A HOME AWAY FROM HOME

By: Mary Claire Ignacio-Geduquio, Philippines
Caretaker of the Philippine Islands
September 19,2016

“It’s been a long day without you, my friend, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again. We’ve come a long way from where we’ve began, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again… when I see you again… when I see you again…”, lines that we sang before the night ended but are still echoing in my head.

I jolted up out of my bed at 6 o’clock in the morning when my alarm rang – I remembered it’s our project presentation day. For almost four weeks, our group of five from four different countries around Southeast Asia has been working on a project proposal to help solve the waste management issues in our home countries. We are so passionate about it; I could feel that during our meetings where ideas kept flowing, to the point that we sometimes disagreed with each other. But this morning was so full of teamwork and support! How it felt so good to know that in the good things you are trying to do, there will always be someone, and a bunch of 25 brilliant people, who will always show you their thumbs up 🙂

Photo (L-R) The Green Buddies Team – Claire, Angel, Jack, Adela & Ha
Credit: Angel Tan

Then it sank into me, I have begun packing my things, so did my co-fellows, and prepared the souvenirs for our friends here. There were also some fellows who were practicing their cultural presentations in their rooms. Some even talked about what to do later at the farewell dinner. Today’s our last day in Montana too!

The Big Sky Country has been so warm since we came here due to the friendly faces we see every day yet so cool due to its chilly weather. And wow! The Mansfield team planned another outdoor dinner, one of the things that I’ll really miss. The UM FLAT (Forum for Living with Appropriate Energy) gave us a quick tour around their small yet sustainable farm where I had a taste of cherry tomatoes while waiting for our host families to arrive. It kind of felt excruciating every minute that went by, thinking that we would be living this welcoming place. Yet, we can’t end this day sad and frowning!

The fellows showcased their fullness of energy, talents, jolliness, and of course, charm during the cultural presentation. It was a variety of dances and songs, a little bit of solemnity and a lot of comedy! Our guests were all participative and joyful! Amidst the laughter and chanting, I was looking at their happy faces and thought I never imagined in my entire life that I will be part of a crowd of very friendly people on the other side of the world and contribute to their joy. Everybody danced to the Filipino Rap Song “Haypa” which said, “Lahat ay sumayaw, Sige walang titigil!”, meaning “Everybody dance and no one should stop”. It was like ecstatic! But it all ended up in drama when everyone was bidding goodbye and sharing their heartfelt messages and warm hugs. I personally was in tears when I hugged Jamie, Rod and Rosalyn; the family Ha and I had for the homestay. I will never forget how they were so close to our hearts even though we were together for just 3 days. There came more hugs with the GTAs, Shanti, Pat, Mat, and Peter, then with Dr. Nicky and Deena, Mel, Brooke, Dr. Len and some friends. Why was it so hard? At that time, I could have endured toothache but not separation anxiety.

Photo: Indonesian fellows presented a grace-to-pace cultural dance.

Photo: The fellows at the UM FLAT dinner with the UM and Missoula Community.

Tonight may be one of my most unforgettable nights. To wrap-up, the YSEALI Academic Fellowship was a blast in my life. I learned so much that have something to do with developing me intellectually, socially and emotionally. I tasted different unfamiliar foods. I received constructive feedback. I had a lot of firsts. And I met wonderful people who will be my friends forever!

I suddenly realized, I am in the United States of America, a land far away from my dear Philippines.

I suddenly realized, I am in Montana, but the past few weeks of staying here felt so much like home J

Thank you God for bringing all of this into my life!

Photo: My YSEALI Family (Insert Dr. Len, Dr. Nicky, Miss Deena and the rest of the GTAs who left earlier)

Photo: My host family 🙂

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