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I thought after I graduated from MIT that I would be done with homework, at least for a couple of years! Little did I know that I would impose homework on myself when I got to Sri Lanka. No I’m not doing times tables or reading the Classics (although I am going to make time to do a bit of the latter). I’m studying in order to be able to communicate better with the girls at Ma-Sevana.

Sinhala is a beautiful language, and I can proudly say that thanks to Dilini, an Emerge team member and native Sri Lankan, I am able to do such things as count, tell time, and understand the way to address different family members. But that’s just the start … there is so much more to communicating than simply being able to speak to someone. In Sri Lanka, when you are speaking and someone is nodding in approval (to let you know that they understand), their heads pivot in this half-yes, half-no twist. At first, I had NO idea what people were trying to tell me, but gradually I learned.

The first day at Ma-Sevana I took pictures of the girl’s faces and asked them to write down their names so that I could address them when I came back. I am famously bad at remembering people’s names – adding a different language and culture, I didn’t know what to expect. But taking the photos was a great idea.

I’m learning a lot of things here in Sri Lanka. Some of them are tangible, like being able to speak Sinhala or how to make a five strand necklace, but most of the things I’m learning are not. The power of individuals with large hearts (i.e. Nirukshi, our Bead Program Coordinator). What it feels like to live and breathe something you truly believe in. And what it really means to help someone.

Until next time, Ellen

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