I have 2 passions I would work for free for: learning language and organizing events. And these 2 things have always been closely related in my life.
I started learning Japanese as a hobby in 2004. This lead me to travel to Japan twice and have a wonderful experience of expatriation.
Most important it lead me to passion to organise events.
One evening where I was in Jussieu University waiting for my Japanese class, I saw a paper ad posted on the wall, i think it was handwritten. It said something like:
"You study Japanese? You are a Japanese learning French???
Come practice and discuss around a cup of team, every first Saturday of the month, 3pm, at this adress.??
5 EUR contribution will be requested".
I thought "sounds good" and went there at the next meeting. At my surprise the place was a old residencial building, and the place actually a 50-something years old gentleman amazing Parisian??apartment: wooden floor, a large living room with a tv running japanese movie in mute, a large table with lots of snack, an open kitchen where some people were preparing some food. There were maybe 4-5 persons when I arrived. The host, Michel, quickly explain he was studying Japanese as a hobby, 4h a week at the city council school (Paris has this great initiative to provided ?? ??a lot languages courses at very cheap prices – limited seats and 30 pers. per class but still pretty good deal, that is how I started Chinese). And Michel decided he needed to practice Japanese with real Japanese and why not opening his house to other Japanese students? I immediately he was amazing.
Where anyone else would have say/think : "OMG opening my home to strangers in Paris? You want me to get rob and rape?". He thought: "Cool, free way to make new friends and keep learning Japanese".
And I kept on going many times.
At some points I dropped going and dropped Japanese and started Chinese. I was very??disappointed??there was such meeting for Chinese, but I was leaving in an international student residence with communal facilities that could be use for events and I??thought??" OK why not doing it?".
I had first to think of a name. The meeting organized by Michel was called "?????????" (o-cha-kai) which is the term for tea ceremony, also a social event for people to gather and chit chat.
So I just Chinese-ized it an called my event "??????" (ch??hu??) – meeting around a tea (I refuse to call it Tea Party anymore :-).
And that was the start of a great adventure. I organized it every months for 5 months, promote it in my class (no one showed up), in the international residence and a few Chinese helped me reached Chinese teachers to tell it to their student. The meeting was free as cost was assumed byt the residence??committee??(they were promoting this kind of initiative). And it is surprised how random are the people who attended: students of very high profile engineer schools, Chinese residents, language learning fan and curious. Many curious. And that is what was making the meeting so fun, it was not very strict, you could talk about anything you want in the language you wanted. But you meet people who were curious about life and it was always fun.
When I come to Beijing, I pass the event to someone else but I dont think it lasted. Things is it is a commitment, and often you dont want to do it but you already told people so you have to go. And after the first person show up, they are so enthusiast that it revamp you immediately. But you have to have the will power to get up and keep going.
In Beijing it took me more than 1 year to organize it again. I did it while working at nciku, so we called it nciku ?????? and got a lot of interest. It was again a great experience and I learnt different lessons. I had 3 colleagues attributed to help me out and they were very supportive. But it is something to have people working with you because they have to not because they want to. That was my first experience of working with other towards a same goal but having different levels of commitment. It made me sad sometimes to see/realize they were not as driven as me. My it was clearly my project so I couldn't blame them, I was already very happy they??accompany??me and made things so much easier.
You can do all the work, if you can get at least one person to be there on site at the event with you, on time, it is already a very great support. Because the first fear of the event organizer is you put out with all this effort and no one show up. We all had this fear organizing birthday party at high school, it quickly turn into a popularity contest. And what is everyone thought your event was lame and don't show up?
Then you have this one supporter who stick around and with who you can laugh about it :-). It is a lot already.
So we organized it at nciku from May 2009 until something like March 2010. I left nciku in June 2010. I made a lot of mistake at that time, I didn't capitalize on our biggest fan, I was a big pushy trying to get other people to organize the event when I should have let thing happen more naturally. Many other people than me organized it but no one really remained. I still hope the movement restart sometimes, it would also be very easy to get sponsorship considering all the language school there is in Beijing. But I already had this idea to scale and have people around China started organized it~ I already dreamt big I guess.
Then 2010 november I start organizing iWeekend, I capitalized on all the learning from ??????. And this year, we will make iWeekend a national event. Still a lot to learn but one thing I am sure of: community events can change the world.
Attending Japanese Chahui changed my life.
Attending the free improv workshop organized by Beijing Improv, changed my life. And I heard a lot of similar testimony of people who was feeling down, depressed and got back into seing the bright side of life by attending improv!
I always enjoy attending open event like WebWednesday. I can see the impact of iWeekend and some participants.
More people could impact this way, it is not that hard. But the life of event organizers could be make easier I believe. And this is my next projet.