2 October, 2022

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From Sri Lanka To South Puget Sound: My First Nine Months In Puyallup

By Frederica Jansz –

It took me nearly two months to get my tongue around pronouncing the name Puyallup. I challenge any Sri Lankan to pronounce this name correctly. The fact is, I have had many Americans ask ME how to pronounce it. So here goes: – It is pronounced pew- our- lupand means Generous People.

The author’s son, Kieran, attended summer camp for the first time this year. Photo by Frederica Jansz.

Our arrival in Puyallup – a fast growing city to the south of Seattle – was accidental.  Having left Sri Lanka in a hurry with only three suitcases, our throats constricted with unshed tears and the flu, my two sons and I arrived in Seattle.

Initially the plan was for cousins to sponsor us to come to Canada. But that plan misfired and my cousins were forced to leave us at the border and drive back home to Vancouver. I had no idea what to do. I was stuck with the two boys in a country where I had no family and no friends. And going back was no longer even a choice.

My cousin then contacted a Sri Lankan family they had met briefly, and who lived in Puyallup, appealing to them for assistance.

Help they did. They were amazing. Inviting us to come and stay in their home before convincing me to settle in Puyallup. During which time they cheated me of a large sum of money…but that is another story.

And so while I struggled to stitch my tattered life back together, my heart heavy and homesick, I met and made other friends. This time, they were Americans.

I had been “warned” (by Sri Lankans who live in America) that Americans will be nice, but that they could be two-faced. Rarely hospitable. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We have been in this town now nine months. The American families who have hosted us to dinner and breakfast (yes, I kid you not – breakfast – cooked in a crock pot! – unheard of in Sri Lanka) have been quite a few.

Sri Lankans pride themselves on their hospitality. But, you know what? I could not have survived these past nine months – so far from home, my family and everything familiar – without the warm and caring Americans that have surrounded me and my boys.

Toasting smores around a campfire July 4th. Photo by Frederica Jansz.

That said, I have come across the iffy ones as well. There was the “interior decorator” who ran a staging company – who seized on my “plight” with a promise of full-time employment – only to reveal she had not much work and was determined to limit my hours to five or six a week.

Then there was the time my seven year old got bruised in a scuffle with a classmate.  When school authorities separated the two boys the other Mum took umbrage – blasting the class teacher and principal. She even put up a post (in foul language) on Facebook! That almost felt familiar: recently the Sri Lankan press reported that a parent forced a school principal to kneel before him and apologize for having disciplined his son!

I am often asked what the “big” differences are I find living in the US in comparison to Sri Lanka.

A first for me was the online offers to stay at home and work – earning an income off online postings.

I was skeptical but decided I must investigate the authenticity of these claims. A phone call resulted in my phone ringing off the hook (well more or less – it is a mobile) from people who tried their best to persuade me to sign up and “purchase” one of these home own kits. Which promise you an hourly income ranging between $37 – $47 dollars.  But before you start earning, you have to pay anything between $44 – $ 47 dollars or thereabouts to buy the kit.

The promoters of this scheme then promise you a monthly income averaging between $2,500 – $4,000. Depending on how long you are prepared to sit in front of a computer and post advertisements for $15 apiece, encouraging America’s shopaholics to shop.

To this day, my inbox is flooded EVERY SINGLE DAY with mail from people? aliens?? whose names I now actually recognize! There is a Mary Taylor, a Skylar Black and an Adrienne Brooke (who even asked me to marry him! then got mad – when I for obvious reasons did not respond – and is now sending me repeated emails asking “why I ignore him” that he is “pissed” and “what is it that I don’t get.”) Only this morning I had an email from Adrienne “Thanking” me for have “reached out to him last night” WTH? I wonder if Adrienne knows that men usually prefer to spell it “Adrian.”

Frederica Janz.

I have NEVER had an internet proposal EVER in Sri Lanka.  And I lived there for 45 years.

And then came July 4th.   America’s Birthday. Toasting marshmallows and making “S’mores” late night around a campfire after being treated to an exclusive and lovely fireworks display. It was the first time in 30 plus years: at Independence Day celebrations in Sri Lanka we were forcibly gated into our homes. Just so a bunch of politicians could flex muscle with a show of military strength all in the name of a national celebration.

February 4th is Sri Lanka’s Independence Day. For as long as I can remember, it begins with the ENTIRE capital city under house arrest. The masses are gated in their homes while politicians led by the reigning President together with special invitees – consisting of a smattering of diplomats, politicians, family of politicians and their stooges – sit in the sweltering heat under a canopy of sorts watching Sri Lanka’s military parade with feigned interest.  The heat is so bad that one year the police chief actually fainted as he stood to attention behind the President. The official explanation was that he was wearing shoes a size too small!

