It takes a village to manage an Olympic Games hospitality program. Fourteen Chinese students – mostly seniors and first year grad students, selected during an intensive interview process last spring, joined my three overseas colleagues and me a week before the Games began.
Certainly for me, the opportunity to work side-by-side with locals united in a common cause is the highlight of the Olympic Games experience. There is no better way to see and understand another country or another culture and certainly no better way to have the various complexities of your own culture better understood.
Once introductions are made, we have one week to turn ordinary book-toting students into world-class Olympic Games event management experts. We were glued to the hip for a solid month and in that time we go from strangers and pilgrims to family. These kids are amazing and I imagine on some level their lives were quite changed by their Olympics Games experience.
I'd like for you to meet some of them – my little sisters - they are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside I grew to love them dearly and the impact they made on my life will travel with me forever.
Look in their eyes and see all the possibilities of change that China is capable of; the warmth and compassion of a generation charged with reshaping their world. Their spirit and grace is unfathomable. If it is true that we travel to seek our common humanity in the faces of strangers - than I have never felt more human or more hopeful for the future.
Says Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
"Engaged travel teaches humility and mutual understanding, key ingredients for world peace." Kellie Jennar, Brave New Traveler
The Olympic Games brought us together; we strange pilgrims eventually arriving to an inexplicable understanding that we are all citizens of this world and thus charged with being good stewards of it. Its been said that engaged travel teaches humility and fosters mutual understanding - the basic building blocks for a more peaceful world. Working together, side by side, we tore down many an illusionary wall and in that place of division - laid the foundations for a culture of peace that should prove to have a lasting impact.