Thursday, July 31, 2008

My life in a nutshell (or a comic)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Random conversations...

... with children.

In the span of about 20 minutes this morning, I had a conversation with a seven-year-old that covered the following topics:
- cabins 'up North' and fishing at the cabin (he taught me about different kinds of fish in the lake at his cabin)
- the difference between a mountain bike and a road bike (I explained)
- climbing mountains (vs. falling down one) (a mini version of ''would you rather...'')
- race cars (and possibly monster trucks? he was trying to explain a particular type of car to me, and I still have no idea what he was thinking of)
- DUIs and why drunk driving is dangerous (in all seriousness, he asked why it was bad.)
- things a kid could be arrested for (again, he asked how a kid can get arrested -- presumably because it is much more common for an adult to get arrested)
- bullies
- paper airplanes (complete with a lesson in making them)
- siblings

This kid was probably at least some level of ADHD, which would partially explain the randomness of the topics (and the often illogical links between them!), but it was still really entertaining to realize all that we had covered in less than a half an hour. The things kids come up with never cease to amaze me. But more than that is what they teach me, even when they're not trying.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The World Traveler Returns.

My parents have taken to calling me the world traveler since I keep going on these trips to different parts of the world for conferences. I kind of like the sound of that, because really, that's what a part of me dreams of being. Especially after returning from amazing trips like this one. There is so much to say, and I know I won't cover it all, but I'll try to give the general thoughts and impressions. [pics will come in future postings or at my photo-site here].


A preview in photos:
Barcelona was great. Definitely up there on my list of favorite places in Europe... The architecture was so cool and colorful. It's known for the Gaudi pieces (colorful mosaic style pieces) that are all over the city. I decided have three favorite places: the Palau de la Musica Catalan (the stained glass picture above is the ceiling of the hall, the center drops down over the audience), Park Guell (a huge park with a big Gaudi bench that twists around and other Gaudi architecture), and the beach (so warm and beautiful and relaxing :-)). The tapas and the people-watching and getting to use my Spanish (even though they speak Catalan there, most people understand Spanish too) were also fantastic. Traveling with Aaron was fun... good to have time to catch up with one of my closest friends. It was kind of an intense three days, running around to fit everything in, but it was great.

A preview in photos:

Wurzburg (aka ISSBD aka the actual work portion of the trip) was also amazing! The preconference on peer victimization was really cool -- I've been to preconferences before, but they've been on general peer relations. Having one this specific to my interests was different, and it was nice to have a group of people (especially since it included some of the leaders in the field!) all focused on such a narrow topic. The general meeting had some good sessions and some not so good sessions, which is fairly par for the course. I had a chance to make some professional contacts, which was, of course, great. I have to say, the best part was by far the people I met. This conference was unlike any other in that most people there were the only ones from their programs/departments. So, that meant there were a lot of people kind of floating around on their own. Not only did I get to meet people from all over the world (e.g. Netherlands, South Africa, Zambia, Camaroon), but everyone was so incredibly friendly and welcoming. On several occasions, we were about to go to lunch and then someone else would come up and start chatting with one of the small group that had formed. Then, that person would just invite the new one along. I have never seen such inclusivity. It was definitely a detriment to the whole efficiency thing, since it often took half an hour to get out the door. But it was nice.

Personally, it was a great trip because gave me a chance to remember how much I like being on my own at times, meeting new people, and just generally being a competent, friendly person. These last several months here have often made me forget that. I lost some parts of myself, and it was great to rediscover them on this trip away. Another "personal growth" moment, shall we say, was the fact that my cell phone didn't work in Europe (neither did most of my new friends'). Consequently, most of the planning to meet up for dinner had to happen earlier in the day or on the fly. Of course, things came up and people were late. Normally, if someone wasn't there after a half an hour we would all leave. So my little "control freak" nature got to take a break and I was forced to go with it. And it was good for me. It worked in my favor too... everything just worked. I don't even know how else to explain it, but the theme of this whole trip was that the universe was conspiring with me instead of against me for a change. I was a half an hour late to meet people one night, and sure I was going to miss the group, but they ended up waiting for me and others as well. My new friend Lucy was going to meet us too but was no where to be found when I go there. Just as I was about to run back to my hotel, she got there. Perfect timing. Like I said, it all just worked. So, overall, great conference, great people, great experience.

Frankfurt (in approximately 12 hours)
A preview in photos:

I was only in Frankfurt for an afternoon.... I decided to spend the morning in Wurzburg so I could do some shopping and last-minute sight-seeing with Lucy. She was supposed to be coming back to Frankfurt to get to the other airport in town, but miscalculated the time so she ended up missing her flight. It was actually nice because we got some more time to hang out together and I had a buddy to explore Frankfurt with for a few hours.

The architecture of Frankfurt was really interesting in that it was full of contrasts. There were a lot of modern, skyscrapers mixed in with older more traditional architecture (man, where's Jill when I need the technical terms to make this make sense?)
Anyway, Lucy and I went to get dinner and to wander around the city a bit. On our way to find the cafe area of town, we walked through this park near the Opera house. Apparently there was some kid-fest going on. It was like a mini-carnival, but all totally kid-friendly games and activities, including a long ramp that kids were riding down in little plastic tubs (picture above). It was really funny to see -- very unique! After I dropped Lucy at the train station, I wandered around the city some more. Got myself a little turned around, so I ended up wandering around for longer than I planned. I was looking for the Main Tower because they have an observation platform. When I finally found that, I got there just in time for the last lift up to the top. So glad I made it... it was a gorgeous view of the city! Back to the hotel to pack and then collapse.

So, this post ended up being quite a bit longer than I initially planned. But to encompass the last two weeks, I guess it had to be. Feel free to check out all my pictures (they should be posted soon!) to see more about my European adventures.