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/

Saturday, 28 July 2007

The Colorado Rockies!

Had an opportunity to watch a live baseball game at the Coors Field in Colorado! We were way up high in the "rock pile" but it was still okay!

I did not care much about the game (it was long AND boring, no offense!) but more about the experience, the sights, the sounds -- and to see how much America loves baseball.

Cast B Invades Boulder, CO

Last Wednesday was Regional Learning day and the cast travelled by bus to Boulder, Colorado. It was about an hour and a half bus ride.
I liked Boulder a lot! It was a university town (home to the largest university in Colorado, the University of Colorado at Boulder) with nicely paved sidewalks and a really cool outdoor mall called the Pearl street mall. (It seems like Colorado residents can't get enough of the great outdoors. They also have the 16th Street mall in downtown Denver)
We were dropped off at the Boulder Public Library for our morning meeting. We soon learned that "Regional Learning" did not mean sitting inside rooms listening to lectures or visiting museums. We were to do our learning by ourselves, through a scavenger hunt around the city !

We were asked to form a group of 6 people with at least 3 countries represented, with both male and female members, and were given a map and a list of things to look for and gather around Boulder. My teammates were Marita (Germany), Sophie (China), Johann (Sweden), Clara (Mexico) and Ellen (Staff, USA)

It was a very interesting day! Of course we had to deal with a few disagreements about where we should go first or whether we will just use the Internet to find info or to really run around town trying to get first-hand info. We also had a short discussion about the purpose of the hunt - should we aim for the prize? or should we just have fun? Well, we ended up getting both! (Yup, we won... )
Some scavenger hunt stuff we had to find out or get...
- Which Woody Allen movie was filmed in Boulder?
- Get a business card from a local Police Officer and ask about the major issues that they deal with in Boulder
- Get the name and classes of a Professor in the University of Boulder, get your picture taken with them in front of one of the campus buildings
- Get a beer coaster from a local microbrew beer company
and a lot more ! (there were 20 challenges all in all)
The Pearl Street Mall

Met her at the Police Station! She was a US Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines with the Mangyans in Mindoro. She loved the country and is now very active in the Fil-Am community and is even part of the Philippine Dragonboat Rowing Team! She invited us to go to the festival on Sunday

On a wall at the beer making factory!

After the scavenger hunt -- we all had the opportunity to go to the Celestial Seasonings tea factory for a guided tour of how the tea was made. It was a great time! Especially for the tea sampling part! (Photo shows me, Suzanne from the Netherlands, Vanessa from the USA, and Benjamine from Belgium)

In Denver and Missing the Makati Walkways

I used to work in the Ayala Ave. area of Makati City in the Philippines. There, it was fun walking around even when it is hot or even when it was raining because it was a pedestrian-friendly place. We had covered walks!

Denver is such a big city with wide roads that it looks almost empty. I always have trouble walking around and finding where I'm supposed to be because of the wide streets.

Now imagine having to walk across wide streets in super bone-drenching rain. It was freezing cold, the sewers were spewing out water, the sidewalks were flooded. And me and three other crazy people just ran through around 4 blocks of heavy, heavy rain. One time, while crossing the street, I left one of my flipflops in the middle of the road! I had to run back and get it. By that time all of us were running around in our bare feet.

We took photos, and people and locals were waving hello and taking photos. It was a hilarious experience. We finally got to the nearest restaurant to get something to eat while we waited for the rain to stop.

My roommate Lesley and I decided not to go to tonight's Culture Jam anymore because we were soaked! The rain did not stop though, so we just shivered our way down at the bus stop, and shivered again through the hour and a half trip back to our host family's house.

Wet Jaylee and Lesley at Johnny Rockets (a nice 50's restaurant)

Really wet and cold Vanessa, Hanna and Brodie.

Friday, 27 July 2007

First CI : The Inner City Health Center

(CI means "Community Impact")
We had our first CI last July 19 at the Inner City Health Center. The ICHC is dedicated to helping people who cannot afford medical care or health insurance. We were there to improve their lawn through gardening and planting flowers and to do a bit of painting in the offices.

Coming from the Philippines, I thought the clinic was really first class. And of course, I couldn't help but wonder and ask myself: What am I doing here in America, helping people, and doing mundane things when there is so much poverty in my country and the world? When their standard of "poverty" is our standard of "rich" in my country.

But my new friend Vanessa told me that I shoud not feel guilty or bad.. because poverty is still poverty all over the world. And no matter how little an impact we made at the Health Center, we at least made a difference in this small community.

Leadership, Leadership Circles and UWP

Developing leadership skills is one of the goals of Up with People. What sort of skills can be developed in UWP activities?

