Wandering Through Romania

I love to travel, and I confess, I fall in love with almost every place I visit. Many times, I’ve convinced myself that, oh, yes, I could live here happily ever after. Reality does eventually set in, of course. The afterglow fades…leaving behind pleasant memories and, hopefully, a change in my heart and perspective; expanded horizons.

I tell you this about me, because you should realize that I am freshly home from my last adventure and still wallowing in the warmth of a thoroughly delightful experience. I want to write it all down before the afterglow fades, because that feeling — that’s one of the main reasons we travel, right? Hope you enjoy…

In February, I booked a small group tour to a country that has never been on my “must see” list. I had nothing against it – it just wasn’t even on my radar. But, thanks to a year of stifled wanderlust, I was ready – ready to travel just about anywhere! I came across this tour and it snagged me. The itinerary was compelling, the group size was appealing and I had read a few reviews that helped push me over the edge. So, having convinced my friend to join me, I took the gamble – Would we be able to travel by August? Would it be safe? Would I lose my deposit? – and booked the tour. 

Who knew (maybe me, seeing as I have a penchant for it) that a country I was so unfamiliar with would capture my heart like it did?! Romania…utterly surprising and completely unforgettable.

Over the course of 12 days we visited 3 unique locations – spending several days in each – learning about the history, culture, environment and people of this beautiful eastern European country. Our pace was unhurried but each day was chock-full of delights. I had to take notes because we were learning so much every day!

Bucharest

I’ll start at the beginning. We landed in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, on a Sunday afternoon. It was hot and sunny. The climate in Romania isn’t so different from my home state of Michigan – four seasons, hot summers, cold winters. As we rode into the city (airport transfers included with the tour), we noticed that it looked kind of like we were driving into Detroit: a mix of tall and squatty buildings – from old and worn to shiny and new, a fair amount of traffic, and graffiti – quite a lot of graffiti, actually.

Stefan, a Bucharest native and our guide, took us on a walking tour of the city on our first day. Bucharest is a lively city on a Monday morning – a fair amount of car and pedestrian traffic. It gave the impression it is a working city – filled with locals going about their business with tourists like us just sprinkled in. As we walked, Stefan gave us a little history lesson. 

Romania became part of the Soviet Bloc after WWII and remained under communist rule until 1989, although it had gained some independence from the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. Stefan told us about his experience as a child during the revolution against Communism, which occurred in December of 1989. He recounted how, when he returned to school in January, all of his school books had had pages torn out of them – the pages that proclaimed and acknowledged the communist rule in Romania. Fortunately, he was young, and news didn’t travel quite so quickly then as it does today. Stefan was blissfully ignorant of the details of that brief, violent revolution that ended in the overthrow and Christmas Day execution of Romanian leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu, and his wife.

Despite the citizens’ efforts to erase communism, Bucharest is full of reminders: Communist-era apartment blocks, colossal buildings erected at great expense while Romanians were struggling to feed their families, beautiful churches that were moved – yes, moved – out of the public eye, by order of Ceaușescu. An engineer, Eugen Iordachescu, actually developed a technique to move entire buildings without damaging them. He was responsible for saving dozens of churches in this manner. 

While communism certainly left its mark on Bucharest, so did many other cultures, religions and artists. As I mentioned, we saw a lot of graffiti around the city. We asked about it and found out that the graffiti is a point of pride for Bucharest residents. It isn’t gang-related like so much of the graffiti found in the US. Instead, it represents the voices of those who had been oppressed for decades, finally able to speak freely and express themselves. In fact, despite some city leaders wanting to clean up the graffiti, the residents insisted that it be left alone. 

We saw things much differently after hearing that story.

The architecture is quite varied in Bucharest – from medieval to modern. We saw Roman architecture, Byzantine-style and many buildings that would have looked at home in the center of Paris!  One of my favorite buildings is this one – the Union of Romanian Architects HQ. 

Its design is quite controversial. The original building was destroyed in 1989 by a fire. The architects chose to use the remains of the original building for the new project. I find it to be a very apropos symbol for this eclectic city with its complex history and resilient spirit.

Another memorable stop was the Atheneum. It is a gorgeous concert hall, proudly constructed using private donations from Romanian folks – definitely not funded by the government. We were fortunate to catch the beginnings of a rehearsal of the philharmonic for an upcoming George Enescu festival! 

Bucharest is quite a walkable city. There are many pedestrian-only streets tucked away from the noisy thoroughfares, especially in the old town section of the city. The art and monuments scattered around the city are well worth seeking out. I do recommend that you engage a local guide who can fill you in on the significance of the things you will see. It makes all the difference! Oh, and take a couple hours to wander through the National Museum of Art. We found it to be uncrowded, and it housed some nice surprises by Renoir, Monet and other world famous artists. The museum itself is gorgeous!

We enjoyed several meals at local restaurants while in Bucharest – especially enjoying the traditional dessert – papanasi – a warm cheese donut covered in crème fraîche and berries! Traditional cuisine reminded me a bit of German food – though, rather than potatoes, we were often served polenta. We were treated to some traditional dancing in an old beer hall – Caru cu Bere – so much fun!

Onward to Transylvania

On Day 3 we climbed aboard our minibus. We headed out of the city and toward the Prahova Valley, Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania. No tour of a European country would be complete without a visit to a castle, right? We were treated to two during our tour, the first was Peles Castle in Sinaia. 

We were dropped off at the restaurant/gathering area at the entrance to the castle grounds, where we could catch just a glimpse of the castle through the trees. We enjoyed a little lunch and purchased some fresh berries from a local Roma woman while we waited for our chance to visit the castle. Those berries were so delicious – fresh-picked, for sure!

A short walk put us squarely in front of this beautiful castle, built between 1873 and 1914, in the neo-renaissance style, by King Carol I. Stefan, again, was our guide here. He regaled us with all kinds of history and details about the beloved king and his castle. We enjoyed our private guided tour and were also able to wander the grounds on our own for a bit. It was a visual feast, the ornate Peles Castle nestled among the trees in this verdant valley – well worth the visit. 

We said goodbye to Stefan here, as he headed back to the city and we moved on to the medieval city of Brasov.

Brasov

Brasov is one of the most visited places in Romania. It is located in the center of the country, snuggled into a valley of the southern Carpathian Mountains. Originally settled by Saxons, Brasov is situated at the intersection of old trade routes linking the Ottoman Empire and western Europe. Brasov was a fortified city, with each tower maintained by a different craft guild. Each guild would then be called to defend their tower, as was custom during those times, and allowed the city to be defended without maintaining a full time army.

We spent most of that first day in Old Town – the Saxon part of the city. Here, again, we were accompanied by a local guide. Anne is of Saxon descent, and well-versed in her city’s story. She filled our heads with all sorts of facts and interesting tales. Anne introduced us to the city’s history and varied architecture as well as its current attractions – including artisanal chocolate and coffee shops and a traditional Romanian bakery! We visited the Black Church, a Gothic-style Lutheran cathedral that dates back to the 15th century. Originally a Catholic church, it was adapted to the more austere Lutheran religion as a result of the Reformation, a non-violent religious transition that occured in 1542. The church, along with much of the historical city, was partially destroyed in a fire in 1689. The church gained its nickname, The Black Church, as a result of the damage it sustained in the fire.

We had plentiful opportunities during our three-day stay at the Aro Palace Hotel (a mid-century-style delight!) to stroll along the cobbled pedestrian streets of Brasov. The Piata Sfatului is the main square that fills with outdoor restaurant seating in the evening and provides endless entertainment – food and drink, shopping and people-watching. 

Anne accompanied us to the workshop of a traditional wood painting artist, Marga Armanko. There, Marga tutored us in this art. Some of us took to it – others did not (that would be me!). Regardless, it was a treat to be introduced to this art by someone who took such pride in it. We were able to carry our “masterpieces” home as a souvenir of that experience. That evening we had dinner at the charming Bistro del Arte, where we were entertained by a pianist while we enjoyed a delicious meal. 

Bran Castle

We ventured out early the next morning in order to beat the crowds at Bran Castle. Anne joined us as our guide on this day as well. She explained that Bran Castle, dating back to the 13th century, may have been visited by Vlad the Impaler (yes, a very tenuous connection!). You may recognize this king as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Did you know that Bram Stoker had never been to Romania when he wrote his novel? He had only heard stories of Vlad the Impaler. He combined some of those details with his own experiences to create the story of Dracula. It is widely believed that Bram Stoker suffered from tertiary syphilis. Whether that or something else, his condition left him bed ridden, pale and sensitive to the light. Sound familiar? 

