Conference Report: Around the World to Washington DC, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 5, October-November 2006, p. 108.
I attended my first LLLI Conference in 1999 in Orlando, Florida, USA. We were living in Papua New Guinea at the time, and I was a Leader Applicant. Of course, I simply had to bring my daughter with me. She was 21 months old and still nursing, and besides, what fun would Disneyworld be without her? Unfortunately, my husband couldn't come with us, so I contacted my mother and asked if she would fly out to spend time with us and help with Kalli while I was in sessions. She said, "Yes," and we had a terrific time. It was the first of three Conferences that my mother and I would attend together!
The most recent LLLI Conference held in Washington, DC, USA was my first one without my children. I now have two daughters, aged seven and four, but they stayed home with their dad while I headed off across the globe again -- this time from Mongolia. My mother lives in Virginia, USA, so she drove in to join me in hearing keynote speakers, attending sessions, enjoying events, and even helping out at our World Faire table (after doing a fair amount of shopping, of course!). It was the best Conference I've attended yet!
One of the highlights for me was making new friends from around the world and reconnecting with other Leaders from my Region, Future Areas in Asia (FAiA). In addition to meeting the Middle East Leaders who just joined FAiA, I met another Leader who has been attending Conferences with her mother for years, too! She and I had so much in common: not only are we both from Minnesota (when I'm not living overseas), we are both Area Leaders' Letter Editors and have children close to the same ages. It felt so good to connect with a Leader from the Area I will eventually be a part of when I head back to live in the US. (Editor's note: see "Two by Two" in this issue of Leaven)
Another highlight of this Conference was taking part in the International Mastery Symposium (IMS), held from June 29 to July 1. I was very impressed by the Open Space format, which allowed us to determine the topics to be discussed and to attend those sessions that would be of most use to each of us individually. Many of my questions were answered and I felt that the format was easy to understand and follow. I hosted a session called "Organizing and Motivating Leader Applicants to Complete the Process." If you'd like to see what other sessions took place during IMS, visit the LLLI Web site for write-ups of the discussions at www.lllusa.org/USWD/IMS2005/index.html.
I also had a chance while I was there to sign up for the Community Network in the Technology Room and have my photo taken for my online profile. The Network is such a great resource. I encourage all Leaders to sign up and see what's there. Even if you don't have time to take part in discussions or chats, there is a lot of helpful information, and it's a great way to find people and put faces with names. Also while in the Technology Room, I witnessed a number of speakers being interviewed for podcasts, which you can download and listen to (www.lalecheleague.org/05conf/podcasts. html). I even won a sling in a drawing I entered there.
Speaking of drawings, the Alumnae Association's drawing this year was fantastic. I couldn't believe some of the prizes that were offered from beautiful artwork to books and handmade crafts. I didn't win anything this year (although I did win a book at the last Conference), but I had fun shopping at the Alumnae table and visiting the room for rejuvenation activities.
The only thing I would change would be having my children there with me. I'll admit I got a lot done at this Conference, but we missed each other so much in the 10 days I was gone, and I know they would have had so much fun. Even if their grandparents hadn't been living right there near Washington DC, USA, all the children's activities and hundreds of potential playmates would have made for a memorable experience for my girls. Well, there's always next time, right?
Melanie Wilson is the editor of ALL Around Asia, the Area Leaders' Letter for Future Areas in Asia, and is also the Area Publications Administrator. She is the mother of two girls, Kalli and Mackenzie. They live in Mongolia where her husband, Paul, works for the US Peace Corps as the Medical Officer. She has been a Leader for five years.