A New Adventure in Sri Lanka

This welcoming poster, featuring the newly re-elected president, is a sure tipoff that you are in Colombo Sri Lanka, even if it is 2 am. My flight on United Airlines from LAX to London and on Sri Lankan airways from London to Colombo was pleasantly uneventful, with no problems from Iceland’s rumbling volcano. Flying on Sri Lankan is a reminder of how air travel used to be in the US, and smiling flight attendants like Surani make it a pleasant experience, even in economy. The flight was only half full, and the articulate taxi driver reminded me of the huge challenges facing this country as it tries to get its economy moving in the wake of a 30-year civil war with the Tamil rebels, which ended nearly a year ago. The airport road was eerily deserted, as you would expect in the middle of the night, and nothing like the teeming jumble of people, tuk-tuk taxis, sacred cows and stray dogs that I witnessed on my last time here. Security is still tight; the cab had to stop at four checkpoints where I showed my US passport to the armed soldier and was waved through.The US Embassy has scheduled me to do a media training session here and they’ve booked me into Colombo’s top hotel, the Cinnamon Grand, just down the street from the American Center. Its grand atrium reminds me of the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. Best of all it’s just a short walk to an adjoining shopping center with a well-equipped grocery store including a very rare sight in this part of the world — a cheese counter!