- developing trust
- personal responsibility
- negotiating
- managing conflict
- self confidence
- confidence in others
- creativity
- decision making
- managing change and transition
- active listening
- valuing ongoing learning
- building understanding
- sensitivity to the needs of others
- being solution oriented

July 18 was Leaders' roundtable day, where we spent time with Denver leaders from different backgrounds: government, academe, non-profit and businesses. I gathered interesting ideas and advice from them! I won't enumerate the thoughts/ interesting info one by one, nor enumerate the people who said them, here they are in a nutshell

- In Colorado, schools are financed by real estate/ property tax.

- Communities get involved in school management, especially the rich communities. There is a standard "schools package" and the state does not try to level the "poorer" ones to what the rich ones have.

- A leader should always lead by example and be a motivator.

- If you are a true leader, you will always be a leader wherever you go. Whether you are holding a position or not.

- Your values play a big role on your leadership style

- It is helpful to have your own personal mission

- Being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses is helpful

- Become self aware and always look within you

- When frustrations come from what you are doing or from the people around you... look within yourself and find inspiration within you and your personal cause.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Catching Up

Hard to catch up! Been having very busy days lately. As much as I want to write in detail, I find it super hard to keep up with thoughts and feelings that I would like to share with you.

What is Barnga? /barn-ga/

We had no idea what Barnga was ... but it turned out to be really interesting! It was a tournament card game set up to be a simulation of culture shock and adaptation to new environments.

(Now this game only works best if you have no idea about how it is played ... but I badly want to tell you about it. So I just wish you'll forget about everything I wrote when the time comes that you have to play it...)

The cast was divided into 9 groups in separate tables. Each table had a deck of cards and a set of rules. Everyone reads the rules and starts playing -- the catch.. there should be NO TALKING.

After a certain amount of time, winners move one table up (i.e. winner in Table 4 will move to table 3) and losers move one table down. The objective of each person is to reach the highest possible table, Table 1.

Sounds pretty easy, right?

But what we soon found out was that each table had DIFFERENT RULES! and nobody was allowed to talk...

Imagine coming into one table oh so confident with what you know only to realize that you have no idea how things are. You end up totally clueless , frustrated, feeling stupid, and sometimes become defensive and argumentative.

Sort of like finding yourself in the middle of a different culture, a strang country, or a different group of people.

Cross the Line

Now this was an exercise in diversity... a line was drawn across the floor and we all stood on one side. The facilitator started askin
g questions and everytime that you feel that the situation / question applies to you, you have to cross the line to the other side.

After you have looked at each person who crossed the line or remained in one side... everybody goes back to where they were.

The questions were pretty light at first, such as:

Cross the line if you are:
a woman.
an Asian.
an American.
feeling homesick.

But after a while, things started to get intense when the following questions were asked:

Cross the line if:
ever you or you had a friend who was discriminated against because he was gay.
your parents are no longer together.
you have ever experienced discrimination.
you have ever felt misunderstood.
you think you are minority in the area you live in.

And you can feel hesitation and emotion in the air... What people realized in this activity was how we all seem different in the surface , but once you peel off the layers --> there were more similarities between people than we thought.

Ah, man is truly a multidimensional being... I hope someday we realize that beyond our differences, we have something special and common inside ourselves. And maybe (just maybe) this realization can make us empathize with each other and give way to world peace ;-)

Monday, 23 July 2007

Personal Goals and Group Values

Up with People exists today to spark people to action in meeting the needs of theircommunities, countries and the world while building bridges of understanding as a foundation for world peace.

Yup, that is the overall mission of Up with People

But I know how important it is for me to set personal goals so I won't find myself "lost" in the middle of the semester -- or much worse -- CONFUSED at the end of the semester. (Who knows? I might be in danger of wanting to be a world famous pop star when I get home, hehe)

I am hoping to come out of this experience more confident about myself and knowing what I want to do best and where I am best at. I do fully intend to return to the Philippines and use the experience that I gained here for my professional growth. I am still looking forward to a career in social development work.
I wish to:
- challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone
- improve my communication skills
- know more about different cultures
- practice interacting with people from different backgrounds
- establish an international network
- challenge myself to write about my experiences (and GET PUBLISHED!!)
- improve my habits in being globally aware
I am looking forward to seeing or learning about:
- how people around the world work together to make their communities a better place
- different non-profits and how they sustain operations
- education programs or educational system in communities around the world (mostly about how communities are involved in the public school system)

And more miscellaneous stuff:
- to use my experience with admin and logistics work to assist Up with People
- to give my castmates a unique learning opportunity in the Philippines
- to show them that the Philippines is a great country with great people
- to encourage young Filipinos to sign up for Up with People !
- to get a job in Asia with Up with People (hehe)

During the application process and throughout the first week, I was sort of disappointed that I got this opportunity sort of "late" in life (most cast members are aged 18-21 years old) . But after getting accustomed to the environmentand having meaningful discussions with some people... I now feel that this is the best time for me.

