Recreating God's Paradise

Support Global Ministries by shopping on November 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jmnitz @ 3:37 pm

PreethikaDo you shop on Amazon? Did you know that a part of your purchases could be sent to Global Ministries simply by accessing Amazon through the Global Ministries website? Nifty, huh. Now you don’t need to feel any guilt when shopping on Cyber Monday!

Vembadi welcome danceHere is a detailed explanation about the program as well as directions on how to access Amazon.

Uduvil ChoirOr if you are super tech-savvy, here is the special link that takes you to the Global Ministries/Amazon homepage:

Seminary  Sing Noel Band


Shakespeare, donkeys, cobras, and singing fish! November 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jmnitz @ 3:34 pm

I have had a post it note with ‘WRITE BLOG!!!’ sitting in front of my computer for about two weeks now. Needless to say, my capital lettering and three exclamation points weren’t enough to overcome my fatigue each evening after full days of music practices.

But even though I’ve gone so long without writing, I can easily summarize it all as follows: Christmas music. All day, every day. Singing, band, percussion, dancing, guitar, and piano. Christmas.

I’ve been working on so many different songs; I’ve started switching lyrics and melodies in my head. It’s kind of funny to see the kids’ reactions when I sing a wrong phrase though. They all get concerned looks and frantically start searching their lyrics to figure out where I am. *chuckles* I just keep taking lots of notes to remember which songs start with 4 bars introduction or 8, and how many times things get repeated. The more I can write down, the less I need to rely on my limited memory capability.

In addition to all this singing, dancing, and ho ho ho though, I’ve managed to steal away for a few trips. After all, I’m a tourist, aren’t I? Well, I went with the students to Mannar for their English Day competition, My Uduvil and Jaffna College students participated in the singing, drama, and recitation events and did quite well. Some even got first place and qualified for the National Level competition in Colombo. For those of you that don’t know Mannar from Uduvil, Mannar is on the west coast of Sri Lanka mid-way up, and Uduvil is up in the very Northern peninsula.

I also snuck away one afternoon for a visit to Nainativu. It is a sacred island for both Buddhists and Hindus. Buddhists say that the Buddha himself once visited the island and settled a dispute between a king and his son about a jewel-encrusted chair.  Hindus have much history with snakes and the island. The people who once lived in this place were called the Naga or Naya people. These people revered the cobra and in Tamil, naga or naya means snake. There is also some legend of a five headed cobra, but I’m not too sure of the story.

Thirdly (and lastly) I had a chance to travel east and visit Batticaloa, the City of the Singing Fish. (What a cool name, huh?) Global Ministries has partners in this region as well, and I got a chance to meet some of the local pastors and see some of the children’s homes. My trip to Batticaloa was really a joy because I also got to see some of my past students. Last year I taught preschool teachers from all over the North and East in weekly seminars. We worked on different teaching methods and ways to integrate song, dance, poem, and movement into the classroom to promote learning. It was so special to visit some of these teachers and to see their students. At each of the seven schools I visited, the children gave me a small musical performance showing some of the songs they had learned. Hearing them sing ‘the Banana song’ and ‘London Bridge’ made me want to burst with joy. And imagine how I laughed when they wanted me to lead them in the ‘Burrito song’. (Do Sri Lankan preschoolers know what a burrito is? …I highly doubt it!)

Oh yes, I’ve had some lovely adventures all around the island: singing of burritos, playing Twister, eating tea buns, riding motor bikes, running from a donkey stampede, and standing in awe at the sacred temples of Nainativu. But I’m home in Uduvil once again, and I am working hard to piece all these Christmas programs together. I’m sure the kids will do fine with their parts, but I’m nervous for myself. Now, if only I can get all my words straight.

Here is a smattering of photos from Nainativu, Mannar and Batticaloa, in that order. I think I finally figured out how to get my photos in the correct order!

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Girls and Buses September 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jmnitz @ 2:54 pm

Oh, Friends! I have so many delightful things to share with you!

I came across this wonderful article regarding woman’s rights and how Sri Lanka is way ahead of the curve. You can read about it by clicking HERE. Sri Lankans were the first people to democratically elect a female Prime Minister (in 1931), and in the realm of education, they are home to the first girls’ boarding school in all of Asia (1824)! That school, of course, is Uduvil Girls’ College, where I live and work.

Also, while I was home in the USA, Uduvil finally managed to fund raise the monies needed for a school bus. It had been increasingly difficult to keep renting private buses and vans to transport students to events and competitions, and the bus has been a wish for a number of years. Each daily van or bus rental cost the school hundreds of dollars, but the only alternative would be to abstain from intermural sports, academic competitions, practices and other school trips. Last year, the students and staff came together to help raise the funds to purchase a school bus, and the Uduvil Past Pupils group in Sydney, Australia helped bring it all together. Not only do we have a bus, but it is officially the first yellow school bus in Sri Lanka!

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. ‘C’mon Julianna, yellow? Are we supposed to be excited because it’s the normal color?’

