Saturday, July 25, 2015

Awesomely Exhausted

The title of this post is the most concise way that I can describe the events of this week.  I totally meant to hop online and post nightly updates on my trip, but the level of busyness and mental energy at the conference was off the charts and I was lucky if I managed to check my email before I dropped into bed! 

I don't even really know where to begin.  It was such a great week, but overwhelming in so many ways.  Good ways, mostly, but as I figured, information overload was an issue.  What I didn't bank on, though, was how the schedule itself and the constant presence of other people (even great ones) was exhausting.  So exhausting, in fact, that I'm still recovering two days later.  Yesterday I was in a fog all day at work.  Last night I was exhausted by 8pm and sort-of-accidentally went to bed before 9:30.  I woke up briefly after midnight to brush my teeth and take off jewelry, and then stayed in bed until 8am.  After that I took a few more turns in bed dozing until finally showering sometime before noon.  We had Jacob's baseball end-of-season party today and we have another picnic tomorrow, so there isn't much rest for the weary...but I'm getting there.

I left things off last week as I was coming down with a cold.  Luckily, it appears that the zinc and vitamin C I took did their job, and by the time I left on Sunday morning, I was feeling pretty good.  I frantically packed on Saturday so I'd be ready to leave first thing in the morning, but in the end I had a hard time waking up and just got out the door before 7am.  The drive was actually pretty pleasant.  I got a little antsy by the time I actually got there, but for the most part it was fine.  The first half was pretty easy as it was all the Thruway, and the second half was a bit slower but more scenic as I went through the Green Mountains and a bunch of little ski towns.  If I could have stopped at every one I would have!  My first stop was at a little store just before the NY-VT border.  It was called the Big Moose Deli and Country Store, so how could I not stop?
They had a bunch of overpriced stuffed moose and lots of Vermont specialties, but the main attraction for me was a bathroom (in the form of a port-a-potty, unfortunately!)...but it was a nice diversion.
I had another planned stop a little ways into Vermont in a town called Bennington.  There was a super weird statue of Abraham Lincoln that I found via this Roadside America site, and I couldn't resist stopping since it was right on my route.  And indeed, very strange...
It's called "The American Spirit", and apparently stands for "Faith, Charity, and Hope", in that order, I assume.  The girl and boy are both naked, and the placement is so awkward.
I continued on and finally got to Dartmouth!  I happened to arrive a couple minutes after the shuttle buses from Boston, so I had to wait in a line, but finally got my registration materials and parking pass before catching the shuttle to my dorm.  I ended up in a different set of dorms than the majority of the attendees, which initially upset me.  After all, part of my anxiety about this trip was a throwback to my college orientation, where I felt so isolated because I had no roommate.  I knew going in this time that I wouldn't have one (which was much appreciated), but being in a different set of dorms made me worry that I'd be away from so many other people.  I shouldn't have worried, though, because my dorm turned out to be central to everything and therefore much more convenient.

We started our first session in the afternoon and had a nice easy start--one group session and then a session with our smaller group, composed of people from similar institutions.  A handful of folks from that group turned out to be my best friends at the conference, not surprisingly.  After that we had a campus tour, and then we had our first fun event, a clambake!  One of my new experiences while there was eating this guy...
Hello, Mr. Lobster!  I don't often eat food with eyes, but he was worth it!  The head went away quickly, though!  There is also a roll, some chicken, a salad, and corn on that plate.  Yum.
We had a thunderstorm while in the tent, but as a whole it was a fun dinner and a good first chance to get to know people.  On the way back, I took this shot of the library...one of my favorite pictures of the week...

Here's a picture of my dorm, McLane.  I wasn't sure if this was an older building that had been completely redone, since it matched the campus style so well (right down to the clips holding the shutters back), but it turns out it opened in 2006.  It was connected to another building, as well.
My room was on the top floor, possibly 3rd or 4th from the left.

This is one end of my room...bed, dresser, desk, and nightstand/bookshelf.  The other direction just had a closet and the door.  It was small but well lit and just fine for the little bit of time I spent there.
The architecture was so classic and certainly befitting an Ivy League school.  Almost everything looked the same, but it was so pretty. 
We never went in the Collis Center, but the front porch on it was so lovely.

A daytime view of the library...and that tower was the easiest way to know which way to go on campus!

The Hopkins Center for the Arts is across the street from the campus, and next to the Hanover Inn, where we had some sessions.  I guess it was designed by the same guy who did the Lincoln Center in NYC.

The Tuck School of Business was in the same part of campus where we spent our group sessions.  Love the columns.

This is the view walking from the large group sessions back toward the center of campus.  My dorm is to the left and the library is up ahead (though this is from a different side than my previous shots).

Carpenter Hall was adjacent to the library and built in 1929, according to the date above the doors.  This was on the way to where my small group sessions were.

Dr. Seuss was a famous alum, and the School of Medicine is named with his real last name.  Funny.

