Saturday, May 24, 2008
Should be some cool stuff.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Back on U.S. Soil
We started off like any other morning: omelettes, pastries, coffee, baked beans, ox tongue. Wait, your mornings don't start like that in the States? No ox tongue? Hmm...TIA, this is Africa. Chris LeCraw Sickness Update (CLCSU): Took medicine last night. Looks to be receding. Shirt collars still hurt. Anyway, we all piled in the bus and headed to the US Embassy. When we arrived, we stepped outside and smiled. Yes, that was American air we were breathing. Close-cropped American grass on which we were treading. American cement under our feet now. And American people greeting us. Okay, maybe none of that stuff is actually American. And we were actually greeted by Tanzanian doormen/guards. Details, details. We were semi-home again!
After the obligatory awkward moment when I set off the alarm -- Even plastic sunglasses have little metal pieces. At least it wasn't an improvised explosive device, which is expressly prohibited. -- we all grabbed our American badges and headed inside. The first man to show us around just so happened to be a friend of the Ambassador from way back in Green Bay. Yes, that's right. Home of the Cheeseheads, Brett Favre (not really anymore I guess), frozen grass and dairy products. That Green Bay. He said he came over here with Ambassador Green (more on him right...down...there) for a trial year and might end up staying longer. Douglas had a minor scare when he drank the fountain water, assuming it would be clean, safe American water, only to realize that, once again, TIA. No worries, it was safe.
The Embassy got right down to business, and Ambassador Mark Green strolled in, blue suit/green tie (with elephants I think) and all. He even had a coffee mug that was a gift from a local university. And his mannerisms were impeccable. A staunch Republican and defender of Dubya, he executed the thumb point perfectly, but he followed it with a very Obama-esque thumb-to-forefinger-to-form-an-O move. Pandering to both sides, eh?I could bore you with details of the talk -- which, from my third-row in the conference room of an American oasis/embassy weren't actually boring -- but I'll just give you some highlights. He said Tanzania is already one of the leaders on the continent, but we need to "lock in leadership" at the highest levels. In other words TZ must take the initiative both ideologically and politically in this part of the world. A few facts to take into account that will be a hindrance to such thrusts are the 100,000 Tanzanian malaria deaths per year and the 400 HIV/AIDS deaths per day. GWB and the TZ government, President Kikwete mostly, have already done a decent job addressing these issues through policy initiatives, but the problem (not problem, challenge, but we'll get to that a little later) is the Tanzanian people don't realize it. When Green first came on board, his sponsored events had banners from the CDC, USAID and others. But Tanzanians have no idea what these signify, so Green has now replaced those with a dozen banners that say simply, "From the American People" in both English and Swahili. Funny how Americans can seem so united from the other side of the world.
After outlining a few initiatives and goals, Green took questions. My question -- the only one I'm mentioning because it's my blog, sorry guys -- illuminated a point that has been present in several meetings this trip. Competitiveness. Tanzanians just aren't. When Kenya's Mombassa port closed due to the warring factions in the country, the ships housed there headed for Dar Es Salaam port in Tanzania. At this point the American embassy has this to say: "Hooray! Let's treat these ships better than Kenya ever did and earn their business permanently!" The Tanzanians responded in kind: "But we wouldn't want to hurt the Kenyans' feelings. Let's all be friends." There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both responses, but the easiest way to expand the national economy is to gain more business. And they missed the opportunity. Just an example. The final point that Green made related directly -- maybe too directly...he might have plagiarized -- to my personal journal from last night. What Africa needs is not charisma. She doesn't need words. She needs actions. And not only actions, but results. I called it the "fierce immediacy of now" in my journal, but I'm pretty sure I heard that somewhere. Here's what I wrote in my journal:
"It's the idea that everything becomes magnified if it must be immediate. If it's on a time crunch. If it's crucial. If it can't be done at any other time. The people of Africa deserve results. They flat-out need them. And the effective leaders realize this. And they realize that their time horizon is very much abbreviated."After a speaker about the politics and economics of the country -- not much we hadn't already heard -- we toured the whole facility. Even the warehouse, where "they store all the stuff." A fairly direct quote from our guide. Did you know that if you work for the embassy in TZ you can shop at the embassy warehouse and get all-American furniture and electronics? Even tires? Wow. CLCSU: The second speaker has a medical degree. Thinks it might be shingles. "Couldn't help" because Chris isn't an embassy employee. I guess Chris must have stolen that cream discreetly.
