I had no idea at the time how it would change my life. At that moment, I just wanted to investigate an island in Southern India: “let's see… what was it called? …something weird." I muttered to my sixteen-year-old self. "That’s it! Sri Lanka: a small tropical country that is called the pearl of the Indian Ocean", I read aloud.
I had just received the news that I was to live on that tropical island for a year. “Wow!” I had thought to myself at the time.
The year went by very fast, but at the same time, it was as long as an entire lifetime. Upon arriving, the colors, smells, and sounds of the island penetrated me, fascinated me, and surprised me. If someone had told me that we were on Mars, I would not have doubted it. I had never met Buddhists, nor eaten curry, nor not have the freedom (being a girl) to go out and explore. Nor had I ever swum in rivers... with elephants; nor drunk the water directly from a coconut. I knew I would never be the same again, the girl from an isolated mountain town in California. But what I didn't know was how this experience would shape my entire life.
After my year as an exchange student in Sri Lanka, I went to college in Northern California where I studied literature, Spanish and