On the 5th of January Marc Lynes and myself set off on our annual Sri Lanka experience. Since 2002 every year, sometimes twice a year we travel to the pearl drop island like no other. Hundreds of friends / family and colleagues have enjoyed life changing experiences with me and 2020 has been no exception. World problems continue but just for a couple of weeks we can shut off and channel our hearts and souls into hundreds may be thousands of people we can connect with. A year of saving preparing buying and begging we finally fly to the place we feel like home, nearly 100kg of brought saved and donated items in our luggage(minimal was our own personal belongings ) Marc and I lugged ourselves to departures, already we had our own personal goals to achieve and achieve as always we did . THE TOUR 1. Martial Arts 2. Charitable Causes 3. Holiday (Not neccerally in this order however holiday always comes last). As we landed, the island was so welcoming and as we left the aircraft the warmth and the unique tropical smells and sounds strike you immediately. After the fraught and cattle market luggage pickup and customs (probably the worst part of the trip) we are greeted with our long time dear friends, Army Captain Nalinda Rathanyaka, and our tour driver / guide Indie. The drive to our Hotel has always been for years, awful, but new highways have connected very well and the journey is now much quicker and more pleasant.
LA LA @ LAVILA with his staff are all ready to meet us with juice and garlands mid morning, so total a nice relaxation before we get to work . Nimerla Priyantha - Wushu Kung Fu Master and long time friend will be my on tap coordinator / confidante for the next 2 weeks. I already had been filled in with some problems, friends that have died and issues that need urgent attention by Indie tellling us on our way from the airport. First things first: unpack and our room looks like an overcrowded brick a brak shop, then to get the big money paid up so I know what I have to work with. LA La room and board £450 INDI transfers , trips and admin £300 . Priya £100 extra trips videoing and sundries . So basically Marc and Me £900 to £1000 (although there are always extras). For interest, flights range from £600 to £900 per person depending on date and when we booked ours they were £600 each with Qatar with one stop. A good airline . THE CHARITIES "My go fund me" page pulled in £350 other donations, seminars £300. After settling in we then checked out our training ground at the beach side of the hotel which is still functional but looking a bit run down and needs attention, I set up my kick pad and training apparatus which we will use every day. IT IS CLEAR THE RECENT TERRORIST ISSUE HERE HAD TAKEN ITS TOLL ON THE LOCALS, THE LACK OF TOURISM HIT THEM HARD. We visited every year through a civil war and the great Tsunami of 2004 but myself and my teams have always been kept safe by the very giving senglanese people - I've never felt unsafe .
As the sun sets on our first day, it's time for a visit to Tathi and Ami (Mummy and Daddy) just our affectionate names for them over the years they have supplied badges, flags, memorabilia etc and have given us hours of the best evenings with education about customs laws, history and culture, invaluable for anyone visiting Sri Lanka. They are an elderly couple; we have had the honour to be a part of their family as we have watched their children and grand children grow up who have followed / helped when times are tough (always lol) . Straight away it was clear I could not put this lovely man to work as he had a couple of serious accidents and although would have got up to travel at 5am to various outlets to get my orders in place, either by bus (only recommended for the experience) or train or bicycle . I contacted a sponsor who had given us some money to the GFM and who also knows this family to see if I could use her donation plus my own to help them. Tahthi arm had been broken but due to lack of funds stopped getting government treatment and chose the free but controversial local Ayavedic. What no-one could see is that his arm had set in correctly and an obvious nerve damage, making him pretty much an invalid, so within a few hours and £100 already gone (although the problem is very much a problem) at least we gave a little relief. But this is just day 1 of 12!
Obviously an overactive brain with jetlag and heat, no sleep for me. Marc on the other hand slept like a log. Our average trip wake up time is 5 or 6am, training as the sun rises until about 10 or 11am this would be an average day, training is not intense but productive and purposeful. Looking at Marc and working on realistic goals, mine a little more full on after a year of hip replacement recovery. My goals are to imulate or better what I was doing. Two years ago split kicks, jumping, brick breaking outside TKD and back to mono skiing. For Marc outside TKD is being more self sufficient shaving, cloths washing and the ultimate goal in getting him in a boat and doing a river Safari. We met with indi to discuss trips and visit the first 2 orphanages locally check their needs but also take a little help to show we are here. The first is Aruna, a disabled boys orphanage, we are met with incredible smiles laughter and genuine faces of joy and whatever their disability, they are fully aware of who we are. We gave food (not of interest to the boys though) but toys, games crickets sets and balls etc. We enjoyed sharing the fun which always brings a tear because they are so happy with such minor gifts and seem to love the attention. Watching them with the bubble makers was a joy as they probably had never seen such things. Getting another shopping list off the principle, we will return later in the week. Off to Tudduwa, a girls orphanage and we are greeted like kings, the girls are as excited as if Santa had arrived once again. We took random toys, girlie things, more bubbles and some volley balls. I had a brain wave of buying the 16 to 18 year olds dresses which they had never bought for a Prom do. To do this and give them the money, then show me the result another day. The 20 little ones we got shorts and t shirts, for a return visit where they can have a training session, however this did not work out.
