One of the major advantages of global study and travel is that we get a perspective on opportunities we may observe more clearly in a foreign land. When Anna Safronova, a student from Russia, came to the United States she had this experience, which revealed her life’s work. What ignited the spark in you to start My Dream City international? How did the idea for it come about? The idea of the project is rooted in my own personal experience. During my high school exchange year in the USA, I spent a significant amount of time volunteering as a teacher assistant at a local art museum. There I became friends with an orphaned elementary school student who lived in a foster home. He was 9 at that time but had already changed several families. It was obvious that he encountered more challenges in his childhood than other students. But his story inspired me to think about even less fortunate kids. Despite not having natural parents he led a completely normal life, went to a regular school, had extracurricular activities and felt included into the community. In many other countries that have institutional care for orphans those children experience a very traumatic separation from the society. For many children who enter these facilities, there is little realistic hope for a fulfilling life. The contrast between the foster kid’s life and those led by orphans in many countries around the world seemed to be too striking and too unfair. Upon my return, I decided to do something about it starting in my hometown in Russia. At the age of 17, I visited a local orphanage for the first time. And that is how MDC International started. The MDC international is aimed at providing tutoring and mentorship opportunities for kids living in orphanages. The company’s mission is to facilitate kids’ transition from institutional care to adulthood, help them become self-sufficient and craft the future of their dreams. A large part of the curriculum is focused on empowering kids through building their self-esteem and self-worth as well as providing them with hard skills to develop their natural talent.
A crowded metro full of sweaty Germans on one of the hottest days of the year isn’t exactly the ideal space for inspiration. It’s not an ideal space for anything, really. Unless you just like being in a cramped space with sweaty Germans. But hey, to each their own, I guess.
So, here I was, sitting in a metro in Frankfurt, Germany (where I’m living for the next year) when two families hop on board. One of the families were presumably of German heritage and the other of Middle Eastern heritage (I’m not sure of the exact country), but they didn’t know each other, and each couple had a baby, both around the same age. Each of them somehow managed to fit into the sweaty mass of humans and once the metro starts up, the absolute worst thing happens. One of the babies starts crying and screaming like he just heard a Donald Trump speech. Yeah great, just what I wanted! Adding a crying toddler to the sweaty German metro mixture was just perfect, ya know?
But then, as I was turning up the volume on the new Carly Rae Jepsen album and trying to block out the crying, the non-squealing baby starts giggling and smiling at the squealing baby. And all of a sudden, at the snap of a finger, the crying stopped. Both babies start smiling and giggling at each other, which was kind of cute, but also still kind of annoying because they were interrupting my Queen Jepsen time.
As the babies started laughing, the two couples started smiling and making eye contact with the each other. Even some strangers gave a little grin at the babies just doing their cute thing.
Now, the point of this article isn’t to talk about cute babies or how gross that sweaty metro ride was, even though I could easily do that. We all know the world pretty much seems like it’s going to complete and utter shit right now. When I hear the news, this is how I imagine the world:
Over the last four years, we’ve asked our readers to rate a city’s “friendliness” in the Readers’ Choice Awards survey, especially with respect to where you felt welcome (and where you did not). Did an outgoing local show you the way? Was the city easy to navigate? Some 128,000 people took the survey in 2015—and for the first time ever, we’re seeing how U.S. cities compare to the rest of the world. Counting down, here are the unfriendliest cities in the world…
See the full list of friendliest and unfriendliest cities in the world
It’s the people who make Taiwan my second-favorite country in the world to visit.
The Taiwanese people have a very appealing confidence in themselves that has been forged through decades of struggle with China, as well as 50 years of Japanese cultural influence when Taiwan was under colonial rule from 1895-1945. This self-confidence allows the Taiwanese to turn outward towards other countries, as cosmopolitan, refined citizens of the new global order.
Taiwan blooms with an infectious passion for living. And one of the best ways to experience that vibrant life is on a bicycle. Owner Alex Chang of Taiwan Cycling took me on an unforgettable day trip outside the city of Taipei, and we pedaled through lush, verdant countryside from the mountains down to the sea shore. The villages were charming, and the people were smiling and friendly.
Whereas driving a car through a neighborhood is too fast to take in the ambiance, and walking can be tiring after a few hours, biking is just right. You can roll slow enough to take in a lot of the daily life in a village, while still enjoying the exhilaration of balancing on two skinny wheels with the gentle breeze on your skin.
The Grand Hyatt Taipei was the first of two hotels I sampled in Taipei, and their Yunjin Restaurant stood out for a delicacy to which I am addicted, known as the Sichuan Peppercorn (ask for 香椒子 xiāng jiāo zi, “aromatic peppercorn” or 青花椒 qīng huā jiāo. See the green branch below).