>My Kaplan Graduation Part Three: Reception, Followed by Absolute Relaxation then Torture

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As I followed my School of Business and Management line leader to the reception I tried to take everything in. So many emotions were running through me and it seemed like things were moving so fast. Fellow graduates were asking me questions as though I had on one of the red volunteer “helper” shirts…for whatever reason they thought I had answers…I was just as lost and dazed as they were; all I knew to do was follow the leader- and that is exactly what I did.

As I entered the ballroom I immediately grabbed a server-passed hors d’oeuvre and a table for four. I sat looking around the room, waiting for my mom and sister, and anticipating biting into the tasty morsels I saw from afar at the various stations throughout the room (yes, it was a blur but the scent was intoxicating so I presumed it would taste as good or better).

When mom and Alex walked in we were like a military unit; I remained at the table ‘holding down the fort’ while they hit opposite sides of the room, returning with numerous plates of food (yes, I was embarrassed, so I ate quickly to cover up the fact that they were trying to make these “light bites” a full course meal). Let me say, the chicken and beef satay with peanut sauce was delicious, as were the coconut shrimp, asparagus rolls, mahi mahi sliders, and the stuffed mushrooms.

I made sure to sign in at the School of Business and Management table to receive my graduation gifts from Kaplan.

The only instructor’s picture and name I recognized on the board they had posted by the table was that of Rita Gunzelman. My other professors did not make the trip. I really had hoped to see them, but shrugged it off as I returned to my table.

After taking several pictures we decided we had our fill of food and it was time to return to the hotel to relax by the pool. Outside the ballroom were signs for the School of Business and Management so we stopped and took several pictures.

A fellow graduate, who earned her Associates degree in Business Administration walked up and asked me if she could take a picture with me. I was not sure why but agreed to honor her request. While we waited for my sister to get the camera ready I asked her where she was from, “Los Angeles” she said with a strong Asian accent. She was originally from China. She said she wanted to take a picture with me because she admired me and my accomplishments and that she hoped to one day earn her Master’s degree.

I thought she only wanted one picture, instead we took several. She beamed brightly as she thanked me, and seemingly skipped away with her boyfriend/husband. I figured if she said my name I’d know she was a process server or I was on some TV show like a knock-off of “Punked”. I later discovered back at the hotel that my camera did not capture any of our images my sister had snapped. I am very disappointed because that was a memorable exchange that would have been nice to capture in a digital image. Hopefully as the young lady looks at her camera she will have fond memories of that day.

I noticed that while I was taking pictures a man and woman were standing a few feet away and staring at me. They approached and I quickly saw that the man had a Kaplan lanyard and badge around his neck. He engaged me in a pretty lengthy conversation congratulating me and asking me about my degree, future endeavors, etc. The woman looked at the two of us with a puzzled look on her face…I think I looked at both of them with a quizzical look because I had no clue who he was and why he approached me of all the students who stood within three feet of him (and no I wasn’t the only Black student in the area LOL). Once they walked away I looked at my mom and sister and they had the same look I believe I had on my face. We shrugged our shoulders and then proceeded outside to take scenic pictures. I kept looking around for a shorter, goofier version of Ashton Kutcher to hop out with a camera crew.

My sister pointed to the Alumni table and before I made it within 10 feet of the table two of the girls said something and then in unison they all said “Congratulations Natasha Foreman, let’s give it up for her…” and started screaming and clapping. I know they said more than that but I was so thrown off that they knew my name- that the rest of their cheer was like on Charlie Brown “waa waa waa”. Come to find out the girl closest to me has some awesome vision and could read my identification badge from that impossible-for-me distance.

I accepted my alumni package and signed up for something that I still can’t recall…hope it doesn’t require a great sum of money because they will have a better chance at squeezing a 1793 Chain Cent from a turnip 200 feet below sea level! Wow that was kind of intense…but you get my drift!

My sister and I casually walked around and took pictures by the water and the yacht that was docked there.

It was time to go, we were anxious to bask in the sun…well I was…I’m so in need of a tan- I know this to be true when my white friends laugh uncontrollably at my pale legs…and theirs is darker.  As we approach the doors to re-enter the hotel I snap a picture of my mom who looked like she was holding up one of the walls she was so exhausted (serves you right mom for loading up on all that food).

Just before heading the exit we noticed a line by a photographer. Complimentary “fun” photos with your choice of background/border…as I learned in Mary Kay, “if it’s free it’s for me” so I hopped in line!
After taking these whimsical photos we headed towards the front of the hotel and I spotted the most eye-catching, spiritual, warm, culturally-rooted pieces of art I had seen in awhile.
 
I asked a Hyatt employee if he knew who the artist was or knew who could provide me the information, he said no to both questions. So maybe one of my readers will know. I’m about to call the Hyatt and ask someone in management. I want those pieces. Knowing me and my propensity for being attracted to items with hefty price tags

(like thinking a dress I wanted didn’t cost more than $500 and found out it was over $5,000)…this picture will be the closest thing I get to owning these sculptures and the even taller versions I saw throughout the lobby.

