May 20, 2013
On Wednesday, Cast A had an emotionally charging education workshop concerning world hunger. Instead of being fed lunch, we entered a room and were handed an identity card stating who we were, where we lived, a bit about our lives, and our income status (high, middle, or low). We passed haunting statistics and photos on the wall as we made our way to our “class section.” I took on the identity of Deng, a poor farmer from Vietnam. Due to my low-income status, I joined the majority of the cast on the floor, in a section covered in trash. The middle-income people had a circle of chairs, and the high-income group had a full table with chairs and decorations. The high-class was served by the staff. They were able to pick their beverage and were soon brought salads with vegetables and dressing. Later they received chicken and pasta, and finally fresh fruit. In the meantime, the middle-class group was given a big pot of seasoned rice and a pot of beans, horchata (a cinnamon rice/milk type Mexican drink), and serving utensils and cups for everyone. Finally, the low-class was given a big vat of half-cooked rice cooked that was sitting in way too much water. It was a combination of mush and crunchy uncooked rice – there’s no good way to describe it. We were also given murky water in a jug, 8 plastic cups and a used metal serving pan (it still had some salad in it from the high-class meal). There were about 40 of us in the low-income group, so we had to figure out how to serve ourselves and make it work without having proper serving utensils or plates/silverware. I took a piece of paper that I had and folded it up to make a makeshift plate/utensil, but it wasn’t easy. A lot of people were eating with their hands or sharing cups, or even using the trash off the floor.
Eventually, the staff came in and took all of the food away – and there was still a LOT. Then, they brought in a trashcan and made a public display of throwing all the remaining food away as we had to sit and watch. At one point, one cast member from the low-income group ran up and grabbed a bowl of fruit out of the hands of a staff member before she could throw it away. It made me realize why thievery can be so present in such low-income areas. You fight to survive and do whatever it takes to do so.
The whole group in our Hunger Banquet room. Far left: High-income, Middle: Middle-income, Far right: low-income.
The middle-income group serves up rice and beans. Photo credit: Ambrea Peterson
The middle-income meal: rice, beans, horchata, and serving utensils. Photo credit: Ambrea Peterson
The entire experience really impacted me because the statistics hit me hard. I always knew there was a bad imbalance of income level and food distribution, but I didn’t know the hard facts. Perhaps you don’t, either, so I’d like to share them with you:
As a cast, we also discussed solutions and steps we can personally take to help the cause. Of course, there are the small steps such as not wasting food and making sure to buy fair trade items so that all workers involved in the production of a good receive fair and equal pay. But if you are interested in learning more and taking further action, please look up the following organizations and become involved as you see fit:
You can also take some time to play Free Rice on www.freerice.com. For every correct word association you guess correctly (or any subject question, for that matter…you can change what the questions are about!), the World Food Programme donates 10 grains of rice to impoverished communities worldwide. It’s a free game that helps feed the world, all while improving your vocabulary.
The Hunger Banquet was an amazing opportunity that really got our cast thinking. It propelled us to take action, and we hope that these statistics will prompt you to do the same. Curing world hunger can not and will not be cured overnight, but with little efforts from many, over time, we can improve the quality of life for millions worldwide.
May 13, 2013
This last show marked the end of our tour in Europe. It’s filled with happiness from an amazing tour and experience but also sadness having to say goodbye to friends, families, and host families. We’re ecstatic to be going to Mexico, but change is hard, and sad, and it always seems like time is skipping over us, not giving us enough moments to savor, hugs to share, laughs to cherish.
Amongst this all is a special kind of goodbye. We started as a large group, and quickly became a family. However, we all had lives outside of Up With People (gasp), and for some of us, life has made us leave this daydream we call UWP early.
Today, I’d like to honor some friends of ours who have left, or are leaving, before the official end of the semester.
Bonnie Waller is a friend of mine. She was our first round Sound Intern, and part of our ‘super crew’, the group who traveled to Europe in advance so that we could set up our first venue. She sat near me on the plane, and it was a blast. We miss her, and plan on seeing her again soon!
Caroline Willard is a second semester student. She’s the person who first helped me on the blog. She’s incredibly friendly to everyone, and is just very cool. On a personal note, she listens to good music! She’ll be departing from our ranks on Monday.
