Saturday, October 15, 2011

I got to meet a pretty important person this week. Some would say it's just another Rotarian, but this guy seemed to make time stop whenever he entered a room. I know this because I awkwardly and unknowingly followed him around from place to place over the past two days. 

It is my pleasure to introduce you all to Eric Kimani, Rotary District Governor. 

His district (9200) ranges from Tanzania up through Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, all the way to Eritrea. Becoming a DG is a major accomplishment in Rotary. The reactions of most people in his presence made it feel like I was meeting a celebrity. 

I first met him when I accidentally arrived 3 minutes late to a Rotary meeting on Thursday. This is a big no-no. What could I do?? Traffic was terrible! (Do you see that excuse? I'm becoming SO Tanzanian!) Fortunately the traffic was terrible for everyone, resulting in several Rotarians trickling in after me. The DG was a guest speaker, invited to talk about his recent trip to Taiwan. He could've talked about absolutely anything, and the whole crowd would've still been completely tuned into every word.

Later on, I attended the International School of Tanganyika Interact Chartering ceremony. Can you guess who was the Guest of Honor? He again talked about his trip to Taiwan, but put a spin on it to encourage dedication from the youngsters. It was actually a great speech. He spent quite a bit of time talking about how incredible and life-changing the Rotary Scholarships have been for the youth in Rotary, which I certainly agree with. With 20+ years in Rotary, major humanitarian initiatives carried out to improve the world, and that fancy necklace to distinguish his excellence, the DG was still a very down-to-earth guy. He spent the majority of his time talking individually with the high school Interact students. 

I was lucky to sneak in for a picture with the DG and the President of the Rotaract Club of Kwanza, Chris.

The last event that I creepily followed the DG to was the biggest annual event hosted by Rotary in Dar es Salaam, the Rotary Dar Marathon. Over the past few years, this project has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various initiatives in Tanzania. This year, the Rotary Clubs of Dar es Salaam have decided to focus their efforts on building a new Children's Cancer ward at the National Government Hospital, the only children's cancer center in Tanzania. Leading up to the big day, they had already raised about $400,000 USD. 

I had a 3:45am wake-up call so I could make it across town in time to set up for the big event. I was in good company with a group of Rotaractors from the University. 

The half-marathon was awesome.... to watch. I was helping out with organizational stuff at the big meeting spot i.e. handing out tshirts and water bottles, neatly presenting 250 cases of water bottles and thousands of sodas before the crowds came through. Everyone in my section was so glad to have me helping out because I was the only one who wasn't afraid to touch the big ice blocks. All these Tanzanians thought it was cold! 

The marathon runners were really impressive. Some of the semi-professional runners completed it in 65 minutes! I don't think I could finish if you gave me four hours. It was a good time. 

I had to leave a bit early. At 7:30am, I headed back towards my part of town because I was working the rest of the day. I haven't mentioned that I've taken on a full-time volunteer opportunity. That'll be my next post... but it'll have to wait a while. I'll be bunking with lions in the Serengeti next week!

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