MENGENANG SEORANG CARLOS
Tidak mengira perjumpaan dengan Carlos di pantai Santa Monica California mengandung makna mendalam baginya. Menikmati sunset sambil makan bareng di pantai ternyata bagian dari tugasnya sebagai relawan citizen diplomat, Carlos sendiri seharian sebagai pegawai pemerintah kota Santa Monica. Berikut tulisannya.
berikut tulisan Carlos :
Why Hosting Matters to Me: A Los Angeles Citizen Diplomat’s Perspective
Carlos Collard, a volunteer with the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (IVCLA), shares his experience making global connections at the local level
“Oh, you speak Arabic?!”
That was the interpreted response, along with wide eyes and even wider smiles, I received from two Saudi Arabian leaders when I picked them up from their hotel for dinner on my birthday three years ago. Unfortunately, I did not speak Arabic, but I had learned and practiced greeting them and introducing myself in their native language in anticipation of this evening. It was my first time hosting as a citizen diplomat of the International Visitor Council of Los Angeles (IVCLA), a community-based member of the Global Ties U.S. network, and I didn’t know what to expect.
My lack of Arabic was exposed within seconds when I embarrassingly couldn’t respond, but that’s why they had an interpreter accompanying them during their time in the United States. We all laughed and walked together to a Nepali restaurant close to their hotel so they could try cuisine they had never had before. We talked for at least a couple of hours before the evening ended with the presentation of a Saudi gift to me and an invitation to go camping, cook good food, and meet nomads in the Saudi desert with one participant’s family. This hosting experience was an everlasting birthday present, setting the tone for how I saw my role as a U.S. citizen diplomat. It was the beginning of my understanding of why hosting matters.
As a volunteer and Chair of IVCLA’s Young Professionals Steering Committee, I have hosted and engaged with exchange participants from the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and Open World Leadership Center from over 50 countries and from almost every continent (I’m still waiting for that Antarctica visitor). I've volunteered with many organizations throughout my life, but this has been one of the best and most rewarding experiences.
It has changed my life through travel opportunities hosted by visitors I’ve met in Los Angeles, exposure to languages, improved understanding of how we are interconnected, and most importantly, lifelong friendships across the globe. Hosting matters because I learn about countries, cultures, and issues directly from the people who are a part of them. It is the best global education. Hosting has inspired me to get apps, bookmark websites, and follow television broadcasts that connect me to international news because I now know people around the world who are affected by events both good and bad. This helps me stay connected to visitors because I can ask them for their opinion or insight into something that I’ve read or watched, which ultimately continues my global education long after hosting them.
“Hosting matters because I learn about countries, cultures, and issues directly from the people who are a part of them.” For me, hosting is about providing comfort and authenticity. I imagine myself as the visitor. For some, it’s not only their first time visiting America, but also their first time leaving their home country. Some speak little to no English. When I met a tourism industry group from Turkmenistan at an IVCLA board meeting, I stood up to welcome them and introduced myself in their native Turkmen language. Halfway through my memorized phrases, they all began to applaud loudly with sparkling smiles on their faces. When I presented them with UCLA (my alma mater) key chains before they departed, one of them said, “thank you for speaking our language.”
The Nepali “Seven Summits” delegation, the first all-women team to climb the highest summit on each continent, at the beach in front of Gladstones Restaurant in Malibu