Learning Spanish

“If you want a thing well done, do it yourself” – (Proverb)

As time for university nears I have been thinking a lot about being able to adapt to a new culture. I evidently have no way of knowing where I will end up in the next few months but if wishful thinking works in my favor, I might be in Barcelona for my higher education. Among all the subjects that are offered in school, the ones I tend to find the most favorable to me have always been the languages. Now I am no professional, but  I do have a tendency to pick up languages quite fast. I speak English, German and Sinhala fluently while I’m somewhat intermediate at French and there has truly been only one or two languages I have really wanted to add to that list (Spanish and Italian). Spanish itself is such a versatile language and hearing people speak it always has me awed. My dad speaks fluently as well so that’s an added plus while I have on occasion even shocked the Spanish teacher with my ability to comprehend text and conversations. It’s hard to explain but I can understand the language really well, I just don’t know how to speak it necessarily. And so with one goal in mind I have tried to take it upon myself to learn, the same way I became fluent in German by only watching cartoons. I did keep in mind that I am much older and that younger children tend to be more flexible in learning a foreign language but  I am strong willed in learning to at least be able to converse in basic Spanish by the end of the summer. If I don’t make it to Spain there is still no loss in learning because it is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages and my future job requires me to be fluent in at least one of them. Also how cool would it be to roll into any part of Europe and to be able to speak German, French and Spanish!

The Game Plan:

Ever since December break I have committed 20 minutes of my day everyday to learning Spanish on Duolingo. The website tracks your progress and teaches you to read, write and even speak Spanish without even needing a teacher! It’s been a lot of fun to be entirely honest. I never tire of it although its a bit difficult to keep reminding myself to practice daily. Even on days I do forget to go on Duolingo, I have also integrated Spanish into my daily life. I watch certain shows on Netflix like Rebelde and El Casa Del Papel in Spanish (which I have found to be extremely useful) while I also have at least three playlists containing Spanish music ranging from traditional guitar ie. the Gipsy Kings, to RNB artists like Nicole Hortes and Kali Uchis (which I highly recommend), pop and even indie rock! My current favorite songs are Solita by Kali, Un Beso en Madrid by Alejandro Sanz and El Fin Del Mundo by La La Love You. Not only has this enabled me to expand my musical horizons but I have also found that in my past experiences with becoming fluent in languages, that the best way to do that is by listening to it and even conversing. Now unfortunately there isn’t an abundance of Spanish speakers in Sri Lanka but I do try to string together sentences (increasingly successfully) with kids from the Spanish Class and even Ms. Innocenti 🙂 On top of this I follow a great deal of Spanish football too with teams like Barcelona so learning has made understanding the commentary much easier as well.

Adios!

 

CAS Project!

REEF REVIVAL 2022

Introduction:

One of the most pivotal components of the Diploma program is naturally the long awaited CAS Project. The CAS project requires the student takes individual initiative in order to plan and carry out a certain meaningful endeavor.

In reality, ever since DP1 I have had a very clear idea of what  I wanted to do for this project, wanting to do something that I was not only passionate about but also achieved multiple learning outcomes in one go. What was my idea? Planning, organizing and carrying out Dive Cleanups for Reef Revival (the non-profit collective I created in 2019 to clean up Sri Lanka’s oceans through diving). We have made significant progress in this area since I inadvertently began my CAS project almost a years ago, and this past weekend I just completed another renewed cycle of our cleanups but this time, on a different coast of Sri Lanka thus expanding our horizons even further!

Fish Trap Nets

Here are some of the learning outcomes my project has achieved:

LO1-

Having dived since I was 11 years old and having carried out dive cleanups since the 10 grade for my personal project has given me a lot of the experience I needed to make this project a success.  Going into this, I was able to have a clear idea of my strengths and shortcomings as in my previous cleanups we have met a few obstacles with doing things like bringing in too many people, facing ethical dilemmas regarding what to and what not to retrieve from the ocean and also having struggled to bring certain items to the surface due to entanglement. This time around I was able to ensure that we had less people on board and brought the right tools to detangle certain debris. We did have a fair share of shortcomings, but it’s all a learning experience for the future (which I will elaborate on later).

LO2-

Carrying out a dive cleanup has no shortage of challenges in the long run. Whenever you are carrying something of this nature out the most important thing to consider is that there are people’s lives on the line and that cannot be compromised and ensuring that people are safeguarded becomes your number one priority. Thus, during the duration of the dive and before I had to ensure that people were aware of the dangers and were qualified enough for the dives especially considering that one of them was a nitrox dive (enables for a longer stay underwater at a specific depth) which was made especially difficult by the fact that it was a new dive site that not even the instructors have carried a cleanup on before. As for new skills in my previous diving experiences I wasn’t allowed to carry any tools i.e. knives, nets etc. but this time I was able to so I had to master the use of that while also learning how to take part in nitrox dives since usually they require a specialty course.

LO3-

Support from the very start of the project!

