Last week, AIESEC Egypt hosted the third Middle East North Africa Exchange and Leadership Development Seminar, and kicked the whole thing off with a Global Village, an event that allows delegates to share aspects of their culture through food, music, pictures, or anything like that. Now, I wasn’t able to attend the conference because of school, but I was able to go to Global Village and see the twenty countries represented taking over the Corniche in Gezira. It is strange to think that it was two years ago that I was in Morocco, participating in the same thing. So much has changed since then, but its incredible to see familiar faces so much later.
(Gail from UAE and David Ziser from Kansas/Oman and me and the beautiful Denise from GT). A note on my t-shirt: My 19th birthday present from Katie Mitchell, a Ramblin’ Wreck shirt that has the song on the back – this shirt has been worn to every conference and global village I have ever attended as a member of @GT. I am in love with it.)
As there was only one delegate representing the US, which was a little disappointing, but given the financial constraints of the conference and travel to Egypt is a little understandable, we helped deck out the table. Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter and jelly, Pepsi (although I was upset that our friend from @Madison bought Pepsi and not Coke…my Atlanta roots were pained by that), a Braves hat, and as much Obama stuff as I had in my apartment. Which was cool when people asked for pictures with us, the table, the flag, and Obama’s picture.
Which brings me to the role of the Global Village – to learn about other cultures, build relationships, and use that knowledge to create conversations that may one day change the world. Which is just what Obama is doing. His message to Iran exemplifies just that, the willingness to learn about a culture, reach out to them, and begin a dialogue that will initiate change. It’s a small step towards a bigger leap, and the man keeps making me proud.
This is exactly what we need around the world – the creation of dialogue. The inclusion of two parties contributing equally to a conversation about the world. And that doesn’t just mean speaking, it means listening, too.
For example, the conflict in Israel and Palestine is many things. Complicated, important, heartbreaking, horrifying. But more than anything, I think it is something that changes in definition depending on who you ask. Before coming to Egypt, I was unsure of everything – I had read about it, and knew basics of the conflict, but my understanding of it has completely changed now. Not because I have chosen sides, but because I have had the opportunity to listen to both of them, learn from both of them. And it is increasingly frustrating to find people who refuse to initiate dialogue from a standpoint of being fair and balanced, from both sides.
If you want a different perspective of the conflict than what is usually reported in the US, check out this discussion started by an Israeli university on the role of their military in the conflict. For the full description, take a look at Haaretz, a left-leaning news center in Jerusalem. It is a step towards recognizing the need for developing an honest dialogue on both sides.