Roots of Friendship
I recently led a Journey called the 'Roots of Brazil' to Salvador and São Paulo. It was a fabulous experience with ambassadors from several US states, New Zealand, Canada and even Brazil, who all learned a great deal about the history, culture, music, dance, food and religion of this country. We enjoyed sharing our meals, beach trips, market shopping, cooking classes and a concert with our wonderful hosts. What made this Journey especially memorable for me was not only did I establish several new friendships, but I also had the chance to reconnect with many of my Brazilian friends from past Journeys...Everywhere I went I was seeing people I knew from the past, and it was unforgettable. The amazing friendships I have made in Brazil have enriched my life. As one of the FF members told me, 'Vicki, you are now Brazilian!' [Read more about Vicki's Journey and experiences at the blog post, Roots of Friendship Revisited During Roots of Brazil]
Sharing Hearts and Homes
The generosity and kindness of our home hosts was evident each and every day. [FF Mexico City] Club president, Maru, was an knowledgeable historian and she brought this incredible city into greater focus for us all. It was a perfect week with perfect home hosts who shared their homes and hearts with each of us, making it all the more difficult to bid them 'hasta luego' at the end of our delightful Mexico Journey! [See other photos and read more about this April 2018 Journey here, at Ambassadors and Hosts Share “Homes and Hearts” in Mexico]
A Russian Student in Japan
Before I was home-hosted where the host was paid, but [with Friendship Force] it’s with volunteers - the people are very kind helpful and were really excited to meet us. They are very welcoming. Even though some hosts didn’t speak English very well, they still tried to talk to me and wanted to find out about Russia and about me and my life. We talked through a translator and still managed to understand each other. They were very willing to communicate. The [Japanese] students are also very kind. They looked at us as though we were special people, even though we really weren’t. For example, they clapped when we came in the classroom! One Japanese girl texted me and she said she was inspired be me and wanted to learn English as well as I knew it. She wanted to keep in touch because of that!
“I am a better person for having met them.”
Several delegates spoke of becoming more active in using social media to affect positive change in their communities. One even planned to share the knowledge he gained on this visit in his dissertation for his PhD. The delegates are bright, intelligent, curious, courteous, attentive, and imaginative. I am a better person for having met Stepan, Yevgeniy, Darya, Yelena, and Mikhail.
“A connection I’ll keep for a long time”
I’ve enjoyed seeing how much more I knew about Japanese culture than I realized, so I’ve had a greater appreciation of what their culture has contributed to the world. Also getting to know my home host in Tokyo, Emiko, and her family - that’s a connection I know I’ll keep for a long time. I also learned that I can go alone - meeting and talking to new people in a different culture and people’s different customs. I had some anxiety about that, but found that you need to just be open-minded, respectful, and meet people halfway. You’ll make mistakes, but it’s ok. I think homestays are the way to go because you learn a lot more. It’s a window into the culture more than if I was in a hotel alone or with my family.
A privilege and education to have friends all around the world
Whilst most people have a bucket list and enjoy seeing the sights, they rarely have an opportunity to be involved with the locals. These days, we can usually view these places on our bucket list via the Internet or TV. We can even see more this way, as cameras take us to the places the general public are not allowed access. The sights are open to us 24 hours a day if we choose, but whilst that is great, sometimes we have to pinch ourselves to remind ourselves that 'little old me' is finally standing on soil that we have dreamed about for decades. Experiencing firsthand how others live and the daily problems they face, is to me something that cannot be bought - it is a privilege and education to have friends all around the world. You might only ever meet them once, and then you can keep them as friends forever.
FFI made it all possible…
My first outbound exchange was a great example of just what Friendship Force is all about. It was to Kempsey, Australia, in 1996, and I was hosted by Betty, a retired high school librarian who loved to quilt. That could have been a description of me! We had a wonderful time getting to know each other while seeing Kempsey and New South Wales. During free time, I met her friends, saw their quilts, and learned a new technique called needle-turn appliqué. As a parting gift, she gave me fat quarters of Aboriginal fabric. At that time, the FF Kempsey club did not travel — they only hosted. But I told Betty I’d really like for her to come to Louisville anyway. Betty had a friend who was coming to the USA to lecture at universities in Michigan and Texas. She came with him, flew to Louisville after a few weeks and stayed with me. We had a wonderful time renewing our friendship as I showed her our area, after which she rejoined the professor in Texas. We have maintained our relationship through emails and letters at Christmas. Betty has had a lasting influence on my life. From the Aboriginal prints she gave me, I made a 12-inch block which represents my visit to Australia. From this came the idea of a quilt containing blocks from all my travels. That first quilt turned into two, then three, then four, and I am now working on quilt number five. With every block completed I think of Betty, and I am thankful for Friendship Force which made it all possible.
The most enjoyable part
Several people have asked me what I enjoyed the most of our Journey which is difficult to say, as I enjoyed it all. However, I believe that the Friendship Force goal was met, since I have to tell them that the most enjoyable part of the Journey was the time spent with our hosts, Mihail & Oxana, and their good friends, Alexei & Alina.
