I love it when the sky explodes (in a non-combat situation that does not unduly damage the environment). Fireworks are like the stars rushing out to meet you.
One of the things I love about America is that, by being Filipino, I am simultaneously being More American. To learn from and give back to one of the places my family has immigrated from is not a loss to the US, but a gain - we do better when we work together, when we embrace and accept our past as an and instead of forcing it to be an or. Nope, it's not perfect, and there is friction, and I do often feel torn between my nationalities and a fake member of all three. Still, compared to any other I have been in - this country tries! And so I do as well.
This morning I taught a group of Filipinos about the tools and practices some open-source communities operate with - they're trying to do nation-building, breaking out of a very hierarchical (and historically subjugated) culture to repair a country in shambles. It was not always so; my great-grandparents immigrated to the Philippines hoping for a better life for their kids... and then less than a century later, those kids got their kids (my parents) the heck out of the Philippines so they could have a better life for their kids (me).
Anyway, there was a sort of "TECHNOLOGY! it is a MAGICAL THING! that will allow us to VIRALLY SPREAD! and reach MILLIONS OF PEOPLE!" vibe. The engineer-as-shaman thing. So I made them spend the entire first hour talking with each other, sharing their stories and their ideas, figuring out their problems in little groups of two or three that rotated every few minutes. And the vibe in the room changed - we slowed down, breathed more, listened. We were people, not messiahs; people who could help, but who also needed help ourselves.
Did you like that? I asked. Think about the connections you just made with the other people in this room. It took a long time and a lot of effort. It helped that you've got something in common, and that most of you have met before. But you learned something, you changed each other a little bit. They nodded.
These are the kinds of connections that you want to make, in any medium, I said. Technology is not a magic wand. It gives you the chance of having these conversations, making these connections, with someone that isn't sitting in the chair beside you. You can set up fancy software and tweet to a million people and that's fine - but what it comes down to is this, you getting to know you getting to know you - except with the internet, maybe you're in California and you're in Makati. But that's it.
They think Mediawiki is cool now, too. Kept asking questions about whether the software cost anything, so I tried to explain the different meanings of "free." I didn't have my OSS evangelism hat on since I didn't know if it made sense here, but apparently it does; will do so moving forward. Still, this project isn't about software, and the best tool is whatever they'll use - and right now they use Facebook. And you know, that's okay. Momentum is the important thing; it makes everything else (including later migrations to an open platform, I hope) possible.
And Elmer is wonderful. He leaves Boston tomorrow - he's done with his Harvard studies, so he and his wife are going back to the Philippines. But in the few weeks I've been lucky enough to know him, he's been a wonderful, quiet model of open-mindedness, the kind of learner and leader I'd like to become.
I ought to clobber my brain into unconsciousness now, despite a 3-hour afternoon nap - I'm still a little sick, and need to drain exhaustion out of my system whenever I can. The tiredness is like a physical liquid feeling, and it literally does seep away when I lie down. It just seeps slowly.