Well for starters, its name: Youth Ambassadors Trilateral North America Exchange 2012.
What does that mean? Well youth ambassadors are young people (like me) chosen to be ambassadors from the city they come from. Trilateral North American Exchange. This program had kids from Canada, California, and Mexico. So viola! North America. It was a program put together by Sister Cities International, an organization that works with cities all over the world to make exchanges like these possible. So I'm from Culver City and my two sister cities are Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada and Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico. Well I guess I'll just let my journal speak for itself. Enjoy!
YA Trilat 2012 Journal
By: Briggitte Suastegui
June 28th, 2012
Well hello there. My godmother, being the wonderful person she is, sent me this journal/notebook as a present, so I’m going to put it to good use. It won’t be a diary, I already have that, it’ll be mainly for my upcoming trip and just some thoughts in general. For my trip, I’ll be staying about a week in UCLA with leadership training, having a Canadian exchange student stay with me at my house for about a week, and then going to Washington D.C. for another week. I’m excited. I wish I could think of more meaningful things to write right now, but I can’t. I will though, eventually.
July 18th, 2012
First day of the program. First day at UCLA. Mom left me to hang out with Lilah, Elana, and Venkat. It was fine. We had an orientation in a room and we met a lot of people. I met my Canadian girl, Jocelyn. She’s nice. Another girl that came with her from Canada is named Camilla, and she’s become my good friend. She’s in the room across the bathroom with me [rooms were connected by a conjoining bathroom]. I have no roommate which is both nice and lonely. I don’t mind the privacy though. [stopped writing, went back to it later] Actually, change of plans, I just got a roommate. Her name is Valeria and she’s from Mexico. Today we didn’t really do anything. Tomorrow is when the fun should start I guess, that and the work. I miss Burn Notice. :P
July 19th, 2012
Second day. Exhausting. Really, really tiring. Today I had the alarm set for 7am, but my friend, Camilla, came into the room and somehow woke me up at 6:49am. I took a shower and decided to wear my hair curly. I went down to breakfast with Camilla and Jocelyn. Because we’re sister cities with them and Uruapan, we do our workshops together. I’m pretty comfortable with this group of people. Then we went on a Hollywood tour. It was the most miserable experience of my life! It was hot and crowded and I was with a group of people I didn’t know and were very friendly so I kinda just walked around with them, bored. Then we got back, had dinner, and then a scavenger hunt, it was fun! I mean we lost, but I was with people I knew and liked. My “group” right now is me, Camilla, Jocelyn, and Rozee, a counselor [chaperone] from Lethbridge. She’s 24 and really awesome because she hangs out with us and talks to us instead of being with adults. She’s cool. She speaks Arabic. She’s studying psychology and has a degree in biochemistry so we talked about that for a while on our trip off campus. There is like a coffee/ice cream shop a few streets off campus so we walked over and got ice-cream at like 9pm and got back at 10. It was cool because we weren’t breaking any rules, we had an adult/chaperone with us, but I mean we felt like we were just with a teenager. Well when we got back I just showered and now I’m writing in this and listening to music. I’m sleepy though, so I think I’ll sleep now. Goodnight!
July 20th, 2012
Day three. I just took a shower and we’re about to go hang out in Rozee’s room. Today we got up at 7, had breakfast and had a workshop on poverty and environment and it was interesting to see the difference in opinions and views on these things from the three different perspectives by country. (Canada, Mexico, USA) I think I have a slight advantage because not only do I understand when the kids speak Spanish, but I feel like I can understand their situation well enough (corruption, drug trafficking, poverty) because of my family down there. We had lunch and then we went to a highway next to LAX and El Segundo and did weeding and picking up trash in the middle of it. It was hot and kinda scary because of all the cars speeding by, but it got fun because I was with Camilla and Rozee and we started singing “Lean on Me” and it was great! [some time later] I just got back from hanging out in Rozee’s room actually. She was doing Jocelyn’s hair and Camilla, Valeria, and I were listening to music. We had a mini dance party and I skyped with my parents so they talked to everyone. It was good. Now were back in my room and Camilla is here on her computer and then we’re gonna go to bed. I’ve been having a good time, but I’m kinda ready to go home and take a shower in my own bathroom and sleep in my own bed. :) AND watch Burn Notice of course.
