Category: Atlanta

Dogwood festival and Easter weekend

My last two weekends have been vastly different, but equally wonderful.  Two weeks ago I went to the Atlanta Dogwood festival.  A huge collection of artists and performers, this event only comes around to Atlanta one weekend a year.  Last year it was miserable and rainy, and so I decided not to go, but this year the weather was absolutely incredible.  And add to that the fact that I was surrounded by people I love, and it made for a perfect first time visit to the dogwood festival.  There were music and dance performances from people and styles all over the world, vendors selling yummy food, exquisite art on display, and even some dog racing and performances.  My only regret is not wearing enough sunscreen :).

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The next weekend, Easter weekend, I went home to Albany to celebrate Passover with my family.  Passover is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  It’s a lot of work to prepare for, and it’s always over in only a couple of hours; but taking the time to remember and celebrate what God did for His people so many years ago is just really special to me.  It was even more special this year, because I got to bring home Amy and Michael with me.  And Chris and Julia and Julia’s parents were also able to come down – we had a full house, but full hearts, as well.  I found the days leading up to Passover quite amusing – I kept getting messages from Amy, Michael, and mom telling me how excited they all were.  I must admit, I shared their excitement.  And once we got there, I found myself just randomly bursting into smiles on multiple occasions.  I was just so happy to be surrounded by so many people that I loved so much.  Despite the stress of school, the job hunt, and everything else, I have been very blessed, indeed.

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Efforts to become more cultured

In an effort to become a more cultured individual, I have decided to make an effort to see more performances this year.  With the Georgia Tech Woodruff Arts pass, which for $20 gives me 1 free ticket to every performance at the Alliance Theater, High Museum, or Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for a full year, it’s hard to find a legitimate reason for why I shouldn’t go.  However, in the course of that push for increased cultural awareness, I have become ever more cognizant of just how much I like watching performances.  Whether it’s modern dance or a musical, a professional circus or just a kid’s play, I love watching people show off their craft, put proudly on display what they have been working for months or even years to perfect.  It gives me such an appreciation for the creativity that God used in designing His creation.

Here’s a couple of my favorite performances that I’ve gone to this year so far:

The first on the list is a bit of a misnomer, since I didn’t actually see the entire performance.  I went home a few weeks ago to see a play that Josh, Matt, and Hope were in.  I ended up having to leave early because of terrible pain from kidney stones, which was a pretty big letdown.  But I got to see the pictures and hear the stories after, and it’s always wonderful to see my family – even if I’m in pain.  Actually, that was probably the best place I could have been – my mother is a wonderful nurse, and my siblings are excellent cuddlers when one is feeling yucky :).

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I went out with Michael and another couple mid-way through the semester to see the circus.  That was quite an adventure!  There was apparently a huge cheerleading convention in the same area, so the roads and sidewalks were swarming with giggly teenage girls in short skirts and bouncy ponytails.  It took us FOREVER to go the last 3 blocks.  But we finally made it…and it was incredible!!  I had never actually been to a circus before, and we definitely picked a good one to go to.  It was absolutely mesmerizing.  I found that I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.

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But I’m also realizing – and very grateful for the fact – that I don’t have to be doing anything particularly exciting to enjoy time with people I love.  And I really have been blessed with some truly wonderful friends.  Michael said something a few weeks ago that really stuck out to me.  “I like your friends a lot,” he said.  “They love you very well.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Whether it be going to a sketchy fair in downtown Atlanta, going out for tea with some girlfriends, collaborating to throw a surprise birthday party, or just gathering together every week to study the Bible and encourage each other – we started a little house church of sorts a few weeks ago – I’m so very humbled by the network that God has given me here.  It makes the thought of having to leave so, so sad.  I’ve been diligently looking for a job all year, but so far nothing has panned out, so please keep praying that something comes through!  I’ve only got a few weeks of school left…but regardless, I’m just trying to remember that God is taking care of me, regardless of what happens :).  

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Caleb with Amy on her first Ferris Wheel ride ever!

