The beginning of an end

Such a bitter sweet feeling it is to write the last blog! Yet, it is not the end. I am very sure it will definitely be a new bright beginning. MEPI has been a great journey for all of us. Not only have we benefited from each educational session, but our learning experience has exceeded the ordinary expectations to reach a flabbergasting and enlightening adventure that helped us discover our ultimate potentials.

At the beach

Lifetime memory

When I first saw a Facebook post about MEPI, I said: “Let me give it a shot.” It was a mere coincidence. Never did I imagine that this coincidence would become the best life experience I will ever have.

Colorado memories

Colorado memories

With the other UDs, I learned so much about the different Arab cultures and traditions. From Ibtisam, Hamou and Kabira, I explored the Amazigh civilization and status, while Zuha and Atef nurtured my deep longing to promenade in the old streets of beautiful Damascus. Shaza, Fatoom, Hajar and Abdullah made sure to enrich my modest dictionary with Arabian Gulf keywords and expressions.

Country presentations

Country presentations

Most importantly, Mutah, Lu’ay, and Aseel filled me with information and breathtaking descriptions of our one and only Palestine. My love of Tunisia increased after I met Souha, Nesrina, and Med for they have amazed me with their decent manners and sweet gestures. Nassim, I will remember you every time I see a new city/Vegas! Ahmed, one day- cause I know we will meet again- I will take revenge on you and take funny sleeping photos of you. I also learnt about Yemeni coffee from Lisa and Wardah, and I imagined visiting Petra with the help of Israa and Khaled. Though I know so much about Egypt, Mahmoud promoted my knowledge of its political life. Finally, Romel introduced me a bit to the Syriac habits and demonstrated the noble Iraqi morals.

Country presentations

Country presentations

Last but not least, our dear mentors have guaranteed to make our experience an exquisite one. With their full dedication and spectacular generosity, they provided us with the best guidance ever and they helped us survive our homesickness.

I can never be more thankful for meeting such an amazing group of people! I love and will miss you all.

Oh, I almost forgot, Happy Birthday Muath!

- Zeinab.

New York, New York

Start spreading the news 
I am leaving today 
I want to be a part of it 
New York, New York 

Yeah, it was New York City, baby. I eventually did it and made my dreams come true! I have always heard about that crowded city that never sleeps and happily put it on my “Things to do before I die” list, but, believe me, you can’t know the whole picture until you get hit by a well- dressed business man who is busy enough to not even turn his face back to say sorry.

I think New York influenced us even before we arrived. As soon as we checked in at the hotel, Fatoom and I started our tasks like picking up her sister’s wedding dress. We started running like the rest of the people in New York, and then we took a cab so we can be on time. After finishing our tasks we went back to the hotel to meet with the others. We divided into two groups: one went to the Empire State building, and the second group to Madison Park. After that, we decided to meet in Time Square. Oh my god, it was like everything we expected and more. The big wide screens, the crowds, and everything. We were speechless. After taking a million pictures of us in Time Square, we ate the best hot dog in New York. I felt like a real New Yorker.

The next day, we rode the ferry and went to see the Statue of Liberty. To be honest, I thought it would be bigger, but the idea of being next to the symbol of freedom was a great feeling. I watched the same statue that more than millions of people saw before me, having this dream to start a new life in America. It was awesome.

Trip to Lady Liberty

Trip to Lady Liberty

After that we went to Wall Street, where all the financial institutions are: banks, investment firms, hedge funds, etc. It’s where all the trading is based out of. Of course you can’t be in New York and not visit the Grand Central Station, where all the romantic movies have their endings. Ahmed and I started acting a scene from one of the old films, and it was hilarious.

After this busy day, we went back to the hotel to rest a little before getting ready to go to Broadway. All the girls were dressed up and looking glamorous and the boys looked good, too. We saw the Spider-Man play. It was good, but the most exciting thing was after the show. Lu’ay arranged for us a limousine to bring us back to the hotel, like a celebrity. We danced, screamed, and sang all the way. People started to wave at us; it was amazing.

Out in NYC

Out in NYC

This was like the best way to say good-bye to New York.

- Zuha.

A leader’s heart

Why am I here? My answer is that it’s not just because I want to be a successful leader, it is because I want to fulfill the highest expression of myself as a leader. And a leader is nothing without those who are around him.  Here I am in Delaware, living one of the most amazing experiences ever. Every day here is a different one, a fruitful one, and a unique one.

Today is 18th July. It was midnight and I was sitting with my MEPI friends in Lu’ay’s room, as we do all the time. We were having a lot of fun singing, telling stories, laughing and enjoying every single second as if it was the last one together.

