Archives For Fulbright

A Sri Lankan Wedding

December 13, 2012 — 1 Comment

My mother always told me that in my twenties I would attend a lot of weddings. If she had told me my first wedding would have been in Sri Lanka, I would have laughed… One of my goals for my year in Sri Lanka was to attend a wedding, and I’m happy to cross that off the list. I’m sad to say though my expectations of a Bollywood style event were unrealistic, but it was a great experience.

On Monday my afternoon class was pushed back a few hours, unbeknownst to me, as there was a wedding to attend. One of the Sarvodaya staff members was getting married, and the entire office was set to attend. We piled into a van, squishing and squeezing to fit everyone in – the air conditioner was on the fritz. The women were clad in their best saris, rich colors that were bedazzled. The men wore simpler button down shirts and slacks.

Once we were on our way the staff realized that they had left the gift for the groom in the office, we turned around and headed back to the office. Envelope in hand, we were on our way. The driver was going quickly to make up for lost time, and a traffic officer pulled us over for speeding. A short while later we were pulling up in front of a two-story hotel in the heart of Trinco town.

Hotels in Sri Lanka rarely have rooms to rent; they’re more akin to restaurants. In Sri Lankan English a hotel means anything from a shack of a restaurant to a fairly upscale establishment. Places that rent out rooms are generally called guesthouses, save for the five-star locations that also go by hotel.

When we entered my head was adorned with gold and red tilaka. We then climbed upstairs and started eating. Saffron rice was served with chicken curry and an assortment of vegetables and salads. We ate, and the staff laughed as my face turned red from the savory, but spicy food. The swelling of my lips kept pace with my intake of chilies and curries. After I finished eating my lunch, a kind soul brought me some vanilla ice cream – which soothed my enflamed mouth.

Once all the staff was finished eating we headed downstairs, and entered the queue to have our picture taken with the Bride and Groom. In an assembly line fashion groups of people were shuffled in an out, arranged in symmetrical order around the newlyweds, and their pictures were taken. It was a surprisingly efficient and well coordinated effort. After we had taken our pictures with the couple, we were on our way out the door.

The bride and groom

The bride and groom

Near the door stood a beautiful wedding cake, but it was not edible. Wedding cakes in Sri Lanka have a core of styrofoam, and are intricately decorated. If you want your cake to last all day, and stand up to the heat and humidity of this nation, it can’t be made out of something as flimsy as a mixture of flour, milk, and sugar. Instead, when you are leaving you get handed a prepackaged portion of cake – about the size of a deck of cards. It’s called Rick Cake, something similar to fruitcake. Delicious.

The issue of a love or arranged marriage is a peculiar thing. In the West, youths are left to their own devices to find mates. While in the East, many marriages are arranged. And this term has quite a wide definition. Arranged marriages could be anything from a simple introduction, where two families decide to get their kids together. Or it could be something as formal as your parents placing ads in the calendar, detailing your looks, age, qualifications, income, dowry (or inheritance), and horoscope. From what I can gather the institution is more like a partnership, or business. And please don’t take that to have a negative or cold meaning. I’ve met several couples that did not really know each other before they were wed, and they seem incredibly happy. The marriage is set up for one goal, to produce a family. The husband and wife have different interests and goals, but they have joined together to raise children to the best of their ability. My friend who got married wasn’t quite a product of an arranged marriage, but he didn’t meet his wife on his own. He seemed really perplexed about how I was supposed to find a wife; he viewed it as a huge burden.

Rich Cake

Recycled Air

December 12, 2012 — 2 Comments

Four flights down, one to go. It’s nighttime in Mumbai, and I can’t help but wonder how this mosquito got through the scrupulous security. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been x-rayed, sent through metal detectors, fondled in all the wrong places, and generally hassled. The time difference between Mumbai and Kathmandu is, curiously, fifteen minutes. Looking back, it has been quite a week.

Our driver picked up all the Fulbright ETAs in Colombo and we were whisked off the airport. When you enter Colombo airport the first thing you do is to go through a preliminary security checkpoint before going through customs – all flights out of Colombo are international. Another point of interest, all of the prices in the airport are listed in USD and SLR. I found this surprising because not many Americans come to Sri Lanka; most of the tourists are European. I think these two facts say a lot about the respective countries.

