Monday, April 02, 2007

A weekend in Virginia

I'm home, and well-rested after a good night's sleep, and an unintended sleep-in this morning (At least class is only this afternoon).
The weekend was wonderful. I had a bit of a bumpy start on Friday morning, when security at JFK spent so long checking all my paperwork to validate the authenticity of my South African passport and US visa, that I missed the plane, and had to wait on standby for the next one, but I caught that one without a problem, and T very sweetly waited for me in Richmond. It was wonderful to step off the plane in Virginia and take off my jersey.
The weather was beautifully warm, and it was wonderful to wonder around Colonial Williamsburg in short sleeves, with someone who really knows the area. I'm sure T will blog about that a little herself, but she spent several years in the town, and knows the ins and outs. We bought kitchy souvenirs, photographed buttercups and violets in the grass, hurled magnolia pods, and watched lambs hopping about in a way I would never have believed possible, had I not actually seen it myself. We also watched a parade of men and boys (and a few girls) enacting military manouvers, were followed up the oyster-shell lined street by a fife and drum band, and wondered around the kitchen garden of one of the establishments.
Finally, in the early evening, another friend joined us, and we spent a little time touring the college campus before the conference reception. T played some tunes with one of the folklorists who was there, and it was wonderful to hear her play (the first time I have). Finally, a group of us headed out to one of the few restaurants that was open at 22:00 (Williamsburg is not New York!) to grab some dinner (and chocolate raspberry cake for pudding. So good), before making our way back to the hotel.
Saturday started with cinnamon buns and orange juice at the university, before the panels started. We missed the first paper, but everything else I heard was superb. There was a really great range of topics, and I was very impressed with how polished and clear so many student papers were. The keynote speaker gave a really wonderful reference to the work of my advisor that made me very proud, and I spent a lot of time thinking how happy I was to be there. My paper was in the afternoon, and despite some technology fumbles in the morning (we couldn't connect my computer to the sound system, and I had to write a new CD, instead), it went well. I always feel like the inevitability of race issues in my work mean that I risk losing some of my audience before I even start (another white girl speaking about black music. sigh) and I got at least one of the type of question that makes it apparent that it was read that way by at least one person, but in general, I was happy with the outcome. And I enjoyed the intersections between my paper and the one that followed it.
The conference day ended on Saturday with a really long concert that showcased a huge selection of performers from among the conference attendees. I heard gamelan for the first time, and was really impressed by many of the departmental ensembles. Afterwards, T and finished up the evening at our hotel talking about everything and anything until the early hours of the morning. There is nothing like traveling with a friend to get to know them really well.
Sunday morning began with a joint panel between MACSEM (the organization whose conference we were there for), and MAFA, the Mid-Atlantic Folklife Association, who had parallel panels to ours all weekend. It was really interesting to hear both groups converse, though I wish I had had time to attend a full panel from the MAFA group. T gave the last paper of the weekend, which went really well, and ended things on a high note, and then a group of us went to a smart French restaurant for lunch. We had eaten every meal of the weekend in one particular restaurant, and so it was nice to have a change, and to have time to chat to people I am only just getting to know.
T and I then had a few hours to kill before we needed to catch our plane, and so we drove toward the airport via a particularly picturesque route so that I could see some of the countryside. Virginia looks so lovely, and I really hope I will have another opportunity to visit. T suggested a winter break there sometime next year, and the idea is really appealing.
And just to round off my set of new experiences for the weekend, we went shoe shopping at an outlet mall (which, for my South African readers, is an open-air shopping complex with a series of name-brand shops with significantly lower prices than in New York), and stopped at a self-service petrol garage (gas station) on our way to the airport. To my delight, my South African drivers license got me through security far more easily than my passport does, and before I knew it, we were in the air, and on our way back to New York.
It has been such an amazing weekend. I am really glad to have had the break from my routine, and the fact that it was in a beautiful place, with lovely people, made it all the better. Thank you, T, for a super weekend. I wouldn't even have applied were it not for you, and I am really glad I did.

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