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October 08, 2012

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Meg Lark

Living in Germany for three years is what happened to me, but really, living *anywhere* else in the world for a long time is bound to have the same effect - if you do it right, that is, if you don't live in some kind of compound isolated from the society around you. Although we were in the military, my husband spoke German and I learned to speak it fluently over the course of 18 months, and we lived in town, so that in our final 18 months, it was as if we were just one of any of our neighbors who worked on the base. That was 40 years ago, and I *still* do things (like shopping daily for fresh groceries) that I learned over there. And it was living with a bicycle as my main mode of transportation that taught me more about environmentalism than anything I could have picked up in this country.

Jeff Renner

The best 'sense of place', I've found, is connecting from and to the heart of the people that inhabit a place. Numerous experiences have convinced me of this. The first was on a diving trip to Micronesia. Our first descent to the reefs off the island of Palau revealed this was a place of stunning beauty--our entire group gained a new appreciation of the complexity and connections evident in the diverse life forms that dwelled there. But our real 'sense' of Micronesia came one afternoon when our dive guide beached our launches on a small island. A family was gathering coconuts as we enjoyed lunch. A few children wandered over; we sought to entertain them by juggling, balancing coins on the end of our noses, etc. Smiles succeeded where words failed. When it was time to leave, the entire family gathered, linked hands and with broad smiles, sang traditional songs of farewell. It painted an indelible image in our hearts and minds, one that has remained years later, greatly enlarging and enriching my personal world.

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