11:37 pm. Novotel hotel, Roissy, near Paris, France. April 20.
Today was a fascinating day! 10 hours of listening to speeches either in Uyghhur or being translated into Uyghur. It's like no other language I've ever heard - it's related to Turkish. There were also speeches in French, English, and Turkish. The subjects ranged from Women's Rights 101 to Amnesty International France's President stating their support for the Uyghur cause. There were about 80 Uyghur women in attendance and about 15 men. The women were mostly dressed in beautiful, colorful headscarves and fabulously beautiful dresses out of really interesting cloth. The designs on the cloth were so pretty! Many of the dresses were glittery, mostly very tailored, like a stylish business suit. Some of them wore elaborate Uyghur hats like Ms. Kadeer gave Chris after OBR. I could have admired their outfits all day!
This morning we got up at 7:30 so we'd have time to have what ended up being a sumptuous buffet. Eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, prosciutto, fancy cheeses four kinds of bread, hand squeeze orange and grapefruit juice, cereal, and fruit galore. We, Laura and I, were both pretty darn thrilled! We were hungry!
After breakfast we went to register for the conference. It was to start at 10 and was close. To starting on time. I came to learn about "Uyghur time" today - a very relaxed sense of time... At one point they asked the folks to take a fifteen minute break - American time, not Uyghur time! Things flowed pretty smoothly.
After lunch, there was a talk by a woman from Freedom House. She will be doing a training tomorrow about how to do human right's work. She has traveled all over the world recently to Burma/Myanmar to do work. It sounds like she has a very interesting life. I can't really imagine all the places she's been and things she's done. We went out for drinks after dinner with three other speakers. It was fascinating hearing their stories of working in the field. This afternoon, one of them said doing human right's work is like hitting your head against a wall. Another quipped that he's done both and the human rights work hurts more. Apparently the sense of overwhelm and the lack of tangible progress gets to him at times. Then there are the good stories -like the fact that the woman who went to Burma was able to hold an open human rights training there recently - something unheard of just a few years ago. Another woman who's from Taiwan talked about their society now and how it's democratic and free - amazing. So good things do happen and tomorrow we'll get to learn ways to help make it happen more easily. Good stuff.
At 2 I gave my speech. I felt a little bit nervous but not too bad. I first read a quote by Ghandi, “I want freedom for the full expression of my personality." That was the perfect lead-in to a story I told about a young woman living under oppression who found her voice through music. I brought that around to the idea that each of us has the ability to find our own voice and to live from that Source. I asked them to take a moment to access theirs. Then I talked about the Uyghur people who are not allowed to live out their dreams or to express their authentic voices. I encouraged the women to tell the stories of those who cannot tell their own, to help spread the word about the oppression the Uyghurs are experiencing. They applauded many times during the speech after Omer's translation. It was a little odd working with a translator and having to stop to let him speak keeping the drama going - I definitely went for the passion of the story. (Another of my blogs has a transcript and video of the speech if you're interested.)
I also mentioned that I realize it can be scary to do this kind of work and told that I'll be going to China to see Dylan in a few days but that I am not willing to let myself be intimidated by oppression. My motto is "feel the fear, and do it anyway." I enjoined them to do the same!
After my speech, during the coffee break, women came up to me and wanted to have theirs picture taken with me. One woman was very, very kind. She didn't speak English very well, but she quoted Shakespeare - unfortunately I can't remember her quote - darn it! She told me that she really liked my speech - that she laughed sometimes and then she cried. That it was a very true story - her story - and that I was a good actress. I felt moved by her kindness.
I am really enjoying speaking in front of groups these days. The synergy between the crowd and me feels so good. And I feel so passionate about the message -it makes me very happy to be able to share something I feel so strongly about.
I hadn't been quite sure if my talk would work or not because it was a story then an invocation to action. The other speakers' talks were practical about human rights and things like that. I wondered if I should be more focused on the practical. When I listened to my gut though I knew it was the right thing to do. Later in the Q&A session a woman thanked me for inspiring them, for giving them something to aspire to. That made me feel so good. So happy. I don't know of anything more gratifying than to inspire someone to be truer to themselves. It's such a powerful way to live.
This evening several of us speakers walked around Roissy where the hotel is until we found a restaurant that was open. It was fun talking to them about their experiences. I'm learning a lot about this field of Human Rights, but I feel like an absolute neophyte. There is so much to learn!
Well, that's it for tonight. My roommate and Laura have both turned in for the night. Guess I should too so I can get a decent night's sleep.