Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ambassadors' Day, marketplace-style

Five minutes. That's all the time we were given to show each group of visitors at IRRI's Ambassadors' Day the highlights of our research...
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There were eight exhibits and if people stayed too long in one, they might miss out on other research highlights. So, to make sure that everyone got to see everything, the visitors were grouped into eight and "tour guides" stopped them at each of the eight stations... somewhat akin to the "move-system" exam that I used to take back in high school and in college. 

The different exhibit stations at the Ambassador's day.
(Photo taken after the exhibit closed.)

Given the time limit and the rice quality exhibits that we had to show, the team I was in (including Ana, Lenie, Irene, Cindy, and Crystal) was forced to keep our discussions and rice tasting at five minutes. Dr Bruce Tolentino acted as time keeper; he rang a bell when it was time for the visitors to move to the next exhibit. To stay within the time limit required knowing the story we were telling forwards and backwards and only saying the essentials. No hesitations; no filler syllables; no beating around the bush. Some were caught by surprise by the brevity of the discussion but recovered by the time the next group arrived. After all, we're all used to having the audience all to ourselves for at least 30 minutes in lab tours. Shortening a 30-minute technical spiel to a five-minute layman presentation needed quite a few adjustments.

Thanks to the Ambassadors' Day, I met ambassadors and consuls (or their representatives) from different countries. My foreign language ability was tested again. That Lonely Planet European phrasebook (which I bought in 2002) was a real help as I prepared for encounters with non-Filipinos. I was able to greet the Ambassador from Italy buongiorno (even though it's 3pm) and the Ambassador from Cuba buenos tardes. I am once more convinced that I have to continue in my quest of becoming a proper polyglot when the Ambassador of Cuba continued in Spanish: ¿Habla usted Espanol? I could only respond Muy poquito, which got him laughing and switching back to English. The Ambassador of Angola is a Portuguese speaker and it's a language I couldn't say anything in yet (but Anna and Biboy are learning Portuguese, thanks to capoeira). Aside from these ambassadors, I was able to converse with representatives of Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Pakistan, the European Union...

But members of the diplomatic corps were not the only tourists. I had the opportunity to talk quite a bit with the Laguna State Polytechnic University's president, Dr Nestor de Vera. There were a lot more people too but I wasn't able to note who they were... there were just so many people in such a short time.

What an event! This is the first Ambassadors' Day I've participated in. I think it was a good exposure for the young scientists (like me and my group, the Nutrient Manager team and the post-harvest team). I hope that we'll be part of it again next time! :)