Facilitating Economic Development in Sri Lanka, Briefings and Beachings

9am: After security checks, we met Paul Richardson, Director of the Office of Economic Growth of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Sri Lanka. He briefed us on the security issues and awareness as Americans/foreigners in Sri Lanka. Don’t worry mom, I think I’ll manage. Bottom line: be aware of your surroundings and dress appropriately.

The second part of Richardson’s talk was specifically of interest: USAID’s work in the region and Sri Lanka, and him being apart of it. As a graduate student trying to navigate my career path, my current interests somewhat lie in international development, be it social, health, or environmental issues. I’m unsure how to navigate that career path, and thus love networking and hearing other peoples stories. I will now elaborate on Richardson’s career path, as it was of interest to my umd cohort and me. Paul Richardson was originally born in Canada, studied his masters in Italy, and finished his post-graduate published work in the UK. Richardson defined himself an economist by trade. He originally worked for the UN in Milan, Africa, and then in the UK. Richardson found himself immigrating to the US upon marriage to a native Bostonian. In the US, he found work with the US Dept of Commerce, and finally USAID, where he works as a foreign-service officer, and lives places long-term with his family. He’s lived in 11 countries and visited over 70 countries in his lifetime. Currently, he and his family have lived 2 years in Sri Lanka with 2 years left. His squadron focuses on the economic development of Sri Lanka, which is now a low middle-income country. Richardson explained, unlike other facets of the Foreign Service, USAID requires a master’s degree of its officers, which results in more interesting and in depth work. Good to know I’m on the right track.

11am: Meeting with Jamal, the coordinator of our consulting projects at Biz+ Vega. He laid out the next 3 weeks of our stay.

2pm: While everyone else was meeting with his or her clients, and since my cohort is meeting with our client tomorrow, my team took a poolside lunch. Where we discussed our work styles and past experiences. After lunch, we walked 5 minutes to the train station to catch a local train to Mount Lavinia to finally go to the beach! The train cost 10 rupees, which translates to less than 10 cents. The train ride was raw and beautiful. Just simple benches, open windows, and the startlingly beautiful ocean scenery. No foreigners in sight. The train let us off right at the beach. We wandered to a beachside cabana restaurant, ordered a drink, and relaxed and chatted on chaise lounges on the sand. Watching the sunset over the rough Sri Lankan surf with the subtle noise of the every so often train rattling by seemed like a dream.

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