Victoria, who was Kyushu Rep at the time, called me one day and asked if I would be willing to help organize a convetion in Kyushu next year. This was just before I went to Narita, so I had attended a grand total of ZERO conventions thus far - so of course I said yes! At Narita I kept asking people there what they liked about conventions and writing notes in my diary!
We were four to a room, and my roommates included Susan, and I think Christine and Denise. Correct me on that if I am wrong! Four to a room was a mammoth squeeze, but it was of no consequence - I was hardly there! I still remember the champagne toast we had in that room as the weekend began. Cheers "Southern Comforts" and the Kyushu district, I had a wonderful time hosting that convention!
I drove - it's still the only convention I drove to. Since Victoria and I both endured the marathon cross-town train journey the year before only to arrive late, we pushed for finding a meeting room in the hotel. I still feel guilty for forgetting Michelle's Starbucks cup in there after she so kindly brought us all coffee! I had no experience with Starbucks at the time and just thought they gave out nice mugs every time...
I was in charge of several things at that convention, including the tour on Saturday afternoon, a wine tasting event on Saturday evening and the 'Miss Uminonakamichi' pageant on Friday night. Since I hate beauty contests I wanted it to be much more about personality and luck than about looks or presentation. Dinner was out on the lawn overlooking the bay. The rain stopped just in time. Each table was provided with a bowl of M&Ms, and each person had to choose one. Then they opened the quiz sheet, and had to answer the question that corresponded to the color they had chosen. The table then chose the best story-teller to be their table's contestant in the finals. The finalists told their story to everyone over a mic, with the winner chosen by applause volume, if I remember rightly. The winner was Solveig Boergen, the photographer, which I thought was just fabulous because she spent the whole weekend diligently making other women feel, and look, utterly beautiful with her fabulous glamour shots (She was still establishing her business then, and did glamour shots of women as well as baby photos. She gave us a great deal, and took some superb photos of me!). I believe she won all the chocolate, and a sash and tiara, and got to draw the Early Bird and other prizes on Saturday night.
The tour was a disaster. I think it would be fair to say it was the most pathetic tour ever offered at an AFWJ convention. We drove ourselves in two vans, and drove over the actual umi-no-naka-michi (literally a road running between two islands with the sea on both sides) to Shikanoshima, famous for a memorial to the memory of the lost souls of the original Kamikaze, the wind storm that destroyed the invading Mongolian fleet in the 12th century. I had previously visited the site, and there was a great lookout, a very sombre and ancient memorial and gravestones and a really cool stone map of the world, which I thought I could get everyone to stand on, on their own nation, for a great photo.
However, I had not had the opportunity to revisit the area since my first visit six years before, and found when we arrived at the site that access was closed off! After last year I am no longer surprised at how long it can take to get things back in shape after an earthquake, especially rarely visited obscure historical sites, but at the time it had never occurred to me that there would be damage from the earthquake the previous year, and that the area might still not be repaired. I was very disappointed. We ended up visiting a shrine, and having a wee splash at the beach by the umi-no-naka road. The guests did not complain, and said it was a lovely day trip anyway. I suppose they don't know what they missed.
My next job was the wine tasting, and I was seriously RUNNING back into the hotel after the tour to get it together - I had just enough time to shower and change into my 'wine tasting' dress and rush around gathering toothbrushing glasses from the guest rooms (more on that later). By a stroke of luck, that year I was working with a guy who was teaching English just for the cash, whose 'real life' consisted of being a sommelier (and a cyclist). Well, fantastic! I got him to put it on, and all I had to do was make sure he got the money to buy the wine. He was fabulous, he led us through the language used for wine-tasting - 'cucumber notes' and odd things like that. Thank you Adam!! The wine tasting happened on the pool, which was covered for the off season (it was June, but Japanese only swim in July and August). It was held with no help from the hotel staff, as we wanted to avoid corkage fees, which explains the tooth-brushing glasses! I could not acquire the appropriate amount of glasses, and I did not want to use plastic so somehow I happened upon the idea of using the room glasses! Someone remind me if you know whose idea it was!
I just remembered what I did Saturday morning - Charmaine and I crossed the bay in a ferry to go to a flea market!
After the wine tasting the race was on again, this time to get ready for the cabaret dinner. Uminonakamichi's theme was Southern Comforts - we brought people to the southern-most island of Japan, and referenced both the South Pacific and the American South. So the cabaret theme was Mardi Gras, and we asked people to wear a mask. We also held a mask-making workshop and left a few 100yen shop masks and mask-making paraphernalia in the hospitality room, just to make sure everyone would have a mask and no-one would feel too pressured to come up with something. I changed from my wine-tasting-friendly white, red and black shift dress to a black cocktail dress I inherited from my sister-in-law (I wore another black cocktail dress I inherited off her to the convention the year before).
Three things stand out for me from that cabaret:
1) I won the photo contest, with that photo of naked Amy jumping for joy at the beach. Actually it wasn't a surprise, because the voting was conducted by delivering two red stickers to each convention goer, which they were to use to stick onto the photo they liked the best, with the photos displayed in a clear file folder. I had had a wee sliver of time before or after lunch (which was provided that year, as we decided to add a buffet lunch since there was just nowhere for guests to go) to visit the hospitality room and saw then that my photo was miles ahead. It was cool to win something though. I think I won booze.
2) The convention committee performance: Charmaine had worked SO HARD on preparing special songs for us, from the musical South Pacific ("Some convention evening... you will meet a stranger, across a crowded room...), BUT the sound system didn't work, and we ended up singing a capella, which was okay, but we lost the rhythm, and sang a bit too slow, and it sounded a big choral. Shirin did her best washing 'Japan' out of her hair, but I still feel we didn't do as well as we would have if we'd had music!!! I had practiced so much singing those songs!
3) The male dance troupe. MEN turning up at an AFWJ convention cabaret is pretty rare! Young, sexy dancing men? Unprecedented! It was the tap-dancing students of Kyushu member Barbara, who I'd seen dancing for the first time the previous year. Boy did they get the crowd going! I think it was THE best disco we've ever had!
We went to karaoke after that, I think... or was that Friday night? They had a wee karaoke box in the hotel, which was totally cool and kept all the karaoke fans happy.
The hospitality room that year was a guest room, but with no guests in it. Crafts and books and brochures were spread out over the beds, along with the mask-making equipment and photo contest folder. I think we also sold crafts on behalf of members that year. People gathered in the lounge part of the suite room, or on the floor, or perched on the edges of the two beds. After dinner on Saturday, I plugged in my portable DVD player and threw on some Abba and Boney M. As the crowd began to thin out, I put on Nature's Best, a compilation of NZ music, while me and Louise danced and sang the night away. We were so late up we decided we'd best not crash and bang our way back to our rooms and went to sleep in the hospitality room beds!!
Good thing I did because I staggered back to my room the next day for a recovery nap, to find my bed was BROKEN. I sat on it and just like Goldilocks, it toppled over. A little birdie told me it had happened when X-san sat on the it day before. I'm sure I don't remember it happening! I was hardly in the room!
After recovering a bit from that stupendous hangover, I headed across the lawn to an outbuilding where the panel discussion was being held. Beverly and Tamah were talking about legal steps to take to protect your life in Japan. And I was treated to my first hand-holding and song-singing session. I'm not too fond of this bit, it feels a bit embarrassing to me somehow; I love all my AFWJ buddies, but I don't necessarily want to go round hugging everyone (unless it's Friday night, I'm tiddly on champers and happy to see everyone after a year) and especially since there are TWO songs, and a long history about the spat that resulted in their being two songs, sheesh! These days I slip away before any hands get held...