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Transition to Life in Sri Lanka

By: Amanda J Van Dort Country Director

I came as an American. I believed that the world was based off of our view of it. I overspent on food that resembled home: McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dinemore. I got frustrated quickly when someone didn’t understand my accent. I fumbled with my Nokia phone and would curse every time the power went out. I held my breath each time my tuk swerved into oncoming traffic. I laughed when I saw drunk men stumbling around in falling sarongs and mourned at the site of street dogs.

I said goodbye to one grandmother in October, a figurehead in my life and many others. I spent more time getting to know distant relatives and spent hours listening to humorous stories of my parents, once reckless teenagers. There were many new sights and some familiar, yet uncommon ones. Beautiful colors, smiling faces, laughter between strangers. I began to understand the connection I felt to this country.

It’s been over a year and I can say that I’ve been “cultured.” I now eat curries cooked over fire behind small shops. I stop my tuk driver when I see interesting fruit on the road. I blissfully enter small three wheel time bombs. I don’t look at the clock every five minutes. I walk barefoot and I walk slowly. I’ve adapted the “what to do” attitude and accept when meetings run late. I enjoy the beautiful island and feel both passionate and optimistic about social change. Now I speak in Sinhalese before someone begins with English. I’ve become a Sri Lankan and I’m proud.

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