— Ask R.
— I do not know, go and ask R.
— R. will know
Every event, every conference has such a person. A bridgestone, so to speak. Sometimes they go mad during the event, or survive to crash silently the day after. Most of them develop a defense mechanism, turning grumpy, non-communicative or just vanish.
R. is a bit different. Slim, silent, self-controlled and always polite. You just _know_ you should not push him beyond the limit — you see it in his eyes and lips. If you try to keep him busy with trivial things, he just says, always polite “this is the very bad moment”. I never saw anybody trying to bother him after that.
And he is highly competent, at that. I saw him in the very epicenter of work, singlehandedly manning the printing point for all speakers, translators and volunteers, shooting series of print jobs from his laptop with Kurdish (i guess) linux. And he never missed a beat. After weeks of event preparation, after hours of site preparation, he not only gave a brilliant opening speech, but later he simply went to the interpreter’s booth and took the full shift there.
Consider this: guests and speakers use at least SIX languages. Many of them are monolingual. You have over ONE THOUSAND participants. And only 30 interpreters. These people are the core communication team for the whole conference. They need to translate real-time. They need to understand and convey the content from several, often quite hermetic, areas. They need to cope with speakers who are not professional, tense, speaking too quickly and positively unmanageable. And they do it! J., who is my flatmate here, says “one just try to do the job as well as possible”. It is not just a famous British understatement. Interpreters are generally modest people. They tend to be unseen — unless something goes seriously wrong (just like every support people ;)) — and they like to stay this way.
But here, they are true public heroes. Indeed, they get an ovation from the hall during every panel session. And this is really one of my best experiences here: how much the “general audience” appreciates the background work which made this event possible. There is nothing artificial in this. Many participants are students, precarial employees, well-battered veteran activists — they know how shitty can be a job in the backstage — paid or not. So this time the appreciation is given right and proper.
Many of participants (Yours Truly not excluded) are here on the very thin budget. Hotel, or even hostel, are beyond reach. Also, some of us simply do not speak European languages. Here comes family support. Dozens of Kurdish families here offered their hospitality to us, travelers. I stay with O., M. and their two sons. With two more participants, we are being fed, lodged, driven to and from the conference and generally taken care of. They postponed their family trip (Easter school holiday started actually on Friday) to help us and the conference. Moreover, their third son, already on his own, is hosting another three people, while also manning one of security posts at the conference venue.
This is immense effort of a massive force of volunteers, what makes it all happening. And it works. I am so happy to be here, to feel the power of solidarity at work. Believe me, my dear Readers, you should try it sometimes. Solidarity is good for you.
So many brilliant people
I am not easy to get intimidated. Gosh, even make me humble is sometimes a challenge (while I admit, it is healthy). What I see here, is the whole bunch of people, who are so much more brilliant than I, in many various levels. And it make me humble, really.
It is real honour to participate in this huge activity. I will leave Hamburg full of energy, hope and new ideas. Expect me.