Looking for a Few Good People

by francine Hardaway on September 14, 2004

One of the most disturbing things about the recent political scene is how people are beginning to think about Americans. It’s not the first time people have disliked us, Europe’s impressions in the 50’s gave rise to a best seller called “The Ugly American.” But that American was a tourist with a camera and no appreciation of the arts.

This year’s ugly American is much more complicated. I just emerged from a meeting with a Canadian who told me that Canadians often tell each other not to do business with Americans because they sue each other all day long. That’s the tip of a very big iceberg floating toward us. Below it is the entire Arab community, some more Europeans, etc.

I fight this unilaterally by travelling as much as I can afford and learning all I can about other countries. This year, I’m going to Africa from February 17 to March 1. Uganda and Rwanda, to be specific. But this time I’m not going by myself, like I went to India. This time, I want to take a few people with me

Since it’s founding, I’ve been on the board of Foundation for Global Leadership, a not-for-profit designed to strengthen leadership worldwide to better ensure sustainable development and democracy.

FGL has an International Leadership Initiatives (ILI)program that provides opportunities for American business leaders to engage in shared learning and dialogue and encourage innovative collaboration through global alliances and partnerships. FGL has held two ILI’s so far: a South African Leadership Safari, April 2003, chaired by former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods and the recent East African Leadership Safari (Uganda and Rwanda), February 2004, chaired by businesswoman Eileen Rogers.

Results of both ILI�s include 3 significant partnerships, ongoing shared learning and correspondence between ILI delegates and African colleagues. This kind of dialogue and collaboration, IMHO, are what we need to live in a global world. So I have finally decided to lead a delegation on a trip (you may remember that I tried to go last year, but when my dog bit the neighbor’s dog a half hour before I was supposed to leave, I decided the karma wasn’t good and cancelled the trip).

This time I am going. I have already told the dog.

I’m also looking for a few friends (can’t take more than twelve) to share the experience with.

This is not a decision like “hey, let’s all go to Vegas.” It requires international air travel, visas, vaccinations, and probably travel insurance. It’s pretty spendy: probably about $4000 even if you have miles. But if you want to do something you will probably never get a chance to do again in your life — J’Lein Liese, who directs FGL, has extensive contacts in Africa and you don’t go as a tourist, but as a guest of the government — it’s a don’t miss.

It starts with a jet lag release day, white water rafting down the Nile. I plan to go, like Cleopatra, by barge.
Beginning at the source of the legendary Nile River, you will raft 29 kilometers of class III-V rapids through breathtaking, lush, untouched scenery. The clean, warm Nile river is perfect for swimming during the calm stretches between rapids and bird watching is abundant. For lunch, we stop at a small privately owned island in the middle of Nile whose only inhabitants are large Monitor lizards.

Small villages of local Ugandans live along the river, and we will see daily life in motion, something I really look for when I travel.

Although this is an exciting experience, this part of the Nile has become controversial.

The World Bank is anticipating developing a new dam to better serve the energy needs of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. However, environmentalists argue that building the dam would not only end the opportunity to experience the Nile from its Source, but many of the extraordinary natural waterfalls and surrounding areas will no longer exist. Most importantly, the building of a dam would call for the relocation of local farmers and village communities. The law of unintended consequences at work.

After that, we go to work.

Uganda: The Path to Democracy and Economic Empowerment
In Uganda, we will spend the first day meeting with UN representatives, political leaders and visiting the extraordinary work of non-governmental organizations (NGO�s) that has made Uganda one of Africa�s premier models for democracy and HIV/AIDS prevention.

We will have two tracks for site visits: Health and Education or Micro-Enterprise and Economic Development. You get to choose where you go: AIDS orphanages, micro-credit/ entrepreneurial development projects, family income generating projects, health clinics, schools and women development projects.

Our hosts include:
The United Nations Population Fund
The African Youth Alliance
Opportunities International
World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations

After that, we play again with a visit to Mewya Safari Lodge at Queen Elizabeth Park, where we can see lion, elephant, leopard, hippo, hyena etc�) We go on a game drive, and a boat ride on the Kazinga Channel, which has
incredible bird life, crocodiles and hippos.

Then we go Chimp Trekking (don’t ask me what that is, becauseI have no idea) at Kyambura Gorge and for a forest walk in the Maramagambo forest.

Then we go to Rwanda. The seven hour drive takes you through small African villages and the beautiful mountains, with step farming internationally known as the Switzerland of Africa. We will have a photo op at the Equator and then check into a hotel and tour. the small town of Ruhengeri, Rwanda. We will also learn about Rwanda�s reconstruction efforts and first democratic election since the 1994 genocide.

More trekking, this time with (or for) gorillas at Parcs Volcans Nationale. Fewer than 600 gorillas are left in the wild. The mountain gorillas do not survive in captivity. Delegates will learn the about the efforts to preserve these amazing animals who share 97% of human DNA as well as the complexities entailed by anticipated human population growth (Rwanda currently has a population of 8 million expected to double in 15 years � the tiny country is the size of Massachusetts).

Apparently, trekking is rigorous! You could trek anywhere from 30 minutes to ten hours through dense, untouched foliage, on a 60 degree vertical up the side of the volcano to find these amazing primates. Once you find the gorillas, you will be allowed one hour for viewing. Although sometimes these curious friends like to come close to you, your guide will ask that you keep at least 7 feet away from the gorillas as they are susceptible to all human diseases and ailments. Never mind us. We’re vaccinated; they’re not.

So we go to the capital of Rwanda, transfer to Nairobe, eat in a fancy restaurant that serves ten kinds of game meat, and then fly home.

When we get home, the work begins. When I came back from India, I formed a collaboration with Jiva.org, a foundation in Hyderabad that creates curricula in critical thinking skills for Indian elementary schools, and provides medical consultations to rural villages through an innovative Teledoc program. This foundation raises money partly by selling Ayruvedic products over the Internet at www.ayurbuyer.com. I’m giving them marketing and product development advice on a volunteer basis, in exchange for getting to try all their great products (I’m drinking Slim Tea).

I’m going to find my new African partner. There will be at least one American they like.

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