Our Spokane Journey – Near Nature, Near Perfect!

By: Ninivia da Silva Barreito

Near nature, near perfect – that’s a Spokanite will say when they first meet you. For sure, this beautiful city is surrounded by beautiful parks and the view of the river at Riverfront park is beyond words. It could be boring at some point, but its calmness and close to nature will give that feeling of tranquility and peaceful. Spokane is specifically known for its nature, beer and arts.

Well, it has been two weeks since we arrived in this slow-paced city, and every Spokanite we meet have welcomed us with open arms. We have met professionals from different sectors include community development, youth development, health, nutrition, food, etc. And we for sure have learnt a lot from them, and there are lists of take away that we will carry with us and incorporate to work we do back home with the hope to better serve our own community.

We have also built great relationships with amazing humans at the Center of Global Engagement and lecturers whom we attended their classes at Gonzaga University; supervisors and colleagues from our respective host organization, and those who welcomed us with open arms to their work place/schools/organizations and kindly share their intelligence with us – we couldn’t thank you enough for your willingness to share. Most especially, our host families who not only open their doors to their house for us, but have been taking such a good care and treat us like one of their own – this will forever in our heart. We’re one lucky group to have experienced this and to have one more place to call home! Your kindness and hospitality are beyond words.

We have had a blast knowing the US culture – from Halloween to Thanksgiving dinner (I know it’s way too early for a Thanksgiving, but hey we’re leaving soon, and also while we’re in the US, why not?…). First of all, people go crazy for Halloween – from pumpkins picking and spend a lot of money on pumpkins, pumpkin carvings, house decorations, Halloween costume – it was amazing to have witnessed one thing that for most of us only see in those Hollywood movies. And on Saturday night, one of our host families open their house for a Thanksgiving dinner – for some of us, it was our first-time eating turkey and it was good. There were other delicious food and deserts too, but most importantly we created a memory together that we will forever remember. And on Sunday, we went to Fall Folk Festival – where the Floating Crowbar Band performed Irish Music accompanied by Irish tap dance – it was a great last Sunday in Spokane.

Moreover, not only with the amazing people in Spokane, but six of us (YSEALI Pro Fellow) have built a strong bond between us and start to each other not only like friend but family, and for some like siblings J I realized that we don’t only have Spokane to call home, but also all over South East Asia – and it’s a great feeling to know that you have someone waiting for you wherever in South East Asia you go in the future. To my Spokane fellows – Kurt, Aaron, Mi Ko, Zin Thu and Piseth – thank you for sharing the ride with me! You guys rock.

We have learnt a lot together, either professionally, socially and culturally – and it has been an incredible journey! The journey we will treasure forever and the FAMILIES we will never stop missing! Till next time, Spokane!

The City of Love and Learning: Hamilton

By Chansamone Souvanhsai, Laos

The time that I waiting for from this program has arrived when I started my professional fellowship hosting by my beloved sister-teacher-friend Julie Foster at the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority in Hamilton. I was scheduled to meet with many different people who runs their own businesses and some Non-profit organization, let me share with you some highlights 🙂

– Homestead organic farm: the most comprehensive agriculture and farming in the area running by Laura and Henry. The farm plants so many veggies and raising animal e.g. Garlic, cabbages, Onion, carrots, pigs, goats, chicken, peacock, gooses, etc. they’ve delivered these to the restaurants and some goes to grocery stores. Homestead farm also welcome high school students to do volunteer and summer farming activities.

– House of ferments: Erin Belmont who owned the ferments business started to do fermented KIM CHI and KOMBUCHA since 2015. She’s shared with me that running business is not something easy but not thing too difficult beyond our passions and efforts, sometimes she has to deal with unexpected challenges and many difficulties because launching business has much more things to be done even something that never experienced before. She also said that building up networking and keep learning new things for self-development is the most important things for business owner.

– SAFE organization: SAFE is a Non-Profit organization helping those especially women who experiencing domestic, sexual, dating and other forms of violence for over 30 years by providing emergency shelter, housing service, community awareness program and 24 hrs crisis hotline. There were still many more places and people that I have visited and I have learnt so much from all of them even cultural and professional things which I was very honored and highly appreciated to met and talked to them all.