Then came lunch. At one of the nicest hotels in all of TZ. Where Dubya and his posse stayed on their visit. Where suites are actually only $200 per night (hat tip to Bryan Pruiett for in-depth research). It was a six-course meal hosted by Mr. Reginald Mengi. Think Ted Turner of TZ. Or the physical embodiment of General Electric. The man has his hands in Tanzanite prospecting, Coca-Cola bottling, broadcast news, print media and many other things. Incredible guy who came from nothing up in Moshi. Dirt-poor at birth, through childhood, and through teenagedom (made up the word in order to not sound repetitive). Here's a laundry list of quotes and observations from the lunch:
"Business is just organized friendship." Tanzanians are very generous...with hospitality, with wine and with thank-yous. "You must tell yourself 'I can, I must, I will.'" R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" comes on as a sort of theme song. The same R. Kelly that had the legal troubles, but I still think of Space Jam every time I hear the song. "And if you fail, turn on Destiny's Child 'Survivor' and just survive." I love that song. Karaoke 101. "Your world must be your honor." Tanzanians don't rely on contracts like we do. So their word carries a lot more weight. Hence: "I can forgive you if you break a contract. But I won't forgive you if you break a promise." Wow, how non-American! But refreshing to say the least. "You must give back." Spider-Man knew that with great power comes great responsibility. The same goes for money in a developing country. Mengi's responsibility is to the whole country, and his philanthropic reach covers most of the land. "Put God first." Now, I've heard this before, but from Chick-fil-A mostly. It was interesting to hear it so matter-of-factly halfway around the world. He made constant references to his Christianity, and it definitely gives an example of faith interacting positively with business. Serious business. Moneymaking business.
Then off to the hotel again, where we were informed that Hon. Gertrude Mongella would not be joining us for dinner. If you want info on her, go to Google. She's pretty incredible. So we hung out at the pool. Douglas and Addie climbed on the roof. I bathed in bug spray. CLCSU: Remember when Luke was recovering from injuries in The Empire Strikes Back? Or when Keanu Reeves was injured in "real life" in The Matrix? That's Chris LeCraw. He even cut the collar of a t-shirt to make it more open. I think he should make up some stories to go along with it.
Now off to watch the finals of the UEFA Champions League! Pretty chill night in TZ. I love you Mom, Dad and Kevin! And give yourself a hearty pat on the back if you read all the way to here.
[Editor's Note: Unfortunately, Ambassador Mongella was called to a meeting in Mwanza and had to cancel. Plus, the UEFA Championship is tomorrow night, but the meeting with Mr. Mengi was featured on the national news and the newspaper. check it out at http://www.ippmedia.com/ipp/guardian/2008/05/21/114830.html]
Posted by ILA Study Abroad Program in Tanzania at 11:00 PM 1 comments
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
As of 4:40 pm EST tomorrow, I will be headed to Tanzania, Africa, for three weeks. Because I will not be carrying my laptop with me and because we will have our own blog for which we are responsible, there won't be much content to be seen on this site for a while. I'm traveling with the Institute for Leadership Advancement contingent along with Dr. G, one of my professors this past semester.
We will all of us students be responsible for posting on the blog, so I can't guarantee a certain amount of info from myself, but I'll guarantee that all of the posts will be interesting, insightful and humorous. Mainly because all of us fill all of those three traits. So head on over here to check it out, and let us know what you think!
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
As finals time begins, continues and, eventually, ends, I realize that some of my closest friends will be graduating and leaving. I have no idea if I'll see a lot of them again, and I probably won't get the chance to say any "last words," because I'm not very good at it and I usually avoid it. I hate good-byes. I draw them out awkwardly, in that I've-already-hugged-you-shrugged-my-shoulders-sighed-heavily-and-hugged-you-again sort of way. You know what I'm talking about. So since I'm terrible at "last words," I figured I'd share someone else's last words with you in my place.
