Today marks the completion of my 6-week journey in the US.
Dreams do come true. I've always been attracted to America. I recall obsessively reading the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama. Before I sleep, I would (still) watch aggressive progressive TV show The Young Turks. I remember dreaming about Washington, DC after every episode of House Of Cards and here I am.
The fellowship is about understanding "Governance and Society" in the US. As a political science major and geek, this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! We visited various institutions and met with lawmakers, business leaders and community organisers.
But there are a number of Americans who fundamentally changed my perception of the US. The people in Minnesota showed the true definition of Minnesota Nice - and I'd like to thank:
Kevin Winge - My kind and generous host who took me into YouthCARE when you knew it would be difficult. You taught me how to treat people the way you want to be treated regardless of their background. You and your husband Kevin (Kevin²) inspire me.
Mike Opat - Thank you for being our de facto host in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From the incinerator visit to the unforgettable baseball game, you gave us a 5-star treatment in Minneapolis and we can't thank you enough. I've learned so much from seeing you in action. You and Kim are the best!
Lisa Goodman - You and Sadie gave such a warm welcome you to your home. Your hospitality challenged what many Malaysians think of Jewish people. I will forever cherish the neighbourhood garage sale and the beautiful dinner by Kim W. Havey and Mike.
Brenda Elmer - Thank you for opening your doors to your family and treating us as one of your own; your hospitality is legendary and I hope you come down to Malaysia one day!
Kou Xiong - Thank you for showing me and Heng the other side of Minneapolis and Minnesota. I have a newfound deep appreciation for Hmong culture. It was fun hanging out with you and Britney.
To American Council of Young Political Leaders(ACYPL) who made this fellowship happen:
Kaylee Boalt - You are a superstar. From the day you emailed us the offer for the fellowship to the last time you sent us to the airport, you've always had a smile on your face. Your optimism and warmth made our experience in the US worth it. Thank you for putting in the long hours and putting up with our whims and fancies. We learned more about leadership from you as you put it into action.
Pete DeAnna - You are such a cool cat. Thank you for picking us from the airport on our first day. I truly enjoy our frank conversations on US, politics and life. Thank you for bringing us around in DC! I'm sorry my Southern accent is not up to mark but will work on it once I crack a cold one with the boys when I get home.
Elliot Bell-Krasner - Your intelligence and insights are legendary. I remember you answering my burning questions on the role of the US President as the Commander-in-chief. Your passion for politics inspires and excites me every time we talk.
Many thanks to the ACYPL staff for welcoming us and organising the well-run Congress.
To #ProFellows, these 6 weeks with you have been the best. Though we come from different countries, I've always enjoyed our time together. We came to the US as fellows and we leave the US as companions. To my Team Minneapolis homies Tan Kim Heng, Soe Sandy, Ric Nanthaphon - it has been a wonderful 4 weeks with you.
Coming here was not easy, having to leave my beloved wife Dayang Anne behind for 6 weeks. Not being by her side as she goes through a rough patch, especially recovering from a surgery. Thank you for allowing me to go on this trip, sayang. It wouldn't have been possible without my extremely supportive parents - Mohzani Wahab and mum. Thank you for everything. Not forgetting comrade Pradeeban Letsumanasingam who held the fort in the office; thank you Johnathan, Hazel and Ashran for approving the longest leave of my life.
For all the people I missed out, sorry but thank you for making this trip truly an amazing one!