This clean up and my overall project Reef Revival in particular has been my initiative since I started out at the start of DP1. My only cleanup I had done previously was during my personal project in MYP 5, but all of this was relatively new to me. I began Reef Revival in 2019 with the intention of raising awareness and doing my part as a diver to clean up the oceans. Sri Lanka frequented in its carrying out of beach cleanups however, the undersea areas always remained neglected and it was visible. A lot has happened since the start of my CAS project which as I’m writing this, I realize has been a much longer commitment than I remembered. Throughout this process  I have kept in touch and reached out to all of these individuals in order to make things happen. I had trained divers with the help of Sri Lanka Diving Tours to carry out these dives, planned and organized timings, dates, kept up with progress and even been very hands on the with actual carrying out aspects. Reef Revival has now expanded from underwater cleanups to beach cleanups and now ensure that regular dive cleanups are carried out in not only Negombo but Trincomalee and Batticaloa with beach cleanups in Mt. Lavinia. We contribute data to organizations like PADI Aware and now even have our own social media that we use to spread awareness. We also have 2 featuring articles (interviews) on Sri Lanka’s Sunday times about this!

LO4-

I don’t think there is any better way of showing my commitment to something than a 7 year hobby turned into a personal project which led to an environmental organization for change being created. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been diving since  I was 11 years old and I am now a certified Advanced Open Water Diver. My personal project was just a glimpse at the possibilities that were to come in the upcoming years as I decided to take things one step forward and expand upon this inkling of an idea that has impacted so many. This has been a long work in progress featuring change, adapting, expanding and networking and it will only continue to grow in the future.

LO5-

It started out as my personal project idea and then evolved into an diverse endeavor that has since included everyone from the diving community, to friends and family to strangers, activists and even global organizations with nearly 18 dives which I have directly been involved in completed. It has been fruitful to say the least. You may have noticed how I went from the use of I to the use of “we” earlier on. Because that is exactly what this initiative is about. It went from one little 15 year old girl’s idea to a community wide project within a matter of years and that’s what it took to make this function and big thank you is owed to Sri Lanka Diving Tours, PADI, IVY Girls Lead, The Sunday Times and even the OSC community for making it possible! (That goes without saying my mom and dad also had a huge role to play in this, inspiring my love for diving and making all of the cross country trips.) Completing this project has helped me realize the importance of teamwork. People from all works of life and knowledge about dive cleanups contributed to this cause and the result has been IMMENSE. This goes without saying that there is absolutely no possible way in which this would have been completed without external help, carrying out a cleanup and raising awareness thereafter is no small feat!

LO6-

Underwater pollution has immense global resonance especially as of late. With many species of marine organisms going extinct or being on the brink of extinction, the importance of sustaining this biodiversity is so very essential. Fish and other species that live within these areas of debris accumulation are largely at risk of dying due to issues like swallowing plastic, net entanglement and starvation which is why I chose to pursue this project in the first place. By no means did it feel right to allow animals to suffer due to our negligence in a way that could cause a massive chain reaction starting with impacting the food chain. In addition to this the presence of debris was also impacting local tourism as in Trincomalee for example tourists were less and less willing to visit certain dive sites due to the lack of aesthetic appeal. Nothing excites them or myself about paying hefty sums of money to dive and having to swim through schools of plastic.

LO7-

In the past two years, all blogs I have uploaded and the activities that I have pursued within them have always considered the ethical implications of my actions. In this project especially that subject was centerfold. I had to ensure that all divers were safe and aware. I was ethical in making sure that no relics were removed from the Swami Rock dive site, and ensured to not harm any animals in the process. Lastly, I credited everyone responsible for the success of this project in the long run and the general ideals of Reef Revival itself are very much centered around the idea of being ethical and ensuring that animals don’t suffer because of human ignorance.

One Last Dive (For Now):

The last two dive cleanups I carried out was in Negombo the past weekend. The first dive was a nitrox dive carried out at Derana Gala, a 25 m dive site and Diyamatte Gala which was close to a commercial fishing area at around 14 meters depth. After a briefing and around a month of planning which often got pushed back due to Covid concerns, we finally set out to dive. This time around I had been given all the gear I required to release debris myself which was exciting. On our dive we had 7 people with us, my brother, myself, my diving instructor Feli, a volunteer from Germany called Johann and our boat driver Raja. This may seem like a small number of people but especially with specialized dives it is always best to keep the number of people to a minimum.

The first dive was successful and thankfully there was much less debris than we expected since the site was quite far from the shore and any civilization. But it should be alarming that there was still debris there despite how isolated the place was. The debris we primarily found on the first dive was plastic bags and bottles ( a lot of them). The second dive was completed on the following day. This time we had a slightly bigger crew, a friend of ours, Steph from Bristol, and another one of the recreational divers joined in on the fun. This dive site was  much more polluted than the last because as it turns out our dive instructor had made the mistake of telling the local fishermen that there was a thriving reef near by. And much to our horror by the time we got there there were at least 9 boats anchored right on the reef! This time around the dive conditions were a little more rocky and we had to steer well clear of the boats above us. The fishermen’s presence had created a notable change in the reef. There was lunch sheets, plastic, hooks, nets, bottles, cages almost anything you name it, they had it. We spent a good 40 minutes or so retrieving this debris before we headed back home. The data was then logged onto the Project AWARE site and also shared on Reef Revival’s social media. It was a long two days but I felt a sense of pride in completing it and Feli and his son Sashaan (who I dived with in Trinco) pledged to keep the cleanups going in all 3 locations even when  I was in university.

