Wednesday, April 27, 2011

U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On April 26, we visited an impressive building, the U.S Capitol building. On that day, the weather was very nice, sunny and windy. The U.S. Capitol has soaring spaces and skylight views of the capitol dome.We realized that it is the most widely recognized symbol of democratic government in the world. This is the place where the United States Congress meets to write the laws of the nation. Before we entered the building, we were checked by security. After being checked, we went to see a video about the history of this building. After that, we took an audio tour around the building with a tour guide. First,we saw statues and scupltures of many famous people from each state.

Secondly, we visited the plaster model for the statue of Freedom, which stands prominently at the west side of Emancipation Hall. The statue is a classical female figure. Her right hand rests on the hilt of a sheathed sword, her left hand holds a laurel for wreath of victory and the shield of the United States. Last but not least, we visited to the Senate Chamber, which is occupied by the U.S. Senate, one of the two legislative bodies of the Congress. It is an impressive and interesting place, but we didn't get the opprtunity to take pictures because photos are prohibited. Before we had lunch, we went to the gift shop in this building to buy souvenirs for our friends. We really enjoyed our visit to the U.S. Capitol.

Citra, Praew, and Barani

On Mix-ups and NGOs

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- There's this old joke that goes this way, "If you cross a parrot and a lion, that monster would need a boxful of crackers." However, if you put things together in a way that they would make sense, it would go something like this, "If you cross a parrot and a lion, you would get an NGO."

How on earth would that make sense? You may ask. Well, come to think of it, it would sound silly - or even awkward - to mix up two creatures with extraordinarily contrasting characteristics, and then ending up with an NGO. Technically, the lion may even eat up the powerless bird, won't it? But when you think about it from another perspective, you start thinking that everything's coming back to you.

Sure, you know what a parrot is, how it looks like, and how it sounds like. More often than not, parrots are known for mimicking sounds, usually phrases and sentences we human beings use. So technically, parrots don't really speak the same way we do. They're simply imitating what we tell them to say; they don't really know what our sentences mean at all.

If you know Simba, then you know what we're talking about. Those large, loud, and intimidating lions just scare the guts out of us, even if we've only seen them on television or read about them in newspapers and magazines. They're famous, scary, and humongous. Need we say more?

So now, having described the different characteristics of both the parrot and the lion, we guess it would make more sense crossing both creatures. We still don't know if you understand what the cross has to do with NGOs, though.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are cause-oriented groups with varied aims. Some exist for humanitarian causes, such as the Red Cross; some exist for environmental advocacy, such as the Haribon Foundation and World Wildlife Fund. There are hundreds of thousands of NGOs all across the globe working in different countries for many other aims and causes.

We visited three NGOs on April 27 --The Asia Foundation, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Freedom House--to learn more about them and about what they do to help countries around the world who need their help. All three NGOs have different goals, but they all boil down doing one thing in common: to support and promote the well-being of everyone in the world. The Asia Foundation works for the welfare and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. The Carnegie Institution for Science promotes the value of science and research. Freedom House works for the freedom of speech and the press in various countries around the world, usually those in which media and political rights are partly or totally denied. Representatives of these NGOs told us about their activities and how they solve problems in the countries where they work. Some countries have improved their situations, the others haven't yet.

We know you still haven't figured out what the cross between the parrot and the lion has to do with these NGOs we've visited. The explanation is pretty simple: NGOs mimic the sounds, usually the needs of the people and places they work for, and relay those messages to the rest of the world in a way that resembles the lion's roar. The governments of the countries where these NGOs work may not necessarily heed this lion-parrot call, but this call stretches out to other people concerned so they can help these people, be it in cash or in kind, or in simply helping out themselves.

Simply put, non-governmental organizations serve as bridges between the needy and the world. It is pretty much a misconception to think that the NGOs solely provide the needs of the people around them. They need help to in order to keep their work going, and that explains why there are a lot of channels and branches of these organizations around the world. So the next time somebody asks, "What do you get when you cross a lion and a parrot?" get serious and then answer, "An NGO." And you'll leave your listener scratching his head.

Raffy Cabristante (Philippines), Steven Thinn (Burma), and Paul Fachiri (Indonesia)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ford's Theater

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. One of the city's significant historical locations where President Abraham Lincoln actually spent time. The site where he said his last words to his wife. His turning point to his last minute. The place where original evidence of the conspiracy to assassinate the president is now kept. Safely kept.

