I’ve been lucky over the past month to meet people who have either visited or live in Sri Lanka.  I’ve met and chatted with John Stifler, an economics professor at UMass.  John was in Sri Lanka for more than a year as a Fulbright Scholar and has been a fountain of information — briefing me on everything from hotels and restaurants to stay at to the state of the media there.  Through John, I met Tissa Jayatilaka, the executive director of the United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission, during his visit to Amherst in late October.

Who would have known that I would find so many connections to the other side of the world in Amherst?  It’s one of many reasons why I love this area — there is a unique, eclectic group of people here and you don’t have to look far to find connections.

Which brings me to this week.  I was sitting in my office Wednesday  when a Journalism student approached me and introduced herself.  Turns out the Journalism program also has a connection to Sri Lanka.  Pavi Kulatunga is a junior journalism major who is heading home on Sunday and will be in the country when I’m there lecturing.  Pretty cool.

I’ve spent the past two days chatting with Pavi about Colombo and the surrounding areas.  She says Sri Lanka has the best Chinese food.  I’m looking forward to checking that out, as well as some of the other dishes she described that are unique to the area.  Turns out her parents’ home is about a half-hour drive from the beach resort my wife and I will be staying at once my lecturing duties are completed.  Pavi offered to act as our own personal tour guide — a generous offer which we’re looking forward to.

Pavi and I also spoke a bit about the 2004 Tsunami.  She was not in Sri Lanka when the tsunami occurred and told me how lucky she felt when all the members of her extended family survived the disaster.  She told me a harrowing story of a friend who lost her Dad after he thought his daughters had died.  She spoke about her work as a trauma counselor and talking to a 7-year-old girl who had lost her entire family.

Pavi also spoke about how those in the country have bounced back since the tragedy, rebuilding roads, businesses, infrastructure.

Her words:  “Please, come visit!”

Looking forward to it…..

Here’s my schedule for the week:

Steve’s Schedule:

Monday 13 December
9:00-12:00 noon
American Centre workshop, Topic: Investigative Journalism How to deal with hostile and/ or hesitant sources.

2:00-4:00 p.m. Lecture at the University of Sri Jayawardanepura Topic: Citizen Journalism

Tuesday 14 December
9:00 a.m.- 12:00 noon
Lecture at the University of Kelaniya, Topic: Investigative Journalism

Wednesday 15 December
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Workshop for the Army, Navy and air Force Media Units
Topic : How to create a Blog and how to maintain a Blog

2:00-4:00 p.m. Lecture at Lake House, Topic: What is Blog, How to create a Blog and how to maintain a Blog

Thursday 16 December
9:00-12:30 p.m.
University of Colombo lecture/workshop:
Topic – Citizen Journalism

4:00-06:00 p.m.
American Centre Workshop
Topic: Be a blogger

Friday 17 December
9:00- 11:00 a.m.
American Centre
Seminar for A/L students, Topic: “Publish Me”: Royal College

2:00-4:00 p.m.
American Centre
Workshop for Religious Groups.
Topic : General Introduction to new Media; Students from Buddhist and Pali University