I got the best opportunity recently to attend a YSA Mini Convention in Sydney over the long weekend, and it was an absolute blast of just amazingness and crazily large groups of YSA in one room.
I went with Elyse, Cloe, Moncoeur, and my big brother Mike, and it was an experience in of itself to just hang out with those weirdos. We took as many photos as we physically could while still being present and enjoying the activities, so I hope you enjoy! :)
We had been playing this trip for a few weeks in advance, starting as soon as we heard that there was going to be a convention. Elyse and I are really big planners, so we started organising where we would be staying, who was going, and even what to wear days leading up and we couldn't contain the excitement but also the extreme nerves we were getting just imagining how many people were going to be there. Though it was a Mini Convention, there were so many people I just kind of got paralysed at the idea of it.
The plan was that it was going to initially be Elyse driving (In her car), me in the passenger seat (Who has all control of the music and everyone eating. I like to call it the mummy seat), and Cloe and Moncoeur in the backseat. But just as the time changes continuously, our plans switched.
Our actual plans came out that Mike would be driving to Sydney, with Elyse as the passenger (And in full swing mummy mode for all of us) and me stuck in between Mon and Cloe who were always screaming at each other like excited kids whenever we'd ask a question in our game of 20 Questions that they were passionate about. I kept myself calm and collected by the KFC Chicken Nuggets that Cloe and I "Shared" (She offered me the last one without realising that there were like...10 in the box and she had only had perhaps 3 of them...I still took that last Chicken Nugget anyway) and focused playing our 20 Questions game that basically took us the entire way to Sydney entertained by certain questions that popped up unexpectedly. (Thank you Elyse, for one of the best answers I have EVER heard to a question. That will go down in 20 Questions History. I will forever remember <3)
We stayed at the Temple accommodation, and had one separate room all for ourselves. The other Canberra girls stayed in the YW's Room, but knowing that we had our own bedroom was possibly one of the best highlights of the entire weekend. There were countless times where I needed to just sit in silence and let my thoughts come in and relax, and there is no way that is possible with so many girls in one room together. This is where the introvert inside was making compromises with me - "You get to enjoy this entire weekend surrounded by heaps of people and be in environments with strangers. I want certain alone times. We all have to make sacrifices". Though we had two bunkbeds, Elyse, Cloe, and myself just cuddled in the double bed and turned on the AC so it was extra warm and snuggly. Who needs single beds when you can cuddle your friends and accidentally hit them in your sleep?
The theme for the dance was Mesoamerican. Now, I'll be honest, I had NO idea how to dress for that. I spent a few days researching what it even meant, and then spent a few more days researching what the dress was meant to look like. When the title of the dance was something like, 'Festival of Feathers' we decided hey...since we can't make costumes, let's just put some feathers on us and then mark our face and call it a day. So that's exactly what we did. I marked all our faces with crayons bought at a $2 shop, bobby-pinned matching feathers of our outfits into our hair, and we were off.
I was having a freak out during the entire car ride there, but having extroverts Moncoeur and Cloe fist pumping and dancing against me in the backseat pulled me out of my anxiety filled trance-like state and helped me get into the mood of the dance. Cloe and I started competing to smile at people who drove past us, and even though I'm sure some of the Sydney Drivers thought we were either on some form of drugs or were propositioning them, some of them actually smiled back and gave us a friendly wave! It reminded me of my first Youth Convention where Stephen, Sav, and myself created a sign - 'How you doin'? Smile and Wave!' and created a tally board on the bottom of the sign of how many people would react back. I absolutely love messing with people who aren't suspecting it <3
We got to the dance exactly at the perfect time. Not the first ones there, which is awkward as we stand there waiting for the actual dance to begin, but not so late that we couldn't get into the dance and then it was over. We arrived probably an hour or hour and a half after it was meant to initially start, and people were still driving up and arriving. The venue was at the chapel, but in a backyard type area in the cold. We were prepared for this, but clearly not enough because my arms and hands became numb only after a few moments, and I had no where to put my phone so I had to unsubtly shove it down the front of my dress. The decorations were amazing, with fairy lights above the dance floor and heat lamps all near the tables for people to socialise and talk. On the fairy lights were strings of feathers dangling down, and I'm sure by the end of the night some people were being hit in the face by them and they were torn down to the ground in the thrashing of dancing. Elyse and I said hello to a few people we knew and then we started actually dancing. I'm an awkward dancer, and it's kind of obvious when I start pointing. I'm like an old person jiving to the new kid's music and just framing their face. That's their only dance move - the framed face. Mine is the point and I point everywhere and in every direction. I'm trying to point away my awkwardness. But I actually had fun, even when Cloe dragged me to the middle of the dance floor and I was armpit level with everyone. Fear set in when I could sense that the song, 'Jump' by Kris Kross started playing and I couldn't crawl out quickly enough before everyone started jumping and fist pumping and I was like one of those little balls in the pinball machines.
