Hanna Fernando-Pacua (PHILIPPINES) temporarily leaves her comfort zone to travel, serve, and perform around the world in five months. She hopes to share with you this very meaningful experience.

Up with People provides students with an extraordinary semester of traveling the world. As a student your perspectives on the world will never be the same. UWP is for that certain student who's looking for an intense, hands-on, involved global educational experience. The program addresses the very real need for young adults and leaders who have global perspectives, intercultural understanding, knowledge of worldwide social issues, leadership skills and a dedication to community service. For more information, visit www.upwithpeople.org.

HANNA's SATTELITE SITE and GALLERY (+ photos, videos, calendar) http://www.bananaspinuwp.multiply.com/

Monday, 17 December 2007

All Fired Up to Make a Difference

This was published by Manila Times yesterday. I wasn't able to get a copy of the paper -- but probably Internet is good enough! (Nothing beats newsprint tho!) I pasted the article here but here is the link as well:

http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/dec/16/yehey/weekend/20071216week3.html

“IN all the places that we’ve been to during this tour, it is here in the Philippines that I was able to feel the strongest sense of community, of helping each other out. I think that the concept of your Bayanihan is truly amazing,” so said Marita Mecke from Germany, one of the 70 new friends that I gained while traveling with the global education program Up with People.

Hearing that from Marita was like music to my ears and my heart burst with pride. Bayanihan—the Filipino concept of working together for a common goal (usually symbolized by a photo of people carrying a house to a new location) indeed is still very much alive up to this day.

For five months starting July, our group has traveled across the United States, stopping in Colorado, Arizona, California, Washington State and Nevada. We then visited European cities in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The last month of this great adventure was spent in the Philippines. For most of the members of the group, this is the very first time that they have looked at poverty straight in the eye. It has been a shock for a lot of delegates—but most interesting for them was the warmth and steadfastness that the Filipino people exuded and the ability to still smile amid all the crises plaguing our country.

Through a comprehensive tour around Ayala Museum through the Ayala Foundation Inc. and Intramuros through the Department of Tourism, we were given a very informative walk through Philippine history. We also visited the Gawad Kalinga Baseco community in Tondo where we learned of inspiring stories about people working together to make a difference in the lives of others.

Our tour isn’t that type where we fly into a city, take a lot of pictures, buy souvenirs, and then say goodbye. Every destination was an intense, hands-on cultural immersion and educational experience. In every city that we visited, we learn about culture, history and current issues. We live with host families to experience life in its most real state. We perform community service with local nonprofit organizations and also stage a show that aims to spread messages of love, hope and peace in diversity. Throughout all these, we discuss about leadership, multicultural issues, listening and communication skills and respect for people and the environment. We were always tested on flexibility, patience and were constantly taught lessons on humility and acceptance.

After months of traveling with Up With People, it is only now that I am experiencing a stronger love and sense of pride for my country. My reaffirmed love for the Philippines did not come from my being homesick but for a strong urge to come back and serve my country again after hours of volunteering abroad. It came from knowing that we have hardworking kababayans abroad who are proud of our roots and are still planning to return to their homeland someday.

Here in Manila, the Up with People students are doing volunteer work every day for 13 days with local nonprofit organizations such as Gawad Kalinga, Habitat for Humanity, Virlanie Foundation, Kaibigan Ermita Outreach Foundation Inc., Philippine Association for Citizens with Developmental and Learning Disabilities Inc., Ortigas Foundation Inc., Assumption School, KYTHE, ERDA Tech Foundation, Makabata School Foundation Inc., and the Rotary Clubs in Valenzuela. Every day, the group is working alongside community members, other volunteers and organization staff members.

Seventy students from 19 countries make up the Up with People students. The past semester seemed like I was living within a microcosm of the world—and the program showed me that underneath all these differences, we all have a common goal and desire for a better life and future for all. The whole experience made me believe in the power of one person, whoever you are, wherever you are—to make a difference in another person’s life. Now that I am back in my country and the tour is about to end, I am all fired up and ready to make a difference in my country. I am proud to be a Filipino and I hope someday, the Filipinos will be proud of me, too.

For more information about Up with People please visit www.upwithpeople.org.


Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Manila (ila-ila-ila)


(The cast seems to get a kick out of singing Manila-ila-ila to the tune of Umbrella-ella –ella , which I believe was fitting for one of the experiences we had here!)

Believe it or not, I have not ridden so many cabs in a week before UWP is in Manila. Nor have I tackled rush hour traffic in a Philippine jeepney (a jeepney or jeep or “dyip” is a modified US-Army design jeep that is the primary mode of public transportation in the Philippines .. an example of Filipino ingenuity!). In my normal life in the Philippines, I avoid these modes of public transport. I either find someone to take me, or just go to places accessible by bus or by walking.

