Saturday, 26 April 2008

Bright Lights on the Christmas Tree

I know what you're thinking.

Christmas Tree??? (Am I close?)

Well, I am reminded of Christmas each day. The trees in the median of Ayala Avenue in front of the Fire Department below our window do still have their strings of white holiday stars on them! (Not that I'm at all hinting that they should be removed. No rush. Christmas was only eighteen weeks ago.)

Anyway, I often say he/she "isn't the brightest light on the Christmas tree" to refer to someone who isn't "the sharpest tool in the shed" or the most intelligent because of some act(s)/history of complete stupidity.

This is about the brighter lights on the tree, or the sharper tools in the shed, the more intelligent.

The Fulbright scholars.

Edson and I attended the 60th Anniversary of the Fulbright program in the Philippines last week. Fulbright recipients from as far back as the late 50s were in attendance, as were officials from the US Embassy and Washington, D.C.

An exhibit at the event showcased the works of many of the writers, artists, illustrators, designers, sculptors, historians, and scientists who have been part of the program.

Some of the speakers included those you see below: Dr. Isagani Cruz, President of the Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association, Franklin Ebdalin, Undersecretary for Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs, (all the way from Washington, D.C.) Thomas Farrell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Affairs with the US State Department, and Lee McClenny, Public Affairs Officer with the American Embassy in Manila.

The day went much as you'd guess: speeches, break for lunch, more speeches followed by a Q&A session for the speakers. Rarely were the speakers asked a question. Instead, the "questioners" would ramble on about some experience they had trying to survive the cold winters in whatever location in the US they studied; all trying to one-up the former. You know, you'd hear: in '85 for two months it was 17-below...or less! followed by the next commenter's oh yeah, well in '96 I survived much worse right through Spring! If it wasn't past winters in the US they complained about it was that they had to travel all the way from Mindanao to Manila; and why couldn't everyone travel from Manila to Mindanao instead. (Do note the Fulbright / Philippine-American Education Foundation office is eight blocks from the event venue, plus the presence of a US Embassy official, and a State Department official, and that Mindanao is not safe for Americans, with all the kidnappings, etc. down there.)

This went on for hours.

Cocktails followed a few hours after the program ended. There were hors' dourves, drinks, and games.

Games?

Games at a cocktail party?

Games for Fulbright scholars?

And what kind of games do the best and brightest minds of a nation play?

Well, since you asked:

Everyone was handed a scrap of paper with a line of a song written upon it. Three other people in the room held papers with the other lines to each song. So each had to run about the room singing their line until all four lines were found. Once the group had been assembled they were to sing their verse on stage.

I was ready to hear a huge groan from a hundred or more in attendance.

In an instant this game turned the scholarly minds of the finest academics and most talented artists into those of eight-year-old children as they giddily ran about in search of those who held the paper scraps containing the song lines to match to theirs.

That's what these people are doing:

Yep, those are Fulbright scholars. They're scholars, not choreographers!

Where's Edson?, you ask? Isn't he a Fulbright scholar? Why didn't you picture him singing?

Well, as luck would have it there were more people in attendance than party organizers had prepared song lines for; so Edson didn't get to participate.

What about me?

I was the official photographer for the event. I wasn't there to participate in games.

Oh, and yes, the spell of the game did wear off as soon as it ended and all went back to being their previous scholarly selves.



More on the Fulbright Program here.

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