Lastly, Diana Rossio will also be leaving on Monday. This is quite possibly the funniest girl I’ve met here in UWP. This past weekend she sang our theme song in Belgium, and she was fantastic. We’re losing some laughter when we head to Mexico.
I don’t want to make any of this sound overly sad. I just want to recognize the people who are gone, to let them know that they have all our support. We wish them well, and by no means is this goodbye.
Family doesn’t have to see each other every day. Friends don’t have to live in a house together every week. The next time we see each other, and there WILL be a next time, we’ll carry on like we never split. I know that other alumni around the world know exactly what I’m talking about. This feeling Up with People creates is forever, permanent, and time cannot take away the feelings we’ve had, experiences we’ve shared, and roads we’ve traveled.
Bonnie Waller, Colorado USA
Caroline Willard, Colorado USA
Diana Rossio, California USA
May 12, 2013
A special video made by Cast A for their mother’s. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day!
May 10, 2013
Prost! Salud! Kampai! Cheers! However you say it, it means the same thing. Fun and friends.
The past few weeks we’ve been in Belgium, home to literally thousands of beers, and I’ve said ‘prost’ quite a bit. For some of us this has been a cultural shock. For others, it’s been a cultural education. For a few, it’s home.
Outside of Up With People I’m a bartender, and I admit that I was excited to come to Belgium to sample some of the beers here and try to learn as much as I can about different styles of brewing. It’s a cultural experience that, sadly, I feel the U.S. is lacking. Luckily, the staff also thought it would be a good idea to educate our group.
Last week, in Sint Pieters Leeuw, we went to the Lindeman’s Brewery, where they make a variety of beers that are pretty famous for the country. They make the oldest beer in Belgium (Faro), but they specialize in fruit beers like apple, raspberry( which is available in the U.S., as well as many other countries), and their most popular, Kriek cherry. This brewery is special because they don’t use yeast. Instead, it’s provided from the air, which is only possible in this small region. That specific air defines these beers, making them a variety called Lambic, according to our tour guide.
The building looked like an old cottage attached to a small factory. We toured a room with huge copper kettles for mixing everything, a boiler room, a straining area, and the storage/shipping area where we saw beer being prepared to depart for different countries. My favorite was definitely the bottling line, where machines filled and labeled the bottles. It felt like a scene out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. At the end we had a beer tasting where we got to sample small portions of each of their beers. I thoroughly recommend the Faro, but everybody has their own opinions!
Often, host families insist on beer with, before, and after meals. You can’t drink them from a bottle, because each beer has its own special glass. If you want to see what I mean, head to Delirium Brewery in Brussels. This famous bar is the third most visited tourist spot in Brussels, next to the Atomium and Mannekin Pis. It houses 2,500 beers from around the world. Definitely a highlight for my education.
I’ve really enjoyed the Belgian culture, and beer is a part of it, so I’m glad I got to experience this world. It’s the same as wine for Italy, or cheese for Switzerland and France! Don’t miss out. Cheers!
“Yes, our country loves beer. It’s culture. It’s passionate. Everything is important, down to the microorganisms in the air and water. It’s art.” – Olivier, Belgium
“The Kriek cherry was definitely my favorite. It’s yummy” – Mia, Australia
“I tried a lot of beers, but my best experience was with a host family who brewed their own. So I tried four beers that are only available in that house!” – Daniel M. , Mexico
April 29, 2013
A few weeks ago, the cast arrived to the city of Vaduz, Liechtenstein with no clue what to expect. We knew almost nothing about the country beforehand, only little facts we’d looked up beforehand. So, here’s the scoop on Liechtenstein: It’s a tiny country located between Switzerland and Austria, with an area of around 160 square kilometers and a population of 35,000 people. It sits entirely in the Alps, along the Rhine River. And that was the extent of our knowledge on the subject.
But those facts are all just words until you see it. The cast was shocked to find that along with being one of the smallest countries in the world, it is also one of the most beautiful. The whole country sits in a valley surrounded by mountains, so you can just imagine the view in every direction- majestic, snow-dusted slopes, and rolling green hills dotted with oh-so-European farms spouting smoke from their chimneys. The royal family’s castle sits on the mountain just above our show facility- that’s how small Liechtenstein is.