The pretty church on campus.  There was a very old but more modern looking chapel right down the road, too.

Dartmouth Hall is the oldest building on campus, though it has burned down twice.  The foundation is intact, so I guess that counts.  Very stately, though!
So...back to the conference itself.  It was really amazing.  The speakers were outstanding, the sessions all very interesting, and the people I met were great.  The days were long, however.  Breakfast was at 7am, the first session started by 7:45 or 8am, and we usually went until at least 5pm and usually later.  We generally had an hour and a half for lunch, and usually about four 15 or 30 minute breaks, but most of that time was spent walking between buildings and getting a snack.  It was a lot of information and with very little true down time, that is what made it so exhausting in the end.  I found it funny that by the end of the third day, you could see a shift in people's mood.  "Decompress" became a major buzzword as people craved alone time and needed a break from constantly talking to people.  But the information was great, and the faculty inspiring.  It really gave me a better sense of how this industry works and more insight into how to improve our programs.  Most likely none of the ideas will fly long-term, but it was nice to get a good storyline going in my head about how things should work.  And with any luck, maybe some of my thoughts will inspire something somewhere along the line.  Seeing so many passionate people in one place was inspiring.  A good chunk of us were new, too, so it was good to be in the same boat as a lot of people.

After the clambake the first night, there was a barbeque across from my dorm the second night.  They also had a major dance party (and I swear 75% of the people there were on the dance floor!), and that was the only time I drank, despite alcohol being accessible every night.  I felt fine at the time, but I woke up the next morning feeling rather dehydrated and tired, so I swore to myself to stick to water for the rest of the time.  I only drank that night to make myself be social, as I was afraid of falling back on my introverted tendencies, and it was important to mingle and make connections.  The next night there was a (very wet) reception put on by Dartmouth, and then I went to dinner in town with a few people I'd made friends with the previous couple days.  It was such a fun evening, but I had to head back early to get some sleep.  One nice guy in the group walked me back to the dorm, and then he walked back to make his karaoke slot! 

The final night we got out pretty early, and my little group was going down to the boathouse along the Connecticut River.  The guys rented kayaks and each of us girls got a stand-up paddleboard.  It's basically like standing on a large surfboard and using a long paddle to move through the water.  I'd never done it before and was a little worried about totally sucking at it, but in the end it was really fun!  We went quite a ways down the river and then had to paddle back against the current.  It wasn't easy, but I really liked it!  I can't imagine doing it anywhere with waves, but I would certainly do it again!
Looking down the river...very pretty!
After that we cleaned up and went to another bar in town for dinner.  Again I left a bit early (but not too early), but I was sad to leave some of the fun behind since that was our last "fun" event. 

As a whole, I really enjoyed the people I met.  They were so all so different but equally fun and interesting.  Heck, three of the people I chatted with a lot were over 60!  One was a data guy, so we had that in common.  The other two were older ladies, one of whom I met on the way to breakfast the first morning, as she wasn't sure where the dining hall was.  We met up with her friend there, and I ended up eating breakfast with them each morning.  They were very interesting and so nice!  I ended up making a couple Facebook-worthy friends (including a mom of a six-month-old who left a little early because her baby was having a tough time), and a handful of LinkedIn-level connections.  I really appreciated the chance to get to know some wonderful people in the same industry.

Let's see....what else...well, here's a picture of the view from my room...
Hard to see, but to the right of that building is a cemetery.  A little strange, but clearly it's very old.
...and the view from the porch outside the building where I had my smaller group sessions...
It was the most modern looking building on campus, and this area was very pleasant to spend a break in.  The church is to the left and the back (also modern-looking) end of the library complex is to the right.
It was a little hectic after the last session, having to run and get lunch and then move out of the dorms.  I wanted to take a few minutes to walk around the town and find the kids a little souvenir (no luck, though I did get myself a cheap Dartmouth magnet), so I drove my rental car there and found a cheap parking garage.  After that walk I hopped in the car and started my longer path home.  I wanted to break up the ride with a couple stops since I knew the drive would be tough, but after a late start and running into a ton of slow traffic through the small towns on the back roads, I found myself a bit short on time.  Still, I stopped at this fun piece of art in Rutland, VT...
On the right is a parking meter, and on the left is a dog struggling against an invisible leash.  Cute.
I tried to find another odd piece of art nearby, but didn't have any luck on that one.  I did another stop in Saratoga Springs, but not for as long as I wanted since I was so behind schedule.  I did get the kids a couple treats from a candy store there, though.  At long last I made it to Syracuse, where I met my college roommate Mary (appropriate after the week I had, huh?) for a late dinner.  I could have chatted with her all night, but I was exhausted and had to head home.  I finally made it home just before midnight.  I was so tired but so thankful for the amazing week I had.

I will do another post soon about a few other random thoughts and the state things at home.  This is enough for one post, I think.  My bed is calling me...again.

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