Wednesday, June 4, 2014

US Trip: Top 5 Memorable Things

I tried to do this post days ago, but I can't seem to figure out how nostalgic it will feel if I try to remember everything that happened in my PYLP journey. I guess this is the right time to do this. Whether I like it or not, I somehow need to let go. In my case, writing about things allows me to let go of them.

PYLP is so memorable, I don't think I'll ever forget it. It is the highlight of who I choose to become. It is an important event, because it is where I realized that I had to stop finding myself. I need to create who I want to become. I tried out a lot of things. I went to so many places. I met different people. Here are the five most memorable ones:

1. Homestay

We took this picture in the family room, my favourite place in the house.
I honestly got nervous about this. I used to be really family-oriented that I never let anyone influence me other than my immediate family. But in PYLP, I thought differently. I allowed three wonderful people (and one dog) touch my life for two short weeks.

If I go back to those wonderful two weeks and describe the things that I love most about the Mix family, I would say that:

I love it how Mom cooks for us. I love it how Dad prays for us. I love it how Evan talks about interesting topics at breakfast. I love it how Mom buys us our favourite ice cream. I love it how Dad drops us to school every morning. I love it how Mom patiently picks us up in the afternoon. I love it how Dad calls us "his Filipino daughters". I love it how Mom makes sure that we are warm enough. I love it how Dad tries to make me eat salads. I love it how both of them never made me feel that I was different.

Mom prepared this for us when we went to the Vogl's Farm. 
Rina and I were so happy when we saw this! So sweet.

I am very, very thankful for Mom Jane and Dad Larry for being there for Rina and me all throughout those two weeks. Both of us really feel lucky and blessed that they were our foster parents. They are truly the best! 

The reason why home stay means a lot to me is because I was really in the field of learning about the American culture. During those times, I wasn't just reading a novel that is set in America or watching a hollywood teen flick to learn about American life. I was living in it. It was also a time when I got to tell others about Mindanao and the Filipino people. It was amazing to share stories!

Rina and I took so many selfies during our last night in our room.
2. Stronghold Camp

Jump shot! (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
Stronghold had this ancient aura. It was so cool (and scary) to stroll around. (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
This...was the highlight of the leadership training part, I think. It's where everything was challenged and at the same time shaped--my perceptions about being a leader, my confidence about being a leader and my readiness on being a leader.

The legendary rope course. I think this is 30 feet high. (CTO)
Look, I wasn't really afraid of heights. I guess I was afraid of falling. I was scared that everything might end there. All I was thinking was, what if I will fall right this moment?

I was excited to climb my way up! (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
At first I said to myself, "Hey, J. This is going to be easy. It's just like an equivalent of your workout routine for three days." I was so confident that I could make it, since I am used to sweating and getting exhausted. Thing is, it wasn't really about the exhaustion. It was about faith. It was about the trust I gave to the people who were supporting me, the trust I had in myself and the trust I gave to God. 

It turned out that things weren't easy. It was too high. It was too cold. The wind was so strong. There was a slight rainfall. My helmet was too loose. I hated it when someone's on the zipline, the elements get so shaky! I felt like dying of shame up there. It felt hours--long, dragging. Worst case, I was caught in the middle with cramps on my left and right hips. Suicide. I kinda regret trying out that course. Baby steps worked out, until the last element. I couldn't swing. I sat there waiting for the support person to just rescue me. But he wouldn't. I began to cry and Ate Ces told the person to go and help me because I really could not make it. Then he said, "She can. But she quit." Those words hurt me just as how other people's insults broke me in the past. All of a sudden, it was as if all the perseverance in the world rushed upon me. I stood up and told myself that I had to finish what I started. I told myself that there was no turning back. I believed that I could make it. So I did.

Before the rope course, I was excited and scared at the same time!
The zipline ride was so short but it was the time for me to just think. For a few seconds, I screamed--joy, fulfilment, anger and a couple of other feelings that I could not understand were felt. It was crazy, but I think the rope course and all the other team building activities were really worth it. It strengthened us as a family. Most importantly, it strengthened me as a leader.

