""Everyone has a story"" is a weekly segment in the Arizona Daily Wildcat that aims to tell the story of an interesting person on the UA campus. This week, we've interviewed Jude Fernando, a mechanical engineering senior with Sri Lankan roots.
His father was born and raised in Sri Lanka, about 20 miles off the southern coast of India. Jude Fernando was raised familiar with Sri Lankan culture. He has lived in California, Kingman, Ariz. and Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Though he never lived in Sri Lanka, he visited the country six times.
""My dad's parents owned a coconut plantation in Sri Lanka, so that's where he grew up,"" Fernando said.""Whenever I go to visit, it's always fun to pluck the coconuts from the trees.""
Fernando uses a hook to pull the coconuts from the trees.
""When they fall down, you better make sure you're not in the way. The coconuts will hurt if they land on you, they're coming from high up in the air,"" Fernando said, adding that coconuts weigh 10 to 15 pounds each.
The first time Fernando went to Sri Lanka, he was an infant. When he was 2 years old, he stayed in Sri Lanka for four months and learned the native language, Singhalese, around the same time he learned English. Fernando still knows Singhalese pronunciation but has mostly forgotten the language. His father still speaks Singhalese to friends.
Fernando said that his father was successful in bringing Sri Lankan values and cultural experiences into the family.
""Education is important in Sri Lanka,"" Fernando said. ""My father made sure that we put full effort into our education. If you didn't do well, he was OK with it as long as you were working your hardest.""
Fernando went to a Montessori school in Sri Lanka during his four-month visit.
""It's kind of like a nursery kindergarten, and it was really neat,"" Fernando said. ""We had a lot of time to play outside, where no toys were allowed. We got to make our own fun.""
Fernando has vague memories of his early years in Sri Lanka but has more vivid memories of his later visits, during which he visited 2,000-year-old ruins.
""Traveling in Sri Lanka is an adventure by itself,"" Fernando said. ""A 60-mile outing might be a four- or five-hour trip because you have to change buses and go a lot slower, so it will take a longer time than it would in the United States.""
Fernando says he feels at home in Sri Lanka because of the food, tropics, jungle and family, but he prefers the work opportunities in the United States.
""There's a little bit of corruption over in Sri Lanka,"" he said. ""Day-to-day life is a lot easier in the States,"" Fernando said.
At the end of the day, Fernando prefers simplicity to complication.
""I like that everything's simpler in Sri Lanka,"" Fernando said. ""In the United States, you see dozens of different types of cereal in the cereal aisle. In Sri Lanka, there are maybe two or three choices. Do we really need five kinds of Cocoa Puffs?""
Fernando hopes to incorporate his Sri Lankan background into his future family's life.
""Lots of people in this country don't have much outside of the United States,"" Fernando said. ""It would be neat to give the same kind of cultural exposure to my family.""