• Belarus,  Personal,  Vitebsk

    Spiritual Cranberries or Just a Kind Spirit?

    A couple of weeks ago, I was laying on my couch awakening from a nap and contemplating whether or not it was time to take another DayQuil. I had, yet again, caught a virus of some sort and was alternately sweating and shivering in a feverish daze. It was in that state that I heard a knock on my door and a female voice calling my name with a distinctly Russian accent. Initially, I wondered if my feverish brain had conjured this grandmotherly voice but quickly realized that I was not, in fact, that ill and that the voice outside the door was quite real and growing impatient. A bench…

  • 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…