A friendship that would never end
The most touching and impactful was the relation that was created between the four of us. We shared laughter and warm feelings and a permanent bond was created. At the conclusion of the week, as the four of us were standing on their roof and launching two lighted air kites that floated into the distance, we promised each other the friendship that was created between us would never end. The tears flowed when we finally said goodbye at the airport.
“The universal need to exchange greetings and ideas”
Miles away from home, in five countries speaking languages foreign to us we encountered the universal need to exchange greetings and ideas. Never was this so richly felt as in the visit to a rural school, spending one-on-one time with students who were so interested in sharing their town and culture as well as learning about our USA. FFI is impressive in its mission and scope. So privileged to participate.
Ein Koffer reist um die Welt – A Suitcase Travels Around the World
At our first Friendship Force World Conference in Hamburg in 2011, we offered one week with us for charity called “Life in the Black Forest with Friendship Force Friends.” Norma and Lloyd from Toronto “bought” this week and the money went to charity. They visited us in the Black Forest a year later and they told us about their Friendship Force visit to Matsuyama, Japan. Coincidentally, the next exchange of our club FF Freiburg in 2013 was to a club in Japan that Norma and Lloyd had also visited. “You really have to meet Akira and Kazuko,“ they told us. They had become good friends since their exchange. So in 2013, we travelled with FF Freiburg to Kazuko and Akira in Matsuyama to the FF Ehime club. When our Canadian friends had been to Japan, their luggage had magically grown, so Akira and Kazuko gave them an additional suitcase which Norma and Lloyd took with them to Toronto. Lloyd founded a new FF club in Toronto and our club FF Freiburg visited the Canadian Club in Toronto in 2015. During our visit with Lloyd and Norma, we told them that we would get visitors from Japan soon. What was more reasonable than bringing the Japanese suitcase back with us to Europe in 2015? From there, the suitcase travelled back to Japan after Akira and Kaziko stayed with us in September 2015. This is not only the story of a suitcase travelling the world - this Journey also shows a threefold Friendship Force friendship between 6 ambassadors from Canada, Germany, and Japan. The Stations of the Friendship:
- 2011 FF World Conference in Hamburg, Germany
- 2011 Norma and Lloyd from Canada with Kazuko and Akira at FF Ehime in Matsuyama, Japan
- 2012 Norma and Lloyd from Canada with Ilse and Rainer (Black Forest Trip) in Germany
- 2013 Ilse and Rainer from Germany with Kazuko and Akira at FF Ehime in Japan
- 2014 Kazuko and Akira from Japan with Norma and Lloyd at FF Toronto in Canada
- 2015 Ilse and Rainer from Germany with Norma and Lloyd at FF Toronto in Canada
- 2015 Kazuko and Akira from Japan with Ilse and Rainer at FF Freiburg in Germany
- 2016 Norma and Lloyd from Canada with Ilse and Rainer in Malterdingen
Ein Koffer reist um die Welt – A Suitcase Travels Around the World
Bei unserer ersten FF-Weltkonferenz 2011 in Hamburg bieten wir im Rahmen der Spenden bei FF eine Woche „Leben bei FF-Freunden im Black Forest“ an. Erworben haben dies Norma und Lloyd aus Toronto. Ein Jahr später kommen sie zu uns in den Schwarzwald zu Besuch und erzählen, dass sie in Japan mit FF in Matsuyama waren. Unser nächster Austausch von FF-Freiburg nach Japan soll uns 2013 zu einem Club führen, den sie besucht haben. “Ihr müsst unbedingt zu Akira und Kazuko“, meinen Norma und Lloyd, die seit deren Austausch eine Freundschaft mit den beiden Japanern verbindet. Und so reisen wir mit FF-Freiburg 2013 zu Kazuko und Akira in Matsuyama, FF-Ehime. Da in Japan auf unerfindliche Weise das Gepäck der Kanadier angeschwollen war, bekamen sie von Akira und Kazuko einen zusätzlichen Koffer mit nach Toronto. Lloyd gründete in Toronto einen neuen FF-Club und 2015 besuchte FF-Freiburg den Club in Toronto. Beim Besuch bei Lloyd und Norma im Rahmen dieses Austauschs - der im Übrigen auf den Aufenthalt der beiden bei uns 2012 zurückgeht, können wir erzählen, dass wir demnächst Besuch aus Japan bekommen. Was lag näher, als dass wir den japanischen Koffer 2015 mit nach Europa nehmen, wo er wiederum von Akira und Kazuko bei ihrem Besuch im September bei uns zurück nach Japan reist. Es reiste aber nicht nur ein Koffer um die Welt, diese Reise begleitet zugleich eine dreifach verbundene Friendship-Force-Freundschaft zwischen 6 Ambassadores aus Kanada, Deutschland und Japan.
