The Phi Theta Kappa convention was in Philadelphia this year. I had never been to Philly, so I was excited to check out the city.

The trip began rather uneventfully considering all the past problems I’ve had flying out of Fargo. The flight was on time and the take off was smooth. In Minneapolis, however, we had to wait on the tarmac while our gate was cleared. After a wait (15-20 minutes, if I recall correctly), we were taxied to another gate. Sure enough, that little wait was enough to cause havoc. Crystal and I had to book it across 4 concourses to catch a plan that had been boarding for 20 minutes and was scheduled to depart in 10 minutes! We jogged and were greeted by the gate staff, who didn’t even check our boarding passes–they just let us run down the walkway. At the plane, they had to re-open the door for us. The flight attendant who “greeted” us said, “We’ve already moved people around and it’s a full flight. You’ll have to take whatever is open.” Well, we easily located the only two empty seats and made a beeline towards them. The attendant, ever friendly, then adds, “You know, they don’t usually re-open the door” and then “As soon as you sit down, we can take off.” NOT TRUE, it turns out. Our luggage had to be transferred, so we waited another 15-20 minutes for that to occur. As the pilot relayed this info to the passengers, no doubt everyone knew who it was our stuff we were all waiting for!

The arrival at the Philly airport and the hotel was non-eventful, thankfully. The hotel was gorgeous–an old historical government building converted to a Courtyard by Marriot. Blessings of blessings, they sold Mt. Dew in the lobby and the vending machines (trust me, this is critical in my world. I don’t drink coffee and would sign up for an IV hook up for Dew if they offered it). This was a rare treat since, outside of the Midwest, Dew can be hard to find in non-convenience store settings.

We missed the first two rounds of conference forums and arrived before the next event occurred, so we ran to the Hard Rock Cafe to eat. We were famished, as we departed Fargo at 7 am and arrived at 2:30 pm (remember, airlines offer very little in terms of food service any more unless you succumb to the price-gouging fare they sell you).  Afterwards, we walked around a bit and then headed to the Opening Ceremony, which is a grand affair not completely unlike that of the Olympics. Over 3,700 students and advisors were in attendance!

On Friday, we attended forums and general sessions though I spent the morning working on my studio tours. During some of our free time, we ate at an Irish Pub called Fergies (on Sansom), and we walked some more. During one of the general sessions, Christiane Amanpour (CNN correspondent who presented the series God’s Warriors–regarding Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and her husband, James Rubin (a former Assistant to the Secretary of State), spoke about our new Honor’s Study Topic, The Paradox of Affluence: Choices, Challenges, and Consequences. Both were dynamic speakers, and I was a little verklempt, I have to admit, to witness Amanpour live (not “live on CNN,” but live as in she’s right there talking)! I greatly admire her for her experiences, reporting style, and knowledge on political affairs abroad. I was interested to learn that the topic that keeps her up at night is the rate of technological growth and advancement (this is tied to the idea that many, including many in the countries she is famous for visiting mid-conflict, will be left behind). She also said her hope is for an “army of ambassadors” to change others’ perceptions of the U.S. and its policies (this is all a poor paraphrase. She was eloquent). All in all, this was the speaker I was most interested in seeing and it lived up to my expectations!

At midnight, Crystal and I took it upon ourselves to test something she had read in one of the tourist materials we had picked up: in Philly, you can find something to eat at 3 am. We walked and walked but only saw a lot of night clubs but not a lot of options for food. We covered a good 10 block radius we figured.

Saturday included more forums and general sessions, but during the day on Saturday, we had more free time to explore the city, so we visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the famous for the Rocky movie when Stallone runs up the steps), and the Italian market for authentic cheesesteaks (we chose Pat’s instead of Geno’s. No reason why. It’s a great debate) and again, to see the vendors (and it’s another scene from the Rocky movie–Stallone runs through the market as he trains for the big fight).

Saturday also included a session with author Amy Tan. She began by talking about her experiences using Cliff Notes as a student in college (too many classes at once). As an author, she was intrigued when she ran across a Cliff Notes of her own book The Joy Luck Club! She read an excerpt from the biography page and was tickled (or was it alarmed?) to read that she supposedly had an affair with an older man who had ties to organized crime. She, in a self-deprecatory manner, let us in on the facts: the man was 22 (she was, I think, 17 or 18 at the time) and his friends sold pot. She commented “and they were hardly organized about it.” She had the audience roaring with her acerbic wit.

The day concluded with the grand finale: the awards ceremony where chapters received recognition for all their hard work and projects over the last year.

On Sunday, Crystal and I had to be up by 5 am so we could make it to the airport on time. The flight was full, as usual, but we made it on time and with no difficulty. Our itinerary, though, was a little mind-boggling. We went to Salt Lake City to connect to a flight to Fargo. So we were on planes for a LONG time. We departed at 7 am Philly time and got home at 5 pm MN/ND time. You do the math. I am too tired.

There is so much more–I could tell you about the funny songs we heard in the cab rides to and from the airport, I could tell you more about the informational sessions we attended, and I could write much more on my observations of Philly; however, I wanted to get the highlights recorded before I forgot and I think I’ll leave it at that!