Beyond What the Eyes Can See

Upon discovering I had been chosen as a short-term observer for Sri Lanka's parliamentary election on August 17, it felt like Christmas had come early.

Dallas to Doha to Colombo. And then on to Jaffna for the election!

When I fly to Sri Lanka from the U.S., I usually feel somewhat slow for about a week or so, but that didn't happen on this occasion. This time I have hardly ever felt tired; I've been too excited to be back, thrilled even.

Elections. Democracy. Choices. Politics. The food. Arrack. Sri Lanka. Seeing old friends and making new ones.

What's not to like?

Aside from the country's interesting politics, Sri Lanka is a veritable factory of unique, colorful personalities. Mixing it up on the island was the graduate school seminar that was not offered in New York City; it remains the classroom I will always reenter with alacrity.

More specifically, recently working in the country was as close as I've ever been to doing work that I'd like to do for the rest of my life -- working on important issues with passionate, principled people, the country's "quiet heroes".

I loved that.

During my visit this month, many friends and colleagues have asked me about Donald Trump's peculiar political rise. Back in the U.S., Mr. Trump still looks like he has a chance at winning the Republican nomination for the presidency. So, technically speaking, Mr. Trump still looks like he has a chance at running the country.

Racism. Xenophobia. Arrogance. Ignorance. Do some Americans really want a pompous blowhard to be president? We have enough problems to deal with; it would probably be for the best it we didn't elect a man who consistently sounds as if he were eight beers deep at a NASCAR race.

2015 will not be remembered as my favorite year, or even my second favorite.

"So these aren't the best of times...," a friend bluntly stated in Colombo.

No, these are not.

However, the past few weeks are the most fun I've had in quite a while. It was great to be back on the island and in the arena. I'm not sure anybody or anything could wipe this big smile off of my face. Sometimes, it's helpful to be reminded of what you already know; it's helpful to be reminded of what you already want. Accepting the truth can be so liberating.

So, this time, I came to the island as an election observer and found so much more. After all, the most important observations are the ones that go beyond what the eyes can see.