Unbeknownst to Romanians, the novel inspired people to seek out “Dracula’s Castle”. The castle’s popularity has helped to transform Bran from a sleepy town into a tourist destination. The castle was packed with people eager to see the home of Dracula. Despite its grisly associations, though, the castle is mainly a museum dedicated to displaying the art and furniture of Queen Marie. 

Traditional Egg Painting and Lunch at Gabriela’s Home

After a leisurely stroll around the grounds of Bran Castle and a wander through some of the decidedly kitschy craft stalls in town, we boarded the bus and headed for our next artisan experience. You see, this tour had a theme of sorts, focusing on the traditional arts of the country. 

We were invited into Gabriela’s home, where she served us a lovely traditional lunch, which included a LOT of polenta – just ask our tour leader, Derek! – along with some absolutely delicious visinata (a traditional cherry liqueur) and tuica (a traditional pear liqueur). While we relaxed over our home cooked meal, Gabriela modeled her traditional costume for us. She was very proud to share her treasure, an embellished blouse made by her grandmother 150 years ago! Gabriela was delightful, no English needed, though Anne did her best to translate. Interestingly, Gabriela used several words that Anne was unable to interpret. This may have been due to regional dialects or terms specific to Gabriela’s art form. It simply added extra color to the experience.

After lunch, Gabriela demonstrated her craft – the traditional painting of eggs. She is the only one in the area who still practices this art form. Gabriela has begun to teach the local children in order to keep this tradition alive. She explained how she removes the raw egg from inside the shell using a syringe to blow air in through the single hole, pushing the yolk and white out through the same hole. Clearly this is delicate work! She allowed some of us to try our hand at drawing on the eggs with the melted wax using a special stylus. The process involves several steps that include drawing the design with wax and then dipping it into the dye, letting it dry and drawing again with wax, dipping into the dye, repeating as many times as needed. She said each egg takes about six hours to complete! The designs were intricate and oftentimes depicted traditional scenes. We were enthralled and very happy to be able to purchase all of her available works of art.

We were completely charmed by Gabriela and so impressed by her skill. She gifted each of us with an egg that also included her handwritten explanation of the design. Yes, many of us are now facebook friends with Gabriela. You can be, too: www.facebook.com/gabriela.clinciu.96

Returning from our full day, we stopped at the top of the valley to capture the sweeping views of Brasov nestled below. Delivered safely to our hotel after this amazing day, we were left to our own devices for the evening. Several of us headed for the main square and an evening of laughter and traditional palinka (a plum brandy-style liquor).

Beyond Brasov… so much more yet to come

It was time to move on from Brasov. Each day of this tour seemed to build on the last and provide unending delights. Could our experiences to this point be beat? We couldn’t imagine it. We were just past the halfway point of our tour, but, our final days were SO full that I will leave that for another post. I hope you’ll return for it – you won’t be disappointed!

I won’t stop here without acknowledging the hard work of our tour leader, Derek Baron, of Wandering Earl Tours. He crafted a perfect tour, taking into account his audience (we were all women over 50) and the environment, and making excellent use of his local sources. I can’t recommend him highly enough. Thank you to Janet Jaffe of The Women’s Travel Tribe for partnering with Wandering Earl for this tour!

How I Tackled Wanderlust in the Time of Covid

I’m tired of talking about it, thinking about it, and being paralyzed by it. But, Covid has been top of mind for the past year and a half and it appears to be settling in for the long haul. So, how does one tackle wanderlust in the time of Covid? 

That is a question I have wrestled with since Summer 2020. I’ve taken a few local trips – one of which I wrote about in my Trips with Pip series. There’s more of that to come, because Michigan is worth writing about. I live in a beautiful state with many treasures to uncover, for sure. 

I’ve enjoyed taking the few trips I have done this year and felt quite safe doing so. Here’s my check list for travel these days:

  1. Is my destination relatively safe?
  2. Is my mode of travel safe?
  3. Is there a risk of getting “stuck” in my destination?
  4. Is the experience worth the risk?
  5. By choosing to travel, am I putting anyone else at particular risk?
View from my airplane window – Anticipation!!

I’m vaccinated. I wear a mask when appropriate or mandated. I get tested as required. I take other appropriate hygienic precautions. I think the key is that you live your life with a little added consideration for those with whom you might come into contact and follow the law of the land you are in and/or from. That’s about all that you can do. Would I travel to a place that has a dangerously high incidence of a deadly disease? Nope. Will I suspend traveling until Covid is gone? Nope – because I don’t think that day will come anytime soon.

