World Citizen
Blog Home All Blogs
Search all posts for:   

 

Top tags: Member spotlight  teaching  vietnam 

Rwanda – From Civil War to an African Role Model?

Posted By IRC, Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The east African state of Rwanda has mostly been associated with very negative impressions. Rwanda of the 1990s was characterized by genocide during a civil war between Hutus and Tutsis, deriving from long-standing socio-ethnic tensions. In contrast, modern Rwanda seems to write a very different story. It is often perceived as an African role model for success, sometimes even compared to the rise of Singapore. While the world bank praised Rwanda’s “remarkable development successes”, it can be assessed that Rwanda experienced an enormous upheaval in the last decades. The GDP has risen steadily from 2.39 Dollars 1994 to 32,26 in 2020 and an average GDP Growth between 5 and 9 % in the last years made Rwanda to one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. It can be observed that life quality has improved massively as life expectancy increased from 27 years (1994) to 68 years (2018) and the literacy rate, as well as the quality of education, has massively improved. Rwanda established a universal healthcare system which is considered as one of the best in Africa, covering more than 90% of its population. This tremendous development is particularly impressive as the landlocked country of Rwanda is surrounded by the rather unstable states of South Sudan, Congo and consists of few natural resources. 

It can be observed that the success story consists of distinct elements which are integrated in the grand national development program Vision 2020. In coordination with the UN Millennium development goals, this program aims to “overcome the deep rift in Rwandan society” which erupted during the 1994 massacre, with new common goals. Moreover, it also established a promising prospectus for donor countries and private investors to offer the necessary funds for the socio-economic transformation of the country. Central to this plan is the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) which consists of Economic transformation (1.), rural development (2.), productivity and growth (3.), as well as employment and accountable governance (4.). 

It can be observed that agriculture remains the backbone of the economy and the driver for its transformation. The massive redistribution of land introduced a huge modernization and commercialization of the sector leading to more efficient production. The systematic export of Cash-crops supported by the Crop Intensification Program (CIP) provided the necessary currency revenue for the fundamental transformation of Society and Economy. As outlined in the development plan, Rwanda started to establish a Knowledge-based economy grounded on scientific and technological progress. These aims have been supported by massive investments in education, trade liberalization, Improvements in investment protection, the removal of administrative barriers and better access to credit. The Rwandan Government made huge investments in infrastructure projects such as the Kigali Convention Centre, which make Kigali to one of Africa’s most favorite conference destinations.  Located almost in the centre of sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda has reinvented itself as a supraregional business Hub. The economic liberalization is here accompanied by an increased global orientation, illustrated by the massive investments in Airports and the national Airline RwandAir. 

These fundamental economic changes have been also accompanied by a social transformation. Due to the murder of about 80% of the male population in the civil war, women have become a pivotal element in Rwandan society contributing massively to the success. Moreover, shrinking demand for labour in the agricultural sector led to a massive population shift into the cities where the cheap labour provided the needed workforce and further incentives for investors. Strategic relocation projects helped to transform poorer areas and advanced the urbanization of the country. It can be pointed out that Rwanda’s development is not only quantitative, but it is also built on sustainability. This can be illustrated by the government approach to Ban Plastic Bags or Umuganda, a mandatory national cleaning day. 

However, all these developments still lie in the shadow of an authoritarian system which is very much concentrated on the personality and policy of President Kagame. This lack of institutional power, as well as the fact that incomes in Rwanda rank still among the lowest in the world, are the drawbacks of its success. While It seems that the country has already established the central fundament for a successful development Rwanda is still facing a couple of economic and political challenges. The Continuing dependency on development aid as well as the question of succession and political orientation after President Kagame will need to be managed to provide a bright future for the country.

