Our Guest Writer is George E. Ngwane. He is a writer, poet, peace activist, educationist, political analyst, Pan Africanist and founder/Executive Director of AFRICAphonie. He is a Rotary Peace Fellow Batch 18 and awardee of other outstanding fellowships around the world. He writes political commentary, engages in debates and dialogues, and ardent passionate participant of the peace and transformational challenges in Cameroon. You can follow him at www.gngwane.com.
Every year, the Rotary International awards the Rotary Peace Fellowship to outstanding community leader from all over the world to come to Bangkok, Thailand and participate in a month-long Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies with outstanding colleagues of peace advocates and internationally acclaimed teachers and instructors. The deadline for 2019-2020 cohort is on 31 May. Please visit the website at https://my.rotary.org/en/peace-fellowship-application.
By George Ngwane
What can I say about my first week in BKK as a Rotary Peace Fellow?
Well, I remember that after being dropped off from the airport by my house counselor (the generous Abdu with whom I still have telephone contacts), I went to my Room 18 and came out in the evening to have a feel of Chula by night. It was at the shopping mall near our International house.
Dazzled by the shimmering lights and lost in awesome wonder of the gigantic buildings, I hardly noticed the welcome shrill of three tall ladies. It must have been Wendy, Jelena and a third person but Wendy recognised me as one of the Fellows because I was wearing the famous green, red, and yellow jersey that has made my country Cameroon the quintessence of the glory of world class football ( never mind if this is being replaced by the gory tales of a national conflict). Yes, Wendy came across to me at that moment not just as a cheerful and caring "mama" ( remember she is married to my own namesake Jorge) but one with an eagle's eye for details( remember how she would with tears of sympathy meticulously talk us through her child-centered peace education project). The ladies invited me for a drink but believe it or not I am shy at spontaneous acquaintances even if I get stuck to relationships for a long time. I am also more of an introvert and BKK got me thinking most of the time why Africa's infrastructural development had become stalled. It was the venerated Kenyan Professor Ali Mazrui who said that while other countries were already going to the moon we Africans still do not have roads to our villages (Oops!! sorry already delving in politica). Well, I politely turned down the drink offer under the guise that I was trying to talk to myself in the quiet of my soul and in the utter sound of silence.
I then retired to what I thought would be the comfort of my AC room but my uninvited guests of mosquitoes and tropical heat had another conversation with me which lasted till the wee hours of the morning. To my room neighbours Jelena, Elma and Francine, this must be where the journey of snoring train began. I always thank you for your kind accommodation and elastic understanding.
I got up in the morning to meet with our Course Coordinator. After passing through the front office with a bevy of ladies all in unison shouting welcome! welcome!, I nearly barged into the office of the Ajang,(difficult to throw away this macho mentality that the boss must be a man). Helas, the charm yet firmness and the gentleness yet authority of a lady spontaneously lured me into the chambers of what became for three months the office of Jenn, our course Coordinator. Like a typical headmistress who knows all her pupils' names by heart she shouted "George from Cameroon, welcome, how was your flight?, when did you arrive?". Which question was I to answer first?. Anyway after all the niceties of meeting and greeting she conducted me with military precision (I could not keep up pace with her fast steps) to our lecture room and our finger room. It was in the finger room that I met Dickson. Jenn had not finished introducing both of us to each other when I am sure to her pleasant bewilderment Dickson hugged me like we had already met somewhere in Nairobi or Douala. That warm ubuntu embrace of Dickson served as a connector between us even when there were obvious scenes of dividers. Next personality to get into the finger room was the tall gentleman whose sense of humour always brought comic relief to our sometimes stressful lectures. Yes, Sjors gave me another warm Dutch hug and I knew I was in Chula in the company of classmates, friends and soulmates.
I cannot believe it was three years ago because our interaction is still as warm as the Indian breeze and our thoughts on each other still remain as fresh as the river Nile. Like we say back here in Africa, mountains do not meet but (wo)men do.