"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Welcoming Friends from Down Under

G'Day Family and Friends! I know that I blog mostly for a handful of people (aka PCV Ben Fan Club), but it's always cool to know that somewhere someone I have never met might be reading about my journey. This is a story about such a situation...

The story begins last May when, out of the blue, I received an email from Australia. Mick, the sender of said email, had stumbled across my blog when he was researching his family history. He introduced himself and explained that he had been through Kolky before and was very excited to learn that there was someone who he could communicate with now living in this village. His connection to Kolky, as well as other villages in my general area, came from some documents of his wife's side of the family. He also explained that he and Julie were coming to Eastern Europe again (among other places on their 6 week excursion) to retrace some of their steps, do some more searching and continue their investigation. Also he mentioned that one of their stops was Kolky!

Fast forward through the end of my first semester, Final Bell, the summer of a lifetime, and First Bell to about 3 weeks ago. I receive another e-mail from Mick. He and Julie, along with their friend Terril, were in the midst of their travels and will be in my area. We arranged for all to visit and the rest is history!

I first showed them around Kolky, a town which they had seen before but I was able to explain the meaning of some of the monuments, what is where, a little history out the village, etc. We made our way to school and had lunch with the English teachers. I'm a fan of cross-cultural interactions, so to be apart of a meal, sharing stories, laughing, teaching and learning from two other cultures was wonderful. After lunch the group agreed to meet with my 11th, 10th, and 9th Forms and speak with them about Australia.

My students rocked with questions, especially with maybe a hour or two of notice. The typical "What food do you eat?" questions came up, but also we talked about religion, culture, sports, lifestyles, etc. The students were hanging on every word Mick shared, and kept looking at me to help with any words they didn't quite understand. After debriefing with the students, they asked that I talk with a "cooler" accent...doubtful, but I'll try.

Sharing about life in Australia

3 Cultures, New Friends

I was so happy that the visitors from Australia came to Kolky. It made me so proud to show off my village, and be the expert around town. It was also a learning opportunity for me, my colleagues, the students, and the guests. Truly a win-win-win-win! Their exploration of family history and pursuing relationships with the people from where there ancestors came from has sparked a new interest in me. Hopefully I'll be able to learn more about my family history over Winter Break in the States. As Mick and Julie know, a long and often incomplete search, but a process that is certainly adventurous and meaningful.

So, if I don't know you, or maybe I do, and you're reading this, send me an e-mail, say hi, and maybe even drop by for a visit. I'll be sure to show you around town, and introduce you to the gang.

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