The last two weeks of this summer, I was blessed to have the opportunity to see the culmination of all of the work that myself and my fellow FAF interns had been putting in for the past few months. Upon moving into Pace University downtown where I would share the building with 600 international youth delegates as well as the FAF staff, I began one of the most memorable weeks of my life. I was put in charge, specifically, of a group of 20 Chinese delegates and their chaperone. This meant that I was in charge of answering any questions they had, organizing their checking in and out of their lodgings, as well as guiding them via bus and train all around NYC to the different locations in which they needed to attend, like meals or the UN or visits to Missions throughout the city or Columbia University for evening events. I was lucky to have an awesome group of people, and one that were not entirely unfamiliar with English, because otherwise navigating everyone would have been insane.
During our days we spent six hours inside the walls of the UN in various conference rooms, listening to Ambassadors and Youth Envoys and musicians and olympic leaders and youth leaders from all over. Generally, their speeches had very common goals. They were speaking about their stories as becoming world changers and opening up panels for dialogue among our delegates to speak about their lives and how to move forward. A lot of what was spoken about involved the ever increasing speed of what social media has done to our world's leaders, and a lot of what was said involved how to market oneself in what they were doing, which was interesting to me. To live in a world today where one must not only have passionate drive and leadership capabilites, but you must also be able to make yourself look as good and professional out of what you're doing through visual and social media. To my dissapointment, I found myself wishing that the speakers in attendance spoke less and interacted more. I could feel all 600 delegates become sleepy and less enthusiastic as the hours went on, as anyone would be when you're sitting down and listening to someone speak for hours on end. I think it would have been really helpful if there had been fewer large lectures and more small workshop based discussions.
In terms of our evening events that I was running, our Opening Gala was a huge success. We had a few performers come but the ones that mainly stuck out in my head were The Vanaver Caravan, the company I've danced with from home who commuted to the city for our show and KCP Kids Creating Peace, an organization of women and a few teenagers from all different parts of Israel and Palestine working together to stop the fighting that is going on over there. Between boths groups, everyone's attention was held the entire time and toward the end they were led in group dancing.
Our next eveing was Culture Night. Half an hour before our second evening event began, I was informed that being Artistic Director meant also being the MC and stage manager for the hundreds of international youth delegates in attendance. This was not what I had prepared for and something that almost immediately made me begin to start panicking.
I thus began my night on and behind stage, quite literally making sure everyone was on top of everything, from the sound technicians to the lighting crew to the performers and their chaperones as well as smiling onstage between acts and making sure the audience was unaware. Considering how last mintute everything seemed to be occurring, the program changed every five minutes because of delegates deciding they also wanted to be involved and had a performance to add to the mix, which was encouraged by my bosses even though they were not the ones having to deal with it logistically. I also had to consider making sure the event's food went out on time and my boss looked good and guiding my team of interns who we're constructing a culture banner simultaneously in the back of the auditorium under my direction onstage. Yanyu, our logistics coordinator- worked with me and did what I asked her to do backstage when I wasn't there and while I was onstage. At one moment, I was trying to understand what our next performer, a Chinese delegate, was going to do and I could not figure it out. Yanyu rushed backstage and they quickly conversed in fast-paced Mandarin. Then Yanyu told me what happened and the show went on. Other similiar events occured such as calming down nervous performers backstage who were realizing how last minute the event was being put together... I had to take a young Vietnamese boy into the hallway and jump up and down with him for ten seconds so that he would begin breathing correctly again and would therefore be able to sing. Toward the end of the performance, we got everyone in the audience up on stage dancing with each other. The final performer was a Pakistani dancer who taught me, backstage, the traditional dance he was going to perform and then called me on to do it with him at the end.
I cannot explain the energy that was circulating within Columbia's hall, or more specifically the feeling that was undulating throughout my bones. Our performers ranged from Korean singers, Bangladeshi comedians, Israeli and Palestinian dancers, Chinese singers and caligraphy artists, Nigerian singers, Eritrean dancers and the list goes on. We had a two and a half hour show that held everyones attention and included the diversity of cultures and countries from around the entire world, not to mention everyone dressed up with attire from their countries. I have never been more proud of being a part of an event that held so much power in creating the cross cultural peace building experience I am passionate about. Instead of sitting in a conference room and listening to world leaders discuss how to make a difference within the world, we were coming together and creating one. As human beings, when we are dancing together and singing together and honoring one another's bravery in sharing a talent or part of themselves in this area, it is difficult not to love one another and see that they are not as different as we may think. As soon as this happens you begin to realize how easily war and bombing and intense hatred can be avoided.
On our third night, our event on the cruise ship, we boarded the Hornblower Hybrid and began an evening of food and dance and final goodbyes to each other. We were gifted with perfect weather and a clear sunset over Manhattan on the water. A truly memorable evening was created with the diverse faces of young people with a common wish for the betterment of our world and its peoples. I am excited to continue doing work like this and feel confident that I can.