These days, not only am I considering travel while a pandemic is still very much present, but I am also trying to shift away from expecting my kids to be my constant travel companions. I’m seeking out other styles of travel that don’t involve them. So, last winter – and February in Michigan would give anyone cabin fever – I was itching to travel and ran across an opportunity scheduled for August. It seemed like a safe bet – 6 months down the road.

A Facebook group I’m in was offering a small group tour to Romania for women over 50. Romania? Who goes to Romania? Well, I decided that I would go to Romania. The itinerary was compelling and the group size (max. 12) was appealing. Next thing I know, I am chatting with a friend over some wine and cheese. I brought up the tour to her, asking if she would like to join me. I had no expectations that she would agree to go, but after skimming the itinerary, she promptly said, “Yes!” We booked the tour the next morning. That was that.

I waited anxiously for a few months, agonizing over the possibility of the tour being cancelled. I was chomping at the bit to book flights because the prices were great. “Hold on”, they said. “Let’s make sure the tour fills up”, they said. So wait, I did. Finally, I got the go-ahead to book the flights. I’m no expert, but I’ve booked a few flights in my day, and I was really happy to end up saving $200 per ticket by researching online and then calling the airline directly. Who knew that I would be quoted a cheaper price by the agent than the fare I’d found online?! Score! Flights were booked and we began to feel like this would actually happen.

Fortunately, there wasn’t much else I had to do to prepare. I had my passport and my vaccination card, and I was already pretty well equipped for travel with luggage and such. I did purchase a couple of things – namely some no-wrinkle, water-wicking tops and pants and some new sandals that felt like a dream on my feet (they are Skechers, which I know aren’t for everyone, but my wonky feet love them!). I knew we’d be doing a lot of walking and that the weather would be similar to Michigan – which, for August, means hot and humid. 

I also spent many evenings working through the DuoLingo Romanian language course – not much else to do when it’s winter in Michigan and there’s a pandemic, to boot. I learned some pretty useless phrases, like, “I am a woman and you are a boy”, “I am not a child and you are NOT a man” and “the woman has apples”. Try slipping those gems into a conversation, why don’t ya! All I really needed to know were some niceties and a few necessary things like “where is the bathroom?” and “how much for the beer?” DuoLingo failed me on that front, I’m afraid. I’ve a mind to write a note to them to explain that many of us take to learning a new language just so we can get by in a new place. We don’t need to tell people what they are or what they are holding… Ah, well, the course was fun, just the same.

So, all of that to say that I tackled wanderlust in the time of Covid by: 

  1. Dreaming and planning – isn’t that half the fun?
  2. Reminiscing over past travels – taking the time to organize photos and putting my impressions on paper
  3. Traveling locally, and
  4. Making plans for international travel that seems doable. 

Of course, the fact that airlines and accommodations are being pretty liberal with their change fees and refund policies made it much easier to consider than it might have been in the past. Here’s hoping those policies don’t disappear anytime soon! 

I just returned from my tour of Romania, and I have to say, it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. Stay tuned – I’ll tell you all about it soon.

What have you done to tackle your wanderlust over the past 18 months? I’d love to hear about it!

A Hippie, A Host Mom and the Making of an International Family

One day in 1972 my parents brought home a big brother for my sister, brother and me (aged 10, 8 and 6 at the time). Heitor was an exchange student from Brazil, and we thought he was cool  because he had long hair and was in high school! That day was the first of many times my parents invited the world into our home.

Heitor when he arrived at our home

To be honest, I don’t recall much of Heitor’s time with our family that year. My six-year-old self was more concerned with avoiding becoming my sister’s live doll and wondering who would be visiting Mr. Roger’s neighborhood that afternoon. Lucky for my siblings and me, my parents had the same open, welcoming spirit as Mr. Rogers. 

Mom and Dad have always been civic-minded. Dad is a lifelong Rotarian and both were active in their local Chamber of Commerce. Mom has the enviable gift of hospitality. She makes everyone feel welcome in her home. So, despite being parents of young children, hosting a teenager from another country was an idea to which they quickly warmed. Mom, at home with us kids all day, was used to the house being filled with noise and dirt and minor excitement. I’m not sure, though, that she had any clue what a teenage boy would bring into our lives!