 

Footnotes

1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/452123/gross-domestic-product-gdp-in-rwanda/
2. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=RW
3. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN?locations=RW
4. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/health/policy/15rwanda.html?_r=1
5. https://www.politikaspolecnost.cz/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Rwandas-Economic-Growth-and-Development-IPPS.pdf
6. UNDP 2008
7. https://www.kas.de/en/web/auslandsinformationen/artikel/detail/-/content/modell-ruanda-
8.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335023621_RWANDA_IS_IT_A_SUCCESS_STORY_OR_EXAGGERATED_DEVELOPMENT_HISTORY
9. Jones, A., 2002. Gender and genocide in Rwanda. Journal of Genocide Research, 4(1), pp.65-94.
10. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/world/africa/rwandans-carry-on-side-by-side-two-decades-after-genocide.html

About the Author
Coming Soon

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Member Spotlight: Pritha Hariharan

Posted By IRC, Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pritha Hariharan was born in India and has now lived in the United States for 23 years, where she now calls Kansas City home. Pritha joined the IRC in September 2017 and has attended several events as a member and has presented as a discussion leader for a Lexicon: Bite-size Language Intros event, in which she taught Hindi.

She has worked for Unbound for five years, where she has the pleasure of serving as the international program director for Asia and Africa, and previously the regional director for Asia. Pritha’s favorite part about her job is the opportunity to get to work with different cultures, getting to travel, and being able to make an impact in the world. She says it is rewarding to know that her work is helping others in the world; even if it is a “small role in the reduction of poverty, it is important to be a part of the change.”

Unbound works with 19 countries and focuses their work on children and elderly living in extreme poverty. Pritha and her team are able to help members of a community by providing sponsorships and grants to areas that could use the money to better their environments. In providing grants to these communities, they are given new opportunities and a chance at bettering  living conditions to create a healthier and more supportive atmosphere. 

Before the pandemic, Pritha and her colleagues at Unbound had the ability to travel and visit staff and families overseas. With travel restrictions and safety in mind, they have been focusing on new ways to maintain contact with those they are helping and look forward to developing other ways of staying in touch. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about Pritha and Unbound’s work, check out their website at Unbound.org and learn about potential sponsorships under the “Sponsor” tab. 

At the IRC, we are glad to have Pritha as a member as she shares her unique experiences and perspectives with the community.


Tags:  Member spotlight 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Member Spotlight: Claire E. Bishop

Posted By IRC, Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Claire E. Bishop joined the International Relations Council as a member this past October. She joined the IRC in hopes of making new connections with people who share interest in global perspectives, international relations, world history, and global affairs. Claire currently serves as the Executive Director and COO at American Public Square at Jewell, where the organization focuses on improving the tone and quality of public discourse in the Kansas City community. She also has previous experience working with a global nonprofit based in Kansas City, called Children International, where she served as the senior executive in marketing.

Claire is eager to see American Public Square host their panel about immigration that was rescheduled due to the global pandemic. While the event hasn’t been set for a certain date yet, she hopes to see the panel presented in Fall of 2020, where at least part of it can be in-person
sessions. She feels that their work at APS “is a nice complement to the IRC’s work in our community for residents who wish to be active, informed, and engaged in addressing pressing issues both within our country and abroad.” If you would like to get involved in the discussion about international perspectives and other global topics, check out americanpublicsquare.org to receive more information.

The IRC looks forward to building more relationships with people like Claire in the Kansas City area in order to strengthen our community’s global perspective.

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

A Step Into a New Horizon

Posted By IRC, Monday, June 15, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, June 16, 2020

As an international student barely spending less than eight months in the United States, I was beyond nervous to face a bigger and unfamiliar crowd, Midwest Model UN conference, which was far different from my small college. MMUN is an academic event/forum held annually that provides an insight on how the UN operates as well as promotes a deeper understanding of issues in connection to humanitarian, cultural, social, economic, legal and political problems that exist all over the world. By attending this program, delegates learn and develop leadership, research, public speaking, debating and so many other skills relating to diplomacy. 

I knew that with my major being International Relations and Affairs, I could not walk away from such a tremendous opportunity. This was my chance to experience and gain knowledge about the UN which I hope to work for after college. As such, I put in extra work to research and learn more about Morocco which was the country my team was representing. To me, I found it interesting and delightful learning about another African country beside mine: Ghana. 

Not only did I need to research about Morocco but also, the topic assigned to the committee I was in. Doing so creates a better connection and clarification on the stance of the country being represented. There are times that I didn’t find an instant response of how Morocco would handle an affair directly but researching about the measures/actions taken by the country led me to knowing the stance to be likely taken. 

