Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Notes from the hotel lobby (5/31/09)

So I figured that if I'm going to do this thing, I should do it right (write?) and get in the habit of regular entries. Here goes.

As I write, I am sitting in the lobby of the Renaissance M Street hotel enjoying the cheesy smooth jazz piano soundtrack they're playing for the businessmen at the hotel bar. The wireless in my room costs ($13 a day!) so I've settled for the cheap-as-free computer bar area down here. Not too much has happened so far--just a brief orientation session, and the distribution of a number of forms, an insurance card, and our fat little $60 stipend envelope to fund our two days in DC. Considering that the only meals we have to pay for are tonight's dinner (chicken tikki masala...mmm!) and tomorrow's lunch, that left a lot for "ice breakers"--aka hitting a few of the swanky Dupont Circle bars to get to know each other a little better.

So far, I'm incredibly impressed and excited by my group of fellow soon-to-be Arabic whizzes. I was a little worried coming into this that I would either be on the older side of a mostly undergraduate group, or that I would be the only non polisci/conflict resolution person. Turns out that we're an incredibly diverse group geographically and by age--ranging from CO, to KY, to MN, and from age 19 to 28 (at least as far as I've heard)--so I fall comfortably in the middle. And although there are a fair share of political-minded people, the fields we represent are wide spread and fit together in a really interesting way--there's a geological engineer interested in resources and oil in the Middle East, someone interested in sustainable development, someone interested in public and reproductive health, someone interested in health care, etc. Even the polisci people aren't speaking a totally different language, as a lot of what they have to say jives with what I've learned in my own study of Islam and the Maghreb. Everyone's intelligent, but in their own unassuming sorts of ways, and we're all pretty likeminded in terms of cultural curiousity and a passion for travel. It's a stimulating environment to be in, for sure, and though being together in the hotel feels a little like "Arabic camp" as one girl said eariier, the prospect of what we're about to embark on and the high scholarly expectations everyone has also feels appropriately adult for this point in my life.

Tomorrow is going to be long--a full day of conference-style meetings, round table, panels, etc. with guests ranging from Tunisian ambassadors to State Department representatives coming to recruit us for other opportunities (Fullbrights, foreign service, etc.) The question on my mind is whether I'm allowed to reapply for CLS next year (one of the sites for intermediate is Morocco!). I'm also hoping to meet the half of the group that I haven't yet (there are 32 of us in all) and, even more importantly, I'm praying that my mneumonics will work and I'll be able to recall the names of those I met today. I'm not sure if I'll have the opportunity or energy to write tomorrow, but until next time....

No comments:

Post a Comment