TEDx Shanghai’s come and gone
It was a marathon of a volunteer gig, starting Saturday at 10:30pm, and continuing on through Sunday, with a few hours of sleep wedged in there (during which I dreamed about continuing to set up the venue!) All-in-all, the day went well, with a long and impressive roster of speakers, and an army of volunteers doing their best to go with the flow.
I ended up working in the food and beverages area. We were positioned next to the illy coffee folks, which was fortunate as we moved into hour 12 and beyond. The Shanghai Young Bakers were also there. The Young Bakers is a program for disadvantaged youth, and provides them a year of top-notch training and internships in baking. They made delicious treats, were very professional, and have very cute smock-aprons.
A group of local singers was to be spread throughout the audience at one point, to help lead a sing-along. Early in the day we had our own private serenade. They were stationed in the food room, and spent a good 45 minutes or so practicing their songs–lovely!
Lunch was served in the bamboo containers we’d heard about, a brilliant catering solution. The event was BYOC (bring your own chopsticks), and there was little-to-no waste in the lunch part of the day. The bamboo containers said “520″ on the side, which was the date, but which also means “I love you.” I guess in Chinese there are often expressions made from numbers. Rumor has it, when you pronounce 5-2-0 it sounds loosely like “I love you” does in Mandarin.
It was an appropriate expression to go with the speakers, talking about their passion for the work they do. One of the auditioners for the TED global talent search last week (I need to track down her name) did her whole presentation on LOVE, with a giant heart graphic, about how she designs buildings, hotel complexes, etc. based on simple things she loves (like waves, for example). On the one hand, it made me think, for a second, “is it really that simple?” but the more I think about it, maybe it is. . . these people all love something enough to just go for it without stopping to hesitate. . . and enough to build their work on a large scale. ? . ? . .
Jimmy Choo was one of the biggest names on the roster, and he talked about growing up in Malaysia. He made a pair of shoes on stage that looked like puppies. He talked about using his qi to make the shoes. He now spends time teaching young people in Malaysia the craft of shoe making.
The one talk I saw the entirety of in the auditorium was when Sean stopped by. Oddly enough, it was the one talk given by a lawyer! Funny. It was Jeffrey Lehmen, who is part of the global expansion of NYU. The NYU Shanghai Campus has broken ground and the first official class begins next year. He talked about studying in France and developing a “TransAtlantic Soul” and later, working in other parts of the world, including China, and developing a “Transnational Soul,” and learning about how people from different cultures approach work and collaboration. It was pretty interesting to see the global NYU map and think about how education is going to evolve in the coming decades. So many young Chinese are trying to leave China for University. Maybe in 10 years it won’t feel so entirely necessary to leave–at least not for the whole four years. . . I think it’s a bold move on NYUs part (what a way to build your educational “brand”) and it will be fun and fascinating to see how it takes root here in Shanghai.
The theme for the day was “I am Chinese,” which is an intriguing and confusing statement that can mean so many things. This, I think, was the crux of the day–what is Chinese, what has it been, who does it include, and what will it be, going forward, especially when framing that question in the realm of TED, which is all about innovation, individual boldness and chance-taking. This, in the context of China, is an exciting thing to watch, a coming of age story? or . . . we’ll see!
I jotted down something last week, that was said about the goal of TED: “You want people to say, ‘Aha, that’s how they did that. It’s beautiful. I’m inspired!” And also, from the animator whose work I loved, “It’s your life, your one story, what do you want to say?” I think people left the concert hall with a bit of that inspiration.