[From July of 1986 to June of 1987 I had the privilege of traveling in Cast D of Up With People. While on the road I captured my impressions in an occasional column in the weekly newspaper of my hometown, the Ellis County Star. The paper is now defunct, but I’ve revived each of my columns and will drop them here on Medium every month or so as our cast prepares for our 35th reunion in July of 2021 (Depending on COVID of course.) For me, and I hope others, it’s a vivid and optimistic lens through which to view the world once again. I’ve chosen to not edit the columns so that my 22 year old self comes through. Enjoy!]
Dateline: the world
Wilkommen. For the next year through this column I will seek to provide you with an interesting view of our country and world as seen through the eyes of a traveler.
Let me quickly distinguish between a tourist and a traveler. Through my participation with Up With People, an international educational and cultural program, I will be touring all over the world.
However, in the more than 80 communities I visit I will be staying in the homes of local host families. Therefore, the view of the world that I offer here will be influenced by the people who open their homes to our cast, provide for us, and support our journeys around the globe.
Our tour will take us off the beaten path into the homes which lie beyond the glitter of travel posters.
I invite you to share in my journey through this weekly column. While I have expectations of gaining insights into other cultures, broadening my view of world issues, and growing in my own talents and abilities, I also hope to share my observations and insights with the people of Northwest Kansas through this column.
Growing up in Ellis County, the heritage of our area has helped to shape me in many ways. As I take a part of Northwest Kansas with me throughout the world, I am also hoping to bring a part of other worlds back home to you.
As a member of a cast of 110 young people from 17 countries, we will set out from Tucson trained to perform a professional two-hour show, and do all that we can to fulfill Up With People’s mission: “To encourage understanding among people of all nations through an international educational and cultural program involving young men and women, from many countries, who travel for a year and learn from the people and places they visit while staging a musical show.”
Welcome into this year-long journey. Learn with me, grow with me, laugh with me, cry with me. I cannot guarantee you’ll agree with all that I see and share, but I can offer you my unique perspective on all that I visit.
Welcome to my world, our world, for a year.
Staging in Arizona
Arizona is not a lackluster state. Certainly the stereotypical tall cacti dot the landscape throughout this area, but in contrast to the striking beauty of the Sonoran Desert stand several small mountain ranges which encircle the city of Tucson.
Daily we rehearse at the Canyon Del Oro High School nestled right up next to the Santa Catalina range on the northwest side of the city. This high school, a complex of several well-equipped, modern buildings situated around a plush grassy area, (a rarity itself in this area), with benches and picnic tables, seems more like a country club than a senior high school.
The splendor of the mountain range behind the high school was purely breathtaking during our first couple of days here. Students, especially from the Midwestern states, could not believe the view.
By our second week at “CDO,” blocking rehearsals, makeup workshops, and promotion seminars filled our time and thoughts. As this happened, somehow the mountains behind the school seemed to lose some of their lustre.
Of course their grandeur was as inspiring as the day we arrived; only our impressions of the scenery had been dimmed by the preoccupations of our hectic days.
For the next year, our cast will be confronted with new scenery like the Santa Catalina Mountains on the average of every three days. It will not be difficult for us to find stimulation in the appreciation of our ever-changing environments. As we venture out of our safe homes into the uncertainty of more than 80 host families’ homes, the excitement of these new faces, new situations and new atmospheres will serve to bring us the grandeur of the Catalina Mountains each day.
The challenge for us all is to seek out things around us to provide this freshness each day. Even without traveling to new areas on a weekly basis we all can build appreciation of our worlds through a heightened awareness of that which is around us.
Remember your own “Catalina Mountain Range” and celebrate each day with the freshness it deserves, and you deserve.