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Why did I kill that dog?

I stood there wondering if this entire situation could have been prevented. The ebbs and flows of the Indian Ocean were already starting to wash away her body.

I’ve never really come to terms with the day I killed a dog. Although more than a year has passed, I still feel ashamed when I think about it. I’d be lying if I told you that killing the dog was easy. Fighting it off with a broom handle was physically exhausting. In reality I didn’t have a choice. The dog was rabid, and it had to die.

It was mid-June, 2013 and I was nearing the end of my Fulbright fellowship in Sri Lanka. For the past eight months I had been working as an English teacher in Trincomalee, a small town on the Eastern coast.

I arrived at campus early most Tuesdays to prepare for the usual busy day of classes. It was early in the morning, but the air was hot and heavy — a typical summer day on the equator. After several long classes, I’d join the students in the evening for our weekly basketball game.

Nearing campus, I saw the school director chasing a small dog. “Stay back,” he yelled at me. “The dog is rabid!” He chased the dog off the campus and I closed the gate. But the dog stumbled back through the gate; I tried to chase it out. Unfortunately, the door to the girl’s bathroom had been left ajar and the dog stumbled into the room to hide. I locked her in the bathroom, and went to find the director.

 

This post was originally published on Medium.com, to keep reading click here.

Sunburn

April 6, 2013 — 2 Comments

My name is Sean Kevin O’Connor, as you might be able to guess I have some Irish heritage. The Irish are famous for their ability to tan. The deep reds that the sun is able to draw out of the skin if Irishmen evoke comparisons to strawberries and fire engines.

My application of sunblock (SPF 50) seems to make little difference here in Sri Lanka. I can spend four hours at the beach under the shade, and apply sunscreen multiple times, but I will still be bruned by the end of it. I don’t understand it, but I accept it. Sri Lankan friends have a hard time grasping my perpetual battle with the sun, they don’t understand why I apply a cream every time we go to the beach. They see my red skin at the end of the day, and don’t seem to connect it with the sun.

How do you explain sunburn to someone who has never experienced it? I’ve been trying to for several months, without much success.

A fellow Fulbrighter recently had an article published about Trincomalee, Pockets of Optimism in Trincomalee. Here is an excerpt:

Sri Lanka, the geographic teardrop falling just south of the Indian subcontinent, is fabled among tourists as a land of untrodden beaches, jasmine-scented temples, and tea plantations that recall a bygone era when Britain ruled the waves. Alternatively, journalists and academics know Sri Lanka as a hotbed of human rights abuses and ossifying authoritarianism. The ethnic conflict for which the island is most famous pitted the majority Sinhalese against the minority Tamils, but the country’s larger history reveals a saga of haves versus have-nots, with violent undercurrents running both between and within ethnicities, religious groups, and social classes. Though the war officially ended in 2009, the peace of the past four years has been tentative at best.

To read the full text please visti Let’s Go.

A part of my New Year Goals was to get more articles published. Well, here is the first one for 2013, published on Under30CEO:

“Money is green. Distance is measured in miles. Twenty degrees is cold.”

Depending upon where you are in the world this could be true, or it could be completely wrong. In most nations, the size and color or notes differs between denominations. Much of the world measures distances in kilometers. If you’re in the US, 20 degrees is a cold day, in Europe you could break a sweat (20 C = 68 F).

Raad the whole article.

A Sri Lankan Dinner Party

January 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

The Americans cooked Sri Lankan curries.

The Sri Lankans prepared American pastries.

Last night I had my amma (Sinhala for mother) and mallis (Sinhala for younger brother) over for dinner. This family found me the house I am renting, and has been looking out for me. Amma was extremely concerned about my ability to eat while on my own, frankly she did not believe a young single male could cook. She has fed me lots over the past week, and I wanted to repay the favor.

With the aid of a fellow Fulbrighter and her visiting boyfriend, we cooked up red rice, dhal, beets, and curried cabbage. Amma made fish puff pastries and brought ice cream. I had invited them over for dinner at 7, and around 7:50 I heard a knock on my door. They had arrived. We sat in my living room, talking and chatting until around 9pm. It was time to eat, and we sat down and enjoyed a meal.

In Sri Lanka, people typically leave as soon as the meal is done. So you really want to stretch out the pre dinner activities. Its nice to have a home, where I can invite friends over to.

A dinner party

For your viewing pleasure:

A few days ago I ordered dinner from Maldivian Bliss, a restaurant that is right up the road from the bungalow where I am staying. I stopped in on my walk back from the grocery store, around 5 pm, and ordered food to be delivered between 6:30 and 7pm.

