Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An unanticipated trip to Colombo

Last Wednesday night, I would not have expected that less than a week later, I would be sitting at Dulles airport, awaiting a late night flight to Colombo. But when I checked my accumulated email at the end of a long day, I received surprising and gratifying news. In my June visit to Sri Lanka, I initiated a collaboration with the Social Science Association of Sri Lanka to translate the concluding three chapters of Paradise Poisoned into Sinhala and Tamil. the two languages spoken by most Sri Lankans. Our plan was to complete the Sinhala translation first, followed by the Tamil. Our ambitious timetable envisioned completing the first volumes in time for the Colombo International book fair in late September. I was not optimistic. Though I offered to fly to Colombo for the launch of the Sinhala translation if it was ready, I had made no plans.

The message I received said that not one, both books would be ready for a launch on September 25th. I quickly wrote for a confirmation, which arrived the next morning. I immediately began to make plans for a very short visit - four days of travel for five days in Colombo.

When I coach students on how to get things done in an organization, I emphasize the importance of relationships based onshared experiences that contribute to mutual understanding, mutual respect, friendship and trust. My relationship with the Social Science Association of Sri Lanka’s Executive Director spans more than 20 years. Our friendship began when I taught at Colombo University. For planning this trip. I called upon a relationship with a Sri Lankan travel agent whom I have known nearly as long. Before moving to the US, she had been the History and Political Science Department secretary Colombo University. She was out for the day, but her colleague, too, knew we as a valued, considerate client of long standing. She spent more than an hour - perhaps several hours - researching options and calling me back to discuss them.. In the end, we settled on a Quatar Airline fight via Doha, which I am now awaiting.

Serendipitously, my Faculty Resident’s dinner in Anderson Hall last evening was Sri Lankan. I spent the afternoon shopping and then preparing a chicken ‘red” curry, two vegetarian curries, dhal and sambol. 32 students crowded in. They seemed to enjoy the meal and lively conversation. I told them that on Wednesday, I would be enjoying a similar meal in Colombo. They all wished me a pleasant and safe journey.


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