It is good to have established my roots in the Philippines so I won't go blowing in the wind after this! (Nice adventure - but I am not that type of person...)
I will not be surprised if I am unable to reach my personal goals or travel a straight line towards it. We are only 2 weeks into the program (feels like MONTHS already) and the diversity of the group (and each one's personal goals!) prevent one-track discussions from taking place. I sometimes feel so old and boring when I start bringing up these "professional stuff"...
We also came up with group values, on how we want to live and learn throughout the semester:
1. Be respectful, inclusive and thankful
2. Be openminded, flexible, tolerant, patient and understanding
3. Challenge each other
4. Have fun
5. Establish great friendships
6. Maintain a balance between work and fun

But I also have my own!
1. Embrace change and look at each experience as a learning experience.
2. Be thankful and keep in mind that you are not only doing this for yourself but also for your family and your country.
3. Do not lose sight of your goals.
4. Respect people and also be respectable
5. Celebrate differences and diversity
6. Pray, pray, pray.
7. Always remember that you are not alone and there are people back home waiting for you.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Dance as if no one is Watching...

"Oye el boom, boom, boom de mi corazon
ven y dime tu no me digas no"

Now I have no idea what that somg said -- but it has something to do with listen to the beat of my heart - boom, boom, boom.

Ah, and I get to dance the SALSA... yeah, dance as if no one is watching and I feel sexy. Haha.

This past week passed by so quickly and most of the time at 3PM I am so ready to pass out of exhaustion... tired from dancing, singing and there is the occasional education session (which I love, by the way...) - definitely information overload!

My motivation is that fact that we go to the Philippines and get to show off this stuff! I guess we Filipinos need these happy uplifty songs once in a while!

I vow to update my journal over this weekend! Well, tomorrow we will go whitewater rafting!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Cast B Itinerary

A lot of Cities have changed and still might change also!

August 6-13 Tucson, Arizona

August 13-16, Globe, Arizona

August 16-20, Sierra Vista, Arizona

August 20-27, San Diego, California

August 27-Sept 3, Corcoran, CA

Sept 4- Sept 30 - Around Oregon and Seattle

October 1-7 - Lecco, Italy

October 8-14 - Luzern, Switzerland

October 15-21 - Zell Harmersbach, Germany

October 22-28- Prenzlau, Germany

October 29-Nov 4 - Dronten, The Netherlands

Nov 5-11 - Leuven, Belgium

November 12 - December 10 - PILIPINAS!

Keep posted for SHOW DATES! Sa mga kaibigan kong Pilipino, manuod kayo ha. Di ako bida or anything but if you look closely (as in super close) baka makita nyo ako! Haha. But really, the show is super worth watching ;-)

Opening Day Letter; Something to Reflect on

Last Opening Day, we were asked to write a letter to ourselves, telling us all about our present selves and also about who we want to be after the program. Then we gave it to the staff for safekeeping. I am guessing that these will be returned at the end of the semester..

After that, a member of the previous cast shared his letter to us, and it was so beautiful. Sharing this also with you...

Dear Andrew,

Listen carefully; I have something very important to tell you.

This is a remarkable world, and it deserves all of the attention you can give it. Let everything inspire you. Focus on yourself and all that is around you. Find the patterns. Search for the differences. Understanding these will help you make sense of your life. It will help you break the habit of falling down in the same place where you’ve always fallen down before.But be warned, it’s a hard habit to break.

You are about to journey to far corners of this world and in every one of them a secret is waiting to be revealed to you.You’ll have to keep your eyes open to see them. You can’t keep your heart locked up like a secret if you’re going to realize that you are so much more than just yourself. You are a part in the great mystery of everything.

Just think, for a second, of every thing that’s happened to bring you here today. Not just your life, but all the lives that came before you.

You can believe in anything, God or the ground beneath your feet, to know that your existence and presence here today and in the world is what they mean by ‘miracle’.

Now think of what could be waiting out there for you. All that is about to happen that you cannot control. Families across the world who will welcome you with open arms. You may never really know if people can change. But you are about to learn that experience can change everything. Your actions can spread. Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and the love you give can expand, coloring everything in your life that came before it. Love expanding. Now there’s a concept that could change the world. So keep your eyes on your heart and nothing else. You’ll find, with this, that your heart will lead you to the truth. The truth, which is not your emotions, or attractions, or excitements. The truth is strength where you were once weak, compassion where you were once ignorant, and kindness where you were once cruel. You must give these gifts to yourself before you can give them to others.Because love is a choice, not a feeling, and it’s only the brave who ever really make it.

