Having finally left the US of A

Graham Collins - Ecuador

September 13, 2012

We just flew over Panama on our way to Quito from San Francisco (via Miami). Many of the talks and discussions that occurred during fall training involved meditation, self-reflection, and mindfulness. I suppose I should write some reflective words down. I consider myself to be a very thoughtful person, normally overthinking even the most basic concepts and actions. However, this week, I’ve simply been living and participating. Graham Coxon wrote a song talking about “feel[ing] alright,” and I think I can really relate to that this week. It has simply been an enjoyable time. Life sometimes is less than enjoyable. At others, it is very exciting. These last several days of training have been good. Some excitement has certainly been pleasant. However, most of my pleasure has derived from the company of these wonderful Global Citizen Year Fellows.


I have never felt the sense of belonging that I feel with these new friends of mine. This is a community teeming with love. I feel appreciated, and that is a wonderful way to be. Simple life and interactions with new people have brought me satisfaction that seemed unfathomable before. The Fellows are incredibly intelligent. I generally am not a fan of smart people because they tend to be obnoxious and condescending (This is perhaps my first offensive generalization of the blogging year). These people are brilliant, though in a way that is inspiring. Such knowledge and thoughtfulness among a group of people is something completely new to me. I can talk about my favorite books, poems, works of art, and studies with the other Fellows in a fulfilling way. We can also be fun enough to dance hard, go fountain hopping, and joke around. I have really enjoyed the company of the Fellows, the alumni, and the Global Citizen Year staff.


We have had some wonderful speakers. They have come from all over the place, from many different backgrounds, to inform us about some of the subjects that will be crucial in these eight months. I don’t know how the bright, adorable Abby was able to get all of the speakers to come, but I appreciated them all. I will now list the speakers and their subjects.


 Farah Khorsandian-Sanchez gave a talk on diversity and community.


Lisa Kaufman and Nick Ashburn spoke about Design Thinking.


Megan Cowan spoke on Mindfulness.


David Abernathy skyped a lecture to our classroom at Stanford. It was his normal room, but I think he was writing a book in Boston.


Joel Segre (Husband of Abby Falik) spoke about social impact and sustainability of projects for NGO’S, state programs, and for profit organizations.


Marguerite Lauter gave a lecture on the Girl Effect.


Joanna Levitt spoke about the environment, especially as it relates to economics.


Cynthia McMurry spoke about economic development through microbusinesses.


Kristin McKennon gave a talk about education.


Xinhong Lim taught about public speaking and effective presentations.


Venice Arts gave an interactive presentation on storytelling through social media.


Margi Young led a yoga workshop.


Craig Newmark spoke about getting things done with developing countries. He no longer manages craigslist. He now does customer service to “stay in touch” (every single day), and he leads fundraising and informs about effective projects through CraigConnects.


Mal Warwick taught about the impact of play and how an indestructible (stab with a knife, run over with a car, or hand it over to a lion) soccer ball can change lives.


Anne Marie Burgoyne spoke about transitions in life and culture shifts.


I started off giving titles to the people, but it would be easier to just say that they all have fancy degrees from prestigious schools and awesome work experiences.


The Global Citizen Year staff is fantastic. They worked so hard, and it paid off. They are incredibly smart, friendly, and involved in global affairs.


I cannot talk about all of the fellows individually. This is because, you must know, we have almost a hundred fellows. This is small enough that I have been able to talk to (and realize the awesomeness in) every one of them. Yet, it is big enough that I reserve the right to just say that each individual rocks my socks off. Just ask them, I didn’t wear socks or shoes basically at all this week.


What else can I say? I didn’t sleep last night because we had to leave at 3ish this morning. This post may or may not be coherent. I can’t be held responsible. Seriously, my readers can’t hold me responsible because I’m on a different continent than them. Yet, I hope this blog post was worth reading for you guys. We’re going to touch down momentarily in the Promised Land.


Streetlight Manifesto sings, “Someday soon my friends, this ride will come to an end, but we can’t just get in line again.” I’m ecstatic that I chose this adventure, and I know I’m not wasting my precious, fleeting life this year.

Graham Collins