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Jan 29 2011

Adventures in research

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Hey all! You may know that some of us Pericleans are still in Sri Lanka – me for research and Elizabeth D because the flu made her arrive late and she wants to still see the country. Elizabeth has spent the last few days in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya with Chamindha’s family (see the post below!) while I have been in Colombo with Crista’s family doing research.

My thesis research, without going into all the details, is essentially about international humanitarian law and the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war. It’s a touchy subject, and a lot of my sources have asked me not to use their names. But my meetings have been very interesting and enlightening; I have met with journalists both foreign and domestic, with NGO and UN workers, even with a member of Parliament. I feel so lucky for the opportunity to speak with all these interesting people and grateful for the guidance they provided – it has definitely taken my research in a new direction!

On to more exciting stuff though – one of my first contacts, Ruki told me that he was going north to speak with some IDPs this weekend and asked if I wanted to go along. I excitedly agreed, and planned out the journey – I would join him and his colleague (another woman) late on Friday in Mannar, a peninsula on the west coast of Sri Lanka and a former war zone; conduct some interviews Saturday morning; and come back to Colombo in time for my flight early Sunday morning.

I set off as planned on the train on Friday afternoon, and after 5 bumpy, noisy hours arrived in the town of Medawichiya around 9:30pm. The vehicle Ruki had said would be waiting for me wasn’t there and I couldn’t reach him on his cell number – oh boy. I called Crista’s mother-in-law though (a big thank you to Lal the driver for letting me borrow his wife’s cell phone), and after some back-and-forth on the phone with the station master, translating English to Sinhala, we decided that I would stay overnight in Medawichiya and take the early early train back to Colombo. We russled up a tuk-tuk driver to take me to the rest house (full of men smoking and drinking but mostly clean…ish). I spent an uneventful night there, made it to the station, and rode another 5 bumpy, noisy hours in reverse.

Of course as soon as I arrived in Colombo, I got a call from Ruki saying that he hadn’t had cell service last night and apologizing profusely. I wasn’t really too upset because I think the episode could have gone much worse. It was more of a letdown than anything else, a colossal womp womp, and I wish I had a better adventure to share, but being safely back in Colombo is enough for me now!

In any case, it was enough adventure for me, and I’ll be heading home tonight. Elizabeth is the last Periclean here, until tomorrow night when she gets to depart at about the same ungodly hour as the other Pericleans did four days ago and as I am about to do. I have a lot of good memories and great conversations behind me, but the next one I’m looking forward to starts with, “Hi mom!”

Happy trails,