Friday, July 27, 2012

Minnesota, take me home

I spent this week in Minnesota at a workshop on teaching sustainability in the geosciences in an interdisciplinary context (for my friends at research universities, that should read: hippie hippie hippie NERD).

The first thing I noticed, after spending the preceding two weeks in a part of the country that I love but that is not known for overt displays of hospitality, was how incredibly friendly everyone was. I was greeted by multiple happy faces and "How ya doin's". My decision to relocate to the area permanently was sealed when I was dropped off in the quaint downtown of the small town hosting the workshop. Every morning I walked down a pretty main street lined with bookstores and coffee shops and yoga studios, then turned onto a residential street lined with tall oak trees and wonderful houses. It definitely made up for the active train tracks running four feet from my hotel window. Even that was kind of adorable in its own way. Its own loud, three o'clock in the morning kind of way.

The workshop was held in an old high school that was beautifully restored for the university's use. You may not know about my obsession interest in old school buildings. I tried to picture myself teaching high school students in the fifties in one of the beautiful old classrooms--wearing a full skirt belted at the natural waist, pantyhose, and pearls--but then I remembered I would probably have been asked to resign upon becoming pregnant with Charlie. But still, the building was wonderful

One of the workshop's evening activities was a hike through the university's 600 acre nature preserve. We were treated to a beautiful sunset and lots of fireflies. I was really impressed with how dark and dense the forest was. There was also prairie land and some manicured gardens. I could have spent hours there(Except: mosquitoes the size of bats, the scientists were prepared, however--someone had a pair of kneesocks in her bag and another passed around a can of Off that just happened to be in her laptop case.)

IN addition to the mosquitoes, people keep telling me something about Minnesota being cold and snowy in the winter, suggesting that I would possibly miss the year-round porch drinking afforded by Texas's climate. I chose to ignore them because it was SO GREEN AND PRETTY! FIREFLIES!

The workshop had participants from tons of different disciplines like philosophy, history, economics, engineering, and the sciences. I had never considered the sustainability issue from so many different angles and it was fascinating. We all stayed in the same hotel and ate all our meals together and spent every evening hanging out together at the campus bar, so the conversation continued, formally and informally, for the duration of my visit. My favorite part was on the last day when I worked with a geologist and historian to develop a new course on the history of coal and its effect on climate. The three of us had lots to teach each other and lots to learn and we covered all the boards in the classroom with diagrams and ideas before distilling all of it into a brief course description and six learning objectives in a frantic twenty-minute scramble at the end when we realized we were almost out of time.


Then we exchanged cards and agreed to keep in touch. I really hope we do.

After that I had dinner with three women with small children and we had a really great conversation about how we balance things and where we were in school when our babies were born. And then we moved to the bar where I misunderstood the menu and ordered a local Minnesota beer large enough to bathe James in. I could not finish it, which was a shame. In the name of conservation and sustainability, I should really have tried to save it for tonight.

It sounds like Ryan had things under control at home too. Wednesday after James's well-check they spent three hours at the science and nature center then went out for lunch, a more ambitious day than I would have ever considered. Yesterday when we talked he reported that they had played pirates and done a yoga video. Charlie's reaction to yoga: "Papa, this hurts. I think it's only for ladies."

And now I'm on a four hour layover in Denver on the way home. Tonight we have big plans to eat pizza and watch the opening ceremonies. It's supposed to be over 100 this weekend, so I assume we will also spend a lot of time at the pool. After three weeks of travel, it will be nice to have some calm time together at home.


Alyssa said...

Sounds like a fantastic conference!

Jessica said...

I forget the rest of the country isn't as 'nice' as we are in Minnesota/Iowa (I grew up on the border). You don't say hi to strangers all the time?

sarah said...

What a great conference!!! Minnesota sounds lovely; I like a small town with coffee shops, book stores and yoga studios. What else does one need in life? Oh, fireflies! Perfect!

LOL @ Charlie's reaction to yoga. That's awesome!

-R- said...

I'm guessing you were in Northfield? Which is like 20 minutes from my house!!!!!

I'm glad you had fun.

Martha said...

I am guessing you are in Northfield which is were I live and love love love this town. C. College is a fabulous college and S.O. College across the river isn't so bad either. I am glad you liked your trip to my lovely town.

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your conference! I love nerdy conferences. :) They make me happy.