Friday, July 24, 2009

In which we travel to Chicago, perform a Winnie-the-Pooh skit, get sick, and have a grand time

[I should never promise to post anything because somehow it never happens]

Two Fridays ago, four of us drove from Indianapolis to Chicago. The three girls were in a car and John M. drove the bus. Our goal? The 9th annual My Life in Christ Youth Conference, hosted by the Bulgarian Diocese. We had never been in Chicago before, or at a Bulgarian parish (as opposed to an American convert parish) so there were lots of questions and unknowns.

Our drive up was largely uneventful except for a) construction on I 65 which delayed us by about 30 minutes b) the first toll outside of Chicago when the car went through an I-Pass lane without realizing it. We looked back and there was the bus, off in a different area. We spent several minutes trying to figure out where John was going and what route he might have been taking only to discover, when we called him, that he was being a good law-abiding citizen and paying the toll while we were being illegal and driving through the I-Pass lane. Whoops. [She later payed the toll online.]

The first weekend was spent finishing the conference planning (!). As usual, we had a great group of young men and women for staff members. This year felt particularly blessed as we grew together in Christ. Stephanie K's fiance, whom none of us knew very well, was there and was a wonderful addition to our group. Knowing him better helps us be happy about their marriage instead of apprehensive and he's just a great guy in general.

On Monday the other conference attendees began arriving. The first ones came in at 5 am. Our main speaker for the week was Fr. Moses Berry, an African-American priest who spoke about his family history and his own journey to Christianity and finally Orthodoxy. We all agreed that he's the best speaker we've ever had. Fr. Patrick Tishel also gave a talk on the foundations of the spiritual life, which I found very helpful, mostly because it was so concrete, as opposed to vague and theoretical.

The week was full of music. It always is, but this year even more so than usual. Barbershop quartets sprang up out of nowhere, dish washing turned into an opportunity to pull out old folk song favorites. The question of whether she's the belle of Dublin or Belfast was hotly debated.

The talent show, which is often a difficult area for me, was great. Very much on the short side, compared to the 3 hour marathon we had a few years ago. Some of the staff and a few others did a Winnie-the-Pooh skit which was so much fun! I was Eeyore. Kathryn and Mara and I had come up with most of the casting and it was really inspired.

Towards the end of the conference we were all getting sick. On Friday, Popadija Junia estimated the ill count to be about 20. After the end of the conference it's risen to at least 33. And of those 33, several have been told by their doctors that they probably have swine flu but no one's testing for it anymore so they can't say positively. But apparently it's the only type of flu going around at the moment. We are distressed. What good is it being sick if you can't get some news coverage out of it? I personally believe that I have the other strain that went around--a virus but not the flu virust at all.

Anyway, the conference was one of the best, in my opinion, even though we had to work with severe space and facility limitations. We really pulled together as a group and the spirit felt so much more unified than it has in past years. It was truly a blessing for me.

And then after the conference, some of the staff stayed an extra night and we went out to dinner and got stuffed animals form a claw machine. Mine is bright green and named Kiwi. Stefanida and John M went back in the bus on Sunday night and Kathryn and I drove back to Indy Monday, having stopped at the church to pick up John's drill charger which he accidentally left there. We arrived in time for dinner. After dinner John and Kathryn went back to Ohio by separate routes and the conference really and truly ended.

I can't wait for next year!


Mimi said...

I hope everyone feels better, and the conference sounds fantastic!

elizabeth said...

Sounds lovely! There are many Bulgarians in my church and they are very lovely and add a lot to our worship by thier presence.

I hope everyone feels better quite soon as well, and that no one else gets sick.

As always I enjoy your posts!