This is why 4'11 short people don't go to dance clubs or go into the mosh pit areas. We don't come out the same.
You could definitely tell it was a YSA activity because, while everybody was dancing, their eyes were scanning the crowd for people they found attractive and could put a terminator-like tracking device on them for the entire activity. 'You. You are my chosen one for Mini Convention'. The thirst began to get so real I even felt once or twice a little grab during dancing, and that's not okay mate. That's not okay.
The dance was spectacular, and I really enjoyed it! I joke about all the weird girls and guys but that's just my observations :D Everyone was enjoying themselves, having a fantastic time in a beautifully decorated dance and with a great arrangement of music by the DJ. I just like to tease the YSA and the dating scene ;)
We left the dance to come back to the accommodation and not sleep until something like...3-4am because of all the late night talking in the dining room. Elyse, Cloe, and myself popped out the Unicorn onesies as soon as we got back and snuggled in together. I was lucky that the crayon markings were easy to take off, because I wasn't going to spend the rest of the convention with a red line down my nose.
We were planning to take more photos, but it was so dark it was too hard to get any good ones! The ones that we do have were from inside the accommodation ;)
Also...there are none of Moncoeur because he had his own little photoshoot and didn't include any of us, so he wasn't in any of the group shots. Your loss, Mon ;)
I awoke to the worst headache, a blocked nose, an inkling of a sore throat, and quite possibly Cloe's knee jabbed against my butt. Elyse was fighting with my alarm that started vibrating and shrieking at 6:30am for a 8am baptistry session at the temple. Elyse grabbed her head which was fighting off a chronic headache, and Cloe was happily snoring away in her unicorn onesie on the other side.
We discussed/debated for nearly half an hour on whether we should go to the temple in our state, with my constantly running nose and my cracking voice, and the fact that we didn't get anywhere near 2 hours sleep. I wanted to go so bad, but I knew the rest of the day was going to be such a wreck if we didn't get a little more sleep and actually take some medication for our ailments. Elyse agreed, and we made the tough decision to miss the temple session to get some much needed sleep and rest. I know it's such a rationalisation, but I know that without those 5+ hours of sleep, I wouldn't have made Saturday. I would have had to been dragged by Cloe and Elyse by one leg each.
While us sleeping beauties went to sleep on, the activity that was bright and early Saturday morning was a run for charity. Many of the YSA were talking about it, and some even talked to us about it when they arrived back and we finally woke up at 11am. They told me that I missed out on such a fun activity, and that it was nice to get some exercise in during this weekend. I threw my head back, wrapped the blanket further around myself, and just laughed while I shoved another muffin into my face and laughed all the way back up to bed. Ain't nobody got time for exercise when you could be sleeping.
The day was absolutely gorgeous. My favourite type of weather is sunny with a breeze. We just hung out at the park until it was time for lunch, which we OF COURSE went to Maccas because hey, when you have a choice for lunch, you always choose Maccas. Even if there is a Subway just down the road, I'm already in Maccas already and you better join or I'll leave you behind while I eat my McChicken Meal and do so without an ounce of regret. #Yolomaccas
Once the Elders showed up, we departed back to the Park to eat and catch up. It was a very relaxed lunch, and with the beautiful scenery, it was just a nice relaxing time away from the convention. We got to have an awesome lesson from the Elders, and Elder Fitzner went above and beyond and asked us each what we were dreaming of for the next 5 years, and our concerns about it, and individually wrote notes with scriptures and questions to ask ourselves on it. That's the kind of missionary I want to be. One who teaches individuals, not lessons <3
After the lunch, we went around the area and found this jaw-dropping market shop where a man was selling these interesting looking ice-cream/sundaes. On closer inspection (And listening to the guy talk about the product) it was actually revealed to be candles! I, of course, picked up my favourite scent ever (Blueberry scones) and it magically matched my dress too. I was so tempted to buy one, but I had no room in my bag or suitcase back at the Accommodation either, so I was resolved to take his business card and promise myself to check out the other products. They honestly deceived me and I thought they were real sundaes :( I really wanted a sundae or milkshake after that.
(and yes, I am AWARE that in the photo, you can't see my face because the glory of the sun was projecting beams across it, but that's what happens when you are so angelic you bring upon the Second Vision)
I'm very apathetic when it comes to makeup and getting ready, so I got early about an hour or so before the actual Film Festival began, but that didn't stop me from making a grand entrance to reveal my gorgeousness. I make do with what I must.
