A 60-something year-old University President from Iowa heading to Tanzania to attempt to climb 19,340 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro?

That's me. David Maxwell, president of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

I will be accompanying members of the Drake University Football Team to Tanzania as part of the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl — the first collegiate game of American football to be played on the African continent.

As part of this experience we will engage in service projects — including building a wing on an orphanage for children of AIDS victims, building housing for teachers at a school outside of Moshi, clearing land for school playgrounds, and working with a local organization that serves orphaned street children.

We will cap the trip with a trip to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with our partners (and competitors) the CONADEIP All-Stars from Mexico.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Goose Bumps

These are very long, very exciting, fascinating days. I have very little time to blog (unless I decide to not sleep, which is not a viable option 36 hours away from climbing a 19,340 foot mountain).

There were a lot of people in the stands for the
football game, and we were welcomed by a group of Masai dancers. The local crew did a great job of turning a soccer pitch into an American football field. American football in Mexico seems to be approached with the same level of zeal as soccer is in much of Latin America. The CONADEIP team had five personal fouls (unnecessary roughness, taunting) in the first quarter. Our guys did a remarkable job of keeping their tempers in check. I watched this all thinking, “Oh, great—they’re having dinner together and spending the next three days working together on service projects.”

To our collective relief the minute the game was over, the CONADEIP players came running over to our players with bear hugs, handshakes and smiles. When they had dinner together, the CONADEIP players expressed surprise that some of their actions weren’t exactly considered standard procedure. It was another cross-cultural learning experience for all. The CONADEIP players are great kids, and it's been a privilege to get to know some of them.

During the game, our starting quarterback went down with a back injury, and our backup went out shortly thereafter with a shoulder stinger. As a result our freshman backup stepped up and got the job done. Good thing, too. I'd been throwing with some of the guys at practice on Friday, and I was told I was next on the depth chart. Every member of the team was outstanding and played with class, determination, focus and skill. Read a complete recap at the
Drake Kili Bowl website.

Ambassador Al Lenhart sat with me at the game (with a Bulldog pin in his lapel, of course), along with two Tanzanian government ministers and a rising star Member of Parliament. The ambassador and I spent much of our time trying to explain to our hosts what was happening on the field. Not easy.

After the game our players ran up in front of the stands where hundreds of school children who’d been at the two clinics were sitting. Our guys shouted “Tanzania” and the crowd responded with “USA,” over and over. Goose bumps. A number of players said to me various versions of, “I cannot believe this is happening, I can't believe this is real.”

More goose bumps.

At dinner Ambassador Lenhart expressed strong interest in connecting Drake with Tanzanian universities. We plan to be in touch. Good things just keep happening...

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