And I say Yes! Because up until this year, all school buses have been plain old white. As we purchased our bus, the government has now passed a law that all vehicles designated for transporting children must be painted yellow to alert other drivers.

If you would like to see our fancy yellow school bus, click HERE to visit Uduvil’s Facebook page. 




War-scarred Sri Lankan Tamils see hope in election September 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jmnitz @ 4:40 pm

War-scarred Sri Lankan Tamils see hope in election

Published: September 20, 2013 


Sri Lankan polling officials carry ballot boxes before heading off to their respective polling stations on the eve of the northern provincial council election in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Sri Lankan ethnic Tamils in the Northern province will vote Sept. 21 in the country’s first Northern provincial council election since government troops crushed separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting to create a separate state for minority Tamils.

By KRISHAN FRANCIS — Associated Press

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka — The ethnic Tamils of Sri Lanka tried to gain autonomy in their northern heartland first through three decades of protests and strikes, then through three decades of civil war. Northern cities were reduced to rubble and at least 80,000 people were killed by the time the government crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.

Now, Tamils are hoping that provincial elections Saturday are the first step toward what all those years of struggle and war never brought.

The elections will create the Tamils’ first functioning provincial government and is expected to give them a limited say in their own affairs — a taste of democracy after years under rebel or military control.

“Let us have the right to look after ourselves,” said C.V. Wigneswaran, a former Supreme Court justice and chief candidate for Tamil National Alliance, the main Tamil party and once a political proxy for the Tigers.

“There is absolutely no necessity for us to separate,” from the rest of Sri Lanka, he said. He called their political goals “no violence, one country.”

The elections are seen by the United Nations and the world community as a crucial test of reconciliation between the Tamils and majority ethnic Sinhalese who control the government and the military. Campaigning has been marked by sporadic attacks and threats, mainly against Tamil Alliance supporters.

An election monitor said soldiers armed with clubs attacked supporters of Tamil Alliance candidate Ananthi Sasitharan at the candidate’s home late Thursday, wounding eight people. Sasitharan, the wife of a former Tamil Tiger rebel leader, escaped unharmed, said Keerthi Tennakoon of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections. Military spokesman Brig. Ruwan Wanigasooriya denied that soldiers took part in an attack.

More than 700,000 voters are registered to elect 36 members to the provincial council, which will not have much power. A governor appointed by the central government will wield the most control.

“Powers are given by the right hand and taken away by the left,” Wigneswaran said. His party wants a federal system, with more power shifted to the regional government, though the central government rejects any sort of power-sharing.

Part of the goal of Saturday’s election, Wigneswaran said, is simply to help Tamil voters understand they have a role to play in politics. The Tamil Tigers, a brutal, cult-like movement, allowed no dissent from their policies, and Sri Lankan military rule has left little room for public discussion.

“We are trying to get them more and more involved in the democratic way of life,” Wigneswaran said.

Tamils have been demanding regional autonomy to the country’s north and east, where they are the majority, since Sri Lanka became independent from Britain in 1948. The campaign took the form of nonviolent protests for many years, but in 1983, civil war broke out between government forces and armed Tamil groups calling for full independence.

The provincial council was created in 1987 as an alternative to separation. But the Tigers — the strongest of the rebel groups, and eventually the de facto government across most of the north and east — rejected it as inadequate. The fighting that followed prevented the council from functioning.

The military defeat of the Tigers meant Tamils were back to where they had started 60 years earlier. They had no tangible achievements and had suffered not only tens of thousands of deaths, but the loss of nearly a million Tamils who left the country as refugees.

Though the Tamil Alliance hopes Saturday’s elections are a step on the road to greater autonomy, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa intends to retain its grip on power. It has criticized the alliance’s demand for federalism, insisting it really wants secession.

Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party hopes to win over Tamils by rebuilding roads, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure destroyed in the war. But residents also say the army is taking over large swaths of private land to build camps and even businesses such as hotels, and bringing in Sinhalese people to change the province’s ethnic breakdown.

Angajan Ramanathan, a Freedom Party candidate, said that while power-sharing is important, development must come first.

“We have tried everything in the past 60 years,” Ramanathan said. He said it’s now time to work with the government, and to convince it that Tamils no longer want a separate state.

“We Tamils need power devolution, and we need rights,” he said. “What I feel is that we can only get this through the government.”

Voters interviewed in recent days ranged from businessmen anxious for self-rule to people who simply want more jobs.

“Today’s reality is that the people will back anyone who will solve the unemployment problem,” said M. Sweetson, a bank employee from the fishing village of Pashaiyoor.

The provincial government still faces immense challenges from the war, from widespread unemployment to a desperate housing shortage. Rebel suspects are held in jail without trials, and thousands of war widows and orphans are in need of help.

The U.N. welcomed the election in a statement, calling it an “important opportunity to foster political reconciliation.”

