Friday, May 22, 2015

Starting Over: The Sri Lankan Odyssey

In March I learned that I was granted a Fulbright award to Sri Lanka for 2015-2016. It's something I've been trying for for a couple of years so the moment was sweet. First thing after I  opened the acceptance letter I tweeted "Got the Fulbright. Trying to breathe." Then I remember walking up 5th Avenue in New York. I kept saying out loud "I got the Fulbright" and felt head and shoulders above the crowds. 

Just before I found out, I had booked a two week trip to Sri Lanka for May, scheduled to coincide with the end of my semester at Boston University. I figured then that it would be my last trip to Sri Lanka since I had pretty much given up hope of getting a positive response from the Fulbright. 

Here I am at the end of those two weeks. Yesterday I dropped in at the Fulbright office in Colombo and was invited to attend the half-year program review of the current batch of grantees. A couple of US professors presented their research here and notably, the six ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) presented their work. These kids, recent college graduates, told compelling stories of their experience here in Sri Lanka. They bring passion to their teaching practice, and most of them conduct  creative, inspired "side projects" that show incredible intelligence, commitment, and bravery. The ETAs show real love for Sri Lanka in their work, and for all of them, this experience of self-generated exploration holds the kernel of their future life/career experiences. All of the students' talks inspired me. 

What inspired me further is that some of the students are recording their work in blogs. Aha! I realized I could re-inaugurate my blogspace writing about my thoughts and experiences here in Sri Lanka. So this is my first entry. I'll be recording my observations in both of my blogs, "Scientist-Artist" and "Botany Without Borders." The blogs, which I stopped writing a couple of years ago, were a wonderful format that opened up heaps of opportunities for me. They also provided me with a jumping-off point for overhauling my approach to teaching. What a great tool! So here we go again. Let's see where it all leads. 

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