One last but not least for me that I was really enjoy staying with my 2 host families in Hamilton Laura and Peggy&Warren. Staying with them made me feels like home and I became a part of their families. We shared stories, cultures, foods, laughing, I got to learn how real Montanan life style e.g. scratching ice from the car on the snowing day and cleaning up maple leaf, even though that was short time but it seems that we have known each other for long time and for sure we will keep our good friendship last long beyond the program.

I feel so appreciated and thankful for the Mansfield Center and all those who are part of arrangements to make this happen and bring me to this wonderful place and meet with people who are very supportive, kindest, warmest welcome, make me felt a part of their families and community.

My learning journey in the US has not yet come to an end, but another exciting week in Missoula is about to begins. Do you want to know what are they? stay tuned and keeping in touch 😉

People That Make Our Life Sweeter

Aaron Mathew


A leadership coach, a university adviser, a university community, a classroom and behavior management expert, a professor and a host family.

What do these people have in common? Funnily enough, they are people who in some way made my day this Friday. Yes, just in one day!

We all have people like that in our lives. People who give us their time, people who advise us, who share their knowledge and expertise as well as people who are happy to just BE with us.

Today, I would like to share with you (among others) the three most memorable people that encouraged and made my day this Friday:

1. Meeting someone who has shaped how I work with my students

In 2015, I took a class on Positive Discipline in Schools. The class had a profound impact on my life as it sparked my interest in positive discipline, classroom management and as a whole, helping students become better versions of themselves.

I still keep the course book I bought to this day. One of the first people we read about in the course book was a man named Ronald Morrish. He is an expert in classroom management. I loved his approach and still refer to some of his principles to this day.

I loved his work so much that in 2017, I emailed him for the first time to talk about classroom management. To my surprise he replied! He was gracious enough to answer my questions.

Over the past two years I have emailed him once or twice to ask a few things. The last time I emailed him was to ask if we could meet while I am in the US.

Today, while we didn’t meet in person, I am absolutely overjoyed that I got to spend an hour and a half speaking with him over Skype! It absolutely lit a fire in me to be able to speak with a man that I resonate so much with in regards to how to work with teens.

2. Lunch with Centre for Global Engagement at Gonzaga University

The Centre for Global Engagement (CGE) has been the department at Gonzaga University (GU) that has tirelessly (yet always with a warm smile) helped coordinate our meetings and activities here in Spokane (special shout out to our main woman Katie Nollenberger who has always been there for us fellows from Day 1!). On Friday, us fellows in Spokane had the chance to have lunch with a few of them from the department as well as a few other staff from the university. On top of that, we were given the opportunity to share with them about the work we do in our countries as well as our experience in the US thus far.

While it was a very casual meal, it meant a lot to not only see a group of 15 or so people come together just for us, but also many of our host families who work at GU came as well.

It meant so much that people who have just got to know us would take time out of their busy day to come, listen and be with us, even though some of them have literally been seeing us every day!

3. A burger, a cider and the most awesome host family one could ask for

My day ended spending time with Sean and Theresa, my host family for the past two weeks. Not only was the burger and cider AMAZING, but it was just so fun to be able to talk and spend time with them (again, they already see me every single day over the last two weeks). Many people come to a new country, be it for a week or for a lifetime, and do not have anyone to call family.

Dinner with them was just a great reminder how blessed I am that even though I am in a completely new country, I am cared for as if I was one of their own.

This fellowship has been amazing thus far and while I have learnt (and hope to continue learning) a great deal, it is the people I have met and the connections I have made that I believe has made my stay thus far, as sweet as the finest apple cider in Spokane!

White Winter Day with Bears, Wolves and Otters

It has been a week since we went to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center at West Yellowstone. It was not part of our itinerary for our journey to Laramie, WY from Missoula, MT, however, due to the arctic blast last week weren’t able to enter back to Yellowstone National Park. Our guide for the weekend and Assistant Director at UWYO-CGS, Kehli decided that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

The primary purpose of the Center is to help visitors like us gain knowledge about grizzly bears and wolves through educational tours.

It was our first time to see grizzly bears, wolves, and otters up-close, and we were enthusiastic to learn more about them, good thing the people at Center were accommodating in explaining the situation of the animals.

The grizzly bears that live at the Center are animals that were unable to survive in the wild for either being too familiar with humans and/or orphaned by their mothers who became accustomed to getting food in human settlements.

The wolves on the other hand at the Center were born in captivity and are unable to live in the wild. The facilities they were born in did not have room to keep them and the Center was able to provide them a home.

