Maybe it could only happen in Washington DC, that self-styled bastion of international cognizance.
Dutiful volunteers assisting a State Dept. funded program bringing young people from former Soviet Republic countries to live for a year in the US are listening to a feisty woman student from Romania say that one of her favorite memories of Albuquerque, New Mexico, had to do with rugby.
Of all things. Maybe the audience expected to hear about the glories of the sunset.
It had to do with her playing rugby on a high school team and what that taught her about teamwork. "It's not about being rough," she says emphatically. "You learn skills."
Maybe no one even imagined that rugby for women was being offered today in US high schools. In any event, it was easy to see that the sturdy well spoken self-confident woman had taken full advantage of her time in the US.
She also learned a lot about this country, she said, from taking a class in American feminism (how many knew it was a subject?) when asked what else inspired her to advocate for women's rights so publicly on returning home to Romania? She ended up being nominated by the U.S. Embassy for a 'woman leader of the year' award.
Which she didn't dare tell her parents about, and almost didn't tell them at all about many of her other empowering activities on her return, even though she still lives at home. Maybe she will and maybe she won't.
"Well, you have to understand I come from a military family. Very conservative. They may not understand." Her family didn't even know until the last minute that she had won the scholarship to live with an American family of strangers in the West. She worried they might think it was dangerous since for them, there was a war on everywhere and probably that was happening in America too.
"When I tell them, they have to agree that it was a done thing."
She had first been exposed to such @metoo ideas from the galvanizing women's march of 2017 that brought women together all over the world to stand up for their rights. Back home she was attacked and vilified; the backlash against her efforts was strong and even extended to her family.
She stood firm, unruffled, and decided on a pragmatic tack. "Well from the bad comes the good. I got a lot of publicity out of it and that helped what I was ultimately trying to do," she said.
Sometimes a person can learn more about his or her own country by listening to a foreigner living there.
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