Attending Alone, from another Country and Culture
An International friend attended 2015 International AA Convention here in Atlanta, and reported back it was a wonderful community event. She decided to attend the convention because she has been sober for several years now, and has worked her way up from crowd-averse to successfully attending some large RoundUps in her home region in Canada. The Atlanta conference would be the biggest she ever attended.
Alone and "foreign", she was unsure of what to expect visiting Atlanta for the first time, among an anticipated 70,000 attendees. Her room at the Hilton Garden Inn was clean, spacious, and reasonably priced while being near to the convention. While her hotel was within easy walking distance of all the convention activities, she said others staying elsewhere told her there were convenient shuttles available for them to all activities.
A non-native English speaker, she really appreciated the special Other Language meeting rooms. She also enjoyed the way the AA International Convention provided opportunity for attendees to gather according to country of origin, even though that was not the primary purpose of the International gathering.
Very Big Sessions: 10,000 People!
She attended the 11:30 - 1:00 portion of the daily Marathon Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Centennial Ballroom on the first day. Astounded by a single meeting with over 10,000 people, she had to reconsider her daily planning. As an introvert alone from a foreign country, she found it difficult to make friends because she never saw the same people more than once. The crowds were so large.
The Party in the Park was held at the Centennial Olympic Park, and was well attended. Friday she attended the "A.A. - A Society of Alcoholics in Action" meeting held at the Georgia World Congress Center, and was inspired to become more involved in helping others find their way to a sober life. The "Humility: This Precious Quality" session, also held at the GWCC Friday afternoon at 1:00, touched her deeply. Humility is such an important part of her culture, and even among thousands of attendees, she truly appreciated every word.
Learning about Cultures, to Better Serve Them
Saturday afternoon's session entitled "A.A. and Native Peoples" provided opportunity to learn more about cultural issues affecting First Nations peoples (Canada's name for Native Americans). This session helped her understand better how to reach out and help First nations alcoholics in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, where she does service work.
The Closing Big Meeting held Sunday evening at the Georgia Dome "just blew my mind!" she said. So many people, happy in their sobriety, ready to reach out and help others attain a better life just "made my heart swell."
The most memorable event for her was the Saturday night Oldtimers Big Meeting at the Georgia Dome where people with 50 years or more of sobriety spoke. They were truly inspiring, and her only disappointment was that each speaker was limited to 5 minutes on stage. Any one of them could have held the audience for much, much longer. Away from the Convention, she most enjoyed the Skywalk at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (Link: http://atlantabg.org/), although she admitted she didn't venture out much away from her hotel or the convention.
Safe and Welcome, in Atlanta
She said she always felt safe in Atlanta, and the fact there were 4,000 volunteers helping make people comfortable and find their way around was a great help. This may have been her first International AA Convention but she is looking forward to attending more in the future.
Good job Atlanta and everyone who made the International Convention a great success!