After getting home and unpacking my groceries 7pm quickly rolled past, and I still had no food. By 7:15 I was really hungry, and getting cranky. I searched Apple Maps on my iPhone; unsurprisingly I could not find the listing. The new Apple Maps might be bad in America, but its worthless in Sri Lanka. For some reason Apple thinks its best to show me roads in Columbus, Ohio over roads in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I quickly switched to Google Maps, which is usually quite good here, and was frustrated when I couldn’t find the restaurant listing.

I figured as a shot in the dark that I’d do a quick search on Google, and I was shocked that the restaurant had a foursquare listing. I called the number listed on the page and was connected with the manager of the restaurant, who told me the delivery boy had gotten lost on a side street while trying to find my bungalow. A few minutes later, after being connected to the delivery boy, I had a delicious serving of chicken cheese Koththu Roti. It was really surprising that FourSquare was the platform which enabled me to find the restaurant I was looking for, especially since Google didn’t have the listing.

Since this happened I’ve been utilizing FourSquare much more on my iPhone, and its been really helpful in finding restaurants when I’m wandering through city streets in Sri Lanka. I’ve used it with great success in Colombo and Kandy, and I’m curious to see if any listings have been built up out in Trinco – which doesn’t have many tourists visting.

FourSquare has a great opportunity to build its listings in tourist destinations. If they were to partner with someone like Lonely Planet they would be able to capture vast amounts of information and help make it more accessible, by letting travelers comment and build upon the data base. Lonely Planet has great guide books, and a decent forum. Whereas FourSquare is built around discoverability; if I find a great new restaurant I’m a lot more likely to check in with Foursquare than email Lonely Planet about it.

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Google Maps is usually spot on when finding locations in Sri Lanka. Since Apple released iOS 6, Google Maps is no longer the native map app. This means I have to access it as a web app, which can render it unusable at times in Colombo – especially when I’m trying to figure out when to get off the bus.

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Apple Maps, the native app in iOS 6, is built upon TomTom’s database. It’s utterly useless in Sri Lanka. It cannot find common locations such as the US Embassy or Galle Face Hotel. and it doesn’t recognize addresses inputted into it. Many of the street names are incorrect, like School Road on this map; if you look Google Maps it is correctly labeled as College Avenue. It’s only use is determining your location.

 

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Foursquare, which on the iPhone utilizes Apple’s Maps, is surprisingly helpful. As it utilizes the native app, its able to provide real time tracking about my location (which is really helpful when I’m making sure my tuk-tuk driver is headed in the correct direction). Since it has users provide GPS coordinates for businesses when they ‘check-in’ to a location, it is able to plot them on a map. It has been incredibly helpful using FourSquare to get around, and I’m sure that this app will become one of the most valuable ones on my phone.

The week long orientation for Fulbright ETAs to Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia provided me with an overview of what the next year of my life will look like. For those of you unfamiliar with the program you can reference the transcript of Secretary Clinton’s welcome address to the Fulbright Program:

Every year 8,000 scholarly exchanges are made between 155 countries and America. There is a network of 300,000 Fulbrights, since the program’s inception.

When I accepted my grant I knew only that I’d be moving to Sri Lanka for nine months of my life to teach English. This orientation went a long way to reassuring me about this chapter of my life. Ambassador Ronald McMullen opened the orientation with his nine keys to preparing for life in a new country:

  1. Language – learning a few key phrases can go a long way towards gaining acceptance
  2. Incumbent – when going into a new office move around furniture to give people a visual reminder of the change
  3. Books – read one novel about the country and one guidebook
  4. Music – music is universal, learning some of the most popular songs in the country you’re traveling too will help you adjust
  5. Maps – getting a sense of where in the world you’re going is hugely invaluable
  6. Food – make sure to prep your stomach to the challenges which may be ahead
  7. Security – let the local Embassy know where you’ll be, so they can alert you to any potential developments
  8. School – learn about the local schools, the universities people attend
  9. Sports – sports are universal, but you should learn the local sports (be it curling, cricket, or soccer)

 

The rest of the conference was split between networking with Fulbright Alumni and the Sri Lankan Fulbright Commission and sessions preparing us to teach English.

Most of the Fulbrighters were told where in the country they would be placed. While I have yet to find out my physical location, however I did find out that I’ve been placed with Sarvodaya – the largest NGO in Sri Lanka.

It was a pleasure meeting my counterparts who will be teaching in countries across the world. In general, they were among the most thoughtful and worldly people I’ve ever met. I had a great time getting to know them over the course of a week, and I look forward to seeing some of them in Nepal for the Fulbright ETA conference in November.

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A picture from the Fulbright dinner cruise – June 21, 2012