Wednesday, August 4, 2021


Where the Chuckchi Sea meets the Beaufort Sea
My whaler friend pointed to two whales in distance and told me that those whales do a threesome in the Arctic, where a wingman whale helps the male lead whale to mate with his female. It sounded evolutionally impossible. Why would a whale help another to mate, losing his chance? I did not question him, as I do not usually challenge the experts unless I am an expert myself. Who am I to question one who has the wisdom of the land and has come from a generation of whalers for millennia? Today I decided to look it up. This article concludes that that is false information. Now, who should I trust - the one who had his entire life revolve around whales or these scientists with domain expertise? These could also be local wisdom that scientists are yet to discover. Now I don't really know. 
Iñupiat Heritage Center, Utqiagvik

Do I care about how whales mate? Certainly not. Do I respect how the native whalers treat whales when they hunt for meat? ABSOLUTELY. It was nice to see how the cultures respect the animals that become their food. There are policies (both international and native) in place
on how many whales each community can hunt per season. It is a quota. No one is strictly observing - but the hunters respect that. It is a community. Your catch belongs to the whole village. There is a pride. The one who hunts the whale is respected. The whales who "sacrificed" (yes, it is believed that the whales willingly "offered" themselves) their life to sustain the community for one more season are respected. After all, whales are considered the most sacred animals.
In the Nuvuk peninsula, we walked passing whale bones and several tree logs floating from far regions pushed to the Arctic in summer. More concerning were artifacts. My friend said, as a kid, he collected "treasures," all coming from China, Japan, Russia, and EU on the shore. Ocean pollution is a global problem, but Arctic is explicitly impacted that it can be observed by anyone who lives there beyond doubt. n a community sustained by whaling, whale bones are expected. But the Arctic tundra has no trees. The logs and artifacts are foreign. The Northwest Passage is clearing up with the Arctic completely melting in the summer. Governments are even preparing for a Transpolar Passage that cuts through the north pole by 2050 summer or even as early as 2040 summer. The Nuvuk peninsula now has a serious tide problem, which the locals try to mitigate by placing large bags of sand along the shoreline. There used to be a thriving community in Nuvuk, which does not exist anymore. But Utqiagvik has this lovely Iñupiat community that has been living there for 10 millenniums.

No wonder Alaska has become my most favorite state in the USA. I always loved traveling and finding myself in new places, especially with new cultures. When I was young, going on an annual school trip was so exciting. We would go on a day trip in March every year - but it was enough for the young me to get all excited for weeks in advance, starting from January. As I grow old, to get the same level of excitement, I have to go to random corners of the world. Each new place adds something to my identity. Memories make my identity. It is like searching for something I have no clue of. Regardless of the scale and the distance, I see travels as searching for myself. With my continuous migrations since 2012, the lines of traveling and migrations are blurred in me. Although I have not moved since June 2018, I still feel the same nomadic self I was between 2012 August - 2018 June. The pandemic has clipped our wings. Yet with the vaccines, there is some hope, and we may live again.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

2021, one isolated year.

2020 had the first 3 months that were quite active and filled with life. 2021 is the year I made the least amount of human interaction: The service industry (waiters, cashiers, ...) and strangers in the streets made nearly 100% of my interaction. Amid the pandemic, these workers provide a human aspect to the isolated humanity. The employers should pay them well. Since everything in the USA is about tipping, when will we start tipping Trader Joe's cashiers? They are the best. I wish Trader Joe's treated them with respect.
I don't know. But this really makes me feel sad.


COVID19 uncertainty - when you feel you are not in control of things. Pre-pandemic, the world changed slowly. Nothing fundamentally changed within a few months to years. We moved faster while the world moved relatively slower. That made us feel safe. The pandemic has turned the tables. Now with the pandemic, the world seems to be evolving rapidly than we. We are closer to 2022 than 2020 now as we have past the mid-mark of 2021. It is a one weird year, perhaps less weird compared to 2020. 3 years in Atlanta continuously. I am not sure where and how will this year end and what is next, and is there even a next?

