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."
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.
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.
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.
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.