Just realized that it has been five days since I’ve posted anything, and I’m already halfway through Leg 2 of my Summer Odyssey…well, completely through with the first part of this leg, but I guess I was just too busy having fun.
I’m posting this from my parents’ kitchen in Baltimore, Maryland, also the location of APO NVC 2015 (Baltimore, not my parents’ kitchen – we’d have to move the potted plants around a bit) facing two days of mostly sweet nothing before heading out to Montreal for ATHE.
Day 4 (July 22): Last full day in Utah (which seems like ages ago already even though it was only Wednesday). We all slept in and enjoyed a pajama breakfast/brunch and a day of general relaxation after two days of strenuous hiking and traveling. I got in some geocaching with Julie and Iris, and then went out for more geocaching, some Starbucks, and some food-shopping with Julie, who prepared a lovely dinner of tuna steaks. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but hopefully Julie will rally the troops together to get to next year’s ATHE, which will be in Chicago, a much more feasible road/plane trip. I arrived at the Salt Lake City Airport in plenty of time for my 11:55 PM flight to Philadelphia on US Airways. The last thing I experienced in the Beehive State was one of the loudest cheers I’d ever heard in my entire life for four Mormon missionaries returning from overseas. And…back to the East Coast I go!
Day 5 (July 23), or the 22 hours I had of it since I crossed two time zones, began with a flight to Philadelphia which was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. Probably the worst part was being in a middle seat between a grumpy-looking but silent Hispanic girl and a chatty Mormon guy. The guy was actually pretty nice, and thanks to him, I got to watch the second half of Little Miss Sunshine with my own iPhone as soundtrack; thankfully, I’d seen it before. He also tried to give me his self-recorded album, to which I politely said no thank you, because for some reason it’s a gut reaction when a Mormon offers me a gift. I’m still not entirely convinced it wasn’t actually a Book of Mormon on a CD in a case with his likeness on the cover wearing angel wings. We arrived in Philly about 30 minutes early, making it only about 3 and a half hours of actual flying time, which was much more palatable than last summer’s Phoenix-Charlotte slog.
Even though we got in early, I still hustled over to my next gate. I had to take a bus to the next terminal for that one, which kind of sucked because it took forever to find a place to get coffee and food. Oh, did I mention that they didn’t even give us water on that CROSS-COUNTRY flight? Anyway, next up was my second and final flight of the day, a whopping 20 minute flight to Baltimore. The plane was about the size of my apartment, and I ended up in seat 1C, so I got plenty of legroom but had to gate-check everything. I actually managed to close my eyes for a few moments. This flight seemed longer than the previous one, maybe because I was just so ready to be home.
And then…Baltimore, at 8:30 AM local time, 6:30 AM body clock time. Dad picked me up and took me home, where I laundered what I’d worn since leaving Madison (remember that place?), took an inadvertent several hour nap, and wound up at the hotel just in time to pick up my registration information for APO NVC, aka Alpha Phi Omega National Volunteer Conference, the reason why I came back to Baltimore in the first place.
To get you in the know, APO NVC is an every-other-year summer opportunity for alumni, advisors, and staffers of the fraternity to get together for some brotherly bonding, workshops, seminars, and listening to the national board members make jokes about each other in speeches. Even though I’ve been in the fraternity for 9 years and attended 2 national conventions, this was my first NVC, and hopefully not my last. It’s like a microcosm of Nationals; basically, around 200 people, all college graduates, with interests in helping others and sharing stories of doing so, without any of the drama of college students. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I had happy reunions with, some of whom I haven’t gotten the chance to catch up with in person since Nationals in Boston in 2008! But that first night, at least, I went to dinner with Kate and my fellow Region IX-ers whom I got to know very well, our region director Ding from Minnesota, and section chair Eden, also from Minnesota. After, I went up for the night to room 732, where I was surprised to have no roommate, and just as I was about to celebrate this fact at 11 PM by taking off my clothes and going to bed, the door clicks and in walks my roommate for the conference: David, all the way from Quincy, Illinois. He had actually come from New York City on the Megabus, though, after visiting friends, so he’d been traveling almost as long as I had. Though initially we were just going to go right to sleep, of course we stayed up talking and getting to know each other until 2 in the morning. We both set alarms but agreed to let the other sleep if the occasion merited it.
Day 6 (July 24): Up and at ’em at about 8 AM. David stayed in the room, but I went downstairs and liberally doused myself in coffee and pastries from the buffet, sitting alongside, Kate, Eden, and Ding. After a fun speed-dating activity, it was time for the first slate of workshops. I am glad that I took tons of notes in my little yellow notebook, because at the moment I’m blanking on details of most of time, but suffice it to say, they were informative. (Side note: I skipped the morning lecture to meet and catch up with a few other people, and had a fantastic lunch with members of Region I). There were five concurrent sessions offered at each time slot, and I’m proud to say that out of the 7 slots, 4 on this day and 3 on the next day, I managed to make it to 6, only skipping one on the 24th because I was engaged in conversation with a fantastic brother from Pennsylvania called Jessica. My three sessions of this day were Essentials of Advising, National Policies and Paperwork (an EXTREMELY informative session led by Ping and mrn, aka Region 1 and Region 10 directors), and after a break, Developing Leaders and Mentoring, a new session led by the conference’s chair.