July 21st, 2012
Day four. Not as tired as yesterday. WE got in our groups by city for our projects in the workshop today. Our project is going to be a jogathon/walkathon (Relay For Life type) event to raise money to donate to a nearby homeless shelter. It seems like a pretty reasonable project and I think we can do it. [project changes in later date] We went down to Santa Monica to the aquarium (which was kinda lame), we let the people feel the beach and the water. It was so fun to watch! :P Then we headed over to the 3rd Street Promenade where Jocelyn and Rozee did the shopping. I kinda just toured them around. We came home late and exhausted to a short, hilarious dinner. WE had some kids from Mexico sit with us and Jocelyn was trying to talk to David [Carlos David], but she was going to fast, so I had to translate and I was so busy talking that I couldn’t even eat myself! After dinner we had a reflection and then I took a shower and Camilla and I headed out to Rozee’s room so she could braid my hair. She did successfully after two tries! Then we kinda just hung around looking at pictures and Camilla eventually passed out on the floor and the time is 1am and I’m like :O It’s late and we were not “supposed” to be out of our rooms, but technically we were in our chaperone’s room, so we were supervised. It was funny trying to come back to our room without getting caught. Then I packed because tomorrow were getting picked up by our host families and going home! Should be fun! :D
July 22nd, 2012
First day of home stays. We got picked up, well actually because we went to bed so late, I kinda slept through my alarm and Valeria was like “I thought you were dead! But then I say you breathing!” It was funny. We had a quick breakfast and then got picked up. We came home (Jocelyn is loving it), listened to music as we unpacked, then we went down to the pool for a swim. We took her to In N’ Out and she LOVED it. I was so happy. We then got ready for this dinner, in our honor, 130 guests! We ended up sitting outside in the cold (me, Lizzy, Jocelyn, and Camilla, and Rozee) we ate dinner and talked and talked and talked. It was fun though. And hilarious because our group kept on changing. People would leave to another and come and join ours. It was also weird that the waiter was hitting on me. First I thought he was hitting on Rozee, like yesterday [the Journey guy at Santa Monica] but no, it was me! So awkward. Her and Lizzy were laughing at me. Interesting I guess. We’re going to Sony tomorrow and downtown Culver. So I’m super excited! Should be a blast.
July 23rd, 2012
Home stay day 2. So we went to Sony Studios today and toured it and it was really awesome. I’ve never been in it before so I thought it was so interesting and new. Loved it so much. We had lunch at Jackson Marker which was great as well. Yummy and pretty. We went to the ECO Station and saw a bunch of cool animals and pet some of them (the reptiles scared me). We toured City Hall which was nice, and then we at dinner at Grand Casino. I had empanadas and they were yummy. As always. We had a city council meeting thing where we were honored and got certificates by the mayor of Culver City and council members. I learned today that Shauna [our facilitator] is a big old movie fan and a BIG Jimmy Stewart fan. It’s nice to get to geek out with someone about old movies so I enjoyed that. I got to get all dressed up as well. Which I LOVED. Tomorrow is casual and after the day, Jocelyn is going to meet Andrea and we’re going to dinner together. I’m excited. Also! We’re going to Disneyland on Saturday! SOOO EXCITED you don’t even know. I can’t wait to go. Really, I can’t!
