Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Longest Day of Travel

On Sunday, I was traveling from Rollins College in Orlando, FL to University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA. Traveling this distance requires two flights: Orlando-Chicago and Chicago-Cedar Rapids. My first flight was scheduled to depart at 10:15 AM.

At 6:45 AM, I rolled out of bed to get ready for breakfast and leaving. The girls assigned to take me to breakfast ended up oversleeping, and I was a little frustrated that I had woken up so early. I grabbed a granola bar and waited for the Vice President, who was taking me to the airport at 8 AM. I ended up being at the airport way too early. However, I'd rather be early than running late. After my fiasco in Pittsburgh, I never want to feel that rushed again!

I boarded my flight and immediately rested my head against the window. Plane time=nap time for me. Always. It is a talent I am lucky to possess. And I always request a window seat so that this is a real possibility. I had been dozing, assuming we were flying somewhere over the country when the pilot came over the speaker, "I apologize for the delay, folks, but we are having some issues with braking and steering. The mechanic has been working on it out here, but we need to go back to the gate." "What?! We're still in Orlando?" I thought. I was shocked.

When we got back to the gate, everyone was grumbling about their connections and the delay. Children were getting antsy, and there was an unfortunately large number of children on the flight. As much as I love children, I hate them on planes. Half an hour later the pilot came over the loud-speaker again, "Well folks, the braking looks alright, but the steering is going to take at least another 2, 3, 4 hours to service." Everyone on the flight gave a nervous laugh. Is he serious? "This plane is out of service. We will begin de-boarding briefly." Now people are really grumbling. I have to admit, I was frustrated that my flight was canceled, but did I want to be on a plane with braking and steering issues? Absolutely not!!

I was near the back of the plane, so by the time I de-boarded, everyone was gathered around the gate attacking the Customer Service Rep. with questions. Bless her heart, this older black woman working for the airline was so calm and patient. I should write a letter to United praising her attitude.

It had been decided than an empty plane would be flown down from Washington DC to take everyone to Chicago. Orlando is a surprisingly small airport. I shouldn't say its small, but it is definitely not a hub. There is no way they could have re-routed everyone on my large flight any time in the next three or four days. The plane would be arriving around 3 PM, so everyone scattered to go entertain themselves.

In my concourse, there were a few restaurants, but only one sit-down restaurant. It was a Ruby Tuesdays. By the time I got there, there were at least 40-50 people waiting to be seated. It was noon by this time, and my granola bar was not holding me over very well. I turned to the man next to me and simply asked, "How long do you think the wait is?" "Oh," he responded, "at least an hour people are saying, but not if you join me. I'm next in line."

Wow. Smooth.

Let me describe this man to you. He was a 45+, balding, very overweight, Native American, truck-driver. He was wearing grungy shorts and a t-shirt, carrying a pillow and a book bag. I, on the other hand, am 22; too cute to be with a man like this; wearing a blazer, skinny jeans, and cute flats (my favorite travel outfit); and carrying my black leather briefcase and my carry-on suitcase.

I was taken aback. Is this man asking me on a date or is he just being nice? Afterall, he is old enough to be my father. In a moment of naivety and starvation, I accepted his invitation.

Sure enough, we were called to sit down 2 minutes later. People were literally staring at this bizarre couple I had become a part of. My waiter was approximately my age and very attractive. I kept trying to send ESP signals to him and let him know that I was not with this man. Surely no one thought so?

My date was very chatty. He told me his whole life story, and it was more interesting than I would have expected. He had gone to undergrad and majored in Chemistry, then gone on to medical school at the University of New Mexico. (He shared all of this without me mentioning my education and career plans at all. Therefore, I choose to believe him.) He had to drop out after this third year of medical school because of personal issues, then moved to Vegas to deal cards. After years of that, he got too old and started driving trucks. He has worked on some interesting projects, including the Alaskan pipeline! I'm not exactly the open-up-and-share-deep-stories-with-random-strangers kind of person, but he liked talking and didn't seem to mind my silence.

My date kept calling me sweetheart and insisted on paying for my meal. This was a subject we argued back and forth about for a solid five minutes. As we were leaving lunch, my travel agent returned my phone call from earlier, which was the perfect excuse to end my date.


We eventually ended up flying out of Orlando at 4 PM and arrived in Chicago around 6 PM. I had been placed on standby for multiple flights to Cedar Rapids that evening. I have never flown standby before, and it is the most disappointing thing ever! You trek back and forth through the airport trying to get on a flight, only to learn that the flight is full and you were just a few people away from getting on. At least I got some exercise!

