Thursday, March 08, 2007

GMF Trip - day one

Well, my German Marshall Memorial Fellowship is officially underway, almost six months to the day after the nerve-wracking but exciting panel interview that preceded my selection.

Three hours before my flight left, I had a minor luggage crisis when I realized that my packed bag weighed 42 pounds – still under the 50 pound limit for international flights, but about a 1/3 of my body weight and too heavy to easily manage if I needed to hoof it at high speed through an airport, or drag it up stairs. I emptied the bag and discovered the empty suitcase weighed 15 pounds! Holy hernia Batman!!

So I made a frenzied trip to the mall to eyeball and heft bags to gauge their weight. Returning home with one labeled “lightweight”, I repacked and discovered I’d saved myself…two pounds. Aaargh! Finally, I settled on one of my husband’s rolling athletic duffel bags.

Though I fretted about the giant logos emblazoned on both sides identifying it from 50 paces as not being a standard business bag, it had one major selling point: empty, it weighs six pounds. Uh, so my shoes go in this corner of the bag? Sweet. If anyone has anything to say about it, I’m making them carry all my stuff. :-)

Me and a fellow fellow took a red eye flight to DC late last night, arriving at 7:30 a.m. with little sleep. Our body clocks were still on west coast time, so we were hoping to arrive, check in early and catch up on our zzzz. No such luck. After a $60 cab ride from the airport (yes, really), we arrived to find that our rooms were not ready. So we trekked a few blocks to a Starbucks and holed up reading briefing materials on the speakers, countries and European institutions ahead until we could check in just before noon.

We met most of our fellow travelers later for the walk over to the GMF headquarters near the embassies for our first briefing and meet and greet.

This is an amazing group of interesting, accomplished people from across the country and I am honored to be traveling with them.

The depth and variety of conversational topics we’ve covered in just the past six hours has been invigorating and fun.

It’s ranged from regional business interests and political campaigns (we have a city councilmember and a former Secretary of State candidate in the group), to the renewable energy debate, cultural challenges and support options for 1st and 2nd generation immigrants, and the best food dishes and restaurants in our respective cities. I think they’re going to be great traveling companions.

After getting acquainted, we headed over to the Dirksen Building for a reception celebrating the 25th anniversary of the German Marshall Fellowship program. I’ll write more about this later. Lots of great observations from the speakers I want to detail.

The Dirksen building is where the Vice President and congressmen and women have their offices. I had to get a shot of Washington’s folks on the building register. See Patty Murray & Maria Cantwell.

The building is named after an Illinois Republican Senator from the 1930-60s who, among his many accomplishments, provided crucial support for the passage of landmark civil rights legislation. Gotta love that. :-) Need sleep. Must go. More later.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the memories your blog brings back.... Oh, wait, the beginning of the MMF fellowship trip was only a month ago. It feels like a lifetime ago. We certainly packed enough living in that 3 weeks.

    Miss you and your great sense of humor.