BLOG - mainly about my (forthcoming) trip to Sri Lanka.

Tuesday 25 October 2005. Yesterday was a great day! Culminating in me going to Stanfords (the Maps and Travel books shop) surreptitiously moving the high-shelf stool into a quiet corner by the Sri Lanka section and sitting on it for half an hour while I ploughed through all the guides to S.L. First I arranged them in cost order. Several were excellent picture books, coffee table stuff, with paper so fine as to make the volume much too heavy. In the end I chose what I thought was the most expensive but then to my delight found it wasnt Id looked at the dollar price. It was the Lonely Planet guide, at 12.99. A good guide book like this (e.g. also the Rough Guides) is absolutely invaluable when travelling independently and it must be up to date. I make sure it has a good section on budget accommodation for each town, also good maps. However I also bought a big map. There were two which seemed equally detailed (I checked if they showed a small road near the Monastery in which I stayed last time they both did) then found one cost half the other - 4.95. I cycled home (hoping to stop for a quick pray at St Mary Redcliffe, but it was shut) feeling really great, really happy, and after two days of Atkins diet, really fit and lean!

I break off this to look at the post. Yippee! A cheque from Barbara Harris, who runs the Save Frenchay Hospital campaign. She doesnt know that I wrote yet another letter to the local paper yesterday slagging off those who made the crass decision to downgrade it. She sends it with a pretty card depicting a sweet old English country cottage, with bright green lawn and masses of flowers. Normally Id dismiss it as being too soppy-sentimental, but on this trip Ill keep it to hold my papers and be a reminder of this lovely country. Maybe to give away; I think it would be appreciated by an Anglophile Sri Lankan, of which there are many.

Oh My Gosh! A huge cheque from someone who I think wants to be anon! Now I have all I asked for, 555 the air fare, plus 100 from James to be spent on incidentals. (And another huge cheque said I was to use any spare from it on, in effect, luxuries.

How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art!

Now I must to town, to find a working photo machine for passport photos (the two I found yesterday were not working) and get cash for my Indian Visa. Plus other shopping including boots.

When I get back Ill explain what all this is about.


Less than two weeks ago a friend passed me an email (see below) calling for volunteers to be International Observers during the Sri Lankan Presidential Elections 10 to 20 November. Expenses while in SL would be met but volunteers from wealthy countries were to pay to get there and back. They said the job could be dangerous, which I think is probably an exaggeration. I applied (see below) and was accepted. The only problem I hadnt got the air fare. So, with some trepidation as Id never done it before* I wrote and email (see begging letter, below) to all my friends and relations, with very few exceptions, asking if theyd contribute. Within a couple of days I had promises of all I needed. I spent Monday morning on the phone and internet seeking the cheapest flights. I had already been suggesting to my school in India charity that we needed to get someone who was going out there to see a certain man in Delhi, so I struggled to fit Delhi into the itinerary. I just about gave up telling Eleanor (the founder and Chair or Clerk of the charity) Id failed, but then had a brainwave and was able to get a ticket with Srilankan Air which purports to be a return to Delhi with a stop-over in SL, though Ill only be a day in Delhi, and 10 days in SL.

Im really grateful to those whove sent me cheques, or said they would. They are Keith and Pauline Wiltshire (Green Party, Methodists, former overseas workers (missionaries?); Barbara Harris (Campaigner), Heather Lister (member of my Quaker Meeting, Dr of English, poet, playwright); Tom Poole (Quaker, Cambridge Jesus Lane Meeting, Man of Property, Harpisicord dealer/restorer); Eleanor Nesbitt (Quaker Coventry Meeting, Swarthmore lecturer, lecturer at Warwick University, writes books etc on other Faiths); Margaret Burtt (Quaker at Westminster Meeting, Administrator of a medical College, a great friend); Simon and Freya, Simon is my cousin, retired vicar, Freya is also a Quaker); Bristol Area Quakers.

This is the begging letter:

22 October 2005

Dear Friends and Relations

Warning! This is an appeal a begging letter! If you do not like to receive begging letters, especially from, BY AND FOR the benefit of a friend or relation read no further.

Rather than selecting some of my friends and relations I intend to send this to all of you, so you dont feel Ive picked on you.

I have an opportunity to go to Sri Lanka as an International Observer to the presidential election, during the period 10 to 20 November, i.e. very shortly. Once there the NGO that is running the internationals will pay for my accommodation and transport, but they expect observers from wealthy nations to pay their own air fare. This is about 500. My son has already offered 100 for which Im grateful. I am asking you if you would contribute to this.

Incidentally the operation is described as potentially dangerous, but I wont sue you for sending me! I not only wish to go for its own sake but to get experience which will help me get similar postings. I think I can do a service to democracy and peaceful international relations with some skills and abilities that not many people of my age and with my experience would be prepared to do.

If I go (I must decide within a few days) I may also tack on a quick visit to Delhi to sort out a problem for the charity which I administer, Friends of Sangam Foundation, which supports a rural primary school about 50 miles from Delhi. I would be in Delhi for only a day. Otherwise we hope others who plan to go to India in the next few months may be able to see to that problem.

If you send me money please say what you want me to do if I receive more than I need, e.g. return it proportionally to donors, give it to Sangam, give it to Sri Lankan Tsunami appeals, give it to the International Observers NGO.

Yours, cap in hand,

Stephen Petter

Web site of Friends of Sangam:

Web site of the International Observers NGO:

My Blog (not up to date):


Click to see my application letter, a reply to their set of questions, and my CV:



And this was my original information

From "Richard Drake" <>

To"'Stephen Petter'" <


FW: News from Nonviolent Peaceforce


Mon, 10 Oct 2005 11:05:08 +0100

Stephen - oh how I'd love to be able to do this. Do you know anyone who can
spare the time ?

Richard Drake
-----Original Message-----
From: Nonviolent Peaceforce 
Sent: 07 October 2005 02:19
Subject: News from Nonviolent Peaceforce



*Election Observers Needed in Sri Lanka in November*

Heres an opportunity to participate in our 
peacekeeping work in Sri

Nonviolent Peaceforce Sri Lanka Partner "Peoples 
Action for Free and
Fair Elections" (PAFFREL) has issued a call for 
foreign election
observers to assist with the upcoming Presidential 
Election called
for 17 November 2005.

If you are able to fund (or fundraise) your airfare to Sri Lanka,
PAFFREL will take care of your logistics and expenses in Sri Lanka to
be an election observer from 11 (arrival day) November to 20
(departure day) November. This will be an excellent time to work as
election observers alongside the NP Field Team Members who are
working to reduce violence and promote peace and justice in Sri Lanka
after over 20 years of civil war. For election observers from the
Global South, PAFFREL has agreed to partially support the
international travel, if needed, for up to five Observers (up to
around $700/each). The choice whom to support this way will be made

Election Observers must have a high degree of intercultural
flexibility and sophistication. The accommodations will be modest and
language barriers with your Sri Lankan colleagues could be
significant. Plans will be in a state of change as the time
surrounding the elections is often plagued by violence and ambiguity.
PAFFREL will be responsible for training, housing, food,
transportation and identification/accreditation.

If you are interested in exploring this invitation further, please contact:

Kingsley Rodrigo
Executive Director
93/10, Dutugemunu Street
Colombo 6, Sri Lanka
Tel: (94 11) 282 4425, (94 11) 281 8675, (94) 115 
Fax: (94) 115 557012
E-mail: {}



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