BUT I did end up making it to Cedar Rapids that night. I was number 4 on the standby list for the 10:20 PM (and last flight of the evening) to Cedar Rapids. By some miracle, two people didn't show up. Guy number 1 got off the list, people number's 2 and 3 didn't show up, and then I got on with my number 4! I literally screamed I was so excited.

Its good to be back in the Midwest and at the University of Iowa.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Visit to Florida: Week 1

I just finished up a visit to Rollins College in Orlando, Florida--a school unlike any other that I've visited so far. I haven't been down to Florida in quite some time, maybe since middle school? When my family lived in North Carolina, we would take regular trips down to Florida, but I don't think we've been there since we moved to Illinois. I forgot how different the vegetation and climate are!

Rollins campus is absolutely gorgeous. Situated on a small lake in Winter Park (see the picture below!), it is very picturesque. Its no wonder that movies have been filmed there. Mostly recently was, "Sydney White," a sorority movie that came out just a few years ago. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm sure its nothing great. It might be worth seeing if only to get a glimpse of Rollins campus. I took a few pictures, but it doesn't do the campus justice. The Spanish style architecture and Spanish Moss trees are so beautiful!

Here is a picture of Rollins Hall, Kappa Kappa Gamma's house!

Here is a picture looking at the back of the Kappa house. Aren't the trees pretty?

During my week at Rollins, I had a lot of meetings. The chapter is struggling to get back on track, and I worked more hours there than I have on any other visit outside of recruitment season. There were a few afternoons where I had an hour break here or there, and I tried to get outside as much as possible. The weather was in the upper 80's and 90's all week, and when the college has both a pool and beach, its not something you can miss out on! I did end up getting a few faint tan lines, which I am very proud of.

The chapter did not plan many activities for me in the evening, which I was ok with. With so many meetings during the day, I definitely needed the time to decompress. I also got the chance to go out in town two nights. One of my girlfriends from high school, Carly, lives in Orlando now with her internship at Disney World. Her and I got together one night for frozen yogurt, and it was so great to see a familiar face and catch up! Last semester, Delta Zeta colonized a chapter at Rollins, so the have an Educational Leadership Consultant living full time on the campus. Her and I met on my first day at the chapter, and its always great to talk to other consultants on the road! She took me to Park Ave., a shopping and dining district right off of Rollins campus. We went out for a glass of wine one evening. Gosh do I miss wine!

On my last day at the chapter, I had the morning free, so I walked down Park Ave. to the Winter Park Farmer's Market. I absolutely love farmer's markets. I would always try to go when I lived in Omaha, but I usually slept in too late on Saturday mornings to make that a realistic goal. It was great to walk around and get some yummy food! I waited in line forever for famous bagels, and then got some fresh brewed ice tea at a stand on the edge of the market.

After leaving the farmer's market, I walked around Park Ave. a bit. There is a beautiful park in the middle of the district (probably how the avenue was named!), and it was fun to just sit and people watch.

There are also a lot of trains that go through this area!

On the way back to the chapter, I stopped at Origins to look at under-eye creams. Some nights on this job I don't sleep very much or very well, so anything I can do to look awake is a plus! The woman at the store acted just appalled by my face.

Lady: "Your pores are huge." (Yea, duh. Thanks for pointing it out.)
Lady: "You have sun damage." (No really, I don't. I'm very fair-skinned and wear sunscreen every day.)
Lady: "You must be using retinol, your skin is so dry." (Retinol is a prescription for acne and for wrinkles. No I don't use that. And no, my face isn't dry.)
Lady: "You're starting to get forehead wrinkles." (I don't want to think about it. Doesn't that start happening to everyone around this age?)
Lady: "You have terrible dark circles under your eyes. Is that genetic? Or do you just not sleep?" (Well gosh, I wouldn't say they are terrible. Are they really that bad?)

I know its all a scheme to get me to realize why I need their products so badly, but whew, thanks for the self-confidence boost, lady! She offered me a free mini-facial (obviously another way to prove the greatness of their products), and I accepted only out of boredom.

After my facial, she offered me the whole kit for the low price of $300. Haha, no thanks! I did end up walking out with $30 under-eye cream/brightener, but that is what I had gone in looking for.

