Our “First Friday” in Missoula

May 01, 2015. By Ngan Dang from Vietnam

We had a unique time experiencing our First Friday here in the US and a special Friday of Missoula. Just go over with me to see how our day went by, starting from the Mansfield Center at day to Missoula by night.

Today is the third day of lectures at University of Montana and the fourth day that we have been here. Though felling a bit jetlag, everyone managed well to be awake all day long (except myself who struggled a lot during the morning session). We had meaningful time to learn about US Government, the NGOs and organization foundation. There are three points of knowledge that I am really interested in. Firstly, although USA is democratic and people seem to care a lot about politics, only 60-70% of eligible ones really turns up and votes in election. Secondly, more than 70% of charitable giving was from Individuals, only 5% came from Corporations (data by Giving USA 2012), which is in fact surprising to know. Lastly, we found the clarification with guiding questions on defining organization vision, mission and values extremely helpful, since it gave us good reflection to look back and dive in our current status, through which to review, revise if required, then head forward.

Besides, the video conference meeting with the State Department and other YSEALI fellows should be another highlight of the day. We felt much honorable and connected to a wide network of Professional fellows that, we believe, are promising to drive changes in our Southeast Asian community later on.

Getting out of the Mansfield center to go downtown, we were nearly drowned by the lively atmosphere of the city. Every First Friday of month is indeed a festival in Missoula with many people spending time outdoors to join a number of events, such as: art exhibition, gallery, street music and so on. We visited a museum which exhibited local arts and three galleries with three different styles: ordinary, hi-end and a special one which sells paintings on skateboard through bidding.

After the art walk tour, we ended up our First Friday of the very first US week by a celebration at Ciao Mambo – a famous Italian restaurant by the Clark Fork river. It was so famous and busy that we had to wait for about 20 minutes to get in. A cosy place with delicious food and good wine to cheer up with your colleagues after a week flying over 9000 miles and discovering the other part of the world (as my friend Zin Mar from Myanmar once said), perfect, isn’t it?

Additionally, today I also learnt a lot about the home organization of Chintanphone (from Laos) and Phalla (from Cambodia), broadened understanding about Myanmar governance system from Freddy’s sharing and got some valuable buy-ins from Ms. Kia – Executive Director of the Zootown Arts Community Center about funding and their program implementation.

Every day here, actually, opens up new horizon and the happiness is that you have companions to share with. I call it an “once in a life time” opportunity for us from five Asian countries to be all here in Missoula and spend time together. That is why we treasure every moment and the first week just simply passed that way.

Well, if you plan to come to Montana, I strongly recommend to visit Missoula in this First Friday. Trust me, it is just really different.

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