Mom felt a bit out of her depth parenting a high school boy, but, really, she could handle anything, so, why not? Heitor came to stay with us half way through his exchange year (Rotary typically had their students stay with two different host families). He made friends easily and, like many exchange students – or any teenager, for that matter – wasn’t terribly keen that Mom always expected him to tell her what he was up to. This was a common theme throughout my parents’ hosting experiences. Apparently, American parents are a bit more “helicopter-y” than parents from other countries. Heitor was a pretty easy-going guy, and never gave my parents much trouble. But there was this one time…

Heitor had plans to stay overnight with friends. When he didn’t return home as expected, Mom began to worry. She called the friend’s house and was told he hadn’t spent the night there but had, instead, spent the night at another person’s house – a friend who just happened to be a girl! Ooh. Mom wasn’t happy.

Actually, Mom was boiling mad. I’ve tried, and failed, to recall an instance when my mom lost her temper. So this story she told was a bit of a surprise! When Heitor finally walked in the front door, my 5’2”, unflappable mom was right there, waiting for him. He quickly took refuge behind a recliner in the front room as she gave him a piece of her mind! Heitor was smart enough to stand there, contrite and silent. I don’t think he kept anything from my parents after that! I can just imagine what was going through my mom’s mind – she was, after all, responsible for this boy she hardly knew! What if something had happened to him? Being a host mom puts you in the unique position of being entrusted with the care of another mother’s child. That’s some serious responsibility!

Heitor’s sense of adventure and fun wasn’t squashed by that incident. According to him, during one of the trips Rotary offered to exchange students, he got in trouble with the chaperone.  He and a few other boys returned late to their rooms after occupying themselves into the wee hours of the morning by “chasing girls”! My sister recalls Heitor “baja-ing” down our quiet country road on the riding lawn mower! Dad took Heitor to Deer Camp that winter. My father made sure any kids who visited Camp learned how to handle a gun safely and how to shoot it properly. Heitor got his lesson as well, of course. Unfortunately, the recoil caught him in the head and he still has the scar to remember it by. [Most exchange programs allow handling of firearms with certain restrictions.] Heitor never shied away from a good time or an opportunity to experience something new – really good qualities in an exchange student! 

Heitor, my brother and me on the day he returned to Brazil

His shenanigans notwithstanding, Heitor’s stay was clearly a success. My parents went on to host several more long term high school students as well as some short term young professionals. Heitor calls us an extension of his biological family. He recently told me, “Not even in my faraway thoughts I would dare to imagine that almost half a century later I would feel to be so close to this family, even living thousands of miles away.”

It’s especially fun for me to hear the stories about that girl-crazy, long-haired Brazilian “hippie” (my mom’s words), since my memories revolve more around encounters with Heitor as an adult. He’s my big brother; the one who introduced our family to the richness of international exchange. When my parents and Heitor reminisce like this, it adds depth to our international family’s story for me.

I’ve not yet visited Heitor in Brazil, but my parents have been there twice. Heitor tells me that the Brazilian culture is the result of a complex mix of people: Portuguese colonizers, indigenous peoples, Africans who were brought as part of the slave trade, and millions of immigrants from Europe and Asia. He says, “As a result, we are a very informal people; quite communicative and friendly.” My mom tells me that the people were very welcoming and kind, no matter that there was a language barrier. My parents were grateful that Heitor and his wife, Vera, as well as their families, were wonderful ambassadors of their country.

Mom, Heitor and his mom in Barbacena during one of my parents’ visits

Mom’s memories include a visit to a very large market in Belo Horizonte. Vera didn’t let go of Mom’s hand the entire time and all of them were careful to remove any fancy jewelry prior to visiting the market. Like any big city, I suppose, the chance of being robbed exists, especially for tourists. Mom’s memories focused on family. She loved meeting her Brazilian grandchildren as well as Heitor and Vera’s parents and siblings. It’s really thanks to my mom, and her dedication to maintaining family connections, that Heitor is in our lives at all. She worked hard at staying in touch with him after he returned to Brazil and he eventually responded more consistently (I think, thanks to Vera). Kudos to the women in our family!! 