When we landed in Mumbai, we had about eight hours to kill. I went around to every lounge I could find to see if my AmEx would get me free access, but to no avail. I was fortunate however, to stumble across the employee lounge – which was completely empty. The lounge was quite nice, save for the vigorous use of air conditioning. I was dressed for Sri Lanka’s tropical climate, and had checked all of my warm clothes, as had my fellow Fulbrighters. We ended up huddling together for warmth while trying to catch a few hours of sleep.

The Mumbai airport offers free WiFi, if you have a local number. After a few hours of trying to get this number I was told that you could get around it by asking for a code from the airport helpdesk – which was located before customs. I made sure to note that for my return flight.

When we got to Kathmandu the visa process began. Since we were traveling for a quasi government conference, we were granted free visas. Though claiming the free visa was not as easy as I had hoped. We needed photos, which I didn’t bring. So I went to get one, and realized that I only had Sri Lankan Rupees on me; and in Nepal they will not exchange SLR. So after a bit of finagling, I was able to secure some Nepalese Rupees to pay for my photos and claim my visa.

After a bumpy forty-five minute drive, through alleys and streets that did not appear to be roads, we arrived at the hotel. After checking in I was given a key to room 316, I went up to the room and was surprised to find it full of suitcases. I went back down to the hotel manager; he informed me the room was booked, and handed me another key. Funny enough, that room was also occupied. The third time seemed to be the charm, when I entered my room I could not detect the presence of other people. This experience – at a five star hotel – says a lot about Nepal. It was a great, and telling, start to my time in Nepal.

I got settled into my hotel room and turned on the shower. The frigid water that came out of the pipes soon ran warm, my first hot shower in months. The bathroom windows soon fogged over, and the smell of iron permeated the air. The water in Kathmandu is quite poor, and not drinkable. Even after a few months of dealing with Sri Lankan water, even brushing my teeth with their water was cause for digestive problems.

After a much needed shower, it was time to explore the city. I walked up to the main road, and started heading towards the Standard Chartered to secure some currency. I was struck by the particle pollution in the valley; between the fumes being emitted by vehicles and the abundant amount of dust, I really wasn’t surprised. After getting some currency, it was time to get some tea and relax before dinner. We stopped in a local teashop, and it was a real treat. I had a glass of boiling lemon water served with honey while a few of my friends opted for traditional Nepalese milk tea (served with yak milk).

Nepalese food is an interesting fusion of Indian and Chinese, but its limited by its elevation. The high elevations, coupled with cold climate, severely limit the amount of vegetables that can be cultivated in Nepal. This leads to the importation of food products. In Nepal you can find delicious momos, which are quite like Chinese dumplings (baozi). There are good curries, which resemble some of what is found in India and Sri Lanka (though not as spicy). From what my friends told me, the standard Nepalese fair is rice with lentils, potatoes, and maybe some mutton.

Nepal is much poorer than Sri Lanka; their economy is not very developed. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, and is still struggling to overcome the Maoist revolts. To This day there is no constitution. The largest contributor to GDP is tourism, and the second largest are remittances from Nepalis working abroad. This is a point of contention for many families, quite like Sri Lanka. The father, as primary wage earner, can work abroad and provide the family with a better life. But doing so means that his wife and children will see him only once a year, for a few weeks at most.

It is easy to see why tourism is such a large component of Nepal’s economy. Kathmandu, in spite of the pollution, poor roads, and shaky infrastructure, is a wonderful city to visit. There are a number of beautiful temples and stupas, lots of great restaurants catering to westerners, and some amazing hiking trails. Mount Everest is a prime draw, with a few brave souls risking their lives to summit it every year (and spending a pretty penny at that).

After a few months of battling the tropical heat of Sri Lanka, I welcomed the cool air. Sleeping under a fluffy down comforter, and feeling my bones chill really made me get in the holiday spirits. Being able to sit in the sun, and not break out in perspiration, was a remarkable feat. I was surrounded by a number of other Americans, and I could have been fooled into thinking I was back in the States.

The conference started, and I was surprised to learn that in 2001 there were only 4 countries with ETAs in them, in 2012 there were 69 countries. Our conference was for ETAs from South and Central Asia, for which there are about 40 of us across seven countries – Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan. I was surprised to learn that there were about 250 applications for the 40 teaching spots. The conference was an opportunity for the ETAs to share their experiences with one another, from general facts about host countries to challenges and opportunities in the classroom. After the ETAs presented, we had the opportunity to learn from experienced English teachers about what tactics have worked for them over the years.

