Home Again

Chris Dirgo - Thursday, February 06, 2014

By: Daniela Gutierrez & Sara Rodeck

One of the main components of Up with People is host families, and after traveling for one semester, we both truly understand why they play such an important role. For five months, about eighteen families opened their homes and hearts to us without having any idea of who we were or where we came from. The number of good memories and stories we shared with our new families are too many to count; because of that, having to say goodbye on Monday morning because we were heading to a new city, was always difficult. So, upon arriving to Denver for our second semester we were thrilled to hear that we would be returning to a host family very dear to us. Last summer we had the opportunity to spend all of staging with Bob and Joy. It didn't take us long to consider them as our Denver mom and dad after sharing many good conversations at the dinner table, spending several afternoons watching fun family movies, and having picnics on the deck, among other things. For a whole month they treated us as their daughters and encouraged us as we adapted to this new adventure called Up with People. Coming back to Bob and Joy's home has been very special. We've explored downtown Denver and visited the Molly Brown House. It's also been very fun to see our host grandpa again and spend some evenings at his place. Both of us have been very grateful to have a known and welcoming home base while we experience a new semester. We have loved sharing our past five months' adventures with them and look forward to spending more time with them in the future!


(From left to right: Sara, Joy, Daniela, Bob)


North Platte can't wait to have Up with People students for a week!

Chris Dirgo - Wednesday, February 05, 2014

By: Giselle Kuri, Promotion Representative from Mexico


My name is Giselle Kuri; I am from Mexico City and I am one of the Promotion Representatives in North Platte, Nebraska. This means I arrive to the city 5 weeks before the cast, and together with my great teammates (Collin Shepherd and Misa Grenier), we set up the city and prepare the experience for our students to have when they finally get to join us on February 17th.

Last night we volunteered at The Connection Homeless Shelter together with our sponsors, First National Bank, Buffalo Bill Kiwanis Club and Kwik Stop, and community supporters. It was an amazing experience for us to interact with them and show them a little bit of what we do around the world. Of course our community service is different everywhere we go, but it 's always a learning opportunity that allows us to understand what kind of impact is possible. This time we helped prepare dinner for around 30 people, and then we helped serve at their tables. We made really good home-made pasta with sauce, garlic bread, salad and even dessert for all of them. The ice-cream sandwiches we prepared with cake batter were delicious!

While preparing the meal, we talked to our sponsors about North Platte and what life is like here compared to Mexico and other places in the United States where I've been before, which helped me better understand why they decided to bring Up with People to this city in the first place. Our sponsors believe in the message that Up with People brings to the communities that we visit. They think that understanding is possible when it's encouraged and they want to help promote it, which was evident yesterday.

The residents of the shelter got the opportunity to have waiters at their tables for one day, which is unusual because they don't always have enough people volunteering on a daily basis to make that happen regularly. Our sponsors, their families and ourselves engaged in wonderful conversations with some of the residents and learned that they also come from different places around the United States. It's quite a diverse shelter, because people hear about it in other places and come to North Platte to find a home, and from what we have heard, they love it.

We invited our sponsors to volunteer with us;  we also had about 10 people join us, representing First National Bank, Buffalo Bill Kiwanis and Kwik Stop, some of them even brought their kids to have this experience with us! Cindy, a lady who works at The Connection, volunteers there with a baby who is 5 weeks old, so he is definitely the youngest volunteer I have ever met!

It is great to have the experience as part of the advance team to volunteer and understand the community, just as the 100 students from 20 different countries will when they arrive to town the week of February 17-24. Up with People is a global non-profit organization that brings the world together through service and music. No matter what language we speak or where we come from, we can be inspired by communities like North Platte, that have people who want to make a difference and go out of the ordinary because they understand other people's needs. I can speak for Collin, Misa and myself when I say that we are really excited to bring our students to North Platte, a great town which is full of people who want to make a change, just like us.

Hope you can join us and hear our message through our shows on February 20th and 22nd at the North Platte Community Playhouse!

