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Today’s theme is mosaics from different countries. I begin with the best museum of mosaics I have seen recently, the El Bardo in Tunis. Then there are another four from the city of Sousse there, followed by two from Iran.

I then have four from Cyprus and four from Jordan, with two from Spain, one from Granada and to finish with a modern one from Seville.

Sadly I did not take pictures of the mosaics in Naples, which I saw in 1971, nor those in Antakya which I visited in 1989. Those are the museums I remember best from my distant youth. But these I hope convey something of the delight of that art form.

Today’s pictures are from a dreamlike trip to Maluku, the Indonesian islands east of Sulawesi, stretching to Irian Jaya, or Papua New Guinea. I have already posted pictures of the end of that holiday, on an island in the Kei group almost at the eastern end. This post covers travel there, but only the first half for I am so enamoured of the scenes of sea and sun that I have included many pictures of the ferry ride, covering Christmas Day 2013, from Ternate to Namlea.

The first 12 pictures are of that journey, the next eight of exploration of Ternate and its smaller rival nearby, Tidore, to which I went with my old friend John Pike who had indeed suggested the whole expedition.

Today’s pictures are from Kosovo, which I visited when I went to Macedonia in 2017. I had not planned to go there, but I found it was just a few hours away from Skopje, the Macedonian capital, and I had seen in a few days all the places I was very keen on in Macedonia.

And having seen the wonderful monasteries there, with the splendid frescoes, I was keen to see other examples of these in Kosovo, which I gathered had remarkable Orthodox sites. Though Islam had been the reason for it splitting off, with much support from the West in their urge to dismember Serbia, there were fewer remarkable Muslim sites there, though the last pictures here cover some of them.

Today’s pictures are from a country I found wonderfully attractive, though I went there initially only to pass a week I had free before joining Vasantha Senanayake in Zambia. The landscapes were fantastic, and I loved the bleak forts including the ruined remains high on a hill of the simple palace of their last king.

Today’s is an unusual theme, a collection of pictures of my students over the years. Of the early years I only have prints, so these are all from the present century. They cover a range of activity, beginning with Sabaragamuwa and a birthday lunch several former students gave me in 2018.

Then there is one from the campus, with two future English teachers, at school and university, and then four former students – one from my first batch at Sri Jayewardenepura – who were on the staff, three with doctorates now though the fourth left us when I ceased to be Dean. Then I have my team for English medium at the Ministry, along with Kithsiri who drove indefatigably for that initiative and the marvellous Oranee Jansz, my collaborator for this as well as the pre-university General English Language Training course in the nineties.

There follows the speakers at the launch of my book ‘Lakmahal Justified: Taking English to the people’ at the end of 2018. There is a picture then of my first intake at the Military Academy, and then three of my staff when I was an MP, two from Sabaragamuwa and one from the SLMA, Bandara and Anuruddha and Sanjeewa who also spoke at the launch.

I move then to the former combatants, the first session of games I had with them in 2009 and then two entrepreneurship development programmes I had conducted at the centres through my decentralized budget. Then there is the opening of one of the Vocational Training Centres I set up in the north over the next couple of years through that budget, and pictures of students on courses there as well as at the centres I checked on while I chaired the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission. in between is a teacher training session we conducted, solidly supported by Nandana Balasooriya another Sabaragamuwa product who was in charge of English at the Department of Technical Education and training.

Then we have the English projects for schools I ran with support from the Australians and Canadians, the first the junior school project at the Buttala Affiliated College which brought together Ordinary Level students from different communities for weekends, wonderfully run by Sunethra Siriwardena who taught there. Then there are pictures of the project at Madola, the estate where my father had started vocational training, and where when he had to give that up I had English classes, for the village children and also for post Advanced Level students from different communities who spent a fortnight there. The first picture is of the staff I took there from Sabaragamuwa together with my uncle and aunt at the old family home where I would stay initially. The second is of me taking a class for the village children, and the last is of Upali and Jothini who ran the project marvellously, while also being inspiring teachers at Technical Colleges and schools respectively.

Coincidentally I had featured Madola today on my Facebook page, though concentrating on the house I had there. A student of the courses there, whom I had not known, commented as follows almost immediately

Anbalagan Anbu Twenty years before we spend two weeks with wonderful teacher’s …its our first experience in south part of the country. Amazing days English class and evening play times.
Rajiva Wijesinha So glad you enjoyed it, and also learned
  • Anbalagan Anbu Rajiva Wijesinha …we learned lots of things sir. Even today i share with my kids those things. Please start again a training center. Its door of understanding and togetherness of our nation….

I was deeply touched. It is good to have been of service, but I should register that it was the commitment to service of my parents that inspired me, and the resources they developed that has enabled all this work.

Today’s pictures are from Finland, which I visited in 2013 when I went to the Baltic countries of the former Soviet Union. I had not originally intended to go to Finland, but in Talinn in Estonia I found it was a short ferry ride away. There was not much to see in Helsinki, nor indeed in Porvoo, a nearby village presented as the best excursion from the capital. But they were pleasant enough for a couple of days and I much enjoyed too the ferry ride and the entrance into Helsinki.

Two years ago I could only have a brief excursion before a meeting in Chennai, so I went down the day I flew there to Pondicherry, seeing Auroville that day and a couple of French period churches and then finding a delightful hotel overlooking the sea.

Next day I saw a nearby temple and some colonial buildings and then went on to the fort at Gingee, in picturesque countryside with a couple of picturesque temples. And on the way back to Chennai we went to Mahabalipuram, in time for my third viewing of the magnificient Arjuna’s Penance, first seen half a century earlier.

Today’s pictures are from the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, which I took a friend to three years ago, seeing it again myself for the first time since undergraduate days. I had remembered its wonderful collection of classical sculpture, but had forgotten the splendid oriental sculpture too. And there are some good paintings, though comparatively few.

Today’s pictures are from two other cities, following Granada, which I went to on my way to Honduras back in 2018. I had three nights in Cordoba, though just one full day there, seeing the alcazar and the mosque turned cathedral in the morning and the beautiful Viana Palace and a few more churches in the afternoon. The next day I went to Seville, where apart from the Golden Tower and the Cathedral which I recalled from 1977 I also saw the Plaza de Espana, built early in the last century for an Exposition.

Today’s pictures are from Serbia, which I treat as fitting into the Levant, the fourth area in the world which I look at. The others are South Asia and Europe and Africa, and what began as South America but moved to Spain and countries in the Pacific with a colonial past, thus far the Philippines and Indonesia (Dutch not Spanish, but near enough). The Levant covers those countries which were part of the Turkish Empire, so it will stretch from what used to be Yugoslavia to Kazakhstan, and of course the Middle East (which allowed me to include Iran too).

There were not many memorable traces of Islam in Serbia, which I visited in 2017, though I went also to Bosnia on that journey and saw some fascinating sights. But I loved Belgrade and the view over the river from the fortress, and also the southern city of Nis with the remains of an old hammam in the park, as well as Roman remains. And there were some fine old monasteries amidst the new assertions of Orthodoxy.

Rajiva Wijesinha

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