Let me begin by saying that the Poland/Belarus trip was by far the highlight of my summer.  I’ve never exactly gone gallivanting around a third world country before, much less one that, preempted by Roman Polanski’s tales of grandeur, turned out to be wicked beautiful and culturally enriching.  Despite being filled with interesting and meaningful experiences, the one that shed new light on my thinking was the following:

The Shears Music Group and I decided to hang out in front of our hotel in Grodno one night after everyone had gone to sleep.  He was dressed in a basketball uniform so naturally he looked like your stereotypical famous basketball player.  Some of the Belarussians obviously thought so too, and asked if we were Americans.  With their rudimentary English, and my limited Russian we were able to tell them about New York City, what American Universities are like, how just about no one farms where we are from, and our purpose in Belarus.  They seemed to have a little of the “deer in the headlights” syndrome when we told them about our standard of living, which made me realize just how lucky we are to be in the United States and enjoy the freedoms we have.  Following our little introductions they invited us upstairs to their graduation party where they promptly treated us as close to royalty as they could, offering food, alcohol, and girls.  I know that if I were at my graduation party and saw a pair of Belarussians sitting outside my hotel I probably wouldn’t have even introduced myself.  They, instead, were intent upon getting my email address, hearing about how to study abroad, and taking as many pictures as possible – pretty ambitious for kids right out of high school if you ask me.  After our two hours or so of exchanging contact information and names Anthony and I headed back from our venture, pretty amazed at our experience. 

As I step back and look at the world in the third person ante trip and post trip, it dawns on me more clearly than ever how lucky everyone in the world is to be happy.  Yes, much of Belarus is impoverished, but those who live there do not know anything different.  Therefore they make the absolute best of what they have, and enjoy it.  We obviously exist in different standards of living, yet we’re all living the same lives: lives filled with the desire to fulfill our needs and emotions to the height of our potentials.  As Martin Luther King implied, it’s not our creed or location in the world, it is how we direct our lives and improve our character.  I had the most amazing time with all of you during our excursion, and wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Andrew Klein ’08