But, we’ve learned, there are so many benefits to living in such a small country. For one, all the citizens know each other. We’ve all experienced it with our wonderful host families – if you go out to eat here, you’re more than likely to be introduced to the restaurant owner and share a glass of wine with several others before even sitting down to eat. There’s really a community here, a sense of familiarity and support between everyone, and for that to be accomplished by an entire country is just incredible.
Some quotes from the cast about Liechtenstein:
“Being surrounded by mountains, being able to walk everywhere, being right by three different countries- I loved Liechtenstein!”
“We were joking about how small it was, and then we found out it was larger than Bermuda!”
“Generally speaking, it’s a really peaceful country, very wealthy and the education level was really high. I really enjoy the life here…”
“Beautiful. The people are great, and it’s not too big but not too small- I can see myself moving there to raise kids.”
[Photos: Ambrea Peterson]
April 25, 2013
Cast A just spent the last week living in the Netherlands, home of wooden shoes, tulips, windmills, tall people, hagelslag, and bike riding! Many of us knew prior to arriving in the Netherlands that we might be riding to and from our meeting location every day by bike, and many of us did just that! I was one of the bike-riding cast members of the week, and I absolutely loved it.
First and foremost, the culture of bike riding in the Netherlands is so very different than anything I’m use to living in the United States. Bikes are as common, if not more common, than cars! In fact, bikes have their own riding lane, traffic signals, and parking garages. When you want to park your bike, an attendant scans your bike in, you find a parking place, lock up your bike, and leave knowing that your bike is safe! Then when you come back to pick it up, they scan it out and you’re on your way! It’s so easy and wonderful! Bikes are simply EVERYWHERE. Sometimes you even see parents with extra seats and buggies on their bikes so they can cart their children around without having to load up a car.
A parking garage for all the bikes!
Biking was a really fun way to travel for the week. It allowed us a feeling of independence, which was very nice since we’re used to being chauffeured around by our host families on a regular basis.
Amy (CO, USA), Jessica S. (CA, USA) and our little host brother!
Different cast members had some fun experiences to share about their time biking in Apeldoorn and Eerbeek in the Netherlands.
Mallory K. (CO, USA) “I tried to ride a bike for the first time in 6 years! My awesome roommate Clemence (Belgium) and host mom would run along the bike so that when I lost my balance I wouldn’t fall all the way over!”
Clemence (Belgium) helps Mallory (CO, USA) re-learn how to ride a bike after six years!
Daniel (Mexico) “When we were riding back from strike after the show, my roommate Gabo (Mexico) and I got lost at midnight! We were riding in the right direction, but we were riding on the wrong street. Eventually we managed to find the right street after biking around, but it was definitely an adventure!”
Gabo (Mexico) riding to the old palace in Apeldoorn
Tori (CA, USA) “I had to ride my 11-year-old host brother’s bike which he had recently outgrown because all the other bikes in the house were too tall for me! Dutch people…they’re tall!”
Sifan (China) “I roomed with Sarah (TX, USA) and she’s very short. She couldn’t ride any of the tall adult bikes, so she had to ride our 10-year-old host sister’s bike, and she even found she could ride our 6-year-old host sister’s bike! It was very funny!”
Sarah gets some help riding a bike from her 6-year-old host sister!
Erin (VA,USA) “Misa (WI, USA) and I had fun falling off the bikes all week long!”
Erin (VA, USA) riding through the Netherlands in her new hot pink boots!
Amy’s bicycle experience video in the Netherlands!
April 16, 2013
Our first stop on our European tour was in Switzerland. As a cast, we were very excited to travel to a new part of the world. It was interesting switching every week from French to German speaking cities, but it kept us on our toes! I had to laugh to myself every time I said, “Merci” to my German-speaking families or woke up saying “Guten Morgen” to my French-speaking families. Sometimes your brain just can’t think correctly and you forget what language you’re supposed to be speaking! =)
One of the best things about experiencing a new country is trying traditional foods! We were prepared for some delicious things in Switzerland, but I’m not sure we were prepared for the quantities in which we would eat them!
Sage (CA, USA): “I expected to eat a lot of cheese. I ate way more than I ever thought. And there are so many more ways to eat cheese and bread other than fondue, which I’ve had twice.”
Chip (CO, USA): “I think we can all attest that we have an abundance of chocolate.”