Even though I had taken a class to prepare me for MMUN, I felt really out of place. It was a brand new experience walking into the conference. Slowly, my team and I were separated into our various committees and I was left alone. Yes, it did feel like a nightmare just walking into the fourth committee. I was shy to speak and only shared my opinions during unmoderated caucuses where my views were asked on the topics. I had just a few resolutions in mind but after I had spoken about it, I didn’t really have much to say. Instead, I decided to collaborate with other countries and build policies with them.

Toward the end of the conference, there was no room for nervousness. I formed alliances and strongly expressed the beliefs of Morocco. I was rewarded at my first conference with a wealth of knowledge that assisted me greatly. My second time at the conference was much better since I wasn’t confused and nervous like my first time. I knew more about parliamentary procedures and I spoke during both moderated and unmoderated caucuses. I had so much fun and made new friends as well as reconnected with old friends from the first conference. Attending the program certainly helps develop skills but it also helps find lifetime connections with people. Till this day, I’m still in contact with those very same friends. 

About the Author
Joan A. Dwomoh-Okudzeto is a summer volunteer intern for the International Relations Council. She is a junior at Cottey College where she is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in International Relations and a minor in History.  
 
 

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Member Spotlight: Kevin Holland

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 18, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Kevin Holland is a newer member of the IRC, joining in April of 2020. Kevin works for Lockton, headquartered here in Kansas City, where he helps clients with insurance, risk management, corporate commercial insurances, health insurance for employees, and retirement. His role with the KC multinational team means he spends significant time outside the U.S., helping with the needs of his clients’ businesses. His current role is to develop new relationships to ensure his clients have access to the best resources.

Kevin has been interested in international work for a long time and has travelled extensively both personally and for business. Since joining the IRC, Kevin has attended several programs and really enjoyed the discussion on public health infrastructure. Although Kevin is new to the IRC, he is “...eager to learn more about what the IRC does. I’m always keen to learn more about others peoples’ perspectives.”

We are excited to welcome Kevin to the IRC community!


The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in member spotlights. For more information about becoming a member of the IRC, please visit our website, and let us know if you know an IRC member who should be spotlighted.

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Member Spotlight: Letitia Harmon

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 4, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Letitia Harmon has been a member of the IRC since 2014 and has served as a conversation leader for the IRC’s News & Views program series.

 

Letitia’s academic career began at University of Washington in Seattle where she studied International Relations. Since then, from Kuwait, where she worked to address penal code reform to support women, to education programs in a refugee camp in Kenya and work in India and Nepal, Letitia has supported human rights efforts around the world.

 

Letitia has been generous with her time in a volunteer capacity, as well. Besides contributing to the International Relations Council, Letitia has been especially moved by the challenges facing refugees, including individuals arriving in Kansas City. She highlights the value of organizations such as KC for Refugees and underscores the importance of educational opportunities and quality-of-life issues in working with diverse populations.

 

Though her current work at Johnson County Community College does not take her overseas, Letitia appreciates the opportunity the IRC offers to stay engaged in the big picture. She mentions the IRC's 2016 visit of Ambassador Dina Kuwar, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations, and the 2018 visit of Sarah Margon, then-Washington director for Human Rights Watch, as two IRC programs she found particularly interesting.

 

We value Letitia's involvement with the International Relations Council and appreciate the international perspective she offers.

 

The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in member spotlights. For more information about becoming a member of the IRC, please visit our website, and let us know if you know an IRC member who should be spotlighted.

Tags:  Member spotlight 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

A Peak Behind the Washington Curtain

Posted By IRC, Monday, April 13, 2020

I went to Washington from the heart of the Midwest – from Kansas City, where I’ve named my car Dorothy and where, as you know, we don’t really have swamps, real or fabled. I, like many other student interns, had no idea what to expect last summer. I researched and I prepared, but when I arrived on the doorstep of Washington I really only knew just how badly I wanted to excel. 