Be kind when no one is watching, and treat those you grow to love always with compassion first. But don’t be so hard on yourself when you don’t.

Always ask – what is it from this that I am meant to understand?What is it the world is really teaching me?Because the world has taught us lies.That we can live a full life alone, but that we need others.That we should put ourselves first. That we should take instead of give.That to love and have joy should be easy. And that our words need not have meaning behind them. It’s not the world’s fault it’s lied to us – it can’t help itself.But it’s our fault for believing the lies, and we don’t have to any longer. So – appreciate humanity. Appreciate this earth and everything in it. It needs you now, and it’s every atom, if you allow it, can inspire you to grow and change.

Have fun, close your eyes, spread your arms and forget yourself and how to breathe. Everything you know is over-rated, everything you’ll ever learn will someday be forgotten. And to be lost is to be free.

This experience is not about the moment that came before, or the moment that comes next, it’s about the truth you open your heart to in every moment that you are in. It’s a gift to close your eyes, raise your head to the sky, and see light where there should be darkness. The world is waiting for you, right now, to teach it something new. So teach it loudly. Life begins today, just as it began yesterday, filled with possibility.Have faith. Do not be afraid. That which is true will never leave your side.It is never to late to turn what’s wrong around.You are about to build a family around yourself. So Welcome Home. Build your life with pride, and kindness. Beginnings do not last, it’s what you do with what you’ve started that will determine the worth not only of this experience, but of your very life.

Up With People Performs in Denver

Friday, August 3
Saturday, August 4

7:00 PM

Teikyo Loretto Heights Theater

3001 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80236

Tickets available at the Young Americans Bank or please call (303) 4607100 ext 125

$15.00 Adult
$10.00 Seniors/ Children

This show is for the benefit of the Young Americans Center for Financial Education

Cast Decision

So, remember when I wrote that we were divided into Red and Green groups?

Well, today they finally announced our real Cast. It was intense and everyone was nervous since this morning. Because everybody has made friends already, made little cliques within the groups and it just didn't make sense to us for them to change groups.

In the morning we had a leadership discussion, and then they oriented us on how to do Up With People admissions (finding potential students). After that, we had vocals and then movement. The dance was easier this time!

After that we were asked to hang around the hallway and were forbidden to enter the ballroom. After a few minutes of drama and anticipation, they opened the ballroom doors and scattered around there were lists of names and instructions on where to go...

My list said I had to go to the auditorium -- oh and I was so happy that I was still with some of the new friends I've made! But still, we did not know what Cast or tour we would be in.

The atmosphere was very American Idol-ish. People happy, people sad, people surprised, people crying, people hugging each other...

The tour announcement was full of drama. They played "Let it Be" and alumni and roadstaff dressed in black and white came out on stage wearing signs that said all sorts of "becoming" stuff: It was sort of emotional and exciting!

Be Impactful
Be Eclectic
Be True
Be Bold
Be Global
Be Positive
Be Determined
Be Thankful
Be Fun
Be Active
Be Inventive
Be Challenged
Be Humble
Be Confident

Be .. Cast B !!!
Yup, Cast B 2007 that will travel to the Philippines! Woo Hoo!

BUT I JUST CANNOT BELIEVE THAT THEY PUT MALL OF ASIA AS A PHILIPPINE HIGHLIGHT. Sigh. Will post the whole itinerary in a different blog entry!

Cast Party afterwards!

Monday, 16 July 2007

Halu-Halo in Denver

Halu-Halo (roughly translated in English as Mix-Mix) is a famous Philippine dessert that has all sorts of sweetened ingredients like beans, nata de coco (coconut jelly), banana, corn, langka (jackfruit), ube, leche flan (caramel flan) -- topped with crushed ice, sugar, and milk.


Ah and it is really true that you appreciate your country, your culture, your heritage so much more when you are miles away from home.

Today I had an opportunity to spend time with Pinoy (slang for Filipinos) living in Denver. The power of technology brought us together. (I Googled "Filipino Community Denver" and found them there and made contact!)

I got in touch with Pastor Carlos Bulalayao of the CrossWind Community Church and they were happy to invite me to Sunday Christian (Baptist) Service. Although I am Catholic. attending service is okay with me since it is all about God's message anyway.

It was a wonderful little group of Filipinos , everyone very enthusiastic, welcoming and everyone proud to be a Filipino. It was amazing how the foreign spouses have adapted to the culture and didn't seem to mind us breaking into happy chatter in Filipino.

