"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." -Mother Teresa

Friday, May 18, 2012

7 hours.

7 hours.  The first of three flights to Kyrgyzstan. You never know whom you’ll be seated next to on a flight. The lengthy international flights are especially interesting for this reason of seating... A chance meeting, a random allocation of travelers, yet often, something as simple as a seating assignment can easily be an intriguing discovery.

“Ouch!” Exclaimed the young, attractive, brown haired girl in the window seat directly to my right. She squeezed her index finger, which had been cut by the sharp edge of the foil covering her hot plate chicken, rice, and vegetables. “Oh no…” was all I could muster in sympathy for her small wound. “This foil just cut my finger! Can you believe that?” I could now make out her lovely accent among her well-spoken English. “No! That is terrible… would you like me to ask her for a band aid?” I motion to the flight attendant who had just handed the hot plates to us. “No. The open air will help it heal much quicker.” She was absolutely right. “You know, I couldn’t help but notice the papers you were reading were in Cyrillic…” I confess to her. I had studied the Cyrillic Alphabet a little in preparation for learning the Kyrgyz and Russian languages. “Russian. They are in Russian. The papers are my thesis for my master’s program in the Ukraine and I’m defending it on Monday morning.” Impressive, and as it turned out, this was the first of many impressive facets I learned about my soon to be friend.

Born and raised in Ukraine, fluent in Ukrainian, Russian, and English, Nastia (as she prefers over her given name of Anastasia) and I began what would be a nearly 6 hour long conversation that lasted the remainder of our “short” flight. We shared our diverse experiences from our lives thus far. Though, all I really wanted was to hear more of Nastia’s incredibly remarkable journey. Finishing high school and beginning college at the young age of 16, she balanced between 10-15 subjects a semester while taking English classes in addition to her university schooling. In her English classes, Nastia had an American English Teacher who would, a few short years later, become her husband. However, the story of this young couple’s relationship did not come without incredible hardship. A beautiful, romantic story of love crossing borders, language barriers, and the red tape of endless embassies… Nastia and her husband are now together and both successfully thriving in higher education in the U.S. A master’s degree in engineering, with specific interest in renewable energy, Nastia is now pursuing her second bachelor’s degree in physics while her husband works his way through law school.

A passion for education and academics, her wonderful family in Ukraine, her sweet husband, and a shared passion for adorable baby animals, Nastia and I found that we had quite a bit more in common than we might have originally thought. More accomplished than I at the young age of 22, Nastia’s maturity far surpasses her age in years.

My fortunate meeting with lovely Nastia brought me to the realization of a crucial message... This is what life is all about. Chance meetings with people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, passions, and pursuits. Learning from each other, listening to each other, respecting one another, and the mutual sharing of experiences- so much of our world problems could be solved by these simple discoveries. Listening to and respecting each other… what a simple idea. Hoping for many more “chance meetings” over these next 2+ years.  :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

home: (noun) a place of residence or refuge.

I've had the privilege of spending the past nearly 2 months with my family at home in the Northwest. I can't think of a better way to prepare for a grand adventure than basking in my roots. Whether you call it The City of Bridges, Stumptown, The Rose City, or the new cultural hipster phenomenon referred to as "Portlandia", Portland is my home and houses some of the best people I know. From visits from best friends, BBQs in the backyard, game nights, new memories with family, trips to the coast, to a lovely graduation causing one family to nearly burst with pride- my time at home has reminded me, as it always does, how truly blessed I am.

A glimpse of my time at home:

See you later, America!