All that ends well, ends well

It’s over! (It’s not, not really). Although I have done my share of writing for the CAS project, Reef Revival will not be stopping anytime soon! We have so much to do, and while I can’t be around the island throughout the year I have left enough of a legacy behind for these cleanups to be continued where they are due. Now I might be heading to university in a few months but I do have a little brother who is just as keen about diving as I am, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will be able to take over my job of planning and initiating future cleanups. That being said, I will be as involved as possible given the circumstance of course 🙂

 

 

69th National Badminton Championships!

First Badminton Nationals

Game 1 (pictured above)

On the 21st of December 2021, I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in a badminton tournament. But not just any tournament… THE INNAUGURAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS in Sri Lanka!! I had been playing badminton ever since I was a child, around 5 or 6 years old. I played consistently till I was in the fourth grade where I was advised not to continue it since I had picked up tennis and my coach said that badminton was interfering with my technique because I had learned to be very mobile from the wrist by playing badminton.

Many, many years later, having only continued the game in passing by either playing against cousins or friends in the odd friendly, I picked it up again in the 10th grade. I trained both in and outside of school in SAISA and a weekend endeavor to get into form. Unfortunately, SAISA got cancelled just as I had gotten selected for the team due to Covid, but I consistently continued my classes till lockdown was imposed. Thereafter training sessions weren’t as easy to come by because the courts remained shut and the classes were discontinued undecidedly. So after nearly 2 years of not playing badminton I decided to give it another shot. Again, my involvement had been a bit on and off because of the pandemic situation, so you can only imagine my surprise when I got told that I have been selected to play in the championships on a call with my mom!

Now don’t get me wrong, I was equal parts delighted and terrified because not only was this on very short notice, but I hadn’t played in around a year. My fitness was also decidedly not at its peak because my other involvements in sports were much smaller because of the lack of training sessions provided. So you can only imagine the expression on my face when I was told ‘oh its in a week, and you have one training session to prepare!’ WHAT?!! Oh, and just as conveniently, my little brother was selected too, but he had been practicing a little more regularly because his age group trained earlier on in the season.

My first and final training session began the weekend before the championship. It was stressful to say the least, there were at least 10 kids there (none from my age group) that were practicing away as if their life depended on it. Keeping in mind, that badminton wasn’t my best sport, those kids practiced nearly religiously and it was rather intimidating to watch knowing that my competition would be just as intense if not tougher to face. I ran the drills, played nearly 4 games and had to re-learn the rules of the game, ON TOP OF learning the tournament procedures and additional rules. I was little bit overwhelmed with the new information but I kept a fresh mindset. I wasn’t as practiced as the others, but this is great exposure and I was going to try my best but not come away disappointed.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Game day rolled around and I headed to the arena. It was massive to say the least with around 8 courts in the center surrounded by seating areas for the fans. The nerves were creeping up on me again but my mom asserted me and reminded me to stay calm. The games were running late and mine got delayed by a full 5 hours! It was difficult staying patient because I had limited battery on my device left meaning I couldn’t even listen to music to kill the time. When the time came, I headed onto the court to play 3 games. I won the first match, tied and won the tie-breaker set in the second and lost my last match against a really good opponent. My first two games were nail bitingly close and I would admit that my last opponent was rather well clear of me. Best of all I wasn’t disappointed as I headed off the pitch, I had tried exceedingly hard and even played with a broken sole on one of my shoes! Given the circumstances I felt super proud of myself and I could call myself a national badminton player! This would also most likely be my last chance to have done that seeing as I’ll be in university this time next year. But it truly was a phenomenal experience and I also have a huge thank you to say that regard to my friends who cheered me on and checked on me consistently throughout the day :))

My unofficial cheer squad

 

 

Service Leader: Hope for Kids 2021-2022

Service Leader + Christmas / New Years Project

Sometime towards the end of last year I was notified that the position for service leader in Hope for Kids was opening up, since one of our previous leaders, Kenji, graduated. I had been a part of this service group dedicatedly for 3 years and I had tried to make the most of my contributions to the group itself in my time there. At the start of this year, I was elated to receive an e-mail initiating me as a service leader alongside my classmate Saesha. This had been a longtime commitment of mine with a cause that I was extremely passionate about contributing to, and I had also come with the added experience of knowing the trials and tribulations of trying to function in a service group in the midst of a pandemic. The e-mail that reached out to us also let us know that we were going to try and do our yearly Christmas present drive again this year, and that we had to perhaps reach out and go shopping with last year’s bake sale & donation funds to get the children gifts this year, but sadly this plan was halted as two of the patients at the home ended up getting COVID. And like I’ve said time and time again, our number one priority is ensuring the health of the children that we work with, so we were in mutual agreement under restrictions from the CCC house that we would be postponing the event.