After the Church service, we all (well, most of us) went to a Chinese Restaurant for lunch (they said so I can eat rice!) I rode with newlyweds Paolo and Harlyn who had an Eraserheads CD playing in the car Astig!)

After that, we went to the Bulalayaos' house for some halu-halo! The TV was tuned to the Filipino Channel and I was able to watch ASAP (nice show too!) and the Buzz!

Twas a nice day! Here's a photo of me with Pastor Carlos and his wife Tita Rowena.

Up with People Stage and Lights Setup

This entry is especially for my UPLB Thespian Circle Friends...

Up with People has amazing stage and lights equipment that travel with the cast all over the United States. When the cast goes to Europe, the office there has a similar set. When we go to Asia however, we would have to rent equipment because of the expenses involved.

While doing theater orientation, I immediately thought of my old college theater group - UPLB TC ... We used to have similar workshops with our newbies. Terrms like Upstage, Downstage, Wings, Fourth wall, etc etc made me miss my college days.... Oh how I wish we would have equipment like what UWP has!
Eat your heart out!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Philippines: A place where US sailors get their tattoos

Wednesday, July 11 – we talked about Stereotypes. Stereotypes were defined us categories/ generalizations that we put people in based on their race, place of origin, country, or affiliations.

After a bit of discussion, big sheets of paper with individual countries were posted all over the room, and we went around to write our “image” of that country or people living in that country.

Then people from the countries are asked to go up front and talk about how they felt about the stereotypes that other cultures put them in. I was kind of surprised about what they put on Philippines. There were some stuff there that were totally unexpected and I was surprised that some of those that I expected didn’t even come out.

I didn’t get any racist or stupid remarks and that was good. And the negative ones that came up were partly true and it did make me feel quite bad that my country is like that or has that! But hey, we need Brutal Truth sometimes.

Here are some that I remember…

Poverty – a lot of people wrote this. Totally true.

Prostitution and Child Trafficking – it is sad to admit that there are some “hot spots” in the Philippines but I shared with the group that people resort to these practices due to lack of education and extreme poverty. I also added the fact that foreigners are the most likely customers because they have the money to spend. This is especially true with parents who tolerate their child being sold out there.

All people can dance the Tinikling – no, not all of us can do it! But (hopefully) all Filipinos know about it

Very Traditional – Personally, I kind of feel like we are losing the Philippine traditions. In this age of technology we have lost “panliligaw” (courtship) and that “Maria Clara” image of women (women being shy and conservative) . and somewhat our respect for elders. But I do still value the “po and opo” (words we use to show respect) and the Filipino family culture.

Bad Food – we have very good food (to which someone agreed! Yehey!)

Where US Sailors get their tattoos – probably because of the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman”

Exotic places – so true, I haven’t visited all of them though

Tsunami – no, we weren’t affected by that

Rice, Seafood – yup

Traffic – in some places, yes
Of course, I told them that Filipinos are very friendly and cheerful people. That they should all expect the extreme hospitality that we shower to guests.

Oh and I learned a lot of things about other places too – here are some of the interesting ones…

In the Netherlands, people love bikes. But they get old bikes so they don’t get stolen.

Even if it is in Africa, there are hardly any wildlife in Uganda. You have to go to Safari in order to see them. Julianna, the Ugandan delegate haven’t even seen a lion in her whole life.

Contrary to Harry Potter, Bulgaria can be very hot in the summer – as in up to 40 degrees Celsius.

Brazilians love showing off skin.

The Swedes are very quiet people and are kind of amazed how people can talk so much.

That’s about it for this topic!

Some (Fun) Facts about US Culture

Right now we are divided into two groups – Red and Green. We are still not officially called a “Cast” and they will announce the final groups on Monday. I am so excited.

We will be staying for 4 weeks here in Denver (3 remaining weeks!) practicing and learning the show… so we had a bit of a discussion about US Culture. And here are some interesting Facts::::

How much time at work does it take to make $1,000.00?

CEO = 2 hours and 15 minutes
Doctor = 13 hours and 5 minutes
Professional Athlete = 6 minutes
Policemen = 43 hours
Brad Pitt = 4 minutes
Farmer = 57 hours
Janitor = 103 hours

(Upon comparison with my old salary, I think I will be earning $1,000 dollars after 3 months of working – tama ba ang computation ko?)

We also tackled the consumerism in America.. in a country with around 300 Million people, here are some trivia of what gets bought everyday…

50,061,507 cans of Pepsi
152,424 pounds of Starbucks Coffee (they have Starbucks in every corner! But just like in the Philippines, some people consider it an expensive and “trendy” brand – a place to be “seen”. I’ve always thought it was a “normal” brand here.)
300,000 packs of diapers
2,400,000 Burger King Whoppers
500,000 Twinkies
20,826 Laptops
86,000 I Pods
6,000,000 Fed Ex Packages sent

Keep in mind that these are DAILY purchases!

On Modules and Internships

It felt like American Idol or Star Circle Quest.

Last Tuesday, July 10 we had “Modules” which meant that we were divided into small groups of around 7 people and made to pass stations for singing, speaking and dancing (movement).

My group first went through movement, where we lined up in front of the dance staff. One of the staff showed us several types of dances and we were made to follow it – ranging from Salsa, Swing, Hip Hop and Jazz. You wouldn’t believe it, but I had a really great time! We had about 45 minutes of this while the staff took down notes.

In between modules, the costume staff looked at the show costumes that we brought (they gave us a color palette to follow a few weeks before the start of program – these are basically just colors of the clothes that we should bring). I liked mine so much – it was a Malaysian skirt owned by my mom when she was studying in Thailand. And it was good that it was approved so I don’t have any problems with my costume right now.

Our next module was vocals. Uh-oh – I made it a point to tell them that I don’t even do karaoke! I would have been more comfortable if I was asked to sing a song that I knew. But what happened was, again, they made us line up in a “firing squad” position, taught us an excerpt of one of the songs from the show and made us sing together. After two rounds of group singing, we had to sing it one by our BY OURSELVES.

I don’t know why but I just couldn’t do it! There were tears in my eyes! I felt so funny and really humiliated! But the people there were so encouraging and all that they made me stand really close to the organist and sang softly when I did my “Solo”. I was amazed that they put me in Soprano. Haha. I had to have a picture with the Music team after that

They also made us speak a little – and this is a part that I hope I get something “important” – but I really doubt it. The cast is made up of so many people having English as their first language.

At the back of my mind I really, really wish I had the talent for the show. A lot of Filipinos are really making it big in singing and dancing and I just feel so bad that I am representing my country without any of these! But hey, the primary reason that I joined Up with People is because of the community impact and education it offered. The show is just like a bonus part that will make me fulfill that secret dream of being an artista – so there!

Today (July 13) they announced lead dancers and lead singers – after seeing the disappointment in some people’s faces I was kind of pleased that I wasn’t one of the super talented ones because I was not expecting to lead in anything! I am looking forward to Filipinos joining UWP with both the talent, passion and personality. I only had the two last characteristics, hehe.

I am planning to apply for an internship though… Students can apply for staff internships and get hands-on learning about the different aspects of the program. I am really interested in applying for Education, Admissions, Photo, Video or Marketing. The student will work with certain members of the Road Staff (people who travel with us on the road) for intensive hand on training for 6 weeks. Just for your information, other internship opportunities are Dance, Vocals, Lights, Sounds, Logistics, Business.

Another special internship is the Advance Team internship, where you will leave the cast one-two weeks in advance to do coordination work in a city that the cast will perform in. This involves mostly logistics and marketing – such as finding host families, arranging for food, orientations, community impact projects that the cast will have, etc.

Too bad that they won’t have Advance Team for the Philippines! But I will still apply for Advance Team and hope that secretariat work in other countries is not much different from secretariat work in the Philippines!

The Zempels' Backyard

I don't usually take photos of houses, but my host family's home is really nice and country-ish. Something that my mom and my husband will totally like: More photos in the Gallery!

Caught this little critter on camera!

Friday, 13 July 2007

"In Brazil, Big Mac is more expensive than Havaianas"

After asking if it was acceptable in my culture to receive gifts from men, Rafael gave me these as a gift. I said thank you and he was surprised that I knew the brand. I told him that in the Philippines, these are quite high-end slippers (excuse me, "flip-flops" pala). His reply? In Brazil, Big Mac is more expensive than Havaianas.

It turns out that these "sandals" (as he calls them) are very famous in Brazil because they are so cheap and were produced for really low income people.

Amazing what branding and colonial mentality can do, huh?

Culture Shocked at Red Rocks

What amazes me about America (among other things) is how its geography changes so much – so abruptly. One moment we are driving through great plains and your eyes can travel a long, long way before you actually see anything. And then in a snap, you see amazing rocks towering over you. This is Colorado.