Needless to say, our cast is now stuffed after 3 weeks of eating delicious breads, cheeses, and chocolate. Oh my…the chocolate! Combine the love Swiss have for chocolate with Easter weekend and you find yourself completely overwhelmed with chocolaty goodness. Everyone in the cast showed up with an extra bag in hand on our Monday travel day after Easter Sunday. Why? Because we all needed an extra tote for all the chocolate our host families gave us! Goodness! We’re not kidding when we say that members of Cast A 2013 are now chocolate addicts.
Diana (CA, USA) enjoys traditional Swiss chocolate – Toblerone- with the Swiss Alps in the background!
Misa (WI, USA), Katy F. (WY, USA) and Sofia (Mexico) enjoy some chocolate bunnies on Easter Sunday!
We’ve now all experienced Fondue and Raclette, two very traditional Swiss cheese meals. Fondue consists of melting down cheese, wine, and usually garlic. Then you keep the pot of cheese warm by putting it over a flame. Then you spear bread cubes and swirl them around in the melted goodness! Raclette can be prepared two ways. Either with a large Raclette cheese wedge, or with individual cheese slices. You melt the cheese under a broiler and eat it with a variety of things, such as potatoes, onions, pickles, or fruits.
Camille (Beligum), Katie B. (MN, USA) and Diana (CA, USA) enjoy traditional fondue on host family day
Large block Raclette
Individual, Small Raclette
April 10, 2013
Wenfei is a fellow cast member of mine from Shanghai, China. She is 24 years old with chocolate hair, coffee skin, and dark auburn eyes. Her favorite color is green, her favorite song is So Sick by Neyo, and her favorite food is, ironically, American Chinese food. She loves travel, and she hates being tan. Her favorite thing about Up with People is the unknown possibilities that exist every day on the road. And she is one of my very best friends.
I have known Wen for nine months now, and that makes me very lucky. Beyond being a simply extraordinary friend, Wen is also quite possibly the funniest person in the cast (though you wouldn’t guess it at first). To give an example, the first time I heard Wen introduce herself, and every single time after that, she has followed up with the joke, “Yes, I’m Wen. Not who, not where, not why, but Wen!” And one time she had me rolling on the floor laughing when she said, “Yes and I will marry a husband named Who, and we will have children named What and Where, and people will ask, ‘Why?’”
Wen has amazed me on every step of our journey. She did an intensive internship with our business department for six weeks in English, rocked the show’s emcee in Mandarin when the cast went to Taiwan, and wowed me, her roommate in two separate cities, with her flawless Spanish skills in Mexico. And now, in our second semester together with a brand new cast, I have seen her reaching out to new cast members and building friendships every day.
I think Wen is a very Zen human being. What I mean is, she always seems to be happy where she is, and puts her focus on the present. I see it every day, no matter where we are – at community service sites, rehearsing for the show, chilling with host families – it doesn’t really occur to her to worry, or to give less than one hundred percent to the work or the people she’s with. Even when she has major jetlag or doesn’t understand some English perfectly, she forges ahead, asking questions and always giving more. One time she said to me, “You know, there’s a saying: people think being Zen is to think about life when you’re peeling potatoes. But being Zen is just to peel the potatoes!”
Sometimes I feel like just the opposite – like I’m dragging my feet, whining, waiting for the next break. It’s too easy to forget how lucky I am, to forget that I’m in Switzerland, always surrounded by very special people, and avidly experiencing the world every day. But Wen never forgets! Usually, it only takes a short chat with her to remind me. Because Wen’s greatest gift to me, the cast, and the whole world is her Zen, her ability to realize everything she’s lucky for and really value it.
That, to me, is the greatest beauty of Up with People: Being here, with two casts and more than 200 new best friends, has taught me the full meaning of the phrase, “Everyone has something to offer.” I am given the chance to meet remarkable people like Wen, who can teach me to understand the world in new ways- often without even realizing. There are so many different schools of thought represented in our little cast and in all the places we travel, and to get the most from it, I’ve realized I simply have to be open to the possibilities.
