Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reflections on AAAL 2011 Chicago--Prelude

I have been putting off writing about AAAL for some time now partly because I do not know where to start. Since the semester is over I do not have any excuse anymore. So here it goes. First let me begin by my general impressions. For the most part I was happy with the organization and presentations. I have to say that I was like a kid in a candy store; I was so excited about seeing the people I read in person. Deciding which presentations to attend was a very tough decision at times especially because I am interested in both second language acquisition and second language writing. Overall second language acquisition research won when I had to choose between the two. Okay, before I get lost in my own thinking, I should probably go back and start from the beginning. The week before the conference was pretty hectic because I was trying to get things done before I left so when the Thursday night came, the night before my departure, I was pretty exhausted and not to mention sleep deprived. Despite all this, I could not sleep because I was very excited. The idea of the conference had been my source of motivation throughout this very challenging Spring semester. I remember thinking 'I'm going to the conference whenever I was overwhelmed. Now finally it was time and I was afraid that something was going to go wrong or worse that I was going to be disappointed. I had to wake up at five in the morning to get ready and catch my train. Worried that I was going to oversleep I had told my husband to wake me up. (My poor husband occasionally serves as an alarm clock and he is on a different continent too. He is a sweetheart). Anyway I spent the night worrying about all the things that could go wrong instead of getting a good night sleep--a bad habit of mine.

Friday, March 25

I woke up on time. My dear friend's husband took us to the train station. It was very cold and I was thinking I did not have warm clothes. As you can imagine I was quite grumpy and silent so early in the morning. I decided to focus on the present so I looked around the trains and passengers in the sharpness of the morning light, I let in the smells of the station and felt the cold on my skin. I was lucky that I had such an understanding companion with me. The train came on time and I was happy once I was on the train. I do not know if it was because I'm a romantic but I like trains. They make me melancholic and excited at the same time. I thought to myself "Yes, I'm ready for a new adventure." I watched the corn fields and trees for a while and I even waited for a deer to show itself to pass time. Instead I saw cows and horses. Oh well, that's life. After a while I left myself to the gentle rocking of the train and fell asleep. Perhaps that's why I thought the trip way shorter than usual when we finally arrived Chicago. The train station was cold and windy--no surprises there. My friend and I had breakfast and then went to the hotel to check in. The check in was much faster than I thought and before I knew it we were in our room in Sheraton. We rested a little and then I decided it was time to go to the Turkish Consulate. I had to go there to renew my passport and I had thought the conference would save me one more trip to Chicago. So I left the hotel with the intention of walking to the consulate. Even though I had a map with me I got lost--no surprises there either. I decided to take a cab and unfortunately the driver dropped me off at the wrong place. And I had showed him the map and the address too. I did not have much time left so I asked a woman smoking. She told me where to go and in two minutes I realized that she had directed me in the opposite direction. I had to ask two more people to find the place. Lesson 1 people give you directions even if they do not know the place you are talking about, so don't trust anyone ^_^ Finally I entered the building sweating because of all the running around and made it to the consulate just in time for my appointment. The security guide let me in and told me to come later because people were on lunch break. Trying to catch my breath I said but I have an appointment at noon. He went to talk to some people and they decided to talk to me. The actual appointment did not take longer than 10 minutes. I completed my application for renewal and then I was free to enjoy the conference. I called my friend to have lunch and we decided to meet at Navy Pier. Guess what, I got lost again. I sometimes cannot believe myself. I have been in Chicago several times. I do not know what is wrong with me but I'm terrible at following directions. Finally, after asking 4 or 5 people I found Navy Pier where my poor friend was waiting for me. We looked around, walked by the lake and had lunch. Then we returned to the hotel easily and quickly, thanks to my friend. I had volunteered from 4 to 8 so I went to the registration desk. I met some people there and I saw some people I already knew. It was really crowded and busy. I was hoping to see some researchers I admire during registration but there was no time to look around or to talk to people. Also since I'm quite a shy person I found myself hiding behind the table. Those four hours flew quickly and at the end of those four hours I was pretty tired. Lesson 2 do not wear heels when you volunteer ^_^ One of the organizers asked me if I could substitute for a session chair who could not make it. I said sure. I went to my room and my nice roommate had my dinner ready. We talked a little and went to our comfy beds. Finally, I fell asleep, tired but ready for the ball.

Lesson 1--Do not spoil the moment by worrying too much. Carpe Diem! (I failed until the first day of presentations)
Lesson 2--Take warm clothes with you when you go to Chicago ^_^ (I failed)
Lesson 3--Get things done before you leave for a conference so that you can enjoy the conference (I did)
Lesson 4--Get a good night sleep before you travel (I utterly failed)
Lesson 5--Choose your travel companion wisely (I did. Lucky me.)
Lesson 6--Do not count on people for directions (I somewhat failed)
Lesson 7--Volunteer for conferences if you can (I did)
Lesson 8--Use this opportunity to meet people (I failed until the first day of presentations)
Lesson 9--Wear comfortable clothes (especially shoes) when you volunteer (I somewhat failed)
Lesson 10--If possible stay in the same hotel the conference is taking place (I did)

To be continued...

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