FIVE WINDOWS OF ASEAN

Nyan Lin Htet (Burma/Myanmar)

July 6th, 2015

The first lovely Monday morning in Montana was initiated by opening up the windows of five ASEAN countries. All of us from Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam made presentations to share each country’s most concerned environmental issues in the present. It is a great opportunity to see the current images of the countries, by comparing the similarities and differences between each countries’ major problems regarding environment. Each group seems to take longer than 10 minutes, so all have to finish the presentations in hurry.

After all the presentations followed by a few questions and answers, Dr. Len Broberg made discussions together with YSEALI Fellows. Fundamentally, we all have similar problems which needs immediate actions to be taken, while the United States does not have some of those problems.

Then, we headed out to the downtown and went to the Missoula City Council Chambers to meet Mayor John Engen. Then, we asked about the role of local city government, with a focus on citizen participation and local government’s action to effect change. Surprisingly, I found the mayor so flexible, sweet and eager to answer whatever we asked. Moreover, I noticed that the mayor has close relationship with Missoula citizens, and I really respected both the mayor and the citizens for taking their own responsibilities as well as for clean and beautiful city.

Besides, we met Ms. Marilyn Marler, who is Missoula City Council President. She recalled her story of being elected, by telling us her background and professional skill. All of a sudden, I was amazed at her experience of becoming a government official as her part-time job from a plant scientist. What I learned about for my country is the fact that they all focus on transparency, human rights, environment, sustainable future and green economic development. I think that it is so beneficial for us to meet those wonderful government officials.

Then, we set out for lunch and enjoyed the meals. I feel satisfied that we can easily find a variety of foods around Missoula. After enjoying the Brazilian food that I have never had before, I wandered around, wondering why the city is so clean. I could see many trash bins here and there and loved their systematic way of disposal.

We had fun a lot, by taking selfies!!

After that, we left for Forward Montana Headquarters and met Program Coordinator Debi Lombardi to know about Leadership for Mobilizing Youth. They explained how youth organizations train and mobilize young people to be active participants in the democratic system. Also, they talked about the work and mission of Forward Montana, utilizing a new model for political participation which recognizes that citizens can make serious change and have a little fun at the same time. It’s was amazing to see young people voluntarily participating in community, political and social activity doing more than they can afford as their age.

Then, we returned to the university to take lectures from Dr. Tobin Shearer about the American Cultural Values. The professor covered several major cultural issues that we might encounter during the program in the United States. It was an advantage to learn more about the U.S culture in terms of race, religion, land, politics, food, violence, entertainment, independence and self-improvement.

So far, just within a week, we’ve achieved a lot of information and a lot of fun, with pleasures and excitements. We have seen a lot of challenges as a young man or a lady, enjoying the rest of the program at the same time. Ultimately, I’m really impressed and like the program. Doubtlessly, I’ll always be proud of being a part of YSEALI family.

Written by Nyan

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