Thursday, November 18, 2010

VISTA Training and Good Food

Good Morning! This week has been chock-full and incredibly busy, but also rewarding and exciting! The training for my Americorps position was informative, though incredibly long. There were nearly 300 of us here, one of the larger classes in the history of the VISTA program. We were put up at the Westin in Lombard, IL, a smaller city outside of Chicago. We have had great food, great rooms and a fantastic gym! I have met some great people while on this trip, it is always refreshing to be around people who share my same interests in public service, education, politics and fitness!

Monday was long...we had our flight to Lombard in the morning, and got to the hotel in the afternoon. We had sessions right away after a long registration process. I would have taken photos of the lines, but I was just too tired. Luckily though, we had dinner after we were done getting our paperwork in order. I stuffed myself with a bowtie pasta with pesto and steamed veggies. It was delicious, though I was so full afterwards I wasn't sure I could move out of my seat. I went to check out the gym, which was surprisingly clean and decently stocked for a hotel. I did a circuit workout of the stairclimber, bike and free weights. It felt good to stretch out a bit after being stuck in lines. I was in bed early, there were a long few days ahead!

Tuesday and Wednesday followed each other pretty closely. We had training sessions all day long with coffee breaks and meals in between. Breakfast was eggs, bacon, fruit and coffee. I think I may have coffeed myself out during this began to make me feel ill after a bit! Lunch was delicious, Mexican food with brown rice, veggies and cheese with flour tortillas. There were also pork tamales with chicken, but I decided to stay away from meat during the conference. Tuesday night, however, I went into Chicago to see one of my closest friends on earth, Lindsey. I was pushing my time with a workout however, so I did a Women's Health plyometrics workout in my room so I could easily change and run out the door to catch the shuttle. This is easily one of my favorite workouts and I am always sore afterwards (I will put it in the "Fitness" portion). The Westin is kind enough to have a shuttle that takes us to the train station, and the train is about a 30 minute ride into the heart of downtown. I was so pooped that I took a quick nap. Lindsey then picked me up and it was overwhelming to see her again! The last time we got to spend time together was eight months ago, the last time I was in Chicago.

Lindz and I!
We went to a Mexican-French fusion restaurant in her neighborhood called Sabour-Savor. We split a baked goat cheese appetizer and I had a veggie lasagna (no noodles, just veggies YUM) with a light sauce and corn. We also paired it with a bottle of wine that she brought from her work. It was great to catch up over such a nice meal.

After we finished we went to my favorite bar in all of Chicago: The Violet Hour. It is a hidden gem right off the street, I always almost miss the door when we are walking by. The manager was kind enough to bring us a rose champagne while we waited for a table (again, pictures to come). The bartender was fantastic and we enjoyed custom drinks that were roll your eyes in your head good. I honestly can't remember the name of mine but I know it had white wine and green Chartreuse, so I was happy. Lindz had a "Grave Digger," which tasted like the best Manhattan on earth. We were so comfortable that I almost missed my train back to Lombard. I literally had to throw myself on the train as the doors were closing. It made me homesick for Washington D.C.

Our bartender at The Violet Hour. Amazing!
Wednesday was another long day of sessions, but this time we were done at 4:00. I had met some great people so we decided to try a local bar called Rockbottom bar. This is a local brewery, so I felt it was necessary to try the premium sampler of their beers. As good as they were, I am still quite spoiled from the Belgium beers at Dario's...but it was still fun to try some local brews.

Before we left for the bar, Maggie and I got a great workout in the Westin gym. I ran a great 5k on the treadmill, at a constant incline and every half mile I sprinted. It was actually one of the better treadmill runs I have ever had. We then did a weight workout I found in the latest "Fitness" magazine called "The Right to Bear Arms." It was a pretty intense workout because I had to use 20 lbs. free weights. It felt great however! Our dinner was a great cold grilled veggie salad with peas, asparagus, squash, peppers, mushrooms and onions, along with a pasta in an alfredo with spinach. So good!!!

Today I am sitting in our final session, a class on how to build a volunteer base within our organizations. We are due to swear in as public servants at 12:30 and our shuttle leaves for the airport at 12:45. It will be tight but I am all packed and checked out, so hopefully it will be an easy ride. It is also quite excited because our service terms will begin and I will finally be able to start my work as a Neighborhood Restoration specialist. We are due to arrive back in Omaha at 4:45. More to come later!

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