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Birthday surprises

I left for Atlanta right after New Year’s day, on January second.  Grammie needed to get to the airport, so I decided to take the airport shuttle from Columbus to Atlanta with her, so I could spend some time with her one-on-one.  This also happened, however, to be the day before my birthday.  And I must admit…I was having a bit of a pity party on the way up to Atlanta.  Here I was, the day before my birthday, going away from family and not going towards friends.  School didn’t start for another 4 days; most of my friends were still out of town.  I didn’t even bother trying to plan anything; I just assumed that my birthday was going to go by unnoticed.  At least I’d get to see Elizabeth – she had already said that she would pick me up from the airport after the shuttle dropped me off.

So she picked me up, we got to my house, and she sent me up the stairs with my stuff, saying she’d be right behind me.  I still didn’t suspect a thing.  I heard her coming up the stairs behind me.  And all of a sudden the footsteps separated, and I realized that there was more than one person coming into my house.  Elizabeth had made a little mini surprise party for me!  She had contacted all of my friends to see who was in town – in the end it was only 2 people, but that didn’t really matter :).  So after I went up the stairs, she snuck in Matt and Courtney with her.  They had a cake, and sang to me, and it was just a lovely surprise.  Elizabeth even managed somehow to hide clues to a little scavenger hunt to lead me to a little birthday present – all while I was right there in the house!!  Either I was really out of it, or she’s reallyyyyyy good.  Maybe a little bit of both :).  Either way, it was a huge surprise…totally blessed the socks off of me!

The curveballs continued into the night and the next day.  That night I went dancing, and got to have a special birthday dance.  You can check it out in the video below.  The next day, my actual birthday, was full of little gestures in unexpected places that just meant so much to me.  Chris and Julia treated me to lunch.  A dance friend of mine met up with me to give me a scarf that he had bought for my birthday.  Several friends surprised me with a birthday dinner – which meant even more because the guy who had organized it, Michael, had lots of family stuff going on that would have given him plenty of excuses to not bother with making someone else feel special on her birthday.

L-R: Michael, Jonathan, Jessica, little Nicholas, and Matt

Then that evening Alan, the founder of Wicked Westie, took all of the volunteers to Andretti indoor racing.  It was his way of saying thank you for the help that we give him.  Andretti doesn’t just have indoor racing, though – it has a rock wall, ropes course, and an arcade, as well.  And we did it all.  It was such a blast.  I didn’t get back until almost 1:00 am, but it was totally worth it.  A perfect way to end my birthday – racing go-karts with my dancing friends :).

L-R: Doria, Hannah, Cherylyn, and me

L-R: Stefanie, Jennifer, Nichole, me, and Christopher

That’s me! 🙂

The whole gang

So that’s the story of how my dull birthday turned into the best one of my life.  It was humbling to see how well God wants to take care of me, if only I’ll stop planning everything and leave it up to Him.  Even in silly little things like celebrating one’s birthday.  I had lots of surprises this year for my birthday.  But the biggest surprise shouldn’t have been one at all.  The biggest surprise was just how blessed I am to have the people I do in my life.  People who give selflessly, who constantly put others ahead of themselves.  People who are willing to put my needs ahead of their own.  It shouldn’t have surprised me…but it did, nonetheless.  It really was quite humbling.  I’m so undeservedly blessed!

Christmas is coming…

…the goose is getting fat!  Actually, I have no idea how fat the rhetorical goose is, nor do I have any plans on buying a literal goose, but I do know that Christmas really is coming!  Just a few days away at this point!  Eek!  School and Christmas-y things have been keeping me busy for sure.  There’s not much about school that I particularly want to talk about, other than the fact that it was really hard, but I managed to get all A’s; but there’s plenty of Christmas updates that I have!

The lights, the music, the decorations…everything about Christmas sends a thrill through me.  I absolutely love this time of year.  I dragged a few of my friends with me to Atlantic Station, to see the official lighting of the enormous Christmas tree that they had erected in the middle of the plaza.  The lighting of the tree was actually somewhat of a letdown – there’s only so much fanfare you can have when all that’s happening is a cord getting plugged into an outlet – but they had fireworks afterward, which more than made up for that :).

My church also had a volunteer Christmas dinner at the end of November.  It’s an event that the staff puts on every year, in which they invite all of the church volunteers to a big fancy dinner to thank them for their service.  That was a blast.  As you can see from the pictures below, the people at my church can definitely be clowns…regardless of how dressed up they might be, lol…

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Matt, Amy, and Elizabeth – some amazing friends right there!!