All in all, it was a long week and a lot of work, but I hope the chapter learned a lot from my meetings and can use our conversations to help move the chapter forward. I'm going back to Rollins in mid-November, and I'm interested to see what the weather is like then! My friends from home will be jealous if I come back for Thanksgiving with a tan!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Adventures

Last week when my brother, Patrick, was home for Fall Break, he and Dad picked a pumpkin for my mother. I cannot begin to tell you how excited she was about it..."Every time we drive by those fields I want a pumpkin so badly!" Knowing how much I love cooking, my mom decided to wait for me to come home before touching the thing.

For a little bit of background info, our small town in central Illinois is surrounded not only by corn fields, but also by pumpkin fields. The town next to ours, Morton, IL is where Libby's pumpkin factory is located, and 85% of all canned pumpkin is grown in central Illinois. (Think about that this Thanksgiving!)

Eating pumpkins are much different than "Jack O'Lantern pumpkins." While JOL pumpkins are deep orange, eating pumpkins are actually more yellow. And while the outside is yellow, the inside is a rich orange color and so fragrant. Also, this one was pretty big, comparable to a regular JOL pumpkin. After we had begun our cooking project, we realized we should have taken a picture of the original pumpkin, but you'll have to trust me on this one.

Mom found a recipe on Allrecipes.com for baking with fresh pumpkin. We cut off the top, cut it in half, gutted it, and placed small pieces into three large pans and baked it forever.

While the pumpkin was baking, we separated the seeds to get them ready for roasting. I grabbed another recipe on Allrecipes.com for roasting pumpkin seeds. Below is a picture of mom and I after we had prepared the seeds! You'll notice our matching aprons that we bought when I was in third grade. We never actually wear them, but they are very festive, so I insisted tonight.

After baking for over an hour, I checked the pumpkin to see how tender it was. One of three pans was done in 45 minutes. The other two took almost an hour and a half.

Pictured below is 1/3 of all of the cooked pumpkin. Once its cooked you have to scoop it from the skin, which was surprisingly thin.

Its not surprising that in the end we had over two quarts of pumpkin puree.

I'm disappointed that I have to leave tomorrow and can't enjoy my hard work just yet. Mom is planning on cooking with some of our pumpkin and freezing the rest for Thanksgiving or Christmas!

Meeting Up with LCs is Always a Good Time

Last weekend at Touchback, Madeline and Kristen were talking about their upcoming weekend at Illinois Wesleyan. Madeline was visiting IWU as their LC last week, and Kristen went there for undergrad and was coming back for Homecoming this weekend. Since I live less than 45 minutes away and was home for this weekend, I HAD to see them!

After staying out late on Friday, I slept in pretty late on Saturday morning. I finally got my butt out of bed, and drove down to IWU in the early afternoon. I met up with Kristen and Madeline for tailgating, but we didn't stay to watch the game. Instead, we went back to the Kappa house to hang out and took a tour of campus.

Here is a picture of the Illinois Wesleyan Kappa house!

Kristen gave Madeline and I a tour of the IWU campus. Here's a picture of me in the "Beauty and Beast room" in the library.

The theater on campus has a head on its roof. I don't know what that is about.

We also got a picture of the three of us! (Kristen, Madeline, Me)

That evening, Madeline and I drove back to Washington, IL for a relaxing evening. We went out to dinner with Beth, the Fraternity Vice President who lives across the street from me, and her daughter Sarah, who is one of my closest friends. After dinner Madeline and I went to see the Social Network. It was a surprisingly deep movie, and I would recommend for anyone who has a Facebook account to go see it.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early to get Madeline off to the Bloomington airport. We picked up Kristen on the way, and I dropped them both off. I however, have two more days at home. My next school is on Fall Break through Tuesday!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thanks for a Decent Night, Keps

After flying out of Richmond, Virginia at 6:01 AM Friday morning, I arrived at the Peoria International (haha) Airport at 9 AM this morning. Although I only got three hours of sleep, I joined my mom for RPM spinning class at Five Points, Washington's community center/gym. After starting laundry and eating lunch, I realized I was exhausted and laid down for a nap.

That evening I went to the Mexican [restaurant] with my parents. My dad asked me what my plans were for the night, and I told him that I was going to Keps, a local sports bar. Keps is one of Washington’s finest and was just rebuilt after burning down just over a year ago. My dad was interested in checking out the new Keps, so we headed there for a few drinks, even though I’d be going back later that night.

Only an hour after leaving Keps, my friend Sarah picked me up to go right back. When we walked into the bar, Tara and Sarah both got carded, but the bouncer took one look at me and said, “Weren’t you just here?” Me: “Yes, with my parents….”

