TS WORLD CONGRESS IN ROME 10-15 JULY 2010
Report by TOS International Secretary, Diana Dunningham Chapotin
1 - First Impressions
I don’t want to be a wet blanket but I have to say that I hesitated for a long time before signing up for the Congress. Why? Because with the mentality I’ve gradually developed over the years as International Secretary of the TOS, I can’t help thinking of how many meals and school fees for underprivileged TOS-sponsored children I’m spending when I purchase an air ticket – not to mention the carbon imprint of the plane travel itself. I’m quite serious. Once I finally made the decision to participate, though – justifying it on the grounds of needing to represent the TOS and to support the hard-working Italian organisational team – I started to get excited, mainly about all the special people I’d see again and the opportunity to exchange creative ideas with them for improving our TS and TOS work.
The Congress began for me in Paris! Betty and David Bland arrived from the USA a few days before the Congress as special guests of the French Section’s 111th convention and my husband Michel and I had the pleasure of looking after them in their time off. Actually we didn’t focus much on the sights of Paris because I had a whole stack of TOS projects on which to ask their advice and input. A short boat ride on the Seine River was one of the few moments of relaxation David and Betty got. Here we see Betty working on a TOS draft document. So much for her 'time off'!
I travelled to Rome with Joëlle Cosmao-Dumanoir, a French TS member of 30 years’ standing who sponsors the education of a needy child in India through the TOS in France. During our flight, Joëlle told me that at a very difficult period in her life when she didn’t know how she’d be able to carry on, she was standing in front of the mirror in her bathroom one day when she heard a voice saying, “I need you still”. She felt an almost miraculous strength arise in her and from that day she has been able to face life with determination. Even though she doesn’t know who spoke to her, she now holds the conviction that she has a fount of strength inside her that can always be tapped. She wishes that everyone else could have the same knowledge…
Before alighting from the plane to Rome, I took a moment to say to myself, “At this gathering, how can I be of help?” (I always try to set my attitude before an event so that the natural instinct of “What can I get here?” is kept somewhat in line.)
Three Italian Theosophists met us at the airport. I dread to think how many flights they must have met with a registration of 524 members. Upon our arrival at the hotel, things became a blur because of the excitement of seeing so many old friends and dear co-workers. One thing was clear from the first, though: the colossal work that had gone into preparing the Congress. What a welcome Antonio Girardi and his team gave us! What models of friendliness, what professionalism! In fact no fewer than 50 members and sympathisers were involved in the preparation and staffing of the congress – not to mention Radha Burnier and the staff at Adyar who drafted the formal parts of the programme.
The Italians, even when working ceaselessly, seem to have the art of remaining gracious and elegant. Behold Antonio’s right hand helper, the inwardly and outwardly lovely, Patrizia Calvi! (above left) We all received a bag of gifts upon arrival, including three books, at least two of which were published especially for the Congress. (above right)
A magnificent, inspirational art display was awaiting our contemplation on one of the hotel landings. Seven examples below:
We were really spoiled. There were wonderful evening concerts and special services such as 'live-streamin' of the programmes around the world, a computer area with wi-fi and an earphone system permitting simultaneous translation (principally by Eduardo Weaver) for the many Portuguese speakers present (Brazil sent the largest delegation of around 90 members).
The Rome Municipal Police Band played for us one evening.
Members around the world were able to watch the programmes in real time. Here we see American TOS President, Tim Boyd.
Ruth Cruz of the Philippines and Gerard Brennan of Australia take advantage of the wi-fi centre set up for the use of all.
Congress opening session
Some of the large Eastern African delegation in the lecture hall
Vice-president Linda Oliveira, President Radha Burnier, TS Italy General Secretary Antonio Girardi and Enrico, our omnipresent interpreter.
Prayers of the religions
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