The bell rings and the children run from the playground to the front of the school building. Classes are organised in ordinate two by two lines, forming, together, a nice compact square. Facing the children are the director of the school and his staff. The Egyptian national anthem resonates while the flag is being pulled up. After the anthem, the director introduces me to the children. He announces that I will present the Bike with Diabetes project to three classes.
I was introduced to the Oasis International School of Zahraa el Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, thanks to Christian and Aurore Pyre, two teachers of the school who used to work in Rwanda with a common friend. Christian and Aurore kindly offered me to stay in their home before suggesting that I should present my project to the students. I was in! It would be my first experience in front of a class, and I wondered how to grab the attention of an audience of 9-to-10 year-olds.
I decided to go back to my own childhood, when I would get completely absorbed by the stories of travellers we would host in our home in Kigali. I would be left dreaming of adventures on the road once they went on with their journeys.
My presentation hence starts with a question: « What are your dreams? » The answers I get, go from becoming a famous football player to becoming an architect, or to becoming the owner of a theme park. Most of the answers are rather serious and related to a professional outcome. It surprises me as I don’t remember thinking about what kind of job I would have as a grown-up, when I was 10 years old.
I explain to the students why I am cycling through Egypt and Africa, as well as how my project has its roots in a dream I had when I was about 7 years old, when I found out that one could travel around Africa by following the roads drawn on a map. The message I want to leave them with, is that we are allowed to dream about anything, and that we should hold on to our dreams, as it is only because we hold on to them that we get to realise them.
It took me nearly 25 years to « confront » myself with mine and I hope I will manage to reach Cape Town, despite the fact that I have type 1 diabetes. I thought I would have to explain what diabetes was, but to my surprise, nearly all the kids knew about it, as nearly all of them had a relative who has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It shouldn’t have surprised me, given the prevalence of diabetes in Egypt, as explained by Dr Ahmed Samy who’s interview is to be found in the interview section of the website.
Whichever they are, one will have to face hurdles at some point in his or her life. Those hurdles will be different for each of us. But we have to face them.
The children were very receptive and active during the presentation. So much so, that I couldn’t answer all their questions when the bell rang to announce the end of the period! At the end of the day, I presented the Bike with Diabetes project not to three classes, but to five, as word got spread among teachers. I was even asked to come back two days later to talk to two classes of 14-15 year olds, which I did with great pleasure.
It was an exhausting but very interesting experience!
Once all of this was over, I was told that two students nearly missed their bus to go home as they were busy asking me all sorts of questions about the journey.
Last but not least, Christian brought me a school uniform t-shirt with the signatures of all the children of his class. The idea being that I would take pictures of myself with that t-shirt throughout my journey and send them to the school so that the kids could follow my journey through those pictures…