Having emigrated as a tiny baby from the small country of Belarus whose inhabitant amount hardly exceeds nine million, I was finally coming back at age fifteen to visit my relatives and my homeland. Who knew that four short weeks in a small country on the other side of the world can change a human being so dynamically on the inside and out? Stepping foot out of the dizzying plane of Lufthansa and out of the car with no air conditioning in one hundred degree weather, onto the soilof the village Rudnya that my parents called “home”, I inhaled the freshness. The air can’t be much fresher than in the midst of evergreen-tree filled land, where factories and chemicals haven’t destroyed nature’s original state of beauty. This was the land where one could enjoy organic, home-grown produce, without a touch of preservatives.
â–º SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Experiencing firsthand what my fellow Slavic people had to live through daily and the circumstances my parents had grown up in, I felt blessed to have lived in America. My back ached after twenty minutes of digging potatoes; these farmers sometimes dig potatoes from dawn to dusk. I never knew how miraculous indoor plumbing was until I learned how to use an outhouse, and how to take a shower in the backyard with a half-filled teakettle. Because I have a thirst for knowledge and a determination for advancement in life, I was extremely shocked by the narrow opportunities available for the village children. After finishing high school, very few could afford to move into cities to continue their educational life in a college or university. Most took up the traditional jobs such as gardening, butchering animals, and lumbering.
After getting a bit accustomed to the village life, I developed pride for my people. I was proud that they always put a smile on their face, and a sense of humor in the middle of any hard task they faced. I was proud at the wise ways these people spent their meagerly sum of money, so that they could cover all necessities, and have money left to spare. I was proud of the welcoming nature and generosity that my fellow Belarussians were composed of. It’s an accepted custom to walk into the homes without even knocking, because the neighbors know each other like the back of their hands, and live as one big harmonious family. My distant relatives treated me like a long-lost sister, setting out their finest teas and coffees, ready to sacrifice their entire month’s salary for my satisfaction.
The fourteen hour flight back to America on three various planes gave me sufficient time to think deeply about my experiences of the past month. I, as a completely changed person, would make the best of both worlds. I would use my inherent Belarussian perseverance, determination, inner strength, and loving attributes to become the most successful and educated individual I possibly could with the opportunities available for me in America. And perhaps someday in the future, when I would have an acquired amount of money, I would remember my dear native people. I would help them in every way I could, whether it be sending packages with helpful products, visiting and inspiring them, or offering aid with the immigration process. I’m so thankful to my aunt for buying me a ticket to Belarus and introducing me to the life and people there, because I learned more about their culture from this trip than from all the native European movies I have ever watched, and I can use this knowledge for the better.