Currently viewing the tag: "Fletcher couples"

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’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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Bring together a few hundred similarly aged individuals with similar interests, and the result: Fletcher Couples. Some are relatively well known, such as Winston Lord and Bette Bao Lord (both from the Fletcher class of 1960), or Alice and Thomas Pickering (Fletcher class of 1954), but others travel forth, outside of the limelight, balancing two international careers and all that follows, including offspring.

I’ve recently been in touch with two Fletcher couples from my earlier pre-Admissions Fletcher career. Their news has started me thinking about the children of Fletcher grads, and about raising a new internationally minded generation.

The first of the couples is Laura Conti ‘92 and Mark Montgomery MALD’90, PhD’92. Laura and Mark took the standard Fletcher route from Medford/Somerville to their current lives as educators in Denver, Colorado – that is, through Hong Kong and Washington, DC. Thinking the time has come to give their sons Nathan and Theo a sense of the world, they arranged this year for Laura to teach English at a school in Ensenada, Mexico. The boys, and occasionally Mark or Laura, are documenting their adventure on their blog. Many of us can easily relate to the boys’ stories about life in a new language environment! With the ongoing challenges of balancing two careers, Laura is generally running the show, and Mark is commuting when possible from Denver.

Currently sharing an address in New York (having previously endured a bicoastal marriage), Charles Scott ’94 and Eiko Ikegaya ’94 are balancing the demands of their careers at Intel (Charlie) and the United Nations (Eiko) with plans for an adventure of their own.  More precisely, next summer, Charlie will combine his love of motion and his interest in Eiko’s homeland with a father-son bike ride across the length of Japan, a 2,000-mile adventure that will take around two months to complete.  He and his son, Sho, will be riding attached bicycles, while Eiko and their daughter, Saya, will drive a support vehicle for the first week of the journey.  Charlie is planning to keep a blog of his adventures at www.japanbikeride.com, where you can already read details of their itinerary and preparation.

Though we don’t know where life will take Nathan, Theo, Sho, and Saya in the future, we can certainly guess that they’re likely to be comfortable in at least two languages and two cultures. Ten years from now, maybe the first of them will build on their early international experiences (and follow in their parents’ footsteps) with graduate study at Fletcher.

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