Saturday, August 5, 2017

Day 3: Atlanta

What. A. Day.

I have learned a valuable lesson about myself: I was really not created to be a night owl. That said, I don’t entirely regret being up until 4:00am. I hate that my body feels sick from exhaustion and that I know I’ll be too tired to join the hike tomorrow morning, but today was an amazing day, and in the end, I’m happy to leave it just the way it is.

Today kicked off with strange sounds. I thought it seemed awfully obsessive of Jackie to spend half an hour blow drying her hair off and on. Jackie thought it was horrendously obnoxious of our other roomies to be running the blender repeatedly for 30 minutes. We got up to discover neither of our assumptions were correct: there was a repairman taking apart our dishwasher. Apparently he was expected, but not until 11:00… it was 8:00.


We then hurried off to the Loudermilk conference center for a busy morning full of “break-out sessions”- little 45 minute talks by staff and students that we had voted on earlier in the year. There were 8 sessions, but they ran two at a time. Choosing which ones to attend was so hard! Glad they will be posted on Youtube sometime later. I went to sessions about working remotely, marketing, freelancing, and “how to work a city” (strategies for getting involved in your community and social life when you move to a strange city).


Of course, being Praxis, it wasn’t ALL work and no play! I had a fabulous time discussing Christianity with Angela (my friend from last night) and Elisheva, a new friend I made this morning. I really like these two! We might start a study on the book of Esther sometime.


Other fun included walking for half an hour to get to Jeni’s Ice Creams.


Along the way, we saw a TON of street art! Exploring Atlanta is like walking through a massive urban art museum. It’s such a colorful place.


In our group, we had a British guy and a Swedish guy. Ed and Igor. We also have an Australian named Santi, but he didn’t end up on our ice cream excursion, so I didn’t catch him in this photo.

After the ice cream trip, everyone caught Uber cabs back to the conference center. Everyone except for me and Angela and Ed. There were not enough seats in the other’s rides for us to pile in, and it was just as well. We almost didn’t realize that Ed would have been left alone! He spent half an hour or so chatting with a couple of guys he just randomly met on the street. One of them was (I think) a computer tech person (?) and the other, who I actually got a chance to talk to, is Joe- a recent music school grad from New Orleans who plays the viola and is looking for work. He seemed really cool. Standing there next to Ed with his backpack and all, I walked up and introduced myself, assuming he was part of our group and I just hadn’t met him yet. We had a good laugh when I discovered he had no association with us at all.

Eventually we pried Ed away from his conversation and hopped in an Uber cab back to the Loudermilk, getting there just in time for dinner and our final keynote speaker, Stephen Pair, the cofounder, president, and CEO of Bitpay. Sadly I didn’t finish dinner or the presentation, because I started feeling a little sick and left the room to lay down for a nap for a while. Glad I did too, considering how the remainder of the evening went.

After a quick stop by my Air BNB place, we headed over to the hotel where we had enjoyed conversations and played games last night. I figured that’s what we would do this evening. Boy, was I wrong. Upon first arriving, I didn’t see anyone around but Ed. So he and I hung out and had a great chat about life and psychology. Not long after, a number of staff and Praxians came through and invited us to join them at a karaoke diner nearby.


The restaurant had a really cool 1950’s-meets-the-future sort of atmosphere.


Due to the karaoke, it was unfortunately loud, however. So my voice felt kind of dead after trying to carry on conversation with people there.

A while later we headed back to the hotel. It was approaching midnight, but knowing my roommates, I wouldn’t be able to get back to our accommodations for a while to come. Someone told me there were a bunch of people hanging out in room 411, so I stopped by there. The information was definitely not wrong: I could hear people from several rooms away. As it turned out, someone had the bright idea to throw a hotel party and cram 25 people into one room with a bunch of alcoholic beverages. Good gravy. As I walked through the door, someone pointed at the back of the room and said “You’ll have more fun with the sober crowd”. I concurred and headed to the far end, where I saw Adam playing a fascinating, archaic looking game. Beyond him, my buddy Anthony was chatting with another guy about art and logo design for his nonprofit. It didn’t take long before we decided to head for quieter surroundings.

Somewhere along the line, our third person vanished, leaving me and Anthony wandering around the hotel lobby. We stumbled upon a Praxis staff member, who invited us to a Chicago style pizza place. Being a Chicago native himself, Anthony jumped on the invite immediately and I followed suit. We all got dropped off at the restaurant, only to find it was closed. Apparently the others had already come and gone.


We wandered along the street, trying to decide what to do next, as lightning lit up the sky and rain began to come down. Unfortunately for us, everywhere that was open on that stretch was a 21+ place, and Anthony is only 18. So, we stepped under an awning to research our options as the rain got thicker. Laurie, the Praxis team member we were with, got a text. Supposedly T. K. and his group were still at the pizza place. What?? We headed back over.


As it turns out, there was a back area that was still open, and though the restaurant was about to close, they let us in to join our friends since we wouldn’t be ordering.

Eventually, we got kicked out of the restaurant so that they could shut down for the night. That’s reasonable. It was already after 1:30am. As we all stood around outside (the rain had cleared! Hooray!), T.K. (the “token black guy” of the Praxis team, as he once said) and Evan Lee, the Asian of the group, finally had the freestyle rap battle they had been plotting throughout the day. As the two of them started to wind down, I decided to mix things up and jumped into the mix with a few rhymes of my own! Nobody expects the little girl in the pearl necklace to start rapping. Everyone’s expressions were priceless! We went back and forth a few times, then the guys handed victory of that round over to me. Gotta say, that was one of the most glorious moments of this entire trip for me!

By 2:30am we were back at the hotel. My roommate who had the one key that we all shared was looking pretty drunk, sitting outside the hotel room party. He refused to let me have the key, which thinking about it was reasonable. If I fell asleep (which we all know I would have), there would be no way for the rest of them to get into the building and up to our room. Another roomie had recently returned told me she was going to see about convincing everyone from our place to go home. 10 minutes later, she returned with a huge crowd of people who wanted to go to a waffle house. Yes, waffles at 3:00am. I was exhausted, but didn’t have much choice, so I tagged along. Besides, I told myself, I might not even get to see half of these guys again.


In the end, I was glad I went, even if I was exhausted to the point of feeling slightly ill. T.K. had to fly out in just a few hours, I learned, so I was happy to get to wish him well before he headed back to Los Angeles.

By 3:30, we were at the hotel once more. Jackie and I couldn’t find the rest of our roommates, who of course were the ones with the key to our place. In the end, we found friends at the hotel who let us crash in their rooms for the night. We can change clothes in the morning, eh?

What a wild day, night, and now morning it has been!

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