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My trip to AfroXLDS 2010 in Togo!!

5 Apr

AfroXLDS 2010 (Africa eXchange and Leadership Development Seminar) was a 6 day conference in Palime, the Facilitator team also had 3 days of premeeting and 2 days of postmeeting in Lome. We had around 100 delegates from countries like Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal. Then we had one lady from Kenya and some Brazil, Canadian, German and Japanese visitors.

We started off with a Community day in Lome were we learned from an NGO that deals with spreading the gospel of solar cookers in Togo. After an evening with lots of get-to-knows we had our final preparations for the conference. The Opening Ceremony was graced by a government official, after which we held a podium discussion regarding the Millenium Development Goals. In the afternoon we went to the University of Lome and held our colorful global village and impressed hundreds of university students with our diversity. The next 5 days were spent well in a nice hotel in Palime (yeeees, I am used to not having water and electricity by  now, but in over 30 degrees this reaches new dimensions of being annoyed). Part of the delegation discussed the strategic direction of our countries in Africa, the other half indulged in personal discovery, leadership discussions and practical experience of team work. Together we evaluated the Projects that are run and learned how to be as fast, savvy, smart, strong and sexy as possible in our work (see AIESEC Gen 2010). As always, fun and networking  are integral part of any AIESEC event!

I returned from my Togo trip with around 2,000 pictures and videos. This is just a small selection, but gives a good idea of what we did in the 10 days.

West Africa?? Hot, French vs. English, definitely worth another visit!

Thanks to everybody who contributed financially to making this trip happen!

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8 weeks of crazyness

20 Mar

Wow, I have not written in a looooooooooong time.
The last 8 weeks were really busy, so let me summarize what happened…

January

After the memorable Coast trip I ran for the Presidency of AIESEC in Kenya. The Elections gave the position to the current president to execute the role for another year.
These are just two sentences. They are short and do not at all explain the amount of talks I had with Alumni and members, weeks I worked on the strategies and emotions involved in the whole process. Especially the learning cannot be summarized, self awareness, speaking skills, playing smart, listening to whats behind the words.
Only people who went through a similar experience, can now nod their head wisely.

Thanks a million times to Emma and Gathu!

February

The idea of sitting at home or in the office without knowing whats next does not fit well to me. So Plan B had to be pursued with as much force but dignity as possible.

I visited the country, met members and leaders, interns and alumni. During the week I saw the potential and formed my vision. 3 Speeches later…
President of AIESEC in Uganda!
The 14th of February! Valentine’s Day! My new valentine, Uganda!!
I was proud, delighted and humbled. The amount of trust that is put into me, is incredible. Zu Deutsch “Vorschusslorbeeren”.

The last two weeks of February I went to Tunisia to attend AIESECs Global Leaders Summit (read more here), to learn on my new role, discuss the strategic direction of AIESEC. Of course also legislation (110 countries in one room), External Sessions (I met Robin from DHL again after nearly two years) and AI Elections had to happen to make IPM my so far contentwise best AIESEC Conference.

March

The last two weeks I was in Uganda, for the National Conference. Part of the agenda was to chose my MC team, meaning the people who will lead AIESEC Uganda with me from July. Out of 11 applicants I decided to work with 6 and open 2nd round applications for 3 more positions.
This team is soooo on point and every single individual really skilled and has great results to show!
Just a short summary of the Conference: We really lived the East African dream… Tanzania and Kenya had big delegations and lots of worldviews were challenged!

On the way back from Kampala I stopped for an LC Visit in Moi.

Right now I am sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight that will take me to Westafrica for AfroXLDS, the most important AIESEC Conference on the conference.
More about this trip and the conference later…

A very famous quote of Steve Jobs (link to video) really fits well to the ups and downs of the last 3 months.
“Looking back I can see the dots connecting!”
My time in Nairobi is exhausted and I will now get to know another country in East Africa. Quite probably that the impact I can bring in 1 year to Uganda will be much higher than to Kenya.
The personal learning that the new role in Uganda seems to be a lot higher and I cant wait to get to know another culture!

And the beauty of Uganda is hard to describe in one sentence and after only 3 weeks there. It is mystique, hot, jungle. The skin is darker, the sun hotter. More bananas, less stress.

