Saturday, July 12, 2008

D Day (-2)- Breaking the language barrier

Amy said today that "we are in way better shape than we were at this time last year...but we somehow still have more to do!" - I can only imagine how crazy things got last year. We are being kept very busy at this moment in time and there always seems to be little jobs popping out of nowhere. There is now a constant stream of trips to stores such as Home Depot, Office Depot, and the Salvation Army and of course many journeys to and from the airport to pick up the all important participants.

Almost half of the participants have arrived in the dorms and cannot wait to meet everybody and get started . Marcio Botto, a civil engineering student from Brazil, explained to me that he was delighted just to have finally arrived after the difficulty involved in getting his visa sorted and many other participants echoed this sentiment. This only seems to have made them all the more determined, however, to make the most out of their experience in MIT with IDDS.

I also finally got the chance today to meet our three Honduran participants, Jose Pompilio, Federico Recinos and Limbor Sarmiento. They unfortunately were unable to bring their Corozo fruit into the country so that project will now not be feasible as a three week team venture. However, there is a possibility that Corozo seeds could be sourced within the U.S. and thus Pilo, Federico and Limbor will be able to work on their fruit peeler as a side project. My lack of Spanish and their lack of English initially made communication a little difficult but I managed to find a soccer game with some Irish guys and we all seemed to understand each other perfectly well on the football pitch!

We had a number of meetings today with our last being, for the first time in room 16-160 at 8.30pm. Tombo had ordered pizza for us all and Amy said that we were to talk business for no longer than 15 minutes. This, as usual, proved to be far too optimistic and we ended up talking for over an hour on a variety of issues. One such issue was that of two new projects that have been added to the options list for participants. We decided to discuss the merits of each and eventually decided by a show of hands that both the Hand Held Medical Diagnostics tool and the $10 composting latrine system were to be included in our final project list which now comes to a total of seventeen.

The atmosphere in this meeting was most certainly one of intense excitement. The organizers have already grown quite close as a group even after such a short period of time. Let's hope we will still be on speaking terms once the conference is over! Meeting the participants has really invigorated all of us though and we are all really looking forward to working with and getting to know them.

I have also been charged with giving tours of the MIT Campus to participants tomorrow which should be interesting as I have only been here 10 days. Thankfully Jessica Vechakul, a past participant and past winner of the IDEAS competition in MIT, arrived this evening and will be helping to keep me from leading the participants astray!

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