Belarus: Eleven Surprises

I’ve been in Belarus more than three months now — long enough to have learned a bit of the culture and started detecting patterns, but not so long that I’ve stopped rubber-necking my way through each day. Three months in, I find myself teetering between easy familiarity and continued awe. I know now that I […]

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Bestill: 19

My dad was the person who taught me to be comfortable with silence. We could get in the car and drive for twenty minutes without a word being spoken. While his and my mother’s relationship ultimately cracked under the weight of that silence, for me, the daughter, his quiet felt benign, reassuring, a safe place […]

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Who, Me?

My friend Helen, a colleague at the university, arranged the whole thing.  Weeks ago, Helen pinned down a date when I’d be free to visit her son Sasha’s gymnasium (an academically advanced K-12 school) — the same gymnasium she, herself, attended — and spend some time talking to the English teachers.  The idea was born […]

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First of the Month

His grunting is muffled, but still, every “oof” and muttered curse can be heard in the hallway where his wife and I are stifling our laughter. She speaks a few words of English, and I have a smidgen of tatty Russian, but we don’t need language to share a giggle, especially when it’s about the […]

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Little Pink Houses for You and Me

I can’t keep up with the apples. Even at my current pace of eating two a day — BACK OFF, DOC! — I can’t keep up with the apples. Nearly every time I leave my apartment, some kind person slips an apple into my hand, topples a dish full of them into a bag for […]

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Notes over the Atlantic

The problem with hypervigilance: as the plane starts to taxi for take-off, I am fretting. Two people on the aisle haven’t fastened their seatbelts. The old white guy in front of me has inflated his pillow and slapped on his headphones, but half his unclipped belt dangles out the side of his seat. Fortunately, the […]

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Highlights

We recently returned from a family trip to Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia — meeting up with Allegra, who’d already been traveling by herself for six weeks. We flew from Minneapolis to Sarajevo, and she took the bus into Sarajevo from Montenegro; easily, beautifully, shortly after we checked into our apartment the first night, she pulled […]

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Finally Full

Two years ago, after weeks — nae, months! — of work, I finished writing an essay, and I thought to myself, “This is my favorite thing I’ve ever written.” So I started submitting it to various publications, hoping someone, somewhere, would like it, too. Would want to publish it. Would feel like my piece was […]

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