By Tim Brookes
In years to come, Bostonians will be asking each other, “Where were you during the Blizzard of ’15?” The students of CCPI will be able to answer, “Under it.”
Here’s the backstory. Our friend, collaborator, and shining light, Maung Nyeu, is studying for his PhD at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Each semester a team of students from the Publishing in the 21st Century class works with him to develop/publish another series of educational materials for three schools for indigenous children in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh (where, by the way, nobody has ever seen snow).
Maung is an inspiring guy, but he’s also very busy, given that he is studying, teaching, and running the non-profit organization Our Golden Hour to raise funds for the schools. Members of the student team wanted to think through some of their creative ideas for this semester’s publishing class activities. So we thought, “Hey, why not shoot down to Cambridge and meet up with Maung?”
The fact that we all thought this even though we had heard the weather forecast is either (a) a sign that we believe that because we live in Vermont, winter anywhere else is bound to be trivial by comparison, or (b) a sign we’re all daft.
The plan went as follows. On Friday, Tim Brookes, Kara Joyce, and Colby Cogswell head down separately to Massachusetts, the banana belt of New England. It helps that Kara is from Boston, Colby is from just north of Boston, and Tim can stay with a friend in Cambridge.
Friday night Tim has a dinner meeting at his friend’s place with a group of students from the Fletcher School of Business at Tufts who are going to be setting up a microfinance program for Maung. (See what a great precedent CCPI has set?)
Saturday morning, Tim, Kara, and Colby meet Maung in Cambridge for publishing discussions.
Sunday, yet another member of the Our Golden Hour team arrives for yet more plotting and planning.
That was the plan. What’s that saying about, “When man plans, God laughs”? Or is that just the short version of, “When man plans without consulting the National Weather Service, God rolls His eyes and says, `Dude, check the app’”?
The Friday evening meeting took place on one of the pleasant little residential streets in Cambridge. When Tim got there he discovered the street had almost vanished. So much snow had fallen over the previous couple of weeks that there was nowhere to put it, and it had resolutely refused to melt. By now the snowbanks on both sides of the street were higher than parked cars—in fact, the only curbside parking places had been carved here and there out of the snowbanks, and were now jealously guarded with garbage cans and other large items of household furniture while residents were temporarily away. (The actual roadway had become so narrow only a single car could pass down the middle.) Tim parked in one such snow-niche, which was so tight he had to crawl out of his car through the passenger’s-side door.
The microfinance meeting went well, with Maung explaining the issues of creating lending capital in a remote rural region and the students asking good questions. They left in high spirits, full of good ideas, complaining about the cold. The Vermonters, of course, were chuckling at this: in Boston it was a balmy 3 degrees, while in Burlington it was a nippy -15.
The following morning Kara, Colby, Tim, and Maung met at the Algiers Café on Brattle Street in Cambridge. Great plans were laid out for:
- an anthology of stories and proverbs from Marma, one of the indigenous languages of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, translated into English. Introduction by Maung, editing by Kara, and foreword (we hoped) by David Harrison, the world’s top endangered languages guy;
- a series of journal sheets for the CHT students, each headed with a prompt in Marma chosen from Maung’s book of Marma proverbs, with space for illustrations and lines for writing;
- a series of stickers, the first ever to be used as educational materials in the CHT schools, with animal/people/object images from the various children’s books Maung has developed plus the word for that image in Marma.
When the meeting broke up after more than two hours, everyone was in high spirits. Maung, Kara, and Colby headed around the corner to Kinko’s to scan Maung’s Marma proverb book so we can include individual proverbs in the anthology. Tim had decided, finally paying attention to the Blizzard of the Millennium forecast, to forgo the Sunday meeting and head north, back to the kinder weather.
Then it began to snow.
Remember that quiet, leafy, residential street in Cambridge? By the following afternoon it looked like this.
Maung is still in shock. Residents of Boston are still in shock. The CCPI team are back in Vermont, where it may be blowing a windchill of 25 below, but at least we can get in and out….