Sunday, May 17, 2009

San Antonio, Texas

Remembering the Alamo

Our trip to Texas for the ONS Oncology Nursing Conference was great. I like Texas even better than Florida. The city of San Antonio is very clean and nice. It is roughly the size of Toronto (>2 million people). The thing I liked best about it was the Riverwalk, which is a man-made canal, built one story below street level. It meanders through nine city blocks in a circuit, and offers barge tour cruises and a cobblestone walkway along both sides. Along a large stretch of it, there are restaurants with outdoor patios. We ate outside for almost every meal. I can’t say there’s as much variety of restaurants along the Riverwalk as in Toronto, or in the rest of San Antonio, probably, but there is enough variety for a few days. We had Mexican food, real Texas BBQ, Italian, steak and seafood. The portions are huge. Everything’s bigger in Texas. Our cabbie told us that San Antonio has the largest number of overweight Americans in the country. I ordered an APPETIZER portion of ribs and could barely finish it. Imagine the all-you-can-eat size.


We travelled by Southwest Airlines from Buffalo, with a layover in Baltimore, Maryland. We had a long drive to Buffalo. My daughter wanted to prove to me that she could drive safely on the 401 so she drove to the border. She did a good job. Then Kathy drove to the Buffalo airport since she’d been there before. On the way back, Kathy drove the whole way back. Southwest Airlines doesn’t have a lot of extras, like meals, or music or movies, or convenient ways to buy things. The flight attendants are very casual, but they are known for their sense of humour. Apparently, during their interviews, they are asked how they used humour to make a bad situation better. As we were landing, in place of the usually landing announcements, the pilot broke out in song, saying something like, “Thank you for flying Southwest, We’re the best. Ladies, if you marry me, you can fly for free.” Then he added, “Applications now being accepted, pending a background check.” It was totally unexpected.


The conference itself was good, although I didn’t attend as many classes as last year since my Mom and oldest daughter were along for the trip. I took long lunches and lounged by the pool. I did catch a few interesting classes though, on Pancreatic cancer, Sarcoma, and Humour in Oncology, which explored the appropriate uses of humour with patients who use it to cope. The speaker for our class on sexuality and cancer was very funny, as was the keynote speaker, who authored a book called, “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.” Overall, I got a good chunk of my yearly required continuing education hours, to keep my Oncology Nursing Certification. I need 100 hours in 5 years, or 20 per year. Otherwise, I’d have to rewrite the national exam, and once was enough. I studied for four months, after taking the required courses.
There was also an international processional on the first morning. About 10-12 “foreign” countries were represented. We were all given little flags and paraded up the aisle to our choice seats. It felt like we were in the Olympics. The Dutch nurses all wore orange t-shirts and were quite rowdy. I guess if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much.


Our hotel was not one of the recommended hotels, but we got a good deal. It was called the St. Anthony, and was an historic, 100 year old building. They have upgraded the rooms to include air conditioning and more outlets. Mine and Kathy’s room looked like it had formerly been two rooms and they removed the centre wall. It had two queen sized four poster beds (so I felt like I was at home), two washrooms, and two closets. There was an outdoor pool on one of the floors and the water was very warm, too warm in fact, but it was a nice place to sit out in the sun and tan or read. The only complaint I would have about the hotel was that for the morning of my birthday I had ordered room service and planned my schedule around it. It never arrived because they failed to pick up the order form from the doorknob. When I informed them, they apologized and said they’d tell the Manager, but nothing was ever done to make up for it. Am I being too princessy?

