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Now fully recovered from traveling, I wanted to send this open letter to all the clubs and members in New Zealand and Australia expressing my sincerest thanks and appreciation for your warm welcome and hospitality. A specific note of gratitude to both the conference organizers and attendees who made their way to New Plymouth and the Blue Mountains.
Although both New Zealand and Australia national conferences are distinct in their own way, experienced together within a two-week spread provided for me an authentic and unique engagement with what makes Friendship Force so spectacular. While home hosted throughout my stay in New Zealand, I had the privilege of experiencing just a taste of what hundreds of others have experienced around the world during their inaugural visits down-under – kindhearted-ness, genuineness and a keen interest in connecting and forging new relationships. Many who met me for the first time in New Zealand know that I also brought with me a cold that took more than a few days to get over. I shook that cold off, however, (thanks to the care from so many on that trip) making room to take back with me fond memories of so many of you. The experience in the Australian Blue Mountains was no different. I will not only take with me a few new square dancing moves, but also the memory of your several stories and spirit – trademarks, I am learning, of Friendship Force members.
I hope that all those who participated in the conferences took something back with them; I know I did. Impossible as it is to distill the experience to any single thought or nugget of wisdom, I leave you instead with a lasting impression. After my plane departed Sydney and I looked out the window at the fading coastline, I wrote in my journal that I now fully understood what makes Friendship Force so powerful – each and every one of you!
Thank you both New Plymouth and Blue Mountain clubs for hosting outstanding conferences and for sharing your knowledge, best practices, and inspiration with all of us.
Until we see each other again, in Friendship,