The gift of love on my first spring in Chicago


Day 21-21.1 Cloud Gate Group PictureThe 13th day of April 2013 was not an ordinary day of my life. I was halfway of the dream and the reality that happened so soon. It was a trip to the United States of America, a place where I had my memorable, first spring ever.
Young as I am, my age tells so much about my immense interest on taking adventures but this is unique among them all. This is not just about enjoyment, but is also about making a difference for my community someday. I am a participant of the Philippine Youth Leadership Program, a US-government program focusing on Ecological Activism.
My co-participant said, “How do we convert Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius again?” and everyone laughed.
It was the cold breeze in the windy city of Chicago that welcomed us. “This is not just a dream!” The jet lag experience has made me feel weak at the moment but not my courage to seize the opportunity that rarely comes.

During our stay, we did not only have lots of sessions and workshops that harnessed our leadership skills but also performed cultural dances that we are more than proud and honored to show to the American people – a reflection of the customs and traditions we have from the other side of the world.

It was in this springtime that the unexpected happen when the speaker said, “Guys, go out for a while because the snow may not last long!” In our extreme excitement, we all ran as fast as we could to finally experience something that we can never have way back home. It almost didn’t matter how cold it was because the heat of the moment is what that really prevailed. It was even made more memorable seeing those people around you, flashing their big smiles as they watch you enjoy these simple things.

Of course, the trip was fun and always will be here in the United States. But beyond all of these enjoyments, this is one that I will never forget – the people. It is different when you know them aside from what the books, media, and other references can tell.
Having dealt with few of them, I consider them not as showy of their affection as the typical Filipinos do. But even their subtlest deeds of love and concern are definitely overwhelming. I only had 12 days to stay with a host family and as I bid goodbye to my Mom, the tears that she shed really broke me inside. I even only saw my Dad twice but the last encounter, though was not long was still very heart-warming. “We may have not been together for a long time but you will always be welcome as part of our family if you’d come back.”

Most of all, they can also be very special friends! Some may not be as very welcoming to strangers that I wondered, “Is it really because they hate doing so or is it just because they hate saying goodbyes? I can still remember when a student from Rochelle High School asked me on that sad tone, “Guys, why do you make friends then leave?” Not knowing what to say, I just gave him a tight hug instead as if we’re friends for a long time.
There was also a guy we’ve met in an Intercultural Café that I thought it would be the last time that I’d see him but up to this day, he is still in touch with us through Facebook and Skype. It was very relieving that in time of troubles, especially when the earthquake and typhoon Haiyan devastated many parts of the Philippines, there’s someone from afar who’s willing to dedicate his time just to comfort and cheer us up. This really proved to me that even the long distance and the great time difference can’t be hindrances to a true friendship.

For me, this place has been even more special because of the special people in it. Not only did I learn new things, gain intercultural experience, and had more reasons to be the best of who I can be. But I’ve fathomed new definitions of love and friendship but have never devalued. It will always be comforting to know that you’ve got a family who cares for you when you are far from your own.
It took me a day to get to this place, but it will take me forever to ponder all of these beautiful things that God has allowed me to see – a time that’s very well spent. This was not just a sense of fulfillment but a tremendous source of motivation to make a difference, spread the love and happiness that were was no enough time to feel any regret.

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