The first full day with all of the 2011 Fellows was awesome. Open minds and open conversations permeated the atmosphere. Friendships were quickly formed. What was interesting was the number of the international Fellows that were interested in agriculture.
It is always amazing when strangers come together in a leadership atmosphere they always become friends. There is a drive and determination to learn more, do more, grow more. And when you bring people of this caliber together the level of conversation and thinking it out of this world.
I have found my partner in crime, Rhett Proctor. Rhett is from Massachusetts and is the other agriculture Fellow. There is a lot of common ground and experiences and both of us being country boys in the big city leads to having fun after hours.
Along with that it is interesting to watch kindred spirits be drawn into small groups during the conference. You have those that are more professional, those that are more reserved, and the group that likes to kick up their heels a little. Whichever group you get into, more bonding and knowledge is shared.
As usual with leadership meetings are the exercises to get to know one another. These exercises not only do that but are designed to help the group as a whole develop a common bond and sense of direction. Trying to write a six word haiku that describes you was great.
The best one I saw or hear was from Tominiyi Owolabi of Nigeria. He is a key legal advisor on financial sector reform to the Central Bank of Nigeria. His haiku was: “Frustrated lawyer. Trying to break out.” His interpretation of this was trying to escape the prison he has built around himself out of work.
Mine was “Boys, toys, dirt. Still growing up!” For those of you who know me well you are either shaking your head in agreement and or laughing. Everything I do is to help make my boys life better. I love the toys on my farm from tractors to tools and my heritage, livelihood and soul is centered on my farm. As for still growing up, I am always trying to learn and I am definitely a kid at heart. Always have fun.
At lunch I had a great conversation with Anati Canca of South Africa. She sought me out (if not I would have grabbed her) and is the executive director of Technology Transfer of the Agriculture Research Council. Great conversation but never enough time.
We went through group exercises again and then the US Fellows broke away and walked to the Eisenhower Fellowships building for orientation. The conference room where my interview was held in September looked very familiar, but somehow was more inviting; less stress. The great part, receiving a key to the building, a tradition that symbolizes your home in the Eisenhower Family. Awesome!
We walked back to the hotel, dressed down, and traveled to Tom Ferguson’s home. Tom Ferguson is the EF Director of Development. Great food, good times, and wonderful conversations ensued. Mixing with everyone and being able to learn more in a relaxed atmosphere cannot be overlooked.
Another kindred spirit is Flavio Nogueira of Brazil. He has been very helpful by informing me of customs in his country and for Argentina and Uruguay as well. I hope that my travels down there will allow me to meet with him because this will probably be my closest international Fellow friend.
After the bus ride back to the hotel, Flavio, Rhett, and Omar Al-Madhi of Saudi Arabia were led astray by EF Alumni Associate and IT person Holly Logan. We went to a local watering hole to continue our conversation and bonding. What is interesting throughout my conversations with everyone are the problems are the same regardless of countries.
It was always in the back of my mind “What did I get myself into?” Well, I now have a new family. A family that is scattered around the world and would provide help at the drop of a hat. A family with similar values and concerns along with trying to find solutions to issues that are not only in their country, but issues that know no boundaries. I have truly been blessed to be a part of the Eisenhower Fellowships.