No sleep again a lot of this is because the mind is racing to get as much done as possible and each trip try to add something new or find a person or group we can make a difference to , training as normal you cant beat a better environment to enjoy good full body work out , today making progress with some of Marc's bad technique habits and working on his stability, followed by my morning swim in the warm Indian ocean , then back to the local stores to buy basic essentials and food for a very big disabled mixed orphanage ages from 4 to 40 plus the building is split between children and adults male and female some are mild in their disability and some quite severe , one month before we came out I had an emergency phone call from my friends here that the food allowance from the council had been stopped and they had no food at all , I sent over some money to ride out the storm until we came out , meeting up with ninja who i met in 2002 a karate master who connected us up with martial arts out here with our original person who brought us to lanka Ray Hudson , Ninja Indi and Priya took us to the home where we were able to make a start on our work with the guys there , we had some fun with TKD always a great way to interact and share mutual love and respect and often All it takes is to show a bit of love and friendship which is lacking in all the homes , they are as well looked after as is humanly possible but it's not enough in my opinion , leaving there always leaves a huge sense of regret I've not done enough however we got a shopping list on it included 6 wall fans to keep flys and mosquitos at a minimum .
Light training this morning, then off to bentota to laluna water sports with our first attempt to get Marc in a boat! Not successful at all but I did manage to Mono water ski for the first time since my new hip replacement, a very nervous time but all was good and a very happy Del. As a consultation we went to a turtle farm which we have been many times but always can experience...
Our continuing days now start to really heat up, both sun and activity, our first tour was a long 4 hour drive to Rath's Command Army camp. A 5am start where we were treated to a tour of the camp and a special presentation of recruit training just for us. From there we drove an hour to give and share training at a big 50 strong TKD club, full of the expected passion and the will to learn. We gave out traditional gifts for the students and recieved a lovely award of thanks, this was followed by evening dinner before the 4 hour drive home x
Today our first proper day in Sri Lanka, we did a brief check on two orphanages we have been visiting over the past 18 years. As always a tear jerker but in the same context heart warming. Just some token gifts today with a months worth of basic food such as rice, tea, powdered milk etc. So the plan at the boys 'Aruna' we will go back and give them a special tea party with fun and games, toys, music and of course more generic foods. The girls 'Tuduwa', we have selected 8 senior (16 to 18 year olds) to go to the main town and choose a dress of their choice for a major school presentation later this year. 16 of the younger children we will buy shorts and T Shirts and I will return in a week and hold a TKD class that they have requested (and of course more foods).
Today was rest day (well kind of lol...), in Lanka you lose track of days, dates and even time. Our presence has been spread far and wide. People / friends visit us for help for daily gifts we brought with us start dwindling down fast, pens, tooth paste & tooth brushes, books etc. We get our morning training in and decide to deliver some of the promised items requested from the orphanages, or at least purchased, plastic cups x100, for the children 6 wall fans, 1000 books and pens, more rice by the sack full, potatoes, Dahl, sugar, tea, etc etc the shopping list gets bigger. Ironically everyone at home knows I 'DONT' shop but here I actually enjoy it, we barter and banter and it's a lot of fun - but very time consuming. As you can imagine every penny of any sponsor money has long gone and my own money (which I expect) is draining from the bank fast. No time to deliver the goods this day but with our bedroom now a store room and sleeping on bags of rice we continue with our mission... xx
As always thank you for all your support! xx
In memory of Grand Master Sim Pan in hearing of his sad passing whilst on tour.
Our Sister Club in Sri Lanka
One fund raising event was during Halloween, Master Derek along with his team of club athletes were set a fund raising challenge to complete as many sit-ups, press ups or attempt the plank for an hour to see how many could be achieved, each with their own sponsors for how many they could do. On average we had students completing well over 1000 sit ups / press ups; but to make the challenge more fun the club decorated the training hall with spooktacular props and everyone dressed up in Halloween fancy dress costumes for the event, along with some upbeat spooky music just to set the pace.
Video: Work & Training in Sri Lanka