Becoming an administrator in another district within the Rotary community presents a fresh and thrilling challenge. This year, I had the opportunity to interact closely with Governor Michelle McGrath and the rest of the district team, whom I had previously only seen virtually via Zoom since assuming the role on July 1, 2023.

At the outset, my gratitude to PP Jim Nelson from the Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson for picking me up from O'Hare Airport on February 11th.
Throughout my three-week journey in the district, I was graciously hosted by many kind Rotarians. I participated in numerous club meetings, events, and social gatherings. Some individuals even organized parties for me at venues like the Pyramid, while others preferred intimate gatherings at homes to meet fellow Rotarians and non-Rotarians.
I observed that meetings here ranged from structured to informal or casual. I found myself consistently wearing my Rotary t-shirts, while most attendees donned business suits along with their distinctive blue and red badges – blue for regular members and red for provisional new members. I appreciated the warm welcome at the buffet table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and the diverse mix of club members, spanning various ages and backgrounds.

During most meetings, members attentively listened to speakers, giving me the chance to promote Tricon, Dispatch, RFE Philippines, and similar initiatives. I was introduced by Governor Michelle, DGE Todd, DGN Mike, and my host family.

One aspect that stood out during this trip was the genuine appreciation and hospitality of the people, the efficient and results-driven meetings, and the emphasis on creating a positive environment. Timings were meticulously adhered to, regular speakers were featured, and there was a culture of generosity towards mental health issues and community needs.

I bumped into a bunch of new furry friends on my adventure, and guess what? I couldn't resist swapping their names with human names and playing matchmaker with their owners!

The weather? I braved the cold, shoveled, and posed on ice for photo opportunities. However, deep down, I was eagerly awaiting building my first snowman. Joking aside, I long for the days of sweating it out for real. Let's be honest, this winter might leave you feeling gloomy, lethargic, and under the weather.

Engaging with various clubs, witnessing their daily lives, and understanding individuals beyond their titles was a remarkable experience. It made me reflect on the shared privileges we have – breathing the same air, enjoying good food, living comfortably, and sleeping peacefully, regardless of differing perspectives.

It's a humble experience to address them by their first names without any concerns about disrespecting their title or individuality. During this journey, I have never felt isolated or desolate; others are always ready to lend a helping hand or a comforting hug. 

Someone once quizzed me, "Could you settle down in America?" I quickly shut that down. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the community vibe, the scenery, and the whole Rotary vibe, but let's be real - I can't survive without my weekly pamper session at the salon!

To conclude my trip, I had the privilege of participating in the Midwest PETS 2024 at the Westin Hotel in Chicago. During the event, I efficiently managed my time by balancing district responsibilities, attending sessions, and volunteering as an Ambassador at the greet-and-meet and snack stations. The experience was enriching, providing ample opportunities to engage with a diverse group of individuals both within and beyond our district. Working alongside esteemed Rotarians was a true honor. This journey underscored the significance of Rotary's global impact and the importance of compassion and understanding among people. Our efforts aim to create a better world for future generations to cherish and thrive in.

I would like to express my gratitude to Governor Michelle and Paul McGrath of RC Madison, PDG Ben Bauer of RC Marshfield, DGE Todd and Eva Marie Trestel of RC La Crosse, DGN Mike and Liesa of RC Eau Claire, PDG Edwin Bos and PP Jim Nelson of RC Fort Atkinson, President Jill and PP Ellen/Eric Waldmer of RC Jefferson, PP Tom Vinz/Patricia Hoffman, President Jenny of RC Lakemills, PDG Karen and Rtn. Dick Herbert of RC Chippewa Falls, AG Steve and Sarah Nick of RC Eau Claire, PP Aaron and Dawn Frank of RC Madison South, PR Lyn and Jim Hewitt of RC Fitchburg-Verona Horizons, President Phil, Marissa Dickinson and PE Stefanie of RC La Crosse-After Hours, President Jennifer Tasker and Rtn. Janette/Tim Jordee of RC Waunakee, Grant Chair Erin Luken and Jason Beren of RC Madison, PP Scott Horn of La Crosse Club, PP Teresa Holmes of RC Madison, and all the other district team members, club host and individuals with whom I had the pleasure of interacting but may not be mentioned in this article.

I will forever hold dear my Rotary Friendship Exchange 2015-2017 family. They bring me hope and magic.

(In photo L to R: Standing - Lindsey and Tom Dehnert, PP Jim Nelson, PP Tom Vinz and Rotakid Harry Bos; Front - PP Ellen and Eric Waldmer, PP Megs Lunn and PDG Edwin Bos)