Monday, October 07, 2013

Eisenhower Fellowships 2013: My journey to Philly

As the 6th century Chinese philosopher once said: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." 

Like a usual journey, I thoroughly prepared for the Eisenhower Fellowships in the same way that I am preparing for a combat mission. I am a soldier, remember?

I arranged all travel requirements including the J1 Visa, Travel Authority from the Department of National Defense, and all clearances that go with them.

For several weeks, I had nightly Skype 'meetings' with my EF Program Officer, Ms Natalie Barndt, to iron out my itinerary in the United States. Fellows are deeply involved in planning for the itinerary based on the 'fellowship interests' that they presented. 

Due to my keen interest in conflict resolution, peace-building and merit systems, I selected peace institutes, universities, military units and government offices which are directly related to my intellectual pursuit. 

I also consulted Filipino EF fellows to ask for guidance. Army Lt Gen Ismael 'Billy' Villareal, my fellowship mentor, personally shared his thoughts and invaluable experiences, widening my understanding about the program.

I didn't notice the passing of time until the day that I have to depart for the fellowship. It was early morning on September 28, 2013 when I left Manila for New York together with my wife who was allowed to experience at least half of the time that I am on fellowship. Yes, EF fellows' spouses are allowed to be with us too! 

We traveled thousands of miles towards the other side of the globe for about 17 hours, landing at the international airport named after one of the most popular American President, John F Kennedy.

We were greeted by these mural arts inside the arrival area, giving me a glimpse about US history and its culture. I couldn't help but remember our own artwork in the Philippines, the EDSA-Bayanihan Peace Mural!

After collecting  our luggage, we hopped on a van for a 2-hr drive to Philadelphia. Seeing the towering structures of Manhattan in the horizon, I clicked for some photos. I couldn't wait to visit this place in the 3rd week of my fellowship!

Finally, at around 6:00 pm on September 28, we were settled at this spacious room of Double Tree Hotel. 

We were dead tired but chose to venture out than waste our time sleeping. These are few of the awesome sights that I photographed outside. As a first time visitor of Philly, my adventures as an EF fellow have just began.

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