I was set to intern at the Association of Diplomatic Studies & Training (ADST), a nonprofit which records the oral histories of diplomats and their family members, facilitates the preparation and publication of diplomatic books and memoirs, and supports the work of the Foreign Service Institute. I’ve known that I want to be a diplomat for years – but what is a diplomat? How do you become one? Like many of the careers in the capitol, there’s no recipe to follow, no linear path. But through my internship, I was fortunate enough to figure some of it out, spending my entire summer deeply immersed in the experiences of American diplomats across history. I helped conduct interviews with retired diplomats, researched through archives, and became familiar not only with the process of conducting and saving valuable oral histories, but with State Department culture, protocol, and personnel. 

As I helped ADST produce its “Moments In Diplomatic History,” I got to know the stories of diplomats like William, who organized a national tour of the United States for Soviet astronauts in 1969. Of Margaret, who, prior to her diplomatic career, worked as NBC’s first female radio correspondent during WWII. There was Robert, who found a unique way to keep snow plowed at the American embassy in Moscow.  Judith, who stood in as an understudy for the American First Lady at an international conference. Then there was Bruce, who survived the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and Jan, who fought for the rights of LGBTQ people in the federal government. 

With each one of the incredible stories I read or heard or wrote about, I got to develop my knowledge of and passion for diplomacy. My work reinforced for me the value of documenting those singular moments of drama, strength, hardship, or humor that we all have in our lives. When I spent a summer in the south of France once, I said I felt like I was living in a painting -- when I spent my summer in Washington, I said I felt like I was living in history. 

Looking back, I can say with great confidence that my experience was nothing short of amazing – serendipitous, even. I even came back with my very own unique “Moment in Diplomatic History” that perhaps, if I’m lucky, some intern will write about one day. A few weeks in, I was invited by my mentor to tour her workplace. I happened to have a networking event in her building that morning, so the timing could not have been more perfect. After my event, she escorted me upstairs, showed me the conference rooms, personally introduced me to the other staff members, and took a few minutes to show me her boss’ personal office. 

That building was the Department of State Headquarters -- that boss, the Secretary of State. There I was, Dorothy from Kansas, standing in the middle of Mahogany Row, in rooms where treaties are signed, bilateral negotiations are held, and where foreign dignitaries visit for tea -- where few normally go, let alone a contractor’s intern. Yet for a few moments, I was able to take a peek behind the curtain -- and as it turns out, this wizard has a mini-fridge exclusively dedicated to Diet Cokes, Kansas memorabilia in his office, and some of the same books on foreign relations on his shelves as I do on mine. As it turns out, Oz and home actually have quite a bit in common.

About the Author
Natalie Friend is an IRC Global Education Intern and a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, where she triple-majored in International Studies, French, and Political Science. Her primary areas of interest are diplomacy and international conflict negotiation. Her regional interest in Northern Africa was inspired by eight years of classroom French and a summer studying abroad in France alongside a year and a half of Modern Standard Arabic and a regional specialization in the Middle East. While at the university, she was heavily involved in residential student leadership initiatives, the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honorary Society, and international student mentorship and outreach programs like the International Culture Team. Natalie has previously interned in Washington D.C. for the Association of Diplomatic Studies & Training, an oral histories nonprofit that works directly with former State Department employees. In her free time this spring, Natalie is looking forward to spending time with her family, exploring her newfound passion for yoga, and studying for the Foreign Service Exam.

 

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

What Five Geopolitical Books Can You Recommend Reading While Social Distancing?

Posted By IRC, Monday, April 6, 2020

Mental health professionals with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the European Union’s – Mental Health Europe, have similarly emphasized the importance of maintaining good mental health and positive wellbeing to better cope with the current COVID-19 threat, and the uncertainty it’s creating for the future. But, the mental health professionals have a prescription for us to assiduously follow during these trying times: 

  • Take periodic breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about COVID-19 – including on social media, as hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting 

  • Get plenty of exercise and sleep

  • Make time to unwind

  • Engage in spiritual pursuits, such as meditation or prayer

  • Take time to connect with others, and talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling 

However, our new imposed isolation also means that those of us who participate in the International Relations Council’s Great Decisions discussion groups are saddened that our ‘face-to-face’ conversations have been temporarily curtailed due to the current necessity for social distancing. Nevertheless, we can still read edifying books regarding foreign policy issues and engage in spirited online exchanges of ideas and opinions!

