Sunday, December 18, 2005

Gulag Lite

Here it is, my delayed indictment of the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, VA. Owned and operated by Xerox, and potentially designed by MC Escher, its a 1970s prison located in what was once the countryside and is now a sea of new starter castles along non-descript 6 lane roads. When we first arrived, it was a chore just to find our rooms, as we walked through tunnels and hallways and elevators, each looking just the same as the last. The rooms appeared to be on their own Dewey Decimal System, as I was looking for n.3.2119, which is supposed to be code for where to go, but left me finding Ms. Blue Like Mine's room instead and dumping my baggage there.

The classrooms were set up in a central grid system, with 5 living towers situated around them, one with a cafeteria in the center and another with a bar. We headed to the cafeteria, which confirmed for good that it was our first night at Big State University. Take the tables out of the 3-story cement space, and we would have been in "the yard" on Oz. Our rooms were tiny and dorm feeling. I expected my RA to come by and remind me not to take lounge furniture and that the poster sale would be running late in case I wanted an art print or a periodic table of shots. Thank god for the bar, which we found next. Walking the hallways, it seemed like a socialist approach to a conference center, with each hallway exactly the same as every one else, so that none would feel inferior. God forbid there be a central hallway around which to build the rest of the space. Instead, we used color coded sections, in red, yellow, and orange. It felt like when you saw the crew on the Starship Enterprise walking down a narrow little hallways -- presumably thousands lived on those ships, but the hallways were no wider than the ones in my house; like it was one massive rat maze.

Once the training started, it was actually an enjoyable two days. It was apparently a blizzard outside - even the federal government opened 2 hours late - but we were oblivious as our complex was short on windows. Inside we didn't learn a lot of leadership, but learned to challenge our own perceptions about who we were, where we were going, and how we got there. Pictures to come!

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