I think out of all the activities, the Film Festival ranked second on my favourite activity from the entire Convention, it ranked my 4th favourite activity (Okay, there were only 7 activities, disregarding the temple trip on Thursday 'cos we weren't there for it.) Some of the videos were so funny I had to wipe literal tears away, especially the Water Balloon fight video. My gosh. I'd share that with everyone. It was BRILLIANT. It was amazing to see how much talent was in our YSA in terms of Cinematography. Now you know who to go to when you need a photographer or someone to video your special day/event.
The moment that made me simultaneously crack up laughing but also scowl in disapproval was when they announced there would be no food or refreshments after the Film Festival, and there was a unanimous 'Boo' and disgruntled chairs being scrapped back by those who were leaving because there wasn't going to be dinner. I joke, no one left, but there were moment where I thought perhaps going to get a kebab and coming back wasn't a bad idea in of itself.
During the Film Festival, we had a few performances of dance and song. Now, I absolutely LOVE watching someone dance/sing live on stage. There's just something different to not watching it on a screen and being in the crowd. I've never been, though, during a performance where people were literally losing it and screaming as if the world was about to end. We had a performance by DeAndre Brackensick, an american singer who finished eighth place on the eleventh season of American Idol. I had never heard of him before, possibly because I don't really watch American Idol, but when he started to sing I have never felt so many people jump to their feet and start clapping and singing along with him. He finished, and people continued to holler and shout for an encore, which he obliged with one of my favourite songs, 'Treasure' by Bruno Mars. Now I joined in on the standing and the singing and clapping. It was a spectacular night, and especially when we went back to Accommodation with Kebabs.
Even if Mon lied to me and said that the boys had Pizza, so I gave him my kebab in search of the promised pizza, but alas, it was all a lie when I got to the boys' room and there was no pizza. None. Nada. The whole time Mon was shovelling down my kebab behind me and when I turned around, only the wrapper remained.
I don't blame you Mon, because that led to one of the funniest and enjoyable nights of just talking and chilling out with some people I would have never met before if I didn't go in search of Pizza, but you also did eat my Kebab and so now you owe me pizza. The debt is rising, my friend. The debt is rising.
Church was at 2:30pm. Sweet baby yes. I was so thankful for this, because I stayed up talking to Solomone until about 3-4am, and then Elyse came down and we stayed talking until about 7am. When we went to bed, the birds outside were chirping loudly and Elyse and I stumbled back into our room and snuggled into bed.
We awoke to an actually calm morning, and just chilled out around for a bit on our phones and snuggling. Soon enough, Elyse and I started to get dressed for Church (I don't have any pictures of us during this whole day, because I completely wasn't focused on actually taking photos! I am so bummed, but here is a photo taken by someone who was at the convention, and took probably the most photos for the entire convention. Check out their facebook page! Images by Me on Facebook) and we decided not to fast because of our health issues (Yes, I was still sick. My body was putting up the best fight it could, and I thought that fasting would just send me over the edge of sickness.) but we got an entire pew to ourselves. I sat next to Elyse and Mone, and while listening to the testimonies that were being given, I marked some of the scriptures that had popped up over the weekend (Elder Fitzner's scriptures, the scriptures Mike taught us in his spiritual lesson the night before about Heavenly Father's love for us, and others that were coming up in my personal study in Mosiah). We didn't have a Sunday School class because it was so jam packed with YSA, so we went from Sacrament Meeting to Relief Society/Priesthood classes. I absolutely LOVED the Relief Society lesson. Loved it with all vigor and passion I could have. It was about being active women in the gospel, and how our attitude affects so much of what we do. We read about some of the women in the Scriptures, like Ruth, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Esther, Eve, and other influential women that we didn't have time to get to but that I want to finish that study of. The question was, 'If they had the attitude of -Well, I'm here aren't I?- how different would their story have been?' it created some fantastic discussion between Elyse and I, and I walked away from the lesson with a whole note in my phone full of comments, written thoughts, and scriptural references for later. It's been a while since I've walked out of a lesson/class and just needed more because I absolutely loved it and could keep listening to the teacher for hours.
After Church, they set up all the women in line to receive dinner in these amazing containers. The efficiency was out of this world. I was in and out of the line within 10 minutes. That's the same type of efficiency that Maccas had. I was very clearly and thoroughly impressed. I sat down with Elyse and we started engorging on our food. Now, this was a very interesting and particular experience that I never expected I'd have on Convention.
