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ISLE Newsletter October 2008

Story posted October 13, 2010

The ISLE Alumni Newsletter

Issue 8: October 28th, 2008 * Visit ISLE on the Web    ISLE Banner


Welcome to the Fall 2008 issue of the ISLE Alumni Newsletter.  This is a follow up to our Spring 2008 issue. This newsletter flourishes mostly on your responses and input.  The more we hear from you, the more news your fellow alumni will also share.  You can write about yourself or the organization you are working for or any other news that would be relevant or interesting to your fellow alumni, reminiscing is encouraged!

Oppadupa: ISLE Activities and News

Since we wrote to you last semester, the venue of the war has pushed into the Killinochchi district with an increasing number of mortalities from both camps, the Government and Tamil Tigers. Compared to the spring, however, the rate of suicide bombings and public bomb explosions outside the war zone has diminished. To follow the news of Sri Lanka closely, we recommend the following web sites:




Kandy continues to be relatively peaceful allowing us to run our both spring and fall programs. The spring program had a small but comfortable number of students (7) and went on without a hitch. This fall we have the same number as last spring. The fall program is lead by Professor Nancy Wilkie from Carleton who also directed the program in 1997. The current students are almost three fourths of their way into the semester, and they all seem to be enjoying their experience immensely. You can keep up with the current group's activities here.

We are pleased to announce that our consortium of schools has expanded this fall to ten member schools with the addition of Macalester College (St. Paul, Minnesota) and Whittier College (Whittier, California) joining as new members.

Call for Applications

We will be accepting applications beginning in late March 2009 for the Program Assistant position for the fall semester 2009 program. If you are interested in applying for the fall 2009 Program Assistant position, please be in touch with the ISLE office: isle@bowdoin.edu.

ISLE Academic News- from Alumni and through the grapevine

Our Sinhala instructor, Mr. Bandara Herath, has been hired by Cornell University this fall. Although we are sad to see him go, we are happy for Cornell and for Mr. Herath. Mr. Herath has offered Sinhala once again this last summer at the University of Wisconsin.

In addition to the regular batches of students, their faculty directors and program assistants, people we know who are going from the US to Sri Lanka include Ben Schonthal (’97), who just arrived in Kandy, along with his New Zealand wife, to do field work for his graduate program at the University of Chicago.

In January 2009, Neena Mahadev (’98) will be returning to Sri Lanka for the third time since studying with the ISLE program. Neena is currently a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. This time she will be going back to carry out ethnographic field research in Galle, Matara and Hambantota. Her dissertation project is tentatively entitled “Buddhist and Christian Inter-Religious Exchange: Faith-Based Encounters and Ethical Practices in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka.” It is a study of the intersections between religion and politics in the process of tsunami recovery. She is especially interested in studying the interface between Buddhist and Christian forms of belief, practice, ethics, and discourses on religious pluralism, especially among beneficiaries of faith-based relief work in tsunami-affected areas.  

Neena writes, “Lucky for me- thanks to Herath Bandara, Sinhala instructor extraordinaire- my Sinhala has improved dramatically since my ISLE year. I’ve also been lucky to meet up with a number of ISLE alumni friends over the last couple of years. If you happen to be going back to Sri Lanka between Jan 2009 and July 2010 or so, look me up!”

And congratulations to Daniel Kent (’96), who successfully defended his dissertation on Buddhist belief and practice in the Sri Lankan army. Daniel will be receiving his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia in December 2008.

More ISLE Alumni News

Thanks to all who send us news and updates about yourselves, and who send us leads on people we are trying to find. We welcome your e-mail, whether you're just saying hello or sending news or updates on your whereabouts. Send to us here: isle@bowdoin.edu. Also, if you see anyone you know on our "missing" list, please let us know!

Carrie Hartin writes: “I have recently moved from Washington, D.C. to Austin, Texas after 12 years in D.C. I miss my fellow ISLE '93 Alums from the D.C. area - Hannah (Gladfelter) Rubin, Jeff Parker and Jon Alford - but am enjoying teaching World History in Austin." If there are any ISLE Alums in the Austin area, please be in touch with the ISLE office isle@bowdoin.edu for Carrie's e-mail address.

Alison Hassman Ballantine
writes: “After my amazing time in Sri Lanka, I went back to Hobart and William Smith Colleges to complete my senior year. I spent time after college traveling to Alaska and living in the Adirondacks. I eventually settled down in my home state of Pennsylvania. I taught Kindergarten for a while, owned a small business, and I now enjoy being a mother of three children: Sally (5), Eleanor (3), and Axel 16 months. Sri Lanka remains a highlight of my life and I hope to return someday with my husband Peter.”

Heather McLane
is teaching history and economics at an international school in the Philippines. She is looking forward to exploring at least a few of the seven thousand islands on her vacations.

