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In yesterday’s Thanksgiving reading, Mariya’s interview, we learned about the early life and Foreign Service career of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond.  Today we’ll read about their experiences at Fletcher, where they met. 

How did you meet at Fletcher?

From the Haymond photo album: Dusadee Haymond in front of Fletcher Field during her student days, with Fletcher buildings in the background

Peter Haymond: Because of my background in Thailand, I sought out the Thai students at Fletcher when I first got there.  The student I was probably closest to was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as we got into the second year, he of course introduced me to the new crop of Thai students, and that’s when I met Dusadee for the first time.  She was already a diplomat for Thailand.  She assumed at the beginning that our graduating class years [Dusadee, F87 and Peter, F86] meant that I was older than her which led to, in the Thai way, showing respect for seniors.  A few months in, she found out that wasn’t necessarily the case.

We dated the summer after my first year.  Beginning from when I departed for Morocco (after completing my MALD), I was writing a weekly letter to this young woman here who I had met the previous year.  We had three years of weekly exchange of the old airmail grams, folding in three parts.  There was no email.  Phones were prohibitively expensive. We met once a year at one place or another.

Dusadee Haymond: I remember we met in the cafeteria and he greeted me in Thai!  But I just wanted to study so we were good friends for a year.  Then we dated summer of 1986 and got married in 1989.  For three years we were split, he wrote these beautiful, romantic letters.  Usually my responses were complaints, but he was romantic.

PH:  Our theme song was “Yesterday is Here” by Tom Waits.

Well today’s grey skies
Tomorrow is tears
You’ll have to wait ‘til yesterday’s here.

Mr. Haymond, what inspired you to complete a PhD after your MALD?

PH: I worked a bit for Dirck Stryker, [former] professor of economics who did a lot of development projects in Francophone Africa.  The summer between my first and second years, I spent at a livestock project he was doing in Niger.  When I was coming to the end of my MALD and casting about what to do next, he helped me learn about and apply for a Shell Fellowship, and found me a place to land with one of his collaborators in Morocco.  So I went to Morocco for a year as a teaching assistant with this professor at l’Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture in the city of Meknes, and did research for what turned into a dissertation.  It was on small-scale fruit and vegetable markets and the role of middlemen, because at the time there was a move in Morocco to try to take control of agricultural markets that were not already controlled by the government.

When I got tired of writing, I moved to Thailand to get married and worked two years — one year teaching English and economics at a private university and one year working in a financial firm — while she was continuing on with her diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  I was working on my dissertation in the evenings, which is why it took so long.  And Dusadee kept reminding me that our agreement was she would only get married to someone with a PhD.

DH: Actually, I did that because his dad came around and asked me to make sure that Pete finished his PhD.  So I set the condition for getting married.

From the Hayden photo album: Peter and Dusadee Haymond (side-by-side on the right) with fellow Fletcher students.

Did you partake in activities at Fletcher?

DH: I didn’t attend parties much because I didn’t feel comfortable with my English.  I did a lot of Thai cultural promotion — Thai nights, cook Thai food, dress up in Thai clothes, and teach others simple dances.

PH: I hung out with the Thai students a lot.  Can’t say I was the most social person at Fletcher, but I was comfortable with the Thai students in general because of my background.

What were some of your favorite classes at Fletcher? Any particular class you recommend as a must-take?

PH: I was a development economics person and had a background in Asia, so I enjoyed those classes.  Some of the classes and lectures that had the most impact on me were when I tried something that was out of my comfort zone, where I did diplomatic history.  For example, a professor who had been there for 30 years gave a lecture on the Balkans and it was stunning.  I enjoyed and sought out classes following my particular interests, but the ones that made the most memorable impression were often ones where I didn’t know much going in and I wasn’t expecting anything.

DH: I was majoring in diplomatic history.  I remember a really good background course “History of U.S. Foreign Policy” taught by Professor Alan Henrickson. He is my favorite!  For a foreign diplomat, it gave you the across-the-aisle viewpoint about why Americans think a certain way and do certain things.

Any final words?