Join our event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/731006426912410/

You can also get tickets to the Up with People show online at: www.upwithpeople.org/northplatte




A Taste of Up with People: Huevos Rancheros

Chris Dirgo - Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Huevos Rancheros 
Pablo Arechavala - Mexico 

Cast A 2014

Huevos Rancheros, translated as "rancher's eggs",  is Pablo's favorite breakfast dish and consists of eggs served in the style of the traditional large mid-morning fare on rural Mexican farms.

Chiles verdes
Tortillas (flour or corn)
Ham (optional) 
Cilantro (optional)

1) To prepare the sauce, mix the tomatoes, onions, and garlic into a blender. Blend together with some water, salt and the chiles. 
2) Cook the blended sauce in a pot. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and reduce to warm after it has been simmering for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste if needed.
3) Heat the tortillas and add a few slices of ham on top. 
4) Fry the eggs sunny-side-up and place on top of the ham. 
5) Pour the sauce on the eggs. 
6) Add a cilantro leaves as garnish
7) ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

Cast A 2014 Spotlight: Rachael Gicho

Chris Dirgo - Saturday, February 01, 2014

January 31, 2014
Cast A 2014 Spotlight

Name: Rachael Gicho
From: Kenya
Age: 27

What do you hope to gain or achieve from your UWP experience
I want to gain stronger communication skills and expand my network globally. 

Describe your "home" in five words.
My home is a: warm place and very welcoming 

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
To be a professional public speaker! 

What is one thing you forgot to pack that you wish you had?
I forgot to pack warm winter shoes, like boots!

What would you do if you were 100% sure you wouldn't fail?
I would always be curious and ask questions. 

What are your hobbies? 
Travelling, reading books, and meeting new friends.

What are some of your career interests? 
Communications- professional public speaker.



A Taste of UWP: Traditional Chinese Dumplings

Chris Dirgo - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Traditional Chinese Dumplings
Moon Li - China

Cast A 2014

These are traditional Chinese dumplings which are eaten on the Chinese New Year on January 31, 2014.

Dumpling wraps
Soy sauce

1) Grind the pork.
2) Put a spoonful of ground pork in the middle of the dumpling wrap.
3) Close the dumpling wrap by pressing the sides together.
4) Boil the dumplings in water.
5) Mix ginger, soy sauce & salt and use as a dumpling dipping sauce.

Bittersweet Endings & New Beginnings

Chris Dirgo - Saturday, December 07, 2013

Michael Morrow - Washington, USA
Cast B 2013
Vejle, Denmark

It's been an amazing week so far here in Vejle. Tuesday was an internal day filled with workshops, traveling, and a feeling of closure in a sense. On Wednesday, we hosted a culture fair at the Bryggen shopping center. While we had a smaller crowd, those that visited were enthused by our descriptions of our home countries and, overall, we had a blast. We experienced a hurricane that caused Thursday to become a half day. Which, looking on the bright side, allowed us to spend the rest of the day with our host families! I'm looking forward to two great show days at DGI Huset; knowing it's our last opportunity to perform should bring an even greater performance. This coming Monday we will be our final banquet: a time for Cast B to come together and celebrate a truly amazing semester.

Last week in Cast B 2013. The words are bittersweet, with an emphasis on bitter. Although I will be going on to become a member of Cast A 2014, I now see how difficult it will be this time next semester. It seems there’s no denying it; UWP leaves you wanting-no, needing-more. More time with cast mates and staff that have become family, more chances dancing gumboot, more host families to connect with...just more. With each end, however, comes a new beginning. I know each member of Cast B 2013 will go on to start a great new beginning thanks to this amazing experience.