Yep, that’s right – I am not a city girl. I lived most of my “matured” life in UP Los Banos. I worked in the Makati Central Business District and made myself familiar with the route from the mall bus stop to my office, and back. Beyond Makati, I am in nervous shambles. I get tears in my eyes whenever I imagine myself living in Quezon City.

Honestly, taxi cabs for me are scary and jeepney routes are way too confusing. I am geographically-challenged.

But if I can handle public transportation in Denver, Berlin and in Milan – I should be able to conquer my fear of Manila. And that is how Up with People is squeezing me out of my comfort zone even in my own country. It is about time that I face the city !!!

As I said before, Internet access in my apartment has been erratic (I don’t even know when I will be able to post this…) so if this gets posted way after the cast left already, I am so sorry!

Manila decided to welcome the cast with torrents of rain. My CI site was located in a part of Makati where a few sprinkles of rain floods the streets. Lo and behold, during my first day of CI, the cab decided to drop us off at a street corner and we had to ride a tricycle to the main office of Virlanie Foundation. I was assigned at this CI site with Jules (Uganda), Patrick (USA), Lysan (Germany), Christine (Austria), Jessica (USA), Whitney (Panama), Vanessa (USA) and Mallory (USA). Imagine my horror when we had to walk through knee-deep murky water to get to our respective houses! I was not to grossed out by it, but the thought of having my co-UWP students brave this on our first day!

What a cultural experience!

Unlike in the USA and Europe, where the Cast saw each other everyday – Manila is treating us differently. We see each other (if we are lucky) only twice a week. And luckily the Cast activities are scheduled at the Assumption College which is only about two blocks away from my apartment (but Jules said, it’s far!)

Not seeing each other everyday was a bit hard, especially added to the drastic change in our cultural environment. I cannot help but feel bad and sorry for the people who cannot seem to adjust to the crazy Manila / Philippine environment. The traffic, the air and noise pollution, the language – the “balde” (a bucket filled with bath water) and “tabo” (a smaller “scooper” used to get water from the “balde” that you use to pour over your body to take a bath) , the lack of hot showers, and when available – the outrageous number of househelp in the homes of host families.

It is hard to face the negative feedback and negative feeling around the Cast. But I know that this will only get better as we move along.

Manila, by far, will definitely be the cast’s most memorable moment. The ultimate O.S* moment ….

(O.S defined – “Oh Sh*t” moments are moments in our lives that scare and surprise us. But as we go through it, it makes as stronger, braver and more learned. This came from a speech by Mr Steve Farber during our Denver orientation. I absolutely love the concept.)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Somewhat Like Home

I am home. The sights, the sounds, the smells of my Manila.

But it totally doesn't feel like home. Because the cast is here and they are still my life every minute of the day. It really feels weird to be home but totally thrown off your regular routine.

It is also only this time that I feel a sense of loss of my long-time job at Ayala Foundation. Remember, I was still working two days before I left for Denver last July. Oh well, opportunities will come, I guess (I hope! :-)

These past few weeks have been crazy. It has been an emotional roller coaster!

The cast is here, the cast is about to leave soon.
My friends and family are here, but I haven't really had the time to see them.
There is so much to do in the Philippines ... and I hope a lot more people will step up to this challenge.
Feeling less engaged in cast activities.
Hearing the cast's opinions on the Philippines and the Filipino people - some of them negative, some of them positive.
I've been on TV, the radio, and the newspaper.
I think I've accomplished a lot of things in my "secret wish list" like presenting infront of an international audience, volunteering internationally and being featured on TV.

Whew. Intense. Mixed feelings.

Here's another article for you! This was published in today's paper. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/you/2bu/view_article.php?article_id=102125.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Student :slash: Host Mom

Yes, we are in Manila.

Crazy being home with the cast. It seems like half of me is in the real world and half of me is in a dreamlike state.

I stay in my apartment in the middle of the Central Business District, and currently hosting Jules from Uganda. Other uppies have a ton of househelp at home and me and Jules are highly independent women (that's putting it nicely.. this means we wake up early in the morning to prepare our breakfast and come home exhausted to still frozen dinners)

It's taking the phrase "step out of your comfort zone" to the next level.

With full days, heavy traffic, grocery shopping, media worries (!!!), bad internet connection -- I hope I get to update my blog soon.

love, hanna

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Global Pinoy: "Living a Dream with UWP"

Check out this article :-)

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/philippineexplorer/philippineexplorer/view_article.php?article_id=99643

Mahal ko ang Pilipinas (I love the Philippines!)

After a very smooth flight from Brussels-to-Frankfurt-to-China-to-Manila (there's a story in between but I'll post that as soon as I get my laptop to connect to the Internet -- ah yes I am typing this from our old Desktop PC in Binan, Laguna) I felt like I haven't even been gone for the past few months.

Yes, Philippines still feels like home and the hot and humid weather was more of a welcome comfort for me than an annoyance that I expected.

