Monday, November 24, 2014

Apparently, I Am an Event Planner Now



A little over a week ago, [Business School Employer] hosted it's annual International Night. Running this event falls under my job description.

The [Business School Employer] International Night is the only International Night event on campus and is open to the public, so it is actually a pretty large event. It is comparable to IU's World's Fare, which just so happened to be on the same night up in Bloomington. I think our event is smaller though. We had 10 booths representing nine countries and one larger cultural region (African American and African Culture), as well as four performances and two children's entertainers. Almost 600 people attended the event.

This is the largest event I have had to organize, given that in my previous positions when a large event fell under my purview there was also a professional event planner on staff who could organize all those important details that you never realize you need until it is happening (unless you are a professional event planner who thinks of these things).

Organizing the 10 booths was a little like herding cats...incredibly busy, full-time MBA cats. I quickly discovered that instructions I thought were sufficiently detailed (as the un-detailed information was clearly intuitive) were clearly not and that students never ever read those materials anyway. I was also working through intermediaries in many instances, as the leadership from a student organization co-organizes this event and were communicating with the booths. Logistics I had outlined in detailed instructions never made it to the intended recipients. Given that I was new to my position and the students were new to their positions, no one was really to blame as none of us knew who was really in charge of what.

The trickiest part of the event is the food approval. At IU, the event is hosted in the Union and no outside food vendors are allowed. The booths share recipes with Union catering and it is all done in-house. At [Business School Employer], each booth could contract with a restaurant or caterer to provide their food. First though, the vendor had to be approved by the Heath & Safety inspector, which included booths submitting (on time) vendor requests that included a copy of the vendor's city permit. We asked each booth to submit at least two vendors in case one was not approved. Only two booths did this. We had several booths with vendors with expired city permits and other booths that couldn't seem to supply the city permit. So that was a fun process that went down to the wire with some booths. Next, the food had to be delivered by the vendor. The students were not allowed to transport it themselves. Until one booth informed us just days before that their restaurant would not deliver, and we had to improvise a compromise with the inspector. Finally, before the event doors can open that evening, all the food must be at temperature when the inspector comes around. In past years, they have opened the doors up to 30 minutes late because dishes weren't hot enough. This year we failed to calibrate the thermometers we gave to the booths and they were actually reading lower than the temperature. So booths were thinking their food was not hot enough and not requesting inspection when in fact they were good to go. Luckily, we got that cleared up. We also had booths with cold dishes and no ice to cool it with at first. Somehow, we managed to open the doors only two minutes late.

I constantly marveled at this attention to detail with the food. At IU, during the great Ramadan debacle of GBI, I was picking up trays of food from Taste of India, loading them into the trunk of my jeep and trekking them over to the dorm each night, curry slopping all over the trunk. No one ever asked to see a city permit (though Taste of India was an approved vendor, so I assume someone had seen one at some point) or tested the temperature of the food or questioned the back of a jeep as a transportation method. I suppose it is a miracle we all didn't die of food poisoning.

Next year I am going to be the best International Night event planner ever.

Sara

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Remember that Time I Wore My Nightgown to a Fancy Dress Party?

Last weekend I was in Dallas. We have an MBA program for working professionals in Dallas, and my office was hosting four hours of programming Saturday evening. In addition, that evening was the program's annual Holiday party, since it would be the last class weekend before Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving, schedules for working professionals who are also getting their MBAs get a little hectic. I was invited to the holiday party by the program staff. I was told the attire was cocktail / dressy professional.

I drove to Dallas and brought two dresses with me, thinking that one of them would work for the evening. I am a little weird about how to dress for fancy dress events. I want to look cute, but I am also uncomfortable in things with high hemlines or low necklines or tight clothing. It's hard to eschew all those features and not look dowdy though.


It's hard to tell in this picture, but it is the only picture that exists of me in this dress (that I am aware of).

One of the dresses I brought with me actually included a high hemline (well, above the knee, but not really that short), a low v-shaped neckline (I cannot even wear a bra with it), and it was tight. I've only worn it in public three times. A wedding, the closing dinner for the CIBER Business Language Conference, and Cale's SPROM (SPEA's winter dinner/dance). I pair it with a suit jacket to make it seem more professional. Cale picked it out, and to be honest, I look pretty damn hot in it.

However, I am not sure what I was thinking bringing it with me for this event. My new place of employment has turned out to be a little weird about clothes. My boss works from home on Fridays, so it was a month or so before she noticed that I had been observing casual Fridays (i.e. jeans). As it turns out, the MBA Program Office is staunchly anti-jean when school is in session.


This email actually came out not long after my boss told me about the jean situation.

There was no way I was going to be comfortable in my too-sexy dress at this event.

The other dress I brought, I haven't even worn yet. I got it at The Limited on sale (down to $30 from $100). And I thought it looked great in the fitting room, but when I tried it on for Cale at home, he (accurately) pointed out it made me look fat. Not exactly his words of course, but the gist. It is strapless and A-line. The cinched-in area just below the bustline fits me perfectly, but the bust area itself is too blouse-y and with the overall cut, it makes me look bulky. As I have frequently discovered, bigger boobs would solve this problem. There are a lot of problems in life solved by bigger boobs. Though if you ask the busty ladies, the bigger boobs bring on a whole host of other problems.

I put The Limited dress on and just couldn't bring myself to go to this event looking fat.

So there I am, standing in my hotel room in black tights wondering what I am going to put on over them. My options are limited, it needs to be in my suit case.

Which brings me to the nightgown. I had this big, flow, hippy coverup I bought at the tubing place when I needed to get home in a rental car and all I had was a wet bathing suit. It had become my housedress. Cale hated it with the fire of a thousand suns. So I had gone to Target and found something slightly more flattering. It was basically a giant gray tank top with a racer back. And I had that in my suitcase.

I threw the nightgown on over the tights, added my suit jacket, and voila, fancy dress party outfit.


Eh? That'll do.

Luckily, no one noticed I was wearing my nightgown as a dress. I think they were distracted by the fact that I managed to pour the second sip of my first glass of wine down my face and on to the floor.

Sara

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wild Texas Parakeets?

It's been unseasonably cold here in Austin. At least that is what the weather news people on the local NPR affiliate (KUT) tell me on my drive in to work. Weather.com tells me that the average high for today is 71 degrees with an average low of 51 degrees. Temps dropped below freezing over night last night and the high today was 47 - ten, TEN, degrees warmer than the high yesterday. Gross.

The cold weather has made our recent sightings around town of flocks of wild parakeets to be all the more surreal.

That's right, flocks of wild parakeets.


Source: Monk Parakeets of Austin, Texas

Imagine your driving through town and glance over at a cluster of your typical city birds. Some pigeons, some crow-like trash birds, and, wait, what? Parakeets? That's weird enough as it is, but with temperatures near freezing, tropical birds always look out of place. When we lived out in Spencer and drove into Bloomington everyday, there was a farm pond home to a large white egret that was there well into winter (snow on the ground, pond freezing over) and that was always strange too.

So, yeah, Austin (Texas for that matter) is home to wild parakeets. This article does a pretty good job of explaining.

Sara