Dadi’s reflections on iDebateUSTour2014

 

What did you learn?

I like to say that I have a great respect for time and I do all my best to abide by time constraints and not to be arrogant but I think that I have been doing a great job so far. Spending two months and a half in a country where time is not “elastic” like many countries [sadly] I learned to be even more appreciative of time.

10423913_834796393207384_5821662611849361717_nIn the USA a lot of things if not everything is dependent on time and not because time is money but because time is more valuable than money. We almost missed a couple of flights, trains and buses because like many people we made the mistake to use the time we need as opposed to the time we have.

Growing up amongst the group of the society that has access to information and western media, I had a beautiful picture of how the Great America would be.  I surely knew Hollywood was fake, but I did not know to what extent. With experience in European countries I suspected the USA would be not as great. Despite all the flaws, problems in that country, I still think that America is greater than many counties because all of the learning opportunities that are available, the freedom, the great institutions and leaders.

I have learned that greatness can be achieved by taking responsibility and putting in great work. I wish every Rwandan could have a chance to travel to one or two developed countries, to see what development really looks like and what it takes. That way we would learn how to celebrate our achievements instead of just bragging about mere milestones. Rwanda and Rwandans have a potential to achieve greatness if only we would stop mismanaging and embezzling funds, procrastinating, accepting mediocrity, and being selfish.

What change did you experience?

People are so indifferent yet the same, getting to the USA for the first time I immediately noticed that everything is different from Rwanda. The buildings, the cars, the interactions, even the way people walk. One step at a time like everywhere else, but way faster.

We had to make a quick adjustment to the culture and ways of like.  In a lot of places and with a majority of people, they don’t walk to strangers, the greeting are in form of a hand sign, sometimes a hand shake and never a hug apart from a few exceptions we made people do. People don’t give up their sits for older persons or even seniors and they get surprised when you do.

What was the best experience?

We all enjoyed the mega care we got from the hosts. Being driven around, sleeping in hotels and eating at expensive restaurants. Throughout the tour we felt appreciated and welcome.

The appreciation for planning, we planned the tour for nine months and even when it did start we felt that to some aspects we were not ready.  I kept telling myself that nine months was a fair time given the number of events we had to put in place. As the events went on I realized that a single host had been planning for as long as we did.

We did spend a fair amount of time with the debate directors of the institutions and people like Dr Davis M from JMU, Dr Hester from UWG were so connected to the team and made jokes with us that we left like we had been friends for years.

For a person inspired by debate, and trying to inspire more people it felt so great to visit Wiley College- home to the great debaters. I also loved the class on Dr. James Farmer Jr. by Dr. Von Beth

Did the tour meet your expectation?

The initial feeling was that we were just going to meet a bunch of people, talk to them, answer questions, grab a few business cards and move on. It turned out to be more than the normal casual encounters I‘d expected. The events went on smoothly, with a great audience participation and staff feedback. Majority if not all institutions were interested in developing a partnership with iDebate Rwanda. A few ideas were immediately brought forward on how the partnership would work; so that is already a thing to be appreciated.

Another thing which I came to realize during the tour is the need for tour. For some days I wondered why we did not do the tour the year before or three years.  Obviously iDebate did not exist in the last 3 years but with the kind of questions that were asked it made me realize we answered questions specific to  Rwanda and Africa in general that had to be answered by people “fresh off the plane”.

A lot of us came in expecting to be impressive in our work as well as our ways and be able to solicit study opportunities. As far as that is concerned it was a major success. Several people on the team mates were offered several scholarships.

To me the major fulfilled expectation was that of being able to create partnerships with schools and institutions, exchange programs and creating scholarship opportunities for our students. The tour surpassed my expectation in all aspects.

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