Elyse and I were sitting there with Sister Stedlund, enjoying our food and just making comments to each other every now and then, but generally focusing on our food. I'm much more of a people observer, I LOVE people watching and it's a passion of mine. I like watching people's body language and just being a commentator. I noticed a girl, sitting by herself and eating with empty seats around her. Normally I am way too shy, too self-focused to actually go and approach someone else, but when I saw her a little voice said right away, 'Go grab that seat right next to her, ask if you can sit next to her, and do something for someone else' so I tapped Elyse, gestured to the girl, and Elyse knew right away so we picked up our meals and sat next to her. It turns out that the girl's name was Amy (Hi Amy! Hope you don't hate me for writing this on my blog ;) I'm not going to stop aaaaaanywaaaay) and that she was a RM who found it a bit hard to adjust back into the YSA scene. I understood, as I've watched my brother try to jump back into the YSA scene, and it's so much harder than anybody expects. We sat with her the entire time, and even when we went to the Devotional, we sat with her and it just made me feel so warm and happy inside that Elyse and I could have been that person who just had the courage to say hello and to sit with them at an activity. So many times I have gone to an activity, my friend has been late, and I've sat there alone with NO ONE coming up to acknowledge me or say hello to me, so when I saw Amy I instantly related to her and knew what she must have been feeling, going to a place where she only knew one or two people and having everyone going into their little groups and not branching out. I still do it! I still have it done to me, so to have a little moment of reaching out to someone else just made my day. It made my week. Ugh, it was amazing to get to know Amy and hear her amazing conversion story that I could sympathise with :)
After we ate, we went to the Spoken Word and Musical Fireside. It. Was. Amazing. There was so many talented singers, and the choir was on point in all aspects, even with rising and sitting at the same time. I was so entranced by the guy who was sitting at the front, doing sign language for another guy sitting at the front. It was amazing to watch how he was signing, and how he did it so passionately for just that one person.
When we had the last speaker come up, the Fireside went from 100 to like...400% amazing. I absolutely loved the talk, and it was a very interesting concept to learn about how Satan can reach us through the 5 senses, especially touch. It was a different take on it, and it was very intriguing to study a little more into it. It was one of the best Sabbath Days I have had in a very long while :)
We awoke at 9:30am. We had to leave the accommodation at 10am. Cue mad dashing to get dressed, and to start packing everything, and to clean everything in our flat. This is what you get what you put YSA girls together, all their stuff is thrown EVERYWHERE. We had the Feather Dance feathers scattered on the bathroom counter, onesies littered over the bunk beds, and cans of coke and sprite on the table. We finished at about 10:05am, and started to consider throwing our suitcases off the balcony and getting Mike to catch them down near the car so we didn't have to run up and down the stairs with these monstrous suitcases. Once we packed, cleaned, and got everything set, we set off towards the oval where the Sport Games were held for the last and final activity for Mini Convention.
I'll be honest, I hate sports. I'm not a big fan, and there are plenty reasons why. I don't like the pressure, I don't like the physical fitness aspect of things, but the biggest is that I hate being hit in the face by the ball or by other players. It's a sad fact I've accepted in this lifetime that I will be hit in the face guaranteed every time I play a sport that includes a ball that needs to be kicked/thrown/whacked around particularly at my face. I was able to use the excuse of my sickness and the fact that I hate sports to dodge actually participating in any of the games, but that allowed me to do something I find FAR more enjoyable, which is photography. It was also helpful to others as they started throwing their phones, jackets, glasses, and other extra items that they couldn't carry while playing. Elyse and I basically became mules for everyone else's things.
There was a whole assortment of games that tested each skills. There was cooperation games (Sack hopping races or something along those lines...there was a lot less hopping and more grabbing-the-sack-and-pretending-to-jump), mental games (Math equations, REALLY? In this heat?! Ewuhh), physical games (Footy or something like that, I wasn't paying attention to which game, but more so of WHO was playing the game ;) Convention was made for this exact reason), and other fun games thrown into the mix to keep it fresh (Dash for the flag type games where, of course, people cheated)
This was actually one of my favourite activities even though I didn't participate. Main reason was because when they actually fed us lunch, it was...yes...you can probably already guess it, it was pizza. My betrothed and promised pizza had finally come to me. There was also salad, Shish Kabobs, and plenty and plenty of pizza. I also had opportunities to see people I hadn't seen in a long time (Sarai!) and have some very hilarious and interesting conversations with others. I mainly enjoyed just watching and video taping my brother participate in each activity, and commentate on the games with Elyse. I got to cheer on Cloe as she ran a relay race ('KNEES TO CHEST CLOE, KNEES TO CHEST!') and eat plenty of food. It was a great relaxed day with the perfect weather, and I couldn't have asked for a better finish to convention :)
The thing that really topped this off was that I got to spend time with my bro :) After 2 years of not seeing him and only talking to him every Monday through short emails and the occasional letter I'd send, it was nice just to be able to hang out with him and talk with him like we did before the mission.
It was also pretty sweet checking out the potentials for Future Bae/Eternal Companion, but that will come much later ;)
Spiritually Minded Is Life Eternal <3
(2 Nephi 22:2)
Me basically all of Convention.