Other Voices


Mohammad Yadegari — hard truths in an immigrant's experience

Mohammad Yadegari of Guilderland has written a book, “Always an Immigrant: A Cultural Memoir” that describes his life in three parts: as a child, growing up in an Iranian family in Iraq; as a young man, learning about life on his own in Tehran; and as a newcomer to America where he studies in Albany, marries, and becomes a teacher. He spent a decade writing the book, crystallizing a lifetime of experiences into compelling stories, which reveal some hard truths. As a schoolboy, he was told by his teacher, describing empires that had over history, risen and fallen, that America did not build an empire but brought many people together and melded into a nation. Deep down, he is sad seeing the news now because he cannot understand how someone feels better than another because of the color of his or her skin. He writes, “We are what we observe, learn, and experience in our momentary journey on earth. The degree that separates us from one another is the way we come to regard our perceptions as facts.” — Photo from Mohammad Yadegari

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Jonathan Feil — cycling across the country

Jonathan Feil is an adventurer. After graduating from Guilderland High School and then earning a bachelor’s degree in agriculture at Cobleskill, Feil wanted to immerse himself in another culture. He joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Gambia in West Africa. After two months of training, Feil was settled in a rural village of about 300 people where he lived with a host family he describes as “awesome.” His host father was an imam and the head religious figure in the village. Feil attended naming ceremonies and funerals; he was learning the language, making friends, and preparing to undertake his first project when, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Peace Corps brought home all of its volunteers. “We were evacuated in 24 hours,” said Feil, calling the sudden departure “heartbreaking.” He has reapplied to volunteer again — he thinks this time in Southeast Asia or South America — once the Peace Corps resumes its work. Back home in Guilderland, Feil said, he wasn’t ready for the “9-to-5, day-to-day grind,” but craved adventure. So, while the rest of us were hunkered down at home, Feil packed a tent and camping gear onto his bike and, solo, set off to pedal across the country. He’s pictured here in Sublette, Kansas on June 30. We caught up with him — for a podcast — in Colorado, on July 10, the day he was to head up the Rockies. A Guilderland friend is to join him in Utah and they plan to make the last leg of the journey together. Feil said his body adapted quickly to the rigors of biking 80 to 100 miles a day but the “mental game” of pedaling alone was tougher. “It all sounds magical,” he said, of biking across the country, but “when you’re doing it, a lot of it sucks.” He concluded, “You gotta just keep pedaling.” — Photo from Jonathan Feil