Here is the transcript to Garrett Gravesen's 2003 commencement address. His picture is that crazy one up there. At the top of the page is this presumptuous title:
In what many have called the greatest speech ever given at the University of Georgia, Garrett Gravesen delivers the commencement Speech to the Graduating Class of 2003 encouraging everyone to be a HERO.I was understandably skeptical at first glance, but do yourself a favor and read through it. You'll laugh out loud, struggle to not tear up and get that warm-fuzzy feeling inside. For those who don't know, Garrett -- along with Ryan Gembala -- founded HERO for Children, the UGA chapter of which is now a huge philanthropy. Check out their story here. And here are some choice words that I jealously wish I had come up with on my own...but I didn't.
"Regardless, there is one thing that connects us all. Within each and every one of us is a Voice. I am not sure where it comes from. Maybe it's the natural or the supernatural, maybe its from within or a land far away I don't know. This voice speaks to us when we are younger and we think we can conquer the world. As we get older, however, other people tell us everything we are un-able to do in life and sooner or later most people start believing this until one day that voice is gone and never comes back again."
These words about Voice harken back to an earlier post that I made regarding childhood dreams (refresher). It's incredible that a graduating college senior already has such words like this. Imagine being in the class of '03, sitting in Sanford Stadium, sweating beyond belief, hearing these words and wondering how your college career could have been different if you'd heard them freshman year. How did one of your peers find such an incredible passion? How did he give up everything the world thought important for a risk and a whim? And how in the world did that whim turn into such a life-changer, city-changer and nation-changer?
About that time you might realize that, no matter what you did or didn't do here at UGA, you've left your mark. It may not be as big or obvious as Garrett's, but you realize that you couldn't avoid impacting others' lives. It's why you were all accepted here and ultimately, it's why you chose to attend here. Because you knew -- somehow deep inside -- that UGA would give you that opportunity to change lives.
Then you snap back to the speech and Garrett comes at you with this:
"All I can say is that love is a work in progress. Never let yourself get so angry that you stop loving because one day you will wake up from that anger and the person you love will be gone. Remember that marriage is indeed a commitment, the wedding ring is a circle of trust and the time you spend with your significant other and those treasured moments you spend with the children you bring into the world are more important that any job you will ever get or money you may make."Love is a work in progress.
Holy crap! So true! You give a little amen in your head, you nod approval, you maybe even clench your fist in confirmation. But you know. This man -- young adult, really -- is speaking about things much bigger than he is...and much bigger than any of us are. LOVE...a work in progress. Wow.
And you realize that it is true. Love is always something you're working toward. Not that you can never achieve it or that you can never find it or that you can never experience it. But that there's always more to it. There's always more love to experience. Whether it's in the realm of friendship, intimacy, spirituality, family or whatever, there's always more love than you can imagine. More than you can fathom. And more than you can wrap your head around. And you're comforted that again, no matter what you did or didn't do during college, you found love. True, lasting, deep love. From roommates, from your parents, from your professors, from your boyfriend or girlfriend. There's someone who'll be there for you. No matter what. And you ponder that for a second with a smile. And you again snap back to the present day.
And you see this amazing man leave the stage, the last few words you hear being these:
"As we go out and descend upon the world...Always leave more than anyone expects. Our lives are not all the same, but the voice inside of us is. Where it leads you-may all of you follow...There were friendships built and relationships lost, there were laughs that have brought us together and tears that have driven us apart, but it is all of this that has made college worthwhile."And as you look around, at the crowd, at the faculty, at your classmates and at yourself you realize one last thing. This is what you've been working for. It's been (at least) 4 years probably, and you've been preparing for this moment. It's your time. And your childhood hero Dr. Seuss comes back to mind:
"Today is your day! your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way."So now, class of 2008, you're all incredible. We've all been blessed beyond belief by your presence on this campus, and you'll be sorely missed. And, personally, I can't wait to see how much of the world you conquer by the time I graduate. We've got big shoes to fill.
