• Belarus,  Personal,  Travel

    Alana’s (Very Unofficial) Guide to Traveling Around Belarus as a Foreigner (Part 1)

    A few weeks ago, my dad, Steve, and brother, Luke, embarked on the adventure of a lifetime – visiting me in Belarus. What made their visit so special was not only that it was their first time in Belarus, but that it was also their first time in Europe and Luke’s first international flight. I was ecstatic about their visit and began planning it two months prior to their arrival. My type-A, planner personality flourished (one could also say went wild) in this capacity, and I briefly considered switching my post-Fulbright career from getting a Ph.D. to becoming a travel agent. Alas, this is not to be. But, because I…

  • Belarus,  Education,  Fulbright,  Personal,  Vitebsk

    Seeing Myself Through a Child’s Eyes

    “You know what, Alana?” I turned away from the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I was preparing to see the eight-year-old boy I was babysitting studying me with a thoughtful look. “You’re like the Mona Lisa. You don’t laugh a lot, but you smile all the time.” An amusement park in Polotsk I had no words in response, which for those of you who know me, is a truly rare occurrence. “Is that a compliment?” I wondered to myself. Seeing his sincere smile and strangely mature, thoughtful expression, I decided to accept it as one. I thanked him and said, “At least I have eyebrows.” He giggled at my silly…

  • Belarus,  Personal

    So, Cheerleaders? And Other Fun Questions

    I stood in front of a classroom of first-year students about a month ago and asked, “Does anyone have any questions?” I ask this question a lot at the end of my classes. I want to give students the chance to get to know me better on their terms. One of the three male students in the classroom of nearly 25 raised his hand and asked: “What about cheerleaders?” I looked at him for a second with surprise. My mind was racing as I sifted through possible responses and all of my associations with cheerleaders: mean high school girls (not all, of course)…. Riverdale… short skirts … how the cheerleaders…

  • Belarus,  Fulbright,  Vitebsk

    Pigeons and Publicity

    (Or Alana is no longer anonymous and has held pigeons IN HER HANDS) My presence in Vitebsk cannot be described as one of the city’s best kept secrets. From the moment that I stepped foot in the university building, I was photographed, and my work was described at length on the University’s website. Little did I know, but that was just the first step in an extensive list of publicity garnering experiences. During one of many conversations I had on my first day at the university, someone mentioned that a Belarusian newspaper would want to write an article about me and what I will be doing. This made sense. I…

  • Belarus,  Fulbright,  Travel,  Uncategorized

    The First Five Days (Part I)

    Five days have passed since the plane taking me from Pennsylvania took flight at 7:30 pm on August 27. After a tearful goodbye to my parents and pets, I set off on the most daunting and exciting adventure of my life – 9 months in Belarus, 5,000 miles from home. Much has happened in those five days – I turned 23 years old, moved to a new city, encountered a new language – and my brain has been hyper-actively trying to piece together and remember the new names, faces, places, and words I have encountered. For the sake of my readers (and my own sanity), I will write about my…