Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reflections from hosting the Guatemalan girls (Lilly)

Holy, Deysi, and Josefa with Lilly (bottom middle)

When hosting the three Guatemalan girls (Deysi, Josefa, and Holi) I felt a strong bond and connection with the girls right away. They inspired me, because even though they were a thousand miles away from home they still had glowing smiles and positive attitudes each and every day. My biggest challenge with the girls was when it came to my little Spanish and their few words of English, but we still found a way to communicate and connect.

When I think back on my experience one thing that will always stick out in my mind was when we decided to switch cultures for the night with the girls. We got out all our clothes and they got out their traditional clothing as well and then we swapped. I pulled on the top then daisy helped with the skirt rapping it around me tying it off with a beautiful beaded belt. The woven designs of flowers and birds were vibrant with colors. My sister Jackie then polled out some skinny genes and converses. We giggle and laughed all through the night taking thousands of pictures.

I think about all the experiences that brought us closer together from making tortillas to watching Hanna Montana on TV this experience is an experience I will always remember and keep in my heart. I feel as if the bonding we made will last for a life time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Face to Face exchange: More Pictures and Goodbyes

South African students meet Desmond Tutu during Seeds of Compassion
Guatemalan students help Seattle Girls School students with Spanish lessons
Lhamo photographs KT, Sonam and Metok at their stop by Seattle's Fun Forest on the way to the airport
Garfield High school students bond with visiting South African students
Josefa, Holi and Deysi share a slideshow of images from Santiago Atitlan with Seattle Girls School class
All the host families and students gathered together for a final pizza party before the Tibetan students returned to Dharamsala
The South African and Tibetan students enjoyed a goodbye breakfast at a local Seattle diner
The Tibetan students were cheerful even when waiting in line for security checks at the airport

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sese’s final thoughts about compassion & THANKS!

Being part of Bridges and going to Seattle for the cultural exchange program to me was a dream come true, but I didn’t think that I would learn as much as I did on this trip. I thought it was all about digital story telling and cultural exchange with students in Seattle from different schools. For the Seeds of Compassion I thought it was just going to be one of those big events where you get to see the most respected people sharing their views and opening our minds so that we could make the world a better place to live.

This all changed when for the first time in my life I listened to the most powerful, encouraging and inspiring words ever to be said by any leader I have listened to. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama changed my understanding of what compassion is and made me realize that we tend to think about anger, hatred and how it effects us but we don’t pay attention to compassion and the role it plays in our lives. We focus on problems and challenges facing us today but don’t look at the things that people have done in order to make people lives better.

Our generation is filled with opportunities and all the materials that one needs to achieve his or her goals and dreams, and all we need is to have compassion. Compassion is not only being helpful and loving to the people around you. It also understands the potential that you have and how you can use it to help yourself and other people as well. Compassion is not only giving without wanting something in return, but it is also the feeling of human kind. To love, to be kind and friendly to all people that are in the community that you live in.

His Holiness said that with all the creations and inventions that we have in our generation we should be willing to share and not fight over what can be shared. He continued and said that the violence and anger that we have we should turn into compassion. When I go back home I want to show the exact compassion that I have been shown in Seattle and be able to change people minds by showing love and making them understand what compassion really is towards friendship. For those who are involved in crime just because there’s no food at home I want to make them realize that there’s more that they can do to help their families and put food on the table without violence and anger. I would encourage them to ask for help because I know there are a lot of people who are willing to help.

In my school there’s a program that provides food for students who really need it, but many of them don’t go because they feel ashamed. I know how it feels because I also needed the food but didn’t go because I was also ashamed. I commit to going home and making a change. I want to show that we as a community can work together to help improve our lives, and I will start with having something to eat at school everyday so that others can see the compassion that I have for my self and be proud of who I am.


I have spent more than two weeks in Seattle and I will be leaving soon. I was happy when I came here, and it seems like I will be crying when I go back home. But I just want to thank the families that hosted me for loving me and welcoming me into their houses and giving me whatever I needed when I went out to workshops or visited schools in Seattle. Also to your wonderful, friendly, and loving kids that you had in which I made good friendships and who took me to places I have never been before. I thank you for everything that you have done for me, and I will be forever grateful to you.

To Zoe’s family the Schulers:

From the first day that I landed, you guys were there to comfort and welcome me to Seattle in a way that was so surprising and unusual for me. To be honest it was something that was totally new to me and I didn’t know what to do or say. It felt like you guys had been long waiting for me to come and right from the beginning you made me feel like I belonged in Seattle.

You made me experience something that I have never experienced before, the love of humankind and understanding how important it is in a person’s life by loving and caring for me. How it felt to love and at the same time be loved. When I was at home, and even when I was out of the house, I didn’t feel like a visitor. I felt like I was at home in South Africa with my own parents and just living my life the way I want.

