there is something wrong with me, ups and downs

In which I am my very worst self

I spent last week at a conference. I went last year too.

The content on the whole is great. They have amazing keynote addresses (which this year even managed to be on topic) and amazing tech presentations. The breakout sessions turned out not to be as relevant to our role but they set up a “garage” area that was more in our sphere and that was cool.

Don’t I sound positive, after the fact?

It was great… it’s great BIG. Estimates varied from 12-14000 attendees.

All in all the event is too big for me – I feel lost in conferences with several hundred attendees, let alone several thousand. And they had growing pains of their own, little nitty things that added up to not a great experience.

Things like asking the people who were in for Training the day before the conference to get there 1-2 hours before we needed to be there, and then not letting us into the training rooms on arrival because they were still being set up.

Things like simultaneously asking everyone to come in and register a day early to get better positions at the concert night, causing a huge rush during training registration and sessions.

Things like having that rush correspond with not just 1 registration line but also separate lines for swag and concert entry. The entire facility was just a sea of snaking lines, and that was just the prelude to the event itself.

Ostensibly the theme of the event was Breakthroughs but I would say the real theme was lines.

My second day (the first day of the event proper) didn’t go much better. The coffee reception didn’t exist because we all needed to queue up for keynote seating. (I didn’t grab the awful hotel coffee because I was headed over to the reception).

No. Coffee. For. Me.

That line:

  • Had us standing on a concrete slab for over an hour (my back and feet in agony before we were done.
  • Didn’t have any separators to keep people in queue, so later arrivers were able to swoop in and get ahead of people who’d been there longer, waiting.
  • Didn’t guarantee a place in the keynotes because they had either oversold the conference or not set up enough seating inside. I got in, barely, and ended up in one of the farthest back rows, with easily hundreds of people still behind me. Some of them ended up in an overflow room, watching the event via streaming video. They were not pleased.

Continue reading “In which I am my very worst self”

exploring and revisiting, there is something wrong with me, travel, ups and downs

Disembarkation, Departure and Disease

We have to be out of our cabin by 8am so the stewards can prep for the next people.

Breakfast is a simple affair- half staff at the kitchen and dining because this is their crazy day.

I’m not that hungry, and just want a bit of protein and caffeine and some water for my slightly scratchy throat. Continue reading “Disembarkation, Departure and Disease”

adventures abroad, travel, ups and downs

Anticipation

There are rules, you see. You can’t go except on a special Visa. MSC has set up their excursions to qualify as Person-to-Person educational experiences. As long as you do 2 of their excursions, we can sort of do whatever all else and still have qualified.

We signed up for 3. Two today – day and evening, and one tomorrow before we sail away.

We have a brief discussion about changing our excursions. Should we skip the one today and get off the ship earlier if we can? Our excursion doesn’t leave until 1:30 – what time are we to arrive in port?

Scheduled arrival is 1pm. We are not going to do better than that.

We actually sail into the harbor a bit early, the old city drifting by us on one side, El Morro (Morro Castle) off the other side.

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Continue reading “Anticipation”

adventures abroad, travel, ups and downs

Going

I get up and ready and am waiting at the door for 10 minutes. My driver arrives at 3:02 for my 3:00 pickup. Trust is not my strength; I’ve already looked up the number to check status.

My driver – this is my third time traveling with him – is a soft-spoken man with glasses and a pleasant accent. He’s from an African country but has lived here for 20 years. He’s thoughtful and reasoned, good-humored in such small hours, and enjoyable to chat with.

The self check kiosk isn’t working and there’s no one at the Air Canada desk yet, but I had printed my boarding pass at home so I press on. AC seems to have just one gate here. It’s across from a Dunkin Donuts and I bless the nice young woman who gives me my coffee.

I settle in near an outlet to charge my Kindle while I read the ebooks from Wil Wheaton I bought for travel (I enjoy his blog, and thus far my purchases do NOT disappoint)

…and a new arrival at the gate is a snorter. DUDE. WE CAN ALL HEAR THOSE NOISES AND THEY ARE GROSS.

Lord thank you for this day and bless this person because they are probably suffering or at least clueless and give me – no not strength but grace to not go punch a person.

As if I would ever.

The hop to Canada is relatively short; the 2nd leg to Heathrow is interminable. But Canada Air is running both and the planes feel clean, bright, spacious by airline standards, with nice amenities (movies, charging station, food service etc).

As we are landing in Heathrow on the 2nd, there are fireworks displays going off all around. How big they seem from the ground and how small from above!

The last leg of the flight is a codeshare run by Aegean and it’s a shock to the system to return to such tight cramped quarters. The crew is nice though. I try to sleep when I can but it’s just not conducive.

It’s 4:08 local time when we land and nearly 5:30am by the time we get through customs, get our luggage, meet our driver and get transferred to our hotel.

We see the Acropolis, lit up, in the dark of the morning on a distant hill en route to the hotel.

The moon is a crescent in the sky and the signs in English and Greek underscore the distance I’ve traveled today.

Αθινα.

adventures abroad, exploring and revisiting, roadtrips to new-where, travel, ups and downs

Day 1: Departure Iceland

The flight is at 7:35. International: advice is to get there three hours ahead. 4:35pm. But my car has picked its moment to beg me to get rid of it and so between the unfamiliar rental car and the unfamiliar route to Dulles, I give myself plenty of time. I’d so rather be checked in, reading at my gate, than stressing about it. Continue reading “Day 1: Departure Iceland”

photography, ups and downs

Fly away home (if you can)

The Andes from above

My original flight plan would take me nearly 24 hours, inclusive of security lines and layovers, but on arrival to Miami I am able to get in an earlier flight, so I can already be home hours before my original flight would have been boarding. 

It’s a shock to the system, to get back on an American flight and the cramped space. Two days later I will hear something from the airlines – as they prepare to further restrict the space- about how passengers don’t mind because they don’t opt to pay more for a better seat. To which I call bullshit. Charging more for that space is a money-making device for the airline not a social experiment, don’t let’s kid ourselves, and there are certain fees we might avoid on principle in protest. (Example: I prefer and choose when I can the airlines that don’t charge for luggage, even if I’m not going to check a bag, for instance, and under no circumstances am I paying for a checked bag even if it means traveling that much lighter). In the same way that I might pay more to board early / ensure I can get my carry-on in the overhead compartment but, though it’s a distinction without a difference, I will promptly stop flying an airline that charges me for bin space. Count on it. 

I back that up with action: They supposedly get the best ratings of any major US carrier and invested a lot in improved customer experience (recent news articles notwithstanding) but there is one airline with whom MY experiences were so bad that I will not fly with them. Period. Even if it costs more. Even if it means having to make stops/layovers. If there is literally ANY other airline option, I take it. Because all I can do is vote my displeasure with my wallet. 

/End rant. 

In any event, it is good to be home. To shower in clean water. To be able to brush my teeth from the tap. To drink iced drinks and eat raw, fresh vegetables. ( Salad! Oh I missed salad! )

To sleep in my own bed. 

Yes!