Dad is an avid fisherman, so for him, a highlight of their travels to Brazil was a fishing trip with Heitor and his brother-in-law. They flew to a fishing camp in the Pantanal region on the Paraguay River. This UNESCO World Heritage site and national park extends beyond Brazil into Paraguay and Bolivia. The fish they caught there is a relative of the piranha but with human-like teeth versus the razor sharp teeth of its cousin. Until they open their mouths it’s a bit hard to tell them apart!  The Pacu is vegetarian, however, and seed pods are used for bait. Dad remembers the manager of the fishing camp “calling the alligators”. Like pets, they would come to her to be fed every day!  I’m not sure I would like to be anywhere near hungry alligators…

Heitor and Vera live in Barbacena, population 120,000, in the state of Minas Gerais. It is in the foothills of the Serra da Mantiqueira, 100 miles south of the state capital, Belo Horizonte. Since the city is at 4,200 ft, temperatures are quite mild year around. Heitor tells me it is a quiet and calm place. The highlights of Barbacena, he says, are the beautiful mountains surrounding the city and the natural vegetation. It makes for lovely sightseeing. If you seek more excitement, you could try Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, the vibrant financial center of Brazil, or Juiz de Fora, a city with beautiful architecture, and abundant shopping and dining options, located just 50 miles from Barbacena. Ouro Preto, a colonial town known for its baroque architecture and beautiful churches, is 80 miles north. The famous city of Rio de Janeiro is a bit further afield, but accessible as well. I was surprised to discover that Brazil is just slightly smaller than the United States; 8.5 million sq km vs 9.8 million sq km – lots of ground to cover! I look forward to visiting one day!

The view from Heitor and Vera’s apartment in Barbacena

My parents agree that anyone considering hosting an exchange student should absolutely do it! They both say they’ve received far more than they’ve given and the long-lasting, deep connections are the unexpected bonus. Heitor made sure to mention that becoming a member of our family not only gave him a second set of parents and three new siblings, but also “three lovely and open-hearted exchange sisters, and their families”. You see, our international family has enjoyed several “family reunions” through the years so that all of our exchange students were able to get acquainted. Heitor says this was unexpected, and “an additional gain due to being an exchange student.” 

Dad, Vera, Mom and Heitor during one of our international family reunions in Florida February 2016

As for me, I feel blessed and so proud to have Heitor as a big brother. I’m grateful that he was the first, but not the last, new sibling that my parents brought home to us.

Venturing

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. – Mark Twain

Do you agree with Mr. Twain? Why or why not? I so look forward to this; the beginning of a conversation with you. I’ll start by sharing why I believe travel and cultural exchange can open our hearts to the humanity in every corner of the world.

Growing up in small town Michigan, USA between the late ‘60’s and early 80’s didn’t offer much in the way of diversity. World travel wasn’t an option for our family at that time either. Instead, my parents invited the world into our home via my father’s involvement with the Rotary Club. Rotary has an international exchange program for high school students as well as business people. My childhood home played host to many young people from all over the world as a result. Beginning when I was about 5 years old and continuing, on and off, until after my sister, brother and I had grown and left home, my parents welcomed a diverse group of people into their home. We were introduced to India, Belgium, Brazil, Sweden, Japan, Zimbabwe and other countries and cultures along the way. 

As a result of my parents’ openness and hospitality, our family grew. Many of our international visitors wriggled their way into our hearts and have become integral members of our family. 50 years on, and these people are as much my true siblings as my natural brother and sister. Our family continues to grow as each of us marries and has children. And so, my parents’ willingness to open our home so many years ago has continued to have a ripple effect around the world and through generations. I promise to share more about my international family in the coming months.

The world is so much smaller these days, with technology and the ease of travel. You guessed right if you assumed that my family has finally been able to travel the world – visiting our extended international family in their home countries and experiencing their cultures firsthand. Our cultural exchange continues to expand as our family grows. I’ll be introducing you to each of my international siblings in some of my future posts!

My international family at a gathering in Florida in 2016

My parents’ actions opened up a world to me that I might not otherwise have experienced. I chose to become an exchange student in high school, not only because I was studying French at the time, but because I had had such wonderful experiences with international exchange in my own home. My desire to experience new cultures and meet people who are different from me is just as keen now as it was then. As a result, I have followed in my parents’ footsteps and hosted students as well. The one thing I’ve learned is that people are people no matter where they live, who or what they worship, what they eat or what language they speak. Our differences make life so much more interesting!

I look forward to exchanging ideas and opinions with you; discovering new places to see and hearing your stories, too. 

Mr. Twain finished his thoughts with these words:

“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Let’s, you and I, go beyond our little corners!