Let me quote a guidebook:
“Uganda’s reputation as Africa’s Friendliest Country stems partly from the tradition of hospitality common to its culturally diverse populace, and partly from the remarkably low level of crime and hassle directed at tourists. But this amiable quality extends beyond the easygoing people. Uganda’s eco-friendliness is atte…sted to by the creation of six new national parks under the present administration, as well as a recent mushrooming of community-based eco-tourism projects at the grassroots level.
Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. Where else but in this impossibly lush country can one observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippo and crocs before setting off into the misty mountains to stare deep into the eyes of a mountain gorilla”

More later!!!

Uganda’s reputation as Africa’s Friendliest Country stems partly from the tradition of hospitality common to its culturally diverse populace, and partly from the remarkably low level of crime and hassle directed at tourists. But this amiable quality extends beyond the easygoing people. Uganda’s eco-friendliness is attested to by the creation of six new national parks under the present administration, as well as a recent mushrooming of community-based eco-tourism projects at the grassroots level.
Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. Where else but in this impossibly lush country can one observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippo and crocs before setting off into the misty mountains to stare deep into the eyes of a mountain gorilla

2009… Encounters, Places, Stories.

31 Dec

A year with a new level of intensity.

Encounters… Felix, Ingrid, Thomas, Hannah, Mina, Abdul and the Dialogcrew, Ralf, Stregi, Kaisha, TT, Arnold, Iris, Diana, Sally, Fiona, Joel, Prashant, Sera, Sheila, Carol, Dani, Jonso, Cathy, Ruth, Eunice, Julius, Edu, Sheila, Wes, Carol, Will, Emma, Jessie, Claudi, Bishar, Lewis, Halima, Amos, Isaack, Kevo, Es, Kagasi, Felix, Isaak, Ivo, Nashera, Ismael, David, Frank, Kinya, Sio, Kuks, Sirintai, Jude, Anderson, xtine, Gloria, Nyas, Jose, Oliver, Janina, Marcus, Micaela, Nancy, Martha, Tate, Lulu, Cindy, George, Naum, Beko, Jimmy, Elisha, Isaack, Solo, Chinedu, Damaris, Brown, James, Sonja, Abraham, the office rat, countless traffic jams and mosquitos, …

Places… Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Hanau, Darmstadt, Berlin, Nairobi, Gießen, Mombasa, Namanga, Naro moru, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Nakuru, Eldoret, Laikipia, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, …

Stories… Diplomarbeit, Gastrojob, best WG ever, Saying goodbye, friends on visit, campus hostels, conferences, mombasa, 9ja swagga, integration, friendship, bus trips, people applying, people dropping out, matatu strikes, IC 2011, tell your neighbour, Westi Trips, power rationing, …

Thanks for being 2009. Let’s rock 2010 together.

Tell your neighbour: “This is my year!”

Languages…

7 Dec

I just realized that there are a lot of languages mixed in my head

Daily life… English
Cooking in the kitchen… Kikuyu
Trip to TZ…Kiswahili
Chatting with my friend in Togo… French
Mixing it with… Spanish
Learning new words… Ewe
E-Mails with my parents… German
Totally forgot my… Polish

Tanzania in 8 days

4 Dec

AIESEC in TZ invited me to chair (=moderate and coordinate) a conference in Zanzibar for 150 of their members. So after weighing my options, I decided to take a bus (2,500 KSh) on Wednesday morning with some of my members and interns instead of flying (350 Euros). No water in the hostels at Uni of Nairobi in the night before, so I arrive a bit smelly and late (taxi had tyre problems) at the bus. Even a bit later is one of my interns, her taxi didnt come at all. So we make the whole crew wait for a mzungu (ironic) and leave Nairobi around 6.30. After passsing the border (50 USD for the visa, walking to TZ via foot, group picture at the sign, I love being white) we have 800 km left. Seveveral breakdowns (always a good chance to buy snacks and ice cream and be welcomed by locals) and discussions with our busmates later we arrive in Dar at midnight.

Dar es Salaam

The heat is incredible, the word sweat cannot exactly cover what we feel when getting of the bus.

A group of AIESECers is picking us up, they take us to the AIESEC house. No time to hesitate, we go to a party where we drink (Kilimanjaro is better than Tusker!!) and dance until 4. Knowing that we have to leave to the ferry at 9 I dont bother sleeping but just dose a bit before we prepare breakfast for the 30 guys who slepts at the house with us. Oh. And shower (bucket shower of course). Discovering around 25 mosquito bites on each (!) foot in the morning I realize this is not Nairobi.

