Monday, September 19, 2005

Meeting the Guest House folks

So as the day goes on, I meet the other folks at the guest-house, and learn about the situation here.

The owner, Radma, was a 2 time national marathon champion turned tour guide turned guest-house owner. He'd had his place open for just a few months when the Tsunami hit, and like most of the other places near here, was pretty much totally destroyed.

The swiss couple I met in Galle (who invited me here) were here to hang out with another Swiss couple - friends of theirs, who, after staying here late last year, befriended the owner of the place. After the Tsunami hit, they sent him 400 dollars - with which he bought food for pretty much his entire village - for months. They then came out in February, and again, with their own money, bought matresses for about 40 families, who until then, had been sleeping on dirt floored tents.

Speaking to this swiss couple, and a german chap living/working here has been very educational, and to be honest, rather shocking. The Red Cross and Unicef all have staff "working" out here (the Red Cross folks are paid a quite handsome 1700 USD per month), and are reportedly sitting on the beach outside their hotel most of the time. Many families are still living in tents, months after the Tsunami, as the government has (like many 3rd world governments) been diverting the aid money to other projects, and their own pockets.

There has been vast amounts of money flowing in to the country, but very little of it appears to actually be reaching the people who need it the most. Fisherman who had their boats, and thus sole method of bread-earning, destroyed, have still not gotten new boats, while well-connected individuals in town who have never fished before, now find themselves the proud owners of $4000 dollar boats.

For sure, it is no shock that the government here is corrupt. That, I expected. What I didn't expect though, was to hear of so many NGOs doing so little. Volunteers and workers fly out here for a month or two, talk to a few locals, teach english for a while, and then fly off home... In a country where 3 dollars can feed a family for 2 weeks, it's pretty awful to spend such obscene sums flying in and out volunteers who stay for such a short amount of time - even more so when there are so many out of work Sri Lankans who are desperate for employment.

Anyhow - last night, the swiss couple (the ones who donated the money, not the ones I met in Galle) were leaving back for Switzerland, and so Radna threw a party for them... a traditional Sri Lankan band played, we had a fire on the beach and drank large amounts of Arrack, a foul coconut liquor.. more on that later.

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