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Before getting an opportunity to plant tomatoes in a Belarusian village, US citizen and Fulbright travelling professorRobert Eckhart managed to train teachers of English and take a life-changing step in the Opera and Ballet Theatre in Minsk.
All particulars of Bob’s unusual story are set out in the premiere edition of the Belsat TV entertainment show Welcome у Беларусь / Welcome To Belarus.
Being eager of having тew challenges and preserving more flexibility, Bob retired from The Ohio State University where he had taught 20 years. Why did he decide to come Belarus and teach English?
“Truth? I didn’t choose it. I applied to go to Estonia. But there was no position in Estonia so the Fulbright program asked me to go to Belarus. To be honest, i didn’t know anything about Belarus; I had heard great things about Estonia. I just wanted to be in a capital city in a former USSR country so I could get a new taste of the world!”
As Bob’s career had long revolved around Asia – China, Korea, Japan, he wanted to ‘try this new part of the world’.
Bob Eckhart (R) visiting bike feast
In Belarus, Bob’s project was teacher training at Minsk State Linguistic University.
“I was attached to the MSLU Continuing Education and Retraining Institute for English teachers from all over Belarus so it was perfect! From the moment i arrived, I got to meet and know teachers from all over the country they immediately started inviting me to visit them in Pinsk, Hrodna, Polatsk, and one woman mentioned Dudutki!” Bob said.
He has already visited Polatsk, Pinsk, Nyasvizh/Mir, Smalyavichy, Rakau, Dzyarzhynsk.
“In my opinion, going to Minsk is the best thing that has happened in my life and I am incredibly grateful that I was sent to Minsk, not Tallinn. I think Minsk is the most remarkable city I’ve been to, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Paris, Rome, New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Seoul… I’ve never been to a city as wonderful as Minsk – it is the most beautiful, nicest, cleanest, quietest, least congested city I’ve ever been to,” he stressed.
When asked to name something unique, something that one can see only in Belarus and nowhere else, Bob laughed and said ‘ZUBR!!!’ (European bison). But the thing which impressed him the most was the opera and ballet Bolshoi Belarus. It is one huge reason he wants to return to Minsk. Interestingly, Bob proposed to his future wife Brieanne Beaujolais between the acts of Romeo and Juliet (and there is a proof of it in the show!). Being interviewed by Belsat TV, he jokingly expressed hope that his love story would turn out better than theirs had.
In August, Bob will be back in the USA: he will be giving a three-week course at Ohio University, but his aim is to return to Belarus:
“Belarus is like a heaven for me because it is so multicultural and multilingual. People are Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, German, and Belarusian! It is a multi-ethnic society and part-European, part-Soviet style. The best of both worlds!”
In 2019, Bob would like to ride a complete circle by bike: Vitsebsk, Polatsk, Hrodna, Brest, Pinsk, Mahiliou: