One of my most interesting memories from our service trip to Belarus involved my home-stay in Luna.  My host, Natasha, an 18 year-old high school student who lived in town, graciously invited me into her home and made my stay an unbelievable experience.  Despite not having much to offer, including in-door plumbing, and a limited knowledge of English, which complemented my complete lack of Russian understanding (aside from the words thank you and goodbye), Natasha managed to make my stay with her family unforgettable.  I was touched by her constant efforts to make sure I was comfortable and enjoying myself.

            The most fascinating aspect of my stay involved our multiple attempts at communication. With a combination of my Greek and English and her English and Russian we figured out the word cucumber, which, granted, didn't amount to much, but we were still very proud of ourselves. Unfortunately the word bathroom didn't come as easily.... Aside from the fun we had trying to understand each other, my experience taught me how difficult it can be to overcome a language barrier, especially when traveling alone. Having grown accustomed to travel in Europe where most street signs and menus are translated into English and the majority of people have some knowledge of my native language, Belarus, where the expectation was for me to speak Russian, was a much needed reality check. It also proved to me how easily people can bond even when verbal communication is difficult. After the short amount of time we spent together, despite not sharing a common language and having grown up in such different cultures, Natasha and I became great friends and continue to keep in touch.

Mariana Spanos 08