Okay, I admit it, I’m blogging at you from beside the pool at my hotel in Singapore. This is slightly less fabulous than it sounds — yes, there are palm trees and bougainvillea, and yes, friends in the northeast US, it’s 89 degrees. But this is Singapore. Tall and aggressively undistinguished buildings surround this 5th floor roof deck on every side and the roar of air conditioning units just about drowns out the jovial conversation of the two Dutchmen sunning themselves on the opposite side of the pool. Still, it’s a rare moment of not running around for me, and two magpies are bathing on that infinity edge that’s all the rage in pool design these days.
I’m here for two reasons: to be a writer-in-residence at Singapore Management University, and to attend and speak at a conference at that same university on Women in the Community. Two years ago I was here for the same conference. That time I keynoted; this time I gave the closing plenary. In case you’re wondering, though if you speak at conferences you probably know this, keynoting is easier. You kick the thing off, give an overview of thoughts on the subject, get everyone excited about the next few days. When you close, you’re supposed to tell everyone what just happened and send them forth armed with new inspiration based on the things you all discussed and learned. Except only a person much braver than I am would wait until all the panels, workshops, etc. were over to write the closing speech and then deliver it twenty minutes later. So I wrote it last week, and had to scribble in the margins to keep up with two days’ worth of speakers. The conference was terrific, and of course most of what goes on here is discussion of women’s situations from a Southeast Asian perspective, which we don’t see in the US very much at all. I found it fascinating. I certainly wasn’t the only American woman here, though. Among others, Isabel Wilkerson, author of the THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS, spoke on the Great Migration of blacks Americans from the south to the north in the 20th century. What a great talk! Can’t wait to read the book — which the American Consul supplied in the bags for the speakers. How cool is that? Plane reading crossing the ocean, for sure.