Sunday, August 12, 2007

the week in review...

Many apologies for the delay on new posts. Among other things, my upwithpeople laptop crashed this week, so I've been short on internet access.

We have had a PACKED week in Tucson! BUT, before that, we had a very full end to our time in Denver. The debut show was thrilling, and I was so proud of our cast. You would never believe that it was their first time performing together. We got to have one last weekend breakfast with our wonderful host family on Saturday morning (if you ever have the pleasure of staying with the Stones, request the biscuits and gravy), and I finally bought a suitcase so I could actually pack up my stuff and get on the road!

We left Denver bright and early Sunday morning, and drove all day to Gallup, New Mexico, where we had a "surprise" (to the students) overnight all together in a school gymnasium. There's nothing like seventy people on camp mattresses spread out all over a gym floor to help you get to know people better. We had an amazing potluck dinner hosted by the local Lions club-- and I thought jello salads and ramen-noodle coleslaw concoctions were served strictly in the midwest! I stand corrected.

Drove again all day Monday to get to Tucson, AZ, original home base for up with people (from the 70s until 1993 when they moved to CO) and host to the 2007 Up with People International Alumni Association annual reunion.

It was Scott and my 10 year reunion of when we traveled together as students (in Cast C 1997), and it was, as I mentioned already, a super full week for our current cast, Cast B 2007. We did our first school projects, a second day of volunteer work alongside uwp alumni, performed a show in conjunction with the other current cast, and participated in lots of really powerful reunion activities that exposed us to the rich history of up with people. We met with the founder of Up with People, J. Blanton Belk, and his wife Betty, and he told the classic uwp stories that make me proud to be a part of this organization every time I hear them: the first international student organization to be welcomed to visit China, reuniting the athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics after the Israeli team was killed in the Olympic village, and a new one that I heard for the first time:
Mr. Belk was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and shared with him the uwp song, "What color is God's skin?", the lyrics of which are indirectly referred to in Dr King's I have a Dream speech. Mr Belk was at the I have a Dream speech on the Washington Mall, and actually hosted Dr. King and his party for dinner that evening. The man socializes with heads of state, and the most powerful and influential people in our world, and yet he is at the same time the most down-to-earth, genuine and kind human being, and just a joy to hear speak.

The cast yesterday also heard the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen, who are the original musicians of Up with People (they wrote the theme song and many many others over the years) perform live at the reunion. These men, who are in at least their mid-80s, just tore up the stage with an early 60s, banjo-struming, zylophone-playing, foot-stomping sound. And to hear them play the original, twangy version of "Up with People" live was a very touching thing to me. We also heard Rajmahat (sp?) Ghandi, who is Ghandi's grandson, speak, as he is a long-time friend of the Colwells and was a special guest at the reunion. An incredible opportunity- one of those things that when I look around the room I think, "only in up with people".

Each day was so full, that more than once I referred to something that happened earlier in the week, and Scott would remind me that it actually occurred just this morning... "Wait, that was today?!"

We stayed out late with our 1997 cast both Friday and Saturday nights. I was impressed that so many were able to attend-- I think 47 of our 150 were there. I enjoyed so much hearing what they were up to, and they were so supportive of Scott and I being back on the road. It was very reassuring to spend good time with them all, which we squeezed in from midnight to 2am each day. And so, I sit here in the Hotel Arizona in downtown Tucson-- its just10pm and I can barely keep my eyes open! What I love best is that tomorrow, it all starts again.

1 comment:

Kerry Pfarner-Cosneau said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time at the reunion. I loved thinking back to all those old stories of Mr. Belk's. I wish I could have been there to share the excitement with you. Have a great time as you head out on the road!