“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” –John C. Maxwell
My eyes settled on the poster at the noticeboard in the Student Common Room, located on Level Two of the Business School’s imposing building in Perth’s CBD. As I stirred my coffee, I wondered if I stood a chance of getting one of the two slots up for grabs for an international study tour to the European Business School (EBS), Germany.
Mulling over the thought that evening, I recalled the words of a former Canadian professional ice hockey player, and later coach, Wayne Gretzky, nicknamed The Great One: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” What would I lose in trying? I submitted my online application before retiring to bed that night.
I arrived at the village of Oestrich-Winkel, in the Rheingau area, southwest Germany, on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I had booked accommodation at a winery only a short walking distance from the EBS Schloss campus. Most other students on the program, all from business schools in the US and Australia, were boarding in Wiesbaden, the capital of the federal state of Hesse.
My studio flat was on the upper floor of a nineteenth century three storey gothic house with a panoramic view of the Rhine River. The owners, a wonderful elderly couple, spoke little English but communicated voluminously in their warmth and wit. We mostly translated the jokes using a rusty German-English dictionary, so my laughter got delayed most of the time. As soon as I heaved my luggage off on the day I arrived, they had invited me to the cellar for a taste of their range of Riesling grape wines. The following morning over breakfast, they were to treat me to a thirty-year vintage wine, with a honey-crisp apple aroma and deep flavor that made my buds go gaga. They admitted to taking the wine only on special occasions. What a treat.
Five of us rented a car and drove six hours to Berlin, renowned for its modernity, diversity, and tolerance. We arrived after 9 p.m. and instantly immersed ourselves in the city’s exceptional vitality and creative atmosphere. We all had different interests, so we went separate ways on the Saturday and on Sunday morning. I chose to go on a guided tour of the historic sites, including the former course of the Wall, a landmark I had been eager to visit for a long time, given the global political ramifications of its fall in 1989.
I was also itching to tour the famed Museum Island, in the Spree River, which I did on the second day. Although my intention was to visit all five museums, I managed only three. I spent too much time at the German Historical Museum whose exhibition theme for the year was “Diversity Destroyed. Berlin 1933 – 1938.” Berlin’s social diversity and cultural pluralism had turned the city into a pulsating metropolis in the 1920s. Everything changed in 1933 with the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. It was the beginning of the ultimate destruction of a democracy, the systematic persecution of Jews leading to the pogrom of 1938, and other events that culminated in the Second World War.
One wicked egocentric.
I couldn’t help but draw a parallel with Africa: impoverished and bleeding from systematic wanton destruction brought about by its “Big Men” and their voracious cohorts, merchants of death and misery.
Copyright ©2014 David Waweru