We were always having conversations about how life is in South Africa and what I liked about my own country and what I like about me. Afterwards it would be you listening to South African music and dancing like you belonged there and understood the lyrics of the songs as if you knew what they mean. Whenever you were busy I would be on your laptop listening to music till the morning comes and you never said anything. While I was with you I felt like I was with my father and I really loved spending my time. To the father of the house Doug Schuler, you are number one.

To my host mother Terry, you were the one who was always making sure I was happy and satisfied. Your words reminded me of my own mother and you took me to places and acted like I was your own child. Everybody seemed to forget that I was on a visit and will be leaving this country to go home. I will always love and miss you, Mom, so much and I keep remembering the first day you took me to a Thai restaurant and I had my first experience of how Thai food tastes like. To the mother Terry, no mom can ever replace you- you’re the best!

To the beautiful, young, and loving girl that I have come across was none other than Zoe Schuler, the daughter of Doug and Terry Schuler. I remember the beautiful flowers that you brought me when you went to welcome me to the airport. On the day that I was leaving and you had to go to California, I felt like crying, but I couldn’t cry in front of so many people so I saved it and cried a lot when I got to my new home. Because you were the one I spent most of my time with when we were in school and at home. On my way to school and when I came back it was always you being there for me all the time. Even when I didn’t feel comfortable you found ways of making me happy. You will always be in my heart for as long as I live. For everything that you have done for me I just wanted you to know that you will always be part of my life forever.

To Emmanual's family the Yearwoods:

I would also like to thank the Yearwoods for being a loving and friendly and interesting family to me. Even though I didn’t have enough time to spend with all of you because I was busy and had to attend the Seeds of Compassion events and always came late. You guys never worried about that and you enjoyed having me around, and I will miss every little time I spent with you.

To Felicia: mother
I want to say thank you for looking after me and making sure that I had everything that I needed and for taking me to the mall and to the movies. You sacrificed a lot of time to take me to all the places I had to go to. I thank you for being a kind and loving mother to me.

Mr. Perry: father
I wish I could have spent more time with you but I understand that you wanted to spend more time with me as much as I did. With your company being one of the sponsors for the Seeds of Compassion, you were busy all day but I enjoyed going to school with you in the mornings and how you showed me how to use your computer.

To be honest you were like a brother to me and I enjoyed every little information you shared with me about your school, your community and your culture as well. I enjoyed meeting your friends and going to the programs that you did when you were out of school. I enjoyed your jokes and funny comedy movies that we watched when we were at home. I know I was a bit older that you, but it felt like I was your younger brother when you always told me what to do and always woke me up in the morning. Remember when you said a brother from another mother? That I will always remember.

I would love to say thank you for every thing that you have done for me.
I appreciate what you did for me and I wish I could come back again and pay you guys a visit or one of you can visit my family.


From my own understanding, life is an interesting journey of experiences and love, care, friendship, and compassion make it worthwhile. If we are sitting there doing nothing, not knowing how the other part of the world looks like, we don’t see life as a journey at all. When we never love, care, be friendly, and show compassion to other people, we say life sucks with its ups and downs and blame it all on God.

As a student from Hector Peterson in South Africa I would like to say thank you to Bridges to Understanding, a program that started a year ago in our school, for making an opportunity of a life and a dream come true to me. It has given me so much that when I go back home I want to pass on what I have learned through digital storytelling and sharing information with different students from different schools in Seattle to my fellow South Africans back home.

When I attended Bridges workshops, not only did I learn about photography and how to create digital storytelling, I started to understand that a photo or any image can tell you something when you look at it very carefully. I understood what Bridges was trying to teach and the message that it is trying to give out to people. I am so happy for the Bridges program because it’s an opportunity that comes once in a life which our parents never had when they were still in school. Our president once said that the world has changed and with this generation that we can make it a better place to live in. I started to realize this when I saw digital stories from students in Tibet, Seattle, Guatemala, and not forgetting my country, of course.

From what I have seen I think we have to give whatever little we have to those that need it most and to love, respect, and be kind to all different kinds of people that we come across. That’s what Compassion is all about.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Final Seattle thoughts from KT (India/Tibet)

Thanking to everyone who made my trip to Seattle a very special trip.

When I came here I first met two teachers from Lakeside School that made my trip very special. Their names are Ms. Meera Patankar and Ms. Kristina Peterson. Wherever we went, we first felt uncomfortable because we didn’t know anyone, but these two teachers didn’t let us feel like that. We never thought of them as strangers and always felt as if we all knew them since we were a child.

