Thursday, November 25, 2010

On taking the time to go out

Most college students don't have issues taking the time to go out and have fun. It's right there at the top of their to-do list, between finding money for rent and trying not to fail out of school.

For me, it's not so easy. Those who know me well know that I'm a 40-year old trapped in a young adult's body. In other words, I'm a serious one. I focus on school work and work work and procrastinating against house work. To be fair, I'm also pretty lazy about actually leaving the house - especially if it involves walking in the cold or at night. Plus, although I'm a late sleeper and riser, I'm very much a homebody. I may not go to bed for 4 hours, but ideally, I like being home by 10 PM. Told you I was an old soul!

All of this to say that I haven't really been taking the time to socialise and enjoy Kingston. Ironically, I think I've seen less of my favourite spots in Kingston since I moved here than in the (total of) 3 weeks or so that I'd previously visited the city. It's sad, I know.

Part of this was getting used to a new environment and remembering all my academic studying tips. Part of it is also my cautiousness when it comes to making friends. I may appear to be an extrovert, but truly, deep down, I'm very much an introvert! And as my friend Mehnaz said so well in this post, introverts tend to be slightly invisible due to their choices. That's certainly how I've been feeling in relation to the other people in my Grad programme, though by no fault of their own! I'm just not a partygoer, and I don't spend a lot of time at school because I work better from home. Understandably, I haven't formed strong bonds with most anybody.

Last week, something changed in me. Maybe it's because I felt more at ease with my workload and the material we've been covering in class. Maybe it's because it's the end of the semester and I just needed to get out. Either way, I decided to jump feet first into socialising and attend Kingston's annual Nighttime Santa Claus Parade. There would be no excuses, even if it was going to be dark and the forecast read COLD! And boy, did I have fun! Parades are always great because you can really get into the celebration as each float goes by, and seeing the excitement in the eyes of the little kids attending really enhances the experience for me. Plus, this one was filled with Christmas cheer and pretty lights - two of my favourites, especially at this time of the year!

I had a wonderful time. To top it all off, a friend and I finally dined at The Tango Restaurant, which I've been dying to return to ever since I checked out their online menu - and their new cocktail list. The whole night sparkled with winter magic and the late walk home was refreshing and invigorating.

Last night, I continued the trend of actually enjoying myself in my town and went out with some of the girls from our programme following our bi-weekly Grad Seminar. Once again, I had a great time, full of stimulating conversation that wasn't argumentative, and laughter! This casual hanging-out made me realise the importance of spending time with others to build bonds. Facebook and school work is nice and all, but they don't spawn friendships. And how else am I going to break out of my introvert shell? My walk home was full of inner smiles and feelings of "I should do this more often."

This time, hopefully, I'll stick to that thought.

PS: Happy Thanksgiving to all my US friends!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On California and NASSS

Last week, I escaped the cold winter temperatures of Kingston, ON and made my way to sunny California with a couple of school colleagues. We spent 2.5 days in Los Angeles, and stayed with my family in their gorgeous new house I'd never before seen. Located in a gated community at more or less the highest point of the San Fernando Valley, the house offered a great view of the sunrise, which I enjoyed on my full first day in LA. It was absolutely amazing to wake up with the sun, and thankfully, I could enjoy it without being completely exhausted. Yey for reverse jet lag!

Tuesday was also a full day of outlet shopping, which was both fruitful and exhausting. Also, I had an In-N-Out burger... sorta. I panicked upon hearing "Thousand Island spread" and opted for ketchup and mustard instead. To use a Twitter term, #FAIL!

On this day, I fell in love with Charlotte Russe (the store) and I'm planning on visiting the Watertown, NY location as often as I can! That night, I went out for sushi with my cousins. Instead of stuffing our respective faces with yummy raw fish rolls, we ate well and were just as full. This place was so great! In fact, we had our meal next to Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe... You can check off "celebrity encounter" on the LA dream vacation list!

