Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You call that a mall?

In an attempt to catch up on this blog, here's my post about Minneapolis and the Mall of America. I had been under the impression that the M of A had a roller coaster. I was misinformed. It has eight. It's also four stories high and in many cases doesn't have just one of any given store. There are two Victoria's Secrets, three Lids, and four Caribou Coffees, whatever those are.

Nickelodeon runs the theme park, so you can be sure there were giant posters of Spongebob Squarepants and the like. We rode the Fairly Odd Coaster which is like Psycho Mouse at Great America or Mulholland Madness at California Adventure, only more wacky and fun. We sat next to these two "cool" teenagers who kept asking why we were screaming; "are you really that scared? this is nothing."

Feeling sad that we had nothing proclaiming our trip to M of A, we stopped for a photo op by this corny poster. Figures, I go to Minneapolis and take pictures with California landscapes.

I'm trying to figure out if the water is going out into the horizon or if Alison's half-drowning and I'm long gone. Tough call.

For our last dinner together, we splurged in downtown Minneapolis. Afterward, I insisted on making our way to the second story of some building to walk across one of the sky bridges or whatever they're called. To connect a 7x7 block of downtown to make life bearable in the cold winter months strikes quite the brilliant chord in my mind. This one was Mary Poppins themed, note the umbrellas!

The next day I had to wake up early in order to drop off Alison at the airport in Minneapolis and drive 4 hours to my airport in Des Moines only to wait 3.5 hours for my completely out of the way flight to Texas which lasted 2.5 hours in addition to the first 1.5 hour flight, on which they fed me a dinner of beef jerky and trail mix, getting me home to Vacaville around midnight and that's not even taking into account the time change. Traveling cheap is so glamorous, isn't it?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who knew Madison was named after the fourth President?

The Capitol area in Madison is a really fun place. After lunch, we took the free tour at the capitol building led by woman who needed to take a break from her hand movements. We learned a lot about the capitol, including that its dome is larger than the country's capitol and that it would be worth billions of dollars today since it's filled with irreplaceable stones and marbles from all over the world.

We were able to go up the dome for a great 360 degree view of Madison.

My only goal in Madison was cheese. Usually goals are expressed with verbs, but this one was really just cheese. I tracked down a cheese shop on State St. and we got some cheddar cubes...

...and took the quintessential cheese head photo. Arm poses inspired by our gesture-happy tour guide.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"We're not in Iowa anymore"

Iowa is full of contradictions. I think I already mentioned this but I want to give you another good example: Carlos O'Kelly's Mexican Cafe. Is he Mexican? Is he Irish? Are we having enchiladas, corn beef, or lattes? Who knows. Is it so hard to pick one thing?

On our 4.5 hour drive (I'm actually loving the driving, even though I don't have cruise control) from Ames, Iowa to Madison, WI we passed a billboard that said, "Hell was made for deadbeat moms." Guess Dante missed the memo.

We also passed an indoor water park. I guess Californians never have to worry about such water park hindrances as below zero temperatures.

Wisconsin's terrain is a bit different from Iowa. It's not nearly as flat, as we drove around lots of curves, up hills, and through gorges. We drove away from the setting sun, which cast such a vibrant orange glow on the land. I actually commented at one point that I felt like I was in Africa because of the orange glow. So, if you're in the market for a safari, you need not apply for a passport. Just head on over to Wisconsin.

We went to the Capitol area for dinner on State St. We found a delicious Middle Eastern restaurant with hearty food and a nice waiter where we could sit outside and people watch. Oh, the heinous outfits parading the streets! Short overalls, purple up-to-the-thigh suede boots, a silver sequined skirt...And that's just on a Thursday.

Today's fair isn't until evening so we're going to go explore the capitol some more and hopefully track down a cheese shop. Then tonight we're heading back across the Mississippi (which I simply love) on our way to Minneapolis which I hear great things about. Apparently the majority of buildings are connected by suspended corridors so that you never have to go outside when it's colder than a shoulder out there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Today I was at the University of Northern Iowa. The fair was way smaller so I had a lot of time to network and talk with other recruiters on the road. We're all going to the same fairs on the Iowa circuit which is kind of funny because we're staying in the same hotels and passing each other on the highway on the way to the next fair.

I felt like I was really getting into the swing of things today, and a couple more exhibitors were surprised to hear that I had recently graduated, that I was just an intern, and that this was only my second day on the job. This was so encouraging that I could barely contain my proud grin. My friend Jim from John Cabot has chastized me for (albeit respectfully) referring to him as seasoned (he's retired) but the fact that people believe I am is quite the complement.

This guys's actually another recruiter. ;)

Today I (re)met a woman who insisted we hadn't met before, who I finally connected back to the NAFSA conference in LA. It's amazing how often you trip over the same people on your trips. I think it's really awesome that this network is so small and tight that you can really make some good friends you get excited to see on your various travels. You really form mini travel families.