However, after having an initial meeting with my service supervisor, Ms. Tanuja, we decided that we could still attempt to maintain the Christmas cheer, by creating a talent show for them and by doing a toy drive in early January in time for new year, and thus, Saesha and I were tasked with reaching out to the IT department and various members of the OSC staff to see if they were willing to put something small together for the patients at the CCC home. We also created a sign up sheet for student performers and are currently waiting for that to be filled up, although I must say, we already have a great variety of performances coming in from the staff members who were more than willing to participate which is very touching to see.

In the upcoming year, I look foreword to taking more of a leadership role in our service group and hopefully carrying it through another highly successful year once we are able to meet again! Oh and before I sign off, after some convincing we also decided that we would be lowering the age limit so that we could increase the manpower when we are not visiting the home 🙂

 

 

Adventures in Kalundewa

Staying Active on Vacation, Biking + Hiking/ Nature Walk +  Kayaking 

Biking

Views while biking in Kalundewa

This past month my family and I, along with a few family friends, ventured out to a location called Kalundewa in Dambulla which is located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka in the vicinity of Sigiriya (one of the island’s most renowned holiday location). On this trip I vouched to stay true to my goal of completing activity outside of the home whenever possible in unconventional ways.

The retreat we were staying at was extremely secluded with about a 100 acres of vacant land. This was amazing and we had a villa that was surrounded entirely by a lake and mangroves. Like anyone normal human, I could barely contain my excitement at seeing that each of the villas had around 5 bikes for transport and the bounds for riding them were, well… seemingly limitless. Just after lunch my friends and I decided to play a round of hide and seek (we were allowed to use our bikes to get as far away as we needed, but the only rule was that you had to have a phone on you and call if you weren’t found in 20 minutes). We played in pairs, and my partner and I, Mali decided to ride our bikes downhill from the restaurant, ditch our bikes and cut across this vast paddy field. The entire time we were fleeing in abject terror of getting bitten by something lurking in the grass, a snake perhaps, but we safely made it to the “safe house” which was a mud hut in the center of the paddy field. And hey, I only fell into a waist deep ditch once! We were hidden for a relatively long time but for some reason we decided that this hiding spot was just too good to give away and started running across the paddy field again. That’s when my brother spotted us and we were caught. Thankfully, we never gave our hiding place away. I would love to tell you that it all ended well but a few of the uncaught remaining people grouped up and decided to hide some-place that literally no one would find them, every time we tried to call they pick up and just end the call, which then resulted us in having to make around 6 rounds around the entire property to find them.

This wasn’t the least for our biking adventures however. We took bike rides regularly during our 4 day stay there, from the villa to the restaurant, from one bike trail to the other and we even had to bike to the swimming pool which was far outside of the property. This proved to be a great workout and I was left with extremely sore legs by the end of each day.

Everybody petting Oreo the dog after an exhausting hike

Hiking + Nature Walk

On the second day of our trip, the parents bustled about getting us to go on a nature walk. All the kids wanted to do however, was bike around and go swim. Needless to say our parents ended up reluctantly dragging us out to this nature walk that the manager of the hotel took us on. I must admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of it since he stopped literally every two seconds to point out some tree. The only thing of importance I really remember is him telling us about this tree with fruits that only elephants could consume and was used by ancient kings and queens to make poison, and if I remember correctly, and his was the only one in the whole of Sri Lanka. We were also briefly taken to see his greenhouse and his mushroom growing space which was rather fascinating. However, by around 12 in the afternoon we were all hungry, tired and had no water with us, and yet I doubt you would guess what the parents said. “Let’s go on a hike!” they said, “It will be fun!” they said. There was a collective amount of groaning as we were led towards yet another, long, and winding trail. My trip on this hike was made somewhat more arduous however as there were two babies on the trip, and one took a particular liking to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love babies, but much to my dismay a bit of baby babble directed in my general direction led me to suddenly having to carry another human being in my arms. I was exhausted, and yet that wouldn’t even begin to cut it. It was only then I realized what parents had to go through carrying their children everywhere. I motivated myself to walk the whole way through (without tripping or falling into the lake) thinking of it as a heavy arm workout. Thankfully, on the way back her dad took her back and… we had a puppy on the trail! It was a quick chase after that. All the kids were itching to get back to their rooms so we essentially sprinted back with this adorable dog on our heels.

Kayaking at golden hour

 

Kayaking

If you have been keeping up with my blog for around the past two years or so, you would know that I tend to have an affinity to kayak whenever I get the chance. This was one of those golden opportunities where the entire property was surrounded by this massive body of water, and this time my experience was made even more special because my kayaking buddy was my mom. It wasn’t my first time kayaking but it certainly was hers, so it was a patient process to try and teach her that the objective wasn’t to capsize. Shockingly enough she caught on fast, most likely inspired by her massive fear of deep waters so we were able to have a somewhat rocky yet enjoyable time. I also got to go on a solo kayak for the first time in a while which was really nice because I got to cruise down the lake at golden hour, it felt quite movie like.