These teachers took us to the Sakya Monastery and to the Zoo during our small visit - when you are on an educational trip you don’t get time to go to a Zoo because everything is scheduled. In the Sakya monastery I felt very nice because the fragrance in the Sakya Monastery felt as if we were at our home. In the Zoo, the animal I liked the most was the snowy owl, but at the same time we all felt lucky as we got to see the Sun Bear in this weather. So I would like to thank not only these two teachers but every staff and student at Lakeside for making this trip so special for all of us.

The teachers at Salmon Bay like Lisa and Sam and the other teachers were really nice to all of us. They all treated us as if we were a celebrity or a VIP and we all felt very special. They always took our opinion whether we wanted to go to P.E. or go to a class. When we went to the class in Salmon Bay it wasn’t too different from Lakeside as the students were very good and they asked some questions about Tibet and the area where we came from. There were some students didn’t knew who His holiness was before told them about him so I think that we all - the 6 students- played an important role of spreading our culture.

The students in America are very independent and express their feelings very easily, but for the students in India it is very hard for them to express their feelings. So I feel that I would like to take this independence within them into myself to my school and also would like other students at home to open up their feelings. I also feel that it is sometimes not good to be too independent during the school time, for example wandering with your girlfriend and boyfriend on the school campus, because we all are sent to school to study not to wander around.

I would like to thank both of my special host families who have played a very important role in this trip to Seattle, and I would lastly like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. At first when I had a host sister I felt very happy and it was a lot easier, but when I knew that I had to stay with a host brother I was very afraid and didn’t wanted to stay because the place where I come from it is not usual to stay with a boy. But after staying with a host brother I have learnt that it doesn’t matter whether you are staying with a girl or a boy; what matters the most is your intention staying with that person. At last I would like to thank Francesco (my host brother), Georgia (my host sister), Sofia (my host sister), Julie (host mother), and Gianfranco (host father).



Selected shots from the school visits, Seeds of Compassion and Bridges workshop

Werner and PK interview some folks for their digital story at Seeds of Compassion
PK and Sese drum at Jessica's
Loedhen teaches students how to make Tibetan Momos
KT and Lhamo check out their pics at the Pike Place Market shoot
Holi, Desi and Josefa laugh with the younger children at Salmon Bay Middle School
Choeden bonds with his new South African friends at the Pike Place market
Holi, Deysi and Josefa show Salmon Bay students how to make real tortillas
TCV students finally meet their Coe partner class, with whom they've been corresponding for 2 years
At Seeds of Compassion, Lhamo presents a gift to His Holiness the Dalai Lama
KT teaches students at Salmon Bay
Loedhen and Zandi discuss story ideas at the market
Phumza and Seattle student Hanna make editing decisions on their digital story

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Round Table Discussion: KT (Kalsang Tashi), Josefa, and Ali ask and answer questions sparked by Seeds of Compassion talks

What is the first time you remember showing someone else compassion? (Ali)
Ali: When I was 3, my little sister Daisy was born, and my first recollection of being compassionate is towards her because I loved her so much.
KT: I don’t remember.
Josefa: I remember when my sister started school, and I helped her so much with her work because she needed help and couldn’t do the work on her own.
KT (from India) and Ali (from Seattle)

How can we personally change the world with compassion? (Josefa)

Ali: I think we can change the world with compassion by making the world emotionally healthier and kinder place to live in. Everybody has to make a personal decision to do it; it won’t really work unless everybody decides they want to make the world a better place.

KT: We can make the world more compassionate by making others aware of the bad relationships between countries - not just Tibet and China, but between all the countries.

Josefa: The world will be more compassionate when you don't have to worry about who you are, the color of your skin, if you’re millionaires or poor people.

How do you deal with a situation if someone is treating you badly, if you are angry? (question asked at the Youth and Spirituality forum today)

KT: If I’ve done something good to someone and they are ignoring me, I just act as if I can’t see it; I just go on. I still treat her well, because that way there will be more hope of friendship. Whenever you are angry or something bad has happened to you, that doesn’t mean you have to be mad at the person. (Is it more difficult when the behavior towards you is violent?) It depends on the situation. You can’t have a calm mind for all your life, then people might take advantage of you.

Ali: I really like when he (HHDL) was talking about how if you have something that’s a really bad emotion you have to find the opposite of it to diminish the bad emotion, counterbalance it. It’s the way I try to deal with things. If one of my friends is in a fight with me, I try to spend more time with the people I really like and people I have not been in fights with, and then I’ll try to just put it behind me and go on in everyday life. But, like the Dalai Lama said today, that doesn’t always work.

Josefa: If I have a problem, you have to confront it with calm like Ali said. If the person insults you, you have to understand them. Sometimes if we fight with people it can start to be a whole new problem. It’s important to understand what they went through before they said that thing - they could be having a bad day.

