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Roy's Project… and a Major in Trouble

To Roy, the rule of his religion to forward 10% of his income to people in need, was not just words.  He had been involved in all kinds of charity for a long time and after the tsunami he intensified his work in that field. 

As I mentioned earlier, he did this with an efficiency and accuracy not very common in Sri Lanka.

With the help of friends and relatives he organized tutorial classes for juveniles and women.  These one to three day classes were free of charge to the participants.  They got a simple lunch and last but not least, a certificate of attendance.

We were invited on Saturday, October 27th to have a look at a class.  An uncle of Roy’s, a retired marketing specialist had come the long way from Colombo to teach 23 young boys and girls.  He told us that his company had spent a fortune over the years for his education and that it would have been a shame not to make use of his knowledge after his retirement.

Schulung in MarketingSchulung in Marketing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He held a very vivid and interesting class and the young people were hanging on his lips.  If he asked a question, there was a chorus of 23 voices answering!  It was not the first time that we were able to witness this hunger for knowledge.  We told Roy at lunchtime that we would sneak out at about 2.30 p.m. without interrupting the class.  We had an appointment with him later in the evening.

We were staying in a hotel across the street, so we walked back there with plans to take a break at the pool.

As already mentioned, the 200 rooms of the hotel were more or less empty.  Because of deadly attacks on an army camp at the Yala National Park – the main attraction of that area – the park had been closed for visitors.  The news about farmers being killed by unknown attackers in the same area worried tourists and the agencies bringing the tourists to this part of the country.

At the time of our arrival, a group of Koreans were staying at the hotel and after they left we had the hotel to ourselves for several days.  Due to that fact, there were a lot of short comings.  For example:  a rather dirty pool but we only wanted to relax there a bit in the shade and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

It would have never occurred to us to complain as the management definitely had other problems to deal with.

The peaceful atmosphere we desired was history at the time, as a group of locals occupied the pool.  While Michel disappeared behind his book, I enjoyed watching them.  There were three couples in their 30’s or 40’s and about half a dozen children of various ages. They had a lot of fun and made the pool literally boil.

One of the men was obviously the only swimmer of the group and he was teaching the rest to swim.

Especially the swimming suits of the ladies were eye candies:  two of them were wearing identical pink tops that ended mid thighs with a little skirt and underneath they were wearing leggings in the same turquoise that ended at the knees.  The third one was wearing a full body swimming suit that after a closer look, revealed more than my bikini.  

Further, the whole group was wearing swimming caps in very bright colors and also swimming glasses.  These proved very useful as they struggled so much with swimming that they were not able to hold up their heads at the same time.

After a while the men went to the deep part of the pool and started to plow the water with big effort, they were doing this so close to the rim that I seriously feared for their hands.

When the swimmer of the group started to traverse the pool, I was instantly alarmed.  What was he doing??

Sam und Theres

I had not been prepared for the fast answer.  He had put way too much effort into his swimming and in the middle of the pool he suddenly stopped, looked at me with a pain stricken face and started to sink without making a sound!  His two friends were leaning with their arm over the rim of the pool their backs turned to the man.  The women and children were playing at the shallow end of the pool.  Also, not aware of what was going on.

I jumped to my feet, ran to the pool and yelled at the men that their friend was drowning!  In my panic I had completely forgotten that both of them could not swim.  When they realized what was going on, one of them started to swim as a reflex in the direction of the man then instantly got in trouble himself.  He barely made it back to the rim and I was frantically searching the area of the pool for something to throw to the man.

There was nothing.  No life buoy, no pole, no nothing that would not have sunk instantly.  No sight of a pool boy and Michel was reading his book!!

In the meantime, the man had been under water several times and without further ado I took a header into the pool!

What followed was a brutal lesson about the difference between bravery and the brainless overestimation of my own abilities.  As soon as I was in reach of the man I had to fear for my own life.

Not another tsunami, not any hostility and no suicide attack of the Tamil Tigers – I would drown in a dirty pool!

Not only was the man much bigger and heavier than me, in his panic he was pressing me under water.  It was sheer luck that I had the chance to take a breath two or three times.  There was no way to call for help.

I asked Michel later on quite hysterical, what the fffffffffffff ….. had he been thinking at the time I jumped into the water.  He was still completely clueless.  He told me that I had been out of sight to him and that he had assumed that I was on the back of the man. 

Opposite to me, Michel does not “people-watch” for hours and he had no idea that none of the men in the pool was able to swim.  He had no clue of what had been going on. 

I had not been behind the man:  I was UNDER him.  And it was not a rescue operation:  it was a wrestling match and I had very bad cards.  Shortly before I passed out, the man relaxed but was still on top of me.  Luckily I was able to lift a foot up to his chest and push myself away from him.  As soon as I had caught some breath, I screamed Michel`s name at the top of my lungs.

He was so alarmed that he instantly jumped into the water and swam up to me.  I told him to take the man to the rim.  It was quite a task for Michel despite the fact that the man was unconscious at that time.  Therefore, it was also quite senseless that I kept yelling “calm down”…….

It was also a struggle for me to make it to the rim by myself.  Next to all other missing precautions, there was no footrest on the wall of the pool.  I was not able to move my right arm anymore and my bikini was not anywhere close to the areas it had been designed for.  With my chin on the rim, I tried to get everything back in place before I allowed the ladies to pull me out of the water.

There was a lot of excitement and to my relief, I registered that the man had started to cough.  Right after that he started to moan as he was suffering from a terrible cramp in his thigh.  No wonder considering the effort he had put into his swimming.

They had laid him on a pool chair.  He was pumping for air and the vessels in his eyes had burst.  There was still so much panic in his bloody eyes that I hardly could stand to look at him.

They all thanked us effusively and the man kept stammering over and over again: “I will never forget ………. I will never, ever forget” and I knew, that he would not be the only one!!

Sam und Theres

As he was taken care of and since we had an appointment, we said good bye to them.  I was still under shock and that night the nightmares started.  I dreamed of men trying to drown me;  men that looked at the scene without coming to my rescue;  and water …………. a lot of water.

I had hardly slept that night and woke up in pain, severely bruised with hematomas all over my body.  As the locals had not been residents of the hotel, we did not expect to meet them again and were positively surprised to find the man at the reception desk waiting for us.  He introduced himself as Sam, a Major of the Sri Lankan Army.  Michel muttered something like:  “better than the navy”.

That’s how a Major of the SLAF (Sri Lanka Air Force) and his family became our friends!  Sam himself even made the promise, to fulfill each thinkable wish to us.  When we left Sri Lanka, saying good bye to him by SMS, he told us that he was “working” in Jaffna, in the middle of the hostilities.  

Therefore, we instantly used up our wish:  we wanted to meet him again, safe and sound in Spring!

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