I don’t know how much sense I can make of this past week’s experiences volunteering at the Clinton Global Initiative, not so much owing to their mind-boggling complexity as much as their overwhelmingly exhausting impact on my intellectual function. Oh, and their surreal circumstances.
I actually had a dream last night in which I walked in on Bill Clinton and Christiane Amanpour having some sort of intense interview and spilled a cup of coffee on myself. If you know me, you’re no doubt wondering, so I’ll spare you the suspense. I dropped a ladle with gorgonzola sauce, a cup of water, and a few drops of salad dressing on my blouse over the course of last week, but no one was injured, seriously embarrassed, or even (so far as I know) all that aware of my reliable sometimes-klutziness. Nor did I trip and fall off of my heels into any heads of state or supermodels. So it’s all good.
I spent most of my time helping the other few hundred volunteers scan participants and attendees with these gun-shaped wands that looked like something out of Star Trek. Reading the bar-code on people’s credentials ensured that…..well, lots of stuff which is not interesting, nefarious, or anything to be concerned about. I promise. Just tedious, boring, and yes, I’m still dreaming about scanning you AS WE SPEAK. General Wesley Clark, that means you.
Some of the time, I monitored the comings and goings of people into more high-profile areas, or at least areas where more high-profile attendees congregated. While standing in a doorway hoping my stomach growling wasn’t distracting anyone, a couple of people urgently asked me if I’d seen Maggie. Maggie Gyllenhaal. I have seen her, around New York, but not in that room on that day, and I told them so. Then I went and mused on a what a strange turn my days took this week. Strange, fun, silly, and yes, even a bit inspiring. Women who are working to advocate for women in Afghanistan, from groups I first encountered back in the late 1990s and who have survived–and helped others do so–for this long, have me thoroughly humbled and quite aware of how comparatively ridiculous a thing celebrity spotting is.
Overall? I think I should have not worked so many hours, but like many of the other volunteers, I mistook a question on the application about availability as desired actual hours and then was unsure What Would Happen if I changed them. It was a little much in terms of amount of time out of my week, particularly since (and let me be clear, I totally KNEW and ACCEPTED this part of things ahead of time) the tasks involved weren’t going to be new, constantly engaging, etc. for me. In point of fact, by the time this gig came about, I had already been hired to start (and have, thank you very much) one of my new jobs, so this week inadvertently became a little costlier than I had intended.
However, I did meet some people who have already helped shed light on some of what I may be doing in an upcoming fellowship, and the people-watching was admittedly fascinating. I even got to meet some of my fellow “tweeps” (Twitter followers and/or groups I check out) which was equally terrific.
Honestly, the most thrilling moments in my week were probably seeing Mary Robinson striding into rooms several times. Being an Irish woman, my initial thought was actually how much she resembles some of my aunts (or they her?!) followed by such excitement, as I so respect and admire her work. In fact, there were so many inspiring women in attendance that I feel nothing but thrilled for my niece and the women coming after us. We’re working as hard as we can to make it a better, healthier, safer world for you and your counterparts from Afghanistan to India to South Africa to New Orleans. We all deserve it.