It was funny to struggle a bit with the I-don't-know-why-they-constructed-it-that-way arrival lane at the NAIA (have you ever been there? It's quite impossible to navigate a heavy trolley down there alone, it is sloped downwards and has a sharp curve that is also still sloped. It was kind of funny) but I was way too excited to care. After hugging my husband tearfully , it was also great to met Luis Petzhold, the fun UWP Community Relations Coordinator here in Manila.

My first craving was a Regular Yum with Cheese at Jollibee (it's a cheeseburger , and Jollibee is a Filipino fastfood chain) . Mmm.

I feel like the whole 4 months of UWP was just a dream and far far away, but the cast is arriving here in Manila on Tuesday and I just can't believe it! It will feel so weird to have them "invade" my Pinoy lifestyle. I am honestly afraid of the responsibility that I have for my country and UWP now..

But I have a very good feeling that they will love our country. Where else can you get warmth and hospitality AND the English language spoken everywhere? Here, we can get Italian pasta, Danish cookies, Japanese food, German franks, American fatty food, European fashion, pretty girls, great beer. All the best of life while still keeping in touch with the reality of it as well.

Saan ka pa?

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Kita-Kita Tayo sa Pinas!

Last show day in Europe today! And I am currently in the Staff Workroom nervously waiting for my time to go to the train station and on to the airport to fly home.

Yes, I won't be in the last show in Europe :-( and the cast will be going to the EU Parliament in Brussels tomorrow (something that I was looking forward to when I heard "Europe" when I applied for UWP) . This is also the first time since Tucson, Arizona that the cast will be complete onstage! Ah, but they're not complete now because I won't be there.

But going home first will be cool too, I guess!

I have a lot of stories to tell about Leuven (which, by the way is a very cool University town!) like the old buildings, the nice stores, the waffles, the churches, the very touching BTS we had, the amazing CI, and the Filipino students I met...

.. But those stories would have to wait. The next time I get to be online I would probably be in my normal "pambahay" clothes in Binan, Laguna or the very hot and humid Apt 9 in San Lorenzo in Makati. Am excited.

I would LOVE to have a stick of Banana-Cue when I get home.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

In Up With People Land...

Dronten Week was Immigration Week. Immigration is a big issue in the Netherlands and we learned about it a lot from our intensive education sessions and activities. For me, it was one of the busiest, most interesting, most intellectually-challenging, discussion-heaviest week of all.

One part of it was the Up With People Land game which simulated a country with immigration issues. Upon our arrival in Dronten, each cast member was issued a "Passport" which stated our citizenship/migrant status. There were Citizens, Migrant Workers, Legal Aliens and Illegal Aliens. The paperwork also had information about our "personal life" and the role we had to play in the game. There were business owners, employers and employees, asylum seekers, refugees, students, and unemployed people. We had the Justices of Peace who can perform marriages, and the Border Patrol Officers who had the authority to inspect passports. We had education background information and also the types of housing we have: whether we own it, rent it, or if we were homeless.


The game lasted for the whole week and we would role play throughout the day, which included priority rights for Legal Citzens. At the beginning of the week I was issued a Citizen passport ( I was so relieved!) unemployed, with a College education. I was also renting a room with Clara.

At the end of the week, I was able to get a job!

It was really a cool role playing game, that made us learn about the country and human side of immigration. We learned how it was to be robbed of our citizenships (better keep an eye on your passports!) , and to gain better insight on the plight of migrant workers, illegal immigrants, and refugees.

Another part of our Immigration Week was working with Dutch high school students to come up with 5 workable and realistic laws within a new Immigration policy. We had two days of guest speakers on Immigration plus trips to the Mosque and the Refugee Center to learn all that we can, and then we were split into groups to create the policies.

Oh, I had such a headache thinking about the policies, and it was so HARD. It had to be humane , but not too lenient, and had to be realistic enough to work in a country (meaning; no magical fast processing of papers or a totally free country who accepts people with no questions asked). What also made it harder was the diversity of the group and all the different opinions on immigration. It was great hearing thoughts from people from rich countries vs people from poorer countries.

Each group presented their policies to a panel of judges - some staff members plus some Dutch immigration experts, who were to decide which set of new laws were both ideal and applicable to a real country.

The headache was worth it. :-) Our group won!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

In Dronten ...

Yes, I am in the Netherlands!

I am hating myself for not being "too into"the cast this week. Maybe I am stil adjusting from being away for so long OR I am just busy thinking about going home soon. It might be a mixture of both. Plus, maybe about the fact that I feel like I am missing SO much of Belgium (even if it is just 2 days...) which is going to be BIG for the cast AND for Up With People.

I missed USA Closing because of Admissions Team and now I am missing Europe Closing too :-( -- ahh I hope my early trip to the Philippines will be worth it for the Cast and UWP!

