Saturday, September 18, 2010

Center Opening 1, or, Nobel Laureates and Singaporeans!

On Monday morning, I woke up early to take the subway downtown, to the Grand Hyatt Beijing, which is right by Tiananmen Square. Charis had told me that there were about 10 Chinese students who had volunteered to help with the Center opening – herself included- and figured I could probably help out, too. The first all staff briefing was that morning at 8 am, so I had to leave Renmin pretty early. However, the hotel had free coffee, which made up for it entirely! The staff briefing was primarily just to give us an idea of what would be happening the next few days, and I very quickly realized that the opening was going to be intense – the staffing guide was 29 pages long, and the event had three different venues over the course of three days. Compounded with the fact that one of those venues was the Great Hall of the People (China's Congress, essentially, though they have no real power), with all the security measures that come with it, and you have a crazy week ahead of you.

So before getting into what I actually did, a little background on the opening: It was set to take place September 14 and 15, although staff arrived in Beijing by Saturday and was working the few days prior to the 14th. On Tuesday the 14th, the only event we had was a Nobel Laureate forum, with four of the UChicago Nobel Laureates) and a dinner. However, the forum and dinner took place at the Great Hall of the People, which complicated matters. Because of security measures, every guest had to have a literal golden ticket – a gold colored invitation that permitted him entry into the Great Hall. These tickets were distributed to the registrants the day before and the day of the event, with VIP's tickets being delivered to their hotel rooms. We also had planned seating, which also made things more complex. On Wednesday, events took place at the Shangri-La Hotel, closer to the center. In the morning, we had breakfast and a couple panel discussions with Nobel Laureates and other dignitaries, followed by lunch, a few more panels, and then shuttles over the the new Center for a reception and the ribbon cutting. With three different venues, we also had shuttles to and from each location for the guests, making things even more complex.

On Monday, I helped out primarily with registration, and ensuring people got their golden tickets. We had a pick up booth in the lobby of the hotel, which was great for several reasons – I got even more free coffee, and also got to see a lot of foreigner/important people from the University in Beijing. A lot of alumni in the area had come for the event, as had many professors and administrators from the University, including President Zimmer and the Board of Trustees. While my work on Monday consisted primarily of checking people off for their tickets and stuffing folders, I also got to take James Heckman, one of our Nobel Laureates in Economics, down to the press conference, which was kind of cool – we talked a bit about the museums in Beijing and China's history. He was a really nice guy, and it me realize an obvious fact – Nobel Laureates are people, too! :)

As I worked the registration table that afternoon, I got to meet a couple of the administrators from the Booth School of Business campus in Singapore. They were quite possibly the most jovial and friendly people I have ever met, and it was a ton of fun getting to know them! We staffed the golden ticket table until 7, during which time I got to crash the faculty only reception (I only stayed long enough to give a professor/surgeon in the med school his tickets, though). After finishing up there, we went up stairs to the business lounge, where they had appetizers and drinks (While I am of legal drinking age here, I stuck to fruit punch). It was great to get to eat some more Western-style food (by which I mean, cheese and crackers), and talk more with the Singaporeans, who are again, the friendliest and nicest people I have ever met. They ended up taking me out for dinner that evening, giving me lots to eat and good advice on life, as well as encouraging me to come visit them in Singapore (an offer which, if my budget allowed, I would happily take them up on!). I got back to my dorm room around 10 pm, and fell into bed so I could do it all over again the next morning!

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