It is with this ethos in mind, I have resolved to take this opportunity to read five geopolitical (and/or historical and economic) books that have intrigued me, but I hadn’t the opportunity to crack open before now. Let’s keep the greater Kansas City community connected, reading, and discussing important world issues. The following are my list of the five geopolitical books I intend to devour in the next few months. I look forward to seeing what topical Great Decisions type books are on your shelves.

Dis United Nations: The Scramble for Power in an Ungoverned World, by Peter Zeihan

“For decades, America’s allies have depended on its might for their economic and physical security. But as a new age dawns; the results will surprise everyone…the world has gotten so accustomed to the “normal” of an American-dominated order that we have all forgotten the historical norm: several smaller, competing powers and economic systems throughout Europe and Asia.”. 

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World by Tim Marshall

“All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas, and concrete...Marshall examines Russia, China, the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Western Europe, Japan, Korea, and Greenland and the Artic – their climates, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders – to provide a context often missing from political reportage.”

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

“Most experts already say that AI will have a devastating impact on blue-collar jobs. But Lee predicts that Chinese and American AI will have a strong impact on white-collar jobs as well. Is universal income the solution? In Lee’s opinion, probably not. But he provides a clear description of which jobs will be affected and how soon, which jobs can be enhanced with AI, and most important, how we can provide solutions to some of the most profound changes in human history that are coming soon.”

 Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes

“People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Ultimately, the history of these challenges tells the story of humanity itself.”   

Coffee: A Dark History by Antony Wild

“Today, coffee chains spread like wildfire, coffee-producing countries are in crisis: with prices at a historic low, they are plagued by unprecedented unemployment, abandoned farms, enforced migration, and massive social disruption. Bridging the gap between coffee’s dismal colonial past and its perilous corporate present, Coffee reveals the shocking exploitation that has always lurked at the heart of the industry.”   

“Buona lettura. Ciao!”   

About the Author

Sean P. Quinlan is a graduate of Tulane University, where he received his M.A. degree in Political Economy, and is currently pursuing an M.A. degree in Intelligence and National Security Studies at The Citadel Military College of South Carolina.

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Vietnam on a Whim

Posted By IRC, Monday, March 23, 2020

Ever listen to someone’s future plans and think to yourself, “Wow… they're out of their mind…” ?


That’s what I thought when Dylan told me that he was going to go to Vietnam to teach English for a year. I remember telling him “Wow man, you’re crazy.” At that point, I was drowning in my own thoughts of what I would do come graduation, but I could tell you with 95 percent confidence that traveling to Vietnam was not in the cards for me. 


Graduation came and went and I was working during the summer as an intern in New York City. The internship was temporary and I still didn't know what lay ahead for me and my brand-new B.A. in Psychology. Slowly, this idea that Dylan had told me about crept into my head and became a bit more intriguing. I mean, why not travel across the world to a strange country, right? To a place I didn't know a whole lot about, where they speak a language I’ve never even heard, and a place I have heard about my entire life, but only in the context of a vicious war. Not to mention I had never taught anything in my life. With all of these thoughts rattling around by brain, I came to the conclusion that I might as well take a step outside my own head and see for myself if I could rise to the challenge of facing these fears. 


Long story short, I booked a one way flight to Vietnam with four other friends from school.


In some twisted way, it ended up making more sense for me to find a job in a country other than the United States. Whether I like it or not, I have always had a knack for making decisions that take me down a path of resistance, and this decision was no different. Working in a foreign country came with a lot of pros and cons.

Pros:
1. 
Finding a job was relatively easy, contrary to popular belief. I was advised to post in a Facebook group explaining my teaching credentials and what not. Within a few hours, my inbox was exploding with job offers.

2. Once I was comfortable with the fact that I was living 8,000 miles from home, things became normal. After living in Vietnam for a month or two, I felt as though I wasn’t a tourist anymore. This is not to say that I still wasn't a foreigner and was still largely oblivious to the vibrant Vietnamese culture. This was more a feeling of being comfortable no longer feeling dumbfounded by my surroundings.

3. Teaching was an incredibly rewarding experience (when classes went well). The thought of standing up in front of a group of kids to teach is a daunting one, however when I was able to connect with students and see their progress, then it reaffirmed my decision to undertake this once “crazy endeavor.”


