The flight in was pretty good. While at the airport in Kansas City, I had lunch with a lady who was also waiting for a flight. After talking, we realize our meeting was not by chance. Her sister is a founding partner of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and was the former Executive Director of the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Sadly, I wrote her contact info on a napkin and it got thrown away by accident. Darn! Hopefully, she didn’t lose my info and decides to contact me.
From KS, I head to Dallas, and then from Dallas, I stop in Miami. In these airports, I meet people from Haiti, Egypt, and Nigeria. With each person, I ask about their culture and what an everyday tourist should know before visiting their home. While each person has interesting and unique answers, there was one common theme: visitors should come open-minded and willing to learn.. Don’t assume that you (western influence) need to save them or teach them anything. I thought this was brilliant food for thought…
After leaving Miami, I am finally in Barranquilla, Colombia!
Not realizing what time the bus would pick me up from the hotel, I awake to realize that the bus had come at 7:00 am! In a panic, I rush down to the lobby and ask someone to grab a taxi for me. I am standing at the desk in the lobby when another man shares the same sentiment about needing a taxi to the Summit. We agree to split a taxi and head to the university. On the ride there, we pass a horse and buggy carrying fresh avocados. We were so close, I actually stuck my hand out and touched the buggy. Yes, I know, not safe, but I was just so tempted. Anyway, during the drive, we discuss our backgrounds and Michael shares with me that he is the winner of the Your Big Year competition. Your Big Year is a contest in which a person must travel the world for one year, and participate in community service projects for disadvantaged areas. They winner must visit 25 countries in this one-year time span.
Phenomenal. I hope to research this competition and apply.
Colombia definitely has Costa Rica beat in terms of extreme driving. If you think your car can fit, go for it. If you don't think it can’t fit, go for it anyway. There are no lines on the street, so you just cruise where you can and slam on the brakes when needed. I often wonder if that's what people feel when I drive in the States, but I think they over exaggerate.
I head to the university and sit at a table for lunch. I was starting to get nervous about my presentation. It was only two days away and I wanted to meet the person who would be presenting with me. My presentation would be following the State Secretary of Sports and Youth of Minas Gerais for Brazil, so I had big shoes to fill. By chance, the lady sitting next to me happened to be the State Secretary! We discussed our presentations, did a quick run through, and decided to check out Colombia.
We headed to the local art market and paid our taxi driver to stay with us as our personal shopper and assistant. We then ended that night at a new seafood place in town where I enjoyed fresh calamari and a few glasses of fresh squeezed blackberry juice. Scrumptious.
From all the walking yesterday, I was pretty immobile and had to stay inside the hotel. I still, even after 24 years, have yet figured out my limit in terms of endurance. Well, maybe I have and just choose to ignore it. I don’t want to miss out on anything, so I just keep pushing even if it means a day in bed later. Yeah, that doesn't make sense. ßThings Shawn need to work on!
Today is my presentation!
I had a difficult time deciding how I was going to approach my presentation, but it came together perfectly the day before after speaking with people and learning their understanding of a disability. The presentation was educational, fun, thought provoking, and received great feedback.
Unsure of the commotion, I start telling people where I am from and where I work, attend school, etc. I wanted to make sure they didn’t think I was someone important that they might have confused me for, but they hadn’t. Now my friends and I joke that I am a triple threat – big, black, and disabled – and with that combination, I am always going to draw attention. But this time, I wasn’t the biggest person there, nor the only black person, or person with a disability.
However, it is through those moments that I realized why I was there. Yes, people wanted pictures with me, but the pictures weren’t about me per se. The commotion was about what I represented to them.
Potential. Growth. Hope.
I hope to continue this journey of empowerment and education for those who need it the most. One step to do that will be through my recent appointment to the Statewide Independent Living Council. This month, Governor Brownback appointed me to this position and I am honored to serve as a Representative of my fellow Kansans with disabilities.
Our next adventure awaits in Washington, D.C.! Tomorrow I head to the district as part of a week long social media training. The training focuses on establishing online campaign for disadvantaged populations. Check it out here: NOI Training.