It comes close

Feb 14, 2013

In the weeks after each ScienceOnline conference, I try to be as still and quiet as possible. Partly this is to rest my mind and body. Mostly this is to listen and learn, as our community returns to their homes and their routines and their studies and their jobs and they begin to share their observations and their feedback and their hopes and their memories. (See the scio13 wiki page for a list of blog posts about ScienceOnline2013.)

Listening and learning helps us improve the conference year to year. Peter Edmonds, in his ScienceOnline in Three Words post, and Kelly Oakes in her post, nicely capture how the process of improving was a key theme of this year’s conference, brilliantly performed by rapper Baba Brinkman.

In the post-conference stillness every year, I’m always humbled to see the ways that conversation can lead to connections and collaborations and creativity and community.

Gabriel Aponte, a young man from Venezuela who has been a key member of the ScienceSeeker development team, attended ScienceOnline2013, and stayed on for a week after. He’s written a post, titled, simply, North Carolina, about his time at the conference and in the Triangle. His last line floored me.

Gabriel also wrote that he can’t stop remembering the faces of all the people he met here in North Carolina. I want to thank each of them for helping to make his visit here so memorable: Brian Russell spent time with him talking about web development. Karen Kornegay gave him a tour of the Morehead Planetarium and took him to lunch for his first taste of cheesecake. Paul Jones and Fred Stutzman welcomed him into their SILS classes. David Kroll took him to lunch in Durham. Rose Hoban and Steve Tell hosted him for dinner and a discussion about computer chips and radio parts, and the next day took Gabriel to meet with the Chapel Hill High School robot club. Karyn Traphagen also spent time with Gabriel, even swinging by at 4:30 a.m. to get him to the airport on time. And lastly, but certainly not leastly, Erin and my children welcome Gabriel into our home and treated him like a member of the family. Erin and Oliver took Gabriel to the Museum of Life and Science, where the butterfly house made Gabriel feel like he was back in the humidity of Venezuela.

As I said at the ScienceOnline2013 Saturday converge session (video here), I saw many other kindnesses among our community. In a separate post, I’ll thank many who were generous to me.

Meanwhile, I listen.

Anton Zuiker

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