tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
IT'S SNOWING!!!!!

We were at Buchenwald concentration camp and saw snow everywhere. Chris and Peder and Tom and some other folks kept throwing snowballs at everyone else (including another visiting group). We watched a movie about the history of Buchenwald - it's just bizzare how something like this could have been going on for so long and be considered OK back then by someone...goodness.

Had to miss out on the tour, though, since my foot was acting up again. Sigh.

We had intense discussions about the dark side of eladership and about how things like the Holocaust and similar stuff could have possibly happened...Nina gave some perspective from her grandparents who went through it in some form, about how you had no choice but to go along because the alternative was a lot worse...some thoughts about how in the end most people go only for their self interests and not many would give them up for someone else...

It made me really think about things that may be going on around me that aren't necessarily good. Am I unwittingly supporting or observing another social tragedy? What will the people of 50 years from now say about us, that we did terribly wrong? What's going on around us that we do not know about because information is controlled?

We had a major surprise that night (it was a long evening). After dinner, we were told to go to the hall quietly in a group. I thought "oh no, not another emergency meeting, who's in trouble now". We all went back to the hall...and it was candlelight. They had arranged tea lights in heart shapesn, put heart pillows and heart decorations everywhere, playing romantic music...

Once everyone was seated, the fun began. The music changed to the Love Medley from Moulin Rouge, and Nina came out dancing with a pillow heart. Then two by two the other staff came out coupled, lipsynching and dancing to the different songs. (It was funny how Meliisa and Tom and Bob and Anke got split up and paired with someone else instead!) After that, Bob talked to usabout how it was a long day and a long trip in general, and that they wanted us to know that they really appreciated us. On the wall were hearts with messages for each of us from a staff member. Mine was from Tom:

Hey Tiara,

You care about so many things & people, and I care about you. You are a fabulous girl! Your enthusiasm and optimism are huge! Thanks for starting the care packet for Nanu. You made a big difference in somebody's life. You will know how to put zour talents into fruitful gifts. You definitely are the fastest typer I've ever seen :)

"It's often in the moments that people feel cared about, they start carrying themselves!"

May this truth inspire you to keep up the good heart and the great person you are!

TOM
Up With People
2005


That made me cry so much.

I went up to just about everyone that night and hugged them, told them I loved them too...I hugged Tom the longest because of the note. It really meant a lot to me and it was absolutely perfect timing. I really, really needed that.

Bob and Rob proclaimed me the Original Hugger, because of my ritual of hugging the staff after each Celebration. Bob even threw me (well, my general direction) a heart pillow, and Anke let me keep it. Awh.

We got to see Love Actually that night too...such a fun movie. And it was 5 weeks before christmas, so nice timing. Marina and Celle kept going on about the Brazillian guy that was in the movie (Karl?), hah. But such a great night.

Today we had a gazillion CI projects amongst ourselves - ours was to do a radio show on different countries. Two high school kids and I went to the streets and asked about Malaysia...got a ton of "Never heard of it/Never been ther", but the responses we did get were surprising. Apparently Malaysia is a dictatorship with educated terrorists in the South (where I'm from), loads of jungles, boat people, tigers, and men with hats that have something sticking out of the head. Huh.

Hopefully my presence here will correct some misconceptions...oh for goodness sake, terorist boat people?!

Now off to cuddle my heart pillow and be in love all over again.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Today we had a Group Check-In - sitting in a circle talking about our experiences so far. Originally it was supposed to be just 2 words about how we feel, but that quickly grew to sharing what's in our hearts and minds. Host family frustrations, exhaustion, happiness, all sorts of things.

I talked about the loneliness I felt and how people like Nina came up to help me, though it was something I still need to work on. Knowing people deeper and being comfortable with being vunerable and asking for help. I said I didn't know the crew all that well, and that it would really be a shame for me to leave this amazing program and yet not have a close connection with anyone (since Nanu left).

This sparked a big conversation about getting time to know each other, getting time for ourselves, and just close connections to the group in general. What do we know about each other? What are we telling our host families that we aren't telling the crew? How can we connect?

Somewhere in that discussion Jessica spoke up about needing to know each other better. She then referred to my earlier point and told me (and everyone else) that it wasn't true that I didn't know anyone - my Thank-You Stories (the stories I wrote for each crew member, given to them once they return my NaNo survey) were spot-on, that I captured everyone perfectly through my writing. So really, I did know people more than I thought. Quite a few people agreed with her on that, which surprised me.