After that, we were on our own for dinner. I spent a little while catching up with Fulori, who was probably the only person there who I knew from Texas, then went back up to the room. While reorganizing my bag, I decided to call my dad, who suggested that I could come home for dinner via train.
And you know what?
Once I got down to the lobby, I found out that the airport shuttle at the hotel was free and ran every five minutes, and once at BWI, I could just hop on the Light Rail and be home in under an hour. As I never like to travel alone at APO events, I managed to convince a group of six brothers who were indecisive about where to go to dinner to take the train into Baltimore with me, so we did. It turned out that out of those six, 3 were from Maryland schools (2 from College Park and 1 from Towson) and 1 was a New Yorker working in Baltimore for the summer. The other two came from Virginia and New York; not too far, but they hadn’t been to Baltimore before. I probably made way too many suggestions about what they should do (they wanted to see the Inner Harbor), but I set them loose at University of Baltimore/Mount Royal station, telling them to walk down to Mount Vernon for dinner at XS and hoping they’d make it back to the hotel okay. After a seeming eternity, I got off at Mount Washington station where Dad was waiting for me. We had a quick dinner and then Mom drove me back to the hotel.
Day 7 (July 25 – Wow, this post is getting really long. Halfway done, I promise): Decided to sleep in, since I brought some breakfast from home and I’d had a big day the day before, and it didn’t seem like there was much going on in the morning. In the obverse of yesterday, David got up really early for breakfast. At about 11:30 AM, I got myself together for lunch just as David was returning to the room with a large bag from CVS; poor guy had an ear infection. I headed down to lunch, which was a delicious buffet.
Three afternoon workshops were in store for me: Working Directly with Chapters/What Would You Do? (basically, a worst-case-scenario thing), Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers (something I probably could have skipped in favor of another session), and finally, Dealing with Difficult People (which was led by this incredible, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners presenter who really told it like it was).
In the meantime, I had caught up with Adrienne and David, two of the six brothers whom I’d sent off to Baltimore the night before and had thankfully gotten back. It turns out they didn’t end up taking the newbies to the Harbor, which was probably filled with tourists anyway, they ate at XS and stayed there for two hours, walked back around Mount Vernon to the Light Rail, and went back to the hotel. Their only complaint was that I didn’t join them (aw, shucks) but at least I made great new friends and they had a good time. Oh, and I’m also in debt to Adrienne for saving me by looking up my phone number on Facebook and calling me after I left my credit card at the crappy coffee kiosk in the lobby, so thank you Adrienne!
The final event of the evening was the big dinner banquet, at which I said my goodbyes to everyone until next time. Even though the conference didn’t end until the next day, after having dinner on Friday with my parents, I realized that if I stayed until the next day (the events were only until 11 AM), I’d only have about two and a half days with my family and three short nights in my own bed. It’s always that weird thing, do you leave early on a high note with a lot of goodbyes in a short amount of time, or stay longer, and say an entire cascade of goodbyes over the course of the afternoon? This time I chose the former (and it’s getting super late as I type this, so I’ll be brief) but it was probably one of my favorite APO banquets ever. First, I got mentioned in the speech; the program director picked a person from each of the 11 regions to highlight, and Region IX was me, so that was pretty sweet, and I ended up sitting with Jessica from Pennsylvania on one side, and on the other side, Arturo and Crystal from Puerto Rico who got mentioned for their region’s highlight, so it was definitely a cool kids’ table. And then, wouldn’t you know it but the 2015 Region Cup, having something to do with chapters in good standing, went to…Region IX! I was so proud when Ding went up to accept the trophy. The rest of the evening was a blur of pictures (both Blondie AND Lillian from Region I made sure I was pulled into the giant Region I picture despite not having been in Region I since 2009) and probably the funniest and most poignant Maggie Katz soapbox talk ever. It made me wish I could stay and sing the toast song, but I guess that will have to wait until the next Nationals, which will be in Pittsburgh, PA in December 2016. Mom came and picked me up around 11:00 PM and it was just nice to have a little bit of an extended stay in my own bed.
Day 8 (July 26, finally, as the clock on my computer rolls around to July 27): HOME! I forgot what it was like to be in “home mode,” as I call it; sleeping in and generally being lazy, with my parents close at hand to hug or bug, whichever the case may be. We had brunch at the club, after which Mom swam while I was going to exercise at the gym but took a nap on a comfortable chaise instead, followed by watching a movie and having dinner back at the house. Tomorrow: NOTHING, except for a few errands, and hopefully becoming at peace with my ATHE presentation, and maybe writing a few posts to make up for my near-week of non-posting.
And that brings me to an hour later, still in the kitchen when I could be in bed. Good night everyone!