A Week Away from the Cast

Chris Dirgo - Friday, November 22, 2013

Yuxuan Shen - China
Cast B 2013
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico

Although Cast B 2013 did not go to Mexico City as a part of our Mexico tour, having to go there to apply for my visa to Europe gave me a great opportunity to explore the great city. Having heard that Mexico is a really diverse country, which even has cultural differences between states, helped me prepare for a totally different city. However, I was still shocked when I actually saw the city. The first thing I noticed was how big the city is! Even coming from China, to me, Mexico City was still very big; especially compared to other cities we had traveled to as a cast. Crowded streets, people everywhere and tall buildings make Mexico City such a big and busy city. However, staying there for a week and a half made me discover it much deeper.

Mexico City is a very diverse city ready to be explored. As a city that has the most museums in the world, you can definitely expect the city to be rich in history and full of amazing historical sites. But, it is also true that Mexico City has wonderful modern buildings and metropolitan lives. There was a day that I was taken to a luxury mall by my host family—with a stream of water accompanied by beautiful flowers and trees in the middle, the mall was full of high-end products and popular brands across the world. All the shops were so fancy and had great designs. However, despite the fact that Mexico City is host to amazing historical sites and international metropolitan lives, it also has a great amount of people living in poverty. One day, on our way to an upscale area of the city, we passed several mountains that were covered by little houses, and my host mom told me that people living in those houses do not even have enough money to paint their homes. But just a few minutes later, we were driving past huge houses and golf courses. This kind of extreme economical gap is not uncommon in Mexico City. In fact, Mexico, along with other developing countries, suffers from unbalanced economic situations between the rich and the poor. I was really thankful to really be able learn about the city on a much deeper level than a tourist.

Being able to spend Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico City was another great opportunity I got. Walking throughout the Zocalo (city square) before Dia de los Muertos gave me the opportunity to see the preparation of the wonderful market for the festivities.




In fact, seeing all the sculptures and pictures of skulls in front of the national cathedral and the national palace was shocking. In China, death is typically a bad thing to talk about. People really avoid any mention of it during conversations-even joking about death is not acceptable since people think that will bring bad luck. However, in Mexico, people really celebrate death and those who have lived before. They make what could be a very negative and sad thing into something fun, positive, and colorful that can be celebrated. I believe this positivity is rooted in the Mexican culture and being a part of this celebration really helped me to appreciate this colorful and bright culture.

Since I was in Mexico City, I also got the chance to visit the pyramids and the National Museum of Anthropology. Standing among the pyramids and seeing all the great work that ancient people accomplished without any modern technology was really amazing. I was very impressed by their imaginations which were expressed through their amazing sculptures and paintings.




The last amazing thing I got to do in Mexico City was to participate in the filming of a Mexican movie as an extra.


Because my host sister was an actress, my roommate and I were invited to join her in a movie as extras. We played the roles of two public school students. Although we were shooting just one scene that may only be in the movie for just a few seconds, we spent the entire morning shooting it. Standing in the cold doing the same thing again and again helped me really understand one sentence that my host sister told me—“cinema is made from love.”

Although I had to leave the cast for a week and a half, I had a great time in Mexico City and felt that I was really able to experience and explore the city in depth. I have grown to really love Mexico City and the great Mexican culture, and I feel like I took advantage of every opportunity I was given…which is what Up with People is all about.


A New Continent

Chris Dirgo - Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Katelyn Gill - South Dakota, USA
Cast B 2013
Roskilde, Denmark

We crossed an ocean, eight time zones, and have arrived in a new continent. We are finally in Europe, and we’re super excited to be here. We are starting to experience new food, new culture, and we get to break out all of our winter clothes that have been hiding in our suitcases just waiting for colder weather.

For our first cast adventure in Roskilde we got the chance to experience some heritage from this part of the world…Vikings. We had the opportunity to explore the Viking museum where we started off with a tour guide filling us in on the Viking history and of the museum. We then got the chance to explore the museum ourselves. We explored reconstructed Viking ships that the museum crew found in the fjord by the museum. We were also able to try on traditional Viking clothes.  The museum also has Viking ships that they have reconstructed outside the museum that you can view. One of these ships was taken on a voyage all the way to Ireland to see how the Vikings sailed the seas so long ago.


