I didn't expect my first full day at ICAP to end with me drowsily clapping along to the rhythm of a a large gourd and then stringing together plastic beads to symbolize different aspects of my life. Needless to say I chose a black plastic bead to commemorate my bad attitude.
Backing up to Friday: I took the bus to the airport which I hadn't realized winds its way through some of the more, er, "transitional" neighborhoods in Little Rock. Everyone on the bus hooted when an elderly gentleman saluted us with a bottle of whisky. This was at 7:30am. I had a couple of hours in Cincinnati. I hadn't realized that Cincy was such a hub, but it was a nice, if confusing, airport. My eyes teared up at the site of Peet's Coffee and people wearing ipods. I fielded a call from the relocation guy who told me that our container just left Antwerp and will arrive in Houston by the end of the month. Yippee!
I got into Denver Friday evening. I was shocked at how far away the airport is from, well, anything. Even the airport hotels were far away. Once I settled in at the hostel I took off for the Mercury Café. It looked to be a fun place to hang out - on this Friday evening there was a wedding reception, a magic show, and open mike poetry. I opted for the live guitar/accordian duo and enjoyed butternut squash soup and a turkey dinner, topped off with a slice vegan chocolate cake; the server looked like Bjork in her early days with the Sugar Cubes. She gave me a copy of the monthly schedule, which was packed with dance classes and other fun events. Is there a place like this in Little Rock?!
I walked around downtown Denver at 7am the next morning and was surprised to see that there were people out and about. I had bagels with cream cheese and a hot chocolate at Einstein Brothers Bagels. I think the last time I'd gone to an Einstein Bros was in Annapolis.... I strolled around the 16th St. pedestrian mall and marveled at the Denver cityscape's resemblance to San Francisco, a nice blend of 19th century neoclassical architecture with 20th century glass boxes. I guess I shouldn't be surprised as Denver was also a gold rush town. It was laid out in a neat grid just like Salt Lake City.
At 9am I met my fellow ICAP carpoolers. We'd been emailing about logistics for a couple of months now so it was great to finally meet them. They all live in Washington DC so I did get a little homesick. I spent a long time talking with K, a Thai-American woman who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal and is now a democracy & governance specialist with USAID, and who grew up in Oklahoma. She told me not to be shocked at what was and wasn't in Little Rock. The drive to Aspen was beautiful and dramatic, and it was great fun to stop in a couple of the picturesque towns on way. Main St. does exist! Minturn was my favorite. Very cute, and very friendly residents. We finally arrived at the resort after 5 hours of winding roads and snow flurries.
Aspen Meadows looks like one of those artsy woodsy Bauhaus campuses were sleek blonds should be doing vigorous calisthenics at dawn. All the ICAP folks - participants, staff, and presenters - were very friendly, or at the very least, skilled in DC networking mode. During the first evening's introductions everyone clapped good-naturedly at unusual jobs (the FSO who's in the Iranian affairs bureau) or unusual locations (me). I said I wanted to find out if we can use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house. There was a little silence. I guess not everyone is conversant with Audre Lorde?
Sunday was an action-packed first day. The day began with a blessing from an elder of the Osage Nation, and then we launched into self-introductions. I hope I scored points by telling people to read my bio in the participant handbook and I just filled in the blanks with the fun stuff: active Mormon feminist, married to a Berber in the ultimate test of cultural competence, and reader of Harry Potter in French. The sessions were really long and intense. I did have some suggestions on facilitating and logistics, and it turns out that there has been a debate on whether to organize ICAP sessions as participatory trainings or as academic seminars. Apparently the second option won out. It was a little unnerving to listen to the speakers and all the other brunettes in the room (of course we are all brunettes) with their heads bent and diligently taking notes.
I was so whacked that I went to the pool right afterwards. We are at an altitude of 13,000 feet or so and I felt my heart pounding as I did laps in the heated outdoor pool. Then I joined everyone for another heavy dinner before the sessions with the storyteller/griot. I should've been in a better mood as she'd talked about her time in Nigeria and the Gambia studying oral traditions. But by the time we'd gotten to the different blessings, a couple of stories and songs, and then the beads symbolizing my life I was very very grumpy indeed.