Overall Kalundewa was a lot of fun and just the greatest opportunity to step away from the eye-sore that is the laptop and just step into nature for a little while. I certainly would recommend going there but even more so just going to resorts with lots of space, smaller crowds and rentable bikes in general.

 

Helping Out At Home + Teaching 8th Graders

Service During Lockdown

In my first few weeks of DP2 I realized that it may take some time for school to resume service activities considering the uncertainty regarding whether we’ll be returning to school in person or not, so in the meantime, I decided that I would continue to give back to others in some way in the ways in which I could from the safety of my home during the pandemic. While usually I either attend multiple service groups during and after school ours with Hope For Kids and other school communities or carry out football lessons with primary school children. Unfortunately, neither of those things have been a possibility recently with the looming consequences of, you guessed it, another nationwide lockdown. So instead I decided that the best way to do my part in service would be through helping out at home and by tutoring a few of my brother’s friends online.

Just today, for example I was on a call with 2 of the girls from the 8th grade and they mentioned that they were struggling with a few of their assignments and certain concepts so today I sat with them on google meets for two hours and helped them overcome the hurdles of understanding the physics of waves and helped one of the review and reflect on their “perfect paragraphs” for English. Now naturally, I am not teacher by any means, but I had done these units previously in the MYP and I still had some of my notes and projects that I used to help them understand the concepts. For example to explain the concept of waves I pulled up one of my old E-Maze presentations which I made in the 10th grade demonstrating what waves are so that they could have a clearer idea of the definitions and prepare for their upcoming test. Likewise, for English homework help, I simply gave them certain pointers on where they could potentially have made improvements and without giving them the answers gently guided them into thinking about self improvement in the subject. This isn’t at the moment a regular occurrence but if they find my help useful in any way I told them that I would be happy to help :))

A freshly showered bella

That aside, at home I’ve been helping out a lot more with things like chores. Recently our helper went back home so currently its just my mom, my brother and I at home and since most of the time we’re on our laptops doing school while mom is working around the house I felt that it was nice to take some of the burden off of her shoulders by offering to cook every now and then and by taking care of things like bathing the dog. These may seem like simple gestures but they make a world of difference for her since she has to run a lot of work to do and I aim to be a bit more involved when the holidays roll around.

 

Baking + Sunday Dinners

Baking and Making Sunday Dinners for My Family

During the course of my CAS journey one of my favorite endeavors that I decided to take up was cooking. It initially started as a one off thing but has soon become a regular occurrence in my household as of late and one that has not only been beneficial to me but my family as well. At home we like to switch things up whenever possible, order in different cuisines, try out new recipes etc. and lately as college has been drawing nearer and nearer my parents have reminded me how useful a skill knowing how to make your own food can be as you grow up. In addition to this I find cooking extremely therapeutic, it allows me to concentrate on whichever action I am doing and I momentarily let go of all of the stressful things in life. Another advantage of making meals on the occasion is that I get to give my mom a well deserved rest where she doesn’t have to cook and clean for the night while I simultaneously get to learn a lot about the cultures which my recipes come from.

Strawberry cheesecake & Chocolate chip cookies!

 

Over the past term I have backed everything from chocolate chip cookies to cheesecake while I’ve made dishes from all around the world. The key component of making everything is a lot of care, patience and practice as sometimes, doing things as simple as frying chicken can be extremely painstaking and time consuming but the end result is almost always more worth it if you put the effort in. The next mantra for the kitchen I would use is that not everything is going to work out, some recipes might do amazing but others maybe not so much. For example, this weekend I made chocolate chip cookies, now these were somewhat of a cheat meal because it was a pre-mixed pack and when I tasted the batter it didn’t taste too out of the ordinary but the moment you bit into it after it was baked it felt sweet enough to give you diabetes, which upon reflection wasn’t all too nice especially since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Another thing I’ve learned to deal with is that ingredients aren’t always readily available, especially during this pandemic since most of what we order is done online so I need to substitute quite a few ingredients whenever possible. Here are a few of my absolute favorite meals that I made over the past 3 weeks.

KBQ, also known as Korean Barbecue Chicken is a Korean dish which consists of crispy buttermilk battered chicken doused in spicy gochujang sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. KBQ is something that my brother and I always wanted to order in but since the store closed during lockdown we decided that we’d make it ourselves. The cook time was actually quite long because you had to wait for the chicken to marinate and then fry them till they’re cooked but the end result was very worth the wait.

Chili Con Carne on the other hand, is a Mexican dish which loosely translates to chili with meat, the dish consists of a delicious seasoned stew which is usually accompanied on a bed of rice with cheese on top, this dish was fairly easy to make and honestly delectable even though this was the first time I had tried it. The second part of this dish is the Hot Butter Cuttlefish which is one of my all time favorite side dishes which to my surprise is actually a part of Sri Lankan Chinese fusion cuisine! Unfortunately this time around there wasn’t any flour at home to make the crispy batter with, but it was just as delicious without.