I came back to my room to sleep. I was thinking about my family, my friends, and my country. I think about them all the time and miss them so much – much more than they could imagine, and even much more than I could imagine. Such a terrible missing is here inside of a leader’s heart. Who said leaders are strong?  No doubt they are!  It’s just that as strong as they are, their hearts are fragile and their souls are sensitive.

Later, I opened the door and found a blue envelope. I took it since my name was written there For a second I couldn’t even breath. At this moment I had such a strange feeling and a lot of questions. Who sent this to me? Is it my family? It is for sure from someone who cares a lot about me. It is for sure someone who loves me unconditionally. I was shaking. My heart was beating so fast. I kept looking at the envelope without even moving, I didn’t have the courage to open it. A feeling of surprise, fear and joy all at the same time.

So many things are flowing through my mind, so many emotions all at once! I was shaking, I gathered all my strength, opened the envelope, and found such a wonderful gift. It was from my friend Zeineb, a postcard in which she wrote me warm and deep touching words. She told me that she loves me and she was thanking me for taking care of her while she was sick. These moments were one of the most wonderful ones I’ve lived here. I kept reading what she wrote again and again, tears were rolling down my face.

Feeling at home

Feeling at home

This reminds me that even if I’m far away from my family and from my homeland, I have a family here as well. A family who cares about me, a family who is a source of happiness and strength, a family who makes me smile, and who lighten me up.

Here we realized that the key to opening up the world of our friendship is not just to focus on our similarities, but to accept our faults because we are not here to judge each other. We are here as friends, and friends love unconditionally. Friends touch each other’s wounds with a warm and tender hand. Friends are the ones who with their presence fill our hearts with love, affection and care. They do have their little angry moments from time to time, but at the end of the day all is forgiven and forgotten.

Here our friendship began and forever it will remain. I love you all.

- Nesrine.

Friendship

Friendship

The best mix

Today (16 July), I learned a lot for sure. I was wide awake and had some time to recover from the Colorado trip. I am up and running today, thank god! Now, let’s get down to business. Two new classes, two new professors, and bonding with my program classmates are what made the day.

God knows I love my communication classes, and hallelujah not just one – but two – new professors with very different methods. I liked them both.

Professor Lindsay Hoffman gave us a class on communication and how it relates to technology and politics. Now, that is like four classes right there in only one class. But, it was a really interesting combination involving communication in a different approach. That was the first time I have ever heard about such a major. Wow! Then came the other Audrey – Professor Tracey Holden, whom I learned that she is not only teaching, but teaching others how to teach. Cool, huh? And she is still teaching some our staff members.

Almost to the end of the day, we had two great young engineers who traveled to third world countries to give villages clean water. Which, water is something we take for granted on a daily basis. We don’t know that it’s even more important than gold or oil. They are role models for a good deed, their amazing work, and all their volunteering efforts!

And since we are fasting, the meal to break our fast was nice.  Today, we had a taste of Arabic food from a Moroccan restaurant. All of us got together in my brother Lu’ay’s room, which made us closer as a family. It’s times like these that I know how amazing of a group I have at the University of Delaware. God please you guys. Love you all.

- Lisa.

Legendary

In Denver, the adventure of the MEPI program has permitted me to discover a city full of love and art. But these last few days, locked in my room, I felt the weight of Denver – all these lights that never turn off, the whisper of the discussions outside, and the lack of stars in the sky.  So today (12 July), we broke the routine and went far from people to reach total silence and the pure air. Our destination: The Rocky Mountains!

I woke up too early, because my alarm is stilled tuned to Delaware time. Then I met the whole staff and my fellows. Of course, everyone wanted to know who had the best night, so we were all exchanging our stories. Some went to eat Italian food and some discovered more of Denver by taking a walk around.  We arrived at the conclusion that our nights were all amazing and declared equality!

We took to the road at 11am to Colorado Spring. All along the trip we had a debate about the different taste of music. We checked every radio station of the area to find some blues and rock, and fortunately we did. We arrived in Colorado Spring. What a beautiful town.  Everybody there looks like the typical Western guy, because they are all wearing hats and boots. Souvenir shops were surrounding us, so we all picked some stuff linked to the Native Americans. Before we left the town, I met two “cowboys” and I told them that I was going to the Rocky Mountains.  They only gave me one advice: Enjoy the moment, and forget that you need a new profile picture on Facebook. Throw away your camera and smell the taste of freedom.

We started our road trip to the high altitude. The air became slowly fresher and the clouds appeared to cover the sky like a white sheet. Our minds used it to draw their dreams in it while we were reaching the highest point of the mountain. My first step outside of the car was under the rain, but I didn’t feel it, because I was hypnotized by the natural beauty of the mountain. We all stood in place to take pictures (Facebook time!) and everyone used his creativity to immortalize the moment. We didn’t leave until the memory cards and our imagination were full and not able to work.

