It’s Fiesta in San Antonio! Once again, I left Ryan behind while I traveled the country for work. As he also used to live in Texas, I’m not sure he’s particularly disappointed about missing this trip (although I think he was somewhat disappointed he missed my trip to LA). While I was not there to experience the fun of Fiesta, we did go see their flotilla and experience some of the fun.
I traveled to San Antonio for two conferences, the National Association for Research in Science Teaching and the American Educational Research Association. I gave my first presentation at a research conference on Sunday morning. It was really interesting. If you want to know more about why this type of conference is different from the others I’ve presented at, check out my blog post Conference Season.
Even though I was there for work, we had a great time. We arrived late on Saturday and rushed to the opening reception. After inhaling a couple chicken wings and some cheese we headed out to meet our colleagues at a bar. They had arrived the day before and were waiting for us to catch up. We met them at a bar called the Brooklynite. It was a craft cocktail bar with a speakeasy feel. We had a great time but a day full of travel caught up to us so we didn’t stay late.
My session was first thing Sunday morning which meant I got to get it out of the way early so I could just relax and enjoy the rest of the conference. I had really good feedback and people were very interested in my work. I’m excited to say that I have new partners at a museum in Israel who will be implementing my study over there! When my session was over, my coworker and I decided to explore the riverwalk and look for lunch. The concierge suggested we check out a restaurant called Boudro’s. It was wonderful. We had a prickly pear margarita and table side guacamole that was delicious.
We sat right on the river and got to enjoy the sights and sounds of San Antonio. There were several mariachi bands playing, we got to hear the river boat tours as they went by, and we got to enjoy the sunshine. Eventually we had to head back for more sessions but it was a great way to break up the day. After more sessions, the real highlight for Sunday was the zoo!
I’m a member of the Informal Learning Strand at NARST so they were kind enough to schedule a tour for us at the zoo. I invited the rest of my team so we could enjoy it together. We started with a tour of their educational center and talked about why zoos and aquariums are important. While all of that is common knowledge to me, it was new for many people there. I loved when they talked about all the things a zoo does that you might not know about!
Then they let us out into the zoo to take photos. I took so many and the animals were very great models. We saw lions mating, a snake trying to eat itself, a happy crocodile, nesting egrets, and so many other things. I’ll have to think about what I want to do with all of those photos. We also talked about all the conservation messaging that happens at the zoo.
After the zoo we met our department head for a graduate student dinner at Rosarios. It was really nice to spend the evening talking with our department head in an informal manner. I appreciate that she takes the time to host this type of event so we can get to know her better and so she can stay in touch with what her grad students are doing.
On Monday we decided to go on a bit of an adventure. We set off for Gruene, Tx. It’s home to Texas’ oldest dance hall. We stopped in and my advisor did a little dance for us on the stage.
It was a cute little town with a General Store and antique shop. After trying on vintage cowboy boots we set off to find some lunch. We ended up at a little Tex-Mex place called Cantina del Rio. We sat in their backyard to enjoy the sun and made friends with a squirrel. After lunch (and a peach mango margarita) we made a stop at the luxury outlets before we had to head back to the conference for our next session.
That evening was the big Fiesta Flotilla. So we met up at our friend’s hotel which was right where the flotilla started. It was interesting to learn all about the Royalty for Fiesta. The float in front of the hotel had El Rey Feo, or the Ugly King. He is the person who raised the most money for his charity for Fiesta. Unlike some of the Fiesta Queens who had been training for this position since they were 3. We enjoyed listening to the music and seeing all the floats. It made me think of the flotillas we used to do when I was little. We’d dress up our pontoon boat to match the year’s theme. We were undefeated in all the years we participated. Here’s our 1997 Jurassic Park Buggy (made out of cardboard)
On Tuesday I got to preside over my first session. My job was mainly to keep everyone on time. I passed. It was a great session and I took away as much as the audience did. That was the end of our first conference so my friend, Sarah, from college came to pick me up and take me to San Marcos. We met her husband, Niko, and headed off for “hipster pizza”. (Hyperlink) I convinced them to try Texas Goat cheese that came with roasted garlic and Texas honey. They had never had roasted garlic and were pretty impressed.
On Wednesday Sarah and I had to stop by her work before we could play. Sarah is working on a PhD in forensic anthropology so we went to the Texas State University Body Farm! I got to learn all about Sarah’s research and the great work that facility is doing. For example, they are working to help identify bodies of people who die trying to cross over from Mexico. It was gross and fascinating at the same time.
After working in the hot sun, we went tubing on the San Marcos. We stopped at the HEB and picked up some tubes and headed off to a park near Texas State University. We hopped in, or in my case- fell in, and set off down the river. It was crystal clear and perfect temperatures. We saw lots of wildlife: a yellow crown night heron, little fish, and turtles. At one point, I almost kicked a snake in the face! Thankfully I saw him in time to pull in my feet. It was just a brown banded water snake, nonvenomous, but I didn’t want to make him mad by kicking him in the head. We ended the trip by floating around by this little island until it was time to get out and walk back to the car. We had to meet Niko for some more Tex-Mex.
Back to the Fiesta
On Thursday I had to head back to San Antonio for a roundtable presentation. Sarah and I decided to stop at the Alamo as neither of us had ever been there. I didn’t realize it was one of the missions. I was somewhat disappointed we couldn’t take photos inside. It was very neat because there was someone there working on restoring part of the wall.
Friday was a big day as our university was hosting an evening reception. I had made plans to meet with a well known researcher in my field but hadn’t been able to meet up with her yet. So I invited her to join us at our reception. She accepted and we had a lovely evening talking about the state of informal science education research among other things. It was a lovely way to end the week.
Saturday morning I went to a really amazing session. I took a class on motivation this semester and several of the big name people who developed theories in that field had a panel discussion about their contributions to the field. I expected them to be super serious but they were all really funny and personable. It was really neat to see so much of educational theory history sitting in one place.
We went to the riverwalk one more time to have a last prickly pear margarita. There were a lot of little vendors set up along the river. It was hard not to buy lots of trinkets particularly a beautiful sea turtle sun catcher made out of wires and crystals. Sadly, though, we had to head back and head out. It was a fun filled, busy week. Thankfully I came home with lots of good ideas for our research and wonderful new research connections.
So it was a whirlwind trip to San Antonio. What should I have seen that I missed?