The U.N. has called on Sri Lanka repeatedly to more thoroughly investigate war crimes committed by both sides. A U.N. report has indicated Sri Lankan troops may have killed as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the conflict. The Tigers are also accused of killing civilians, holding them as human shields and recruiting child soldiers.

The U.N. estimates that 80,000 to 100,000 people died in the conflict, but the number is feared to be much higher. Few outsiders had any access to combat zones in the bloody final phase of the war.

The Tamil Alliance has said if it wins control of the provincial government, it also will push for an international war crimes investigation.

taken from:


Poyitu varen September 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jmnitz @ 10:42 am

After a MUCH extended interval, I have returned. Please cue the music and confetti!

I’ve been back for a few days now, and I still haven’t managed to reunite with all my friends quite yet. In between jet-lagged afternoon naps and tidying up my room, I’ve been spending my time in the school grounds soaking in the mixture of sunshine and children’s laughter. I had forgotten how much I enjoy sitting out on my verandah with a book on my day off, listening to the children play down below. An afternoon of this and add in a couple of fresh mangos? *sigh*

I know a good writer doesn’t spoil the end, but I feel I must update you all regardless. My visa has been granted through mid December and so, as the end of our school year draws to a close, so will my time here. Wow, it’s so sad just to type those words! *shivers* Okay, enough of this.

So, now that I’m back, you must be wondering, ‘What will she be doing’ Well, my friends, that is an excellent question! I have already helped determine music for our Christmas programs (yes plural) and I have been diligently working with the Grade 3-5 students as they prepare Hansel and Gretel, the musical drama for Parent’s Day next month. It’s going to be a real barn-burner! So, yes, lots of musical rehearsals and this next week I need to sit down and make some band arrangements of Christmas carols for the programs at the end of the year.

We haven’t had any band classes yet, but already the first day I was back, students were asking me for the key to the band room to go and practice. Part of me is so proud of their studiousness! And the other part of me knows that they haven’t touched their instruments since I left. But I can’t be mad at them. I’m too happy to be back!

Well, to prevent boring you, I will wrap this up. Just know I’m back, had safe and smooth travels, and am really excited to get back into things.

Oh, and for those interested, the maranai (raccoon/monkey/badger thing) still dwells in my ceiling. I suppose he’s just been keeping watch over my things while I was gone.

Fact of the Day: Want to know more about how this creature is related to Chanel No. 5 and gourmet Kopi Luwak coffee? Click here!



Elephants Stroll Past Temples on Once-Forbidden Sri Lankan Coast September 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jmnitz @ 6:21 pm



(Click here for article link)

Google Alerts found this article for me, and I was so pleased with the Jaffna review, I had to share it. Christopher Bagley does such a wonderful job articulating the sights, tastes, sounds, and stories of the Jaffna area as well as discusses the lack of tourism. He mentions that less than 1 % of foreign tourists visiting Sri Lanka will go the north. Five years after the final cease-fire, little is being published about the area in regard to tourism. It’s still perceived as potentially unsafe. But for all of you who have followed my blog, you know otherwise.

Here’s a second perspective of the people, culture, religion, and landscape of Jaffna.


USA May 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jmnitz @ 8:53 pm

In all my efforts around the house to do some necessary Spring cleaning, I’ve somehow overlooked my blog. Well, fear no more! The dust and cob webs have been swept away from my dreary, abandoned journal and a new post has been presented for your reading pleasure!

I’ve been doing an okay job staying in touch with my USA friends but a terrible job communicating with friends abroad. And this is all due to my 3 months in the US. Yes folks- three. It’s indeed a long time to be on an unscheduled vacation, but I’ve been making the most out of it.

So, you might be wondering, ‘What the heck have you been doing for the past three months?’ 

Well, just about everything imaginable!


Since coming home in February I’ve had many snow adventures- most involving a shovel and two or three winter jackets layered with an equal number of sweaters. I’ve consumed an entire tin of hot chocolate, read another 10 books, made quilts with my mom and friends, baked zillions of cookies, mowed the lawn, planted a garden, installed a toilet, painted a house, stripped a deck, cut down trees, built and painted a shelf, tore out a different shelf, ate TONS of Missy’s pie, experienced general anesthesia for the first time, took some road trips, knitted slippers, hats and blankets, visited and spoke at churches across three states, two words: China Buffet, went bird watching in my backyard, performed in my sister’s final school band concert, created hand-made graduation invitations, went to Waypost twice (, and drank roughly a zillion oodles worth of REAL coffee. *sigh*

I’m sure there’s more to add, but I don’t want to risk boring you with my list of hyper-productiveness. 🙂 

It’s been really good to see family members and old friends, and I fill all my ‘in-between’ time with projects to keep my mind busy. So long as I’m busy, I’m not wallowing in frustration in regards to the uber-long visa renewal process. If any of my kids are reading this, please know that I miss you all dearly and I’m hoping to get back soon! To all my friends and family in the US, thank you for your continued prayers for my health and my visa. I have loved spending time with you and exchanging stories, and I know that you’ll be both happy and sad to see me go.