On Wednesday, I took a bus to the Shangri-La hotel, which is much closer to Renmin, which meant I didn't have a long trip. The benefits of a shorter trip, however, were counteracted by the fact that I was there at 7 in the morning, since guests and breakfast would be there at 7:30. During breakfast, I helped alphabetize nametags (for 600 people, which can get messy) and greet guests. Once the first forum of the day started, I got to eat breakfast (From Monday until Friday, I didn't have to buy myself a single meal!) and then go sit in on the panel discussion. It continued this way throughout the morning, and in between panels I helped set up the next one, and met another Nobel Laureate in the VIP room. Just prior to lunch, all the student volunteers got to meet President Zimmer, which was neat – he's a very nice guy, as was everyone I met this week! At lunch, student volunteers again joined tables (thankfully, not planned seating this time, so everyone sitting down was less of an event). I ended up sitting next to a doctor and the head of the humanities division at school, and as throughout the week, had a great conversation about Chicago and life in general. One of the things I enjoyed most about the event was that I got to meet so many people – so many of them know so much and have such great stories, I would love to be able to take each of them out for a one on one lunch to get to know them. But with budget and time constraints, this was the next best thing. :)
The food at the lunch was a combination of Western and Chinese, with nothing terribly exotic. The dessert was divine, and I realized it was a very good thing that Wednesday was the last official day of the opening – otherwise, I'd be fat by the end. After lunch, there was another panel, and then I took the first shuttle over to the Center. At that point, exhaustion was starting to sink in, right up until the point we got to the Center. I was so excited to actually be in the Center and have everyone get to see it, that the adrenaline kicked right back in and carried me through until the evening. There was a string quartet playing in the lobby, and waiters circling with appetizers and drinks, with more free coffee in the reception room! Once guests started arriving, I ended up giving tours of the center, since I was one of the few people who had already been there. I got to meet someone from the Consulate in Hong Kong (though I forget his title, though he was really nice!), and the former party leader of Taiwan was there, as well, replete with a pretty heavy security detail, who all looked terribly official with the ear wigs and pins. (It made me wish I was important enough for a security detail!)
The ribbon cutting itself was really cool – there were roughly seven ribbon cutters, and the ribbon was held by several girls dressed in traditional Chinese clothing. I don't have any pictures of the cutting itself, but it was really cool, even if slightly anti climatic. After the official opening, I just wandered around talking with different people, getting to meet more alumni and administrators. One of the administrators was telling me I should make a career out of opening things, since the new UChicago library will open the spring after I get back. He was saying that he suggested to the committee that they have a parade/ ceremony for the first book placed in the library – while it's only a short walk from the old library, they could parade it around campus and have different VIPs carry it, kind of like an Olympic torch. The idea sounded so delightfully nerdy and in keeping with Chicago's character that I shall do my best to promulgate the idea upon my return!
Overall, Wednesday was less chaotic and just as fun, although I was sad to see it come to an end. I had such a fantastic time meeting so many different people, and I wish I could do it all over again!