Friday, July 2, 2021

Grad studies and destinations

Flights, a major part of our life!
One of my juniors asked my opinion on going for higher studies in Europe. I have blogged about Erasmus Mundus a few times. But I decided to make yet another blog post based off of our discussion.
Erasmus Mundus used to have both MSc and PhD programs - I did Erasmus Mundus MSc and Erasmus Mundus PhD. With the program restructuring, the Erasmus Mundus PhDs are discontinued. We have the Marie Curie scholarships for PhD instead. 
He was planning to apply for a PhD with just a BSc. But EU PhDs almost always (there could be exceptions) require you to have an MSc unlike USA or Australia. So, if you want to do a PhD in EU, you are mostly going to do what we I did - do an MSc (go for Erasmus Mundus - it was a dream come true for me) first. Then apply for a PhD.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The immigrants and the trolls of Sri Lanka Twitter

It is not rare that every time an immigrant raises an opinion or comment on Sri Lanka on Twitter, there is always a set of users who try to assume themselves to be the patriots - and shut any opinion from the immigrants down. "After all, you all ran away from the country." I am someone who prefers his opponents to be smarter. So some hints why you should avoid the typical insult, "Is an NGO paying your visa fees?" at Sri Lankans living abroad:
Scenic Byway to Mount Evans

If that person is a citizen in that country, they don't need a visa or pay fees to live there. That means a French citizen of Lankan origin does not need to pay "visa fees" to live in France. Also, thanks to visa-free entries, they don't need visa fees for many other countries either.
I am not a citizen of any nation other than Sri Lanka. But I don't need an NGO to pay my visa fees. Mostly employers/universities paid that for most of the countries that I have lived in. When they did not, the visa fee was something I could afford.
Not every Sri Lankan abroad is the same. We are all different. We all have stories. Often, humble ones. Unique ones. I am open to talk to anyone. I am someone who (still) takes the crowded public buses 154 or 155 every time I return to Sri Lanka. I believe Portugal significantly influenced my life - and made me who I am today. But underneath everything, I am still the same villager who left Moratuwa 9 years ago. I didn't "run away" from my problems. That is not my style. I move on my own, primarily searching for something that I do not know.

In summary, please try to avoid that "who is paying for your visa" insult. It's boring and repetitive. Not creative.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Interstates, freeways, and failed towns

Urban decay in Meridian, MS
I started walking from the Meridian train station towards my hotel, following Google Map suggestions. I was almost there I though. I even see the destination! But a problem. Between me and the hotel is I-20/I-59 interstate with no underpass, bridge, or an alternative way to cross. I had to call an Uber just to cross this street. I came to the conclusion that these Interstate roads and freeways are the new rivers. Rivers used to be the major transportation medium to travel inland. But rivers also segment a village, or naturally become the border of a village. Now, these freeways and interstates are doing the same. You drive fast on them. But they segment an otherwise decent town.

 Most of the US cities have notoriously horrible public transport. I can walk a long distance in flat lands, especially when I am not in a high elevation (I am not acclimatized to elevation). 18 km is my usual weekend walk. Now, what irritates me is, USA does not have a public transport in many towns such as Meridian - but it also has ruined those towns - making them impossible to walk, by segmenting them with streets that cannot be crossed by pedestrians. My hotel was surrounded by I-20/I-59 and MS19. None of them had a way to cross. Essentially it felt like living in an island. Even Google Maps was suggesting me to cross the I-20 by feet to reach the hotel. Apparently, Google wants me killed by speeding vehicles or arrested for jaywalking in a major interstate. How did even these locals agree to let an interstate ruin their town like this? I get it everyone drives in the USA. But isn't walkability an important feature of a town? It is dystopian. As an animal, humans should be able to walk and run freely, without relying on vehicles for everything. Driving just to cross the street or go to a shop a few meters to a couple of kilometers away - isn't it sad?

Meridian was a textbook example of a failed down. Almost everything was decaying there. The two Uber drivers (yes, had to get them just because I cannot cross the I-20 from my hotel to the train station) - both told me there is nothing actually to do in their town. But they were happy that other notable cities (such as New Orleans) are a quick drive from there!