…and so it begins!

My brain has been waking me up every hour or two and so I have given up the fight. Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity.  The Chattahoochee Tech TeamPLANET left the Acworth, Georgia, North Metro Campus at 5:15 a.m. We were saddened that at 5:00 a.m. teammate Nanci Lee got a phone call and had to pull her bags out of the bus luggage bin when she heard that her father-in-law had passed away.  Tears flowed as her teammates hugged their strength into her.

After flying over a cloudy Midwest, team members were in awe of the sparkling Lake Michigan and the tightly compacted, heaven reaching skyline of Chicago.  Arriving on schedule at Midway Airport in the heart of Chicago’s South Side they quickly loaded the three rental vans with some 60 pieces of luggage and equipment.  For the team of 20 students and four instructors the adventure began in earnest. 

It was a short ride to the Wingate Hotel across from the Tinley Park Convention Center.  After settling the suitcases and tool boxes into the spacious rooms we headed out to a nearby local eatery, Pops, and sampled the wings and the beef. Back at our home away from home some of us fell into our routine of study. In the lobby at a breakfast table, Sandra Wilson had the scales and markers out, carefully drawing one more practice Landscape Design.  At another table our candidate for SuperStar, Humzah Khraim, was editing a final draft of his English term paper due before his 8 o’clock final exam on Monday morning.  He knew he would be too busy the rest of this week to even think about it.  Some students had their heads bent closely together confirming I.D. spellings, yet others were relatively relaxed knowing they had done all they could to be ready for their physical events.  It is for them now a waiting game.

Sixteen of the team set out to the Joliet Junior College Campus to set up the Landscape Plant Install.  The unfamiliar campus seemed huge with event sites spread around in every direction.  It was quickly evident that so much work had been done and Joliet Junior was ready for the challenge of hosting the Landscape Olympics that PLANET Student Career Days (SCD) is.  On the way back to the Wingate they made a trial run to the Weitendorf Ag Ed Center.  A few U-Turns later they were glad that they did.   Comfortable now that we have the lay of the land, we will be ‘good to go!’

After a quick trip to the Super Target for hotel room necessities like snacks and Cokes, I suggested Portillo’s Hot Dogs for dinner.  It is a Chicago classic that has been featured on the Travel Channel and the Food Network and it is conveniently located straight north on Harlem Avenue.  Chicago Dogs, Italian Beef sandwiches served dipped with sport peppers, bar-b-que ribs, hot crispy cheese fries, and chili were topped off with decadent Chocolate Cake Milk Shakes and Italian Ices.  Yes, Chicago is a food lover’s dream.

Time to get serious.  At 9:00 p.m., bodies were crammed in everywhere as we met in our instructor’s hotel room for the first of the nightly team meetings.  Each student received their Key to the Kingdom – his or her name badge!  We are proud that attached to them are PLANET Accredited red ribbons and, unprecedented for us, ten have blue Scholarship Recipient ribbons!  Bringing our focus to the reason we are here, Thursday schedules were laid out.  With planning akin to a military assault it was decided which instructor would be driving which students to which location at what time.  Which workshop could be filled in by an unscheduled student because another was double booked.  No opportunity is left wasted.  Who will be on the provided shuttles and when to meet for the evening receptions.  It is a full day. I did not hear video games, naps or swimming included!

Got to go now, it is 5:30 a.m.  Got to dress, eat breakfast and head out to the Holiday Inn.  For the first time in my seven year relationship with PLANET I am going on the Landscape Tour.  I am a volunteer tour guide.  Our team never takes advantage of the tour opportunity – too much else to do. . . workshops, nursery trips, study, and maybe, just maybe, sleep!

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