The Conference

A newies and oldies conference at Zanzibar, that sounds amazing. We take the ferry (immigration office when arriving in zanzibar) and arrive in another world. Primarily muslim villages, beaches, harbors, fish everywhere.

Of course we run late becacuse the hotel had not prepared the site, so I start cutting the agenda. I am so used to this by now. I laugh when looking back at my first conference in Portugal when I thought at he agenda is not running smoothly.

Meanwhile I work with the 17 headed trainers team, mainly AIESEC leaders from UG, TZ and Kenya. We organize ourselves to an extend that the conference can start. The mood is extraordinary, the feeling of being in a holiday place makes everyone smile. Dances and shouts from the different LCs, we start the sessions late and finish even later. It is after midnight when the party stats and we shuttle the people home around 2am.

A quick faci meeting at 7.30 in the morning and we kickoff the main day of the conference. The more experienced members discuss their personal leadership journey and encourage each other. I realize once again that this is why I love AIESEC and dedicate my time to it.

Minor changes in the agenda, we have to incorporate some outdoor activities, this weather is just to awesome. Some rounds of truth or dare later we continue the sessions. At 10 the electricity disappears and now I realize the motivation of the new members. They write their proposals and discuss around the Empowering Africa Program without light and air condition using their phones as torches. We finish the content at around 11.30pm. The party on the second night is way nicer, we leave around 4, joking the whole night. In fact noone had a beer to much, its an amazing dicipline and family feeling.

Throughout the conference I really connect to one of the MC members in TZ, his main motto “Life was meant to be so easy, its only humans who are trying to make it complicated” makes us laugh at different times.

I sleep from 6, just to make sure people have left the hotel at 8 to go back to the conference room.

After delivering last content we close the conference with personal discovery and inspirational speeches. People are tired, the newies are not used to our way of working and partying yet. So last mobilizations for roll-calls (dances) and then we go for the group picture (picture).

Post Conference Fun

The delegates leave around 2 for a beach and old town trip.

The MC of TZ asks me to join them for something else:

Another large east african conference is supposed to take place in February, we go and visit the probable venue. A danish biologist opened a school centre and created a unique and sustainable paradise. I am lost standing on the beach, watching the waves and feel like in a movie scene. But before we dare to dream, we need to discuss: How can we as students contribute to the local community in order for them to allow 300 youths to come to their village for 5 days?

He invites us for fruits and beer, we stay until past seven before we hesitantly (sana!) go back to the ferry.

So we finally get on the ferry and try finding a space. All seats are occupied so with a friend I decide to just camp with my Kanga on deck, the locals do the same. Is way cooler than inside the ship and as we expect people to get nauseous, its better to be in fresh air. I realize that I had slept 9 hours in the last 4 nights and just sleep on the uncomfortable flor until we arrive at 6. At least nobody steps on me and the people who have to vommit use their paperbags. Life was meant to be so easy.

Back in Dar

In the evening we have a three hour post meeting to discuss our logistical challenges, suggest changes to agenda and sessions for next time. I have the feeling that there is a great talent pipeline in AIESEC Tanzania and the years to come will see great growth.

That night I finally sleep for 10 hours (interrupted only be the heat and a short trip to the bus to drop of the first Kenyans who leave…). I get the chance to read emails (free wireless LAN at the Uni of Dar es Salaam) for 3 hours. I reply the most important of my 204 new messages. Work seems to go well in Nairobi. People say they miss me and I should come home quickly, otherwise they come and get me. I send invites to two events for the upcoming weekend and then return to my Dar reality… Fruits, talking to people, mosques calling for prayers everywhere, nice meat, Fries in eggs (Chips Mayai) lots of dust on the road. Somehow I think the traffic infrastructure is better than in Nairobi, but there is no music in the matatus (which they call DallaDalla and who cost 250 T-Shings whereever you go).

Someones who plans a trip ot Kenya, ask me via email whether reports are true that african toilets are squat seats, full of urin and water on the floor and dont have doors. I laugh out loud and read it to my friends. They are actually offended and disappointed by such a report about their continent. But I realized long ago that “Africa” (Pls refer again to the article) is large and diverse when you are there, but looks tiny on the map and in the eye of large parts of the west.

Another day goes by like this, small shopping here and there, visiting dorm rooms and talking to members. We strategize how Kenya and TZ and woFood and always lots of cold water. Anyways this city is to hot and now I estimate 80 itchy spots on my body. Going back to Nairobi with highland climate sounds alluring and yet so boring.

The last night we spend talking outside the house on the couch, watching the ful moon behind the palm trees. Having beer we forget the time. Life was meant to be so easy!

So today it is wednesday and I am in the bus back to Nairobi. The day starts at 5.35, that alarm bell did not do its job. The bus is supposed to leave at 6, real quick shower, the two guys take my bag, we run trough a tropical rain to the taxis and of to the busstage. “Mama, Twende”, says fthe employer of DarExpress, when ticking my name on his list (at least he does not call me Mzungu!)

Goodbye to my two friends, see you for christmas or the next conference in February. Thanks for the invitation and will deinitely only say positive things. Yes, will let you know when I fika Nairobi. And for sure miss you too.

I get on the bus, 6.30, we leave.

How is travelling in Tanzania?

When our bus (DarExpress, 50,000 TSh) queues for a police stop, around 30 sellers of gods come to sell biscuits, cold water, shoes, fruits or eggs. You simply buy through the window. My neighbour brings fried Sweet Banana, without a word passes me a piece and continues staring in the other direction. When I ask him whether he is full, he says no. In Africa food has to be shared, so I eat anyways. Its tamu (“sweet” which equals tasty), by the way 🙂

The heat makes me fall asleep and around 10.30 we stop for early lunch break at a restaurant. 2 Chapatis (500 TSh each) and a big bottle of water (1000), then I prepare myself for bargaining with the fruit sellers. 4 Mangos and 6 Tangerines for 1000 TSh, there is nothing much to discuss..

Oh, the toilets. No water on the floor. I am happy not to find a regular toilet, as squatting to me seems more clean anyways. But I find paper, for free and a hook to put my bag. Am really thinking hard about how this continent is presented in western guidebooks.

We continue with our trip through rural areas, different beautiful leandscapes, pass Arusha at 3.30 where we pick up a very annoying preacher until we reach Namanga and the border at 5.30. Kwaheri Tanzania, niko sure nitarudi!

More pics here: http://journals.worldnomads.com/beth_king/gallery/19950.aspx

A challenge to the new Age

18 Nov

Change Agent

By Halima Murunga

Africa the land of contrasts, where hunger bequeaths the poor and obesity plagues the rich.

Gone are the days of the revolutionary youth who fought for change, in with the youth who only listens passively to the problems of the community, caring only for themselves not for their neighbor. ‘That’s their problem.’

We live in the age of materialism, shielded from any thought of poverty, war, and hunger. The screen being the only window into the other side of the income divide.

Concerned with new gadgets, fashion and hedonism, not concerned that most of us are denied the necessities of life, food, shelter and clothing.

We live in the age of information, the internet, mobiles and social networking not aware the people around us are denied information because of their income and status in society.

Healthcare for the rich is a necessity, the poor man life is expendable, just a statistic.

The politician only shouts for change, preaches integrity, yet his fodder is the public treasury.

Over 60% of our population languishes in poverty. Deny a man his rights and one day he will fight back in anger. Election violence was not just political outburst, but an outcry for change in society.

2012 awaits. Are you going to change the imbalance our society or sit in your house as you watch your country burn.

Be the change and lets not keep this continent God’s blind spot.

A challenge to the new Age

18 Nov

Change Agent

By Halima Murunga

Africa the land of contrasts, where hunger bequeaths the poor and obesity plagues the rich.

Gone are the days of the revolutionary youth who fought for change, in with the youth who only listens passively to the problems of the community, caring only for themselves not for their neighbor. ‘That’s their problem.’

We live in the age of materialism, shielded from any thought of poverty, war, and hunger. The screen being the only window into the other side of the income divide.

Concerned with new gadgets, fashion and hedonism, not concerned that most of us are denied the necessities of life, food, shelter and clothing.

We live in the age of information, the internet, mobiles and social networking not aware the people around us are denied information because of their income and status in society.

Healthcare for the rich is a necessity, the poor man life is expendable, just a statistic.

The politician only shouts for change, preaches integrity, yet his fodder is the public treasury.

Over 60% of our population languishes in poverty. Deny a man his rights and one day he will fight back in anger. Election violence was not just political outburst, but an outcry for change in society.

2012 awaits. Are you going to change the imbalance our society or sit in your house as you watch your country burn.

Be the change and lets not keep this continent God’s blind spot.