Hearing what some other ETAs are going through really put my situation into perspective. I had been debating asking for a transfer out of Trinco, due to my inability to find housing. But after hearing that my colleagues in Central Asia were dealing with students being ‘bride napped’ and nuclear fallout from Soviet testing grounds, while the Indian ETAs were dealing with students in excess of fifty students, things didn’t seem quite so bad out in Trinco. I’d go as far to say that Sri Lanka is among the best placements for South and Central Asia. And I might have rubbed in the fact that Sri Lanka was named the top tourist destination in the world for 2013…

After the first day of conferences we had an opening ceremony that was a great deal of fun. It took place outdoors, with the aid of several gas fired heaters. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nepalis have a taste for whiskey; when I went to the bar and ordered a Johnny Walker on the rocks the waiter handed me my glass, and then proceeded to pour another glass full of scotch into mine. Quite nice of him. Later in the week I was able to sample some local spirits at a banquet. One was a rice wine, which is quite like Korea’s makgeolli. My personal favorite was apple brandy served with boiling water, honey, ghee, and toasted rice kernels. Cheers. It warms you up after being chilled by the Himalayan air, just watch out for the gaseous fumes until it cools.

One of the ETAs in Sri Lanka had to leave the conference early, after just two short days in Nepal. While I wish she could have stayed, we were really excited because her wedding was to be held that week. For the past few years she has been dating a Sri Lankan, and when their horoscopes were read two weeks ago Thursday, at 6:22am was the most auspicious time for them to be wed.

As much of our time was spent in conference halls, I opted to wake up each morning around sunrise to explore the city for a few hours, save for one day when the fluffy comforter and warm bed were too enticing.

There is something quite remarkable about seeing a city wake up, especially in Nepal. The early morning light is beautiful, and it is amazing to witness throngs of devotees practice their morning worship. It seems like every street in Kathmandu has a place of worship. I have not seen a country as thankful as Nepal, especially considering their poverty. It was remarkable and inspiring.

We had two free afternoons, where the Fulbright Commission planned out some excursions. The first free afternoon was spent hiking from Telkot to Cahngu Narayan. The second day was a choice between touring the Boudanath Stupa tour or Kathmandu Durbar Square. As I’d already seen the Boudanath Stupa, I opted to tour Kathmandu Durbar Square (note that there are four Durbar Squares in Kathamndu) and Swayambhunath – also known as Monkey Temple.

I do not like monkeys. They’re mischievous little creatures that seem to only cause problems. While walking up the stairs of Swayambhunath there were several fights were monkeys let out blood curdling screams. They play with their own feces, and are generally disruptive. One of the ETAs in India came down with salmonella after petting a monkey at a zoo. Definitely creatures to avoid.

On our last day in Nepal, our flight was scheduled to depart from Kathmandu to Mumbai at 2:30pm. The logical thing to do before departing was to catch the 7am mountain flight operated by Buddha Air, and get some up close views of Mount Everest. The flight was delayed, unsurprisingly, but we managed to take off by eight. We flew on a tiny prop plane, about twenty minutes until we started seeing the mountain ranges. Each passenger was allowed up in the cockpit, to enjoy some stunning views of the mountain range. The flight was fantastic, and well worth the money spent.

I could have spent another week or two in Nepal, I would have loved to explore outside of the Kathmandu valley. Hopefully I have the chance to visit Nepal again in the future. While going through customs in Kathmandu, the inspector was quite perplexed as to why I wore glasses in my passport photo, but wasn’t wearing them now. He was also curious to learn why I had received a free entry visa. After explaining to him that I had contacts (lasik surgery was a bit too much to explain) and that I was here on a conference through the embassy, I was cleared for departure.

Landing in Mumbai, finding a stable internet connection was a priority. I checked with two different airport personnel who informed me that I could get an access code after I went through customs; they advised me to visit the duty free shops. Once through security, I started asking around. To my dismay, no one seemed to know about the access code I was referring to, and I was advised by one gentleman to purchase a new sim card or ask a local for help. Mumbai is an international airport; theoretically their customers are travelers from across the globe, many of which may not have a local number. It was frustrating to say the least, so I ended up trying to catch a few hours shut eye before our 2:30am departure to Colombo.

