Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Amazing Experiece at Festival of Thinkers!

I was part of the panel "Future Role Models, Adventure in Adversity." The Festival of Thinkers has been an amazing experience!

I have been able to listen to Nobel Laureates and world “thinkers” discuss current issues such as the economic crisis, world health, and globalization. After each session, we broke into roundtable discussions to connect on the issues.

At my table, there were students and “thinkers” from Lebanon, Mexico, Latvia, UK, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. Very different worlds, but we were able to connect and get to a common view on the relevant issues. If only governments could converse like this!!!

After our “panel,” we were summoned by Sheikh Nahyan to come to his palace for dinner. Ready, set, go! When you get asked to join the Sheikh, you drop everything.

I actually thought it was really cool to get his invitation as he has done so much good in the UAE for education, namely educating women in the region, so I am a big fan of his. When we arrived at the Palace, we had no idea what was going to happen. We entered a huge rectangular room with chandeliers, and the finest of everything. There was seating, sort of like couches all around the rectangular space.

After mingling with my fellow panelists, Donna, Dan, Kareem and Michelle, other guests began to arrive. We had no idea why they were there and actually we didn’t really know why we were there — other than to show a great sign of mutual respect for Sheikh Nahyan.

While at the palace, one of my new friends, and co-panelists, Dr. Rodrigo from Chile, said “hey someone wants to meet you.” I followed him across the room and met a man who look almost exactly like Fidel Castro (whom I met at the Pan Am Games in 1991).

Fidel Castro Jr. introduced himself to me and said he really enjoyed our panel today. We chatted for a while and then suddenly all 80 guests quickly lined the room as if, well, as if Sheikh Nahyan were about to enter the room.

I felt like I was in the middle of a movie scene! Sheikh Nahyan greeted each of us with a hand shake. We then sat and had coffee, and a smoke-filled lantern came by and waved incense in our faces. I have a great video on the way of the night — absolutely fascinating!!! I am so grateful for this opportunity.....

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