June 24th, 2012 [supposed to be July]
Home stay day 3. Today was a shorter day, but slower and tiring. In the morning we had this presentation on the Ballona Creek Renaissance program/service that we’ll be doing tomorrow. It was kinda boring and got me really sleepy. We had lunch at Denny’s, and also our workshop there as well. We changed ideas for the project. Now it’s more realistic and attainable. We’re going to raise money for Culver Park by doing those boxes in classrooms and bake sales at school. We then went to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook which was fun. We took a lot of pictures and had a good time joking around as always. WE got home, Andii [Andrea] came over and we went to put our feet in the Jacuzzi and then my parents took the three of us to get BBQ ribs for dinner. It was SO YUMMY. We also walked around Marina Del Rey and sang in the car on the way home. It was very fun and I really enjoyed myself. Now we’re watching a movie, waiting for Andii to get picked up. WE still need to shower and I’m dying to go to bed. So sleepy and tired. Oh well. Tomorrow is going to be boring as well. I can’t wait until Thursday and Friday! I’ll tell you about it later I guess.
July 25th, 2012
I can’t really say I enjoyed today very much. We cleaned up the Ballona Creek, which wasn’t very fun and learned about more pollution and weeded by the school. We also went to this lagoon which I had been to multiple times when I was in summer camp for lunch, so I didn’t really find it interesting. The one good part about the day was the morning and night. At 3am-ish we had a 3.8 earthquake and it actually woke me up and I was at first worried about Jocelyn because I thought “oh my gosh she’s going to freak out”, but she didn’t. She was super excited about it. I wasn’t scared; I was mainly more concerned about falling back asleep. And now, we just got home from Universal City Walk with the boys (Venkat, Tony, Cole, and Carlos). We had a good time and just walked around. I bought a black and pink snap back so I’m wearing it tomorrow to the Getty and beach. It should be great tomorrow.
July 26th, 2012
I feel like a zombie right now. The tiredness has hit me. So today was tons of fun. In the morning we went to the Getty Museum which was nice because I hadn’t been there in a while. I also learned a lot because Rozee knew some of the ancient stories that went with the paintings we saw as well as biblical references. After eating lunch there, we headed over to the beach. I saw, like actually inside of the water, and then just chilled on a towel. It was nice. Then almost everyone went home and Rozee, Jocelyn, and I, and Cole and Carlos David stayed and chilled as well. Then, my parents picked the three girls up and took us to In N’ Out for Rozee to try. She liked it. We then came home and went to the pool/Jacuzzi and heard the story of Rozee and her boyfriend. So cute! Anyways, afterwards, we met up with Kelsi at the mall and shopped a little. I got a blazer for DC. I’m exhausted, but can’t wait for tomorrow and all of the little kids! But now, I need sleep and lots and lots of rest.
July 30th, 2012
So we’re in DC now. The past two days I didn’t have time to write, so I’ll catch you up now. On Friday we went to the Mar Vista Family Center and volunteered with some pre-schoolers, and then little kids, and then people our own age. The preschoolers were adorable! We acted out a story for them and then colored and dance around with them. They were so cute! The other part of the day wasn’t as interesting. We did spend the whole day there. That night we went home and packed and watched the end of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The next morning Rozee came over and the three of us went to DISNEYLAND! [left out Donna’s pot luck. See end notes to hear more about it] It was so much fun. I forgot how great that park is. I had so much fun but we came home exhausted. The worst part, the next morning we had to be at the airport by 5am. We went to bed at 1am and I was a complete zombie this morning, but we said our goodbyes and boarded the plane. I saw with two strangers ( :( ) but it was fine because I slept and got some homework done. We were brought to the American University (which isn’t as fantastic as UCLA). We have to all share a bathroom on one floor. Bl Ugh, oh well. We took a night tour of the monuments. We saw the Jefferson and Lincoln ones up close and took pictures. I took a shower and was hanging out in Rozee’s room as she unpacked. The biggest problem I have right now is the time zone. It is three hours ahead of California in DC and so it’s 1:13 am here, when my body is telling me that it’s only 10:13. Not sleepy, but I’ll try and get some rest. I guess…
July 30th, 2012 [July 1st]
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more hot and humid! It was horrible today. Hot and muggy. We went to the State Department and had this interesting presentation by some people who work with the social affairs relating to Canada and Mexico. We then walked around with an intern, Jessica, for Sister Cities, and we walked from the Lincoln Memorial down to the WWII Memorial which I hadn’t seen so I enjoyed it a lot. We got to put our feet in the fountain and it was very refreshing. That’s pretty much all we did. We came back, did a reflection and kinda just hung out.
