"Spicy Food and Hard Living"

The week before myself and 14 other student journalists at the University of Oregon left for our two-week reporting trip to Sri Lanka, our professor received a one-line email from our main contact, Bandula, who lives in the capital city of Colombo. Bandula wanted to know--with warm regards--if our team was ready for "spicy food and hard living."

I might re-write that sentence to: "food that exits in all directions three hours after consumption and cold bucket-showers in dark Sri Lankan jungles."

I'd like to think we all took the food and living situations in stride...there were other, much more significant things Bandula forgot to mention that we definitely were not prepared for. Things like instant host-family love, village dance parties, spontaneous front porch interviews with rural Sri Lankan legends, getting close enough to hear an elephants breath, and the endless generosity, grace, and hospitality of the people we met and lived with. 

One of the reasons we chose to tell stories from Sri Lanka was because it's a nation in transition. For those unfamiliar with the South Asian island and its recent civil war, National Geographic did a great story a couple months back. My team's full Sri Lanka experience and the stories we told there will be published on a website we're creating in the coming months. Until then, here's some film I shot from the trip.

 A tea village near Nuwara Eliya, home to Tamils, a minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka.

A tea village near Nuwara Eliya, home to Tamils, a minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka.

 
 Photographer  Key Higdon  in action at the tea village.

Photographer Key Higdon in action at the tea village.

 
 The oldest woman in the village of Unaweruwa, 90 years old, flanked by my teammates Jake and Key. Yes, she looks terrified, but I promise this is just her go-to photo face. 

The oldest woman in the village of Unaweruwa, 90 years old, flanked by my teammates Jake and Key. Yes, she looks terrified, but I promise this is just her go-to photo face. 

 
  "Go away!" she chuckled in Sinhala, one of Sri Lanka's main languages, to some of the younger village boys who were following us to the interview. "I'm going with this nice boy to America."

"Go away!" she chuckled in Sinhala, one of Sri Lanka's main languages, to some of the younger village boys who were following us to the interview. "I'm going with this nice boy to America."

 A red tuktuk in its natural habitat.

A red tuktuk in its natural habitat.

 My host brother, Chamidu, 11 years old. 

My host brother, Chamidu, 11 years old. 

 On the way to see elephants.

On the way to see elephants.