As sort of a last hurrah, I hosted a Christmas party for a bunch of my friends the last Saturday of the semester.  I had hosted a potluck party last year (you can read about that here), but this year I wanted to put a bit more effort into it.  Rather than have people bring stuff, I made the whole meal – the pièce de résistance was a pork tenderloin that I marinated in a honey and brown sugar glaze.  Super yummy!!  Since I’m in a much bigger place now, I also had the space to be able to plan a few more activities this time around.  So we played a few games, did a white elephant gift exchange, decorated gingerbread cookies that I had made in advance, and overall just had a splendid time.  Most of my best friends from Atlanta, and all of my roommates were able to be there.  I felt very blessed, indeed.  And then I promptly fell asleep after they all left – considering it was the first real party that I planned and hosted all by myself, I may have overreached a bit.  I was exhausted by the end of the night.  Was so totally worth it, though :).

L-R: Chelsea and Kelsey

L-R: Lauren, her fiance Michael, Matt, Jonathan, Jessica, and little Nicholas

This is such a fitting hat for Jonathan…

Decorating the gingerbread cookies…

As a bit of a side note…I went to see some of my relatives in the north Georgia mountains with my dear friend Elizabeth way back in October.  It’s not Christmas-y, but I have nowhere else to put the pictures from that trip, so it’s just getting tacked onto the bottom of this post.  We just went up for the day, to get away from school and visit my family and see the beautiful fall colors.  It was a lovely day :).  Pictures are below – enjoy!

Fried tomatoes and hidden corn

It’s incredible how quickly time flies by.  It seems like updated this only a few days ago, but lo and behold, the time stamps tell me that it was nearly 2 months ago.  Yikes.  Well, if the craziness of my life can be reflected by the number of tabs I have open on my computer (actually a pretty accurate measure), it’s no wonder it’s taken me so long to sit down and write for pleasure.  Last week I hit an all-time record of 62 tabs open simultaneously.  Don’t judge, haha :).

What an eventful few weeks I’ve had!  I was surprised twice, by both my mother AND my father, with unexpected visits in Atlanta.  Dad was just in the area for work that day, so we had dinner together before he headed back down south.  And Mom actually stayed the night with me!  We went to a play, and made fried green tomatoes together, and just talked and laughed.  It was incredible.  I rarely get to spend one-on-one time with mom without other people or activities distracting us, and I treasure that weekend very much.

My first time trying fried green tomatoes.  They were super yummy!  We made them because we were going to watch the movie that night…

…but we ended up going into town to see a play instead! 🙂

Last weekend I went to a big dance event, the Atlanta Swing Classic.  It was such a blast!  I entered the competition and made alternate for finals.  It was a little disappointing since I was hoping to make finals outright, but also rather encouraging since I had mostly terrible partners, but still managed to do pretty well.  I went to lots of workshops, met lots of new people, yada yada yada….the usual excitement that can be found at one of these events :).  This time I also picked up a few of the pro dancers from the airport, so I was able to get some one-on-one time with them, which was awesome.  I so wish that I could afford to go to more dance events!  If you’re stymied for Christmas or birthday ideas, donations to my travel and dance fund are always appreciated!! 😉

I’ve also spent some time getting to know my dance community outside of actual dance events.  I went to a birthday dinner a few weeks ago, and just last weekend a handful of dancers went to a corn maze, about an hour north of the city.  They were both so much fun!  It’s incredible to feel not just like I know these people through dance, and we’re very friendly to each other when we see each other once a week, but rather that I’m actually a part of a community.  It’s also a novel experience, for sure, but wonderful.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world – or even, shockingly enough, for the chance to see the whole world :).

Not a dance friend, but still a friend…Sunny came over one night and we made a Korean meal 🙂

This was the map of the corn maze!!  It took us forever to figure it out, but once we did we rocked it!!

If you’ve never been to a corn maze before, though….take heed.  Don’t wear heels.  I had never been, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  In my mind, I was thinking, “It’s going to be cold…you need to wear something that will keep your feet warm.”  Unfortunately, the only high-topped shoes I own are 3.5 inch heeled boots.  So I traipsed around the entire maze in those things.  Hahaha.  I felt somewhat foolish…but also a bit fierce.  Mostly I just felt pain, though…especially the next day :).  Consider yourself warned!!

