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Friday, May 25, 2012

Top Blogueras Retreat in Washington - Recap

I know I am a little late on my LATISM Top Bloguera Retreat post but hey I had to go back to work! Hello! I got back Tuesday night but had to be at work on Wednesday and with everything else going on, I haven’t had the time to recap. I hate recapping days later because I usually forget everything.

I had a great time and it went by so fast. It was so nice to see some old friends who I hadn’t seen in a year or two. I also met a few new friends as well. I am starting to realize that the best part of any conference is seeing friends. I flew out of Asheville into Baltimore where I shared a ride in with my new friend Janice from Mami’s Time Out. When we got to the Helix Hotel, where the conference was held, we checked in and then went to get some food!

When I go to big cities like Washington DC, New York, Miami etc., I remember how much I miss being in a city. We were in walking distance of a zillion different restaurants and stores. In Sylva, not so much. Then I realize that even though there are all sorts of things to see and do, there are downsides to living in a big city. There are tons of people and traffic and crime. In Sylva, not so much and that’s why I love living here. You give up something for something else. And if I lived in a big city, I wouldn’t have my kick ass garden!

Anyhow, the first night we had a welcome cocktail party where we got to mingle and see everyone. After the party, we went to Whole Foods (omg paradise) to pick up some stuff and then to bed because I was exhausted. I hate traveling and when you have to switch planes and run through terminals, it’s tiring.

The next day we all met in the conference room and had some great speakers. LATISM brought together some great top Latina executives to speak with us. Executives came from southwest Airlines, Comcast, McDonalds, Consumer Reports, Johnson & Johnson, Porter Novelli, and Macy’s to name a few. It was amazing to see these powerful Latinas share their stories about how they succeeded.

After the morning sessions, we prepared to go to the White House. Now that is a little misleading because we were not actually in the White House but in the Eisenhower building that is next to the White House.

It was still exciting nonetheless. I mean, it does house presidential offices and the history of the building is amazing; the building itself is amazing. We were all gathered into one of the press briefing rooms where White House officials spoke to us about the pressing issues in the Latino community: education, jobs and health.

Some of the speakers included: Julie Rodriguez - Associate Director, Office of Public Engagement, Lisa Pino - Deputy Administrator, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Department of Agriculture (SNAP), Marissa Duswalt- Associate Director for Policy and Events - Let’s Move! Initiative, Cecilia Muñoz - Assistant to the President and Director of Domestic Policy, Liz Fowler - Special Assistant to the President, National Economic Council, Alejandra Ceja - Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary, Department of Education and Jon Carson - Director, Office of Public Engagement.

Some people may not realize this because I try to keep politics off my blog, but I am a hardcore politics junkie. I swear, I could have the news and political talking head shows on all day. So for a nerd like me this was a pretty cool experience.

A lot was covered but I have to say that the topic that spoke to me was Health. You all know I am trying to get healthier and it was nice to hear about the Let’s Move program and random facts like if you receive SNAP you can use the card at farmer’s markets. I am all about trying to get healthy food to those who do not have the access to it. And I am all about Michelle Obama’s garden. I am sure the White House garden is more kick ass than mine. But I think mine could hold its own against it!

The staff was professional and knowledgeable. It was also nice they allowed questions so some of my fellow bloggers got up and asked some important questions.

I wish I would have had more time to see the sites. I had been to D.C .before so I had seen the monuments and the Mall. The funny thing is on that last trip, we didn’t see the White House. So when we left the Eisenhower Building and started walking, I made sure to make a trip to see the White House.

*Carolyn's Random Thought Time* I can’t say it enough. Every American should go to D.C. The history is amazing and whatever your politics, it is amazing to see the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial etc. It gives me chills. I remember the first time I went, I was in awe. My favorite part was the Vietnam Veterens Memorial. I remember touching that black granite and the names. It affected me so much, I cried. So next time when planning a trip, think about D.C. And no, I am not getting paid by the D.C. tourism board. I just think it is important for all Americans to see where government happens. **End of Carolyn Randomness*

After the briefing, we went back to the hotel and for more sessions. Overall, it was a long day. But there was tons of useful information to be had. We had dinner and then brainstormed some more.

The next morning we were back in sessions. And then before we knew it, the retreat was over and we all parted ways and went back home. I have to say that I am glad I was able to attend.

I had a flight out of Baltimore at 6:30 p.m. so I went to the airport early to see if I could switch flights. Luckily, I was able to find an earlier flight. I have to say that I find when I travel alone, I meet the most interesting people that I will never see again. The trip from Baltimore to Charlotte had me next to a woman who after a while asked me if I had read 50 Shades of Gray. If you  haven’t heard of that book, I guess you are missing out.  It is like porn for women. My row mate totally recommended it.

After talking a while, she asked me about my bad hand and when I mentioned I hurt it gardening, we got into a huge conversation about our gardens. I gave her my tips of the 20% acidity level vinegar for weeds and instant grits for nasty ants. It was nice meeting her.

When I landed in Charlotte, I had to make a run to catch my next flight. If you have ever been in the Charlotte airport, you know it’s huge. Of course, I landed in the B terminal and had to go to the E terminal to the very last gate. Suffice it to say, I was like OJ in the Hertz commercials, without the knives (too soon?), running through the terminal gently nudging (okay pushing) people out of my way to make it. I did make it but by minutes.

The second flight was interesting as well. I sat next to a gentleman (I say gentleman because he was such a nice Southern man) who was obviously bored because he just wanted to chat. So I was nice and put my book down. I learned he lectured at the university my hubby works at. He had actually been to Sylva. I rarely meet anyone who even knows where Sylva is. He lived close to where I work and he was just very interesting. It made the 24 minute flight seem like 10 minutes.

Luckily, I caught earlier flights because when we landed the gentleman, who had also caught an early flight, saw that the flight we would have been on was delayed so we lucked out. I still had an hour drive to get back home but time went by fast. I got home a lot earlier than I thought and I was able to catch the end of Dancing with Stars (my guilty pleasure).

I have to thank LATISM for this fantastic opportunity. I have a special place in my heart for this group. I was around when it started and now I see how much it has grown. They really do amazing work. And have amazing people who work and volunteer for the organization. They hope to continue this retreat in the future and that is pretty awesome.

I know I should have taken more photos but I didn’t. I am getting lazy about pictures of myself. And while others took pictures with me, I didn’t have them use my camera. DOH! Yes, I am a freak.





Disclosure: Latism sponsored my trip to D.C. All opinions and nonsense in this post are my own.

7 comments:

  1. Hi Carolyn, I wish we'd had more time to mingle and talk! I love your recap :) and I agree with you, what an amazing city. Hope to see you soon.

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  2. hey pretty cool, looked like a great time, i hope to go in my lifetime to see thw whitehouse.

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  3. congrats on being selected and very nice to meet you!

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  4. I wish we had more time to get to know each other! It was a great experience! So excited to get to know you more via your blog.

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  5. It was so great to be able to see you in real life again, take some pictures of you and Elianne with your twinkling shiny eyes and share some star stories;) Seriously, next time, I need you to be my roomie. Sending you a big hug.<3

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  6. Hola Carolyn,
    It was really an amazing time with the blogueras amigas. I agree with you, Latism is doing a great job! they are constantly working with latinos in SM and that's helping us to grow as a community. I hope we can have the chance to meet next time! :-) Saludos!

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