I was given the opportunity to visit a place where nature and technology merged. Our host family took us to the Red Rocks Amphitheater , which was a HUGE amphitheater in the middle of Colorado’s rocky mountains. It could seat around 5,000 people , and the music and sounds just bounce off the rocks and gives one a very unique experience. The Beatles played here during their time and a lot more other famous bands – this month, Incubus is coming, plus Bob Dylan…

Last Sunday, July 8, our host family took us to the Red Rocks Amphitheater for a free concert by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra… and it was really cool! Families with little kids were there with picnic baskets listening to super relaxing music. I felt so lucky for the experience.

The following day, we went to Red Rocks again for something totally different. There were a few local bands who played while local artists did really nice paintings on stage (hmmm idea!). The highlight of the evening was a movie called “The Big Lebowski” which starred Jeff Daniels and John Goodman. Apparently, it was a movie which has gained a cult following in America – and I would say that I cannot see why. It was full of curse words and some unnerving sex icons. I still consider myself conservative (believe it or not) and I simply couldn’t stand it. I am not posting a video of that here but feel free to watch some clips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqtgfjkB6Pg

Much worse was that the crowd that Monday was totally different from the crowd for the orchestra. There was beer, people throwing up, and from time to time the air was filled with the stench of marijuana. (I know some people from back home would’ve loved that experience, ah, but I didn’t!) I totally felt unsafe in such an unfamiliar crowd. And when I say crowd, it was really a HUGE crowd.

By writing this down I am risking myself to be exposed as #1 PRUDE. I guess rather than complaining, I should try to look at this experience as a supreme immersion to American culture. What do you think?

Oh and it was also great meeting 11 year-old Monay (pronounced Mo-neigh, not like the Pinoy bread!) who was our host mom's little sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Program - she went with us to the Colorado Symphony concert.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

July 9- Opening and Welcome Day

Up, Up With People! We got to see some parts of the show.

(delayed posting)

Writing this in between breaks.. today was opening day and I am so overwhelmed with everything that is happening. There are over 100 new faces – different cultures, different first impressions – what a very, very unique experience.

Right this very minute – I just need quiet time. This morning was a mixture of emotions for me. Seeing some parts of the show and performing alumni and hearing the songs brought tears into my eyes. I cannot imagine that in 4 weeks I will be able to perform like them. It was beautiful and exciting.

We had a variety of other getting to know you activities – and again whenever I am feeling happy or feeling a bit homesick, I sometimes ask myself, “Hanna, what have you done? Are you really serious in thinking that you can pull this off?”

I am missing home and sometimes I feel uncomfortable… but I hope this blows over soon. I’ve made a few friends and I love them. And we also have small groups called “home teams” that will meet each day to process experiences and learnings. I’ll try to name them : Maria (Sweden), Josh (USA), Rasmus (Denmark), Jaylee (Hawaii), Iliana (Mexico), Emily (USA) – ahah , I think I got them all. It’s really hard to memorize everyone’s names ! we will be 111 students all in all and will travel in 2 separate casts.

We still do not know our final Cast – they said we’ll find out after auditions…

I miss home and I miss Tagalog!

This is our rehearsal building. Yup we got the whole building to ourselves! Vocals in the basement, lunch and staff meetings at the ground floor, then we also have a ballroom for cast meetings, and 4th floor is the auditorium, and there is a landing used for the dance routines. The building is about a hundred years old! very nice.

Here is the ballroom where most cast meetings happen. More to come.. it is really hard to keep up with the blogging. Here is what our schedule for the week looks like. You can see that this is not a vacation!

“You’re Married? That is So Cool”

I usually get that comment whenever I say that I am married... my answer?

"Yeah, I think so too!"

When I decided to get married at 25, a lot of people told me that it will be the end of all my dreams and wild adventures. But this is not how I feel now. Because I know that Sam is that type of guy that I can dream with and have adventures with.

A lot of people here now at UWP are amazed at how can someone “attached” and “married” be leaving her husband and traveling all over the world. They all ask me if this was ok with my husband. And all of them smile or a few even gave me hugs when I replied, “Yup, he supports me all the way!”

I remember what Sam told me when I was first starting the good vibes that I will be able to join UWP, “Go ahead, that is for your own personal growth. I know that this is your dream … hindi kita pipigilan (I won’t stop you)” I was amazed by this very sweet and supportive answer because I was expecting some sort of resistance.

When finally I was all set to go, Sam told me that of course, he felt a bit of sadness but still won’t stop me from going. All throughout we prayed together and I was very emotional when he told me that if ever I fell homesick, we should draw strength and inspiration from each other even if we are far apart.

So here we are – happily married but separated by time and space. We hardly exchange messages since it can get expensive from my part of the world, and I can’t even just use a phone card to call him since he’s so busy.

As we both follow our dreams this year -- we are indeed busy with our own separate adventures, but in heart and spirit we are together… and so looking forward to doing exciting adventures together in the future.

