Bonjour from Nice, France,

My first month abroad has been a whirlwind. Life on the coast seems to move at a slower pace, yet it also feels like my time here has flown by so quickly. Since being in Europe, I’ve already had tea in London, England and spent a whole week traveling around Switzerland. I’ve learned a lot, experienced a lot, and grown a lot.

One of the most impactful experiences happened while I was in Interlaken, Switzerland. My friends and I were staying at a Hostel for three nights. While I was there, I met a young woman from Hong Kong one night. We talked for hours that night about what was happening in her home, country she loved so dearly, and the struggles she and all the families in Hong Kong were going through. I was incredibly moved. I shared how my dad escaped Czechoslovakia with his family when he was young because it was under a communist regime. We discussed everything from the coronavirus outbreak to family to hobbies and continued our conversations the following two nights. As we were parting after three nights there, she told me that if I ever go to Hong Kong I will have a place to stay.

While I can go on and on about how beautiful it is here, the history, and the food, I believe that at the end of the day it’s these somewhat simple human interactions that make the biggest impact on our perspective of the world. What I’ve come to realize is that we, as humans have more similarities than differences, and while those differences make us unique, it is the similarities that truly bind us together.

That young woman from Hong Kong is named Christine. She loves to read good books, travel, and spend time with her loved ones. She is also incredibly brave. She and many other Hong Kong citizens stand in peaceful resistance as China is destroying their once economically thriving country. Hong Kong’s newly ‘elected’ ruler was elected by the Chinese government, not the Hong Kong people. Christine shared that most of her friends that are about to have children are considering leaving their beloved country. The prevalent fear among the Hong Kong people is that soon their beloved country will not exist, as they have known and loved it for so many years. Their home will soon be gone. This is truly a tragedy. My heart and prayers are with the citizens of Hong Kong.

Sincerely,

Mary Elizabeth Matl