We landed in Colombo around 5am local time. Our driver whisked us back to our friends house, about 45 minutes from the airport. After brushing my teeth, I passed out on a couch until nine. I spent the day in a groggy haze, and ran some errands. At nine I caught the overnight train back to Trinco, and arrived at 5 in the morning. I hopped a tuk-tuk to Sarvodaya’s hostel, and spent most of day catching up on sleep.

It feels good to be back in Sri Lanka, to breath fresh air after a week of dust in Nepal and recycled air on planes.

 

Friendsgiving

December 8, 2012 — Leave a comment

Friends ŸgivŸ ing |FRiENDsˈgiviNG|

The Oxford American Dictionary defines a friend as:
a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.
They define giving as:
freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone); hand over to.
Though I much prefer their secondary definition:
bestow (love, affection, or other emotional support).

Friendsgiving was celebrated by the Sri Lankan Fulbrighters a week after Thanksgiving. After two weeks of teaching in our placements, it was a welcomed night – but a bit odd. I felt like I could have been anywhere in the world, even back in America. It was needed, for everyone.

The past two weeks had been a bit stressful, some of the researchers had to move quickly due to extreme harassment by a local. The first weeks of teaching were a bit rough for the teachers, getting settled. And I’m still homeless.

But things have a way of working out in Sri Lanka. The new apartment the researchers are in is beautiful, and cheaper than their house. Teachers are getting settled in, and the past week in Nepal was so helpful. While I’m still house searching, it looks like I should have a place soon.

I’m really grateful for my Fulbright friends. We’ve all gotten really close in the past two months. I shouldn’t be surprised, but we’ve all meshed really well. We all have a lot in common; recent American college grads who have an interest in Sri Lanka and international affairs. Living together for the first month helped a lot, and now traveling around the country (and region). It is amazing how close you get to people in such a short period of time. One of my friends made the comment in Nepal that she could tell when I’ve had coffee because I “… become much more interested in people.”

I’m also really excited that the researchers are starting to get out East; it will be great to have people coming to visit as I try to build a network in Trinco.


The Cinema

November 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’ve just seen my first movie in Sri Lanka, and it quite a show.

The movie itself was fantastic. Skyfall had a number of references to past films, great action scenes, and a plot which kept me thoroughly engaged. But the real show was following the subtle nuances of the Sri Lanka cinematic event.

Watching a movie in Sri Lanka is an escape from the heat. When entering the Majestic Movie Theater in Colombo you must be braced for the invigorating chill induced by zealous air conditioning. The leather chairs are plush and you are absorbed by them.

As the theater darkens the projector comes to life, and a digitalized version of the Sri Lankan flag appears on screen – apparently blowing in the wind. The crowd rises as the anthem begins to be piped in. When the lyrics arrive, the crowd joins in singing the anthem. The song finishes, and we sit down. It is time to begin showing trailers and advertisements.

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Prior to the starting of the film, piracy warnings flash on the screen. The government has also mandated a warning to be displayed on screen any time someone in the movie smokes. It was a little shocking at first, but humorous after that. Not many people smoke in Sri Lanka, I’m curious how long this has been apart of the cinema experience here.

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About halfway through the movie the frame froze. And I was more than a little upset, as I had been engrossed in watching Daniel Craig kick some serious ass. The lights came on, and people started shuffling out of the theater.

Intermission had begun. About fifteen minutes later the movie started back up.

This was the first time I’ve been to a movie theater outside the US, and it was quite an experience – full of fun and surprises.

The Luxuries of Colombo

November 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

Horns blare as my body is tossed around. Sweat rolls down my spine. The fumes of exhaust are slowly suffocating me. Its eight thirty in the morning, and the heat of the sun grows with every passing minute. After fourteen hours in transit, I’m back in Colombo, headed to the closest thing I have to calling a ‘home’ in Sri Lanka.

In a few minutes I’ll be at the house of a few of my fellow Fulbrighters; despite the combination of Cipro and spicy sambol doing a number on my stomach, I could not be happier. This week will be a kickoff to the holiday seasons for me.

Friday will mark the celebration of ‘FriendsGiving’, a delayed Thanksgiving celebration. And on Saturday I will be thrown into the Christmas spirit when I hit the cold air of Nepal. Not having a seasonal change has really affected my perception of the holidays, but I expect [hope] a week in the cool Nepalese air will get me feeling more in the Christmas spirit.

