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Cultural Exchanges

During planning for Christmas Around the World, Jeanette reached out to people who had the opportunity to tour and represent the United States this summer. I had the opportunity to go to tour in Spain with American Rhythm and the opportunities we had to meet people and learn about their cultures and their experiences, were truly incredible. We were asked about our experiences with meeting other people and what it was like to share cultural gifts with them. These questions were used to get answers from dancers and their answers were in the videos and audio you will see and hear throughout the show. These are the more detailed versions of my personal answers.

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1. What cultural gifts did you "unwrap" to share with others during the tour? Did this benefit you?

- While on tour this summer I had the opportunity to unwrap a gift of connection with people from all over the world. Specifically, I became really good friends with a Bulgarian team. I was able to sing a Bulgarian song with them. They didn't speak much English so when I went up to them and was trying to explain I knew a Bulgarian song they were confused. So I started singing, the director of their group was right next to me and heard it and turned around and joined in with me. He then gave me a big hug. Someone who did speak a little more English explained it tends to be a women's song so they called their women over and had them start singing it with me. I ended up knowing it better than they did but there were smiles and joyful moments all around. Following this opportunity I was able to get to know the team a little better, with what little we could communicate I showed them videos of me dancing Bulgarian here at BYU and they showed me videos of their group on the news and performing. Every time I'd see their director he would call out my name and give me a big hug. Towards the end, as they were leaving he asked for a picture with me and we took the picture and he gave me a little hand-painted vial holder with rose oil.

2. How did preparing well, mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually prepare you to give and to receive on this trip?

- I had the opportunity to prepare for this by spending the time while I was learning the dance here at BYU learning the words and their meanings. I was even the one who yipped so I had the opportunity to do that for both them and the Polish team which yips a lot and they were really flattered I was trying to learn their music accurately. Socially I prepared because I didn't speak Bulgarian but I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried talking with them on the buses and at random events. I would pull out google translate and have it go into Bulgarian and they'd respond translating it into English. Spiritually I listened to God in the past and let him put me in the right places to do the things I needed. God put me on the team doing the Bulgarian numbers and I learned them and embraced them and then let God help me step out of my comfort zone to help me make friends from another culture. I wasn't shy after a while, maybe we didn't speak the same languages but we both had a lot of Bulgarian culture knowledge and appreciated each other.

3. What are the benefits of learning and studying outside of your own culture that you noticed "paid off" for you or others during the tour?

- Learning from a culture outside your own is truly incredible, because you get to see so many amazing things that others have to offer. I was honestly really jealous watching different people dance from cultures that are so much older than ours, I sometimes wished we had the deep cultural roots that they had. I was able to get pulled into a dance with Bulgarians as the director saw me, grabbed my arm, and pulled me into the circle. I was also able to dance with Polish people who taught me new steps and new techniques. I got to learn the castanets from Spaniards who played them while they danced. I was even able to try on costumes from Poland and Mexico, as well as they tried on ours. It's amazing to see that we are all humans and we all want to share things we are proud of. I also noticed it paid off because it made me proud to be an American, while I watched the cultures that were a lot older and seemed more eloquent I still felt this excitement for who we are as Americans and what we had to share.

4. What is the most surprising thing you have learned as a sharer?

- I learned that what I give is something often so small and yet when you are on the receiving end it means so much more. I spent time learning the Bulgarian song which was hard but it wasn't a huge thing to me, but for someone from around the world to hear someone from another country, singing a song in their language means so much more. I was reached out to by a guy from Bulgaria who I just happened to sit next to and we talked and his wife actually helped work on the song that I sang from Bulgaria. He was impressed and really loved the song and the dance I showed him. He reached out and expressed his gratitude for me taking the time to learn and appreciate his culture. Often as the sharer, we think it might not be that big of a deal and we don't think much of it, but when you're on the receiving end it's hard to not be touched. The little vile of rose oil now sits on a shelf for the whole world to see, so for them something that is more common and traditional in their country, I saw it as an act of friendship and connection and love. It all comes back to love, when you share something with love it can be received with gratitude and love.

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