The display is telecasted LIVE on State TV for the benefit of those lesser mortals who consist of the masses.  I remember having to actually secure special “passes” from the local police station to get to work – being in the media- to actually report on the extravagant display of men and might.

What a difference to July 4th this year when I joined in celebrations with “normal” Americans – enjoying a homemade barbecue, fireworks and plenty of laughter.  Barack Obama was nowhere in sight – not on a single one of the 700 plus TV Channels we all watch. Neither was America’s military. Although they were probably visible elsewhere – in Baghdad or Kabul.

In Sri Lanka, Independence Day is celebrated with a show of military strength that keeps most residents of the capital city locked in their homes for the day. Frederica Jansz’ first Fourth of July in the States was just one of many things that felt familiar, yet oh-so-different| Photo by Dinouk Colombage

*This article is first appeared in Seattle globalist.Frederica Jansz is a Senior Editor with award winning recognition and international experience. Former Editor in Chief of The Sunday Leader newspaper in Sri Lanka Frederica currently lives in the US together with her two sons.

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Latest comments

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    I wish Mrs. Jansz all the best in her new life in lovely Puget Sound. She deserves and needs the peace and happiness after the trauma she had to go through in Sri Lanka.

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      I hope everybody reading realize the significance of the timing.

      When Frederica Jansz finds herself in a life of peace and quiet, what she wished for the people of Sri Lanka after the war, without the involvement of a gang of megalomaniacal brothers, those who were upset with her for offending their beloved Gota are finding themselves in what they wished for Frederica Jansz.

      Though it may be painful, for Ms. Jansz, to watch it from a far, you deserve to pass this phase of your life away from the leach infested mud-pit that is Sri Lanka. You wouldn’t have been able to change it anyway, right?

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      YOU ARE A NUMBER 1 BIATCH WHO SCREWED ALOT FOR THE COUNTRY INCLUDING OUR GENERAL SHAME ON YOU FREDRICA

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    Good to hear from you Frederica. I hope you are well settled in the States. Readers will like to hear from time to time
    about your experiences in America.

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      Just enjoy staying in US without slinging mud

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    It is sad that we Sri Lankans will miss journalist such as you. We wish you all the best & hope to see you back.

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    We are indeed happy to know that you are safe and happy. We miss your very infomative editorials there wre no more brave editors here after Lasanth and you. God Bless you and your family

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    Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka are so insular and living like frogs in the well only to morn whilst hypocrisy is dictating their lives with the control freak government.

    The comparison between Obama and Sri Lanka is a worthy one and speaks a lot about the fake state drama to manage the Sri Lankans.

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    Nice to hear from you Frederica! Indeed Sri Lanka has lost yet another talented individual and the loss will be further felt when people like Mervyn, our media watchdog recruit their own journalists, even to serve the English language…just like the murder of English on state websites including that of the army. If you write more on American life in comparison to ours, am sure people would find the miles of difference as you highlighted in tne indepence day celebrations.

    I drive past Galle Face and cannot tell you the suffering and frustration whenever there is some ‘parade’…ir is we who pay a thumping tax off of our salaries and this is how and what we get in return!

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    God bless you and your boys dear Fredrica. So glad you are living in freedom among good and friendly people.

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    Frederica:
    It does sound like you are finding your feet, if you haven’t already done so and all of us are glad of that.
    Much as we miss you, the Last of the Mohicans(to use an American expression!)we can but hope that things will continue to go well for you until you return to us!
    Nothing but the very best to a brave and feisty human being.

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    Hello Frederica,

    Good luck with your new found peace. All Sri Lankans minorities also dream of same.

    Having said that excuse me for putting a dampner to how you feel about the great America.

    It is this very same great country that rained half a ton of high explosives for every living Vietnamese not too long ago.

    It is the country that duped the whole world into believing in WMD’s in Iraq to justfy an unneeded war. Look at the mess they have made.

    It is the country that blindly supports the Jews to ethnically cleanse Palestine of arabic speaking people.

    It is the coutnry that drops bombs from drones on unsuspecting villagers in Yemen and Afganistan killing countless men, women and children.

    It is the country that created ‘Guantanamo Bay’ on the lines of Saddam Husseins ‘Abhu Garib’.

    It is the country who coined words such as ‘collateral damage’ and ‘renditioning’ the latter to mask despicable acts of barbarity and depravity.

    Oh the list goes on.

    Nevertheless I wish you and your kids well.

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    Wish you and the family all the best.

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    [Edited out]
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    Best wish you to you and your family on the new beginning and good luck with your new assignment.