Two weeks in Trinco has made me appreciate the luxuries of Colombo.

A Stroll Through Base

November 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

Trinco is a town dominated by the military. As you enter the main city you have to pass through multiple checkpoints, where uniform clad youths clutch their presumably Chinese made kalashnikovs. In the town itself, Tamil is the language of choice. Sinhalese is about as useful as English, many people don’t speak either.

Last Friday I headed to Fort Frederick, to look at the temple which sat atop the Portugese built fort. To get there you must walk through the army base, along the rather long uphill walk I stopped at a connivence store for a cold drink. I greeted the clerk in Tamil, and he looked at me and replied in Sinhalese. Apparently he didn’t speak any Tamil.
Later I continued on, and found my way to the top of the fort, at the temple. Here I met a solider by the name of Gayan. Like many, he only spoke English and Sinhalese. I learned that he’s spent six tours abroad, as a driver. He had just returned from Lebanon, and was on his way to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica to drive for someone. He was kind enough to allow me to take his photo in front of his landrover, of which he was quite proud.
The most shocking thing about my walk through the military base was that in a city where the primary language is Tamil, there is this world dominated by Sinhalese. Just one reminder, among many, that Sri Lanka is a divided society – and language is a tool to divide.

Yesterday I received a gem of an invitation, I was asked to go to a Bachelor Party. I happily accepted, as I thought this would be a great opportunity to get better acquainted with a colleague of mine at Sarvodaya. Also, I hope to attend a Sri Lankan wedding – so this is a good step in that direction.

I was picked up at 10:30 in the morning on a motorcycle, and rode to the groom to be’s house. When I arrived, a bbq was going and some chicken and fish were being grilled up. Six other guys sat around a table, in the shade of a coconut tree, as we munched on shrimp and sipped arrack. For several hours we sat around leisurely eating, enjoying the cool breeze, and the warmth of the arrack. Back and forth we shuffled, three times, moving the party in and out with the whim of the rain. We finally settled on staying inside, after it seemed that the rain would be with us for some time.

I was stuffed from the fish, shrimp and chicken when it was announced that now lunch would be served. A heaping bowl of rice was brought out, along with dal, chicken curry, vegetables, and a fruit salad. A friend and fellow fulbrighter told me that the best meals she had in Sri Lanka were served in someones home. And I couldn’t agree more. This was one of the best meals I have had in Sri Lanka, its a shame I was so full when it was served.

Aside from the little differences, this was very much like a party in America. Friends sitting around, shooting the breeze, and enjoying the moment. Good food, a stiff drink, and some tv playing in the background.

All in all, it was a great day. And I’m glad that I was invited, and that I’m starting to get a little more connected into this seemingly isolated city.

 

Funny Boy

November 24, 2012 — Leave a comment

For the past week the international community has been trying to grapple with a number of questions revolving Sri Lanka’s civil war. Namely, how were they so unaware of the scale of civilian casualties in the final months of the war?

It is estimated that 40,000 civilians died in the five months leading up to the surrender of the L.T.T.E. in May of 2009.  The United Nations abandoned its mission in the Tamil-controlled areas on the eve of the Government’s final blitz. In an effort to reconcile this humanitarian catastrophe, the UN published their Internal Review on the fifteenth of November.

In my own efforts to understand Sri Lanka’s turbulent past, I spent a lot of time reading old news articles and watching documentaries. During our orientation we heard from an astonishing woman who told us the horrors her family, as Tamils, suffered during the 1983 riots. More recently I’ve finished reading Funny Boy, a novel written by a member of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora community, Shyam Selvadurai.

The story recounts life in a wealthy Tamil family in Colombo. It is a story of coming to age, as a boy grapples with his hidden homosexuality in a complex and divided society. It is incredibly well written, and makes for a quick read. One of the most striking parts of the book is the epilogue, which recounts some of the horrors of Black July.

The 1983 riots began when the Tamil Tigers killed a group of 13 soldiers, and the government brought them back to Colombo to be buried. At the funeral alcohol was provided, along with the names and addresses of many Tamil families in the capital. Chaos quickly ensued.

Now, some excerpts from Funny Boy:

“The radio news is beginning again. We have listened to the broadcast at 6:00, 7:30, and 8:45, but there is still no mention of the trouble. If not for the phone call … we would think that nothing was going on in Colombo” Page 288-89.

