In love with Our emerald isle | Sunday Observer

In love with Our emerald isle

There are so many negative, horror stories highlighted in the media, about bad experiences that female tourists have had in our country. It was a pleasure and a welcome surprise to hear someone whose experiences have all been good ones. Joyce Zhang, a Chinese American girl, from the US, travelled all over Sri Lanka by bus and train and says, she met only with kindness, generosity , thoughtfulness and even chivalry, right through her travels here. Joyce is an entrepreneur, born and bred in the US and living in San Francisco. She has many degrees to her credit from the most prestigious Universities in the US. After her first degree, in Political Science, she did her Master’s in Economics at Harvard, then a Master’s in Business Management at Stanford and a Master’s in International Relations at Princeton. I would have thought that you’d be a blue stocking with all those degrees. Where did you go from there?

“My first job was at The Federal Reserve, rather like a Central Bank. I travelled a lot during my student days, in student exchange programs, and have been to 90 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. I did an internship with Microsoft, in the US which is how I met your daughter in law, Janaki. I have been in India, but had never been here before, and decided to come. It is a holiday, but I am interested in helping Asian companies to globalize. Many companies here produce world class products but need help with sales and marketing to get them recognized worldwide.”

Tell me about your travels here, which I understand you did by public transport, trains, buses, etc.

“Yes, and I would like to stress that I met with nothing but friendliness all the way through. I went to Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Kandy where I saw the world famous Tooth Relic.

From Kandy, I went to Ella by train and found the service extremely professional, courteous, helpful and friendly. I find Sri Lanka a dynamic, divinely blessed country, I was on the coast in Galle and Unawatuna. You have everything within reach, with not too many hours being spent in travel. Temples,beaches, mountains, tea. This is fantastic and exceptional, difficult to find elsewhere.”

Yes, our country has been described as a beautiful land of nature’s magnitude, but it’s good to know that you have only good memories of your visit here, in every sense of the term.

“I found the jungles reminiscent of Kenya in a way, although I saw more leopard here. Tea brought back memories of Malaysia. The British have left their mark there too with tea.

The Galle Fort I found very European, in more ways than one and I think Colombo is very cosmopolitan. I found many people able to speak and understand English, and I went to five districts.”

Did you find that in Colombo only, or outside in the rural areas, as well?

“I would say almost everywhere. But, I had a rather interesting experience in Colombo, when I went to watch the parade on your Independence Day. I was standing in the crowd and noticed a rather scruffy looking man pressing close to me. I thought it was for lack of space and kept moving away from him, but a moment later, a well dressed man standing close by, shouted at him which led to an argument, and punched him, resulting in the police being brought in. I didn’t know what had happened, but another young boy in the crowd who spoke English told me that he shouted at the man for harassing me.”

I’m glad to hear that the age of chivalry is not quite dead here yet.

“Even in buses people would give up their seats for me, and in sharp contrast to India and other places no-one asked for money.

They were extremely helpful everywhere, answering questions, telling me which bus I should take, which route to take and so on. I plan to return for a longer stay next time. Both, historically and culturally, I can envisage Sri Lanka as an ideal trade route”

In my salad days, I was rather green in my judgement, but it was good to find just the opposite in young Joyce, her natural optimism and confidence will I’m sure lead her to limitless horizons.

Through her travels she has gained valuable experience. She has a sense of enthusiasm and energy which will stand her in good stead in her travels, and as an entrepreneur.