I had 2 other big trips within the past few weeks, but I think that those merit their own entry, so keep an eye out for more to come soon!

Gratefulness

I’m finding, as I get older and my schedule fills and responsibilities multiply, that I have to make a conscience effort to verbalize the things that I’m grateful for.  Otherwise, they simply get…forgotten.  Swept under the rug.  Left by the wayside.  And that is truly a tragedy.  Because there are so many beautiful, wonderful things that we can be grateful for.

Such as….birthdays.  My dear friend Elizabeth turned 22 last week.  She had a big shindig at her house – I got to meet all of her equally wonderful friends and family.  The next day was my mom’s birthday, and I spontaneously decided to go down to Albany and surprise her.  Oh my word.  She flipped out.  She was soooooo surprised.  It made the 6 hour round trip drive totallyyyyy worth it :).  Oh yes….surprises are another thing that I’m grateful for.  Good ones, at least ;).
I’m grateful for a crazy stupid busy school schedule – classes and 3 jobs and English tutoring and Spanish language exchange and dancing and volunteering at church and more – because I’m grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to further my education and experiences.  I’m grateful for the people that God has placed in my life over the last few years.  I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had – yes, even the really really bad ones – that have grown me and made me more like Jesus.  
I’m grateful for discount restaurant coupons from Groupon.  My friend Amy had one for an Asian fusion place called Mulan (yes, like the Disney princess; another company for which I’m grateful).  We walked to Midtown, and had a lovely evening just shooting the breeze together.
On that note…I’m grateful for godly friends in my life.  I’m sitting here writing this in my friend Elizabeth’s house.  As I’m writing, her father walks in and starts talking to me about the “God pocket,” an idea written about by Bruce Wilkinson.  Basically the idea is that you set aside some money and dedicate it to God, and then give to whoever you feel led.  Tonight he gave it to me, saying that he wanted to thank me for being a good friend to Elizabeth and that he hoped that it would help pay for gas.  Seriously.  I love God’s timing.  I’m grateful for my friends and I’m grateful for the Lord and for His timing and sovereignty in my life.
So many more things I could list….but maybe I’ll save them for a later date :).  What are you thankful for today?
A few pictures from Elizabeth’s birthday: her cousin Lauren is on the left, and her sister Mary-Catherine on the right.  Both incredibleeeeeee ladies 🙂

We took mom out to Red Lobster for her birthday….what a fun evening! 🙂

Hopey, me and Chad

Joint birthday celebration for my mom and dad; Chad got a cake that read “Happy birthday to the man in tights and our favorite Jewish mom!”

The man in tights himself!! 🙂 

Kayaks and killer bees

I’m not very good at relaxing and not having packed schedules.  But I’m realizing that it’s a skill well worth developing.  Every now and then, a few days of nothing could be just what the doctor ordered. 

That’s what I did this past weekend.  I came up to Atlanta Thursday afternoon, my only objective being that I wanted to go dancing.  It was the 4th anniversary party of Wicked Westie, and I really wanted to be there for this one.  In years past, I had always been out of the country and never able to make it; since I was so close, I figured this was the best chance I may get!  So I went, and it was fun; albeit swelteringly hot and suffocatingly packed.  But I’m still really happy that I went. 

The rest of the weekend, though, was what I truly needed – no structure.  I slept in Friday morning, visited a few friends over the course of the next two days, and generally was just able to recharge a bit.  On Friday night, I went on a moonlight kayak ride with some friends from Wicked Westie – so much fun!  We started while it was still light, so we got to see the whole spectrum – from full daylight, to a vibrant sunset, and culminating in a beautiful moonlit night.  I’d never done anything like that, and I really enjoyed it.  We were on the water for just over 2 hours; my body was definitely feeling it the next day!
Aside from the random attack of the killer bee, it was a lovely weekend.  That bee, though…I swear it was something straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  I was sitting in a little park reading, minding my own business, when all of a sudden a bee flew in my face.  I absentmindedly swatted it away and didn’t think anything of it.  And then I suddenly realized that my ear felt a bit weird.  That little monster had lodged himself in my ear!!  And man, by that point he was mad.  If you had been there, you would have been laughing at me.  I’m sure I looked completely insane.  I was running around, violently shaking my head to get him out of my hair, swatting madly at the air, trying to fend off his persistent attacks.  Judging from the throbbing ear that I’m still suffering from where he stung me, I would say that the bee definitely won that round.  But I eventually killed him, so I won the war, hehehe. 

