Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The time I met two of Time’s 100 Most Influential People

Starting a day at 4:30am and ending with cocktails and playing drums for a traditional Rwandan dance group were two things I never expected to do in one day.

Today we were scheduled to go to a meeting for OLPC for the launch of OLPCorps and The Center for Laptops and Learning in Kigali. We knew going into the day that there would be high security (read: guys with AKs everywhere) and airport like security screening so we were told that we would be on a bus by 6:30 which meant breakfast would be at 5:30 and we would leave our hotel at 5:15. At 5:15 we were all ready but no busses arrived until 6am. It was fine and we arrived at the Prime Holdings Conference Hall at 7am; one full hour before our scheduled arrival time on the itinerary we received at the conference hall. Our itinerary included the arrival of ministers, arrival of the Prime Minister, arrival of the Supreme Court President, arrival of the Senate President and arrival of the guest of honor which was later announced to be the President of Rwanda.

The President arrived to a receiving room of approximately 200-300 people and after hearing the national anthem, addressed both the OLPCorps participants (me) and the other dignitaries in the room. After his and several others speeches we went out to have brunch. To my surprise the President met us in the gardens and chatted it up with other big wigs. Many of the OLPCorps members joked about going up and saying hi to him but after a while he came and approached us with Nicholas Negroponte, the chairman of OLPC and another of Time’s 100 most influential people.

After brunch and meeting the President and Chairman there were speakers from both Uruguay, where they have deployed over 200,000 laptops and are at 1:1 for the entire country grades 1 through 9, and Haiti where they are deploying three large test schools with XO laptops. After lunch the day became quite long as we had been up since 4:30 and it was a bit of a blur until about 4:30 when another member of OLPC started a speech talking to various diplomats from Kenya, Djibouti, Mali, and Tanzania who were all interested in starting nationwide XO deployments.

After the conference and several commitments from diplomats to begin establishing XO rollouts we went back to the gardens for cocktails and a traditional Rwandese dance performance. While drinking a $150 box of wine (OLPC provided but ordered on accident and imported from South Africa – it should be around $8) I started to hear singing and drums with the approaching sound of many bells in rhythm. Before I knew it I was standing in front of 10 dancers dressed in traditional Rwandese outfits doing choreographed dancing. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. After a song the boys switched for girl dancers and back and forth a few times. When they were done all of the OLPCorps and big wigs mingled for an hour or two before the dancers started up again. This time the crowd was even more into it and before long many OLPCorps members were in the group trying to dance along as best as possible. Although I didn’t dance with the group I did play drums for a while which was really fun as the whole group wasn’t necessarily precise although they were in time and together, mostly.

After the events Corey and I went to Hilltop (one of the other OLPCorps hotels where we get our dinner) grabed a bite with two UCal Berkeley girls deploying in Uganda before walking back to our hotel (about a 20 minute walk). This city is a wonderful place and is very calm, safe and clean.

And now to wake up at 6:45am! Woooooohoooo!

-XO Mike

P.S. Sorry the posts are becoming long but there is so much we experience in a day it is hard to even make it this short.


  1. Amazing! BTW, when you get back, if you haven't seen it already, you should rent the movie The Visitor (it's drum-related).

  2. Wow you all have done more exciting things in a few days than some people will do in a lifetime, enjoy yourselves.

  3. I love that as you're getting to experience all these wonderful things, you still had commentary on the quality of their drumming:

    "the whole group wasn’t necessarily precise although they were in time and together, mostly"

    Only you, Mike.

    As for meeting those incredibly important people, that's a once-in-a-lifetime moment :)