Sunday, July 13, 2008

D Day (-1) - Meeting the participants

We organized our first mini event for participants this morning, a Dunkin' Donuts style breakfast! We thought that it would be a good idea to try and introduce the participants that had already arrived to each other and so decided to hold an impromptu coffee morning in the organizers suite, number 441. This actually worked extremely well and about twenty of the participants arrived at our dorm room at 8am looking extremely hungry! I talked to participants from Brazil, India, Guatemala and even managed to find a participant, Sunita Darbe, who is currently an MIT undergrad student. It was great to see all the participants interacting so easily with each other, even though they represented such a wide variety of cultures.

The organizers left the participants to continue to mingle in our dorm, while we hurried to IDDS headquarters, 16-168, for our 9.30am meeting. Everyone was well aware of how exceptionally busy today was going to be so we kept the meeting short for once and soon got down to business. The main task for the day was the completion of the participants packet, the folder that will be handed out to each person at registration tomorrow. We have finally gotten it all sorted, by 2am no less, and everything now looks set to go ahead with no problems, at least for Day 1!

Participant Packet for IDDS 08'

The tours I talked about with some trepidation in yesterday's blog actually went quite smoothly, believe it or or not! Thankfully Sunita, as well as Jessica, accompanied me on the tour so we were able to get just about information about MIT's history and campus between us to keep the participants for over two hours. The mood among participants was definitely one of excitement and anticipation and they were impressed with the size and available space that MIT has to offer.

One participant, Lamine Diakite, asked a question that showed just how much we take for granted in the developed world. He was impressed how the walls in MIT were kept so clean and pristine looking and wanted to know how often the walls in MIT were painted to achieve this end result. The fact that neither myself, Sunita or Jess could not answer his question highlighted the fact that the thought had never even entered our mind. Lamine currently lives in Guinea, was born and raised in Senegal and speaks an amazing twenty two languages. The reverend Geroge Fuachie, from Kumasi in Ghana, was delighted to find that MIT had a church on campus and so he could thus continue attending services when he finds time outside of the workshops!

In the evening Zubaida and Ruben went to the airport to pick up Paul Polak, our keynote speaker for the summit who will essentially begin the conference at 9.45am tomorrow. Paul is an advocate of the design revolution and is passionate about the potential that appropriate technologies, and conference's like IDDS, have in helping to work with and help solve problems faced by some of the world's poorest communities. He is also an extremely nice guy with a wicked sense of humour! Myself and Tombo joined the above duo in taking Paul out to dinner and we decided on a seafood restaurant called 'The Barking Crab', located on the waterfront in central Boston.

We talked on a wide variety ranging of subjects ranging from Paul's recent book, "Out of Poverty", a discussion on psychoanalysis and the interpretation of dreams(Paul's background is as, in his own words a "shrink") and we finished up with a discussion about blogs, believe it or not. Paul has informed me that he will soon be beginning his own "golb"( blog backwards) as he does not see why he should follow the existing conventions! All in all the dinner was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I am now looking forward to hear Paul address the participants tomorrow morning.

It is now 3.34am Boston time and I cannot wait to get into bed. We have put a lot of effort in over the last few weeks and are thrilled that the day of reckoning is finally upon us. I can imagine that my blog will soon become a lot more interesting now that I shall finally have a conference to cover! Hope you have enjoyed what I have written so far and I look forward to filling you in on IDDS 08' every evening for the next four weeks. Absolutely exhausted but incredibly excited, I await the morning.

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