Tonight we went out to dinner with a big group of other exhibitors and had a great time relaxing and hanging out. I finally enjoyed a much-needed beer! I'm once again exhausted but exited for tomorrow to meet more people and recruit more students! I think I could actually get used to this (but ask me again in 3 weeks).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Being Professional-Take One

Today was my first day actually running through a fair! I was at the University of Iowa and it was a great success. I got a chance to network with a few people from various other companies (like John Cabot University-ROME), but mostly I focused on doing a good job for my own. It was my first day, after all.

I felt like I had a good grasp of all the materials, and the guy next to me even commented that he thought I sounded like I really knew what I was doing! Phew. My disguise is working.

Students were actually really receptive to the programs I was telling them about. I think my excitement got them excited, which is kind of the goal. I hope the novelty of promoting doesn't wear off too quickly because I had a lot of fun today and it felt rewarding-like I was handing these kids an opportunity that could radically change their lives in a great way.

And then there are always the crazies. One middle-aged man (do you go to U. Iowa, sir?) stopped by my table, asked if he could take a Hostelworld discount card (which looks like a hotel key), and explained, "I like collecting stuff like this." Stuff like what exactly? Stuff for your valuable collection of random crap? I'm sure that will give you a great return one day.

I'm finding I don't have nearly enough time in the day to do everything I need/want to do for work/relaxing/showering/keeping up with my correspondence. I should calculate the amount of money I make divided by the hours I put in. I bet I make like $2/hr. I think they call that slave labor...or no, these days that term has been redubbed internships. Still, tonight I ate sushi (at a place that serves sushi and sandwiches...nothing here does just one thing) "on the company". And that's priceless. Literally.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Mid-Western Front

After all the crap everyone's been giving Iowa, I have to give America's Heartland some props. It's quite beautiful: clean, rustic, and exceedingly green around every corner. I'm currently in Coralville's lush (ha) Motel 6, with Alison, the girl who will be in charge of Germany programs. So far, I've seen a lot of tractors and yes, corn. The highlight so far has been watching the bright pink sunset fall over Iowa City while sitting on the steps of the Old Capital Building. This is probably the most boring post I've ever written but I got 3 hours of sleep last so please excuse my lack of creative juices.
Tomorrow's my first fair...I've spent some time trying to brush up on my programs but inevitably I will be asked asked questions tomorrow I can't answer. That's what brochures and websites are for, I suppose.

I leave you with this:

You know you're in Iowa when... pass several consecutive giant wide load trucks with gigantic long silver blades that look like sharks and realize they're windmill blades. All I can say is that windmill could take Jack's Giant and cut him up into giant stew. witness yellow checkered University of Iowa overalls at the store. I'm sorry, but WHEN is it ok to wear overalls? Especially yellow checkered ones? pass a town called What Cheer. Is that as in "What Cheer!" like I feel the warmth and joyousness of Christmas year-round living here? Or is it filled with more attitude and angst as in "What Cheer?" like when can I get the hell out of this dull, dead-end town? Just some thoughts.

But really, I like Iowa.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What are we celebrating again?

Got home last night and had a very enjoyable day today celebrating a well-deserved break from all my laboring (Yes, I'm being facetious). Sure, I spent the weekend moving out and driving (ok, riding) up home, but that doesn't quite equal the efforts of, say, migrant workers and kindergarten teachers. My dad said he read that something like 2/5 people are unemployed right now. I guess that would make today more like Lack of Labor Day. Looks like I fit right in.

Friday, September 4, 2009

F & G's 12th Anniversary

Brittany and I started an arguably silly tradition a couple years ago...we celebrate an "anniversary" on Friendship Day every year. Since our friendship started in 5th grade, this is our 12th anniversary-we've been friends more than half our lives now. Kinda crazy. We finally made a point to do something fun for it (about a month late) last night by going out to dinner at Prado, an exciting restaurant in Balboa Park. I'm going to refrain from launching into a restaurant review and instead just say that it was delicious and we had a fabulous time pampering ourselves gastronomically.

I'm not even going to put the normal picture of us up...these are much more entertaining and true to form. Good thing not too many people were around to watch us embarrass ourselves.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fork in the Road

It's my last few days living in San Diego before I move home to begin my fall study abroad recruitment internship. I'm going to be visiting university study abroad fairs on the Iowa and California circuits, promoting various programs to students in exchange for a great resume builder and a huge network of contacts.

I'd say, "How did the summer fly by so quickly?" but since it always does, just like everything else wonderful and sweet in life, I'll glaze right over the sunny reminiscing and look to the future. In just 3 days I'll be home, unpacking my things and trying not to allow myself to fall into a slump over the idea that I just graduated and am all-too-quickly moving back home, instead remembering how lucky I am to have a base from which to launch my various expeditions.

First stop: Des Moines, Iowa. Life can't always be glamorous. They key is to keep an open mind, and my previous travel experience has prepared me for this. I think. In my five-day trip I'll also be jetting through Madison and Minneapolis. Perk point: Mall of America. Too bad I get paid so far below the poverty line that the line is a dot to me (Friends, anyone?).

I'm more excited and less anxious about my upcoming travels than I ever have been in the past. I like to think all this change is finally starting to feel more like second nature and less like cruel and unusual punishment. Success!

Thanks for tuning in. I'll keep you posted about my carrying ons!