Winning Smiles

Winning Smiles
Samohi SAGE Team Wins National Competition in Cincinnati Ohio



Welcome to our on-line journal of events and activities as we journeyed across the ocean to represent the United States in the SAGE World Cup event in Abuja Nigeria. Our journal starts approximately one week before we left Los Angeles and ends with our return to the United States. Our return is not an end but a new beginning as we each travel forward in our lives, much richer for our experiences and in the new friendships we have made and in the strengthening and appreciation for our family and friends.

You will find our first posting at the bottom of the page and by moving up each post, you can follow along in chronological order. You may click on any picture to enlarge it. To read the comments or to add your own after any posting, you can click on the “Comments” link at the end of each post. We hope you enjoy the journey!

End of Our Journey - Personal Reflections

Jane Beck, SAGE Team Member: Although when we first arrived in Abuja, Nigeria I was extremely paranoid and careful not to get bit by mosquitoes, the paranoia had disappeared by the second or third day. With so much going on, the week went by in a blink of an eye...
Visiting the Ushafa village and shopping were a couple of my favorite things we did in Nigeria, because we actually got to see and experience the everyday lives of many Nigerians. But as some Nigerians refused to allow us to take pictures and even got angry, I honestly felt guilty because I learned and once again truly felt that we are lucky to be living in a country like the U.S.
I think what made this trip so special and unforgettable is that the excitement, intensity, and the fun moments we shared in Nigeria helped us bond and grow together as a group.
Not only did we bring home the Third place title in the world, but also the experience, knowledge, and appreciation of other cultures as well as what we have, which we might have taken for granted. I'd like to thank everyone for their support and love!

Yvonne Strahn, ROP Support Staff: How exciting to be able to visit Nigeria! Meeting the friendly people of Nigeria made the trip worthwhile even though we were required to receive several vaccinations and endured a very long flight. What a thrill to visit with the Umeh family in their own home, all 11 of us. Being able to visit a village school and tour the printing operations of one of their business mentors was also a highlight. Of course, watching the SAGE teams compete was interesting. To see the common threads of each presentation and the unique projects they had worked on during the year was inspiring.

Monica Choo, SAGE Team Member: A year ago, I never would have thought that I'd be going to Africa, let alone going to represent the United States in a business competition. The 9 days we spent in Nigeria for the SAGE World Cup was an experience that changed my life and will be one that I'll never forget. Through this trip I was able to see a world outside of the tiny bubble I normally live in, meet people from all over the world, as well as learn about the lifestyles and cultures of other countries. Although we had to endure 9 days of "different" food and sit in a plane for over 45 hours, that is a small price to pay for the knowledge and friendships that I have gotten out of it. I plan to continue e-mailing the friends I have made, as well as hope to recruit new members into SAGE, so that they too can experience what I did during the time I was involved with SAGE. -Monica Choo

Mrs. Teri Jones, SAGE Instructor: The most exciting part of any SAGE trip is the people: both the new friendships and bonding from the old. The personalities and the incredible dress of the Nigerians we met were what sticks with me most. The bright and intricate fabrics cannot be given justice through snapshots, as neither can the warm and welcoming personalities we met. Granted, not everyone was equally happy to see us, as evidenced by the angry crowd when we took pictures at the marketplace, or the taxicab driver who refused to speak to us or drive us. Yet the overwhelming sense of warmth and hopefulness for the future is what I take with me most from Nigeria. As more than one national told us, it is not the oil that is the greatest asset of the country, it is impact of the people.

Jessie Chan, SAGE Team Member: SAGE/Project ECHO has been an amazing experience. I not only gained the knowledge of the way a business runs, but have learned first hand that it's not as easy as it looks. I was given the opportunity of a lifetime by getting to know six amazing other students, and travel outside the United States. Not only was it my first time in a foreign country, but it was a place I wouldn't have volunteered to go to on vacation. The six students I shared my last year of high school with, are amazing beyond words, it was an honor being able to get to know them and develop friendships.