The night in Denver was special like the other nights that I spent there. I had a good time at the Hard Rock Café with Med and Romel, surrounded by guitars and others stuff linked to the rock n’ roll. We tried their legendary burgers and it was legend… wait for it… dary!

- Hammou.

Don’t stop believing

I got an opportunity to see the world from a different angle – literally.

Now I’m on way to the hotel. I just can’t take the smile off my face. These words are pieces of each and everyone’s heart. This is heavenly!

Bright, summer-ish, and colorful shirts; that was how we started the day. One moment we were sipping our coffee in the vans in a hurry, as we couldn’t imagine that the upcoming moment would be the moment of our lives. Those breathtaking seconds when you can’t think of anything else except YOU being there. Yes, we were heading to the Rocky Mountains. After fifty minutes of nonstop driving out of Denver, our first stop was at Boulder Waterfalls. Ice, water, river and rocks – the combination of nature – with me in the middle. You would think that this was the best part, wouldn’t you?!

Hold on, the best is yet to come. Existing in two places at one time; one solid and the other is transparent, just like standing on the peak of the Rocky Mountains. Speechless, that’s what I felt in that moment.

Up in the Rocky Mountains

Up in the Rocky Mountains

Two hours later, we went back to Denver. We took a food tour around 16th Street and we ended up at Pizza Hut.

Riding a bike taxi was one of the most unforgettable moments ever with four people instead of two. We had to squeeze in so we could sit together, with the sounds of joyous and contagious laughter growing louder and louder all around 16th Street. We swayed to the music that was somewhere in downtown.

Fatma and her friends in Denver

Fatma and friends in Denver

Finally we decided to go back to the hotel. We went walking, and we heard the most amazing voice around the corner that filled the street. We could not help but to stand and admire that big voice.

At the end, if it is up, down or in the corner – that was my different angle.

- Fatma.

A different feeling

Today (11 July) was really wonderful from all aspects. Firstly, my day started when I talked to my family while they were gathering for breakfast. I felt happy and I envied them at the same time.

Then, we went to the Air Force Academy. I liked that place, especially the movie we watched about the Academy. It was serious and I felt like I want to join the Academy so bad. But before the movie, my lovely friend Souha fainted. The part I loved the most was that I splashed water on her, which was funny, especially with Farghly yelling at her to drink water.  Now she feels better.

Finally, one more thing I loved about the Academy is they provide all the religious materials. I was surprised to see the Muslim’s room which was nice. The whole place was holy and it has a different feeling. At the end we went to the Gardens of Gods, which has a real different feeling. I don’t know how, but you feel that the world is really big and you realize that you are too small.

- Wardah.

Second day in Colorado

Today, 10th of July, will stay in my memory as the best MEPI day for me. I woke up by 8am and prepared myself for the long journey which will come, the first day of Ramadan, and my first experience of fasting far from my family and my country.

We meet with the mentors, MEPIs and Professor Lesa in the Museum Room of the Crown Plaza Hotel for a great class about the Western culture and politics with Professor Courtenay Daum and John Straayer. We learned a lot about Colorado history and how the western freedom philosophy was born. All the MEPIs took this occasion to ask questions and noticed how much the East and the West are so different!

After a small break, we took the vans and went to the Learnin’ Tree Museum of Western Art, where we appreciated the different sculptures and painting of the Western life style and the Natives Americans. We also enjoyed the work of Harry Jackson, Cyrus Asfary and many other artists.

At the Learnin' Tree Museum of Western Art

After the museum, we went to a beautiful little city called Boulder. I was tired from fasting, but I was so excited to discover Boulder and its people. I walked on “Pearl Street” where many magicians and bands were showing.

In Boulder, CO

I met many interesting people from the region. I was very surprised to find people who really want to learn more about our countries and share with me their view of the US, and even their view of the MENA region. For example, we were walking me and Ahmed and we met a lady with a HUGE dog. After I asked for the type of the dog, she asked us where do we come from, and we started talking for 20 min.

Nassim with a Colorado native.

Nassim with a Colorado native.

Finally, we came back to the hotel and we directly went to a fast food place to break our fast “between our new family”. The menu was not as traditional as at home (Honestly it was a just a sandwich at the Subway!). With a full stomach, we decided with some boys to discover downtown Denver. And it was just amazing! We sang with a homeless person, me and Hammou met some Americans student and we spent all the night with them. They showed us a very good diner open 24 hours, which I will certainly show to the others tomorrow so we can break our fast with the missed “soup”.

- Nassim.

MEPIs in Denver

MEPIs in Denver