My uncle, who lives in the United States, came to Sri Lanka to visit us and travel around the country and I accompanied him throughout his visit. He was a generous man; he gave gifts to everyone but by the end of the trip, he had run out of presents to give and had nothing for me. I didn’t mind but he felt bad about it. About a year later, he convinced me to come to study in the US. I thought he was trying to make up for the gift he couldn’t give me.
So 35 years ago I moved there. I brought only $5 that someone had given me for my new start. I missed my friends and family – and the warm weather! But I learned to be happy with what I have.
Because I always have a positive attitude, I credit people to be inherently good and I tend to overlook things that can be misinterpreted as discrimination. I always say, you can catch more flies with honey. So, it might be why I never felt discriminated against.
When I got to the US, getting used to the language was tough. I could not understand everything and the culture was different. So I listened to the radio, watched TV, and read the news. I quickly got my driver’s license and used to help out my elderly landlady to go get groceries and do work around the house. She appreciated it so much that she stopped accepting my rent money.
In 1998, when the owners of the company I was working for decided to retire, I took all my courage, skills and knowledge and started running my own company.
Everyday, I try to help people out – sometimes I employ or give recommendations to other Sri Lankans who need a nudge to start a new life.
Now, I am American. It is home. I enjoy the individual freedoms given to citizens. I still visit Sri Lanka once a year, and when I retire I hope to spend more time there but I will always live in the US.