Having never been off of U.S. soil in my lifetime, I had some hopes and thoughts about what my experience traveling to Poland and Belarus would bring.  Well, they were completely wrong.  This trip has literally changed my life, and when I reflect back on it I know there are two groups of people responsible: my fellow students/advisors/leaders from America, and the Belarussian citizens of Lunna.

            First, I need to give credit to all of our entourage from Dartmouth.  We all met once a week for a term prior to the trip, so we were no longer strangers, but I have no problem in saying for the most part we were all acquaintances.  Two weeks later I would call numerous members of this group my best friends.  In such a short time after leaving the U.S. many of them began to feel like brothers.  I opened up to the group in ways only the people closest to me know.  When reflecting on the trip the first, and best memory I have is of all of them and the twelve best days of my life.  Without them this trip, and my first time out of America would have never been the same.

            My second strongest memory, and lesson, comes from the many Belarussian people we met during our time working in Lunna.  The first day we began our work a few curious people came out to see what we were doing.  By our final day of work we had well over one hundred people aiding us.  Whole classes of schoolchildren were doing everything they could to help us.  There were numerous adults and older children doing back breaking work during their free time.  Without them, the work we were able to accomplish would not be nearly as impressive.  The many kids and adults taught me that no matter how different our cultures, finances, governments, history, or language, we truly are all the same.  It is mainly this lesson, along with my new best friends, that I have brought back to America and has changed my life for the better.

Jason Reid 08