Settling in

I’ve been treated so well by the team since I arrived, I am so fortunate.  Nothing is a problem and everything is attended to.

Tuesday morning the team had a potluck breakfast, my oh my, the food was just delicious!  Gayathri from the office has already given me some recipes and once I get the spices, I will give the recipes a shot.  I’m dying to get cooking!

Maheshie (the other newly-arrived volunteer from the US) and I moved into the rather swanky apartment within walking distance from the office.  It’s got everything one could wish for including a fully kitted kitchen with oven (bliss!) as well as a washing machine (greater bliss!).  On the 6th floor there is a fully equipped gym & weights room, two swimming pools with sun loungers, a BBQ area and a few areas to gather small groups to sit.  I can’t think of anything else I need.  There’s also two grocery stores close by, as well as an ATM that takes my bank’s debit card.  If I were pushed to find one fault, it would be the electrical sockets – they take UK plugs (leftover from colonial days??) so fortunately I have one changeable adapter that I have now switched to UK instead of Asia, and our North American devices are charging up a storm.

Moira – can you spot your well-traveled tea-towel?!

Maheshie and I have discovered we are pretty similar with how we live, the food we like and we share many interests.  I’m fortunate to have such a great roommate for the short time I will be in Colombo!  Originally born in Sri Lanka, Maheshie’s parents emigrated to the US when she was just one years old.  She has been back and forth many times since to visit her extended family here, and I have already benefitted with a supply of spices and homecooked food – yum!  Maheshie is currently on a work-sponsored volunteer sabbatical from the consulting firm she works with in New York.  Maheshie will be based fulltime in Colombo until she returns home at the end of December 2016.  As for me, my base has not yet been finalized, that will depend on who I will end up working with and where they are located.

During the week, I spotted an interesting event that Maheshie and I ended up going to on Thursday night.  Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala and Johann Peries are the first Sri Lankans to scale Everest and they were giving a presentation on their experience.  It was a really inspiring evening!  I never tire of hearing stories from those who climb big mountains.


They began their preparation some years ago, having climbed Kilimanjaro as well as Island Peak in Nepal’s Himalayas (the same little mountain I along with Peter & Connery Noble climbed in 2011 btw)– as part of their altitude and cold-weather training.  They managed to get enough sponsorship plus endorsement from the Sri Lankan government before departing for Nepal.  They had great footage and photos, and memorable stories of their time on the mountain.

Johann made it to 8400m – some 450m from the summit and had to make the very difficult decision to turn around or die trying to continue on. Very courageous.  Jayanthi summited on May 21st, 2016 and proudly flew the Sri Lankan flag from the top of the world … and had to change batteries in her camera on the summit to record the event!  At a mere 6,100m, I struggled with untying my boot laces, so I can hardly imagine what it took for her to change her camera batteries on top of the world!

It was a wonderful evening hearing the story of how two friends – a gender equality activist and a hairdresser, who had never climbed a big mountain before, had a dream.  A dream to climb Everest for their country.  Many thought they would never do it, others thought they were plain crazy.  But they planned and persevered and realised their dream.  A lesson for this all.  Really inspiring.  And to top it all, Johan (the hairdresser of the two) came over to compliment my haircut!

It’s been a socially quiet weekend which suited me fine, Maheshie spent the weekend with one of her aunts.  I’m a little under the weather with a chesty cough (how did I get that?!)  so I’ve taken the time to lay low, enjoy the apartment and stock the pantry.

It’s USAID fiscal year end which means a staff retreat in Trincomalee on the east coast. Known for its safe deep harbour, this port town is also famous for its beautiful beaches and Tamil culture.   Tomorrow morning we leave Colombo at the insane time of 4.30am so as to avoid the main heat of the day in our 7-hour ride by private bus, arriving by lunch-time.  I’m sure there will be much to tell upon our return late Wednesday night – stay tuned!

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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4 Responses to Settling in

  1. Bill G says:

    Hi, Kate: Very nice that you are enjoying such a great reception (no real surprise for such a nice person) and a new micro-business challenge to help with. Following a very successful Applefest and Garden Gateway opening on Sunday, Judi, Rudi and Gillian and I ticked into a sweet and sour chicken supper that I managed to cobble together in the slow cooker (using all home-grown vegetables) while we were busy during the day, followed by one of Judi’s great apple pies with old cheddar. You were missed! But I’m glad you are so well cared for. Very best, Bill xo

    On Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 4:35 AM, Bowen to Bangladesh wrote:

    > Kate Coffey posted: “I’ve been treated so well by the team since I > arrived, I am so fortunate. Nothing is a problem and everything is > attended to. Tuesday morning the team had a potluck breakfast, my oh my, > the food was just delicious! Gayathri from the office has alread” >

    • Kate Coffey says:

      Hi Bill – Happy Thanksgiving! I have been following the Garden Gateway on social media so look forward to seeing photos of the official opening on there. I am sorry to have missed the feast with friends! It all sounds so delicious. Bowen Heritage sure has had a busy year with all its events, glad to see Applefest is as popular as ever. I bet you guys are taking a rest after so much activity! Much love to you Bill xo

  2. Would have loved to sit it on that talk!

  3. Pingback: Time is flying ….. | Bowen to Bangladesh

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