|Friday, arrival day. Typical view from the plane of this Caribbean coral island, just before landing in Bridgetown.|
|Take a cab from the airport to Holetown, in the parish of St James. Ask the cab driver to drop you at Bellairs Research Institute of McGill University, between Folkstone Park and Coral Reef Club. If you survived the right-hand-side British-Barbados-driving style of the Bajan cab driver, then you are ready for the workshop.|
|The simple, rustic Institute welcomes you. This is a view of the West Building. It has just a few rooms, the kitchen, our "conference room" and the marine science lab in the background. Every week, Friday-to-Friday, there is a different workshop.|
The lecture hall: two blackboards, plenty of chalk and a few chairs. Upon arrival, check your room
assignment on one of these blackboards.
We meet here daily, during the two official work sessions: morning session 9-12 and evening session 7-11pm.
The conference room. Everything revolves around the dining table: breakfast,
morning session, occasional afternoon work (like in this image), dinner and
evening session. The number of participants is basically limited by the size of
the dinning table (and by the room availabilities). A typical workshop is attended
by 12-16 people.
In general there is not room for spouses, due to the obvious space limitations. This may also change the group interactions. Occasional exceptions happen when both are active research participants in the workshop.
|The participants typically include specialists with complementary expertise gathered to work on a topic of common interest, as well as some students.|
|After the morning session, we usually we go out for lunch. There is a small restaurant just across the street, or we may walk on the road or on the beach to some place in Holetown (15-20 minute walk). There you may also buy groceries at the local supermarket.|
|A favorite spot for lunch is Chefette, the nearby fast-food restaurant.|
|Afternoons are free. Mathematical arguments can be continued outside, under the trees ...|
|or you can relax on the nearby beach...|
|or get deep in thought over something that just seemed obvious an hour ago...|
|... and still is not proved after a day or two ...|
|Occasionally, green monkeys visit the place - you may not even notice them, if you work too hard (there is one on the tree in the foreground).|
... but sometimes they are fearless!
The suggested caption for this charming 2004 picture was a little dialog, with Bob Connelly asking the guest "Are you sure you proved the molecular conjecture?", and the reply "Yes! I just ate the double banana"! The "double banana" is a famous counter-example in Rigidity Theory, showing that the 3n-6 degree of freedom count is not sufficient.
|At about 5:40, we gather on the terrace of the nearby Coral Reef Club ...|
|... to watch the sunset, and sip a fruit punch, pina colada, a beer, whatever...|
|On weekdays, the Bellairs cook prepares for us delicious Bajan dinners on the premises. Saturday and Sunday we eat out.|
|The working sessions may be quite intense. In the first day, some people are invited to present their work, pose a problem or even give a small lecture...|
|Later, we may have progress reports, or we work as a big group, trying to verify that a certain argument really works, or....|
|... smaller groups may gather in a corner for discussions, or to work on a problem, or...|
|... a breakthrough idea just pops up....|
|... or a glitch is detected....|
|... or an ad-hoc hands-on component is added to the workshop (how do you fold those origami molecules?)|
|We conclude on Thursday night with a Wrap-up session...|
|... and then, some may want to join the courageous night swimmers, a tradition triggered by a (brief) power outage on our last evening in 2001. When Lutz carried his snorkel to the night swim we laughed - little did we know! The fluorescent plancton can be really spectacular (and illustrates 3-dimensional kinetic point sets, too).|
|And then it's over. Friday, we all head back home. At this time of the year, just before the second semester starts, lovely Northampton MA usually welcomes me like this :-) It's time to get a hot drink and reflect on the problems we discussed in Barbados. Thank you all for making these workshops so interesting!|