Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pre-Departure Washington Conference

Hi everyone! Sorry about not keeping up with my posts. I have been very busy and its hard to get Wifi here in Chennai. To start out I just wanted to let you know that I am okay and still alive and not to worry. My host family is wonderful and my Ama ( Mom in Tamil)  is very cautious to make sure that nothing happens to me. I also want to say to all of my friends back home that I miss you dearly and to my family I love all of you guys and I wish that I could see all of you and that I had been there to celebrate fourth of July with everyone. Specifically to my Mom... I am very grateful that I have you as my mother and it broke my heart to see you cry that badly at the airport and I don't want you to worry too badly about me. To Rob... you're absolutely amazing :) and I can't believe you are supporting all of this and I know it really hurts that we won't see eachother for an entire year. I don't want you to sit around missing me though. I want you to be happy and to go out and to hang with Dom, Jt, and Dashon and whoever else it is you hang with.
                                                        Washington D.C.
To begin, I left on June 28th for Washington D.C. to meet 600 other exchange students from around the world inbound and outbound. Only the 50 AFS Kennedy-Lugar Youth scholars were outbound. The rest of the people there were going back to their own countries after spending a year in the U.S.A.  As you can imagine it was pretty overwhelming meeting so many people who are as interested in exchange as I am and I made many friends from around the world. The countries that were there were Mozambique, India, Ghana, South Africa, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Germany, Thailand, Turkey, Morocco, and I think that's it but I may be missing a few.

We spent 4 days in Washington, but I had missed the first day because of a delayed flight and I didn't get into D.C. until 9pm, so I ended up going to a 2 hour workshop and then to bed .We did a lot of very loooong workshops to prepare us for going abroad. Some of them weren't too bad and the last one, where we talked with our group leader about India, was very helpful. After 13 hours of workshops though, I was extremely tired and I had had enough of the orientations. Luckily, it was only for one day.The next day we went to the Indian Embassy and visited the Illinois Senators Kirk and Durbin to speak with them about supporting more funding on exchanges and scholarships. We were put in groups according to each state that we were either from or had been hosted in and in my group there were two Phillipinos, two Indians, two Ghanians, two Malaysians and then there was me. I didn't mind being the only outbound YES abroad student there because I felt special being able to soley represent my cause.

 After meeting with the Senators, we went to the Hyatt hotel to do our cultural orientations about each country. What I have to say about the presentations was WOW! Every culture was so colorful and unique with all of their different dances and music. I absolutely LOVED the music from Mozambique. It had a great beat to dance too and all of the African countries really knew how to break dance and do this thing with there hips where they would basically do a shimmy. The philopines play was very interesting and they had very elaborate props and costumes. They even created these poles to carry the "Princess" onto the stage with 4 guys holding onto each of the long decorated poles. Germany's presentation was very funny and they had all 600 exchangees dancing and jumping up and down and holding hands with this very boppy music. One of the Germans onstage was dressed as the german flag and was wearing a blue spandex suit with the colors of germany's flag on the "wings" they had created and attached onto his arms so that he could run around flapping his arms like a bird. The Saudi Arabians were really good at shaking their hips and everyone rushed to the stage to dance with them and give it a try. I think probably most of the performances made everyone in the audience want to join. Except ours. For the American performance we did square dancing which was an epic fail! We went first and basically only practiced it for an hour at the most. We were all over the place but it was really fun and we just kept laughing at ourselves. After that we sang This Land is Our Land and the second verse only a few of us knew so it was mostly mouthed by the end. Overall the other countries completely outshowed us but it was fun nevertheless. The last day there we said our goodbyes and there were a few tears, but for those of us going to Thailand and India we were very excited to finally begin our trip to our countries:)


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