I’m continually surprised by the challenges of working in a post conflict area. Trinco, the town where I live and teach, was relatively unaffected by the war. By this I mean there were a few bombings in town, but they did not suffer from heavy fighting. Just a few kilometeres outside of the town there are areas that were really hard hit by fighting.

Over the weekend I had the privilege to travel to Mannar to celebrate Easter. On Saturday I went sea bathing with a friend and his older brothers. They are divers by trade, and collect sea cucumbers and conch shells.

Raj, the eldest brother, and I were sitting on the beach chatting. We were sipping on toddy and eating fish and crabs that we had cooked over a fire. His English is good, and he told me how he loves working outdoors. When the conversation came to my studies at university, sadness flashed across his eyes. Raj told me that he was supposed to go to uni for science, but due to the war those plans changed. He spoke of his life and how he enjoyed the simplicity of his trade.

Every year in Sri Lanka only 2% of students get admitted to university. Only the top students can study in the science or medical faculty. Raj seems genuinely happy with his life, but its hard to imagine how different his life would have been had he gone to uni. It is impossible to quantify the opportunity cost of war. How many future scientists, engineers, and doctors found it impossible to continue their studies?


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  • Sam Hammer

    April 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Sean I experienced what you wrote abt over and over among ppl I met during five weeks traveling in Sri Lanka. The immense sense of missed opportunities and loss…I’ve been reading your blog and enjoy it so much. What you wrote about travel rings so true…yet 99% of the foreigners I met in Sri Lanka were firmly consigned to the tourist bubble with narry a chance (nor desire) to escape. The reward for getting out is,as you have found, meeting some of the most steadfast ppl on the planet. Good on you! Hoping to apply for a Fulbright for 2014-2015. Probably a teaching/research award. Any hints you have u will be grateful. Keep up the great work and the well written Trinco blog. Sam

    • Sean

      April 9, 2013 at 2:40 am

      Hi Sam,
      Thanks for reading! How did you come across my blog? Where in SL were you traveling?

      So many people fail to escape the Colombo, Galle, Kandy triangle – its a real shame. This country has so much to offer outside of the tourist hot spots.

      Where are you looking to apply for? I know most about the student application process, but I’d like to help out in any way. Shoot me an email (aseoconnor-at-gmail.com) with details on your project!