Diary of a World Congress Intern
The best thing we at the World Congress in Shanghai ever did was hire our interns. The “Intrepid Interns” were the heart, soul, and engine of the World Congress. Come, take a peek behind the scenes, in the Diary of a World Congress Intern…
I’m going to preface this with the fact that absolutely none of this would have been possible had Shannon, Gabriel, and I not arrived from the US the night before the World Congress and been extremely jetlagged. I woke up at 6am every day of the week of the Congress, which is not something I do, ever.
Back Story: Shannon and I (Amandari) worked on the Shanghai World Congress for three years as summer interns, and Gabriel for one; we all grew up in Shanghai together. During the World Congress, we were joined by two more Art Deco-obsessed interns, Rosie, who lives in Beijing, and Rio, who was doing a semester at NYU Shanghai. Although Shannon and Gabriel are in their senior year of college in the U.S., and I’m working in New York, we all made the journey back to Shanghai for the World Congress.
Sunday November 1: This morning, “World Congress Eve,” we had to load everything (SO. MANY. TOTE BAGS.) into the car and bring it to the Peninsula Hotel, where we set up our registration in an alcove in the lobby. On the way to the Peninsula, we stopped at the Pei Mansion to try to deter the rain that had been forecast for that evening’s “cocktails on the lawn” by planting chili and onion on the lawn — a reliable form of ritual magic.
We set the kids from Concordia International School who had come to help with IT issues to work putting together name tags (shoutout to WoCo Attendee Noel Fong who volunteered to help!). The persnickety Peninsula manager didn’t want us eating our lunch in the lobby, so he packed us off to the Chinese restaurant upstairs – we had a very fancy room for our boxed lunches from Baoism!
Monday, November 2: Today Eddy D (formally known as Professor Edward Denison) kicked off the lectures. Monday was the only day all of us were able to sit in on a whole lecture, and it was a good day for it. After that, we popped in and out of lectures but spent most of our time manning two tables in the front hall. After that first day of intense registration, the registration table became the general information desk (+registration for locals), and that was my beat. Shannon and Gabriel were in charge of the merch table. Rosie was the earpiece czar and brilliant tour bag organizer, and Rio was tour guide intern, heavy lifter, lunchbox distributor, and whatever else needed to be done. Oh yes, and social media. The interns did a lot of social media.
On Monday, we realized that the World Congress t-shirts had not been brought to the Peninsula (*cough* Patrick *cough*). Losing profits! Losing sales opportunities! So instead of going on tours that day, Shannon, Rio, Gabriel, and I went on a merch acquisition mission. Fun Fact: packs of umbrellas are not particularly easy to carry. The merch acquisition mission was followed by a quick trip to Gabriel’s house where we made tea, hatched a plot to sell Art Deco soap, and then headed back to the Peninsula to meet people returning from tours.
Way. Too. Jetlagged. To. Go. To. Dinner.
Tuesday November 3: On Tuesday we finally had t-shirts to sell, which was especially entertaining because the sizes ran really small – a “Large” fit tiny Shannon. The maelstrom of merchandise in our storage room was too much for Shannon, so while some of us went along as tour guide minions, er, volunteers, Shannon organized, labelled and color-coded the storage room.
There was a vintage clothing display, which required mannequins — which had been stored in Mike Kinerk and Dennis Wilhelm’s suite. We fetched the mannequins, assembled them in the hallway, then marched through the grand lobby of the Peninsula and up to the ballroom with them tucked under our arm. And then, of course, the qipaos were too small for the modern mannequins. Oy.
Gabriel and Shannon had taken a week off college to be here, but they were still supposed to be doing homework. During the lectures, Gabriel wrote an essay in the Art Deco atmosphere of the furniture display.
Made it to dinner tonight, and glad we did: it was in the beautiful ballroom of the Cercle Sportif Français, the old French Club. Ooh la la. (Side note: we tasted the menu for this dinner this summer and they listened to our suggestions – such an improvement!)
Wednesday, November 4: One of our main duties each day was lunch distribution – fun, because every day there was a different drama (and every day there were many leftover lunches, so we had post-tour snacks. Sometimes Rio had four). Today, Day 3, after two days of sailing into the Peninsula with our giant boxes of food, the Peninsula suddenly decided that the vendors had to be approved and go talk to their people. We had to bring in the big guns [Patrick] to grease the wheels.
After a rainy tour afternoon (benefit: we got to use our WoCo umbrellas), all the interns were together for dinner on Wednesday. Shannon became a minor celebrity – here she is autographing the menus that she designed for Lynn Pan.
Thursday November 5: Remember the Art Deco soap plan we were hatching on Monday? The soap arrived today. Gabriel did, in fact, make soap at his house specially for the World Congress on Art Deco.
This was also the day that all hell broke loose during the tours. There was an impromptu trip to an Art Deco furniture store instead of the second two morning lectures, so the tours left directly from the store location. However, quite a few people decided not to go, and had to be directed to tours. By directed, we mean (“corner of Fuxing and Wulumuqi … wait, no, they’re now on Huaihai … hang on…). We at the Peninsula were the command center for the tour volunteers, trying to keep track of everyone — thank god for that WeChat group!
Friday November 6: Last WoCo day! We moved into the Peace Hotel, and some of the intrepids breakfasted there before coming to the Peninsula for our last day of Congressing. Packing, breaking down, moving mannequins … it was like our first day in reverse (but with much lighter merch boxes)! Somehow, we managed to get it all on a few carts, into cars, and out of the Peninsula … and then we retired to our hotel room to prepare for the gala.
After much Gala-ing, dining, dancing and Deco’ing, we left around midnight, at which point our room became the center of operations for planning the bid for the 2019 World Congress in Detroit. Except Rio. He went right to sleep and slept through all of the plotting. The intrepids dispersed on Saturday morning, some of us to the ICADS meeting (during which no decisions were made). Next stop for the Intrepids: Detroit 2019! – Amandari Kanagaratnam