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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Schwark


Welcome! добро пожаловать!

So I’ve started a blog and you’ve started to read it and that’s great. This is going to be a collection of thoughts, stories and advice about my life as a non-profit worker, married to a Russian, moving to Russia while also pursuing a passion for photography.

If that’s not a niche market for a blog...I don’t know what is.

I won’t rehash who I am, you can find a short intro here on my site. Instead I’ll start with where I’ve been the last four months and we’ll go from there.

V at the park in Banner Elk
V at the park in Banner Elk

I’ve been living near Banner Elk in a small apartment, courtesy of a wonderful man who has taken Viktoriya (that’s my wife) and myself in like family. Since ending my two years in Guatemala as a Field Worker for First Things Foundation it feels as though we have never stayed in one place for more than a month. Banner Elk changed that.

Located in the South West of North Carolina, 30 minutes South of Boone, Banner Elk is a small college town with a few restaurants, some skiing, and a lot of winding roads. The idyllic Blue Ridge Parkway is not far away and will take you to other quaint towns like Blowing Rock. The scenery is stunning. Autumn is unreal and the winters keep things interesting.

And there’s the people. They are genuine, warm-hearted, and not what I was expecting. I heard stories of mountain communities being tight knit and exclusive, but have found nothing but goodwill in the community members here. Since arriving I have worked closely with Feeding Avery Families a non-profit food bank located in Newland, not far from where I live. Every Friday sees volunteers come in from around the surrounding communities and give their time to serve people in need.

Volunteers at Feeding Avery Families
Volunteers at Feeding Avery Families

Often I’ve wondered about the motivation behind the volunteers. I won’t speculate, and I’ve never really asked, but I do know that regardless of reason the time they spend in service is meaningful and perhaps spiritually sustaining for many of them. The soul benefits from opportunities like Feeding Avery Families.

Viktoriya and I have made friends and despite the relatively short amount of time we have spent here, I am genuinely sad to leave it. Making friends in new places can be a challenge and I struggle with the idea that I’ll have to start all over again.

The next time in Russia.

Apartments in Ufa

In February I leave for Ufa, Russia and a new adventure. Perhaps you’ll stick around and follow along as I chronicle and talk about the experience. I hope to hear from you as well, in the comments or in my email - I’ll be happy to chat any time.

Talk soon.

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