Jasmine McClain, SAGE Team Member:

Tenzin Chodak, SAGE Team Member:

Ms. Anita Kemp, SAGE Instructor:

Sonom Chodak, SAGE Team Member:

Alberto De Pablo, SAGE Team Member:


Last Day in Abuja; United States Embassy, Business Advisory Member, Jibi School and Return to US

Thursday, July 31

If you have been checking in with us you know from our previous post that we are now home, and sound and filled with memories of our amazing journey overflowing with adventures, surprises, new learning opportunities, frustrations, a few “lows” (very few!) but many, many “highs”.

We promised to fill you in on our jam packed last day in Abuja so here goes, it’s time to play catch-up.

We began the day by walking to the U.S. Embassy for a 9:00am meeting. Walking was its own adventure because we had to cross a VERY busy highway and in Nigeria, pedestrians do not have the right of way!!!

When we arrived at the embassy, we had to go through two separate sets of security screenings and basically were only permitted to take in paper and pencil. When we finally entered the embassy, we met Major Price. Major Price is one of the people that Mrs. Jones had been communicating with about our trip to Abuja and he set up our meeting with the embassy staff. When we chatted with him we discovered that he is a middle school science and math teacher at a middle school outside of Sacramento. No wonder he was so very knowledgeable, helpful and reassuring about our decision to come to Nigeria to participate in the SAGE World Cup event.

During our visit we met with the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Ms. Lisa Piascik, the Counselor for Public Affairs Ms. Atim George and Information Specialist Sani Mohammed.

If you go to the link below, it will take you to the newsletter for the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria. The top article and photograph is about our visit to the embassy. How wonderful to find us featured so prominently! The text of the article is copied below but if you go to the link you can also see the photograph since we were not permitted to take cameras inside.

SAGE Students Visit U.S. Mission Nigeria, Observe Foreign Policy at WorkAfter participating in this year’s Students for the Advancement for Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) competition, the team from Santa Monica- who represented the United States made a special visit to the U.S. Embassy in order to experience the work of their government abroad. The seven students and their four adult supervisors keenly entered the Embassy gates, so as to walk on American soil in a foreign country. Meeting in the Rosa Parks Education and Information Center, the high school team discussed U.S./Nigeria bilateral relations with the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Ms. Lisa Piascik, Counselor for Public Affairs Ms. Atim George and Information Specialist Sani Mohammed.
Ms. George opened the event by sharing an African folktale reminding the SAGE delegation not to take short cuts, another important tool for the students to use as they develop their practice as entrepreneurs. Next, Sani Mohammed provided a brief history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To honor the visiting US delegation, DCM Lisa Piascik listened as the team explained their experiences and successes. She commended the delegation as admirable Citizen Ambassadors for the United States.
Excerpt from the newsletter for the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria.

Before leaving the embassy, Major Price got approval for us to have a photograph taken outside the embassy. The conditions for taking the photograph were that it had to be taken outside the first set of security walls, only an embassy aide who was accompanying us could take one picture and that Major Price had to look at it to be sure none of the embassy buildings appeared in the photo. Major Price gave us all lapel pins that have both the Nigerian and U.S. flags on the pin. The photo is above and you can see Major Price on the far left.

We walked back to the hotel and met Amaka Udojele, the SAGE team advisor for the Government Secondary School, Jibi-Abuja, who had arranged for us to join her SAGE team students and her school principal, Mrs. B.K. Amuga at the business of an active member of her Business Advisory Board (BAB). He runs a large printing facility (REGENT Printing and Publishing LTD) and has been very active working with her school’s SAGE team. His company also printed their team's annual reports. At his printing business we were joined by the SAGE team from Amaka’s school and by her principal school administrator. We started by meeting in his office and he shared how he had started his business from one very small printing press and how it has grown over the years. We then all toured his facility including the graphic design center (they use the same software as us; PhotoShop, InDesign, QuarkXPress, etc.) While we were touring the actual print shop, we discovered that one of the publications being printed had an article on Barack Obama. Back in Abuja, we had observed signs and posters advertising an event August 4th in honor of Obama's birthday.