The third dish that I found was a great success was my mom’s take on a Cajun/ Creole dish called Jambalaya which is basically a rice dish with vegetables and meat combined with rice. My mom’s recipe of the dish doesn’t necessarily follow the original ingredient list but uses an amazing combination of ham and rice with minimal vegetables instead! Jambalaya also contains influences from regions like Spain, Africa and France and so it can be said that many regions have their own take on the dish with different meat and vegetable variations but that’s what makes this dish so diverse in the first place.

I would highly recommend trying these out at home!!

 

Finding New Ways To Be Active

Activity Post #2

At the start of this year, I challenged myself to find new and more innovative ways to stay active. I interpreted this as taking on new activities and opportunities which I could use to maintain my physical wellbeing in an innovative way using whatever was available to me. In this short period of time I have taken on new experiences ranging from fishing to golf and everything in between, some of which are things I never expected myself to be brave enough to try despite my initial doubts. In hindsight even though not every single experience was suited to my tastes I have no regrets about making the most of the opportunities I was presented, knowing full well that not many people were lucky enough to experience the sports I did especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Golf

When I was younger I always considered golf to be an “old people’s sport”. You may laugh now, but if I’m being completely honest, I just didn’t get the hype of standing around on a grass field watching someone carefully swing a club for an hour till the ball meandered its way into the hole. I must admit though that my judgement is is probably biased since all my life all I ever took part in was dynamic sports seeing that at no point in football, badminton or tennis was I required to stay still and be patient; it was always about a flurry of movement, anticipation and agility.

In addition to that I didn’t think that golf required much skill, I mean how hard could it be to swing a club and hit a ball right? Right… well you see that’s actually not at all true and I had to find out the hard way. My little brother actually took to golf  quite easily last year after he played for fun while we were on holiday while I on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with it. When my parents took Dimitri to his first golf lesson, I good naturedly argued that I wouldn’t see myself playing golf with my friends anytime soon and so I didn’t go but one day  I actually ended up waiting for him at the course. It took place on artificial turf with a bunch of modified elevation levels to duplicate an actual field. I sat there watching him for about 30 minutes till I got restless, even now, I don’t consider golf much of a spectator sport, it’s more like chess, careful and calculated with  LOTS of patience and waiting. Either way, his instructor took notice and asked if I would like to head over to the other side and maybe take a swing or two and I said YES! relieved that I could finally stop counting the seconds left for his 2 hours to be over. I swung confidently thinking that I was going to replicate a Tiger Woods move just like on TV but of course, I missed. I had no technique, the wrong stance, wrong posture and wrong weighting – this is where the difficulty comes into play. Eventually his instructor came around to help me out and gave me a couple pointers on how to stand, where to swing, which muscles to use and how to follow through and believe it or not after taking quite a while to set myself up, I managed my Tiger Woods swing!! I’m kidding of course, but hey, it was a big improvement from what I did before. Now I still don’t go as frequently as my brother does and I would say that it isn’t exactly my favorite sport, but I still go and take my shots whenever I drop in, to each their own right?

My Tiger Woods Swing 😉

Getting ready to go body boarding

More Vacation Activities

Another 3 things I tried this past quarter was going body boarding, kayaking and even fishing. Now I had actually been kayaking multiple times before so this wasn’t necessarily my first rodeo but it certainly was the first one where my kayaking partner and I nearly ended up getting beached… We were just so busy enjoying the morning sun and trying to detangle our oars from the lotus roots that neither of us realized that we had ventured into the shallows which had dried out thanks to the warm weather. Thankfully it didn’t require much effort except for getting down knee deep in mud to use teamwork to drag it off of the mudbank, it wasn’t exactly what I would call pleasant but it wasn’t the worst case scenario either, either way I enjoyed it! Next up we decided to go bodyboarding. This had been something that I had been greatly looking forward to because pretty much everyone who had visited Karpaha Sands raved about the beach, and as you may already know the beach is my happy place. Body boarding was a great way to relax and just work some of that stress from school off just rolling with the waves and laughing heartily whenever one of us got wiped out, it also slipped my mind a few times that this would be one of my last summers in my home country so it was a great memory of sorts to keep and naturally a good break from the intensive usual regimes I follow during the weekdays.

Kayaking 🙂

Last but certainly not least was personally the most shocking encounters for me. My brother has been an avid fish lover since he was a little baby and now that we were surrounded by water he was literally jumping with excitement at the thought of being able to go fishing. I obliged seeing as I had seen Jeremy Wade countless times on the Discovery channel making catch after catch of monster fish and I had thought ‘Hey! This could be my lucky day!’ What discovery channel doesn’t show you however is how truly intense the whole experience is. I’m quite a softie when it comes to animals so when we actually caught a few decently sized fish like the length of my arm I wanted nothing more than to return is safely back into the water because seeing them thrash around the boat wasn’t my idea of fun. I dive, to protect animals not kill them, but sadly for us a lot of the ones that we caught ended up being dinner for our guides. That aside, the physical aspect of fishing comes from the sheer strength and willpower that is needed to fight against the fish that attempts to swim away, it burns your arms and is a constant tug of war till the fish wears out and then another battle to wrestle the hook out of its mouth. All in all I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed that experience too much simply because of my moral dislike towards it, but I do believe that catch and release is enjoyable just not when you don’t have the right resources and the odds of the fish surviving are low, in hindsight my positive takeaway from that of course is that I got somewhat of an arm workout, but I doubt I will be trying that anytime soon again.

