After over a year and a half I finally did something most people do in their interviewing process—I met my boss. And yes, it was such a cool experience I am writing a blog about it. Normally I make a habit of NOT writing about work, but this is worthy of an exception.
If you have not seen in the news, Secretary Clinton came to Manila. We were asked a few weeks ago at work if we wanted to volunteer to help plan her trip here. There were several stops that she made in her short stay in Manila and one of us was assigned to plan all of the logistics for each stop. All of our names were placed into a drawing for who was in charge of each event. Due to some luck and graciousness of colleagues I drew out to be at Malacanan Palace for the Secretary’s meeting with President Aquino.
For the last two weeks we have all been working with the team from Washington D.C. and the local government to get the events ready. Several site visits, phone calls, and emails had to be made in preparation for the big day. Needless to say, I made some really great friends over at the Palace after being in contact with them daily and hourly towards the end of the week. They were so gracious and accommodating. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them; I hope to work with them again soon. Amid the stress of getting this ‘perfect’ I found myself laughing or sharing a joke with one Palace staff member or another. They thought it was funny my name was Dust or “Alikabok” in Tagalog. I guess that is a new nickname! Haha
The event at the Palace went well. And to the participants it was seamless. However, those of you that have planned a large event that what looks seamless really has several people working frantically to ‘put out the potential fires’ just ahead of the program. Small details had to be resolved, plans needed to be revised, and people needed to be updated and informed. Then once it was time for the event, smiles met the waiting cameras when the doors opened.
It was extraordinary to see two world leaders and their staff working together—to see history in the making. I was sad I could not bring my camera (not that I would have had time to take photos anyway). Luckily, Lady Hiva won a place in the “Meet and Greet” for the Embassy employees at the Embassy and she had the camera so we have a few photos. Being around the Secretary and her staff closely all day, I can say I was impressed with her and the staff both as leaders and people.
There were some memorable moments for me for sure. Things that were either stressful, awkward, or plain old slap your forehead and mutter ‘did I really just do that?’ moments. For example, we were told to be “invisible but visible” during the event. In other words, don’t stand out too much, but stand out enough that if there is something that needs to be done, it can be done. (That was pretty hard considering me and my colleague were the only Americans that spoke Tagalog at the event and when Palace staff needed something they would find us first). So I was trying to do a good job of being invisible. I had some major fails though. Like when I was doing one last walk through to make sure everything was in place before the Secretary arrived and as I was walking down the grand staircase I got to the last three stairs and was admiring the red carpet, I looked up into the lobby of the main entrance and SHE WAS coming in! YIKES! I quickly stepped off to the side and let her pass like it was planned to happen like that the whole time. DOH!
It gets worse…I stood there as a few of the other guests pass and I smiled and said hello. Then I realized I needed to be UPSTAIRS too! There was only one way up…with them! After a few seconds of panic—smile now forced as my mind spun with possible solutions—I stepped into the line of dignitaries climbing the stairs and acted like I was supposed to be with them!
Another one happened when I was watching the beginning of the event unfold and saw one of those ‘potential fires’ that needed to be put out and turned quickly to address it. It just happens that the American Ambassador was standing right behind me and when I turned I ran right into him almost knocking him over. DOH! I could not have apologized enough! Or another time when I ended up in a hallway where the security had all exits blocked and I could not slip out to be ‘invisible again.’ I decided to stand against the wall with some of the support staff and in an effort to help I offered to hold the door one of them was holding when I realized the reason they were all standing there, including the Ambassador, was waiting for the Secretary. AWKWARD! I must have looked like such an idiot! Hahaha, “here let me invite myself to stand right next to her and let me be her personal guide why I am at it!”
|This is Lady Hiva's Photo of Secretary Clinton Leaving the Embassy...I was just outside the doors watching with the staff|
Another memory was being in the motorcade and there was a flash-mob that attacked the vehicles by throwing eggs, rocks and paint balloons. The radios went wild. The driver said calmly, “Sir, you should put on your seatbelt, it is going to get bumpy.” We flipped a tire squealing 180 and sped off with the other vehicles to take another route while police pulled out the riot shields to quell the uprising. It was an intense ride, but I could not help but laugh to see the shocked faces of all the people on the sidewalk as we zoomed by. And we arrived safe. Just another story to tell. (You can Google and see photos of that)
So, now you know how I met my boss, made some great friends, and saw the President of the Philippines all in the same day!