After our visit and tour, both schools loaded back into their respective buses and headed out to the village school where Amaka teaches and coaches the SAGE team.
When we arrived at Jibi Secondary School we met the Vice Principal of Administration, Mrs. T. Ogbonna and the Vice Principal of Academics, Mr. Sule Mohammed Alhaji. The school is on a six-week holiday but the students and staff had come back for the day just to meet with us. Jibi Government School is a co-ed school. During the school year, students wear school uniforms so many of the students who came to meet us had their school uniforms on. The school colors for Jibi School are pink and white for both male and female students.

We took a group photo outside the administration building and then the students took us on a tour of the principal’s office, the school’s computer lab, science lab and woodshop. We discovered that classroom signs in Nigeria look just like signs in our classrooms at Samohi. The school presented us with a wooden bowl that contained bracelets and necklaces as a gift for each of us.
We then went back to the Principal’s office to spend time talking together to brainstorm ways the two teams could work together on social and global entrepreneurial projects. We came up with a number of ideas for consideration but will need to continue to work collaboratively to research and work out the viability and practicality of our intitial ideas.

Then it was time to say good-bye to our new team partners and return to the hotel to pick up our luggage and leave for the airport. Just like in Los Angeles, 5:00pm is major rush hour traffic and we wanted to be sure to be at the airport with time to spare since we knew the KLM flight was overbooked. The Abuja airport is not exactly an exciting bustling airport when you have to wait several hours for your flight to be called. Absolutely no cameras or photos are allowed in the airport but if you can picture in your mind, gray, gray, and more gray with institutionally bare, sparse furnishings (mostly gray), you won’t need a photograph.

When we passed through the Amsterdam airport the first time on our way to Nigeria from the U.S. we simply exited the plane and went directly to our next gate. When we arrived back in Amsterdam from Nigeria, we were met with passport control immediately as we emerged from the plane's exit passageway. Personnel seemed to be vigorously grilling many of the passengers but fortunately we were allowed to continue on with only minimal questioning which was good for us because we were on a mission to find chocolate before our next flight!!! Also, we stopped to sing Happy Birthday to Ms. Kemp since it was July 29th in Amsterdam even though it was still July 28th in the U.S. She had a birthday that lasted many more than 24 hours.

After shopping and filling up on chocolate we boarded our flight for Detroit. Though we weren’t looking forward to another long flight, we were definitely all looking forward to touching down in the United States.
After we went through customs in Detroit and re-checked our luggage, we still had two hours before our next flight. Our terminal was right next to a food court! We all immediately filled up on Taco Bell, Chili’s, McDonald's, Iced Mochas and our cell phones. It was great.
The last 4-½ flight home seemed to take forever but then we were back in LA, collecting luggage, calling friends, hugging each other good bye and hugging our families hello. There were lots of tears mixed with all the hugs.

This is now almost the end of our story but stay tuned for one last posting when we will all post a short reflection on our 10 day adventure.
Yea Golden Arches!


We're Home!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that yesterday, Tuesday, July 29th, we returned home, exhausted, safe and happy we missed the earthquake. (The pilot told us about it as we landed.) Our last day in Abuja before we went to the airport was packed with more great experiences including an appointment at the U.S. Embassy and a visit to a village school outside Abuja. We arrived home in the same clothes we had been wearing when we left for the visit to the U.S. Embassy which meant by the time we landed we had been wearing the same clothes for almost 44 hours!!!

We need time to adjust to the time change and the trip but then we will be back with more details of our last day and lots and lots of pictures along with a short personal reflection from each member of our team and advisors.

