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Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Wonderful Sri Lanka!


One of my Fellow Eisenhower Fellowship Colleagues, Harsha DeSilva, who is an Economist. member of the Sri Lankan Parliament, and one of THE coolest people I have met in some time,  invited me to include as part of my India Eisenhower fellowship, a visit to Sri Lanka to meet with technologists, policy makers, entrepreneurs, service providers, and others who are contributing to the growing telecom and broadband sector in Colombo and around the Country of Sri Lanka.  When we first spoke about this earlier this year, around April 2010, I didn’t know that much about Sri Lanka except that they had been a war torn Country for many years and that If I went, I would be the first USA Eisenhower Fellow to travel to this Island Country located underneath India. When I began prepping for the trip and didn’t know what direction to take in regards to meetings, Harsha insisted that I come and said…”don’t worry about a thing Brigitte, you will love it, and I will help arrange everything. Just get here!”. 
Well, Harhsa was ABSOLUTELY right. Sri Lanka ended up being one of my favorite experiences on this Fellowship.  Hands down. I came as a stranger, ignorant of Sri Lankan history, relevance, importance, and culture.  I left inspired, invigorated, excited, armed with new knowledge and ideas about SL and technology, and was already scheming on how to get back to this wonderous place.   There were many reasons why I am now cherishing my time in SL. It helped that through Harsha and the EF Network, I was instantly ingratiated into the upper echelons of Sri Lankan society and government,  interviewed by one of Sri Lanka’s most well known and respected publications, the Financial Times,  ( add website link), had meetings with CEO’s and the top executives at every mobile and communications provider in the Country, had two beautiful dinners thrown in my honor, and made friends and bonds that I know, will last for years to come. I was basically swept off of my feet.
So why is Sri Lanka a very special place? Well, I just want to take a minute to share a bit of its history. The culture of Sri Lanka dates back over 2500 years. It is influenced primarily by Buddhism and Hinduism and according to Islamic folklore, Adam and Eve were offered refuge on the island as solace for their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  The island is the home to two main traditional cultures: The Sinhalese ( centered in the ancient cities of Kandy and Anuradhapura) and the Tamil ( centered in the City of Jaffna).  A special fact that I love about Sri Lanka is that at one time in its early history, the Country was once discovered by Arabs and was then named Serendip. Because the Arab explorers  just by chance happened upon this wonderful new place beckoning to become a world rising power, the explorers names SL Serendip, which became the origin of the word serendipity, meaning a fortunate accident , pleasant surprise, happy accident. (I really LOVE this about SL)

Thus, Sri Lanka was a Country on the rise in the early periods of history. Historians say that even the now developed Singapore was originally modeled after Sri Lanka during the hey day of this Country.  Unfortunately, The Sri Lankan Civil War War, which began in early 1980s, caused significant hardships for the population, environment and the economy of the Country with an estimated 80,00-100,000 people killed during its course.  Beginning in 1983, there was an on-and-off insurgency against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers). The LTTW could be called a separatist militant organization which fought to create an independent Tamil state name Tamil Eelam in the north and east of the island.  However, after a 26 year long military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009. 

Now armed with peaceful transitions, new fresh faces within parliament, and an administration ready, able and poised to bring in foreign trade and commerce by any means necessary, Sri Lanka is BACK and on the rise, the Country is basically in a renaissance period. Now that they have settled into a peacetime period, they are preparing and are ready to re-spread their wings and take their rightful place as a innovation wonderhub nestled in the South East Asian corridor.

So there it is…. Love their whole story , past present and future. Definitely very excited to return and help share ideas to forward their progression and spread the news to family, friends, and colleagues, that change has come and we should all take flight.

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