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International student travels across world

Foreign exchange student Zhu Yunxi, shares his personal experiences traveling to another country. This diary entry is part one is a two part series. If you missed part one read it here, Column: My Thanksgiving trip to Sri Lanka.

Day 6
November 26
Hong Kong, China

Going back to my homeland is always sweeter than visiting a foreign land.

Zhu Yunxi | The Feather Online

Pictured above is one of the main highway streets through the capital Colombo in Sri Lanka.

The Cathay Pacific CX610 just landed at the Hong Kong airport. The familiar announcement ended my two-day Colombo tour. I rejoiced because it was finally over. I was constantly thinking about the peculiar man and the situation that I was in 24 hours ago.

That morning, the sunrise was hidden by the Colombo TV tower and around the city lay a layer of fog. It’s time for me to discover this capital city. After enjoying breakfast in the Hilton Hotel, I grabbed my old fashion camera, then headed outside.

Everything was going so well. I passed by the Sri Sambuddaloka Viharaya, Viharamahadevi Park, Colombo Municipal Council, The Independence Square and Independence Memorial Hall. Then I reached the Galle Face Green.

The Galle Face Green was a beautiful beachfront, but currently under construction. What surprised me was the amount of Chinese national construction companies that were building skyscrapers.

In my confusion, a local person walked towards and greeted me. He introduced himself as a school teacher.

He seemed like a very nice person. We walked for a couple of minutes; he described to me what all the buildings were about. Five years ago, a large number of foreign investors arrived in Colombo. They widely developed tourism in the area. We could see there were high buildings lined up by the beachfront. They are five-star hotels. The Colombo TV tower was built by a Chinese national company.

But it was just the beginning; soon I found out he was not utterly hospitable. A temple celebration was occurring one mile away; he invited me to go with him. On the way, he kept saying that they, Sri Lanka, have an excellent relationship with China because the Chinese national company helped them to improve their economy. This talk made me feel fake because of this tone and focus.

Indeed, this man led me to a Tuk-Tuk car. (A Tuk-Tuk car is a major transportation vehicle for the traveler in Sri Lanka and Thailand; it is like an electro-tricycle.)

“We don’t have that much time. The celebration is about to start.”

But, who’s going to pay the Tuk-Tuk car? Me or him? We got off of the car at a temple which held the celebration. I kept thinking about it. Is he a really nice person who’s going to let me have a free tour?

The answer was no; I realized this when we went inside of the temple. In Sri Lanka there is an unwritten rule: Sri Lankans free, foreigners pay. This temple expected me to pay.

I thought I was tricked; I made an excuse which almost fooled me again. I said I did not bring money with me, therefore I could not pay the ticket. However, he told me that I needed to pay the Tuk-Tuk car.

It stranded me; the driver was not a good English speaker. Moreover, I am not a good Sinhalese or Tamil speaker. Our translator, who is the fake guide said he was leaving for home.

He’s gone, then I asked the driver how much is it.

“6000 Rupee.”

Zhu Yunxi | The Feather Online

Pictured above are some Tuk-Tuk vehicles.

One Chinese dollar is 21 Rupee; One US dollar is 7 Rupee. So I needed to pay $40. It is not that much. While I may not know the pricing rule here, my conclusion drew by the socio-economic level here was ‘it is not worth that much.’

“This is ridiculous,” I said.

After an argument that neither of us understood, he settled on asking me to name a price.

“How much you want to pay?”

I was confused but gave an angry response.

“I pay how much I need to pay, but 6000 Rupee does not make sense. If you really want 6000 Rupee, you take me to the police office or the Chinese Embassy.”

He realized that I am not that easy, then he lied again: “3000 rupees.” It still does not make sense, but I made a temporary compromise.

I said, “Take me back to my hotel.”

I made a plan already before I said those words. Hilton, the most expensive hotel in Colombo; was enough to make him feel fear. It was unusual to have a Tuk-Tuk car drive to the front of the hotel because of the hotel’s expensiveness.

As what I saw before, this Tuk-Tuk car I took stopped before it reached the front gate. I requested him to drop me off at the front door; he did so. When I got off of the Tuk-Tuk car, I yelled for the doorman to ask the lobby manager to come.

“Excuse me, sir; I have a question. Could you tell me how much I need to pay if I just took this Tuk-Tuk car for 30 mins?” I said. Also, I told him that it is ridiculous to pay 6000 rupees.

As I expect, those two Sri Lankans started to communicate in the language I don’t understand. Finally, the Tuk-Tuk car driver said, “1500 rupee” reluctantly.

I gave him the money then thanked the lobby manager, however, I knew that the real price should be between 400-800 rupee.

It always happens that visitors get ripped off in Sri Lanka. This was the first time that two people tricked me together.

Where does their innocence go? They are different than the guy I met at Unawatuna Beach.

Zhu Yunxi | The Feather Online

Yunxi had the privilege of meeting local children and befriending them.

When I was in Unawatuna, Galle, I saw the most innocence side of Sri Lankans. Not only the fishermen I met at the beach, but the preschool students I helped. Those children enjoyed dancing and singing in the preschool. They brought snacks to school and shared with classmates every single day. They have kind hearts at a young age, but where does it go?

Maybe there’s one explanation. They are actually kind-hearted, but it has been overwhelmed by a desire to make money. This sudden influx of foreigners made Colombo people greedy.

Maybe this is the fault of money. This new found wealth seemed to be the thing that led Sri Lanka people to an evil side, or it makes them succumb to it. They want their country to be wealthy. That’s the reason why two strangers could treat a foreign visitor disrespectfully because they want the visitor to spend money in their country. Their hope is to make their country wealthy.

This experience makes me not want to visit Sri Lanka again. I know it happens all around the world, but what surprised me the most was the two strangers I met both tried to take advantage of me.

For more features read, Seniors and juniors prepare for college deadlines, underclassmen look ahead.

This author can be reached via email: Keith Zhu.

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