First time fishing

Getting Back at It

Activity Post #1 – DP1 Continued Ventures

At the start of this year, one of my main activity related goals was to continue the work I did last year with hiking, football, home workouts and diving. While this year began with quite a bit of uncertainty thanks to the prevailing lockdown conditions in the country which which limited my access to sports facilities and leaving the premises of my house in general, I adapted to the best of my ability to complete my goals in whichever capacity COVID would let me.

Hiking

In my goal blog post at the start of DP2, I mentioned that I would like to go hiking at least once again in the upcoming semester and what do you know, I was actually able to go once again. We were able to revisit Hanthana where my previous hike had been but due to improved weather conditions they actually allowed us to climb up the rock where Indiana Jones the Temple of Doom was filmed!! The exact name of the mountain is unknown but its is somewhere downriver from Victoria Dam in Kandy (which Hanthana is in very close proximity to) and was relatively close to the villa that we stayed at. As for the hike itself I would say that it was rather uneventful as this time around only a smaller handful of us went because the hike is more dangerous and is also at a much higher altitude and as expected not having a five year old with us on the trip eased so much of the pressure on the remaining hikers. That being said, although the terrain got a little bit slippery on the way up we managed to get up without much of a hitch and climb down safely and I felt that this time around I felt safer and more sure because  I knew what to and what not to do i.e.. step on loose rocks on the way down…😂 OH AND THIS TIME GUESS WHO ACTUALLY PACKED THEIR LEECH SOCKS?! Yes, that’s right,  yours truly finally remembered how much she did not want to get eaten by the little bloodsuckers and made sure to bring a pair along. Moving on, now naturally the iconic bridge from the movie was sadly no longer there but it still felt insane and surreal to be standing where this legendary series was filmed in 1984  almost 40 years ago!! And last but not least even though it got a bit too foggy up top to see the entire vista it’s easy to say that this was one of the most physically strenuous yet absolutely rewarding hikes I had done :))

^ Hike #3 since the start of my CAS journey

^ A still from the actual movie featuring the bridge (Den of Geek, 2014)

Diving

Yet another thing that I have been wanting to accomplish recently is to go diving which I had been meaning to do since around 3 months ago but couldn’t do so initially because of island wide travel restrictions and other COVID related concerns. However this time, I did get to actually go do a couple dives albeit they were merely recreational because it was a rather spontaneous decision to go visit the dive centers on our holiday. Unfortunately for me I couldn’t go on more than 1 dive because I couldn’t equalize and any diver would know that the last thing someone should do is continue when they can’t equalize because it could potentially puncture your eardrum so for while my brother went on his dives, I decided to head back to the shore with my friend Nehla (who came on the trip but wasn’t a certified diver) and her family to do some snorkeling closer to the beach. Weirdly enough my equalizing problem didn’t last very long but by that time I discovered that I could. the others were long gone on their dives so I had to sit the second one out which was a bit of a bummer since I was really looking forward to my second dive but snorkeling was fun nonetheless! There were less fish than we expected though most likely because of the state of the corals in the reef which weren’t looking too healthy :/

^ Myself (left) and my friend Nehela (right) snorkeling in Pasikudah

Working Out + Football

The third set of endeavors in the activity section of my blog I am continuing in DP2 is my commitment to football and completing home workouts to remain fit. While football was limited to mostly doing challenging drills at home, taking note from videos such as which guided me through getting back in form every day after school for 30 minutes to maintain my skillset, I also used another 30 minutes every other day (depending on the intensity of the workout) and my IB Wellness Days to complete certain Cirque du Soleil workouts.  Initially, I felt as though I had just signed myself up to a year of torture because the Cirque du Soleil workouts are extremely rigorous and are mostly used by professionally trained athletes and in the first week I had to take many breaks to complete my session and it left me sore for days but after a few sessions of just building up stamina I was able to circulate through about 3 workout videos and taking less breaks. This goes without saying that the workout sessions are still a work in progress and that it’s a matter of getting back in shape before actually straining myself, so looking forward I have decided to maybe alternate my workouts from non Cirque du Soleil ones and the harder ones. In the upcoming months I aim to focus more specifically on cardio, abs, arms and legs and maybe also do some yoga every odd week to relieve some tension that gets built up following my workouts.

Practicing shots on a mini goal for improved accuracy

Here are the videos that I used:

Home Workouts –

Football-

Harvard Pre-Law Academy + In Conversation With Forbes’ Laurel Donnellan

Summer Endeavors 

Sometime towards the end of last year I loosely touched on my acceptance into Harvard’s  pre-law program. Among the many external courses I took part in in DP1 I was informed of two potential opportunities that I could take part in over the summer and after 2 essays, one questionnaire and an interview I received the news that I had been selected. Now that all of it is said and done, let me catch all of you up on a little bit of what I did this summer.

