Saturday, July 05, 2008

An international mosaic at the dinner table in Colombo’s Cinnamon Gardens

When in Sri Lanka, I have lived for several years in a remarkable establishment. Formerly a home in Colombo’s upscale Cinnamon Gardens district, it has become a guest house for visiting scholars and NGO workers. This evening a group of 12 gathered around the dining room table. There were three anthropology doctoral students from, respectively, Argentina, India and North Carolina. A young woman from New Zealand was awaiting an assignment and housing with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Two Voluntary Service Organization workers from India had returned from home leave and were awaiting a trip back to Sri Lanka’s ‘frontier’ town, Vavuniya. A young woman from Australia, the niece of our hostess was waiting for her wedding Sari to be completed before returning home. Two MA students from an Italian University, one was from Zambia, were lighting temporarily before heading to a North Coastal town for field work. Earlier in the week, there were additional guests from Eritrea and, again, India. It was a remarkable gathering of a international group that will probably never sit around the same table again. But a commitment to international work and an acceptance, even celebration of each other’s differences drew us together for two hours in a rich, if very transient community.

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