America, Here We Come!!!

“Well, it was only fitting that I should follow my face since it got there before me.”, Emma said when he was voted by the rest of the team last January, along with myself and Harmonie, to represent iDebate on the 2016 USA Tour. He was making a reference to the documentary made and screened on last year’s tour in which he had featured. I gotta say we were all pretty thrilled, especially me. I applied as a student last year and was knocked out of the race at the very last round, and now I’m going as a member of the staff team. How cool is that? I haven’t gotten past the “can’t quite believe it” part yet.

But no one, I mean no one, could have matched Sharon Bayingana’s excitement. As a student, she went through an incredibly rigorous and highly competitive selection process. Her application was shortlisted along with 30 others, out of 84 in total. Then she and 14 more got through the presentations round. In the end they were five finalists out of which two would be selected. Angela Kagabo’s name was called out first, and her expression was kinda like “Is that me? Oh, well, cool then.” Very chill, you know, calm. Like she was expecting it.

But Sharon was a whole other case. When she heard her name she jumped up and screamed like a tiger had gotten hold of her neck, we were all quite frankly frightened. Then she wouldn’t allow anything else to be done for the next five minutes. She went around hugging all the other poor kids who hadn’t passed like they’d been there all along to support her, oblivious to their apparent disappointment. Then she was like “I gotta tell mom, I gotta tell mom, I won!!!”, screaming her lungs out all the while. I wasn’t present at the time but when I saw the video I couldn’t stop laughing for the next two days.

Well, some of the excitement has faded now -at least for me- and given place to another feeling. I don’t think that, until last Saturday, we had a grasp of what the tour really means. For America, for Rwanda, for iDebate, and even for us.

On Saturday, the team met and we had our first preps. In the two hours that we spent watching documentaries, reading excerpts from the “Voices from a Post-Genocide generation” booklet and sharing personal testimonies; a multitude of emotions coursed through me. I felt sad, angry, overpowered, confused; but also started seeing things in a totally different way. In that moment I realized that the tour is not really about us; it’s not about iDebate. It’s about allowing ourselves to open up, to talk about our strengths, our insecurities, our weaknesses, our achievements, our hopes, our fears. It’s about allowing ourselves to heal, but most importantly, helping others to do the same through being in contact with us.

So like I said earlier, there is this subtle feeling creeping up on me that I might not be up to the task. But as I look at the wonderful people I’m with (Harmonie, Emma, Angela, Sharon) and as I realize what an incredible mentor we have in Jean-Michel, I know I’d rather face the challenge with them than with anybody else.

So America, Here We Come! 😉

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