My girlfriends, Sarah, Tara, Kayleigh, and I were enjoying catching up over a few drinks and people watching. Townie bars like Keps are best for people watching. However, there are things you don’t want to see—like your middle school and high school teachers dancing. After the Washington Community High School home football game finished, Keps got noticeably fuller, which was when a lot of our old teachers started pouring in. Although it was karaoke night, someone must have requested, “Get Low.” At first I was pleased to take a break from the usual country karaoke songs, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. All of the teachers present moved out onto the dance floor and began dancing. There are some things you can never unsee, and even though I didn’t want to look, it was like watching a train-wreck.

All in all though, it was a good evening. We had decided to leave, and then a few guys from our class walked into the bar. We caught up with them and then headed home.

Friday, October 8, 2010

You're Traveling in That?

At 4 o’clock this morning, a cab pulled up outside my house to take me to the airport. Mr. Cabbie was quite friendly, chatting the entire way downtown. We drove miles down Monument, a main thoroughfare, and the closer we got to downtown, the homes got larger and more beautiful. Mr. Cabbie informed me that we’d be stopping downtown to pick up another gentleman. I’ve never had to share a cab with a stranger before, and I didn’t know this was even allowed. The women from the University of Richmond Chapter had paid my fare in advance. Did he get paid double to take us both? Whatever, not my biggest concern.

The gentleman we picked up downtown was quite fascinating. He travels around the country speaking about the lung disease Alpha-1, a rare genetic mutation which causes a lack of trypsin protein, causing COPD. I explained to him that I am going to medical school next year, which caused him to go into even further detail about his disease. He gave me his business card with instructions to “Google him later.” His website apparently has a lot more information about the disease. We got to the airport shortly thereafter and headed our separate ways.

It always surprises me how busy the airport can be at 4:30 AM. Today there are a lot of soldiers leaving for training. I mean, lots of them. It was quite impressive to see so many people in uniform. I am also struck by the other people I come across in the airports. Most peculiar to me are the women who dress to the nines to travel. In my experience, they usually aren’t the classiest women either, with outfits appropriate for street walking, or at the minimum, night-clubbing. Who do you think you’re going to meet in the airport that you need to wear 6” platform stilettos and a short skirt? People aren’t staring because you look so great; they are staring because you look ridiculous and uncomfortable.

I, on the other hand, am enjoying a very casual travel day. I usually travel in business casual attire because I am going to visits. Today though, I am going home, and I woke up at 3:30 AM. Therefore, I’m wearing cropped yoga pants, running shoes, my favorite American Apparel t-shirt, and a fleece. With the help of some mascara and under-eye brightener I think I look more awake than would be expected of anyone at this hour. In my vain opinion I look much more attractive than any of those women in stilettos and short dresses.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Touchback Weekend!

Last weekend all of the LCs gathered for a weekend of fun, relaxation, and a bit of work. Because I had been in Granville, OH the week prior to my visit, I was the first to arrive at HQ on Friday, at an early 9 AM. Upon reading the room assignments, I found out that I would be rooming with Vicki. I texted her to let her know this. Her response, "Wait, how do you know?" Me: "Because I'm there!" Vicki: "But its so early! I haven't even started my travel day yet!"

After finishing up some paperwork, I decided to take a much needed nap, something you don't usually have a chance to do at HQ. I then went for a run and finally met up for lunch with Kristen and Madeline, the next two LCs to arrive. Eventually, we all made it in, and it was wonderful to see everyone!

On Saturday morning, we did a photoshoot for The Key magazine. The group of us will all be published in the Winter issue. Here are a few pictures from the day!

This one is a zoomed out version of what will probably be featured in The Key.

Kylie, Kappa's Archivist, was in charge of the photo shoot and took a lot of pictures in between. We all love this one. Carolyn had just shared something funny with the group, and we were having a very typical LC moment.

Every year the LC's take a jumping pic. It's just tradition!

The weekend was a blur...we brainstormed, ate a lot, got Jeni's ice cream, went shopping, and it all went way too quickly!

My Week at Denison

This past week I was at Denison University visiting Gamma Omega Chapter. Denison is a pretty small private school just outside of Columbus, Ohio. The chapter has a house, however, no one lives in it except a House Director (and me for the week!). They just hold meetings there. Below are two pictures of their house. It was a much bigger house than these pictures show!

The Kappa house is located approximately 200 feet from downtown Granville, OH. Granville is the cutest little town, with a few cute restaurants and boutiques lining the main street. This picture doesn't do it justice!

At the end of the week I got driven back to Columbus where Kappa HQ is located for Touchback Weekend with all of the LCs!