Peter Cornell (formerly Peter Herrick-Stare)
writes: “My wife Tyler and I welcomed a baby girl (Wallis Cornell) to our family on Oct 9th 2007. She is doing just great! She has just started to walk and so our lives have become both enriched and terrifying all at the same time. We are both just finishing our work at Johns Hopkins (Me at the hospital as a nurse practitioner in general surgery and Tyler with her Family Nurse Practitioner and a Masters in Public Health). We have both accepted jobs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (me in the ICU and Tyler in the clinic). We will be moving up in early December after a month in Italy with the little one. We welcome visitors at any time. Please feel free to contact me!”

Lynea Newcomer writes: “Another kettle of tea is on the stove; there have been many since moving from the dry climates of Idaho mountains to the humid countryscape of southeastern Pennsylvania. My partner and I have just moved onto his family farm, where I've immersed myself in a modern day sort of homesteading. Of late, memories of cooking each evening with my host mother (Devika Samarakoon) in her Kandy kitchen are infusing evening's dishes with a decidedly spicy flare. I am so grateful for my time with that family, amongst other reasons, for the culinary adventures they head-bobbingly encouraged me to explore. All the best to everyone participating in ISLE. My time with Sri Lanka remains foremost in my memory, and an incredibly rich part of my life to share with others.”

Check out Lynea’s website documenting her move back to the farm: www.seedsimple.com

Sarah Silberman writes: “I’m living in San Francisco as of six months ago, after spending 4 years in western Massachusetts at the Kripalu Yoga Center studying yoga, holistic healing, and bodywork. I'm working as a massage therapist now, and also developing as a singer/songwriter. Friends can check out my songs on www.myspace.com/sarahsilberman or http://www.youtube.com/user/SWave79. I miss Sri Lanka and would love to go back, but have not yet had the opportunity. I recently saw Paul Leow for the first time since our semester, and we had a great time reminiscing and digging Sinhala phrases from the deep recesses of our memories. It all came back a lot more easily than I would have thought.”

Colin Dieck
writes: “I’m finishing my job as a lighting designer in Korea during November, and will be returning to Massachusetts for Christmas and New Year`s. After that... we`ll see. Looking to continue combining work and travel, maybe to stay in theater or maybe to do something completely different. If anyone has ideas, I`m open to them...”

Paul Hastings
is happy to report that he was married to Debbie Wissel (Bowdoin, ’03) on August 23, 2008 in Phippsburg, Maine. Debbie and Paul live in Philadelphia, where Debbie is pursuing an MBA at The Wharton School. Since 2006, Paul has worked at the Japan ICU Foundation, an organization that supports the international and academic dimensions of ICU, a liberal arts college in Tokyo. In the spring of 2007, Paul had dinner with Sumanasena in New York. Other ISLE alumni attending were Pam Karches, Mike Kenny and Ateqah Khaki. Paul and Debbie are planning on visiting Sri Lanka in June 2009.

Ateqah Khaki has started a new position with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as Advocacy Coordinator for the National Security Project.

Katy Clark Van Nostrand misses her Sri Lankan Amma very much and writes: “I got married August 16th to a fellow Batesie and continue to work at Children's Hospital in their Emergency room as a mental health counselor.”

Mathew Martin
writes: “I'm still in Maine, but now working on the Obama Campaign in Lewiston. I've been thinking a lot lately about trying to go back to Sri Lanka, possibly to teach English at the vocational school in Thellula where I spent my independent study, but I'll have to put off that idea until after the election. For anyone who had the privilege of knowing Benedict, the finest appa chef in all of Lanka, I've attached some pictures of his mostly finished new home in Talawakele Estate that my Aiya sent me. Hope everyone is doing well!” [see below]

Following are Mathew's pictures of Chef Benedict's house in Sri Lankan tea country:

 Chef Benedict's Home

Chef Benedict's House up-country

with the de Silvas

With ISLE homestay coordinators the de Silvas- Suneel (standing, left) and Chandra (seated right, in orange)


The group in front of Chef Benedict's House 

The de Silvas and Chef Benedict's family in front of Benedict's new house in the country

Get in Touch

We love to hear from our alumni. It is truly amazing what some of you are doing, and reading about how ISLE helped direct or shape our students' lives in downright inspiring. We are interested in the quickest of hellos, with short notes telling us what you are now doing, as well as longer pieces. Please contact us with your ideas!

You may send any comments, writings, contact information, well-founded rumors, etc. to us at:


The next issue of the ISLE Alumni Newsletter will come out in Spring, 2009.

ISLE Web Site

Be sure to bookmark the ISLE web site for information on current news, and more.

That’s all for this edition of the ISLE Program Newsletter. Please let us know your thoughts on it, and if you send in comments or writings of any kind, please be clear about whether they are intended for use in the newsletter. Also, please be sure to let us know if your email address should change!


Editor in Chief: Sree Padma Holt

To ISLE Web Site


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