Story posted September 29, 2011
Paul Hastings, Bowdoin College, Class of 2004, ISLE Program ‘03
I am the Director of Advancement at the Japan ICU Foundation in New York City. I am also a MA candidate in the Comparative International Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. My job provides me the opportunity to travel to Japan at least twice a year. I grew up in Japan, so it’s great to remain connected to my childhood home.
The reasons I chose the ISLE Program:
There were three key reasons I decided to attend the ISLE program. First, I was a religion major at Bowdoin, and John Holt (one of ISLE’s founders) was my advisor. Second, two of my best friends at Bowdoin (Prescott Hart, ISLE ’02 and Daniel Tobin, ISLE ’02) encouraged me to participate in the program. Thirdly, growing up in East Asia, I had always been intrigued by South Asia. I attended the program during my senior fall semester.
The foods I fell in love with:
One of my favorite Sri Lankan dishes is kiribath [sticky rice made with milk]. I lived in Kiribathkumbura (which means rice field), 20 minutes away from the ISLE Center with the couple, Sunil and Suddharma Rajaguru. My host amma [mother] made the most delicious kiribath for breakfast on special occasions. Of course, other items such as pol sambul [shreaded coconut and chilis], parippu, indi-appa, appa, egg hoppers, etc., all incredibly delicious!
My most memorable events on the program:
Of course, the Northern and Southern tours were amazing, and very memorable. I didn’t get too involved in the extracurricular activities at the ISLE program. Instead, I took every opportunity I got to travel around the country. The freedom that we had to visit Nuwera Eliya, Trincomalae, Adam’s Peak, etc was amazing. Getting out and talking with regular Sri Lankan people on the street was probably my favorite activitiy. [Memorable moments include] being young and open, waking up to a cold shower, sitting in my host mother’s kitchen every day after school and learning from her, eliciting huge smiles after wagging my head at people on the street, climbing Adam’s Peak in the middle of the night, all night Saraswati puja in Kandy.
People who made lasting impression on me:
David Owen (Swarthmore) and I were pretty inseparable during the ISLE program. Amongst the ISLE program staff and faculty, I spent the most time with Rosemary and Mr. Herath. Of course, Sumanasena, Violet, Maya, and Gabriel were also daily presences. I also got to know professor Dharmasiri and his daughter Kanchuka well! I actually just got together with Kanchu in New York City. She is finishing up her PhD in English Literature at the University of Massachusetts. I also got to know some of the artist community in Kandy, including Vega and Raju.
Living in Sri Lanka affected me profoundly.
Sri Lanka showed me that there are many ways to live on this earth of ours, and yet that by making an effort you can share with and learn from people whose lives are otherwise radically different than your own. However, developing meaningful relationships with people of diverse cultural contexts is not something that happens easily. It requires a sustained effort, and the ISLE program is designed to help with this process.
Having grown up as a US citizen in Japan, my worldview was perhaps already more global than most. However, living in Sri Lanka expanded my worldview. Thanks, ISLE program!
"Sri Lanka showed me that there are many ways to live on this earth of ours, and yet that by making an effort you can share with and learn from people whose lives are otherwise radically different than your own."