Monday, Monday–and time for the new Flower Fairy card! In honor of Veteran’s Day this past Saturday, the card of the week is….Respect! If someone asked me what it means to “be an American”, my answer would definitely be much different today than it was 25 years ago. When I was 17, I was lucky to be a part of a student ambassador program that went to Eastern Europe. For my first international travel, it taught me a lot. One, it caused me to catch the “traveling bug”, which in translation means, “I’m ready to go-just say where”! Second, traveling has taught me more about myself and enriched my life much more than I can explain. Experiences have been wild–hitchhiking in Lithuania, writing camels in the Egyptian desert, white water rafting the Pacuara River in Costa Rica, to name a few. Experiences have been challenging–traveling with my family–ha ha–that always adds an extra element! Physically, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and biking across Ireland were some defining moments, and going five days without showering in Kenya/Tanzania was a fun (ugh) story to share. Back to being seventeen…our group was leaving Belarus after a short stay and were getting ready to head to Russia. Belarus had become independent not long before we were there, and to experience the country when my world view had been living in small town Ohio my entire life, it was a jolt to the system. It was a dreary day, and we seemed to be sitting on the bus forever waiting to leave. It was quiet, and someone started singing. “Oh, say can you see..” We all joined in. It was a goose bump/chills/tears moment, because in that moment, I understood what it meant to live in the United States of America. I ended my Courage blog two weeks ago with “to be continued”, talking about my experiences in Lithuania, where I volunteered at the ripe old age of 21, to teach English in a summer camp. Of the seven volunteers during my stay, I was the only American…and the kids in the camp treated me like a celebrity. It was a little disconcerting, amusing, and just different to be acknowledged that way. My second goose bump, chills, and tears moment happened while we were on a holiday (European for vacation) one weekend. We went to Siauliai, known for the Hill of Crosses. Since the Spice Girls were the big thing at the time, we spent a lot of our spare time singing and dancing, just being silly and carefree. Walking through town the one evening, someone suggested we sing our national anthems. I chose to go last–not confident in my singing abilities (and when you have a cat who chases you through the house and bites you when you’re belting it out, it doesn’t help that confidence). I listened with appreciation to the National Anthems of Canada, Japan, Germany, France, England, and Lithuania. When it was my turn, I started with the “Oh”, and all the girls joined in and sang it with me. Blew me away! I get chills even now, because, again, in that moment, what it meant to be an American was right there in my face. Wow! Traveling has changed me. I have respect for culture, patience for being different, and value where I come from and go home to. Thank you to all the veterans and your service!
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