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    I have called you many a times the only “BLACK SHEEP” in the very respectable community of the Dutch Burghers in Sri Lanka since you were instrumental in tarnishing General Fonseka during the Presidential Elections and thereby paving the way for a dictatorship in Sri Lanka through the “White Flag Case”. Either your life was threatened by GOTA or you received ill-gotten monies and perks – We feel either the former or both. In any case GOTA’s deadly threats were there and at least now you could come out with the REAL TRUTH AND WASH OFF YOUR BLACK WOOLEN COAT. Anyway, we wish you all the very best in your exiled land. It was a pleasure to read your articles and “Sunday Leader” became popular mainly due to Lasantha Wickramatunge who was slained by “xxxx” and also due to your very interesting articles. We stopped reading “Sunday Leader” after the White Flag Case!

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    [Edited out]
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  • 0
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    Whilst wishing you all the best in the new surroundings, I am sure you
    will ensure the security of your children and thereafter pursue your
    desire to write about S.Lanka – a good example is DBSJ in Canada. He is
    at his prime in doing this from Overseas. The expanding webnews sites
    will tempt you to reach us as often.

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    Good luck in your new homeland. You will find your feet and your children will be well-educated and will prosper. When you feel homesick, just remember that there are millions of Sri Lankans who would give all they own for a chance to raise their children in the land of the free.

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    Oh Frederica, we are missing you a lot. It makes us happy to see you in photo and hear of your new life in America. After you and Lasantha, we don’t see forthright editorials and your investigative reports. You have a knack to call a spade a spade and that I appreciate. The paper has lost its glamour and I am thinking of dropping out from its readership. Frederica, do please write to the web journal Colombo Telegraph, which is now read by most news hungry Sri Lankans, and of things that you couldn’t write when in Sri Lanka. You are now free and can really let your hair down and write anything, your ordeals with MR regime and so on. Look forward to reading your contributions. Best of luck to you and your kids.
    Nihal Fernando

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    Hi Frederica.
    good luck to you and your family.All Srilankan minoriries wish to reas more about BBS,BASIL,GOTA,MAHINA, SATURUSINGHE,and many more.
    Sunday Leader has gone to the Dogs.Investigative Journalism is no more in SriLanka.Sirasa/MTV work for the Govt. Join Tissainayagam and others, who have left this country, and sent your WORKS

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    welcome to the land of the rich and get rich schemes . where you are nothing if you dont have money . good luck and write about obamas poodle but dont write about spying on every day citizens .. lol

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    it is also amusing she copmares 4 of july celebrations in pullyp washingtoon state which in the middle of nowhere to the ones in colombo .
    now had she compared washington DC its another matter . lol

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      Keep on laughing a.. h… ! That’s all you can do.

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    Good luck to you and your family.

    Please bring good articles revealing all what you know about white flag issue – that can help many of us to relieve right at this critical juncture of the country.
    All the best.
    Dan

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    Take a break while you still can. You will soon see that you have leaped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Not for nothing is Manning in Jail and Snowden in Russia. Just try pushing that ‘Baghdad and Kabul’ line a bit harder and you will find out for yourself. In Sri Lanka they kill you. Out there they make you kill yourself. Have fun while you can and take care.

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    Frederica, It was lovely to read your article. You are dearly missed here. I stopped buying Sunday leader after you left. I am so happy that you and the boys are doing fine after all that ordeal. Waiting for you all to come back….

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    i wish you and your kids the very best in life .do continue to write about all your experiences in sri lanka.

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    good luck in your new life

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    I was amused to read the comment by ‘Abhaya?’ what kind of a name is that anyway? It so clearly shows the envy and small mind of a Sri Lankan. These people live in Colombo and believe Seattle is a village. LOL!!
    Frederica I wish you well. I only hope that you will return one day. It is this country that needs you. Not the US.

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      Ado gona I live in the US have been for 15 years. and abhaya is a real good sri lankan name . not a tamil kallathoni name like lakshan

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        Ado Labaya, you are acting like VENEREAL Gandasara Thera!!

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        So SL bulls are in US too, on better breeding grounds I’m sure, though apprently the forest change haven’t obviously affected any spot changes!

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      Many Ami tourists having travelled through Europe feel that life is much better in Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and other EU countries) than in their home country :)

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        I doubt it my friend . they are all the same . you just see what you want to see . lol

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    Hi Frederica, it was very interesting to read your article, and have to say Sri Lanka has lost a good and very talented Journalist. You are now safe in the USA wish you and your kids the very best in life, and do keep
    writing all the things you could not in Sri Lanka of the things you knew about the ruling family. Wish you all the very best, and God bless.

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    Aney Pawwww. Fredreeka.[Edited out]

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    I live in the US. I am constantly surprised by the viciousness and envy that appears inherent in Sri Lankans even by those who claim to have lived here. Frederica has long been the subject of envy. Maybe because she has beauty and brains. And a helluva lot of guts! For me, she is one more example where the US has gained and Sri Lanka has lost. Big time.

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      truth is not envy Mr Goonarathne .

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    I met Frederica recently at a dinner party here in the US. This woman is smart sexy and witty. A rare combination. And freakin bloody courageous.i consider it a privilege to have been in her company.

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