Kindred Spirits

This year I have had the privilege of mentoring one of the George W. Bush Institute Women’s Initiative Fellows. Meet Insaf!

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Insaf is one of fourteen women from Tunisia, a small country on Africa’s northern coast, selected for this year’s Fellowship. Each Fellow has a plan for changing an aspect of their country, be it by getting more women in media, building a better system of government, or in Insaf’s case, reducing waste.

President and Mrs. Bush believe that women will lead the movement for democracy in the developing world, and are investing heavily in women like Insaf. During the Fellows’ visit to America, they tour landmarks of industry, policy, and innovation like Google headquarters, the news desk at CNN, Kate Spade’s Corporate Offices, and the New York Stock Exchange. They even have dinner with President and Mrs. Bush in their home. It is an incredible learning experience.

I have loved getting to know her.

As it turns out, we have a lot in common.

  • Insaf loves the outdoors.
  • She has a special place in her heart for dogs. She met Trooper and gave him her seal of approval!
  • Insaf loves a good bargain on fashion. Some things transcend languages and borders.
  • She speaks French. (My French is so-so.)
  • And she loves art!

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Above all, what we have most in common is this: Insaf and I have more ideas than we have time in the day.

Last March, Insaf came to visit me in Texas. I had just three days to show her the best of our state, but I was up to the challenge.

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We went to the Texas House floor with some other Women’s Initiative Fellows, their mentors, and the Speaker of the House.

A few hours later, Insaf and were in a boat on Lady Bird Lake. (Our real idea of fun.)

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The story of that fun day can be found here.

I took her to my favorite Austin restaurants, told her about our state’s history, and introduced her to some Texas women.

 

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We went to Austin City Hall and met with the woman who runs their recycling programs.

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From there we went to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s headquarters, and visited with the woman who heads up their education programs.  They say a woman’s success is indicated by her network, and I wanted Insaf to meet women who could support her and mentor her.

I quickly realized there wasn’t enough time in the day.

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Then, we toured a landfill.

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I know how to show people a good time. 

Insaf and I appreciated the landfill on a level only two gals who love the environment could, because this particular landfill is where Austin recycles. AND it’s an exotic wildlife preserve.

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if we had had more time, I would have taken her out to a real Texas ranch.

After all of this, we came home and worked on an action plan for her recycling education programs.

This October I’m meeting up with Insaf in Prague and we’re going to spend four days reconnecting and brainstorming with the other Fellows and their Mentors. We are both excited about it. We miss each other! Though Insaf and I are separated by an ocean, a language, and a faith, we are two girls who love where we’re from and want it to be beautiful forever. I have no doubt our relationship will continue far beyond this year. Insaf has become my friend, and I am invested in her success as much today as I will be ten years from now. I know Tunisia will be a better place because of her. She inspires me every single day.

On that sentimental note, I’m going to get started on my day.

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