I could be wrong- I doubt it, but we will see!

Well, after admiring the sculptures a few more minutes, we walked outside to valet; and one quick cab ride later we were back in our hotel room, quickly changing out of our clothes into swim suits and flip flops.

Mom opted to stay behind, read a bit from Love Leadership, by John Hope Bryant and then crash in her bed to get some much-needed rest.

After our mini-photo shoot of about 10-15 pictures, Alex and I quickly left and headed to the pool. I toted my laptop bag filled with school books, binder, bottled water, and my iPod.

The pool area was relaxing and the attendant was sweet as could be. I wish we had taken a picture with him. I reclined back with my books and enjoyed every sun ray that kissed my body. “Thank you Lord for this wonderful weather” I said. What is amazing is that a storm was supposed to have rolled through that weekend and thanks to the Lord not one drop fell from the sky…wow I guess He knew I needed the warmth and some color!

My sis stepped in the pool and the most beautiful look came across her face. The water was warm and she was happy. After leaving 30 degrees (and lower) weather, we felt like we were in heaven on earth in Miami’s 70-plus degree weather. It didn’t take long for Miss. Goof Ball to get out of the water and return with floaties and tubes.

Our relaxing moment was cut short after a few hours when a couple decided to bring their two children to the pool to play catch….water on my expensive text books, Blackberry and iPod was not my definition of peaceful relaxation. So I packed up and we made our way back to our room to take a nap.
That evening my sister and I took a cab to Bayside Marketplace off of Biscayne Boulevard to grab a to-go order from Chili’s (which may I add we were beyond disappointed- and the manager wasn’t moved by our complaint). We then thought we were going to have to put the cab driver in check on the return trip because he caught an attitude when I questioned our fare- he almost caught a “homey don’t play that” to his noggin by Alex. After getting settled into our room, seeing our disappointment we were forced to call food, we chowed down and then…I don’t remember much after that, because I passed out taking a so-called “power nap”.
The next morning started off with an expensive teeny tiny pot of coffee from room service, then $15 and only maybe three hours later I was logging off the Internet so we could head to the airport…several hours early, because mom was tired of taxi cabs and spending money (next time it’s all about the car rental). That was the longest stay I can recall spending at the airport in an extremely long time. Thank goodness for technology…except my USB modem from my ISP (I will refrain from mentioning their name) that does not have nationwide coverage yet.
Before checking out I made sure to write a message that represented my level of satisfaction during my stay.
The food at this Caribbean restaurant, “Island Chicken Grill” in the MIA airport (Concourse J, 2nd floor) was unbelievably tasty. I ordered the Cuban grilled chicken with black beans, rice, and plantains…I would have slapped any person that came close to that plate of food. I’m sure people thought we hadn’t eaten in days the way we scarfed that food down. Mom had the Jamaican Jerk Chicken dinner (two thumbs up) and my sister had the grilled steak dinner that was very tasty, and one of the most tender steaks I’ve had in awhile…I can’t believe that…but it’s true. So I’m looking at those restaurants that have been bamboozling me on $35(+) steak dinners, while Island Chicken Grill charged us $8.99-9.99 for each of our meals, and the taste and quality was equal to or greater than several restaurants I can think of from the top of my head. Hmmmmmm
After several hours at the airport (and suffering from a major case of “itus”) we boarded on our way to Chicago.
Chicago O’Hare has a restaurant called “Salad Works” (Terminal 1 Concourse C) that has a delicious spinach salad (I got mine with raspberry vinaigrette). Every bite I longed for more. Great stuff! So after spending what felt like 12 hours in the air I was so grateful to finally land in Atlanta, even though it was freezing cold and the woman providing wheel chair assistance for my mom took us on a wild goose chase for over 20 minutes trying to help us to our shuttle. Once in my car we had to wait for the ice on my windows to defrost…I was feeling sick…I wanted Miami…this was sadistic and cruel!
As I drove home I visualized my next trip to Miami- it definitely has to be 5-7 days in length and filled with all the S’s: sun, several books, suntan lotion, sunglasses, sightseeing, a sexy companion, a splash in the pool and at the beach….and sustenance- yep, tons of tasty food and beverages. I’ve got to try this Italian restaurant Donté Stallworth told me about that I didn’t get chance to visit. I hope it’s as tasty as he claims, I will see in due time!
I had a wonderful time in Miami! I want to thank my mom and sister for their love and support, and for making the trip to Miami; to my aunt Debbie for your unwavering love and support, and for my graduation gift; 4.0- you are incredible in every sense of the word…say…“Effortless”, the staff at Conrad Miami, Kaplan University, Hyatt Regency, my instructor Rita Gunzelman, and everyone who tuned in to my graduation…much love and respect! Soon we’ll take this adventure again as I cross the stage earning my PhD with Capella University. I wonder who will make that trip with me?!?
I absolutely love my MBA hood…now I’m ready for the next level…the big mama of hoods!
Copyright © 2010 by Natasha L. Foreman. All rights reserved

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