This became a bit of a theme for the whole day. I had printed an extra copy of the stories for the whole crew to share amongst themselves (originally the crew members had their own stories to keep). It got passed around, with rave reviews.

Eli kept telling me how amazed she was by the writing, especially the final sentences. She told me that this was really my mode of communication and that it's odd that not many people know about this side of me.

Jessica and Danni were my PR people for this project, always raving about the stories to others. I'm really glad they liked them, I think they were one of the first few to read them.

Krista told me that it was something I should share more. Currently she has the big book; maybe she'll illustrate some of the stories! When I told her that Nina liked my story for her (she told me it was nice and thanked me for it), she said I had perfect timing with the story. I know Nina's been stressed a lot lately but that she doesn't usually show her emotions a lot - she's not extremely affectionate (at least not like Tom, Marco, or I) and she keeps to herself often. I hope my story really did help her feel appreciated, because she is.

Chris came up to me later that night and told me that it was great that I wrote all these notes for everyone and that he really respects me for that. I felt bad because I've been quite an ass to him the first few weeks and here he was being this perfect gentleman. Hopefully things get better.

It's strange, in a way, because I have never really envisioned this kind of reaction. Sure, I hoped people liked it. But it was something I did for a few days because I was ill and bored and needed to write something even though it wasn't November yet. Most of the stories were intensely challenging and half the time I wasn't sure I had captured anyone's personality for real. So all this? Just wow. Amazing.

Now I can't wait till November, just to see how they'll react to the novel. It'll be a lot crazier, but hopefully a lot more fun.

(I'll get to the questions soon! But please send in more!)
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
We are in Hollywood!

Our facility, Wizards Dinner Theater, is AWESOME. Stars and moons and sparkliness everywhere. I cried seeing it; it's gorgeous. We're going to have the most brilliant Celebration in the history of Celebrations, I am sure of it.

I'm rooming with Baljit, Sammi, and Che-Ri this time round; I have the sofa. My choice. We have a guest house all to ourselves - though the Internet isn't working and I don't have much access, so don't expect much in the way of updates.

(This will be similar in Japan - Internet access isn't as common for individuals and some cities are a bit too far off to have cybercafes.)

Yesterday we held a Staff Appreciation Night, where some of us presented our thanks to the staff members. Eli came up with the idea and we all worked hard to keep it a secret! Reuben and K did hilarious impersonations of the staff, and Shinpei and Danni worked together on a song they wrote especially for staff. I even got to do a mini-Huddle at the end of it all. (I was also presenting to Dee Ann.) Fun!

It was an absolutely brilliant and amazing idea; everyone was so touched and honoured by it, staff and students alike. The most pivotal moment was when Yoko was presenting to Ana, but she got so choked up she couldn't speak; Ana just held her close and they embraced in silence for so long. It was just pure LOVE in the room at that point. No words needed to be said, really.

Absolutely beautiful.

Right now I am at the St Francis Center, a place that provides food & supplies to the homeless. We're rotating the Internet access amongst ourselves, so that's how you're getting this update. I've got quite some work to do online, and some people I'm expecting emails from, but oh well...

So far Los Angeles has been awesome. Let's keep it that way.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I don't know when we suddenly had the habit of having "the-future-of-WorldSmart" talks just before our Whisks.

Yesterday Tommy Spaulding, CEO of WorldSmart/Up With People, came to see us to do just that. It got rather passionate and heated and there are still many things left unsaid. It was a talk much needed, but perhaps the timing was rather unfortunate. Nina especially was drained since the Celebrations (a.k.a. Whisks) have been a bone of contention with all the WorldSmart crew (mainly that no one had clued them in on it) - poor girl.

Where is everyone?! Our audience gets smaller and smaller, even though the auditoriums get bigger and bigger. People, please come...it really boosts our morale when we have at least a reasonably-filled audience space.

I managed to talk to Bob about the issues I had with the program, about not being sure where I stand amongst the rest. It was quite an interesting talk...he told me that I was one of the most appreciated people in the program, that I was known for being reliable and energetic and the person to go to when there is a project. He told me not to worry so much about making people uncomfortable (i.e. don't compare myself to Parker, which I was doing for a while) but yet told me that there are ways to change if need be and I have all the tools to do that. That was really refreshing and I'm glad I got to talk to someone about it, especially someone who is fair and just and still compassionate. Thanks Bob.

