No Better Return, January 31, 2010
The Buddhist Relief Mission's Second Annual Intensive English Course at Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, ended on January 25th in a blaze of glory! The students received certificates attesting to the fact that they had successfully completed 90 hours of English study. Special guests at the closing ceremony were the cooks and wrappers who had prepared lunch packets for the monks almost every day of the fifteen-day course. We were also delighted to have an old friend from our days in Japan there. Jason flew in from Bangkok at midnight and arrived at our door around 3:30 in the morning. With almost no sleep, he joined us for the last day.
|Click the image to see more photos of the lunches|
During the concluding formalities, several monks gave touching speeches thanking not only the teachers but also the donors and the workers who had provided regular lunches, with ample rice, rich curries, salads, and crispy papadams. Because the monks were able to eat in the class hall, they did not have to walk back and forth for lunch every day to the Burmese Rest. This meant that they had much more time and energy to concentrate on their studies. Thanks was also expressed to Buddhist Publication Society which kindly provided the hall for the classes. This year the course was opened to a limited number of Sri Lankan monks, and their participation added a valuable dimension to the classes.
The final afternoon's program included two radio plays, "A Log Pays a Better Return" (Saccankira Jataka), performed by Delta Class, and "The King's Officer" (Gamani-Canda Jataka), performed by Omega Class. Both classes had been rehearsing their parts for about a week, and the hard work paid off. We think you will agree that the final performances, with sound effects, were clear and dramatic.
|Click the image to see all the donation boards.|
|Click the image above to see more photos of lunch prepararation.|
Poor Nezumi! Her well-regulated life was thoroughly disrupted by the intensive course. Normally, she patrols around the compound during the day and stays inside all night. With the kitchen door open most of the night, fires blazing outside, and women sleeping on mats in HER living room, she was most upset. When we got up at six o'clock, she immediately jumped on our laps and craved affection. The visiting teachers petted her and played with her, but everyone was too busy to give her the time she felt she deserved. One night, to get some attention, she came in through the library window and tried to give Lal the gift of a live field mouse as he was going to bed.
|Click the image to see photos of the classes.|
|Click the image to see photos of the field trips.|
|Clck the image to see photos of the monks playing.|
Our classes were scheduled well before the President declared an election; fortunately we finished up the day before the polls opened. We were so busy that we had no time to follow political developments in the country, but we were affected. Two guest teachers from Scotland who had offered to hold a special session with our students made it all the way to Kandy only to get stopped by a huge rally that completely blocked the only road into the city. They were terribly disappointed, but there was nothing to do for it. We gave them directions to our house and finally met them there for tea, cakes, and a quiet chat.
Although there was some tension before the election, we must say that Kandy remained as peaceful and civil as always. Sri Lankans have our sincere respect. It seems that over 70% of the voters cast their ballots. In fact, we were told that the turnout in our neighborhood was closer to 90%. Irrespective of the outcome, many westerners, who take their franchise rather casually, have to feel reproached by the seriousness Sri Lankans show towards their democracy.
In addition to Merit, the Buddhist ESL text we are writing, and the two Jataka tales, we used the same controlled composition material that has proven so successful elsewhere. This batch of students took to it immediately and, in the fifteen days, some got as far as Step 6 of 10 Steps, all done outside of class time. Some of them had no sooner arrived in Colombo than we began receiving their assigned lessons by email. It will certainly not be long until many of them advance to the intermediate program, 26 Steps. Such progress and eagerness to study is a teacher's greatest reward, and we count ourselves the luckiest teachers in the world to have these monks as our students.
Is it too early to invite teachers to mark their calendars for January next year for the Third Annual Intensive? If you can come, you won't be sorry!