Who in your own life has shown you compassion, specifically maybe when you weren’t being very nice? (Kristie - Bridges mentor)

Ali: My mother is the first one who comes to mind. When I’m angry and am upset with her, she says she loves me more than I will know, which annoys me at the time but is good in the end.
KT: Your enemy can be your best teacher in showing you how to be compassionate in a critical situation. Because of your enemy, you know how to be compassionate. Like his holiness, he says the next generation should be the generation of dialogue. He says that the enemy is the best teacher.
Josefa: When someone is against you, ask him what’s going on and give a solution to the problem. This has happened sometimes with my sister…sometimes she gets upset with me because she won’t do her homework, and so to provide a solution I just start to teach her how to do it. That works.

Loeden (Bridges student) said that the Dalai Lama's reincarnation may not be in Tibet and could be a woman- would that change anything? (Ali)
KT: He said that next Dalai Lama reincarnation can be in Tibet or from somewhere else. I think he said he didn’t want it to be in Tibet because it would bring difficulties. It wouldn’t be any change if it is a woman or a they are controlling the government, that is the main thing.

The Dalai Lama said on Friday that sometimes you learn best when you are afraid of your teacher, but sometimes it is better if your teacher is friendly What are the differences between your school at home and the Seattle schools you've visited? (Cheryl - Bridges staff/blogger mentor)

Josefa: In Santiago there is a lot of order in the classes. In here there’s a lot of chaos. But I really like both, I don’t really have a preference because in both you can really learn. Sometimeswe are a little scared and if we bother them we can get in big trouble, so it’s better to just not bother them. If the teachers are happy, then they’ll share with us and we’ll share with them.
KT: In class we have to raise our hand, and then stand up to answer the teacher. If we don’t stand up they will say we are not showing respect. Out here the teachers are like friends.
KT and Metok visit Seattle schools

In one sentence or one idea, what was your biggest learning this week, or what will you remember the most? (Kristie)

Josefa: What the Dalai Lama said: it doesn’t matter what society we are in, there is compassion and that is going to be the future of our world.
KT: At the first talk (on Friday) he said that you must have a calm mind when practicing compassion. Also, the next generation will be the generation of dialogue - I don’t think I will forget it.
Ali: When the Dalai Lama said that everyone is born with compassion, you just have to learn to tap into it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"If you could ask the Dalai Lama one question..." (from Ali, Seattle student)

(By Ali Johnson, Bridges to Understanding student from Salmon Bay Middle School)

“If you could ask the Dalai Lama one question, what would it be?” I asked.

I was inside Quest Field at the Bridges to Understanding information booth. The question was hard enough already, but factor in the fact that it was dark, noisy, crowded and a giant polar bear puppet had just passed by and finding the answer seemed near impossible. Zama Vuntu struggled to find a suitable answer, "I think…I think I would ask him if he sometimes feels like he is next to God.: Zama gave me a charming smile that I guessed meant “I’ve answered your question, now can I go?”

“Okay, thanks” I replied, and watched him walk over to his friends. I’d been at the Seeds of Compassion for about half an hour now, and it was more difficult than I’d expected. Writing down people’s responses to questions that I had halfheartedly come up with was frustrating, and I didn’t even have an answer for my favorite question to ask people: “If you could ask the Dalai Lama one question, what would it be?”

I sauntered up to the Tibetan girls, hoping that they would have some answers to my tough question. Loeden was the only one to speak up, “I would ask him where will his reincarnation be born and can he be our leader forever?” I didn’t think that I knew enough about the Dalai Lama’s role to understand this answer fully - did she really mean forever? And has the Dalai Lama been the leader since the beginning of time? When did he begin?

Pondering, I wandered over to the main table, where Sese from South Africa was. We chatted a bit before I asked the big question.“I would ask, where does he get all his answers?” Sese said without hesitation.

An intriguing question, I wish someone had asked him that because the Dalai Lama seems to always have wise, insightful, and clever answers to any question thrown at him. How does he know all of this, and where does he find his answers?

Jennifer happened to hear my question, so I asked her what she would say.
“I think that I would ask, is everything going to be okay?” she said smiling.
“And if it isn’t, just lie and say that it will” I added.

We all started laughing and soon left to find our seats, but I was still troubled by that question. Could the Dalai Lama know if everything was going to be okay? And what if it wasn’t? People say ignorance is bliss, and it’s true that thinking that everything will be okay would be lovely. But what if it isn’t? Do I want to know? Would the cost of the stress and sadness be worth the truth?

I don’t know. I don’t even know what I would ask the Dalai Lama if I ever got the chance; however, I do know that the Dalai Lama believes deeply in compassion, and if we show compassion to everyone, there is a good chance that everything will be “okay."