April 3, 2013
The journey of Up with People is, in many ways, a test. What I mean is, life on the road challenges you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can be really hard at times, but the result of knowing and understanding yourself better are well worth it. For me, one of the biggest challenges has been food!/
I’m a perfectionist, though I didn’t realize it until recently. I’m pretty messy- I lose stuff in my suitcase, I don’t keep a regular morning get-ready schedule, I tend to just charge into things intending to improvise. But when you break it down, being a ‘perfectionist’ means you feel the impulse to have control over your environment. This, for me, is %100 true. Mostly, my perfectionist side comes out whenever I don’t have something that I need- which is almost always either alone time or the right food.
I’m hypoglycemic. That means my blood sugar falls low super easily, and that I need to eat regularly (recommended every three hours or so). If I don’t, I can get really lightheaded and tired. So to avoid that, my diet is a little special: I need a lot more protein than other people, which means I need it with pretty much every meal. I also have to avoid things with a lot of simple carbs, usually starchy things like bread and rice.
That’s a bit much to put on paper, let alone adhere to in real life- especially when my diet is at the mercy of the large group or my host family. The truth is, I love food! I eat stuff that’s not good for me all the time, because it’s so incredibly tasty and because I tell myself, “Oh, come on! Eating real Southern American corn bread is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!” But, of course, I say that to myself every other day.
Before we came to Europe, I never realized quite how much bread they eat. Truly- sweet, crunchy, golden bread that was baked in the boulangerie down the street- and the Swiss eat it with every meal. I can’t resist! And then there’s the fondue, with its bitter fatty goodness. And because I had such a loving host family, Easter became Chocolate for Caroline Day! And not once did I say “no.” Of course, eating some of those made me sick- but like I said, it was a learning experience. I know more about how my body works and what it needs now, and my taste buds seriously enjoyed the journey.
And on the flip-side, it can happen a lot that I don’t have things I need. Making sure I always have a protein bar to replace the cast lunch of cheese sandwiches, not getting the chance to take a short rest during a sweaty community service day, communicating exactly what I can and can’t eat with our staff- these have all been difficult, but necessary. My perfectionist side comes out when I’m devoid of protein- I start thinking I can’t do anything else, not even walk five minutes to lunch, if I don’t get some protein. But I’d call my learning experience with food a journey, rather than a struggle. I’ve had to learn how to ask for what I need, because I’m no longer the one in control of my environment, meaning my diet. Sometimes, I just have to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t eat that,” or ask families to bring me to the market so I can buy some yogurt. And as much as I detest doing that, I also know what a good lesson I’m learning for the future.
And there are cast members who have stricter dietary needs than I do. My roommate this week, our adorable dancing ball of sunshine Larissa, is both dairy and gluten intolerant! That must be tough, but she’s always careful to take care of herself, and she’s able to keep herself totally healthy. She doesn’t let herself get shaken up by the idea of not getting what she needs, she just keeps her head cool and asks for it. In fact, she’s quite the role model for me.
April 3, 2013
Now that we’re in Europe, many cast members from A 2013 are experiencing new things for the first time. Pulling into our second Swiss city, Weinfelden, brought MUCH excitement for many of our Mexican cast members. Why? Because they got to see SNOW for the first time in their lives. It was so wonderful getting to see how excited they were about the cold white stuff falling from the sky – they were like little kids in a candy shop! My how the weather has changed since Florida and Georgia!
Giselle: “Sometimes you take for granted all the natural phenomena that happen around you. Rain, wind and sunshine are things that I have the chance to see A LOT when I’m in Mexico, but being in snow was something totally unknown for me. It felt like a movie in all its aspects and I didn’t even realize how cold it was, or I didn’t care. I am still excited and happy to be here and I hope it continues to be that way.”
Raymundo: “Last semester I was in the Philippines in the warmth and on the beach, and it’s neat that this semester I get to experience the cold and snow. I made my first snowball and it was fun getting to start a snowball fight throwing snow at everyone.”
Dany: “For the first two days, the snow was awesome. But now, I don’t like it. It’s TOO cold! I made my first snow angel and got into a snowball fight. I got snow in my ears and in my nose – it was really funny. “
Since arrival day in Weinfelden/Frauenfeld, the cast has had various opportunities to explore the snow. Many Community Impact projects allowed cast members to explore the Alps or work outside in the freezing weather. Adel from Belgium decided it would be best to jump head first into the snowy fun!
Some other Uppies have continued to enjoy all of the snow Switzerland has to offer: