Today was my first proper full day in Colombo. I was picked up by Gishan, one of the employees of Projects Abroad and brought to the office where I met Shyamale the director.
She took me to ‘The Island’ (the newspaper’s) office to meet the editor and staff there. The office looks a bit primitive in comparison with newspaper offices at home, and the atmosphere seemed very relaxed, with no hectic running around and shouting.
The editor’s office is jam packed with papers and books. Tomorrow I begin my first day at work. I will be thrown in the deep end and hopefully I will manage to swim to the surface and do a good job here. According to Prudence and Richard, two volunteers who also live with the same host family and do the same placement, I will be covering everything and anything.
I’m intrigued as to what my first day will throw at me and how I will cope. Time management here is very lax. Apparently Sri Lankan’s are always late, which means I will fit in just fine, although I believe they are nominally later than the Irish, is that possible? On asking what time I should be at the office in the mornings, I was told, ‘oh whenever you want’. More specifically I was told by my fellow volunteer’s that after 10.00am is when people usually begin to wander in, so I shall follow suit.
The bus journey was another interesting and new experience. In order to get to work either an hour long bus journey or a 45 minute tuk tuk journey is necessary. Today with my two fellow volunteers we opted for the longer but cheaper route.
The buses are something that you see out of an old movie, big, old fashioned Indian Tata buses. The doors on both sides remain open throughout the journey along with the windows for ventilation.
There are no real obvious bus stops. Sometimes the bus stops at blue bus signs but usually you are better off joining a group of people who are all looking expectantly in the same direction.
You never has to wait more than a few minutes for a bus to come roaring down the street. You hop on as the bus slowly moves away and hope that there is a free window seat in the stiflingly hot, non air conditioned and overcrowded bus. As the buses are big, they rule the road so you feel pretty safe on the hectic Colombo roads. After an hour’s ride, by that time being hot, grimy and sweaty, you hop off and walk the last few minutes to the office.
The buses in Colombo, as I have found out are mainly privately owned, and the driver and the conductor work together. As there are numerous buses driving the same route daily, the drivers compete with each other to get the most passengers.
Occasionally the bus is stationary at a stop for five or 10 minutes as the conductor shouts out of the bus and walks up and down outside heckling passengers onto the bus.
But it is safe to say that you always get to your destination in the end!