Week 1 in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Summer 2012 Blog

Written by: Emily Zhang

June 24, 2012

Today marks the one week anniversary of us (Ali, Wesley, Amber and me, Emily) all being here. in the past week, we have blasted through our entrepreneurship and technical curricula, synced our circadian rhythms with Indian Standard Time, and explored a good deal of the local area. 

Wesley, Amber, and I spent the weekend settling in our apartment and figuring out the logistics of cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Although our city of Ratmalana (located just outside of Moratuwa) is small, and overall quiet, we live right on Galle Road, a very long and busy artery of southwestern Sri Lanka traffic. There are grocery stores less than 2 kilometers (yes, we use metric measurements now!) away and dozens of fruit stands just a few stone's throws down the street.

Ali joined us on Sunday night and we went straight into teaching on Monday. At 1:00 PM, we met our 34 students. After an introduction of the course, we had each student come and say a few things about him/herself, as well as what he/she hoped to accomplish in this program. It was confirmed that everyone was bright and passionate about innovation.

AITI Sri Lanka 2012

On Wednesday, we held our first full day of classes. After a brief intoduction to entrepreneurship by Ali and Amber, we sent the students out in teams, armed with only chocolates and instructions to make as much money selling them. After this steep dive into a real world challenge, the teams returned, having sold the chocolates at a much higher cost than we bought them for. The teams were allowed to keep the money they made, as small seed funds for their potential startups. 

Come Friday, a mere two days later, our students had processed a great deal of Python and started Django. They have also already picked their startup groups and assigned company roles to everyone. Over the weekend, they have been bouncing ideas around, and by the end of the tomorrow, Brainstorming Day, they will have an idea of what problem they want to resolve and how they will resolve it. We are inviting four panelists, one person representing the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka and three entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses in Sri Lanka to assist our students and provide valuable feedback. 

During our downtime, we have watched sunsets from Mount Lavinia, a picturesque beach-town/resort a few kilometers away from our apartment, visited Buddhist temples in Colombo, and tested our taste buds against the spciy local foods. We've bargained for tropical fruit that would have cost a small fortune back in Boston and squeezed into a single tuk-tuk driving wildly on a wet and slippery Galle Road. It's at once exhilarating and exhausting. But we wouldn't have it any other way. 

We are incredibly thankful for the University of Moratuwa for hosting us, and for going out of their way to make us feel comfortable (we even have a charming chef named Percy who makes us authentic Sri Lankan food!), especially Professors Dileeka Dias, who helped arrange our living situation and handled most of the Sri Lankan side of logistics before we came. 

Excited for what tomorrow will bring!