Sunday, February 05, 2006

Another youth summit

Already I'm dazed from the transition from three days and two nights of fraternisation to the computer once more. Another youth summit has cropped up, and naturally I felt the need to attend this one, this time hosted by the Elks. I had to arise at 5.00am in order to get dressed, prepare a meal, and then head out to the church for the long trip up to New Brunswick. Amid the converted tollbooths (many tolls on the Garden State Parkway have been cut in half, doubling the tolls in one direction and allowing traffic to pass for free on the other side) and faulty directions, we arrived minutes early for reception at the Hyatt Regency.

This summit was slightly like the one held by Youth to Youth in Rhode Island, yet there existed several differences and contrasts. Unlike the Youth to Youth summits, we were never sifted into family groups; rather, we were left to our own devices as to whom to attend workshops with, and many sessions were held in the ballrooms anyway. Between sessions there would be long periods of free time and fraternisation; there were no organised group meetings during those times. It was like the summits, however, in that it was a very large mass of students, albeit all more accessible. There were also a few times when 'Dexterity check!' was called, but the jive ended with just 'Unh, unh, ELKS!' and the check wasn't introduced until lunch on day two. Also in the free periods were group jives, including the Ride That Pony and Bazooka Bubblegum chants that took place at mealtimes up in Rhode Island.

The first day began with the arrival at the roundabout outside the hotel amid school buses and individual cars. When we got in, we were sent to the ballroom at back for baggage storage and then to the Regency Ballroom for orientation. As soon as the long orientation and the rather interesting talk given by Paul Wichansky, we were brought out to the atrium to conduct breakfast and fraternise before lunch. It was during the first break that I came up with the idea with creating a beta map for Caerdydd, in a region that's supposed to lie to the north of Hoenn. So as I began to lay out the motorways and areas for residential developments, people began to watch. I quickly gained fame in the meeting because of this map. Then came lunch; we were called up by tables in a random order and sent to one of four buffet tables. Then came a break, this time of fifteen minutes. More people would gawk.

That day we attended the first of three workshops to be held during the summit. Unfortunately, the conference papers weren't returned, so there was no registry for attendance at the workshops, which meant people had to clamour for the one they wanted. I chose a session on methamphetamine labs. This session consisted of an extensive slideshow that included two movies that dramatised the effects of meth labs on the neighbourhood: The first movie was a documentary on a kid that had been uprooted from parents that were on meth, only to be left with an aunt and uncle who were even more desperate addicts and later killed with an overdose of meth, landing the foster parents on death row; the second movie was on the workings of a meth lab and an explosion in the home that engulfs the entire property, killing all of the occupants. The images will stay with me forever.

Then began another extended break. At this time we were given the room keys and sent to our respective suites to set up camp (I was in room 478). At this time a scavenger hunt took place, involving many of the participants. Then dinner ended the madness, followed by a longer break in which people wishing to enter the talent show had to register. At 9.00pm the dance took place in the ballroom. I entered with the map and pen in tow, and many of the people seated at the tables surrounding the dance podium looked over to examine it. When the music selection became significantly louder, I left to go outside to the Warm Fuzzy Board (which was just a mesh of Post-It notes compared to Youth-to-Youth's practice of folding papers and separating the boards by surname).

It was when I started for the board to check the notices when a girl that had just exited the dance stopped me. Thus began another infatuation. Kathy, a girl who had come from Jersey City, had said that she had been following me outside after she had heard of the map. My intention was just to discuss the map, as I usually did with people that gawked, but immediately it evolved into a full personal inquiry. The girl was an animé enthusiast and had drawn an animé girl to post on the board (it only stayed up the next day for twelve hours or so). Her school district was the largest that had come to the summit. Like me, she had not danced and had not been instructed as to how. And at dinner the following night, she would become the only recorded contact in my binder and a new person in my Yahoo! Messenger contact list.

The next day played host to two conferences. After breakfast yet another speaker walked up and urged us to stand from our seats in an attempt to defeat the adage of sitting and listening. After that we had our break and then proceeded to the ballrooms below to attend workshops. The first one I attended was a course on drinking, drugs, and driving; the presenter, a former Kentucky state police officer, made his point using the images of a gavel, body bag, and handcuffs to hit home into the heart. The second I attended was a course that attempted to defeat prejudice resulting from diversity; here we teamed up with another that was visually different from ourselves and discussed the concept with them, and then we broke into four and did the same after introducing ourselves using each other as a medium. After that we had our two-hour break before dinner and a presentation by Motivational Productions, followed by a half-hour break, two fuzzies for my map and the talent show, which we left early from when many of us were tired.

Today we were given coloured cards and told to organise in ballrooms with people holding cards of our colour. In these ballrooms we discussed possible improvements to the youth programme, which included emphasis on group activities to cut out the excessive free time and the selection of speakers that cut to the chase and bring in interaction rather than ramble on. I was very sad to leave the hotel this afternoon as I searched for people to commiserate with before the group left for Brigantine once more. Along way I was laughing for the first time other than being with Kathy when Jacob (who was envious over how I seemingly attracted girls) had the audacity to throw food out the window as we sped along the SR18 motorway out of New Brunswick.

For some reason I had the feeling that a particular person there had an account on the Pokémon Community, but that may have been my senses going haywire. It's taking me a bit of effort to get back to my normal routine after being out at this summit. It was a lot easier when I left Youth to Youth....


Jess said...

You were in New Brunswick? I live in Nova Scotia. XP

Crystal Walrein said...

New Brunswick in this article is actually a city in central new Jersey.