Sunday, June 20, 2010

Returning to the Sisterhood

Two weeks ago I had the honor of delivering the keynote address to the annual convention of the Wisconsin chapters of the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO). We rented a car and drove up to Stevens Point from Illinois. Steve came with me to the banquet and Baby Girl stayed with her grandparets, so Steve and I got to spend a lovely evening together, without the toddler craziness.

When I spoke with them last year it was just a few days before we left for Ecuador. It was one of their afternoon sessions, and a smaller audience, but the outpouring of love and support was amazing. They keynote session was like that, but on an order of ten.

The ballroom was packed with people, who were chatting and finishing their dinner even as a few other people gave short speeches. My turn came, and Steve said that before I had even finished saying hello the room got silent. I had a little case of nerves at the beginning (it was, after all, the largest audience I had ever spoken to), but quickly warmed up and got into it.
Steve and I with Christine Whitton, chairwoman of the Scholar Award committee for Wisconsin.
It was pretty hard for me to describe my experience, because it was still so new and I hadn’t had much time to process it. Also, as I’m sure you could tell from my blog posts, the last few months were a real count down to us getting out of there. We were just exhausted, and wanted to come home. So I had to focus, and read back through of some of my old blog posts, and find the good things again, and the things that would appeal to people not familiar with archaeology or Ecuador. So I talked about the village and the friends we made, and I spoke about my journey, the 4000 year change in research topics. And I think they enjoyed it.

The response was just as positive as last year, and I had so many women coming up to me to give me hugs and to ask questions. I felt like quite the celebrity. I think they also enjoyed hearing first hand what someone did with the money that they worked so hard to raise. After my speech last year I had a really hard time describing the experience to Steve, because it was so unlike anything that I had experienced before. I think that after being there with me this year he totally understands the difficulty that I had.

So, to all the PEO women out there, thank you for believing in me and making me part of your family. 

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