August 7, 2008

Walking the Grounds

This morning Paul suggested we go for a walk around the spacious grounds. Because we've been sitting for hours at a stretch since we've been here, and there is very little food of color available, (although I did have some Chinese broccoli for breakfast and a plum has found its way to my desk) we thought we should try to exercise.

Today it's hotter and muggier than it has been so far, and at 7 a.m., it was pretty miserable. Still, we wanted to check things out. At first glance the grounds appear to be well-manicured. I think this is because there are dozens of gardeners out sweeping and watering and tending. But on closer inspection, things grow pretty wild. I'm not sure if this is on purpose or not, but I tend to think not. The rose bushes are feeble and the grass has weeds in it. We did cross a pond-type thing and it had gorgeous lotus flowers and lily pads on it. That was really nice.

So we wandered around, and there weren't any signs or barriers keeping us from any one area and soon we found ourselves in yet another section of buildings (I think I mentioned there are nine of them, at least, at the conference center). It dawned on us too late that we were in the middle of some sort of staff area, and it was like walking into migrant farm housing. Where we, and all the other guests, have air conditioning running 24/7, these guys (and I only saw men) had the windows and doors open to get some air. They used a long, trough-like sink for washing up and there were clothes out on the lines. They stared at us, but I don't know if it was because we were where we shouldn't have been or because we were Western or both.

Which brings me back to the post about our accommodations, and how I had described them as austere. Maybe by three-star American standards, but they were clearly better than anything the staff would ever have.

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