June 2012 exchange pupils, I know what you are going to go through

Good morning Parents, present and ex-participants!

Now and then I had to hear from parents “But you don’t know what my child is going through!”

In many ways they were right, but not completely.

My FSA / Operation Smile ride continued well and I reached Riga in Latvia on Friday. At ten at night the sun is still shining, and very early it is light again. I am something like 9 degrees south of the Arctic Circle now.

On Friday I felt like some of you may feel soon, dear June 2012 participants.

I was invited by an old lady in Riga that she would me help with basic Russian. She is living in one of these typical (ugly) Soviet-style buildings built in Soviet times on the outskirts of cities where people live clustered together.

I come from a bushveld town where I have space around me. Here in Riga I am surrounded by these monstrous objects with rabbit holes called flats. There are no lifts, so I had to carry all my luggage to the right floor. After the building door closed behind me I couldn`t see a single thing. There were no lights inside. I had to struggle through darkness to where it was lighter again.

The small flat had a double door. Security. One had to unlock two identical doors to get into the flat. The toilet is in a cubicle. The bathroom is about the size of a double bed. The basin does not have water. You have to put in water if you want to wash your face.

So Friday afternoon I felt quite depressed with these living conditions, and, like you, I asked myself “What on earth am I doing here?”

But then I took a look at my life and in what I believe.

I realized again that is the way how human beings are living here. They are as valuable to God as I am to Him. What gave me the right to compare my home to how they are living here? I realized again that I am going home later, that I will have all my “luxuries” back, but for now I am sharing and learning.

And believe me, I am learning!

I am here the third day now. I broke through the pain border. I started living and sharing like millions of people lived before me and like millions are still living.

In retrospect I can now understand my feelings why I felt more at home in an African hut than in these soulless buildings. It was my decision to stay unhappy or to adapt and become happy. And now I know that when I continue my ride tomorrow I am going to miss my few meters of space I had for myself in this flat.

Guys, girls, the complete change in living conditions will be a huge shock to you. Take a definite decision to stop looking back to what you`ve had and concentrate to make the best of what you have now.

That is what FSA stands for: Cultural exchange. I learn from you and you learn from me.

(Now I know many ex-participants are smiling, because they know and have experienced all these …)

And the rabbit holes I mentioned earlier became home to me like to thousands of people living around me.




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