Friday, September 21, 2007

50th Annual PA Convention: The Journey and Social Reception

This post is the first in a series of reviews and summaries of the 50th annual conference of the Parapsychological Association. As many of you know, I drove over 1400 miles to Halifax, Nova Scotia for the event. I love a good road trip, so we'll begin with a short travelogue.

The journey officially began when I picked up my friend and research partner Devin at a greyhound bus station in Albany, New York. From there we drove to Easthampton, Massachusetts to visit one of our former classmates from the 2001 Rhine Research Center's summer study program, who kindly fed us an excellent vegan meal and hosted us for the evening. It was so good to see and catch up with her after six years. The next morning, our mission was to drive, drive, drive...and then drive some more.

We crossed into the Canadian border into New Brunswick without a hitch, but it was getting late, so we set up camp at the first campground we could find. We ended up at Sunset View Campgrounds near Nackawic, where we got to watch the sun set over the St. John River. The next morning, we still had another five hours to drive to Halifax, with the conference beginning that evening.

As we crossed into Nova Scotia, we stopped at the visitor's center to pick up a free map, and looking around the center, I regretted that we had not allowed any free time in our travel schedule for sight seeing. Nova Scotia is the ocean playground of Canada, but not once during my trip did I get a good view of ocean. The most exciting thing I saw was a sculpture of the blueberry king next to a gas station. So my first lesson of PA conference attendance is to allot an extra day or two for some fun. All work and no play makes Annalisa a dull girl.

Once we did arrive in Halifax, we had an hour to kill and I tried to find a place to dip my toes in the ocean, but we wound up at Point Pleasant Park, which had a nice set of trails and an artillery battery, but no beach front. *sigh*

Soon it was time to find our way back to the Holiday Inn for registration and social reception, which took place around a banquet of finger foods and a cash bar. There were a few faces that I hadn't seen since 2001 at the Rhine, so we got to play catch up. I also made fast friends with a few grad students who had traveled all the way from the United Kingdom for the conference. There were additional people there whom I had been in communication with via my internet and email activities and finally got to meet face to face.

The conference attendance was very small...maybe 50 people or so. Considering that there are almost 300 members and affiliates of the Parapsychological Association, I was slightly disappointed in the low turnout. Still, it was a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas with a group of specialists and shake hands with some of the established researchers in the field. It was intimidating and exciting at the same time, finally getting to meet the people whose research I've been reading for almost 10 was almost like getting to meet my favorite super heroes. But parapsychologists are ordinary people with extraordinary research interests, something that I was reminded of throughout the four days of the conference, and something that I hope to impress upon Public Parapsychology readers as well.

Sadly, on day one I had to call it a night before my new friends did. The conference resumed at 9am the next day, and I still had to get to know the kind student at Dalhousie University who was hosting my stay through I hadn't sold enough metaphorical candy bars to afford the Holiday Inn Select, but couch surfing was an excellent experience and the site is one that I'll be likely to use in my travels again.

No comments: