Over the past few weeks I had an amazing experience. I spent two weeks in Sri Lanka, came home to Boston for a day, and then went to the Azores.
I had planned the Sri Lanka trip since March. I spent one week in the back country exploring small tank landscapes and visiting with colleagues at the University of Rajarata. I also had a chance to reconnect with an amazing guide/driver who took me to many hidden small tanks and taught me a huge amount.
The second week was spent in Colombo working with colleagues at the University of Moratuwa and the Fulbright headquarters. I've worked with the people at Moratuwa before so it was great to spend time with then. An amazing amount of time was spent hearing Singhala and trying to make something out of it.
Both parts of my trip to Sri Lanka provided me with an intimate look at closeup landscapes that are not generally seen by outsiders. More importantly I got to visit several times with colleagues who I had met before, but who became closer to me on this trip. What an experience to share many meaningful conversations with new friends.
The trip to the Azores was shorter, only three days. I had spent time there last year but again, this trip gave me the opportunity to get close to old acquaintances and make new friendships with them. So the past few weeks have been an experience in deep conversation with people from different cultures with whom I share a lot of intellectual affinities.
One night in the Azores as I was eating with a friend's adorable family, I kind of lost track of my whereabouts thanks to jet lag and thanks to the fact that here I was surrounded by people speaking Portuguese when only last week I had been immersed in Singhala culture and language. I don't think I would have felt this kind of strangeness had I just been traveling and sightseeing. The strange thing, if you can even call it that, came from the fact that there had been so much sharing during both of these visits.
I was lucky enough to be granted a Fulbright fellowship for the upcoming academic year. If these visits, so rich in human interaction, were an indication of what's in store, then I can predict and incredible set of experiences for the months to come.