DH: Remember, the connections you make at Fletcher last a lifetime.

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If you’re off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving, you may find yourself with extra time to read, and when it comes to providing reading materials, I’m at your service.  Back in the summer, Student Stories blogger Mariya interviewed the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, along with his wife (and fellow Fletcher graduate).  The interview, which has been condensed slightly, will appear today and tomorrow on the blog.

It’s true what they say about the Fletcher community: it is everywhere.  This past summer in Bangkok, I met a lot of Fletcher students and alumni of all ages.  I’d like to share the story of two of them.

During the HR onboarding for my internship at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, I was given a folder full of materials about Mission Thailand.  As I skimmed over the bios of Ambassador Glyn Davies and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond, I was excited to learn that DCM Haymond is a Fletcher alum.  My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to learn more about his time at Fletcher, but waited for a conversation opportunity to come up naturally.  One week later, at the Gay Pride Reception at the Ambassador’s residence, I ran into a cheerful Thai woman called Ms. Dusadee.  She gave me a hug, and told me she also graduated from Fletcher.  I was touched by her warm gesture and became even more excited to meet the Fletcher alumni at Mission Thailand.  It took me another five minutes of conversation to realize that Ms. Dusadee was the wife of DCM Haymond — and they met at Fletcher!  I blurted out: “I would love to interview you and Mr. Haymond.”  Ms. Dusadee smiled and replied, “Of course, of course, I’ll invite you for lunch at the Raj.”

I wasn’t sure what the “Raj” was, but I agreed.  One month later, Ms. Dusadee stuck to her promise and invited me for lunch at their beautiful residence at the Rajadamri compound.  In an exclusive interview, here is what I learned about the backgrounds, Fletcher years, and diplomatic careers of Mr. Haymond (MALD, F86 and PhD, F94) and Mrs. Haymond (MALD, F87).

Q:  Tell me a little about your backgrounds.

Dusadee Haymond:  I grew up in Bangkok and attended Mater Dei Catholic Girls School, just around the corner from the U.S. Embassy.  My mom’s family came from the north of Thailand so I always associate myself with the north.  I studied European history at Chulalongkorn University.

Peter Haymond: I was born in Seattle, where my dad was working at Boeing.  We left there when I was three and continued on a series of moves including two and a half years in Thailand in the 1960s, which I call the “Oz of my childhood” — bright, exotic memories from [age] seven to nine.  I went to middle and high school in Prince William County in northern Virginia, and then went on to undergraduate at Brigham Young University.  My dad was originally from Utah and I had only visited relatives there, so it was a way to get in touch with my Mormon roots.

What was your path to Fletcher?

PH: While in Utah, I took two years off to do voluntary missionary service.  They sent me back to Thailand, and that’s when I learned Thai.  Coming back from that experience, I was studying economics and international relations.  I was interested in something international.  I was looking at law school, but in the end decided I wasn’t really interested in being a lawyer.  The best lecturing professor I had during my undergraduate years was head of the IR department, and when I started to look at graduate programs, he called me in and told me about this graduate school for international affairs out in Boston.  He had graduated from Fletcher some years earlier and offered to set me up with the dean who was coming out to make his circuits of various universities in the west.  I had a talk with [former Admissions] Dean Charles Shane, who later took Dusadee in as a host family and whose daughter became one of Dusadee’s closest friends at Fletcher.

DH: I always wanted to study in America.  But my family comes from middle class.  Both my parents worked for the government.  So I knew I had to look for scholarships and take a lot of exams.  I attended Fletcher through the full-tuition Fulbright Peurifoy Scholarship.  In return for my two years of study, I had to come back and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twice as long — four years.

What led you to the Foreign Service in your respective countries?

PH: I had lived in Thailand twice, was interested in economics and international economic development.  I like living in countries for extended periods of time to get a feel for the people and language and the culture, and the Foreign Service offered that while being able to represent the American people.  For me, it’s been a great bargain.