July 31st, 2012
Today the weather wasn’t as bad, thankfully. Because I ended up going to sleep late last night, I didn’t really want to wake up, BUT I did. I had kinda a gross breakfast, so I didn’t enjoy that. The workshop today was fun though. And very interesting and helpful. We had lunch and then I took a nice little nap and caught up on some of my reading thankfully. We took the metro downtown and it started to pour rain for like 10 minutes, and then it stopped. It was funny. We got to the DC Central Kitchen where we worked from about 4 to 8. I don’t think I’ve even seen or chopped so many tomatoes in my life. I hated it. I don’t want to see a tomato for a long time now. I also helped pick the good lemons from the moldy ones. It was so disgusting. We came back and then did the usual. Shower, hang out, gossip, yadda yadda.
August 1st, 2012
It feels like the DC portion of the trip should almost be over, but we’ve still got a quite a few more days. We had breakfast and a workshop again. It was fun because we got to use chalk on a blackboard and I mean we did all of our work, but we went a little chalk happy and drew all over the board. It was so much fun. We had to get ready so fast and we had to pack our lunch in a to-go box and eat on the bus because we had meeting with representatives of the Senate. It was kind of boring, but fun to dress up. Then, we split up. The Canadians went to the Canadian Embassy (jealous) and I went with Shauna and another group and we went to an art museum and the Natural History Museum and then came back and ate a nice dinner. We had an interesting evening activity/reflection which involved post it notes and grouping people together by what you saw on their forehead. We came back and Jocelyn and I showered in the men’s restroom because it wouldn’t be busy and there were no guys on our floor. Rozee braided my hair afterwards and we went to play cards in our “secret hiding spot”. It was fun, but then room check came along and we have to go to bed. :( Oh well, I’ll do some homework first.
August 2nd, 2012
I enjoyed today a lot actually. We had a workshop in the morning about PSA’s and types of government, which I feel comfortable and knowledgeable to talk about so I wasn’t nervous about saying anything. We went down to SCI HQ [Sister Cities International] pretty much where they gave us Subway and we sat around this huge conference table and talked about our experiences with this program and took lots of pictures. I enjoyed it a lot. We then walked past the White House and took pictures and then went to Georgetown. It wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. We shopped around and I bought a book for my dad to fill in. I’m still looking for souvenirs for me and my mom, but I’m sure I’ll find some later. Rozee did my hair again in a really cool bun and Jocelyn made popcorn so it was very yummy. I kinda want to go home, but I’m starting to really dread saying goodbye. I know it’s going to be crazy sad and I’m not excited for it at all. :(
August 3rd, 2012
I actually really liked today. We went to Capitol Hill in the morning and got to go inside! It was so beautiful and wonderful. The rotunda was amazing. We didn’t meet the person we were supposed to meet, though. After Capitol Hill, we went to the Library of Congress which was just amazing as well and it kinda reminded me of why I fell in love with the city in the first place. We went to this organization, the OAS [Organization of American States] and the guy who did part of the presentation was SO CUTE! Oh my God! All of us came out saying how cute he was and even Rozee was smiling for a while. It was so funny. We went shopping and had dinner at Union Station. I got all of my souvenir shopping done finally so I’m happy. I got books at the Library of Congress, a present for home, and a hoodie for me! I’m so not sleepy and not looking forward to 2 workshops tomorrow.
