My journey to Qatar began with a flight from Pietermaritzburg on the 12th January before a 9 hour wait at Johannesburg for my second flight to Dubai. Upon arrival the following day, I met a friend from Los Angeles who welcomed me as a foreigner despite the fact that she is not from Dubai either. Once in Doha, I realised that I had been travelling with 3 other participants who were going to the same conference, but we did not talk until we met at the shuttle which was there to pick us up. It turned out that because of my long first and last name, they had thought that I was two separate people so I ended up travelling in the car on my own.
I was welcomed by Christian who showed me to my room. I did not know a single person at this point but I had high hopes of making friends with other members of the conference because I am an open person. I didn’t have to wait long as I met a very welcoming girl during dinner called Iren from Zambia who I had remembered seeing at the airport. Afterwards, we had tour around Aspire which is a beautiful place with a nice view. On the Monday morning, we went to a class where we had to introduce ourselves. By then, I had already made four friends who were from Ghana, Sierra Leone and my roommate from Egypt. We were introduced to volleyball by five sporting icons; starting with some theory before the practical sessions after lunch. The food was delicious and this can be seen in my skin as a result of eating so healthily.
We went on a sand dune excursion on the fourth day in the desert where I also had the opportunity to have my first swimming lesson in the ocean which was fantastic. Basketball sessions began the following day and I really enjoyed it as it was my first experience of the sport. Other activities were boxing, judo, table tennis and swimming classes every afternoon before dinner. Playing such a variety of sports showed me that I am multi- talented as it was if I had I played them all before. It also gave me the opportunity to meet Fobbs who works in community relations and Steve who is a junior coach at Liverpool FC. The coaches had brought a gift for every participant at the conference which was also amazing.
During the conference, we took part in activities that allowed us to experience what it is like for people with disabilities who take part in sport. It encouraged me to think more outside of the box; not to feel shame for disabled people and treat them in the same way as people without disabilities. It was a dream come true to be out of the country and learn more about health initiatives practiced through sport and to socialise with people from all over the world who come from different backgrounds.
Two days before returning home, I took part in a talent event where all of us wore traditional clothing from our home countries. We shared stories, spoke about our different cultures and taught each other native dances, songs and we even discussed some of our beliefs. It was such an amazing and peaceful evening and I experienced a strong feeling of unity between everyone as if we were all part of one giant nation.
My flight from Dubai was delayed which meant that I missed the connecting flight back to Pietermaritzburg which very upsetting, but I was booked into a room at a hotel in Johannesburg before finally arriving home the following morning.
What an experience! Thank you so much for this opportunity. I cannot wait to start using my new skills and knowledge with youth in Edendale who are facing different obstacles in their lives.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!