Five years ago I was fortunate enough to represent the city of Lansing as part of a delegation visiting St. Petersburg, Russia.  The historic Russian city was celebrating its 300th anniversary and we were there to mark the momentous event. 

My excitement was over-the-top as the long flight ended.  What would the city be like? Would I be able to communicate with my host family?  I spoke broken Russian; having studied the language for only three years at M.S.U.  

As the plane made its final descent I looked out the window and noticed broken helicopters and rusty planes lined the runway.  It wasn’t like anything I’m use to seeing at domestic airports. 

When it was time to leave the plane we didn’t have a jet bridge to step into.  The doors opened and we walked down the aircraft’s stairs to the pavement below.  The airport was a remnant of the Communist era; cold, large, intimidating.  It wasn’t like other European airports I had visited.

The city was mammoth, gorgeous buildings with a mix of Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns.  I was beyond impressed!  The cities administrators prepared for the celebration months ahead of time.  This was going to be great! 

Within minutes the scenery changed!  The beautiful architecture came to an end and cold, dark, Communist era buildings surrounded me.  My excitement was replaced by fear and hope that any minute I would begin to see the European beauty again.  It didn’t happen. 

My host families’ house was on the 8th floor of a cement building that looked more like a post world war II bomb shelter.  The tiny elevator that took us to my new home didn’t have any lights and smelled of stale urine.  It moved slowly, straining to make it another foot above the ground floor.  The apartment was as large as most American families’ living rooms.  It was in that instant that I craved to be home again. I made up my mind I would immediately take a taxi back to the European splendor in central St. Petersburg and find myself a beautiful Western hotel.  And just as fast as that thought entered my mind I was reminded that I was an Ambassador representing my city and couldn’t insult my hosts. 

St. Petersburg residents, during the summer months, don’t have the luxury of hot water.  The city shuts it off for reasons that escape my memory. All I wanted was a shower, a nice bed and sleep.  My host insisted that I eat before fulfilling my plans.  I sat at the small kitchen table, as my host prepared a meal of fish and borsht.  I started to relax and look forward to filling my belly with Russian cuisine. Then she pulled out the eating utensils and a flurry of large cockroaches fled from the drawer to the floor below, escaping to unknown parts of the home.  I wanted to scream, run and get the hell out of that home! 

There are many more experiences from that trip I will write about.  It was the first time I realized how fortunate and blessed I am to live in America and to be able to afford the luxuries I take for granted.  Today I’ll drive my new car, eat a large meal out, visit amazing stores and remember more than half the world doesn’t even know what those experiences are like!

TODAY I’M GRATEFUL to be an American; and even though I don’t have lots of money, I do have opportunities others only dream about.


QUOTE:  Be there when people need you.  “If someone comes to you asking for help, do not say in refusal, ‘Trust in God; He will help.’ Rather, act as if there were no God and no one to help except you.”  Zaddik

ARBONNE allows you the opportunity to leverage your time.  When you work just 10 hours a week and find four people to do the same, you benefit from 50 hours of earning power. 

Please follow and like us:
Follow by Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *