I left Kuwait on April 11th to go to Miami for a conference.
I companioned an Animal Friends League dog named Luke. It was such an easy process and I urge anyone who is travelling to the States to volunteer to take an animal with you. AFL needs the help right now as an animal shelter in the DC area has agreed to take 20 dogs. AFL meets you at the airport with the dog in the appropriate crate, does the paperwork, pays, and when you get to DC, someone is waiting for you and you just hand over the dog.
I had 3 days in DC and then flew down to Miami for the conference.
I really did intend to get down, get busy, and do serious business, but alas, it was not that kind of a conference. I thought it was going to be more rigid like some of the other conventions/conferences I've been to, but this one was way more of a social/networking gathering. Usually, there are speeches, forums/panel discussions, and workshops going on during the conventions, but the exhibit floor is still open and there is still a lot of floor traffic. At this one, the 625 registered participants left the exhibit floor and went to the other activities. That meant that we exhibitors were left to stare at each other for hours on end until break times when people would pass through again. Our booth was tiny; and thank God because there was no need for extravagance.
The cool thing was that the association served a continental buffet breakfast, a banquet, and daily cocktail receptions (open bar) with food. Honestly, we did the most business when people were passing throught with their cocktails and wanted to talk about Kuwait.
My colleague and I took shifts manning the booth; I got the morning shift because I stayed at the same hotel. I think I got the short end of the stick (I don't mind) because there weren't a lot of activities in the afternoon until the cocktail receptions. I got to go do stuff by myself in the afternoons.
I love Miami. It is so pretty. I also love Cuban men. Oh My God! Yummmmm. I stayed at the Hyatt Regency downtown which was really nice. Everybody was so friendly.
The first day, I set up the booth. Not all of our stuff cleared customs (we had to send it back to Kuwait) so it took me all of 30 minutes! So, I took a shuttle to Dolphin Mall and went shopping at outlet stores.
I took a duck tour (an amphibious vehicle) that went around South Beach and toured homes of the rich and famous from the water. I had lunch on Espanola way (pictured on right): the best mojito I have ever had at the Mojito Lounge and also the best lobster bisque. It is a gorgeous place. The next day, I took a bus tour with some other lady friends I had made that went to Little Havana, Coral Gables, and Coconut Grove (my sister tells me that I'm geriatric! Don't care - I loved it.)
The final night of the conference, they had a dinner cruise which was awesome on a 3 level, 150' yacht that took us out for 4 hours around Biscayne Bay. We caught the sunset and saw dolphins! There was a band on the open-air top level of the yacht where most of the people were. The banquet hall and buffet were on the 2nd level and on the lower level, there were several large, opulent living room/salon areas. Awesome cruise. (I took the photo on the top of the post on the cruise.) My sister tells me that "booze cruises" are becoming more popular in business circles (probably because you don't have to drink/drive). I've been out of the States too long to know this, but I think its a great idea. There were 3 open bars on the top level and 2 where I was. I had a lot of fun. People were dancing, but it wasn't pretty, so I stayed in a quiet corner with a new friend I made.
So, then I flew back to DC on my birthday. My older sister arrived in the afternoon from San Antonio and we started drinking martinis and more mojitos (this trip is ALL about food, alcohol, and shopping - ok, in between business days!). I never giggle as much as I do when I am around my 2 sisters. I love it and we don't get together enough. We had a little birthday party and one of my oldest friends stopped by (she used to be my room mate in the early 90s). We had a big fajita/mojito (there is a theme!) dinner followed by rum cake (I told you so).
The next day, my sisters and I checked into the Four Seasons for a spa day (and more food/alcohol). We were giggling so much that people around us (servers, reception staff) were laughing with us (ok, maybe AT us!).
My older sister, Martha, could only stay a few days, so she left after the weekend. I have more business in DC (that got approved by our way-cool new Chairman/CEO) and I'll be in DC through the end of the month. I'm loving being with my family.
I have a week of work next week with meetings in DC and I'm really happy that it is all working out so well. Wooo hooooo. Serious shout out to my employers for letting me mix business with being with family.