Thank you one and all for your love, friendship and constant support as we have embarked and returned from this journey. You are all loved and appreciated.


Shopping and American Food!

Note: You can click on any of the small pictures to see them full sized.

Sunday July 27, 2008

Today is our first full day without any SAGE planned activities. We were supposed to go on a tour of Abuja to replace the trip to Yankori National Park but of course, again, this is Nigeria so when it came time to meet for the tour, it had been cancelled. To be fair, it might have been because many of the teams were leaving today and the buses were occupied taking teams to and from the airport. In the end it worked out well for us because everyone slept in very late and got some rest.
Towards the middle of the afternoon the New York team asked one of the buses to take both U.S. teams to the “hut” village near the Sheraton hotel. This is an area that has a large number of tiny shops shaped like huts that sell African and specifically Nigerian trinkets and arts and crafts items. As you walk around the area the shopkeepers use all kinds of cajoling techniques to get you to come in and look at their wares. Some shops specialize in jewelry, others in African art, some in fabrics, and many in stoneware, baskets, wood, leather (often snakeskin) items. You must bargain for everything. Prince is a member of one of the SAGE Nigerian teams (not a competing team) and he went with us to to be sure we would get fair prices. Prince is 14 years old and displays maturity way beyond what we would expect in the U.S. When we would be given a price he would look at them and tell them to give us a “better or real” price and was a tremendous help to all of us.

It started to drizzle heavily so shopkeepers magically produce umbrellas and hold them over you as you walk to encourage you to visit their shops. Ms. Kemp purchased some African art and asked the shopkeeper to hold it for her in exchange for borrowing his umbrella to walk around.

There was a beautiful and very friendly cat strolling the village. She was one of the African cats that are very sleek and trim with a small head and very large ears. It turns out she has five kittens that play and live in one of the shops. She was very friendly and let Mrs. Harrison hold her while she purred away.

After leaving the arts and crafts center, we decided to treat ourselves by having a late lunch early dinner at the Hilton Hotel so we asked the bus driver to take us before he returned the New York team to the hotel. The bus took us on a short cut to the hotel which was down a muddy, unpaved road. It was 5:00 pm when we got to the Hilton and we arranged for the bus to pick us up at 7:00. The Hilton hotel is a beautiful hotel and very much what one would expect from a “high end" hotel. Ms. Kemp felt right at home. Interestingly enough, unlike the Sheraton, the Hilton does not have metal detectors or screening when you walk into the lobby. After the bus left, we walked to the restaurant that we had been told served hamburgers and french fries but when we got there, we found out they were closed for lunch and didn’t reopen until 7:00pm for dinner. We were so disappointed but the ever resourceful Ms. Kemp, found out that we could order food out by the pool so to the pool we headed. IT WAS GREAT to have American style food again. We ordered hot wings, roasted chicken, penne pasta, and hamburgers with French fries, onion rings and sodas. It was so good!

When we got back to the hotel we mostly just relaxed but some of us spent time with team members from South Korea. They taught some of us a card game which is mostly a game of bluff. Now we understood why there was so much noise, shouting and cheering from the South Korean rooms. Turns out one of the team members is a magician so he dazzled us with magic tricks.

It’s time to say good night. Tomorrow Benedette’s uncle is taking us on a tour of Abuja. On Monday we have an appointment at the US Embassy in the morning, and then a bus is taking us to a SAGE team school just outside Abuja. This is the school that we began corresponding with a couple of months ago. The school is on a break but the teacher (Amaka) is bringing some of her students so we can share information and establish a closer connection so we can work together after our team returns to the United States. As soon as we are done there we will return to the hotel to pick up or luggage and head out to the airport. We want to be sure to be there very early because our travel agent has let us know the flight is oversold and not to cut our time too short to get there. We are going to err on the side of caution and be there 3 hours ahead of time.

Bye for now. We love and miss you all but we are still having an amazing experience in Abuja.