We asked a man where the beach was and he pointed wordlessly in a different direction. After another 20 minutes of walking, from across the road Miriam spotted a gap between buildings behind which the ocean was visible. We followed a gravel path and immediately were transported to another world. Golden sand glittered as the last few rays of sun sank below the horizon. Somewhere nearby reggae played softly, harmonizing with the soft lapping sound of the waves. Across the beach homey surf shacks had chairs and boards laid out in front of them. It didn’t feel crowded in the least but locals and tourists alike mingled with fresh coconuts in hand. It was paradise.

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 4.jpg

The volunteer center


That night exhausted from the sun and travel I went to sleep early and awoke even earlier the next day. I crept down the ladder of the top bunk and headed for the stairs. Some girls had mentioned that the roof was usually open and one of the few places where you could get some privacy. At the top of the landing I found it unlocked and slipped through the gap. The warm air promised another scorcher of a day. A slight breeze carried the tantalizing smell of fresh bread. The house was surrounded on three sides by tall coconut trees and palm trees. Across the dirt road that ran in front of the house a few cows ambled about a green field. Washing lay out across the fences that separated the houses from the street. Today was Monday and also my first day volunteering. All the turtle project volunteers had the mornings off so we headed to the beach once again. After hours of swimming, surfing and sunbathing we walked back to the house and had some traditional Sri Lankan food prepared by locals. Shortly after, the van arrived at the gate to drive us to the turtle hatchery. I had been warned of the long drive and came prepared with headphones. Though it was only an hour long the midday heat was enough to quell any efforts at conversation as many drifted to sleep.

IWH-Sri-Lanka-Dee-Evans 5.jpg

Another amazing beach


The van came to a slow stop at the end of a long sandy driveway lined by coconut trees. We all clambered out and were greeted by the team at the hatchery. ‘Ayubowan,’ I bowed my head as was customary. The sanctuary was dotted with small, concrete, above ground pools which the turtles lived in. Painted illustrations were sketched onto the outsides of the tanks. For the next few hours we emptied, scrubbed and refilled a few of the tanks.The turtles were happy to be petted and scratched and whenever we took a break they were spoiled with attention. It was messy and sweaty work. By the time we were finished we were all covered in wet sand and the green goo that clung to the walls of the tank. We got back in the van ready for a shower and dinner.


Slowly but surely I fell in love with Sri Lanka.

I loved the pace of life, the delicious curries and samosas, the beaches and the heat. I spent three weeks volunteering and one week sightseeing but it all passed so quickly it’s hard to believe. I will always be grateful for all the experiences I had and the lovely people I met. I’m sure that i’ll be back again one day and can’t wait for whenever that is.

To find out more about Dee Evans projects check out

https://www.iwh.co.nz/volunteer-in-asia-pacific-regions/sri-lanka/turtle-conservation

How Dee fell in love with Sri Lanka

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