In the words of Silvia Tijo, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia:
Our visit to Whitefish, Montana ended on Sunday. I had the opportunity to visit Algae Aqua-Culture Technologies as part of my Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project (MTP). They have a Green Power house, which transforms waste into energy with the help of sunlight and algae. The Green Power house is a unique project that I was able to personally experience thanks to the stop made there by the MTP train and to Robin Kelson, the Vice President of Corporate Development at Algea Aqua-Culture Technologies, for the hospitality and tour provided on such a short notice. Although the visit to Whitefish was short, it was productive, and it prepared us for a long trip ending at the Twin Cities (St. Paul / Minneapolis).
Sunday started early with a small group of researchers waking up to enjoy the sunrise over the landscape of Montana. The journey from Whitefish, Montana to Saint-Paul, Minnesota started at 6:30 a.m. when the locomotive pulled the three cabins of the MTP: the Silver Splendor, the Pacific Sands, and the Salisbury Beach. Shortly after departing on this part of the trip, it became an excuse to learn about the beauty of America’s landscape and the diversity of its people.
The Silver Splendor was full of life all Sunday since the entire day we spent in transit. This cabin is where we spend most of our time, and the space morphs as the day progresses: first, as a dining hall; then, a place to hang out; later, office space; and it even became a disco as the train chugged through one of the longest tunnels in the United States.
After breakfast, Julie Ershadi, the Sous chef Simone, and myself chatted while we cracked pistachos needed for lunch. Julie is from Los Angeles, California. She is developing a multimedia project on Iranian – Americans as cultural pioneers and bridge-gappers.
During the morning, we also had a talk with David Bragdon, executive director of Transit Center, Inc. (NYC-based), concerning topics of planning and transport. David, who traveled quite a bit with us on this journey, is a transportation expert as well as a person with insight about our point of origin, Portland, and our point of destination, New York. The Millennials participated actively during the talk. They shared their opinions and experiences concerning the issues of transportation in their cities; furthermore, they described transportation influence on different parts of society. The conversation showed the great interest shared on behalf of this generation to propose solution for mobility problems in urban areas. This talk portrayed the different viewpoints of residents in different parts of USA.
The group reconvened in the afternoon, but this time the talk was led by Acasia Olson, a MTP participant from Virginia. Acasia presented an exercise of reflection around her MTP project called “EmbRace Healing”, which is a project to raise awareness and promote racial healing and reconciliation in the U.S. The workshop was a replica of work conducted by Acasia at each MTP stop; this was a time suitable for participants to share their personal histories and opinions concerning cultural American diversity in cities that have been part of the train route. I believe it was an opportunity to realize that Millennials are open to speak about their cultural diversity to reach agreements that solve differences.
This day on board the MTP, which started early, ended with dinner and a sunset while we headed towards our station at St. Paul, Minnesota on the Empire Builder route. Somewhere on the train, a group of participants are creating a band with two guitars and a saxophone while we continue to push forward towards our next destination.