Neither had seen ice hockey in his life – until Wednesday night.
But then there they were, Myo Kyaw Lwin and Arqam Tariq, two men from different countries, being treated to the sights and sounds of other grown men wielding sticks and racing – sometimes violently – up and down the slick surface of the rink at Memorial Coliseum as the Komets rallied past Cincinnati in overtime.
And it was just one more American experience the two were able to chalk up on a stateside visit that began several months ago.
Myo Kyaw Lwin – who hails from Myanmar, formerly called Burma – and Tariq – who comes from Pakistan – are in Fort Wayne this week as guests of Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast.
The two men are recipients of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, a program created in 1979 by then-President Jimmy Carter and designed to bring professionals from outside the United States here for a year of graduate-level study and leadership development.
The two are planning to spend the next week in Fort Wayne while learning how Ivy Tech operates.
It’s not the first school they’ve seen on their visit, which began in August, and they see in it characteristics of the American education system that stand in stark contrast to education in their home countries.
“It’s very favorable for the students,” said Myo Kyaw Lwin, 35. “You’re free to express or negotiate with all levels (of leaders).”
“In Burma, it’s very hard to receive the higher ranks of officials,” he said.
Myo Kyaw Lwin has been primarily staying in Atlanta and is working at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
He has degrees in medicine and surgery and is a program manager for Save the Children, an organization devoted to helping impoverished children around the world.
While he’s primarily interested in the American health system, Myo Kyaw Lwin said he was excited about visiting Ivy Tech, especially because of Fort Wayne’s large Burmese population.
He wanted to see how the immigrants resettled in the city and how they took advantage of the college and to explore how online class systems could work in Myanmar.
Tariq, 31, works at the University of Minnesota as part of his fellowship. A member of the Pakistan Administrative Service, he hopes the fellowship provides him with an opportunity to see how America tackles issues in public administration.
So far in his experience, especially in Minnesota, he’s been surprised to see how several organizations – including nonprofit, government and private – will come together to solve problems.
“All the players combine to resolve the issue, instead of considering each other an enemy,” Tariq said. “In Pakistan, they are all competing with each other.”
Tariq met with Mayor Tom Henry during his stay, and both he and Myo Kyaw Lwin talked about having the chance to meet many Ivy Tech officials – no matter how high-ranking.
Again, it was something you’d rarely, if ever see, in their home countries.
“It’s altogether different,” Tariq said.
But both have run into some of those culture shocks that come with visiting a new and different country.
Myo Kyaw Lwin was surprised how many people did not have health care and took interest in the recent debates over the Affordable Care Act.
Tariq said that while American television might paint Pakistan as a desert where rockets fly constantly, Pakistani TV paints America as a place where everyone owns his or her own drone of destruction.
Neither is the case, he said.
“The people are generally smiling here,” he said.
Tariq said he wanted to learn more about how community colleges like Ivy Tech help people get an education and what role the two-year degrees play in America.
He said he hoped to bring ideas back to Pakistan, which does not have a similar two-year system.
And then there was the ice hockey, a game neither had seen, much less live and in-person and what is undeniably now a Fort Wayne staple.
“It was good,” said Tariq, who has watched the Minnesota Gophers play football and basketball so far.
“I’d say football is still my favorite, followed by hockey, and then basketball No. 3.”