Saturday, 15 January 2011

Sunday School Girl

Recalling My Travels

Recovering from the tour of Sigiriya in the minibus my eyes as usual were sharply alert. When I am travelling I try not to miss anything going on. We passed an ox cart; the first I had really seen, as the mechanical ox has obviously taken over. It cannot replace the real thing as a view to enjoy. The minibus driver was familiar by now with my desire to collect pictorial images and stopped in front. I jumped out and stood watching the bend for the cart to round the bend and arrive at the right point in my viewfinder. All done and back in the bus in two minutes having run alongside the cart (knee throbbing a bit) chatting to the driver who gestured and mumbled through his cigarette holding mouth. Strange to find a rural Sri Lankan smoking! He smiled appreciation of my interest in his two grey oxen and over laden wooden cart.
A couple of miles down the road a very busy school could be seen. I asked the driver why the children were in school on a Sunday. (Silly question when I heard the answer). "Sunday School for Buddhist children" came the answer. He stopped the minibus and shrugged his shoulders.
"Is it OK to take Photographs?" I enquired.
"Of course! Otherwise why would I stop" he grinned. "Just ask the teacher."
I wandered up to the entrance. The children were grouped in age, some at long tables in the open, some standing listening and some on the play equipment. The boys were in their school uniform, probably the nearest to "Sunday Best". The girls however were all dressed in the most immaculate way. Pardon my lack of fashion vocabulary. They had beautiful white-tiered tops, bare midriff and matching tiered long skirts. When I was able to look up close they revealed extremely delicate stitching on hems and gatherings for the tiers.
I was immediately noticed by the younger children who came running. I signalled to a male teacher of an older group and explained I was English and interested in the school and taking photographs. Many of the older children understood what I was asking and paid more attention to me. I took a few pictures of them at tables. One young lady grabbed my attention as I stood talking to them all explaining I was a teacher and I took a spontaneous close-cropped portrait of which she was not really awareof. Noticing the picture was so natural and absolutely pin-sharp I walked gently over to show her. Her embarrassment showed as her friends clammered to see. A shy smile and a thank you from her I withdrew thanking all in the class in order to avoid causing more chaos in the lesson.
As I reached the gate throngs of younger children ran shouting towards me, surrounding me wanting to see my camera and chat. I managed to take a few more pictures of these enthusiastic young people. Every word I spoke, and gesture, was mimicked with great laughter. I said goodbye, waved and walked to the bus, followed all the way by thirty or so inquisitive and over excited youngsters. Although I was the only one to get out of the minibus, the rest of the group had found watching me mobbed by all those children highly amusing. My favourite image so far on my travels stored carefully on a memory card.

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