DH: Destiny.  Actually, I wanted to be a professor at a university.  I was teaching on a contract when I heard about the foreign service exam from my friends, and I said, “why not?”  I took it and passed it.  Then I got the Fulbright to study at Fletcher, and I met Pete…so it was destiny.  I’m willing to take an opportunity when it comes.  I studied Western history in college, so from the start, I wanted to be a bridge that promotes understanding between East and West.

Because of my scholarship, I needed to come back and work for the Thai Foreign Service for four years.  I almost finished my service but with a few months left, Pete was called to join the U.S. Foreign Service and we didn’t want to be separated for too long.  We had a baby too, so we had to make a decision.  So Pete paid back almost $3,000 for what I still owed the government, and I used to tease him that he bought me off. <chuckles>

PH: We had a big decision to make.  We had to either go with her Ministry, where I was the dependent diplomatic spouse finding things to do, or go with the U.S. Ministry.  Given they paid a little more, and our daughter had just been born, we decided to go with the U.S. side.  That’s led to Dusadee’s 25 years as an eligible family member.

Ms. Dusadee, how has it been, being an eligible family member (EFM)?

DH: I have to say it is very tough for foreign service spouses, who tend to be drawn from the same economic, educational, professional level as the foreign service officers (FSO).  It’s tough because for the FSO, you move into a different country and you already have a job waiting, there is a structure for you.  But for the FSO spouse, you have to change the country and then find the new support system for the kids, pets, car, domestic assistance, etc.  And then start looking for a job if there is something appropriate you’d like to do.  But I have to say for myself, State Department has been very supportive.  The Family Liaison Office in Washington does a great job taking care of family members, especially finding work for trailing spouses.  My advice for the newer generation is to try a career that is portable like a teacher at an international school or a nurse.  I have been teaching, working for the Embassy, learning new languages, and writing or translating work on my own.  I’ve taught at Foreign Service Institute for two different stints and the International School in Korea.  One thing that has certainly helped is my Fletcher education.  I was once hired for a Foreign Service Officer-equivalent job at the State Department for two years working on trafficking-in-persons issues in Southeast Asia.  Everyone looks at the Fletcher degree, and says “wow, she is qualified for an FSO job.”  No questions asked.

Can you tell me more about your writing?

DH: The summer before I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, one of the magazines was looking for a writer and one of my professors knew I loved to write.  So my friend and I started a travel magazine that is still in print called “Tour Around the World.”  I wrote monthly travel articles for several years, but when I went to Fletcher, I didn’t have a lot of time for research-based writing.  I decided the experience as a foreign student in the U.S. was interesting, so I started writing a monthly column on life as an American graduate student, everyday life, studying, trips around New England, entertainment.  When I came back, the magazine compiled my columns and published them in a book which became one of the best sellers for that publisher at the time.  The title of the book is in slang Thai, translates to “Studying in the States.”

I’ve also translated a number of books, including a short history of Laos by an Australian historian, Galileo’s Daughter, and a semi-illegal book in China called Will the Boat Sink the Water in which a journalist chronicles abuses of Chinese peasantry.

Was interracial marriage difficult?

DH: It was tough at the beginning.  During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of GIs in Thailand.  A lot of them married Thai wives.  Unfortunately, many of these wives were not educated.  When I came back to visit my family in Thailand, I had to wear my best clothes, wear good jewelry, and speak English to differentiate myself.  Later on, it became more fashionable to marry Caucasians.  Fortunately, my family realized Pete was a good man.  Education was the most important thing for them, but still it was a risk for me to quit my good career and follow him.  And Pete has proved himself.  They’re all very proud of him.

PH: From my side of the family, they were excited and pleased because they had nothing but positive memories from Thailand from back in the 1960s.

How many languages do you speak?

PH: I speak Thai, Lao, Mandarin, and some French and very basic Korean. [On July 27, Mr. Haymond was one of four foreigners to receive the Thai Language Proficiency Award by the Ministry of Culture for excellent mastery of the language.]

DH: I speak Thai, Lao and English and I’ve studied French and Mandarin.  My proudest moment in Beijing was when I went to a market and the vendor asked me “are you from Yunnan?” — a southwestern province where there are a lot of ethnic minorities.  I was being taken not as a foreigner, but as a Chinese citizen of another ethnic group.  I  took it as a compliment!  But you know, my Chinese is very street level because that’s what I used — bought groceries, used the taxi to get around.

Where have you served?

PH: We’ve served in various capacities in Washington; Chengdu and Beijing, China; Laos, Korea; and of course, Thailand.  My favorite post was probably a three-year assignment as a narcotics affairs officer in Laos.  It was the purest fun I’ve had in my entire Foreign Service career, traipsing around the mountains of northern Laos.  I was cutting roads into remote mountain valleys, to which villages then migrated to access the outside.  We built small schools, little clinics, little irrigation systems.  It was very enjoyable, in part because you could see tangible positive results from the work!

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in international affairs?

PH: Take the Foreign Service exam to have that option open.  You may find something you’re more interested in, and if you find that, by all means take it.  But the exam is a minimal investment in time to keep the option open that can provide a rewarding career.

The world needs dedicated, passionate, interested Americans engaging in public service, in NGO work, in business around the world.  Most important is the day-to-day work, the Americans they meet in walks of life in capitals around the world.  In that sense, students of Fletcher that go abroad will all be ambassadors of the United States because the U.S. will be interpreted as a place that produces people like them — for good or for ill.  For someone who is meeting an American for the first time, those informal ambassadors are America.

Depends on what your stomach is for risk.  I have utmost respect for people who are brave enough to jump from a job in one country to one in another on their own.  The Foreign Service has worked for me because there’s regular change, but within structure.  I’d add that the Fletcher background helps maintain a lot of options, particularly in international careers.

DH:  If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, keep in mind that it’s a family unit.  Always consult your spouse when deciding on a new assignment.  Foreign Service is a family decision.  It’s not his or her life, it’s our lives together.

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Is it true that Admissions folks try to make matches among our applicants when we decide to admit them?  No, of course not!  But I can say that there are folks on this list whom I knew before they knew each other, so I’m more than willing to claim a role in their happiness.  Continuing with our Valentine’s week celebration of Fletcher couples, please meet another twelve alumni.

Bria, F12, and Ivan, F12
We met on the first day of Fletcher orientation in 2010.  We soon became good friends and often met for lunch in Mugar Café.  During our second year, we stopped being shy and went on our first dates.  Our favorite memory of that time was dancing away during Africana Night, the last cultural night of our Fletcher experience.  We got married in 2015 and have since been living in South Asia, where we both work for the U.S. Foreign Service.  Thanks for bringing us together, Fletcher!

Ivan and Bria


Laura, F92, and Mark, F90 (MALD) and F93 (PhD)

Laura was working at Fletcher on a China education program.  Mark had finished his PhD orals and needed a job.  Mark was hired.  Flirting ensued.  Engagement six months later.  Wedding at Tufts Goddard Chapel in the company of many Fletcher friends.  Twenty-five years later, international adventures continue to unfold, including stints living in Hong Kong and Mexico.  Mark and Laura now live in Denver, and have two boys, Nathan (21) and Theo (18).

Mark and Laura


Hammad, F11, and Manny, F12

Hammad and Manny met at the entrance of Blakeley Hall on Admitted Students Day in April 2010.  What began as a simple friendship, after Manny enrolled at Fletcher, turned into a long-distance relationship — as those pursuing international careers might know all too well.  In spring of 2011, Manny had one year left to complete his MALD program and Hammad was set to join the U.S. Foreign Service upon graduation.  With some luck, Hammad’s first post was Washington, DC, paving the way for his frequent return visits to Fletcher.  The relationship blossomed into a six-year courtship across five cities: Medford, Washington, Caracas, Tunis, and Mexico City.  The couple fondly recall their memories from Medford: joint study sessions on the third floor of Ginn Library, staying up late to work on the demanding but rewarding DME course with Professor Church, and the active social calendars of the Green House (where Hammad lived his second year) and Blakeley Hall (where Manny lived his first year).  They now both work for the U.S. State Department, and look forward to more globetrotting adventures together.

