Step inside a gold-painted shipping container in downtown Washington, midway between the White House and the Capitol, and, for 20 minutes, you can make a new friend in Afghanistan, Cuba or Iran. ‘What would make today a good day for you?’ is the ice-breaking question that visitors to the Portals project are invited to use to strike up a transnational conversation via a sometimes shaky Internet video link. Situated in the Ronald Reagan Building’s Woodrow Wilson Plaza off Pennsylvania Avenue, Portals encourages one-on-one contact between typical Americans and folks in Herat, Havana and Tehran. ‘Now I have a friend in Cuba and he has a friend in the United States,’ said Niloofar Jebelli, 23, as she emerged Friday from her virtual meet-up with a counterpart in Havana. ‘This was amazing because I don’t know anyone from Cuba who is in Cuba now,’ the graduate

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