Neshat bought me a pencil from the Grand Canyon (I didn't go because I was resting) because I saved her a seat on the bus all the time. Reuben gave me a hug and said "thanks for everything". Nina and JC were talking about the new Whisk Programs (YAY!) and how I had provided the kick and inspiration for them - then Eston chimed in with applause and said "Go Tiara!". That was cool.

One piece of advice to all: Never, NEVER say you speak for a group of people ever. Especially if the group is so diverse.

Hey people!
(Hey what?)
Hey people!
(Hey what?)
Let me see you get funky!
(No way!)
Let me see you get down!
(OK!)
D-O-W-N, D-O-W-N
D-O-W-N, that's the way to get down!
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Well that was a very eventful day.

While everyone else was gone for CI (to clean up Hogares, a youth mental health facility), Cristy, Ana, Marco, and I were at the University of New Mexico for admissions stuff. We first did a presentation for a speech class, then we set up a booth at their Fair outside. That involved moving booths from here to there and then back...ow. But we got set up, and we had about 20+ people interested - including this super-productive woman who was so involved in Native American activities and was way too perfect for her own good. (Me and Ana: "WHOA")

Nina had an interesting point regarding her though, since she was the winner of Miss Indian/World - "If anyone's a Miss Something, you need to be skeptical of them since they always know how to give the right answer." Ha. We were all waiting for flaws...perhaps Nina's got a point there.

We got back from the admissions trip around the same time the CI people came back. (We hung out in the car for a while to listen to Coldplay and we were still early!) We took breaks to recuperate; while they did their wrap-up, I worked on the Admissions database. We then gathered in the hall for what we thought was check-in time, and received a very shocking announcement:

Parker's been dismissed from the group.

No one, save for Parker I suppose, really knew the specifics of why he was going. All we know is that he broke the guidelines a few times, and that the dismissal was partly his decision. It was very, very tense: those close to Parker (Laura especially) were crying their eyes out; his former housemates were confused since to them he had made tremendous progress; the rest of us didn't even know what to feel. It was all very emotional.

I wasn't too close to Parker so I wasn't too upset about him specifically going away. I did feel a little responsible though; I know people were uncomfortable around him - I was uncomfortable around him for a while too - but I didn't think it warranted a dismissal. Perhaps just a knock to the head and a reminder. But perhaps there was a reason he had to go.

I also felt guilty because I too have been told that I and my energy make people uncomfortable around me. The whole point of this thing was to be comfortable around each other, and obviously that's not happening if someone tells me that I make them uncomfortable. (I've been told that directly, so it's not speculation on my part.) I apologized to the group...it was the only thing I could do at that moment.

There was meant to be a discussion about where to go from here but everyone was too distraught to think clearly. We all went our separate ways. I meant to go back to the admissions work, just lose myself in the work and not think about anything else.

What ended up happening was me chatting to Staci (one of the event coordinators) about how we felt, especially about me feeling responsible for my part of the problem. She then told me that I shouldn't worry; apparently I have a reputation amongst the staff for being so energetic and enthusiastic and on top of things. This really surprised me; I didn't know I had such a rep. Then Jessica came around looking for me, and thanked me for cheering her up and motivating her with my energy. That really surprised me too.

Nina looked like she was in pieces - she's normally very strong, so seeing her cry and be upset was extremely heartbreaking. (Later I found out that it may be because Parker didn't even acknowledge her existence when making the goodbye rounds.) I went up to her and we hugged a few times...I apologized to her in case I did anything she didn't like, since I had a suspiscion that she didn't like me much; to my utter surprise (again) she held me close and told me I didn't need to apologize for anything; she appreciated my energy and perspective and I was fine being the way I am. We hugged a LOT.

There was a lot of hugging that day. (Bob especially needed a hug; he announced the dismissal and you could tell it was very hard for him.) When we got back, we four hung around the kitchen and talked more about what happened, what we felt about each other, clarified some things. It was a very enlightening and growing conversation; something much needed but rarely practiced. Baljit even told me that if anyone talks bad about me, she'd go after them...ha, that was funny.

I suppose for me I needed that day to happen. I was on top of the world with this trip but there's been times when I wonder if I'm doing the best I can, or if I'm just repeating the same patterns I went through in school. So to actually hear all these people come up to me, tell me I was needed and appreciated...that really affected me. That really helped me a lot. I know there's still a lot more to do, but it's great to hear that there are people who appreciate that I'm here, and that the people I thought hated me actually thought highly of me. Which is surprising, but great.

We can only grow from here. And sometimes, part of growing means letting others know that they are indeed growing along.

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