There’s also the North American River Otter Riparian Exhibit inside the Center, it houses several other animals like the river otters and cutthroat trout. The exhibit shows a bit of the complex ecosystem that allows visitors an understanding of the diverse relationships between grizzly bears, grey wolves, and other Yellowstone animals.

It was an eye-opening experience to learn about these animals and their habitats, I now realized that animal conversation is very important in our ecosystem, especially for the protection of biodiversity and the ecotourism of Yellowstone National Park.

by L.A Lomarda 🇵🇭
YSEALI Professional Fellow Fall 2019

The Journey of Experiences and Surprises.

By; Yuni Amelia
(November 5th 2019)

Today is my 10th day here, in Laramie, Wyoming, US. Everything happened so fast. After having a week orientation in Missoula, Montana, four professional fellows went to Wyoming; Richard, Fun Man, Lord-Art, and Me. It took four days to reach Laramie. The wonderful trip I ever had. Let me to have brief flash back.

During the trip, we had great time in Yellowstone National Park, an American National Park located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Established in 1872, it is America’s first national park and home to numbers of geysers and hot springs than any other place on earth. Tracking the geysers line and stopped for having lunch. Living in America never stops giving you surprises. Another lifetime experience is being in a wonderful nature and so closed with elk, bighorn sheep, and 1,000-pound bison. Wow!

The surprise hasn’t stopped. The next day, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, Montana, US, welcomed us! It was pretty heavy snow falling. Just imagine South East Asians living in the tropical countries must survive facing the weather. Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a Not-for-Profit Wildlife Park offers you a chance to amazingly experience the world of Grizzly bears and gray, black and white wolves, birds of prey even otters. You can meet them, know their life journeys from the rangers, and also take selfie!

Like my last post, I believe entering one door will lead us to other doors and becoming a Professional Fellow gives me an opportunity to be in Laramie, Wyoming, a place I never knew before. Wyoming, I just found out, that, was the first state to grant women the right to vote, in 1869. Grateful to be in a place that women deserved the same rights as men in voting, was born for the very first time.

Here, I am working with Dr. Lindsey Nichols, an Associate Professor of Counseling, College of Education, University of Wyoming, having class observations and meetings with some experts to dig up the issues of mental health in US. Other great learning chances are coming. Discussing facts from mental health and illness around the world leads us to one of the most similar difficult issue to eliminate; stigma. Overcoming stigma becomes the top problem faced by people with mental illness, besides mental illness itself. And stigma will lead to discrimination, making the challenge worse.

Every meeting opens my eyes that I am now in the right place with right persons. Counseling as one of important guns to kill stigma and illness, always attracts me. As time goes by, many experiences and opportunities wait for me. I just believe it. Now, I am looking forward to learn more how Lindsey survive facing the growing numbers of people, especially her students, with mental illness. Also enjoying the flying time, that I know nothing how much it could give. Here, in US, home of experiences, and surprises.

Refection: Celebrating Diversity, Appreciating Oneself

อันวาร์ กอมะ

When I have first received a piece of good news from the Mansfield Center I was reluctant to confirm the acceptance. I was thinking through until the last day of the deadline knocked my door. I was not so sure that I should travel to the US because I had some other plans and flight ticket fixed for an academic trip to Turkey in October. But finally, with the encouragement and support of my boss, I decided to take a risk.

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Missoula and the University of Montana are more beautiful than I expected. The buildings of the university look new, though it was established in 1893, and a library looks very friendly to me. I went alone to roam the library and the university on the second day after we arrived in Missoula. The town looks quiet, clean, and peaceful. The pattern of the town is also well designed. I started loving the UM and Missoula. I dream of my career and my life at a university.

I mentioned in the application that I prefer Halal foods and my hosts really take care of it. On the trip to Yellowstone, the hosts were very accommodative, friendly, flexible. We had a lot of fun but we also had long, deep, and interesting conversations about politics, culture, religions, and life. I learned much more than I expected. I agree with Itt, my trip mate, that "not all classroom has four walls".

I’m writing this piece while I’m on the bed in my host’s house at Richard Street, Missoula. The house is well equipped with modern facilities and infrastructures such as internet, dishes washing machine, and smart kitchen. I feel lucky that my host tried to accommodate me with halal foods. I take this as the most welcoming atmosphere and I feel the most comfortable. And I think it is an important asset for a peacemaker.

I ponder, the reason we are here is not to assimilate nor to resist, but to enrich who we are. Some postmodernists like to say that we are all in the process of becoming. I agree to a certain extent that our identity is socially constructed but we all have some values, implicitly or explicitly, that we uphold more than other values. And such a priority makes our cultures different. If we are here to celebrate our diversity, we are thus here to celebrate our identity too. Without the essence, how can we know who we are? Isn’t the substance that makes life meaningful?

I agree with Huda that sometimes we need to step out from our comfort zone, to understand ourselves and to understand others. Literalists would not take such a risk, I believe. My labeling might be wrong but I think thoughts have spectrums. When I arrived at the UM, I went to the Muslim Student Association on the second day, to see who are they, how they live their lives, what are their challenges, and ultimately seek some advice about Muslims life in Missoula. I met myself in times, I also saw hope and spectrums. Beyond a comfort zone, perhaps there are comfort zones.

In Missoula, Halal food and ingredients can be found at Food Zoo, Cash and Carry, and Middle Terranean Wrap. In our research study on Buddhist-Muslim relations in Thailand, we found that Muslim minorities are most concerned about 3 essential issues about their identities: Hijab, Halal, and Mosque (HHM). In other words, they feel relatively comfortable if they have freedom and space on the dress, foods, and a place of worship.

“I have to respect myself if I want others to respect me” Kathleen taught me a lesson at our deep conversations, in the cabin at the island park, Idaho. If someone doesn’t respect your investment, risks, and suffering, you have to show them that you respect yours pricelessly. If you respect yourself, they will respect you too, Kathleen reiterated. Some people work for money, but some others work for their passion and ideology. A trip to visit Salish and Kootenai tribes and its college inspired me that such passionate and ideology-led people are more interesting to me. The more I met people around, the more I found fascinating people. My host, Besty’s story about her passion at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center confirms my previous sentences.

I think we are a part of something that is bigger than us. This thinking had connected me with some other fascinating people. Patani Forum is a small NGO/CSO in Pattani, Thailand. But I think it is a part of something beyond just an organization. It is there to empower people, unlock potential, and offer opportunities. An important question is how can your life be for others? Jeannette Rankin Peace Center did not sell goods for the sake of selling but for social justice. Deep down under our conscience, it is always “something” that connects us. Something that drives and makes people’s life more meaningful.

Let me talk about civic engagement around Missoula and Montana a little bit. I found their engagements more about the bottom-up and grassroots approach. One important thing that I noticed from the first day of learning was that in the US the state acknowledges that they can not do anything on their own to solve a social problem and develop the country and that is the reason why they need NGOs to fill the gap left by the state and the business sector. Acknowledgment that you -the state- are unable to solve all public problems is the noble starting point for civic engagement. This is a door that civic organizations can flourish. But it is yet to happen in developing countries like Thailand, where a state-led development is the main paradigm for the prosperity of the nation.

I was fortunate to attend several workshops and activities conducted by local NGOs. At St. Regis, I joined the Montana Human Rights Network’s workshop on the "intersection of Anti-Public Lands and Hate Movement". I learned about white nationalist movements in the US and got to know that the Whitefish area is a headquarter of white supremacists in Montana. Back in Missoula, I join a "coaching circle" conducted by a small group of passionate activists. It mirrored "halaqah", a circle of Muslim reformists in southern Thailand. Also, I attended a meeting of the selection board for the "Peace Award" in 2019, which composed of the Peace Center’s council and the Missoula Peace Quilters. I think in the conflict-prone areas like the deep south of Thailand, such an award to recognize an "unsung" peacemaker is highly needed.

The recent lesson I learn this morning was about the by-mail city representative election. In other words, they do not have to go to the poll box in order to vote, instead, they just put their ballot into the ballot secrecy envelope and the official envelope. I had a discussion with my hosts about vote-buying and election cheating in the US and Missoula. Betsy and Rusty explained that cheating is just difficult here because the system does not allow them to do it easily. I am impressed by the work of the Forward Montana, who did a summary of the candidate’s position on key issues. I wonder why such things can hardly happen in other parts of the world, where I am from.

Last but not least, a conclusion supposes to perform a farewell but I believe the stories go on in its own way. YSEALI would be a new chapter of my journey. In difficulty, I believe there is ease. In traveling, there is blessings. At least, it illuminates me to appreciate what I had sometimes take it for granted and felt indifferent. And I pray God blesses us all.