Cons:

1. Jumping through the legal hoops in order to work legally was tedious. Just making sure that all the documents were in place with the correct stamps and legal jargon was confusing.

2. Not speaking the language (I’ll explain in the next paragraph).


Teaching English as a foreign language is an interesting thing. In theory it’s easy – you are placed in a classroom to teach the language you have been speaking your entire life. Easy. The problem I ran into very quickly, was that I did not speak Vietnamese. This was a hurdle that was expected, however may be overlooked. The company I worked for recommended that I only speak English to the students, and for some of the stronger classes this worked just fine. However, my younger students, aged 6-8, (predictably) struggled with their listening and self-discipline abilities when I gave directions. But, I mean you can’t blame them, what would you do if some strange 23 year old was telling you to do something in a completely foreign language.


While in Vietnam, we all struggled a bit with what we were doing there. My friends and I were one of many in an English-speaking expat community. I thought a lot about what other people might think, considering that I decided to “travel” the year after graduating college. Ultimately, what I realized is this. Yes, I decided to travel after graduation. Did I have what is considered a “real job”? No. And will people ask how “cultured” I am now that I’ve lived in a foreign country for half a year? Probably. However, I was able to travel to the other side of the world and sustain a life out there on my own dime. 


So was the idea so crazy after all?

 

About the Author
Alex Entner is a 2019 graduate from Hobart and William Smith College. He recently returned from teaching in Vietnam and resides in Rhinebeck, NY. 


Tags:  teaching  vietnam 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Taking a Moment to Stop and Listen

Posted By IRC, Monday, March 16, 2020
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2020

It is safe to say that taking a solo trip abroad is a daunting, yet rewarding experience. It is a challenge I decided to take following graduating from undergrad. While traveling abroad alone is not unique as more and more recent graduates seek similar travel experiences, one particular encounter I had while walking in Germany has stuck with me ever since.

I was in Freiburg, Germany as one of my stops on my trip. While looking to do touristy things as any good tourist does, I heard of a gondola which takes riders up a hill in the Black Forest for some remarkable views. I met a fellow traveler from Australia who happened to be looking for the same gondola. After some planning we set off to where we believed the gondola was located. We first took a ten-minute train ride to a small town just outside of Freiburg, and believing it was only a short walk away, we set off on foot.  

After 20 minutes of walking, we still did not know where the gondola was located. We soon found ourselves outside the small town, walking by a field with one last house on the other side of it. We came upon the house and a dog was barking at us from behind the fence.  Rather surprisingly, an elderly woman walked out of her house, through her front gate, and approached us. At first, my travel companion and I looked at each other as if we were about to be scolded. However, the woman quickly smiled and asked us how our day was. At the time, my German was good enough to say hello, and explain who we were and what we were doing there.  

Thirty minutes later we were all still talking as I tried my best to translate what the woman was saying to my new friend from Australia. The woman often apologized for not speaking English as she told us about her childhood, growing up in the midst of WWII. It was fascinating to hear about her experiences and perspectives as a German citizen during the war. I was also surprised at her openness to talk to us about her life and share her story with complete strangers from different countries. We both shared a bit of our stories as well, but her story was far more interesting.

Eventually, I asked if she knew where the gondola was. She told us it was another fifteen-minute walk, but we were beginning to run short of time before the gondola closed. Luckily, a bus was coming down the road and she kindly flagged it down for us. When we finally arrived, we barely had enough time to ride to the top, take a few photos and head back down before the gondola closed. 

As we left and stepped onto the bus, I quickly turned and took a photo of the house. I hardly remember all the details of the day beyond our conversation. It was a valuable lesson to take the time and listen to people’s story, particularly from people of different backgrounds. Since then, when I encounter an opportunity to hear someone’s perspective, I make an effort to stop and listen. The real value of that day was not the views from the gondola, but the insightful conversation with someone happy to share their story with us.

About the Author
Michael Bené is currently the International Relations Council's Project Management intern, and a Law student and a Master’s student in Economics at the University of Kansas.

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 
Page 1 of 13
1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  >   >>   >|