Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Bittersweet Farewell

Obviously, since the end of BFTF, I haven't blogged. Perhaps it's the return to normalcy and adjustments to "real life" that have led me to forget about blogging. But perhaps it's the fact that I know that once I write this conclusion, then I am accepting that what was the best summer of my life is officially concluded.

I had left BFTF early to attend another program. And then after that program, attended another program. It's a busy summer--there's only so much time to pursue things that I love. But at each of the other programs, even while I was laughing with new friends, I felt a longing for the fellows. I would receive multiple Skype calls on my phone during orchestra rehearsals and almost broke into tears at how much I missed my friends. I downloaded applications on my phone exclusively for keeping in touch with some of the European fellows overseas. Sometimes, during free periods at these other camps, I would call some of the fellows and see how they were doing. And we would laugh and reminisce, almost as if BFTF was a period of time long ago.

Thank you to the Department of State for sponsoring this program that has given me some of the truest, kindest, dearest, and most motivated friends of my life. Thank you to the directors and mentors who made this program truly possible--some of you would even become "friendtors".

Even now as I type this farewell blog out, I feel as if I will never blog again. That the things I blogged about before BFTF were trivial, and that nothing could top this experience. When I expressed this sentiment to Mr. Freese, the homestay director, he said, "Nonsense! You'll be moving onto bigger and better things, and BFTF is only the beginning." I don't and can't feel like that yet--it's too soon, and I suppose I am grieving to some extent.

Cucumber crew, Sara Lee signing out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Days 25 and 26

It's over, and my heart is breaking. But I'm also so grateful to have been able to spend time with some of the best students from all over Europe, and I know that we will always be a family.

Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Institute 2012.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 24 - The final few days

Today, we returned to a fairly normal schedule at Wake Forest.

I fell asleep trying to hang out and maximize my time with my friends, so I guess this will be a fairly short blog post! We went to classes to discuss our final product--ours will be a rap battle/debate format. I'm not quite sure how that will turn out, but I'm looking forward to seeing it! In class, we discussed the ideas of what freedoms were and in what order they were ranked in terms of importance. We had some debate over the importances of the right to life and the right to liberty, which surprised me, honestly. It was a reflection of the "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees" sentiment!

Later, children from the Boys and Girls Club of America came to tour "Europe". Everyone gave short presentations about their countries. I learned how to do Eastern European dances, Western European dances (specifically from Belgium with Wouter-Jan), and different little facts about the countries that the fellows were from.

I can't believe that the program is ending soon. I'm feeling pretty sad.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 23 - And a return to "home"

I'm back in the Jennings' home right now, after a trip to the Carolina Beach, and I'm starting to feel a wave of homesickness. A little homesickness for my actual Charlotte home, but actually more for the dorms on Wake Forest's campus (sorry, mom). I miss being with everyone, and being able to see each other fairly easily. Of course, now once everyone returns to their homes, that will become an even larger impossibility. My stomach just dropped.

I'm trying really hard not to think of it right now.

But today was a wonderful last day to my home-stay/"cultural experience". Even though a few of the other fellows teased me a little, saying that the North Carolina cultural experience must be so new and exciting, I really do think to some extent, it was a cultural experience. Because of my Korean-American heritage, I don't often speak English at home, nor does my family act like what might be considered an "American" family.

We came back from Wilmington and Carolina beach, after stopping by a wonderful seafood place. After dinner, Modesta, Denada, and I gave our host family our presents. I had brought Korean traditional fans and magnets. Modesta brought chocolate, a DVD explaining Lithuanian history, a polo shirt, and a wonderful book filled with Lithuanian landscapes (I definitely felt a little bit outclassed). Denada brought Albanian brandy, a statue of Skanderbeg (Albania's national hero), and a flask. I'm surprised she got through customs--the brandy was 40% alcohol!

Sarah, my host sister, me, and Modesta at the beach!

Anyhow, I'm packing for the dorms right now. I can't believe we only have three days left.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 22 - A Day at the Beach


That sentence in itself should evoke images of bluish waters, sandy beaches, heat and humidity, colorful beach houses, calming waves, and child-like happiness.

Needless to say, that image in your head is accurate.

After a three hour drive, my host family and I arrived and headed straight for the beach. We swam, played in the sand, sang, and laughed. Modesta, while searching for shells, found the perfectly intact exoskeleton of a crab. I found some brain coral. My hair, while writing this, is still full of sand after two showers. I found sand in my ears.

