"meet me in St. Louie"…for Urbana

2:25 PM+ No Wi-Fi signal strong enough here at the pool, so this will have to be posted later. A.J. and Tee are trading off being sharks and minnows while I enjoy the third-floor view of the America’s Center across the street. The big sign in front of the AC, where we spent most of the morning setting up for check-in, periodically welcomes “InterVarsity’s Urbana 06 Dec. 26-31.”

materials await distribution at check-in – and this is the minority of those stuffed by volunteers
Well, we’re finally here after months of preparation, a small part of the advance onsite team. Our lead time has been relatively short, since Dy joined the registration team in Sept. Others have been working ahead for more than two years. In spite of scale drawing the floor plan for check-in at the AC repeatedly, the rooms seem larger than the specifications. Plenty of room for pallets of materials for the minority of attendees checking in here; most will do so at the 36 hotels, if they used the online housing feature correctly.

the check-in area almost ready to be filled with those needing housing or making a final payment

The fun of roaming the sparsely tabled spaces quickly grew old for Tee and A.J., who spent the rest of the morning hitching rides on golf carts and playing marbles or Legos on the spacious carpeting. Arey has started her role as Dy’s “gopher” by helping adjust check-in furniture and distribute materials. She’s also photographically documenting our experience – some of which may end up here.

the kids play or help while we work with fellow staff and convention center personnel

I drove us through the fog yesterday afternoon into the early dark, while the kids listened to CDs and Dy plowed into some email offline. The first guy to meet us as we pulled up to the hotel turned out to be from Kenya and is registered for Urbana. We unloaded the van onto a pair of carts while Dy navigated the front desk’s hoops (hopefully being shortened for the hundreds to follow). I hope we meet up again.

The kids are familiar with hotel pools, considered a necessity. But none of the hotels we’ve visited as a family have displayed quite the opulence of this one. Before going to sleep last night, Tee confirmed, “We wouldn’t have gotten in here if it weren’t for Urbana, right?” Close enough. The brisk walk a few blocks to breakfast taught us that Panera’s began as the St. Louis Bread Company – mmmm!

one massive Christmas tree dominates the lobby of the hotel – no need for one at home

Time to wrap up the swimming. A.J. managed to hold his breath underwater for 25 seconds; Tee for 11. They chose to wait a few minutes for the beginning of mixed bathing, in deference to the conservative Jewish families gathered to celebrate the other festival of the season. We took the few minutes of male-only swimming to visit the lobby and explain why not everyone prefers mixed bathing. And why some call swimming bathing. And to test the wireless signal there. And to check if FedEx has delivered the third scanner with which we’ll continue to attempt onsite processing of Urbana decision cards in eight days. Weak Wi-Fi and no box yet, but the other items were addressed as far as interest held out.

the exhibit hall still being setup – what a great place for discovery and conversations!

Back in the room, A.J. just succeeded in landing an Amamiri model under power on the runway for the first time. Hopefully practice on the screen will translate into some real-time aerial skill when it comes to flying his recent $20 purchase by spring. He still prefers crashing the free planes into parts of the free landscapes. Now he’s up in a Fokker triplane. Time to go back across the street and be more directly useful. – j