Playing Tourist

For touristy things, we took a barge cruise. The canal is filled with very dirty water and is narrower than a city street. They said, “If you end up in the water…just stand up, and walk to the edge. It’s only three feet deep.” We shopped, but I didn’t find much, other than a few tacky souvenirs which my daughter asked for. I drew the line at Davey Crockett coon skin hats. It’s like Goofy hats at Disney or Mariachi hats in Mexico: they seem like a good idea at the time. We also went to the Alamo, took pictures, and heard the re-telling of the great battle. I had always heard, “Remember the Alamo”, but since I had no idea what it was, any lessons were lost on me. I learned that it was actually a battle that the Texans lost. They were fighting against Santa Ana and his Mexican troops. The Texans were outnumbered 50:1. They were waiting for reinforcements that came too late. There were only 200 soldiers, and women and children in the fort. Santa Ana stormed the fort, and the Texans succeeded in holding them back for a time and even causing losses for the Mexicans. On the third attempt the Alamo was breached and the men killed, including Bowie, Travis and Davey Crockett. They don’t let you take pictures inside the Alamo, since that was where the men died, and it is hallowed ground. Although Santa Ana swore he’d give no quarter, he did allow the women and children to go free. They went from city to city, telling the story of the battle of the Alamo, and building up an army of volunteers who then returned, defeated Santa Ana, and retook the Alamo. I like military history, so I enjoyed that a lot.
We also went to the Texas Ranger Museum, which was just a block from our hotel. The Texas Rangers (not the baseball team) were the original law men of Texas who sought to bring order to the Wild West. The museum featured an old Texas town with a saloon and a jail. I found myself on the wrong side of the bars. There were examples of chairs made out of all sizes of horns, and saddles made with beautifully intricate leather work. They also had about 1000 stuffed animals. By stuffed, I mean, by a taxidermist. The animals were from all over the world, unless elephants, giraffes, and woolly mammoths once roamed the Texas range. We took a few silly pictures there.


On Sunday, we took a long cab ride to church. We thought we’d just hail a cab after breakfast, not realizing that 6,000 nurses were finished their conference and needed to get to the airport. We missed the singing, but arrived in time for the preaching. We went to Oak Hills Church to hear Max Lucado. The only other famous preacher in San Antonio was John Hegee, and I’m not about to listen to a man who said that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah or that Jews would be saved another way. Anyway, this church has two services on Saturday night and three on Sunday morning, all exactly the same message, but no evening service. They have several pastors and so many people, but can’t manage an evening service? They have to clear out as soon as he’s finished preaching to make room for the next group. The surprising thing is that even after the final service, which we attended, no one seemed to stay around to chat. In our church, we’re there almost an hour after the lengthy sermon. Also, the sermon was okay, comparing popular Nero, with an obscure Paul, and showing who ultimately turned the world upside down. But I think we have more substantial and powerful preaching at Faith Baptist Church from Pastor Brian Robinson. (That was just a word from our sponsor. Now back to our story).
Afterwards, we waited for our cabbie to return for us. We visited their bookstore and I bought 5 books. I was surprised that none of his books was autographed, since the author was in-house. I’ve never bought any of his books before and came all the way to buy them from the source. Well, that’s what I would have done anyway. I bought, “He Chose the Nails.” I also bought “The Story”, which was what they were preaching through. It is the Bible, written chronologically, and excerpted to read like a novel. It also has sections in italics to summarize or fill in what happened between books. I’ve read the Bible as a Novel before. It was called, The Book of God, and has some merit, although I wouldn’t recommend it for study purposes.
The building was modern and impressive and everything ran smoothly, but even my Mom, who is unsaved, said she preferred our small church because everyone knew each other, the pastor knows who he’s preaching to, and he talks to you. Max Lucado disappeared as soon as he was done preaching.
One other interesting thing that happened there was that they did the Lord’s Supper, but since this was Texas in the middle of a swine flu scare, they used a disposable communion set. I don’t know where they purchased them, but the top of it said, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Transubstantiation?) It got my Protestant blood up. They also just told everyone to do it on their own. You peeled back the first layer to get a little wafer, and then peeled back the next layer to get the juice. It took away from the corporate feel of Communion and also from the solemnity of it, since they came around almost right away to collect the garbage. I know you can sometimes get set in your own ways of doing things, but I think some of my concerns were legitimate. I never realized that I liked how things were done in our church until I was exposed to something different.
Anyway, it was good to be back at my home church, even though our Pastor was away in a different part of Texas visiting his son’s family. We had great preaching by Mark Hudson and Dr. Michael Haykin. You can hear their sermons on our church website,
Texans are very friendly and welcoming. The people of San Antonio love their city, and with good reason. One thing I thought was truly Texan was the sign on the door of McDonalds, telling you not to bring your guns inside. Only in Texas. There were also people who wore real cowboy hats. You could also get a ride in a horse drawn carriage.
I loved Texas, and would like to see more of it. I would definitely go back, if given the opportunity.


Ceska said...

his book belongs in anyone's collection of Christian literature. Though He Chose the Nails is a little less balanced than the backcover seems to suggest, it is still a must read for anyone looking to understand the sacrifice Jesus made.

piafinn said...

Thanks, Ceska. Yes, I really enjoyed the book. I have a review of it on my blog under Book Reviews.