Amiens is friend to no weatherman: her cloud breaks and spots of drizzle make for predictions no more successful than your telephone soothsayer’s.When visiting Limoges in late February, my friend told me about his mother’s gaffe when she moved there from Amiens. She would go everywhere with an umbrella wedged under her arm. Her first friends in the neighborhood gently teased: why, they asked, would she lug that thing with her on sunny days? It was a holdover habit from her youth, she admitted. One day in Amiens might have announced with a crisp morning sun, transitioned quickly to drizzle, breathed through a streak in the clouds and, finally, simpered into foggy evening.
For those looking for a break from the burbling streets of Paris or the boggled-eyed sightseers of Barcelona – Minsk is not a tourist city!
It turns out it’s not so hard to get into Belarus, Europe’s alleged last dictatorship – but if you want an experience, rather than the standard ease of the airport, you’ll need to be prepared for a little extra effort.
Over the holidays, my partner and I traveled from Chisinau, Moldova by train to Minsk, Belarus. We left on Christmas, at 10:14 pm, and would arrive in Minsk at 11:30 pm the next day.
The wheels on that train slandered the tracks, tossing staccato insults: “Too rough, unstable, rusted, unreliable.” They ignored their own precarious skid, took no accountability for their work. The ugly but necessary partnership was a painful love affair: wandering wheels rogue, abusing semi-stable tracks for a common goal. Both, it seemed, suffered from age and over-use.
Student Ilie was itching for a challenge during a recent training program to raise awareness about the problems facing people with disabilities. His task was to cross a cluttered room to retrieve an empty bottle – blindfolded. Goaded by fellow participants, he pulled himself along the office table, stumbling a few times and bumping into chairs. The experience lasted less than five minutes, long enough for Ilie to discover what it could be like to be blind for a lifetime.
The Sunday activity, held at the Miras-Moldova office on October 22, was one of several designed to give Comrat students a sense of what it means to live with a disability. The Miras-Moldova Public Association has been working with students from Comrat’s Moldovan Lyceum to combat discrimination against people with disabilities in Gagauzia. In April, the students received a grant for 800 Euros from the Academy of Central European Schools to implement their project.