People to People International is a non-profit NGO that has chapters or branches in about 160 counties. Their Asian headquarter is in Korea & I was privileged enough to be a delegate from Bangladesh to attend their 2015 Youth Conference.
Hanging out and being friends with people from these countries just confirmed my early belief– that people may look different or talk different, but inside they are all the same!
Our journey started with being dropped at the wrong spot to catch the bus to the conference! As luck goes, we took two taxis, but both of them dropped us at wrong locations! The general people of Korea are not that good in English, however, the young generation was really good and helpful.
Luckily the bus was late too, so we could catch it. There were two Mongolians and three Americans waiting there. We became friends with a Mongolian guy named Sowda, who said 7 of his friends were lost in another taxi, and none of them spoke English! Luckily enough, that taxi was found soon, and we could start for the conference.
I will be honest here! Previously I thought the Mongolians were wanderers who rode horses and did farming only! But my thinking totally changed after meeting them. Kids from Mongolia grow up really fast. Within 2 to 5 years of age, they can ride horses and it’s common for a 5 year old child to help out his/her parents. They get married within 19-20 years of age and have kids. As a result, they become grandparents by the time they are 40-45 years old! They usually live up to 50-60 years of age.
When I asked the reason, my Mongolian friend said that they eat too much meat and fat food. Once he had asked his father to eat vegetables, and his father had replied, “Hey, I am not a calf!”
The Americans were really friendly. They said we Bangladeshis were really cool and that my English was good (inside I was like dancing in joy, but kept a casual face!). I said, I learned my English watching cartoons as a kid and watching a lot of movies & TV shows.
At the conference we met youths from Japan, Uganda, Togo and also from China, Cameron and Vietnam.
The people from Togo were the most jolly, which I think is true for most people from the African countries.
One interesting thing I learned from the Koreans is that they count age 1 when a child is born. Also, in Korea everyone drives their own car and only government ministers have drivers — that too because they work sitting at the back of their car with their laptops!
Our room-mate was a prince from a Nigerian province. I really liked his way of thinking. He said, people often forget how others feel and think only about themselves. Each person is different and only empathy is something that can help different people work together. This is something I had learned from CommunityAction also.
In the cultural function there were Ugandan dance, Mongolian ballet dance, Japanese group dance, group performance of Korean middle school girls playing different drums, a glimpse of Nigerian spiritual ceremony, American poem and traditional Korean dance!
We did a cultural presentation of singing a song of Lalon (Jaat gelo, Jaat gelo) with English & Korean Translations, and interpreted the song for the audience.
They really liked 2 examples that I presented –
1) People may have different skin colors or body structures or speak in different ways, but inside everyone flows the same red blood. But people often forget about the inner similarities inside a person and focus on outside appearances and differences.
2) If people and cultures were threads and a society was a scarf made from these threads, then a single race of people would make a society of plain color. But if we could combine and harmonize the uniqueness of different cultures then we would get a multi-colored scarf — a society that is more vibrant and colorful!
Adda-baji, joking with friends, posing for photos, telling different stories were all like how we do it!
Koreans use chopsticks. Their main food is rice with different types of vegetables and meat. From chicken, beef to squid, octopus to cabbage, pumpkin juice there were many varieties of food there. We Bangalis didn’t mind the spicy food, but some people like the Americans had a little trouble eating it as they are not used to such spicy food.
The conference was held in Kobacco Training center, a bit far from the city. After the conference they gave us a tour and took us to DMZ (between the border of North & South Korea), South Korean Parliament, Seoul Tower and the Imperial Palace.
In the end
I was most proud when people said they found us, the Bangladeshis, interesting and cool! I was happy to make friends from different countries and to know that they would remember me as their Bangladeshi friend who they met in Korea.