Every year, a joint effort between interpretive associations and host countries produces an event not like any other: the International Conference on Interpretation. This year, Interpret Canada and the National Association for Interpretation work together to give us a great opportunity to journey north (or possibly west…maybe east, probably not south) to the great city of Montréal in the province of Quebec for this year’s theme of “Changing Boundaries, Changing Times”.
Every NAI workshop or conference has its own flavor. The regionals are like a combination block party and family reunion, where you meet new friends and figure out how you’re all related to each other. If you’re nervous about presenting for the first time, or you have a presentation idea that’s a little more esoteric or specific to your site, try it out at a regional.They’re warm and casual, building helpful new ties to the regional community along with a few crazy stories. At some point someone ends up playing a guitar while the rest of us belt out folk songs and pass around a bottle or two.
National workshops are more akin to the juggernaut of a big family wedding: the need to keep almost a thousand people on schedule requires more structure and formality, but the joy and camaraderie is abundantly present and infectious. People dress a little more formally, the speeches are behind larger podiums, and it’s easier to get lost finding a presentation room. By the last day we’re little footsore and sniffling with an incipient cold, but the professional development was beyond inspiring and prizes from the scholarship auction are born away in triumph. At some point someone ends up playing a guitar while the rest of us belt out folk songs and pass around a bottle or two.
It’s as though someone blended the coolest field trip you went on as a kid in school, the best debate you had with your friends at 2am on a Thursday night, and a festival celebrating a holiday you didn’t even know existed. You’re among friendly folks, but you never really know what’s going to happen. That creates a feeling similar to the regional workshops, but with its own heady mix of uncertainty and adventure. Concepts and practices you never had reason to question are challenged or even absent entirely, replaced by concepts and practices based on other societal and cultural perspectives. “Of course you’re supposed to make direct eye contact and smile at your visitors! It’s welcoming and friendly! Everybody knows tha…oh…in your country smiling is reserved for friends only, and is totally inappropriate for strangers? And direct eye contact is a sign of arrogance and disrespect? Huh.”
Even going out for a quick meal creates challenges where you depend on each other to figure out what what you’re doing, and how to not inadvertently say “bathroom” when you meant “thank you”. Being thrown together creates moments of trust and humility, and your sense of gratitude for the interpreters native to the host country grows exponentially as they help you navigate natural and cultural sites, cuisine, modern locales, and forms of communication. They share not only the best of their country but also the difficulties it faces, and invite your thoughts and insights on both. They take you behind the scenes and give you everything they know that an interpreter would hope for, because they share the same passion that got you hooked into this world. You debate, and argue, and laugh, and take lots and lots of notes. At some point someone ends up playing a guitar while the rest of us belt out folk songs and pass around a bottle or two.
One of the greatest challenges to attending the international conference is the difficulty inherent in actually getting to another country, which is why this year’s is such a wonderful opportunity for a greater number of people from the United States to attend. Canada is a wondrously beautiful country that happens to be one of our most accessible neighbors, and will hopefully not be buried under nine feet (three meters?) of snow by May. If you’ve got the time, you can even drive there from 49 of our states (unless someone from Hawaii is really dedicated). The offerings for off-site trips include the Montréal’s Science Center’s exploration of sound and learning, the Space for Life Biodome and Planetarium, the Museum of Archaeology and History, and several national and historical parks and sites. The chance to participate in professional quality sessions with interpreters from all over the world, while exploring one of Canada’s most diverse and culturally influential cities, is one not to be missed. Come join us! We’ll have a guitar and a bottle or two waiting for you.
Granted, it may be a bottle of maple syrup.
International Conference on Interpretation
Montréal, Québec, Canada
May 3-7, 2015
Hotel Omni Mont Royal
Early Bird Rate: $350 (until March 16)
Regular Rate: $425
Check out the International Conference page at http://www.interpnet.com/NAI/interp/Events/NAI_International_Conference/Main_Page/nai/_events/NAI_International_Conference.aspx?hkey=b5951de1-c4c7-4c5c-afc8-3a7d391d7814