Day 266 East-West

September 1, 2015

(If we live with an open and grateful attitude, every day will bring a gift. This is one of 365 gifts during the year I turned 70.)

David with Belarusian friends, Regina and Kate.
For 2 ½ weeks we hosted two Belarusians, Kate and Regina. They were part of a group of ten from their country who work in the fields of banking, insurance and education and who traveled here to study how they can help their country become more financially literate. 

If the other host families were anything like me, the only thing I knew about Belarus was that it used to be part of the Soviet Union. Now I know more after looking at a map and getting to know our visitors. Belarus is landlocked by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. I was surprised that Lauren learned from a Friends episode on TV that Minsk, the capital, is in Belarus and not Russia.  I did not know that Belarus is hot and humid much of the time and that there are many rivers and swamps. Their largest wild mammal is the bison. The country is newly independent since 1991 and its first elected president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, got 100% of the votes. (Ahemm???)The country has its share of financial problems but one thing surprises me—able-bodied citizens must pay a find if they are unemployed. If they can’t cough up the money, then their relatives must. It’s a tax based on the idea of “social parasitism.” 

I’m sure that the Belarusian visitors had some preconceived expectations from Americans. They may have imagined more comfortable accommodations in our modest house, a tidier environment and more traditional behavior from their hosts. Any disappointment they may have had, I hope evaporated with our backyard wildlife view, our friendliness and especially David’s sense of fun. David did all the cooking and arose extra early to cook breakfast for them. I prepared photos for them to take home with them and a video slideshow. I was surprised at the passion our guests showed for shopping. On Sunday, we took them for their first ocean dip and the salt water seemed to wash over them like a spiritual experience. They admitted meeting the ocean topped shopping.

A farewell party for all hosts and travelers, sponsored by the World Trade Center Institute, was tonight, full of food, drink, stories, gifts, laughter, warmth and hugs—a happy event with some sadness. During these very quick weeks, we grew to love Kate and Regina, two sensitive and caring human beings. We will miss them. 

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely. Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s little corner of earth.” Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad, 1869
My gift today is Belarusian friends.
Y ou can find links to my other posts on this project here:

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