Even if said pond happens to be the Baltic Sea rather than the Atlantic Ocean, my journey did take me to the “North American University in the Heart of Europe”, i.e., the Republic of Lithuania. And if you’re asking yourself: “What is it doing there?” or perhaps even: “What were you doing there?” let me introduce you to this one-of-a-kind place called LCC International University.
The Marshall Plan has become synonymous for massive help, for bringing about a herculaneum task and having a country rise again from the ashes. Originally designed to help Europe get back on track after the devastations of World War II, it has a much broader meaning today. In discussions about how to rebuild Ukraine at some point in the future, there’s again talk of the need for a Marshall Plan. However, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and look at what the original Marshall Plan was all about.
While her neighbors rush down the street to catch the school bus, 14-year-old Lilah Hadden starts her school day at home. After spending the morning on math and creative writing with her mother, she takes a violin class online, finishing her day with independent reading. For two years now, homeschooling has worked well for her. “I’m getting to … learn more of what I actually want to learn about,” Lilah says, noting that she’s particularly passionate about music. But if it weren’t for the pandemic, the idea to school at home would never have crossed her mind.
Covid-19 forced students around the globe to learn without physically going to school, as entire states and countries went through long periods of lockdown. It’s sparked new interest in homeschooling alternatives in places ranging from Des Moines, Iowa, to Hamburg, Germany, where homeschooling has been banned for over a century. Students have discovered that alternative school arrangements can offer more flexibility to manage differences, pandemic stress, and distractions.
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s presence is magnetic. Stepping out to the podium at the 2014 Bioneers Conference – an annual forum for topics like climate change and human rights – her silver hair hangs loosely, framing a pair of leather earrings decorated with small pink flowers. She greets the crowd with a large smile, and when she speaks, the room falls silent and the audience listens closely:
“Let us begin today with gratitude … of food to eat, of sweet air to breathe this morning, the preciousness of water, the companionship of clouds, and geese, and sugar maples. Gratitude for each other, for the privilege of our work together, and for the original peoples in whose homeland we meet, and for the more-than-human beings with whom we share the earth.”
Such poetic and tender, prayer-like words come as a surprise for some when they realize that these are the words of a scientist and professor.
It’s so easy to take peace for granted, when we have it.
In my 2012 book, The Great Game: Berlin-Warsaw Express and Other Stories, the character Cal, an American writer living in Berlin, commits the sin of lamenting peace as dull. Boarding the train for Warsaw at Zoo station, looking out his window as the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate slip by, he reflects on how “concrete, barbed wire and gun turrets had been replaced by a currywurst stand, shoe stores, and other unremarkable trappings of the everyday. Everything looked so normal, as if people had never argued let alone fought here. The graveyard of communism and fascism looked beautiful with its flowers and its river in the sunshine.”
But Cal – named for his safe, privileged, native California – was frustrated. “The banality of today’s prosperity be damned,” he thought. “‘Orson Welles was right about the cuckoo clocks.’ On this day, Cal was not interested in sunshine, flowers and rivers. He wanted shadows, smoke and bastards. He wanted danger.”