Random story, I know, but I thought it was worth sharing.  Thank goodness I’m not allergic to bee stings!!  I wish I had some pictures to show you, but this weekend my camera was on vacation, too :).

People who dance

People who dance have an aura about them that is found among few other people.  They have the ability to walk into a crowded room and be instant friends with everyone there.  In fact, people who dance don’t even need to share the same language – they can have whole conversations with each other without ever uttering a word. 

People who dance stay up all night, not to welcome the sun, but rather because they simply can’t go to bed when there’s good music playing.  People who dance simply can’t let a good song go without moving their feet.  And so they stay in hotels, even when they live in the same city, just so that they can get a few more songs in without having to drive home. 
People who dance are often called obsessed by people who don’t.  But people who dance prefer the term passionate.  People who dance are passionate about life, passionate about their friends and family, and passionate about dance.  People who dance spend inordinate amounts of money and time pursuing their passion.  They take private lessons, go to workshops, and travel to distant cities, all for the sake of exercising their twinkling toes.
People who dance refuse to let their lives pass them by while they sit on the sidelines and watch.  They have chosen to be active participants in this thing that we call life.  This I know…because I am one of those people.
So anyway, I went to a dance weekend (Grand Nationals Dance Competition) in Atlanta a few weeks ago…check out some pictures below!  I probably averaged about 13 hours of dancing every day – it was great!!  Highlights would definitely be meeting awesome people from around the world (and getting to spend more time with my friends from Atlanta!), and entering the Jack and Jill competition.  I was the first alternate for making finals – missed it by one point.  Dang.  Buttttt….Kellese Key, one of the pro instructors, complimented me the next day, saying that she remembered me from the competition and that I had done really well.  That was enough for me!  I can place in finals next time… 😉

People in Strange Clothing

It’s so strange some of the clothing that we have deemed culturally appropriate for certain occasions.  Who decided that graduates should wear a shapeless robe with a square hat on their head?  Or that brides should almost universally wear a white dress on their wedding day?  Or that performers should wear skin-tight and brightly colored outfits?  Whatever the reason, my second weekend in Albany gave me run-ins with all three.
I went up to Atlanta on Thursday night so that I could go dancing at Wicked Westie.  But then Friday morning I was off to Birmingham, to see Micah, a dear family friend, graduate from high school.  Our moms have been friends for years, and most of my memories of Micah are from when he was younger than Matt, so it was super weird for me to see him in a graduation cap and gown.  But I was also very proud of him, and it was great to see his whole family again – I’m always traveling, so it had been years since I had seen them. 

Nathan and his wife, Emily – I haven’t seen them since their wedding!

The whole Roberts clan

Saturday morning, I headed back to Atlanta to attend the wedding of my good friend, Philip.  Philip is the one who introduced me to west coast swing dancing – we used to practice together for hours when I was a student at Berry.  He also loves to travel and learn languages, so we always had a lot to talk about.  He’s such an inspiring, motivated, encouraging individual, and I was so happy to be able to be there for his wedding.  The reception was a blast, too.  He and his new wife are both dancers, so of course there was a lot of dancing.  But there were also fun little things that I had never seen before, like a trivia contest in which they asked questions about themselves, and the guests competed to see which table collectively knew the most answers.  It really was a ton of fun.  I’m going to have to ask them for tips when I’m planning my own wedding, lol.  It was even better because my wonderful, good-natured fried Elizabeth came along with me – even though she knew absolutely no one there.  She’s such a good sport.  But I think she really had fun, and I know that I certainly did – it’s amazing how much more enjoyable something is when you experience it with someone you love.

I loved the groom’s cake!!

The next day I met up with Elizabeth again, along with two other dear friends, Amy and Jen, to go to the Renaissance Festival!  When I was a student at Berry, I always enjoyed going down to this annual event in the Spring, but between traveling, graduating, and starting grad school, I haven’t been able to go for a couple years. 