Hammad and Manny


Filipa, F11, and Chris, F12

We met on October 9, 2010 during Chris’s first semester and Filipa’s last semester at Fletcher.  We know the exact date because we were on our way to a comedy show in downtown Boston (“Arabs Gone Wild”) when we were introduced at a fellow Fletcherite’s house.  After the show, we decided to have dinner in Chinatown and meet friends at a house-party in Porter Square.  Chris walked Filipa home at the end of the night, and what followed were study sessions in the library and computer lab until we went on our first date, to watch a movie at the Somerville Theater.  Filipa moved to New York in the spring, so we quickly got to know the MANY bus routes between New York and Boston.  After Chris’s graduation in 2012 and subsequent move to Washington, DC, we continued to take advantage of the east coast buses to visit each other.  Chris asked Filipa to marry him in June 2014 on the eve of traveling with Fletcher friends to the World Cup in Brazil.  We were married the following year in Evora, Portugal in front of our families, friends, and, of course, our beloved Fletcher family.  We have lived in Washington DC since 2013, where we continue to enjoy sports, comedy, movies, and the occasional inter-city bus ride.

Filipa and Chris - Olive tree

 

Andrew, F12, and Arielle, F12
We were both very fortunate as students to have the opportunity to participate in the Asia Foundation Study Tour in China.  During that trip we bonded over our mutual love of gorging on delicious food and exploring new places, both of which we continue to do today!  We are currently living in Seoul, South Korea working at the U.S. Embassy.  Should any fellow Fletcher grads make it out this way, we would love to grab a bite to eat with you!

Andrew and Arielle

 

Nathan, F13, and Ana, F13
We had common friends at Fletcher, but despite this, during our two years at Fletcher, we never got to know each other well.  Nathan, a music-frisbee-development passionate guy.  Ana, a zumba-library-Middle East club girl.  It was only after graduation that our paths crossed in a strange but amazing way.  Nathan found himself house searching and, at the insistence of one of Ana’s roommates — and Nathan’s amazing cookies — Nathan moved into the empty room of an apartment with Ana and her friends.  Who would have predicted this was going to change our lives!  During our early morning coffees, Ana got ready for work and Nathan would share his job-hunting stories, his latest guitar song, or just the quiet of the early morning summer in Boston.  While he was looking for jobs away from Boston, Ana was also making plans — to move away from the U.S.  In the meantime, we became good friends and Nathan stayed by Ana’s side during a surgery that summer.  While she was recovering, he got a job in Washington, DC and he moved in late in August.  And it was then when we both realized how much we meant to each other, and how much we wanted to be in each other’s lives.  We skyped, talked, emailed, and saw each other as much as we could, mostly living in different places, adding up to more than 20 different cities around the world.  Ana moved to southern Turkey, where we currently both live, in 2014, and Nathan joined in 2015. We got married in August 2016 in Boston, a city that will always have a special place in our lives.

Ana and Nathan

And Nathan and Ana’s photo at the School is a fitting conclusion to our Fletcher Couples feature.  I’m already looking forward to Valentine’s Day 2018 to reach out to more married alumni and hear their stories.  Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out the photo album on Fletcher Facebook page for more Fletcher couples.

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I love learning about Fletcher couples!  And this year, in time for today’s Valentine’s Day holiday, I’ve been working on a joyful project — seeking out couples among our alumni.  I reached out to a few people whom I expected would be good sources, and soon my email was sprinkled with happy photos and the couples’ stories, which I’ve shared below in their own words.

Sigh…so great.

I’ve written now and then about Fletcher couples, but they’ve usually been folks I knew.  For this first Valentine’s Special, featured on the blog and the Fletcher Facebook page, recent graduates are a little over-represented.  Now that I know how fun it is to gather these stories, I will commit myself to bringing more graduation-year diversity to the feature.  But now, let’s meet some of the couples! 

