At 27, Matt Stanley, the general manager of Astoria Co-op, has had the courage to pursue his interests - wherever they take him.

For instance, as he and his fraternal twin brother grew up in Waukesha, Wis., outside Milwaukee, they chose Spanish as a world language to study in school. Stanley thought it would be useful because there was a large population of Hispanics working in the service industries around Waukesha. Actually, he said, "Even in Canada - in the service industries - you see a lot of Spanish-speaking people."

Stanley went to work at a hotel whose entire cleaning staff was Hispanic and realized there was a communication breakdown.

"I began to work as an interpreter," he said. "We (Stanley and his brother) just kept pursuing that through college and thought, 'Let's study abroad.'"

So, the brothers went to Spain for a year during their undergraduate studies.

While in Madrid, Stanley witnessed the civic engagement of Spain's college students, as they protested the government taking money away from education programs.

He also witnessed Spain's outpouring of grief and support for the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It was amazing to see how connected they were - there was crying," Stanley said. "I thought, 'I want to do something.'"

He said people already forget that Spain was hit by terrorist bombings in its transit system just 21/2 years later.

Stanley went on to the University of California-San Diego to get a master's degree in International Relations and Pacific Studies, with a regional focus on Latin America. His brother now lives in Chile, working for a volunteer program in which he acts as a medical interpreter.

Stanley took a job working at the Ocean Beach People's Organic Foods Market - a co-op in San Diego - and began moving up the co-op success ladder.

While there, he met his girlfriend, Holly Owen, who certifies organic products.

"I got really into the whole health-food industry," Stanley said. "I like finding unique products that are good for you that you're not going to find anywhere else."

Sure, San Diego enjoys 300 days of sunshine each year, but it's a sprawling city. In San Diego, you have to drive to go almost anywhere, he said.

"We wanted to get out of the big city for awhile. We wanted to go someplace where you could walk to get anything done," Stanley said. "We're appreciating that part of Astoria."

The young couple looked for something that would be a "fit" for Stanley.

"This job appeared on the Internet. I applied and here we are," he said.

Another interest found in Oregon - not so much in San Diego - was mushroom hunting. They recruited the help of a leading local mushroom forager, Veronica Williams.

"Holly and I got into wild mushroom hunting last fall. We found awesome stuff - all these delicacies that we never thought we'd find," Stanley said.

Stanley's still amazed by the contrasts between San Diego and Astoria.

"In San Diego, the sun is relentless," he said. "You start to wish for cloudy days."

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