At the Ford's Theater Museum, one can run through the Lincoln's entire presidency. Every wall is designated for a specific year of Lincoln's term in office, and includes the significant events of that year. SEAYLP participants had a great time roaming around. Though we had only a short time to see Ford's Theater during our visit on April 25, we had a great time in this historical place, a place that is very significant to every American.

Zachary Thant, Fajar Adhiprabawa, and Niko Cena

Monday, April 25, 2011

A visit to IMSA ( Illinois Math & Science Academy )

DEKALB, Ill. -- We want to share about our great experience at IMSA (Illinois Math and Science Academy) near NIU in Aurora, Illinois, on April 15, 2011. We arrived at 9 in the morning and were there until 4 p.m. IMSA is one of the top 20 high schools in the United States, a very good school! While we were there, we attended classes with the students: biology, history, mathematics, computer science, and statistics. This was a new experience for us learning about education in the U.S.A.

While we were at IMSA, we played some games with some of the students.

We get a lot of new friends from there too, we spent times with them from studying, lunch, and played some games together, they are so friendly and kind.

We liked every part of this school, especially its education system with high technology and friendship of the students. We will not forget our great experience at IMSA.

Citra Kaigere (Indonesia) and Parinda (Ploy) Keocamsuk (Thailand)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Preserving the Prairies, Preserving Ourselves

DEKALB, Ill. - It was not too long ago when we, along with the other participants of the Southeast Asian Youth Leadership Program (SEAYLP) and students from Sycamore High School went to the Afton Forest Preserve in DeKalb, Illinois.

With shovels, gloves, jackets, and ourselves ready, we planted spiderworts across the muddy field. A few minutes later, we went to see the beautiful prairies in the area. We were pretty fascinated when we first saw them since we don't have prairies in Southeast Asia. The people from Afton then took us to an open field to plant trees, a practice they have been doing with previous SEAYLP groups.

It was pretty noticeable that some of the parts of the Afton Forest Preserve looked deteriorated, yet these parts were making up with the presence of spring. Most of the wild plants already dried up, but because of the improving weather, they were starting to return to their original shape.

That perhaps is one of the basic reasons why SEAYLP was conceived: to improve the lives of its participants and instill in them values of true leadership. However, leaders do not necessarily go with the flow or according to plan. Some of them fail, hence leaving them with the need to use alternative solutions. Like the wind-blown grasses in the prairies, true leaders allow themselves to bend with the situation of their communities, to grow in the soil, and survive the cold weather whenever necessary. During this activity, we figured out that the values of patience, friendship, and flexibility are some of the many assets of leadership essential in making a community an active and productive one.

Raffy Cabristante (Philippines) and Kyi Zay Min (Burma)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Starved Rock State Park

UTICA, Ill. -- On April 19, the SEAYLP group went to Starved Rock State Park about an hour away from DeKalb. We arrived at 5:30 to hike on some of the park's trails. It was cold.

It was a rainy day when we went there. It was nice because we saw wonderful views of the Illinois River from the top of the bluffs overlooking the river. Because it was so rainy, though, we had to go back to the bus early.

Visiting Starved Rock was a really good experience. We really like this view of the Illinois River.

Paul Fachiri (Indonesia) and Steven Thinn (Burma)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Planting Trees with Sycamore High School Environmental Club

SYCAMORE, Ill. -- On April 21, the SEAYLP group visited Sycamore High School and later planted trees with the school's Environmental Club in Afton Prairie Forest Preserve near DeKalb. When we arrived at Sycamore High School, we were greeted by the high school staff and members of the school's Environmental Club, who were our hosts for the day. Everyone was so friendly.

Front entrance to Sycamore High School

At the school, we first did some ice-breaker exercises in class. Then we were taken on a tour of the whole school by Environmental Club members and had lunch.

Students walking down one of the many hallways at Sycamore High School

Typical classroom at Sycamore High School

People were very friendly, and told us all about their school, their subjects, school facilities, clubs, and so many other interesting things.

Art classroom at Sycamore High

Hallway display case shows off student artwork

The library at SHS

After touring the school, we went by bus with the club to the Afton Prairie Forest Preserve near DeKalb, about 20 minutes from Sycamore, for a prairie restoration project. There we learned how to plant new trees.

Afton Prairie staff with the trees we are going to plant this day

Learning how to plant trees and small plants at Afton Prairie

Preparing the soil to plant

We had so much fun today and learned a lot of geographic knowledge. We thank the Environmental Club and Afton Praire Forest Preserve staff for making our day!

Atikah Amalia (Indonesia) and Fatin Jamjuree (Thailand)