I will tell you more about Dronten in the coming days.. for now, I will leave you with the following information:

1. I ride a bike AGAIN here. It takes around 30 minutes to and 30 minutes back everyday.
2. My family is a military family with 3 teenage kids.
3. Joke the dance captain is my roommate
4. We have a HUGE dog that barks so loud (and I am alone with him right now)

See you all soon!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Show Day!!!

It is almost 1 am here, but body clock is 2 am already. My side of the world just adjusted to Daylight Saving Time and saved 1 hour. However, I can sleep in tomorrow!

It was Show Day today (err yesterday? whatever -- October 27 basta) and this also means that this is my last day as Advance Team member (oh, maybe except for Host drop-off on Monday) I am so excited to join the cast again -- because it really feels so weird to be away from them, especially for 3 weeks. Everything happens so quickly and one misses so many things.

It was Tuesday of this week that we found out that only 20 tickets were sold. Lo and behold, the Uckerseehalle had 1,000 happy audience tonight! We really owe it ( I believe) to the team who did the dance workshop Community Impact because i feel that they really made a big impact to the students. Enough impact that the excitement will be talked about even after we've gone from Prenzlau. I was talking to the Europe Tour Manager, Frank Liffers and he said that Cast B's presence in Prenzlau was very important because of future sponsorships and long term partnerships. And the sponsors were happy with what they saw on show day! Woo hoo!

Aside from the"normal show" new stuff and surprises made it more fun. The cast had a German song (I am thankful that I did not have to learn it, but it was so cool onstage) - then some local Prenzlau students also shared their talents! Like many other shows, local youth participated in our Stomp! number. They took a step further and shared a breakdance exhibition + an original German Rap Song written especially for Up With People. It was so cool. That's not all -- a Polish dance group also performed a lively dance number.

It was amazing! Because getting the whole community involved is what Up With People is all about. Diversity and participation was really evident on stage. And the sight of the hip hop dancers and break dancers jamming with 60's music was also really fun to watch!

This was my first time to watch the show and I really liked it. The message of Peace, Unity, Respect, Community Building rang out through the music without being pushy or "preachy"

Now that Advance Work is over, it feels weird that I am saying goodbye to Prenzlau where things have become so familiar to me after 3 weeks of exploring its tiny streets. I know that I might never see this place again, and that makes me feel so sad. My host family, Klemens ( the best driver, picture taker, tree climber, cheese cutter in all of the world) and Brunhilde are amazing people!

Well, who knows? Maybe someday I'll get to visit again.
We got unlimited ice cream from a local ice cream company. :-) It felt like AYLC all over again. Here I am with Frank Liffers.


Host family! Klemens, Brunhilde and their daughter Judith who drove from Berlin. Birte is the one infront.
With Dr. Blohm. He is a city representative and we worked a lot with him. Without him, all of it wouldn't be possible. He was so cool and helpful (despite the language barrier)

The Seefeldts! Our pseudo-host family who gave us late night rides home. They were the host family of Rasmus and Jeremy.


Katie is now the only original child wrangler onstage. In tonight's show, she took my old place.. (the spot near the soloist) and it was so cute! Hehe, I wonder if I'll get my child wrangling job back?

Cheers to Prenzlau and Up With People ! Let it be known that I will be home in less than 2 weeks!

Monday, 22 October 2007

The Cast is Coming!


On this cold... cold.. day.

Yup, they are finally coming tonight ! I am not happy with the cold weather - my bike seat is frozen, the grass is frozen, my fingers are frozen. Sigh. And it's not getting any warmer.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Rostock, Germany


Another hour away from Prenzlau is a beautiful city called Rostock. It is a University city and my host dad studied there. It was like an amazing old group of buildings in the heart of the mall. Seriously. But of course, the Universität Rostock has a very interesting history. Founded in 1419, it is the oldest and largest university in continental northern Europe and the Baltic Sea area as well as the second oldest in northern Europe after the University of St Andrews. It is the third oldest university in Germany in continuous operation. (Where else did I get this information but from: Wikipedia :-)


Do you notice that I am getting wider and wider? Believe me, it is not just the thick winter coat but I am also gaining a lot of weight on the trip. After Up With People, I do not know when I will be able to travel again and I just want to try and taste everything. This trip to Rostock was no exception. We met Klaus (my host dad Klemens' brother lived in Rostock) at the Schokolateria (a shop devoted to chocolate! sigh) , then walked to a nearby Italian coffee shop for some German cakes and ice cream. Uh-oh.


They had chocolates from all over Europe. And some really cool looking truffles (Kaktus flavor??) that cost 1 Euro each. :oP








We had 2 platters of these sinful things.

It was a not so sunny day and my outdoor pictures looked a little bit blah. It was also freezing cold that I did not have much enthusiasm -- but I guess these are worth sharing...


The cast arrives two days from now. Let's cross our fingers that everything goes well :-)

Monday, 15 October 2007

Pretty Prenzlau


(How lame can my blog titles get? "Beautiful Berlin" and "Pretty Prenzlau" --> hay, please forgive me)

But it really is pretty. Yesterday (Sunday) was a sunny day and my host mom was happy to oblige me with a relaxing bike tour around Prenzlau.

Here are some of my favorite photos:

Every morning is a 10 minute walk to the office (or bike ride) and we pass through a short cut through the cemetery. The cemetery is beautiful, but creepy at night. Last night, after promotions, I was able to convince Birte that we take the main road (so much longer) instead. :-)

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Beautiful Berlin

The Brandenburg Gate: former city gate and one of the symbols of Berlin

The Reichstag: site of the German Parliament

The Neptunbrunnen shows Neptune, the God of Sea.
This is one of the oldest and most beautiful fountains in Berlin






Saturday, October 13

The perks of staying 3 weeks in a City means you get 3 weekends! Unlike in the US, weekends in Europe are more laid back and relaxed. As Advance Team intern, I expected my days to be so full up to the weekend! Luckily, Birte feels that personal education and field trips are as important as logistical preps for the cast (cross our fingers we get everything done). So, my host family decided to take Birte and I to Berlin, which is about 1.5 hrs away from Prenzlau.

The adventure started on the road. To get to Berlin, we had to pass through the world famous German Autobahn. Wikipedia refers to it as a "nationally coordinated motorway" - simply put: Germany's freeway system. How is it different from other freeways? The Autobahn has been labeled by National Geographic as the "fastest freeway in the world" because they have no general speed limit. The recommended speed limit though, is 13o kph. My host dad said a lot of people (especially Chinese) go to Germany just for the chance to ride in the Autobahn.

From what I have seen in National Geo, my first reaction to my ride through the Autobahn was, "What? This looks like a normal freeway." - Nope, cars don't go whizzing by (maybe one or two whizzed by, but I guess in every part of the world you get a few daredevils) -- but still, driving through was an experience. The roads were so smooth and the way to Berlin cuts through a thick forest with color-changing leaves (let me repeat that I love, love the autumn leaves). There was even a bridge exclusive for animals to cross from one side of the freeway to the other. If you wish to learn more about the Autobahn, this site mirrors my thoughts - plus a lot more accurate information: http://gettingaroundgermany.home.att.net/autobahn.htmhn.htm

Hooray again for Wikipedia: Berlin is the capital city and one of the sixteen states of the Federal Republic of Germany. With a population of 3.4 million in its city limits, Berlin is the country's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the ninth most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany, it is the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area, comprising 4.9 million people from over 180 nations.

Probably the most interesting part most people know about Berlin is the famous Wall that separated West Berlin (Western Allies: US, UK and France) from East Berlin (Soviet Union) for 28 years. 1989 marked the fall of the Berlin Wall , leading to the reunification of Germany in October 1990. I might as well give you again the website for the interesting story of the Berlin Wall at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_wall

Let me say that I have never been interested in so much history (ever... I just subconsciously memorized my way out of elementary, high school and college history). Traveling with Up With People makes me wish that I had paid more attention. History is so engaging and interesting, and I know that it is never too late to hone this newfound interest.

Walking along the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall gave me a sense of wonder and sometimes severe goosebumps thinking about how it was to live in a violent, divided country. I can almost feel the terror of getting killed when escaping, or even hearing the cheers of the crowd when the wall finally fell. Ah, it was just so interesting for me! The picture below shows what they call the "death strip" where thousands died trying to escape East Germany.


Berlin is a busy city with so much history that it is impossible to walk around without wonder and awe (especially if it is your first time and you came with a purpose!) . We also passed a huge memorial for the casualties of the Holocaust (another very interesting subject for me, I have read a lot of books based on the Holocaust even before UWP) which I felt was cleverly done. It was very symbolic - just a labyrinth of blank grave-like structures. I was also able to see many memorials of people who died in the wars and also sculptures about the concentration camps.


I also saw the "United Buddy Bears" (http://www.united-buddy-bears.com/)-- the bear is another symbol of Berlin, and the United Buddy Bears are symbols of peace and unity. These are fiberglass bears painted by artists from all over the world. I absolutely fell in love with them :-) Apparently, these are the "Minis" and the original big bears are having their world tour.

These are the Golden Buddy Bears, which symbolizes the Golden Rule. The wording of the “Golden Rule” in different languages is distributed on two bears. According to the website, this further symbolizes that nobody can live on his or her own, that other people belong to our lives and that our behavior towards other people has consequences.

And look, a Philippine Buddy Bear! The plaque says it was painted by Filipino artist Pierre F. Patricio - that is the Philippine Eagle on the bear's tummy.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Where in the World is Prenzlau?


Prenzlau is a city in the Uckermark District of Brandenburg, Germany. Its population is about 21,000 (2005). The town is twinned with Uster, Switzerland. It is about 1.5 hours from Berlin.

I was in the paper last Wednesday (Mittwoch in German). The title read: “Junge Tanzer suchen noch Schlafpatze” , which I think literally translates to “Young Dancers in Need of Beds” (funny if you think about it, haha). With matching picture! It would have been fun if I knew what the article was saying! Well, I just have to be satisfied with seeing my name crop up in a few places. Ahh, Advance Work in a foreign land.

Cast B was in Switzerland and will proceed to Zell Am Hammersbach in Germany this coming week. Sad to say though, that Cast B is incomplete.. why? Because Hanna from the Philippines and (most importantly) Ljuan from Macedonia is not with them! And from what I have heard, Megan, Vanessa Graves and Lesley are also missing in action.This is the part of Up With People that we call Advance Team Internship. This, I think is one more amazing growth and learning opportunity with Up With People.

If you didn’t know, ever since our first city on the road in the US (which was Tucson), somebody (sometimes 2 people) from the cast makes a sacrifice and leaves the cast for a few weeks to help the UWP staff set up a city. Yes, it is kind of unfortunate that these students miss 2-3 cities in the tour – but this is replaced by the fantastic opportunity of going behind the scenes in a UWP semester and knowing everything about logistics, publicity, admissions, host family coordination, etc, etc. Not to mention the experience of working in a cross-cultural setting. Whew. Take that resume!

Ljuan and I are currently in Prenzlau, Germany doing Advance Work for the Cast. (Photo was taken in Milan, though) It has been very challenging and exciting for me because of the following reasons:

  1. It is my first time in Europe. The culture is very different.
  2. I don’t speak German. I can’t even pronounce the words.
  3. They don’t speak English.
  4. This is my first time working with a German person (Birte, our CRC)
  5. This is my first time working with a Macedonian person (Ljuan!)
  6. It is so cold.
  7. I ride a bike to get around. (Please see # 6 again…)

The previous week, Ljuan and I walked around the Prenzlau shops for show promotion. Not one of us spoke any German other than “Hallo!” , “Danke” (Thank You) , “Ja” (Yes), “Nein” (No) and “Tschius!” (Good Bye) – oh it was so funny! We mainly used facial expressions and body language to communicate.

Ordering coffee is an ordeal. Asking for a receipt is harder. Ah, imagine me trying to buy shampoo in a grocery shop where all labels are in German (I had to go back the next day because it turned out that it wasn’t shampoo after all!). But I am having a lot of fun. Even if Advance Work is Work (duh) it means I get to stay in a city longer. 3 weeks will mean I get to know my host family a little bit better (even if they speak very little English) and immerse in the culture a little bit deeper.

My host family are the Schmidts – Klemens (pronounced Kleemens) and Brunhilde (pronounced Brun-hild-uh) and we live about 10 minutes bike ride from the UWP office in town. They are really cool people. I am staying in their home with Birte, the UWP staff member.

Food has been very great too. Although I really like Italian, German food has proved to be very interesting. Meat and cheese are definitely favorites here (I love cheese and tasting all the different kinds is such fun!) – and I have also tried authentic sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) which I feel is very much like the Philippine atchara. My host mom Brunhilde is a wonderful cook.

Prenzlau is such a little place with cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings. It is a small city where I believe everybody knows everybody. It is very beautiful this time of the year because the leaves have just started to change color. If I weren’t so stressed with riding my tall bike, I would have biked for hours in the breathtaking tree-lined pathways by the lake and the meadows.

Sigh. More to see and experience in Prenzlau in the coming weeks!


Thursday, 11 October 2007

Fallen Comrades

Momentarily taking a break from UWP blogging to give honor to our brave Filipino citizens who gave up their lives fighting for the honor of our countrymen.

Remembering our fallen comrades
Ramon J. Farolan
Inquirer

October 08, 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- A week ago, four members of the Special Warfare Group (SWAG) of the Philippine Navy were killed in an encounter with suspected pirates off Basilan. SWAG elements better known as SEALs (Sea, Air, Land warriors), are considered as among the best-trained and best-equipped combat personnel of the Armed Forces.

Somehow the loss of these highly skilled fighting men reminded me of the disasters that we suffered earlier in the Basilan-Jolo area of operations.

It has been three months since 14 of our Marines were ambushed, beheaded and their bodies mutilated in an encounter with MILF/Abu Sayyaf elements in Albarca, Basilan. This was followed by another ambush, this time of Scout Ranger elements in Jolo. A test mission mounted on an Abu Sayyaf base in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, also resulted in the death of five officers and 10 enlisted men all belonging to Force Recon Class 13 of the Philippine Marines.

Whatever happened to the AFP offensive aimed at getting the culprits which was launched with much fanfare? Even elements of the Presidential Security Group were thrown into that offensive. Now I realize that the objective of the assault was not an easy task. The terrain in those areas is extremely difficult, the environment is not very friendly and the enemy is as slippery as a snake in the jungle. There are a multitude of reasons that can be advanced for the hardships we face in bringing these criminals to justice—particularly, those who were responsible for beheading and mutilating our Marines. But we must continue to exert our best efforts if only to maintain a semblance of AFP credibility in the eyes of our people. But most important of all, as a sign of respect and remembrance for our fallen comrades.

Slain Navy Seals honored with Gold Cross

By Nikko Dizon
Inquirer

Posted date: October 09, 2007


SANGLEY POINT, Cavite City, Philippines -- Eight months pregnant with their first child, Marilou Peralta said she lost "the center" of her life after her husband Ruel, a Navy Seal, was killed along with three other comrades in an encounter with alleged Abu Sayyaf members in Lanjil Island, Basilan, last week.

"My life revolved around him. He was the center of my life," Peralta, a 29-year-old teacher, tearfully said in Filipino.

The irony that the first time she and Ruel were at the La Naval Church at the Naval Base for their wedding last June was not lost on Marilou.

"This is our second time at this church but he's there," Marilou said, looking at her husband's coffin.

She promised Ruel she will take good care of his "junior" after an ultrasound test showed that they were having a baby boy.

And one day, too, Marilou will certainly show their son a little gold medal awarded to his father, to remind him of his bravery and gallantry in fighting Abu Sayyaf terrorists as a member of the elite Navy Special Operations Group (Navsog), formerly the Special Warfare and Action Group (SWAG) and the equivalent of the US Navy Seals.

The Navsog's Peralta, Jay Soguitan, Michael Abrio, and Joe Vincent Sistoza were on Monday posthumously awarded the Gold Cross Medal -- the third highest military award -- by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at noon at the church where their bodies lay in state.

With the President were Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., and Navy chief Vice Admiral Rogelio Calunsag.

The fallen soldiers' wives received their medals in their behalf, and gently laid the medals on their coffins. Sistoza's wife is also pregnant.

Two-year-old Angel Abrio drank from her milk bottle as she stared at the President briefly speak to her mother, Rhea, by her father's coffin.

The President also gave Soguitan's wife a brief hug. Ms Arroyo herself pinned a medal and promoted Soguitan last January as part of the team that neutralized Abu Sayyaf leader, "Black Killer," in Tawi-Tawi.

A photo of the President pinning a medal on Soguitan was placed atop the soldier's coffin.

The President has also increased financial assistance to families of soldiers killed in action from P100,000 to P250,000, military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, said.

The families of the four Navy seals each received P100,000 from Ms Arroyo Monday, "with the balance of P150,000 to follow," Bacarro said in a text message.

"The AFP has also been receiving donations from civilian intended for our casualties," he said.

The four Navy seals were killed last Oct. 1 in an encounter with alleged bandits led by Abu Sayyaf "sub-leader" Abdulrajak Sadikal in Lanjil, an island in the northeast of mainland Basilan.

The Navy last week described Sadikal's group as "pirates and lawless elements."

On Monday, it positively identified the group as the Abu Sayyaf.

Sadikal's main link to the terrorist group was his brother, Faisal, a known ASG member, said Vice Admiral Emilio Marayag, heads the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao.

"In Basilan, it's difficult to recognize the Abu Sayyaf from the non-Abu Sayyaf lawless elements. We have an unconfirmed report that Sadikal's group aided those who ambushed the Marines last July 10," Marayag said.

Lubos po akong nakikiramay sa mga pamilya ng mga sundalong namatay sa pakikipaglaban sa Mindanao. My very sincere condolences also to the teams at SWAG and the AFP.


- hanna


Tuesday, 9 October 2007

WANTED: HOST FAMILIES FOR THE PHILIPPINES

As you all know, the cast will be going to the Philippines in November - December.

The Advance Team is already there and they are so busy making things work for the Cast. Do you think UWP is exciting? Do you feel like you would enjoy meeting people and learning about the places that I have been writing about on this blog?

UP WITH PEOPLE IS LOOKING FOR HOST FAMILIES!

Open your home to the world and enjoy a very different learning experience. There are 70 young people from 19 different countries needing a home in the Manila/ Makati area starting November 13, 2007 and they will stay for 3 weeks. Host families are expected to have a bed for the student to sleep in.. breakfasts and dinners.

Staying in host families is a really a big part of UWP and enables a student to really immerse in a country's culture. It makes one see a country beyond the surface :-)

Take part in this unique opportunity!

For more information, please contact Ana at 0920 9473723 or Margaux at 0915 295 1770 and email mhovine@upwithpeople.org

You may also contact me ! Email me at hanna.fernando@gmail.com

hanna
(currently in Prenzlau)

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Parli Inglese?







A little bit of the Swiss alps from the plane ride from Frankfurt to Milan..

