Last summer, I spent two weeks as an interpreter for the US-Russia Peer-to-Peer Program in the southern Muslim-majority region of Karachaevo-Cherkesiа in Arkhyz. The program united University of Oregon and North-Caucasus Federal University students in a cultural exchange of ideas about civil society and healthy life choices for youth in both countries. Together, we toured Russia’s modest, but developing, civil society scene. It was my job to translate museum tours, student lectures, seminars, one-on-one interactions, and teach English to Russian students.

After days of careful translating in larger Russian cities, I moved with my group to Arkhyz, a peaceful village surrounded by the gallant Arkhyz mountains, situated near the Georgian border. Everybody in town knew the Americans had arrived; cars honked at us as we trekked to our youth hostel. Along the way, a mosque stood right across from an orthodox church, I wondered how two distinctive religions, traditions could live in harmony.

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