After the rope course, I was haggard but completely overjoyed.
This was taken in the castle (classic place!). All of us were feeling sleepy. (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
I learned that being a leader is a choice. When you start to choose to be one, there is no turning back. People will need you and you will need them. I chose to lead and I have to go on. Becoming a leader is my lifetime commitment from now on.

The leaders of our time (incomplete though). (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
3. Oak Crest Retirement Center

Oak Crest is such a happy place! (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
I got to eat dinner with four lovely grandmothers. We shared our stories. It was short but it really meant a lot to me. I remembered my own grandmothers that time. Some of their stories were deeply sad. Some were so inspiring. I was touched repeatedly when they kept on telling me that I am so great for being a 15-year old. They told me that I am smart when I talk. They told me that it was very brave of me to travel alone at this age. They told me that I was so beautiful. I was really flattered by all the things that they said. One of them even asked me, "Do you have a boyfriend?" I laughed for about five seconds because the question was so out of nowhere! Then I answered honestly, that I'm not yet ready to fall inlove and get hurt. They said I should enjoy being alone first and I should never stop to chase my dreams. "We see you ten years from now as a successful young lady." I got teary-eyed and hugged each one of them. 

(Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
It was really meaningful to give happiness to people. I heard that they really get too happy when someone visits them. After dinner, we entertained them by performing our cultural presentation. Don't ask how No Te Vayas turned out! HAHA. The four of us were saved by our smiles. 

(Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
(Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
4. Sycamore High School

Spartans! (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
The gym. The hallways. The cafeteria. Wow, it really felt like I was in a hollywood film. The facilities of their school were really awesome. The food was so good. The class schedule was fun.

With my shadow, Maddie. She's really smart and nice!
I find this experience really memorable because I got to interact with more American peers. I learned about their system. I liked it how they get to choose their subjects in high school. I also think that having different classmates for each class is really helpful for a stronger bond. I met some friends. They were all so nice. Somehow, my views on American high school really changed. I found out that  their schools are more than cliques and bullies. They value education, extracurriculars and friendship.

(Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
5. House Parties

With the giant oven. (Credits: Algem Crusis)
I had so much fun jumping on the trampoline with the kids, drinking the pink lemonade while talking to my friends and eating smores. The Smiths and Wells really did a good job in throwing those parties. 

(Credits: Algem Crusis)
I missed swinging! (Credits: Algem Crusis)
Smores! I loved this part. (Credits: Algem Crusis)
Rina and I spent more time with the Smiths since it was closer to our house. It was so cold, Mrs. Smith had to lend me a scarf. Their house was so fancy and cozy. I love their dog, although it kept on chasing us. HAHA! We took A LOT of pictures, we even told them to do wacky (which we referred as crazy pose). It was cool hanging out with the other families. We kinda got to know each other better. 

(Credits: Algem Crusis)
(Credits: Algem Crusis)
Look up! (Credits: Algem Crusis)
We hitched in Tita Pam's car to go to the Wells'. I really treasured that short ride. I was in the front seat and I felt bad for Wynn, Sef, Rina and Niall to be squeezed in the backseat. It was really fun. I was also very thankful that I got to know Tita Pam and Niall. That boy is really close to my heart, I consider him as my little brother. 

With sweet Niall during the farewell event. (Credits: Aldrin Quintero)
I typed this for three hours because I found it hard to pick the right words to describe my feelings and experiences. These are just some of the reasons why PYLP is really life-changing. I will miss every single thing on this list. I'm sad that I might never experience anything like these in the future. But I would always remember what Tita Pam told me while I was crying during the solidarity night:

"You know what they said? Don't be sad that it ended, be happy that it happened."

Next post is about my beloved Pylpers. Stay tuned into my blog. Thank you for reading this!


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