After a 30 hour bus ride from Las Vegas, around 15 of us from Cast B took the first group flight out of Seattle (the bus literally drove us straight to the airport from the grueling road trip). We flew United Airlines to Washington DC (where the flight was delayed for 3 hours), then to Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt, we boarded a Lufthansa plane to Milan, Italy.

“Parli Inglese?” (Do you speak English?) was my favorite phrase.

The answer was mostly a puzzled look and a ‘No’. When I finally get a ‘Si’ (yes) and then ask my question, they talk to me in rapid Italian with confusing hand motions. Yes, that was what happened to me on my first day of navigating Milan using the Metro and the train. I was almost frustrated and lost. Take note I said ALMOST … I was on the brink of getting frustrated and lost, but be proud of me because I really wasn’t! After asking about 6 people “Parli Inglese?”, I finally found one who really could. I found my way alright and was so happy about it. By the time I had to leave Milan, I was so disappointed because I loved the public transportation and walking along the city streets and feeling very much in the “real world”. I go around the city using the Metro and the train , and then the bus to go home to my host family's house.

I loved how it wasn’t so big and overwhelming like America. Believe it or not, Italy was almost like the Philippines to me. It was also a week of missing my family. All of the delicious pasta, coffee and gelato made me wish so much that my family were also in Italy. We all love Italian food and authentic Italian was simply the best! Imagine having different varieties of pasta and cheese everyday – not to mention a really strong espresso or cappuccino for breakfast! Starbucks is NOTHING compared to my host mom’s home brewed coffee (oh, I will miss it so much) . They had an espresso machine, then, she also made me try the traditional Italian way of preparing coffee on the stovetop. (Ah, 2 shots of espresso in one evening is not good … I found it really hard to sleep, hehe)

My host family was wonderful. Nadia and Valerio spoke very piccolo English, but their 20 year old daughter Michela learned English in school and have traveled quite a bit. Michela also introduced me to her friends (it was a birthday party and we had Tiramisu!) and we went around downtown Milan where I saw the Duomo and the Galeria, the Teatro Scala (I went there again with some cast members during the afternoon). It was really beautiful, and it was cool that one of her friends was an architectural student who knew a lot about the old buildings. It was quite strange walking around with 11 Italians and not understand a word that they said -- but my host sister was really good in translating stuff.

I was in a "special" group in Italy. By "special" -- I meant that it was a unique arrangement because my CI group was completely detached from the cast for 3 days! This was because (1) The partner organization requested for a specific number of people and these SAME people should come for all 3 days and (2) The CI site was some 2 hours away from the meeting facility. It totally felt weird because a lot of us felt so disconnected and (excuse the word) abandoned!

We worked with an organization called Amici de Bambini (Friends of Children), preparing for a fundraising exhibit and designer T-shirt sale. The advance team in Milan called it the "Fashion CI", but really, it was far from fashionable. We cleaned the warehouse, painted walls, and prepared exhibit materials. (Note: I never imagined myself walking around Milan, the fashion capital of the world, looking so scruffy in my working clothes! Ahh, Up With People!)

Being separated from the cast for 3 days was really frustrating for the group. Hardly any information reached us, and we were working until show day afternoon. But as always, we had to make the most out of it and came out of the grueling 3 days more mature and with new learnings. The small group was able to get to know each other really well underneath the surface.

The show in Italy was called "Viva La Gente" -- AND I THOUGHT IT WAS AMAZING! It was fun singing some of our songs in Italian, and I felt very "cultured." We sang Di Che Colore La Pele De Dio (What is the color of God's Skin) and Viva La Gente (the UWP Theme song) and the chorus to the Sound of Peace in Italian.

We were supposed to have only one show in Italy, and one special night BTS for the host families who lived far from Milan (the students were hosted in Milan and in a little town called Cusano Milanino, where a Catholic church helped find host families). But the Cusano community apparently requested for a whole show, so we ended up performing 2 shows!

In Euro culture prep, they told us that encores are part of the culture. And indeed it was! "Bis! Bis!" the people chanted, and yes, we performed an encore for the 2 shows in Italy! It was an amazing experience performing onstage and seeing people watching us happily. I know we have performed in a lot of shows, but Europe gave me a different feeling because the people's language is so different. Yet, they seemed to enjoy the show!

Shaking the hands of the people while saying "Grazie!" was very uplifting. They shook our hands very warmly, sometimes we get a hug, or double kisses (in Filipino, beso-beso) and warm words of Italian appreciation. It felt very good.

As we in Viva La Gente say, "Music is the universal language"

I wish I had more time in Italy! Would love to come back in the future!


mmm.. Gelato! I tried Pistachio, Biscotti, Nocciola, Latte, Latte Blanca, Nuttela .. mmm

My host family


I lit candles for home at the Duomo



Limited time :-( more photos next time!