Harvard Pre-Law Academy

  < Day 1

After receiving my acceptance letter I could barely contain my excitement, I had made it into a law course! One that was sponsored by Harvard nonetheless! Even though I was happy I got selected in I was also just as nervous. Harvard is something that I have always associated synonymously with academic excellence so naturally, I had my fair share of nerves since I assumed the other 19 selected students would be mini Einsteins.

In the weeks that followed I received multiple emails briefing me on what I was to except from a course overview to a note docket and itinerary. I was then introduced to the two course leaders, Nisha and Maia who led our sessions for the upcoming weeks. The first few sessions were rather predictable, we did our introductions got introduced to different law terminology and judicial systems and were split into various breakout rooms to talk to conduct research in. I soon got to know quite a few of my peers some of whom I still keep in touch with today, and naturally they were all as smart as I expected them to be but they were also very welcoming and just bounced ideas off of each other. At the end of it all I can even confidently say that I learned just as much from my friends as I did my mentors. As the final week approached, things turned up a notch. Our mentors decided to introduce the main component of the program: a mock trial. Yes, you heard me right, an actual mock trial based off of an actual trial that would be mediated by Nisha and Maia in the end as unbiased judges.

They decided to pick our roles within our teams at random and much to my shock I ended up being given the role of the primary defendant! This was huge, I was going to be playing the defendant and defense attorney for myself as Dana M. Colby the principal of Michigan High School who was accused of enabling a memorandum that had to do with the alleged unlawful seizing of student, Pat Roman’s bag in a civil case. This meant that my partner Nubar (who would play co-defendant as the teacher who seized the bag (Terry Wordshaw)) and I, would act as defense attorneys while the other members of our team would be responsible for gathering data, cross examination and other logistics in a fight against the plaintiffs who claimed that privacy comes above the safety of the students seeing that the teacher came up empty handed aside from a cigarette after the search. Initially I was concerned because I personally sided with the plaintiffs argument at first, but naturally, one of the first steps to being a good lawyer is to put your own opinions aside. Nubar was extremely diligent and myself, her, a boy named Iqbal and a girl named Nadine spent the good part of the next week working tirelessly at finishing opening statements, closing statements, witness statements, summaries of facts, rebuttals, questions for direct and cross examination etc. It was a very long and nail biting week but we managed to stay on top of things. On top of that we had sometimes up to three meetings a week and constant correspondence via social media just to ensure that we were on track.

On the day of the mock trial we went in well prepared. I was to give out the opening statement which I had written and answer all the questions in direct and cross examination. My opening speech was spoken out without much error and I was positively beaming on the inside because we had made a solid start. I had also suggest that we trip the other team up by making our expert witness a child psychologist so that she could comment on Pat Roman’s behavioral tendencies to create mischief. Any good lawyer is a good story teller after all 😛

The direct examination went quite well except a member of the other team kept interrupting at every instance saying “the question is irrelevant to the case your honor!” every time I opened my mouth to answer which was rather infuriating but the cross examination was where I redeemed myself.

We had known full well that the angle they would use to win the case would be to talk about an infringement of privacy but we made it so that we placed special emphasis on certain clauses of the amendment in focus and after that it was really just a matter of re-iterating facts. The rest of our trial went off in very intense rounds of questioning, I didn’t quite expect that much passion from an online mock trial but it was clear that everyone including myself was very highly invested and much thanks to Iqbal our resident cross-examiner he asked questions from the plaintiffs that had them squirming in their seats. After a good 20 minutes of deliberation our judges felt they were ready to give out our verdict.

I had been excitedly talking to my teammates on the chat reminding them of how proud I was of all our hard work regardless of the verdict since at that point in time I genuinely did not know what the decision would be and then, much to the defense team’s delight Nisha announced that although their personal views resided with the plaintiff’s argument we made such a compelling case that we won! All of us were elated and knowing that we had not only managed to win but sway the personal beliefs of the judges felt incredible. Having gone up against some seriously intense opposition and still winning out made it all the more worth it :))

In hindsight, Harvard’s Future Lawyers Program was one of my proudest achievements and most exiting endeavors. I had not only been accepted into an exclusive group but also lead my team to a solid victory as well alongside Nubar! This was an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity that I will certainly remember for the years to come.

An extract from the 57 page case reading we had to each do and take notes on! ^

^ My certificate of participation

^ Our program course book

In Conversation with Lauren Donnellan 

Another pleasant surprise I had this summer was when Learn With Leaders (the platform I used to find my law course) extended an invite to an invite only conversation with Laurel Donnellan about career paths. By this time after my participation in the pre-law academy I had made up my mind that I would want to choose a law related career path perhaps in diplomacy but I wanted to see if it was the right fit for me, not to mention that Laurel is a contributor at Forbes.com where she writes about Compassionate Leadership and focuses on leadership and falling in love with careers through kindness and purpose. This is naturally a major achievement and her resume spoke for itself when looking at all the incredible entrepreneurs she interviewed and the people she inspired. In this time we spoke in small groups about what makes someone passionate about a job and how being passionate towards it can benefit your lifestyle, health and happiness in the long run.

^ Donnellan’s Forbes Profile

^ Certificate of Participation

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