And if you want to see another great UGA commencement speech, check out Kevin Scott's address from this past fall of '07 (in two installments):
I decided last night that I would wake up early this morning and yet put Chick-Fil-A's wireless for studying. So I set my alarm for 6:30, actually woke up after 7 and got here by 8. The wireless is fast and reliable, the atmosphere (and aroma) is great, the people are friendly. But I wish I'd worn pants because the Beechwood branch is unnervingly cold right now.
So if you're looking for an alternative to the SLC and don't need absolute peace and quiet (I have my headphones in so it's not bad at all), check out your local Chick-Fil-A. And since it's coming on 10:00 in Athens, I can't wait to see people I recognize and/or actual friends wander in here with stories from last night.
PS: This way I only have to make one total trip for breakfast AND lunch...genius!
Update (10:06): Saw John Taliaferro and Brad Harris already. Good start.
Friday, May 2, 2008
I wanted to share a little about what we did at the conference since the last real update, so hold onto your hats, here we go:
Back on Tuesday we went to Aon's reception at the House of Blues. It was packed! The opening act was a U2 cover band, so I went absolutely nuts. And Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the headliner, was great too. Their lead singer looks like a shorter version of Will Ferrell, no joke. The slideshow above has all the pictures I took from it.
Then after we went to a morning session or two on Wednesday, a bunch of us skipped the afternoon sessions and headed to the San Diego Zoo. Now, I'm not usually a huge fan of zoos, but this one is pretty cool. It's got lions, tigers, bears (insert witty comment here), pandas, polar bears, koalas, elephants, giraffes, and yada yada yada. The list goes on and on. This slideshow ^ first has a photo shoot with our coordinators Peggy and Fran. Without them, none of this opportunity would have been possible, so a huge shout-out to them!
After ordering some awesome pizza from Ciro's Pizzeria on 6th and Market, Then we headed to the Conference Center for something called "Cirque Dreams." For the record, I have no idea how anyone has the ability to do the tricks these people were doing. I can't even really describe them all either, so just use your imagination. I couldn't get any good pictures because of the lighting, however, so only a few pics in the slideshow are from there.
Instead of heading back to the hotel to pack like common sense would have said, we wrangled our way into an invite-only party hosted by Sedgwick CMS. It was at the Sweetwater Saloon in the Hard Rock Hotel and Lounge. More to come on that later. Jamie called just as we were walking in, so I had to enter after our whole party had already gotten in. Jonathan, a student at St. John's, had the invite, and he had already gone inside. Here's a transcript of how my conversation with the door guy went:
[guy in front of me gets rejected because he doesn't have an invite; acts incredulous; pulls out multiple business cards stating he is some VP of some large corporation; door guy turns him around and directs him out of line]I felt so cool. And once inside, we realized that the whole bar was open. Not just beers, not just bottom-of-the-barrel well drinks, but Crown, Grey Goose, Belvedere and Chopin. I have no other words to say about that. When last call came (at 11:20, no less!!!), we headed outside to figure out what to do. We never did figure that out though. So we climbed palm trees and ran up stairs like Rocky. Check them out down here.
Door Guy: Who are you here with?
Me: I was with that group of kids who just got in here. I had to take a phone call so I couldn't go in with them.
Door Guy: So you don't have an invite. [statement, not question]
Me: No, but one of the guys who just got in does.
Door Guy: Let me see your ID.
[checks it over; finds it satisfactory]
Door Guy: You'll have to talk to him. [points at Sedgwick executive taking up invites]
Exec: Who are you and what are you doing here?
Me: I'm one of the college students attending the conf-
Exec: You said "college"?
[I nod hesitantly]
Exec: [smiling] Then get your ass inside!
Then it was lights out. Until breakfast the next morning, where only a select few students actually made it. And that was that...
What an incredible, words-can't-begin-to-describe weekend and week. I hate reality where you have to pay for drinks and food. I guess we were pretty spoiled and lucky...
Thursday, May 1, 2008
PS: Cheetahs are sweet!