August 6th, 2012
So I missed writing in this last night because I didn’t have enough time. We went to a baseball game (The Washington Nationals against the Miami Marlins) and we won! We took the metro there and back and on the way back it was so full it was scary. We got back late too. I finished showering at 1am and stayed up talking to Rozee until 3. We also had our last two workshops that day as well. It was nice and we’re ready to begin our project. Today, we went to Mount Vernon (George Washington’s plantation home) which was fun. We took a lot of pictures. We then went to Old Town Alexandria, which in my opinion, was just like Georgetown. I liked it. We came home and had our last reflection. Oh my God. I don’t remember crying so much in such a long time. We had to write about what part of the program made the most impact on us and once one person started crying, we all did. By the end of it we were bawling our eyes out. Some of the things people said were very sad and apparently some of the things I said made people cry too. I don’t really remember what I said exactly. Oh something special that happened today was that Rozee bought me, Camilla, Jocelyn, Abby and well herself, matching rings that say “dream” on them. They’re so pretty and they meant a lot to me. I’m so scared to say goodbye to everyone. I really am. I hope all goes well.
August 7th, 2012
The program is over pretty much. Currently, I’m sitting in the airport in DC waiting to board our flight. Yesterday was the last day and a long one at that. We went to the zoo, which was fun. We came back in the afternoon and got ready for the banquet thingy. [Fell asleep and traveled, continued writing when I got home] We showered and Rozee did my hair and we all headed down together. We got a kick out of the fact that Rozee sat with the other chaperones. She sat at the “big kids table”. We had a catered meal (it was fine) and saw a slideshow of pictures of the trip with depressing music. Ha ha. We also had a mini-talent show. Camilla sang, Lupe and Jesus and Tony all sang mariachi. We all danced for a little. They gave out certificates as well (I got “the Most Canadian award”) and then Angus spoke to us, he was almost crying at it was all very heartwarming and sweet. We took pictures afterwards and headed up to our rooms. We changed and finished packing completely and then went to Rozee’s room to hang out. We figured it was already 1am, there was no point in sleeping for two hours [we had to be down in the lobby by 3:15am], so we decided to pull an all-nighter, talking, doing nails, and playing cards. 3:30am we left AU [American University] and headed to the airport. We were so confident that we wouldn’t have to say goodbye so early because our flights weren’t until like 9 and 10am. But no, the first stop was to drop off the Canadians at Air Canada. I swear I got a sinking feeling in my stomach when Angus said we had to say goodbye right then and there. Rozee was the first person who hugged me and I immediately started crying. I really don’t remember what we said. I hugged Camilla as well and told her I’d be seeing her soon. We got off of the bus and I said goodbye to some other people and then hugged Rozee again, she told me not to cry, but I really couldn’t help it. My heart broke when I hugged Jocelyn goodbye, but I tried to be strong and told her I’d be up in Canada next summer and that it wasn’t goodbye forever. I was sobbing and I thanked Rozee for everything, got one last hung, and had to get back on the bus. I was probably bawling my eyes out. I looked out of the window and saw Rozee waving at me and I waved back, crying harder and we pulled away, waving [at everyone we left behind] and crying. The bust had the most depressing sound of everyone crying and sobbing. Then it was our turn. We said goodbye to everyone else and checked in (eyes read and swollen) and said our final goodbyes to Angus and Shauna and went to our terminal. I got Dunkin’ Donuts (coffee and a croissaint) and we eventually crashed in the terminal. We boarded the plane and again I sat with two strangers, but I fell asleep so it was okay. We had a connection in Dallas, but didn’t have to get off of the plane. I sat next to Venkat on that flight and we both slept. I got home to my mom picking me up. I was happy to see her, but still sad about my goodbyes. Even today I feel sad. I’m still wearing my “dream” ring, listening to the music Rozee recommended me, thinking about them all the time, but trying to not be too sad because I know I will see them again. I just know it.
-August 9th, 2012-
“Dream and dream big.” –Rozee
“You are not alone.” –Angus
“Nobody said it was easy, it’s such a shame for us to part,
Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard,
Oh, take me back to the start.” –Coldplay “The Scientist”