Last time I wrote, I was preparing to visit the Islander Center, which turned out to be an excellent trip. I went there expecting to focus on environmental conservation projects and the impact of the center on the landscape, but the highlight of my time there was learning about the center's residential leadership program for rural Sri Lankan youth. Youth from all parts of the country come together for three months to learn organic farming, business management, nonviolent communication, and other leadership skills while designing projects to address livelihood issues in their home communities. Every morning and evening, I worked in the garden with the students, and I participated in their nightly program of sharing songs, stories, dances, and games with each other. Occasionally, I would join them during their free time to play volleyball or cricket, two sports that they all have considerably more experience with than I do. Although conversations were hard, especially with those who come from Tamil-speaking parts of the country, I loved spending time with and getting to know these people, and I, as a foreigner, was incredibly popular among them.
|Watering the garden|
|Carrying tools back after gardening|
More recently, I just returned from a short trip to South India. Last week, was the Fulbright mid-year review conference for South and Central Asia in Chennai. It was really fun to meet Fulbrighters from other countries and hear about what they’ve been working on. I even enjoyed giving a short presentation on what I’ve done so far. After the conference, a few of us headed down the coast to spend several days in Pondicherry, an old French colonial town, where we explored the city, saw some South Indian beaches, and celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, during which people throw and smear paint on each other. We also visited the ancient city of Mahabalipuram with its rock carvings and temples.
|Holi in Pondicherry|
|Sarah and me at Mahabalipuram|
I’m back in Kandy now, and it feels good to be home. I’m spending the next few weeks writing up what I’ve done so far and making plans for the next stages of my research.