“As he cycled towards Galle Road he saw that all the Tamil shops had been set on fire and the mobs were looting everything. The police and army just stood by, watching, and some of them even cheered as the mobs joined in the looting and burning” Page 289.

“7:00 P.M. Curfew was lifted for a few hours so people could buy food. Yet there was nothing to buy. A lot of the grocery stores are owned by Tamils, and they have all been destroyed” Page 301.

“…I long to be out of this country. I don’t feel at home in Sri Lanka any longer, will never feel safe again” Page 304.

“The mob had set the car on fire with Ammachi [Grandmother] and Appachi [Grandfather] inside it… ‘We’ll have to wait until the ambulance comes and takes the bodies away… Until then, I’ll go and keep watch over the car. Someone has to look out for . . .’ he moved uncomfortably in his chair ‘stray dogs and crows’” Page 306-7.

Reading this book has given me a new lens with which to view the streets of Colombo I have leisurely strolled down countless times before.

The shocking events of the July 1983 riots were not the start of the Sinhalese-Tamil conflicts, but they marked the official start of the war. They also sparked Sri Lanka’s brain drain, when the Tamil elites fled the country. Recently it has been this diaspora community that is being courted to invest in Sri Lanka, and their hesitancy to do so is understandable.

There have been a number of projects to reconcile the atrocities of this war. Recently, a Kickstarter project was launched. Check it out.

Funny Boy (Harvest Book)

Happy Thanksgiving

November 22, 2012 — 2 Comments

Thanksgiving has come and gone in Sri Lanka, largely it was unnoticed. In an attempt to share some American culture with my students, I decided that the entirety of my classes today would be based on the American festival of Thanksgiving.

I began class by writing the following on the board: Today is Thursday, November 22. In America it Thanksgiving, a holiday that is like Pongal.

The comparison to Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival, helped. But I was surprised that the word holiday caused some problems. My students were confused about the difference between a holy day and a holiday. For my later classes I opted to exclude the word holiday, in favor of festival. Things went better.

I then spoke for a few minutes about the festival, telling my students about turkey, parades, pie, and football. Most of this was lost on them, so I pulled out my secret weapon – Charlie Brown.

We watched a great YouTube highlight reel of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Having these visuals helped to convey the holiday. I then brought up some footage from the Macy’s Parade, and they got the concept; they preferred saying big balloons though.

Turkey was a hard sell. They thought I meant chicken, and it took a lot of selling on my part to convince them that a turkey was distinct from a chicken.

When we got to the word pie, I was heartbroken. They had no idea what a pie was, the pictures were of no help. Imagine leading a life and having no conception of pie. After I told them that pie is a sweet, like cake, they were accepting of the strange dish.

Football was an easier sell. Like Europe, Sri Lanka refers to soccer as football. But I had a miniature football that I broke out. My class of boys thought I meant rugby, while the girls just accepted it.

Class went pretty well today.

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As for me, my dinner consisted of rice and curry. This was the first, and hopefully only, Thanksgiving that I ate dinner alone. It was an unremarkable occasion, and it really made me appreciate all of the great Thanksgivings with the family.

A Thanksgiving delayed is better than a Thanksgiving denied. Growing up in a restaurant family you get used to celebrating holidays on off days. The date of celebration doesn’t matter as much as the act of celebrating. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of next Friday, when the Fulbrighters of Sri Lanka will join together to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Living and working in Sri Lanka has made me much more thankful for all the amenities we enjoy in America. But this year, the thing I’m most thankful for is my fellow Fulbrighters. It’s great to have someone in your own times zone (and country code) to call or text during those rough moments that invariably arise when living abroad.

I can’t wait to write the blog post Thanksgiving Part Two.

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Isolation

November 22, 2012 — 1 Comment

Trinco is quite unlike Sri Lanka’s Southern cities. For most of the past thirty some odd decades it was cut off from the rest of the country, isolated due to the Civil war. There aren’t many restaurants in town, and stepping foot in the heart of the city is really like taking a small step back in time.

The economy here is dominated by the sea. Trinco boasts one of the most impressive ports in the world, and many people are employed in the fishing industry. The Navy also plays a crucial role here.

Yesterday, while leisurely bathing in the sea, I was quite amused to see a cow wander down the desolate beach. Coastal and pastoral were not two words I ever connected, and I was a bit take aback by the cow’s presence on the sand (as were the stray dogs).