My first hour in Dallas almost made up for a disappointing beginning. The bed and breakfast is delightful and proof positive that it pays to do your homework. Love it. LOVE it! The handmade quilt, the four poster bed, the wicker chaise lounge I'm currently reclining on - I can't imagine why anyone would choose a big box hotel over this place!
And, just like I'd hoped, I found the perfect out-of-the-way restaurant that wouldn't have been on any "recommended restaurants" list in the conference handouts. Nikkolini's Organicity. Perfectly lovely. I almost cried when I sat down at the little round table under the tree and watched the trolley go by. It felt a little like God whispered in my ear "this is a gift to you - be refreshed." It was perfect - a folksy organic Greek restaurant that serves the most amazing food I can imagine tasting at a restaurant. (Liz - all I had to do was walk to the end of the street to find a place that serves amazing vegetarian food! No steak to be found!)
By the end of lunch, I'd practically been adopted by Gino and Olina, the owners of the restaurant. When I came back later, after attending the first session at the conference, I walked in and Jeff, the very friendly waiter who embraces the world with open arms, shouted into the kitchen "Olina! Gino! Heather from Canada came back!" Gino came out and I said "Hey Gino - I'm tired and I just want to go back to my room to crash. Can you make me something quick and vegetarian to take out?" "Certainly!" Gino said, and disappeared into the kitchen. Five minutes later, he emerged with some amazing hummus and veggie wrap and what I think was polenta on the side. Oh my... all I can say is YUM!
(Gino and Olina in front of one of Gino's paintings)
I took the trolley downtown, and, just like I expected, the trolley driver was as about as perfect as could be. Charming, funny, and a fountain of information about all things trolley. And to think I would have missed it if I'd stayed in one of the conference-recommended hotels!
And the conference... well, let's see, what can I say... It's very big, very corporate, very American (no offence to my American friends, of course - but can you remind your country-mates that you are NOT the centre of the world?), and, um... well, let's just say it should have been sub-titled "How to manipulate rich people out of their money in ten easy lessons". So far, it has reminded me that I am not a "real" fundraiser - I suck at corporate networking, I hate doing "the ask", I don't want to spend time at fancy galas trying to impress rich people, and I don't golf. I don't even know the language these people speak!
Future posts may be called "10 sure-fire ways to deliver a truly awful powerpoint presentation" and "why it's better to walk a mile in the rain than get stuck in a corporate networking event, even though the denim conference tote bag stains your clothes" (yes, Michele, denim) and "has every fundraiser in this @*&^%!! place forgotten the biblical principle of the widow's mite?" and "how you can feel more culture shock in a room full of people from your own continent than in Ethiopia".
Ah, but it's not ALL bad. Hearing Chip Heath speak was almost worth the price of admission. I would have bought his book, but it was sold out about half an hour after he presented. Craig Kielburger was a close second. Even Brooke Shields surprised me - she's pretty down-to-earth and she had some touching personal stories to share. Oh, and I had a wonderful moment when a woman looked at me with a familiar "deer in the headlights" look and said "oh my gosh - I had no idea how out of place I'd feel here! That exhibition hall terrifies me! They're vultures in there!" Yes, even here, there are kindred spirits.
I'd love to be out wandering right now (the b&b is in a lovely neighbourhood with lots of character), but it's raining and I got soaked when I ran screaming from the networking event. Okay, so I wasn't screaming, but I did have a mini panic attack after only half an hour of putting on a fake smile and introducing myself to a bunch of people who really didn't care who I was because I am of no corporate use to them. (It was a Canadian reception, and I thought it would at least be nice to be in a room full of people who didn't look at me with a blank stare when I said I'm from Winnipeg. Who knew I'd only last half an hour?)
I had no idea this post would be so long. Sorry. Guess I just had to unload a little.
Just one last thing... I think I'll give this place a pass - it might not look good on my expense acount.