Host family day for many people was exploring Copenhagen. One of the first attractions to see was the famous Little Mermaid statue from the Hans Christian Andersen story. Many people know the Disney version but if you read the actual fairy tale, the ending is a little different. But no matter what the ending, seeing her perched on her rock at sea is a sight not to be missed.


The next stop was the palace of the Royal family of Denmark. While there we watched the guards pace back and forth protecting the queen. We were able to take pictures with the guards, but we couldn’t get too close because they were on duty.


Another place to check out is Nyhavn, or New Harbor. There are many restaurants and coffee shops to enjoy. Some of us were also able to get some of our holiday shopping done because it’s just blocks away from Copenhagen’s shopping district.


Now that we’ve experienced Denmark, it’s off to Sweden! We’re all looking forward to returning to Denmark again for the last week of our tour together.

Bringing YOUR Worlds Together

Chris Dirgo - Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dani Gutierrez - Mexico
Cast B 2013
Roskilde, Denmark

One of the best experiences you can have while traveling with Up with People is being visited by your family and friends. For a few days, both of your "worlds" come together and the people you love can have a little taste of your life on the road.

My family and some friends have visited me a couple of times during the tour. I loved it! They met the cast and finally understood who I was talking about all the time. They saw the show, bought "VOICES" t-shirts and were inspired by the message we deliver every week. Also, after sharing my experience with them, understanding it was a lot easier. Because UWP has many different components, comprehending what it is can be a challenge! There's nothing like living it yourself. Other cast members were also visited by their families.

Jimi from Montana, USA said the thing she liked the most was the fact that her family could see how she had changed within a month. She also enjoyed that they could experience what she lives on a day to day basis.

Norea from Sweden was visited by her parents in Seattle. She loved that they were able to meet her host family for the week and that they all spent time together. Like Jimi, she enjoyed the fact that her family could see how she had developed and that when she gets back home they will perceive even more changes. She likes that they will understand why she loves UWP and why when it's done, she'll miss it a lot.

[caption id="attachment_906" align="aligncenter" width="640"]2a Norea & her parents in Seattle[/caption]

UWP doesn't only "bring the world together," it brings your world together, too.



From a Spirited Parade to Running in Color

Chris Dirgo - Thursday, November 14, 2013

Michael Morrow - Washington, USA
Cast B 2013
Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico

After a riveting week in Culiacán, cast B brought their talents to Obregón. We were welcomed into the city by our generous sponsor, Irma Arana of APALBA, who invited UWP back to her city after the community impact we made last time we visited. We were ready to do it again!

On Tuesday, part of the cast went to a University to lead a workshop called “Take a Stand” in several classrooms. Throughout the workshops we ask various questions for which the students must pick a side. Some example of questions asked are “Is the image of Mexico positive or negative?”, in addition to “will the world be a better place in 25 years?” and “will you make a positive impact on the world?”. Being able to see the students' responses allowed the class to clarify how they felt about each topic and create a stronger connection between them.

Later that evening, the cast changed into international costumes representing various countries and led a parade dedicated to Viva la Gente! It was amazing seeing how enthused and receptive the crowd was to our message.

On Thursday night, which happened to be Halloween, our cast had the opportunity to sit down to a formal dinner with our sponsor and the mayor of Obregón.  After a delicious dinner, an unexpected dance party broke out as cast members and staff alike busted moves for the rest of the night; truly a night to remember.


During the weekend, some of our cast members participated in the Color Run. To get a better idea of what the Color Run is, here is the description from the website, “The Color Run, also known as the Happiest 5k on the Planet, is a unique paint race that celebrates healthiness, happiness, and individuality." At each 1k mark throughout the race, runners were bombarded with colored powder, leaving them even more vibrant. These types of events are an awesome way for letting off steam after a busy week.


The end of the week came way too fast here in Obregón. Just as we begin to really get to know our host families and the city, it’s time for us to head out for our next adventure yet again. From a spirited parade to running in color, this week was no doubt a highlight in the Mexican tour.