Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Toga Parties and Texas BBQ

As crazy as my first week was, as an intern, my last week tops it! Shortly after we got back from Kansas City, we returned to catch our flight out to Texas for the annual Ag Media Summit. This year, the American Agricultural Editors’ Association and International Federation of Agricultural Journalists meetings were combined in Fort Worth, Texas. Without hesitation, I can say that this was one of the best experiences of my life.

Our first day was pretty low key, but I was introduced to (what seemed like) hundreds more people. After getting settled at the hotel, we caught a bus to the nearby stockyards for a fun night at Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest honkey-tonk. There have been many times that I have wanted friends and family to share in my experiences here, and this was no doubt one of them. After the best chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, we went to a rodeo at the stockyards. It was a blast watching the sport, meeting new people and becoming familiar with accents from all over the world. We made it back to Billy Bob’s where I (who love to dance) unsuccessfully attempted the two-step.

During the day, much of my time was spent labeling DVD’s and preparing packets for one of the tours, helping out at the registration desk or booth, making headpieces for a toga party (yes you read that right—a toga party), eating amazing meals and listening to some pretty inspirational speakers. I also was racing items from one place to another, handing out programs, and just being available to whomever, whenever, for help. When I wasn’t busy with those things, I had the chance to attend a few extremely beneficial sessions. Not only was I able to meet a lot of people, who kindly offered their advice and contact information to a rookie, I was able to offer up my own advice and encouragement to other students who are hoping to be in my position in the near future. This was very rewarding for me, after having been encouraged by so many people this summer. In our remaining nights in Fort Worth, we stayed at the hotel one night and played spoons (which included a few knives—plastic knives—but knives nonetheless); went back to the stockyards for another tasty Texas meal, live western music and dancing; held the toga party at the hotel; and on the final night, attended a classy gala. Everyone dressed up, enjoyed a great meal prior to the annual awards ceremony and yet another live band and dancing. I, along with many other students representing the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, carried in a flag to represent the many different countries that were present. It was great to be a part of a gathering, where so many different cultures were united by one common denominator - their profession - then becoming aware of their many other similarities. During and after the flag ceremony, a video presentation, depicted the many great times that we had shared throughout the week.

Early the next morning, 15 of us (from 7 different countries) caught a flight to San Antonio, where we helped lead a post-tour of South Texas. We visited King Ranch, a cotton farm and cotton gin, two feedlots, the 74 Ranch, Shiner Brewery, King Saddle Shop, took a boat ride around the famous river walk, and ate dinner on the Gulf of Mexico just to name a few of our stops. Between destinations, everyone on the bus took turns sharing with the rest of the group a little bit about their background. I am kicking myself for falling asleep until the end when I was awakened to my turn at the microphone. Spending that much time with complete strangers, you quickly develop bonds, close to those in a family. I am sad that we have departed, but blessed to have been able to spend the time with them that I did.

Last week was one of the longest weeks of my life—and I mean that in the best possible way. So much was packed into one short week. Since my return, I have had to face the fact that I am actually leaving this place, with no scheduled return. Today, I completed my final article knowing that this officially wraps up the requirements of my internship. Tomorrow, I will get to attend the largely-anticipated Iowa State fair, where I am looking forward to eating something fried, on a stick. JoAnn and I watched the original State Fair movie, and are officially prepared.

Sadly, I will leave the next day. My truck is packed and ready to go. It’s hard to believe the time has come. But I am put at ease, knowing that I will be seeing very special people on the stops I have planned to make on the way back to Cali! As sad as I am to be leaving, I’m ecstatic to say that I’m coming home!

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