Just a few tidbits of my day. The only day in which I've had a full break from this fast-paced program, but not a day in which I didn't learn. I learned parts of the Lithuanian language, learned about general Lithuanian and Albanian views on feminism, used some old music composition skills to try and arrange a version of a song for the talent show. It's going to be a surprise.

After the beach, my family and I headed to downtown Wilmington. There was so much street music and little indie bands were playing everywhere! And my parents told me that they were also in Wilmington with my little brother. Perhaps we will meet up, but perhaps we will not! I miss my family terribly, but I honestly don't want to impose on my host family who have been nothing but incredibly patient and considerate. I just can't wait to see them, but I don't want to leave. xx

-Pictures will come later, when I'm more awake!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 21 - Productivity Part 2

Today was another extension of productivity.

In the morning, after a short convening with everyone in the main auditorium, the human rights group headed off to ReStore, which is a store owned and operated by Habitat for Humanity. In general, I honestly was a little confused by our role there for the most part, but events that unfolded there led to lively discussion later.

For example, when our guide was giving us instructions on what to do, he specifically said that girls should organize because we "were good at making things pretty", while the guys should do the lifting "because it makes them feel manly". While this seemed to be a mild attempt at humor, the fact was that he was completely serious, and kept on recruiting "guys" to lift. To my mentors' credits, they kept on recruiting a mixed bunch of students. Later, this incident would inspire spirited debate about the boundaries of feminism and sexism.

Also, often times, we just seemed to be shifting things from one place to another without any reason. I was initially kind of reluctant to do this, because there seemed to be no purpose. However, later, I realized through discussions that nonprofit organizations, are, in fact, mostly undercover, behind the scenes work. Just because the activity was not as organized nor as interesting doesn't mean that it was crucial. I guess I will never know whether my work actually was important, but can only hope that it was!

After getting back late, we split off into different groups. First, the American fellows convened to plan a surprise that I will discuss later. Second, the human rights group convened to plan another surprise for later.

My host family has decided to go to the beach tomorrow! I'm very excited. Tonight in downtown Winston Salem was also very exciting, though, however. After doing some thrift shopping, we went to eat at the local Mellow Mushroom and go to an outside concert. It was just a nice, normal day--one in which I realized that I've become quite close to my host family. It really was almost like having another family.

Organizing, organizing, organizing

"To funk, or not to funk?"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 20 - Productivity

Today was probably one of the most productive days of my life, let alone my time at BFTF this summer.

After convening to our separate classes this morning, I first headed off to an optional speech given by the directors of Authoring Action, the subject organization of the film produced by one of our mentors, Vanessa. The directors talked about several different things, in more a general sense. For example, how art could be used to portray characters, but not be compartmentalized to just 'art', but reflect a sense of the characters' lives. One of the directors had been a playwright and a movie director, and so he described his philosophies in each of the two media--his advice: shoot a wedding. To capture what is often the biggest moment in anyone's life in a measly one or two hours condensed film would be very difficult--what can you cut out safely on a day that you want to remember forever?

After returning to my human rights lecture, I gave a speech on one of my favorite topics--the history of human and civil rights in regards to United States democratic interventions, or when the United States intervenes in other regions to establish democracies or encourage emerging democracies. But the unfolding events were even more productive and fun.

I didn't go to the Pit for the first time! I went to Shorty's, which is a little American restaurant. But the significance in this is that I attended a lunch meeting with a professor from Wake Forest University. I spoke and ate with a professor in the area of Computer Science. It was amazing to hear him describe some of the issues in cutting edge technology--particularly the idea that some problems, mathematically, have been proven to be impossible to solve. For example, we discussed the idea of an infinite loop that is triggered by faulty programming, and the one-time cipher used in cryptography. Mihaela from Macedonia, Francois, and David were also there.

Then, the human rights group went to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Winston Salem, and helped perform tasks that benefitted a yard sale that would be implemented for various organizations. We mostly sorted through items, but were introduced to how the Second Harvest Food Bank worked, and how non-profit organizations worked.

Then, we came back and went to Little Richard's BBQ and to the AMF Bowling Lanes with many, many different fellows. I'm proud to say that my host family was the one that helped organize this great time with other fellows--and it was so fun. I am also going to say that I will never bowl normally again. It just doesn't work for me.

Molly's sleeping over at my place today! I'm really glad to have made some great friends here, and to build some great relationships. I realized a lot of that tonight.

LPOTD 6. Selfiez with sleepy Sara and Lorik.

"I only roast people if I like them." - Lorik