I miss you Sam!

Monday, 9 July 2007

My First Host Family

UWP gives us a host family code and we’re supposed to find that item so we can meet our host families. Mine was “volleyball” , since the theme for this leg of the tour was “all things related to summer”

It was fun looking at the rows of happy faces carrying all sorts of things – ranging from lemonade, picnic basket, beach ball, sand box – and even swim trunks! I found out that I had a roommate staying with the same host family – Lesley from Tucson, Arizona. She’s also 25 years old, and a dance teacher.

From afar, we already saw Laurie and Bill throwing a volleyball up and down “They look kinda cool” Lesley whispered.

And indeed they were – married for 14 years , they were not able to have any kids. They said they compensated for this by doing all sorts of volunteer work. Like being host family to a lot of youth programs and being involved in the Little Brothers Little Sisters program of America, where they take care of kids from time to time. Bill is a military brat and Laurie used to be in the army as a spy (how cool is that!). Both of them are really the outdoorsy type of people!

They have a darling home with a terrace and natural airconditioning which really fascinated me. It was a contraption which extracts cold air from outside and blows it inside the home! Para talagang aircon. Summer in Colorado is really hot.

Tired as we were… they took us and their friend Gina to the Cherry Arts Festival – which is an annual music and arts festival in an uppity (“hoidy toity” – their version of “wursh-wursh” hehe) part of Denver. There was live music and a lot of artists booths selling sculpture, jewelry, photographs and paintings. Really nice!

Photo shows Lesley, Gina (the Zempels' good friend), me, Laurie and Bill at the Cherry Arts Festival

UWP Arrival Day

We left the hotel at around quarter to eleven to catch the airport shuttle. We were to meet the UWP staff and the other delegates who were arriving that day. There were indeed 9 of us staying in the hotel and here are the names that I remember – of course there was Alecs, Yuri, Rafael, Julianna, then there was Benjamine (Belgium, she’s a girl), Guido (Italy), Rasmus (Denmark) and there was another Swedish girl (oh I’m so sorry I forgot her name!)

We stayed at the airport waiting around and I met lots more people! Staff members were there to welcome us and again, just to give you a clue about the diversity of the group, here are the names I remember – Vanessa (USA), Vanessa (Quebec, Canada), Amy (Malaysia), Sayuri (another Yuri, also from Japan), Graham (USA) and , and – oh no. I am so terrible with names! But there were quite a lot of people in the airport.

We were brought to the Montbello Convention Center where most of our activities and rehearsals are to take place… There, we met more people! And I finally met Scott, Anke and Colleen (who were my contacts during the application process) and more more people!! We got our schedules, bus passes and name tags (finally!!) mine said “Hanna Fernando-Pacua” (sosyal ang pag pronounce ng Pacua dito – Pa-koo-wah at hindi basta Pakwa hehe)

I was thrilled to meet a half-Filipina and half-Norwegian cast member! Her mom was there, looking very Filipina… it was Yuri who told me that she was pure Filipina. I was so excited to find someone to talk to in Tagalog – but it turned out even the Mom grew up in the US! No Tagalog for me! Oh but she was really excited to meet me – and her kids too, they were like, “Wow! A real Filipina!!!” They did know some Tagalog words, like : adobo, lumpia and pancit! – The mom traveled with UWP many years ago and met her husband there.

We basically just hung out and waited for our host families to arrive… my info sheet said I had Laurie and Bill Zempel, no children – and one dog. Uh-oh – I wonder what kind of dog!!!

Reaching Denver

Finally here at the hotel and they got wireless internet that’s fast !! (although I am posting this one late because I had to sleep early)

We’re staying at Microtel Inn about 15 minutes away from the airport. My roommate is Alexandra Nageau (did I get the spelling right?) from Romania. We arranged this through Facebook and the Internet. She’s such a nice girl!

When we arrived from the airport, Alecs and Yuri (from Japan, this is her 2nd UWP tour, she is from Cast A 2007 and decided to sign up for a whole year so she can improve her English..) were waiting for us.

It was a happy first meeting. I was amazed at how easily we were able to talk to each other, no inhibitions or whatever. We went on ahead to look for other UWP cast members in the hotel ( there were about 9 early arrivals) but was only able to locate Juliana from Uganda (ahem ahem anong bansa ang madaming maganda? Ano? Uh-Ganda! – sorry naalala ko lang si Sir Mario! Hehe) . We hung out a bit in her room and I gave them Ensaymada from Goldilocks (got some from L.A) and they liked it a lot.

Sleeping at 2 AM… long day later! 07-07-07 starts my adventure with UWP. (Well, it actually started already!)