But I finally made it back, and it was such a blast!!  Spending time with dear friends totally made up for the fact that it was pouring cats and dogs for much of the time that we were there.  We took advantage of the shops while it was raining – dodging from one vendor to the next during lulls in the rain, and then cutting up inside while the floods raged outside.  But it was also clear for enough of the day that we were able to see some cool performances and demonstrations, too.  We listened to a ‘gypsy’ storyteller, watched a guy throwing clay for a while, and then sat in on a glass-blowing demonstration that was absolutely mesmerizing.  Of course there was also the prerequisite joust reenactment and acrobatics, as well. 

Jousting competition

Fire juggler / comedian.  His performance got cut short because of the rain 🙁

Being silly while we waited out the storm….

That’s a real person.  So….terrifying….

Watching a potter do his thing 
…and the glass blowing demonstration!  Incredible!!

My favorite performers of the day.  Acrobatic fire-juggling virtuosos 



This year’s Renaissance Festival just goes to show that you can enjoy whatever you’re doing, as long as you decide to focus on the good.  Despite the chilly weather and torrential rain, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a Renaissance Festival so much as I did this year.  I’m so grateful for the lovely ladies that I got to share the experience with!  God had truly blessed me with some incredible people in my life.

Finals Week Highlights

I’m done!  I have officially finished my first year of graduate school!  Let me tell you what, it was quite a ride!  But the last week or so or classes I didn’t really actually have much schoolwork to do – I’m happy to report that the mind-numbing amount of work I did before finals week finally paid off, and my finals week was quite relaxing.  So I made up for some lost time, doing all of the things that I had neglected to do throughout the course of the semester.  Here are some of the highlights:
I went camping with my dad the weekend before finals.  I think the two of us had two very different experiences.  For me, I had a blast – I really enjoy camping, but hadn’t been in years, so it was a nice change, and great spending some quality time with my dad.  But my dad’s perspective, however, was that there was a hole in the tent over his head.  Poor man.  It poured most of the night, and add to that the fact that he didn’t have a water-repellant sleeping bag, but rather one that absorbed all of that excess moisture in the air, and he had quite a rough night that evening.  We ended up waking up really early in the morning and just heading back – at least then he was dry, even if he wasn’t well-rested!
I also got to see a musical performance of The Mask of Zorro with my friend Amy.  To psych myself up for it, I watched the movie the night before, which was excellent.  But the musical just blew me away.  It had beautiful singing, and energetic dancing, and pithy humor, and sonorous Spanish, incredible costumes…it really had everything.  I was left breathless on more than one occasion.  I’m definitely getting the Georgia Tech student art pass next year!
My friends Jonathan and Jessica invited me to see a double feature at one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country.  We brought food and chairs and got there early to just talk and hang out – Jess and I did our nails, lol.  I had never been to a drive-in theater before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even despite the threat of rain that drove us into our cars for a while.  But even then, they play the sound through a radio station, so we could still enjoy the movie just fine :).
Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do some dancing, too.  I caught the last bit of the Thursday night dance after Zorro ended, and that was a lot of fun.  I almost didn’t go, but in the end I’m very glad that I did.  But even better than the dance on Thursday, was the workshop on Saturday.  Now, I had been to dance workshops before – they’re always good and I learn a lot, but there’s nothing really that unique about them.  This one, however, was different.  It was called “The Art of the Steal,” and was specifically tailored to teach people how to steal someone else’s partner in the middle of a dance without disrupting the flow of the music or the dancers.  So there was a lot of group partnering instead of pairs, and weird rotations, and all in all everyone just had a grand time.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a heck of a lot.  
My last night in Atlanta, I went out to dinner with Jonathan and Jessica and some friends of theirs to celebrate his graduation from Tech.  The place we went to was called Buca di Beppo, and their trademark thing is that they take all of their guests through the kitchen before seating them – way cool!! Anyway, I got back to Albany just in time on Sunday to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday celebration with the family.  I was glad I made it back for that.  And now I’m in Albany for the summer!  For now, at least.  Who knows where I’ll be in a couple of weeks! 🙂