- 2011 FF-Weltkonferenz in Hamburg
- 2011 Norma und Lloyd aus Kanada bei Kazuko und Akira bei FF-Ehime/Matsuyama Japan
- 2012 Norma und Lloyd aus Kanada bei Ilse und Rainer (Black-Forest-Trip) in Deutschland
- 2013 Ilse und Rainer aus Deutschland bei Kazuko und Akira bei FF-Ehime in Japan
- 2014 Kazuko und Akira aus Japan bei Norma und Lloyd bei FF-Toronto in Kanada
- 2015 Ilse und Rainer aus Deutschland bei Norma und Lloyd bei FF-Toronto in Kanada
- 2015 Kazuko und Akira aus Japan bei Ilse und Rainer bei FF-Freiburg in Deutschland
- 2016 Norma und Lloyd aus Kanada bei Ilse und Rainer in Malterdingen privat
Understanding from living in another community
Living with a family and in their community we were able to understand their country's culture and seeing it as ‘normal,’ despite it being so unlike ours.
From one adventure to 25
I have been a member of Friendship Force for over 16 years. One of my first adventures was to Los Angeles, when I was newly divorced, and scared to venture out on my own. One of the Friendship Force Ottawa members, Laura, and her husband, Bob, took me under their wings. In fact, my travel partner, Pat, was almost upset because I was so coddled and pampered by the couple! That first trip will always be memorable, and it endeared me to Friendship Force. Since then, I have stayed in a villa overlooking the beach on the garden island of Hawaii, been serenaded by an opera star at the Opera House in Sydney, helped rescue a newborn calf on a dairy farm in New Zealand, visited many vineyards in beautiful Alberta, and most recently, took a fabulous trip to Bath, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia. In all, I have been on more than 25 trips and counting! FF has been my life-saver, and the friends I have made are the ones I count as the important ones in my life.
Feeling like you belong
Our favorite memories on an exchange are always about our wonderful hosts rather than the scenery. Bonus points to the ones who share laughter and to those who can share an ordinary family day, and in so doing, make you feel like a member of the family - like you belong there.
Family in other countries
We now call the two women that we hosted ‘our sisters in Colombia.'
“Lasting thankfulness for the opportunity to share ”
It is always amazing how close the friendship is and how sad it is to say goodbye to new friends. Even though we were not always able to understand each other because of the language barrier, bonds were still made and I have a lasting thankfulness for the opportunity to share with people in other cultures.
An abundance of learning and lasting friendships
Each day was a gift to be opened. We explored cities, towns and did special activities. The contrast of what was the same and what was different from home never ceased to amaze me. One constant were the smiles and the delight as we navigated city and countryside as one family. We visited antiquities, spiritual places and special regions.We experienced the beauty of nature and the farm to table foodie culture. We laughed and we danced and we felt special. The richness of the experience is forever imprinted in my mind. From snow topped mountains, to serene lakes to the ocean and festive tea times. From learning to make bread and “Georgian Snickers,” fire jumping and making Novruz wishes at the riverside. From celebrating with friends the local way - family style meals with tables ladened with local delicacies. From meeting town officials to experiencing the mineral baths, to riding the sleeper train from Tbilisi to Azerbaijan. My homestays were with Kate and Solmaz and their families. I loved staying with them, experiencing day to day life and getting to really know them. I left Georgia and Tbilisi with beautiful memories, an abundance of learning and lasting friendships.
“Enriching, in-depth cultural experiences”
I am new to FFI and this was my first exchange. I have traveled quite a bit and this was one of the most enriching, in-depth cultural experiences I've had on a trip (with the exception of living abroad) thanks to staying with host families and spending so much more time with local people. In a short time I learned about their culture, lifestyle, and government. On most trips I usually experience the geography and physical sites and have limited time talking with residents. People were interested in learning about my culture too and it was easy to have conversations. Since FFI attracts people who travel and are interested in meeting people from other cultures, the stage is set for a deeper communication, learning and continuing interaction after the visits. I had an exceptional experience and have recommended FFI to others.
Love, peace and friendship
It was great, we made friends in a new part of the world. We certainly found out that all Friendship Force people are in the club to promote love, peace and friendship wherever we go or meet together. One person at a time, this changes our world.
Making friends all over the world
On a Friendship Force exchange, you go beyond walls and windows and into homes and hearts. On a tour bus or a riverboat, you can get a ‘feel’ for a country, city or town. But with a Friendship Force homestay, you’re living with the people in those cities and towns. You can see, experience, and know what it’s like to live in a place. And most importantly, you can make dear friends all over the world.
We are all very much alike…
On this trip, there were people from other countries (Germany and Taiwan) and people from different parts of the U.S. (California, Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana) and Canada. I believe that by staying in people's home and by sharing meals at dinner parties, etc., one has the opportunity to get to know people much better. Sharing conversation and life experiences helps us to appreciate what makes each of us unique, but also helps us to see that we are all very much alike. It helps to broaden our way of thinking, thus promoting a better understanding between different cultures.