Gerardo, F11, and Ana, F12 and current PhD candidate
Our families have been friends for decades.  We’ve known each other since we were little.  We planned our wedding as we were applying to schools in the U.S. and we went to several Open Houses.  We both fell in love with Fletcher, and that is where we ended up having an extended honeymoon!

Ana and Gerardo

 

Jessica, F16, and Abishek, F14
We met during the 2013-2014 academic year while living in Blakeley Hall.  We recently celebrated our wedding in Allahabad, India on January 22, 2017.

Jessica and Abishek's wedding, with Fletcher friends.

Jessica and Abishek’s wedding, with Fletcher friends.

 

Chris, F93, and Hilary, F94
We met first in a Tufts Japanese class that we were both taking after returning from Japan on the JET Program, but the romance really happened at the first Blakeley Hall party that same night!  Fletcher was a great place to find someone who had the same perspective on life: an understanding of global cultures and a love of adventure!  Now, it’s more than 20 years later, and that is what still keeps us together, after years of living and working in Germany, New York, and Japan.  Thank you Fletcher!

Chris and Hilary

 

Gregor, F12, and Jenny, F12
Gregor and Jenny met during their Fletcher Orientation in 2010.  They became good friends, and eventually started dating after working in the same econometrics study group in their second semester.  As many of the Fletcher family do, they share a passion for exploring the world, and for good quantitative analysis!  They both work in the international development field with a focus on monitoring & evaluation.  Jenny and Gregor got engaged in Ireland in 2014.  Gregor nervously carried a ring through a four-day hike while looking for an opportune place to propose.  They were married in September 2015 in Annapolis, MD and currently live in Washington, DC with their dog, Lady.

Gregor and Jenny

 

Maddie, F14, and John, F14
Maddie and John met on the first day of MIB pre-orientation at Fletcher.  Maddie sat in the seat directly in front of John in Dean Chakravorti’s Stategic Management course in Mugar 200.  So naturally, Maddie talked to nearly every person in the class except for John.  John tried to get Maddie’s attention for weeks, but to no avail.

Maddie had signed up for a half-marathon in Salem in the middle of September and, upon a fellow classmate’s suggestion, it just so happened that John signed up, too, despite zero training.  Maddie and John ran the entire 13.1 miles together, talking and getting to know each other.  Not long after that, they began dating!

After graduation, they moved to Minneapolis, MN (Maddie’s hometown). John proposed to Maddie a year later, in May 2015, on the historic Stone Arch Bridge, in the pouring rain.  Their wedding was at the Solar Arts Building in Minneapolis and they were fortunate to have many Fletcher friends alongside them in their celebrations.

John and Maddie

 

Leigh, F06 (MALD) and F11 (PhD) and Geoffrey, F07 (MALD) and F11 (PhD)
Professor Andrew Hess and Bernadette Kelley-Lecesse (former Fletcher staff member) played an important role in bringing us together.  There were also some significant upsides to late nights in the Ginn Library.

Geoffrey, Leigh, Audrey (age 6) and Joan (age 2)

Geoffrey, Leigh, Audrey (age 6) and Joan (age 2)

We’ll meet more couples in tomorrow’s post!

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I’ve decided to focus much more of my energy on finding Fletcher couples.  My long-term goal will be to have a lovely collection to share on Valentine’s Day.  Shorter term, I’m just delighted to hear from folks whose relationships formed on campus.

Hanneke + AndrewWe first read about Hanneke when she told us how she heard about her admission to Fletcher.  More recently, she reported on her first year post-Fletcher.  And today, I’m so happy to tell you about her wedding last spring to Andrew, a fellow MALD student.  Although Andrew started his Fletcher studies one year after Hanneke, they both graduated in 2014 because she took an extra year to complete a dual degree with The Friedman School.  Hanneke was a multi-year friend of Admissions — volunteer interviewer, member of the Admissions Committee — and one of these students we are sorry to say goodbye to.  But we’ve kept in touch and I couldn’t be happier that she and Andrew (whom I regret I didn’t get to know) met here!

Some details from their story that Hanneke provided:

  • At the April 2012 Admitted Students Open House, Andrew sat in on a student panel.  Hanneke was one of the presenting students.  He mentioned this to her when they re-met in fall 2012.
  • They started dating in fall 2013, during her third year and his second year, largely helped along by time spent together with Fletcher Runners.
  • They got engaged in Johannesburg in 2015 while she was living in Malawi.
  • Their wedding was in Austin, Texas, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  (Note the beautiful wildflowers in their photo.)
  • Fletcher was very well represented at the wedding and on the dance floor.
  • The tie that Andrew and his groomsmen wore is from their classmate Dan’s Corridor NYC clothing line.

Hanneke is currently working with the World Food Programme in their Siem Reap, Cambodia office, as part of the Leland International Hunger Fellows program.  Andrew has been conducting research remotely for a U.S. based organization.  Soon, they will be moving to Phnom Penh, where they will stay for another year.

And here’s the Fletcher contingent.  So many familiar faces — I love Fletcher weddings!

Hanneke + Andrew, Fletcher guests

 

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Fletcher couples are just the best.  I can’t keep up with all of them, but I love when I’m lucky enough to hear about their weddings.  Recently, Liz told me about a newly married MIB couple.  Fumi, F16, and Ryota, F15, met during her first year and his second year in the program.  Ryota came to Fletcher from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to which he has since returned.  After graduating just last May, Fumi has joined the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.  Both Ryota and Fumi were very active members of the Fletcher community, as you might guess from their Fletcher flag cake.

Naturally, Kristen (who, among the Admissions staff, works most closely with MIB applicants and students) takes full credit for bringing them together and their subsequent love story.  The rest of the Admissions Staff simply wishes them all the best in their life together!

Fumi and Ryota

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So I answer my office phone one day.  I note the caller ID (“Farzana Hoque”), but the person on the other end is Matt Herbert, a PhD candidate.  Matt and I chat about his reason for calling, but then I ask him about the caller ID.  “Farzana is my wife,” he says.  Then (at my prompting) he goes on to explain that he (a 2010 MALD graduate) met Farzana (a 2012 MALD graduate), during her final semester at Fletcher.  He had just returned from a year living and working in Norway.  They stayed in Boston from 2012 to 2013 (she was working, he continued with the PhD program) while they considered if their relationship might be a keeper.  It was.

In 2013, Matt bought an engagement ring in Nairobi, Kenya, and in 2014, they were married.  Three times.  The first wedding was the one that made everything official, and yet it took place in a car speeding out of Washington, DC.  They needed to fulfill the requirement imposed by their DC marriage license that the formal ceremony be performed in the District.  Matt’s sister, who had obtained legal authority to conduct the wedding, was in the car.  A kiss at the spotlight sealed their “I do’s.”  The second was a “Flash Wedding” — Matt and Farzana’s secret plan to turn a small wedding shower into an actual, though low-key, wedding.  (Matt’s sister officiated this time, too.)

The third wedding took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh — a three-day ceremony filled with dancers, food, and 400 friends and relatives.  Several Fletcher alumni living in Dhaka even made an appearance.

Matt and Farzana now live and work in Washington, DC, except when Matt is in West or North Africa for work or research.  Their life together has already touched on more than the average number of countries, in true Fletcher fashion.

Matt and Farzana

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I love Fletcher couples!  So I was thrilled to hear about a wedding of two 2012 graduates with a special twist.  Megan and Sebastián didn’t meet at Fletcher — they knew each other before, and applied to grad school hoping they would end up in the same place.  I conducted Megan’s evaluative interview and, as I told her just before her graduation, it’s one that stands out in my mind, if only for the wonderful thank-you note she sent, complete with a map of the Dominican Republic (where she was working) and Haiti.

It wasn’t until I featured Fletcher Fútbol in the blog that I connected with Sebastián, but I very much enjoyed my interactions with him about a fun activity that had captured the attention of the entire community.

Naturally, when I heard about the wedding, I reached out to Sebastián, and asked for photos.  He graciously sent several along.  Don’t they look happy?

Sebastian and Megan

Sebastián called the wedding their “Hippy Celebration of Love,” and it took place in August at a lighthouse, in Oak Bluffs, MA.

But here’s the best part.  The wedding was officiated over by Prof. John Hammock, who Sebastián said had “been a mentor for Megan before Fletcher, and I had the pleasure to take his class and receive his advice while in grad school.”

John Hammock, Sebastian and Megan

I don’t know if this is the first time a member of the faculty has conducted a wedding for two alumni, but I know it’s the first time I’ve ever heard about it.  One of the best ever Fletcher weddings!

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I’ve written before about my friend Charles, an alum dating back to my first (pre-Admissions) Fletcher career.  There was his 2009 bike trip across the length of Japan with his son, Sho.  And there was his 2011 trip around Iceland with both Sho and his daughter, Saya.  I didn’t get around to profiling his lower-key trip over the Alps with extended family last summer, but they’re on the road again now.

Charlie, Sho and SayaFollowing a drive from New York to St. Louis — where Charles, his wife Eiko (Fletcher graduate working at the United Nations), Sho and Saya explored the starting point for the Lewis and Clark trek to the Pacific — and then a further drive to North Dakota, where Eiko turned back toward New York, Charles, Sho and Saya started cycling along the Lewis and Clark expedition route.  They’re chronicling their adventure, which has also been featured in publications as diverse as Outside MagazineNational Geographic online, and a blog for Capital C, a documentary about crowd-funding.  (In one of the better, but also stranger, areas of recognition, for Father’s Day a New York family-oriented website selected Charles as one of “New York City’s Coolest Dads.”) Connected with follow-up to the trip, Charles launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to write and lecture about their travels.

I should also provide the Fletcher context.  Charles and Eiko met here at Fletcher and then moved off to New York to start their careers, Eiko with the UN, and Charles with a business association, followed by an extended stint with Intel Corporation.  (All fairly Fletcherish up to that point, and we all love Fletcher couples!)  But then, in July 2011, Charles decided to dedicate himself to promoting family adventure travel.  One book, many talks and the bike trips mentioned above later, and he’s on his way to the Pacific Ocean.  Eiko, meanwhile, continues to do serious work in peacekeeping for the UN (including an half-year stretch in Libya in 2012), while supporting the cycling adventures of her family.

I hope you’ll enjoy following the ride over the Rockies for Charles, Sho, and Saya!

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It would be entirely frivolous for Admissions staff members to emphasize their role as match-makers.  First, making matches is not an appropriate use of our time.  Second, once we admit students, we can’t control who meets whom.

And yet…many students meet their spouses while at Fletcher, and I have decided to take credit for the happiness of two 2012 grads.  I first met Ho-Ming in 2007, when she visited for an interview before she applied to Fletcher and, later, deferred her enrollment.  Then, in the fall of 2009, I interviewed Aaron.  Probably, I didn’t have wedded bliss in mind as I spoke to them as applicants.  Probably.  But just maybe, I knew, in the depths of my subconscious, that here were two prospective students who were meant for each other.

I think it’s fair to say that Ho-Ming and Aaron left campus after graduation in May with a lot of balls in the air, creating some uncertainty in their lives, but one thing was clear — they were going to drive cross-country before embarking on the next phase.  So they bought an old van (Volkswagon Vanagon to be precise), adopted a puppy (Bean), and headed west.  Along the way, they eloped!

Here they are, with Bean and the van:

And here they are, in Chicago, looking all married:

And now they’re in Indonesia, where Aaron has a job and Ho-Ming (last I heard) seemed well on her way to landing one of her own.

After I emailed Ho-Ming to ask if I could write about her and Aaron in the blog, she gave me the o.k. and noted that she had recently seen a photo of Fletcher alumni in Washington, DC and that there were four Fletcher couples from her year alone.  “Definitely something about Fletcher,” she wrote.  But most of those couples, I’ll guess, didn’t elope and then travel halfway around the world.

If, like me, you have a soft spot for happy endings, you can read more about the elopement here.  And I should note that I borrowed the photos from that website, which credits them to “I Luv Photo.”

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