My job with Habitat for Humanity International ends late May and at nearly the same time Alicia will be starting an internship with Oxfam in Sri Lanka. Last summer she went to Rwanda without me, which was horrible, and stupid, and 10 weeks long. So Alicia and I decided, “What the heck! Let’s pack up our apartment, put it in storage, and both go!” Afterwards, maybe we can get to Hong Kong and see my Dad, brother, sister-in-law, and nephews, maybe I will get a Masters in Positive Psych at Penn, maybe we can get jobs in Sri Lanka, maybe my book will get published, maybe we will sail…who knows.
So, for the past couple of weeks while this decision process has been more realized, I have been learning about Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is personally interesting to me because of three very strong similarities with Taiwan: they are both substantial islands off the coast of emerging superpowers, they both have booming economies (Sri Lanka had Asia’s fastest growing stock exchange in 2009 and 2010), and they both have a bit over 20 million people (Sri Lanka has 21, Taiwan 23).
They have plenty of differences. Taiwan’s mountains are about 50% taller than Sri Lanka’s though Sri Lanka’s landmass is twice as large (12,966ft to 8,200ft and 36,000 to 66,000 square kilometers).
One of the big differences is that instead of tensions with its emerging super-power neighbor, Sri Lanka has struggled with ethnic strife internally for the past 30 years in a conflict which has killed about 90,000 people. The conflict has been between the Tamils in the North and East concentrated around Jaffna and the Singhalese that cover the rest of the island. The tactics which the Tamil Tigers or LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil-Eelam), a political party, has used has led to them becoming officially recognized as a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including the United States, India, Canada, Australia, and the EU nations.
After numerous ceasefires and resuming of the conflict, the war seems to have ended in 2009 when the LTTE admitted defeat after a coordinated strong offensive by the Sri Lankan government. Today, a separate state for the Tamils on Sri Lanka looks unlikely.
I’m so excited to learn more about the conflict and the country! We will be staying in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s biggest city. Alicia will work during the week while I write and plan weekend trips. : ) I will probably spend some time with Habitat Sri Lanka too.
In other news, I have been devouring more lecture series lately:
- “Naval Battles that Changed History,” –There have been surprisingly few very important naval battles but they were nevertheless very very important.
- “Fueling the Planet, the past, present, and future of energy “– Where I was told that carbon emissions are a big problem. He seemed to think that wind power was especially promising.
- “Wars that Made the Western World” — Professor Shutt is always solid. He discussed the Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian Wars and the Punic wars, and I learned even more about Alcibiades, likely the best-looking, most conniving, most brilliant man ever.
- And now I’m working through a history of the Papacy and another one on the Crusades.
I’m looking forward to sharing with my readers all this cool stuff I’m learning about and keeping you updated on our trip to Sri Lanka. My posts will likely become more frequent now (1-2 times a week). Thanks for reading!