Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visitors from Sudan

Until this week my vision of Sudan was strife, death, poverty. My impressions came from the news, images on-line. I’d never met anyone who’d even visited Sudan, much less some who was from Sudan. All that changed Thursday evening. I had dinner with two people from Sudan who were in Los Angeles at the end of their visit to the US. They’d come to study curriculum development for their educational system.

Our dinner was the last activity of the their 10-day, three city (Boston, Washington, DC, Los Angeles) tour arranged by International Visitors Leadership program. The program is a joint effort of the National Council of International Visitors (NCIV) and the US Department of State. As a board member of the Los Angeles chapter of NCIV, the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles ( I was asked to provide hospitality for these visitors. What a great opportunity it was!

The visitors, a man and woman, both with graduate degrees, had traveled to Europe and Asia but never before to the US. By the time I saw them, they had met educators, government representatives, business people across the US.

They told me the trip changed their view of the United States and of Americans. No longer would they believe all Americans carried guns, that fights were everywhere and that all women dressed in a provocative manner. Their original vision was shaped by movies they’d seen. Now, they said, much to their surprise, they knew that wasn’t true.

And in exchange, their visit changed my view of Sudan. We shared stories of families and education, of travels and what we do to make a long flight better (we load our Kindles with books to read.). Suddenly I knew Sudan wasn’t all desolate and impoverished. It was like all countries a mixture of realities.

Thanks to the National Council of International Visitors ( we three have new (maybe expanded even improved) views of the world. We are linked to each other. Planning to exchange more visits, to stay in touch. We’ve changed our worlds and you can change yours too. Join an NCIV group near you. Help shift the view of Americans for visitors and yours of the countries they represent, the world we inhabit.

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