Who am I?
Hello! My name is August and I am 20 years old. I am from Sweden and decided to come to Sri Lanka for a month to volunteer work because I craved adventure and an interesting experience. This is my first time in Sri Lanka and my second time going to Asia so it has truly been an interesting and learning experience.
I decided to go to Sri Lanka because I wanted a warm, tropic, cultural and warmhearted country to travel to and that is exactly Sri Lanka had to offer. I booked my trip through a Swedish volunteer sites who works together with many volunteer work organizations, IDEX being one of them. Seeing the project and the location it wasn’t really that much to think about and I booked relatively quickly.
The project – Most rewarding experience with Idex
For my first day at the temple, I was warmly welcomed in to a relatively small and cozy temple by the two monks who were attending that day. Me and the other volunteer who worked at the same project as me (fortunately also from Sweden) started off with a short grammar lesson that the monks listened closely to and took notes. Being curious who I was the lesson quickly turned into a nice conversation by the monks to get to know each other. Previously I had read a fair bit about Buddhist philosophy and meditation, hence, I had a lot of questions for the monks which they were happy to answer. One of the monks showed me around the temple while enthusiastically explaining about his religion. Already on my first day I was super excited for the days to come, and with good reason.
The forthcoming weeks I have had so much fun with all the monks in the temple and as much as I have been able to teach them English they have taught me so much about Buddhism and life in general. Never have I met so happy people who owned so little. Only owning their robes and basic necessities the monks have realized that happiness does not come from material things but from wisdom and experience. The monks are some of the happiest and nicest people I have ever come across and by talking to them you quickly understand why.
Our house in Colombo – A wonderful time with Idex
We got to stay in a really big and nice house in a centrally located suburb to Colombo. Always having basic stores and supermarket walking distance away I never experienced any larger issues. The area feels super safe no matter if you’re alone and are walking with a pocket full of money.
At the house IDEX staff members were always present for assistance and to answer any potential question I might have had. But the best part was probably the local people working in the house who always cooked delicious Sri Lankan food and helped keep the house clean for the full duration of my stay. They were also super nice people who always smiled and laughed when you talked to them.
The other volunteers were always social and we have shared some funny moments and conversations. It was always nice to hear other people’s perspective and their volunteer experience. They were also all from different country which contributed to learning a lot about each other’s countries and cultures. Even though there were always people around the house it was never a problem if I wanted to spend some alone time because the house is relatively big and the people understanding.
The weekends – Seeing Sri Lanka
Adam’s peak – A wonderful time with Idex
This was my first and probably my favorite experience. Adam’s peak is a huge mountain that we arrived to the bottom of in the middle of the night to climb in hopes of reaching the top and watching the sunrise. The weather was pretty cold, especially for being Sri Lanka when we arrived and we started climbing relatively quickly. Me and Adam (the other Swedish volunteer) quickly lost track of the other volunteers because we were pretty eager to reach the top in time. The climb was ridiculously exhausting and we didn’t manage to get any sleep on the way there but the experience was so interesting that those things were easily ignorable. The further up we came the more local people we saw until we came to a stop, a huge line of people which led all the way up to the top. Even though we spent probably more than one and a half hour in this line my mood stayed on top (although I couldn’t say the same for all the other volunteers). We actually never reached the top but were really close when the sun started rising. At first I got a bit disappointment but as I saw the view and realized how holy this place was for a lot of the locals I became really content with the experience I got. It was truly amazing to see the sun rise over the forest covered mountains and I took several pictures.
The way down we were all ridiculously exhausted yet we were all really happy because of how interesting of an experience the whole thing was. We all concluded that it was definitely worth climbing Adam’s peak, but never more than once.
Week 1 – Unawatuna
This was a really nice and small beach town with super friendly people and an amazing beach. This was a really nice experience even though we mostly hung out on the beach during the day and visited the local bars during the night. They also had plenty of nice souvenir shops where I was happy to spend my money. We had a really fun time together.
Week 2 – Hikkaduwa
Similar to Unawatuna, this was also a cozy beach town except quiet a lot bigger. We took a train here which was really cheap and an experience in itself. Here we decided to go on a river safari where we basically got to ride a boat in the rivers. This was a really good way to experience the beautiful nature of Sri Lanka. We also made a stop with the boat on an island where we got to see how they made cinnamon which was really interesting. Later that day we went to a really nice restaurant and got to eat really good food.
Week 3 – Yala national park
We got picked up by a private driver who drove us to a hotel near the national park. On the way we took a stop at Galle which is an old forte built by the Dutch people. It was really beautiful and interesting. Later that day we drove to a hotel which was located in a town really close to the park. That night we visited a local temple in the town which was really beautiful to see. We went to bed relatively early to leave at 5:15 the following day for the safari. We got picked up by a jeep and went to the safari which was super fun. We were also really lucky with the animal and even got to see two leopards. This was probably the best weekend so far.