13th-16th June – mini-break to Mirissa

11Aug08

We went on a mini-break to Mirissa, another beautiful beach town on the south coast. We managed to wangle this one because on the Monday one of my colleagues was running a workshop in Tangalle and I decided to invite the other two musketeers along so they could see first hand the BasicNeeds approach to community mental health. And as Tangalle is on the south coast we went down on the Friday night to make a weekend of it, rather than facing a 5am 5 hour trip first thing on a Monday morning – which I’m not really a fan of, in case you hadn’t noticed. I arranged the logistics for the trip, which involved randomly selecting a guest house out of the Lonely Planet, then ringing to book a van to take us south. Both times I rang to book I felt like I’d spoken to some guy randomly walking past the phone, and had no sense that my booking had been taken – I had to offer the details of the booking, which weren’t repeated back to me and it didn’t sound like they were being written down either. This is just another example of the culture difference – of course it all worked out as booked, the van turned up and the guest house had a room for us (well, we were the only guests, so there was no worries there..).

Mirissa is on another beautiful stretch of beach like Unawatuna, but is smaller and less commercial (not that Unawatuna is commercial by our terms). As it’s out of season, it was even quieter, to the point that I think we saw 4 or 5 other guests in the entire town. So it was great to walk along the deserted beach, which was deserted even by the beach guys who tend to hassle you – bliss! There were loads of the crabs who live in snail shells, I think they’re called hermit crabs. They were everywhere, in big and small shells – you had to make sure you didn’t step on the moving target outside your room. I tried to take a photo, but it doesn’t really do the critter justice.

The sea isn’t great at this time of year, and can be quite dangerous but luckily we had a local guy with us who can read the sea like a book, so I went in for a dip – I love bobbing up and down on the waves, but there was a moment when I wasn’t quite sure which way was up and just wanted to get back onto the beach. The adrenaline was pumping big time and it took me a good five or ten minutes for my hands to stop shaking – the sea is powerful and not to be played with. I can’t even begin to imagine the force of the tsunami, which I never forget when I’m by the beach here.

So we got the bus from Mirissa to Martara, and then changed to get to Tangalle. We didn’t have anywhere booked and just turned up at the Wavy Ocean (great name) and again were the only guests. The beach in Tangalle is more like I thought the beach would be like here – big and long, unlike the bays of Mirissa and Unawatuna. Me and Sarah took a walk along the beach in the late afternoon sun, which is the time I love to be on the beach. Once we walked along from the built up bit there are a few guest houses and bungalows. The guy from one of the places started speaking to us and invited us to see his rooms – there are just two of them, and a nice covered area to sit and watch the waves come crashing in. Then he offered us a drink – of coconut! He shimmied up a palm tree, cut off a couple of coconuts, lopped the tops off and offered them to us with a straw sticking out! It’s not often you get to say “I’ve finished my coconut!” He was going to take us to see the turtles coming up the beach to lay their eggs, but the heavens opened that night with a big thunderstorm so we didn’t go. I’ve been back to his place a couple of times since, but that’s another story…

So, back to the professional reason to be on the South coast! The BasicNeeds community mental health and development model has the voice of mentally ill people at its core and also research and evidence gathering. The training session was for community volunteers to learn how to take life stories from mentally ill people and their family and carers. Life stories are taken over the duration of the implementation of the programme, so the changes in people’s lives can be seen – for example around their life skills, acceptance by the local community or their livelihood activities. It’s also seen as a therapeutic activity, as often mentally ill people don’t get their voice heard. We participated in the group work, and managed to follow most of what is happening, with a couple of folk translating bits for us. The training helped my two follow volunteers think about how they can use life stories in their own placements, working in mental health units in SL, so it wasn’t a jolly really…

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2 Responses to “13th-16th June – mini-break to Mirissa”

  1. 1 Mayra

    Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Appreciate it

  2. 2 wardysworld

    Hello. To be honest I haven’t looked at this blog for a couple of years and I have no idea what made it come up on Yahoo News… Sorry I couldn’t be more help, and glad you liked the blog!


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