Wednesday, we did a quick Hollywood/Beverly Hills/celebrity homes tour, which was both dull and interesting. It would have been much more fun to see places where shows and movies were filmed rather than where the actors and actresses live. Or rather, the shrubbery and gates they use to keep the paparazzi out. Then, we caught the train to San Diego for the start of our NASSS (North American Society for the Sociology of Sport) experience. Fortunately, we missed the train we wanted to take and saw the sun set over the ocean on the way. Absolutely stunning!

From Thursday to Saturday, I spent most of my time doing conference stuff, from attending sessions, events, and activities to meeting and speaking with some very interesting people across the various sport studies disciplines. I was especially thankful to meet some great people in Sports Management, as well as some key names in the study of hockey. Hopefully, we will stay in touch and our relationships will be fruitful for both sides. I'm looking forward to catching up with some of them in June at the NASSM (North American Society for Sport Management) conference in London, ON.

Though our hotel was far from the main touristy areas, I did take some time to explore Old Town (though mostly at night), the Gaslamp Quarter (again, at night) and downtown/Horton Plaza, as well as the NBC building across the street, where I caught a local newscast from the studio/control room.

Yes, there was lots of shopping on this trip. I spent way too much money getting things that I've been wanting or needing for a while, like a winter jacket or that camel-coloured purse I've been searching for, as well as key basics that are impossible to find at decent prices in Canada. Needless to say, I'm really going to enjoy those Watertown shopping trips, and I'm going to take them more often than not when I'm looking for something specific and can't afford to pay out of my eyeballs for it. It doesn't help that I have issues with paying more for something than it's actually worth. It's why I have such a hard time resisting sales, like the deal I got for 2 pairs of sandals at $21 (one at $10 and one at $15 PLUS 50% off when you buy two pairs) or the JC Penney "Buy one, get one for $1" doorcrashers deal I encountered on Saturday. Simply amazing.

Even though one of my goals was to make it to the beach and swim in the ocean again, I didn't quite get to do that. I did walk briefly in the sand at Pacific Beach - so soft! - but my ocean experience was limited. Time was too short and distances were too great, though one can argue that they're much greater now. We did make it to the San Diego Zoo, however, and I spent the whole day wandering around feeling both thrilled and sad. Some of the animals I was seeing for the first time; others, like spider monkeys, are favourites I love to visit at the zoo. However, despite all its conservation efforts in the wild, the SD Zoo does a very poor job at providing adequate space for the animals to live, and I was shocked to see how little some of the mesh cages were. Because even though they didn't have solid bars, they were definitely cages. And some animals were certainly bummed by the knowledge that they couldn't thrive. It was especially noticeable in the eagles and some of the monkeys. Plus, all the big cats were pacing back and forth. This could have been feeding time anticipation, but I observed this behaviour throughout the day. It almost made me cry to see them that way. Overall, the Zoo is worth a visit, especially to see more unique animals for our climate, like the koalas and pandas, but I'm much more likely to re-visit the Toronto or Granby zoos, which at least provided ample space for the animals to flourish.

Despite a few not-so-positive experiences throughout the trip - scamming cabbie, hotel location, jet lag on the way back - the only true negative is the frustrating cab ride on our last night in San Diego, which I will not get into because I'd much rather forget it happened. No one got hurt - except for our wallets - but it was not an enjoyable experience at all. Lesson learned: triple check that the driver has understood where you want to go and is not taking you where he thinks you want to go and carry a map so you can point out that the error was much more costly than the fare originally would have been. Insert Twitter tag: #LAME!

I'm proud to say that given the relatively low cost of flying to California from Syracuse Airport, I'm more likely than not to make a repeat trip in the coming years. Plus, San Diego seems like my kind of town, even if it doesn't have an NHL franchise. My NASSS experience was wonderful too, and I can't wait to (hopefully) present a paper at next year's conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which, by the way, is an excellent hockey town.

Stay tuned...