This was NOT on my list of trips for 2019.
I thought I would come back from New York and have a whole lotta NOTHINGNESS and savings until I head to Trinidad Carnival in February 2020. I was wrong. (I’m not upset about it though)
Life is funny like that, sometimes you end up on trips to places you didn’t ever really plan on going to and end up having an awesome time. That’s my trip to Pittsburgh. I had an AWESOME time. I’m not sure if it was because of the two incredible coworkers I had with me (shout out to Elysha and Adrienne) or because of the other people I was lucky to meet at the conference (shout out to Ryin, Zack and Ian, and everyone else whose name I can’t remember right now) or food? Sports maybe? I liked it all. I had a fun time attending my first work conference and took advantage of everything Pittsburgh had to offer.
Usually I would divide my recaps into days but this one isn’t so straightforward because I was all over the place. Kind of split it up into categories so the conference itself would have it’s own section along with food and sports.
The NextGen Conference
I had written a post about the whole process of getting from Detroit to Pittsburgh, and that can be found here.
The awesome thing about where the central bus station for Pittsburgh is located was that it was about a three minute walk from the location of my hotel for the week! Super accessible and no need for Google Maps this time.
The place I would be resting my head all week was the Westin Pittsburgh. Super fancy pants right? Awesome.
It has this beautiful green entrance, incredibly courteous staff and listen, the bed in my room? Oh lord. I had one of the king rooms for the duration of my stay and it was the best bed I have ever slept in. Prior to this the #1 bed was The Royal York, here in Toronto. It beat that. So cozy and huge.
In the lobby of the hotel there was a bar, an Edible Arrangements, a miniature Chic-Fil-A (but don’t get excited, it literally only has the sandwiches), a Starbucks and a big candy store. The second floor of the hotel also had a big breakfast restaurant open from 6am-11am.
Along with it being a really nice hotel the best two parts about it were: 1) the conference was taking place inside the hotel and 2) super central location. Random, there was also a massive sinkhole across from the hotel and I had never seen one of those before. I’m talking about like apparently a WHOLE BUS had gone into the sinkhole couple weeks before we arrived.
Now let’s talk about the actual conference.
A couple of us were super lucky to be chosen to attend the United Steelworkers 2019 NextGen Conference. This was for all USW members across the USA and Canada that were under 35. The next generation of union members basically. It was a week to learn about the union, meet other delegates and be educated on various issues within each others workplaces etc.
My favourite workshops were:
- Race and the Economy
- Language in the Workplace
- Workplace Grievances
- The Bystander Effect: Break the Silence on Gender-Based Violence
The language workshop was especially heated because we learned quickly that what we think is inappropriate to say in the workplace (or ever) others think is totally fine. It was a spirited debate and although an uncomfortable conversation in some ways, I see why it has to be had.
Tuesday and Wednesday were solely for attending these workshops and I’m happy I chose the ones I did. I learned a lot about the union and also about American issues in the workplace.
The Day of Community Service
We were all really looking forward to this day!
All 900 of the attendees would be dispatched to different organizations around Pittsburgh to do a day of community service.
I ended up at the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Four of us would be tasked with removing ALL the contents out of one office, paint the walls and a cupboard and then put all the contents back in when it’s done drying. Listen, I haven’t had to bend and crouch like that for a long time. My body was doneeeee. I did the cupboard all by myself though, you can see my artwork below. Very proud.
After the day of service we all returned back to the hotel and got to enjoy a wonderful closing gala that night. This included music, food and alcohol. It was a great way to close off a really fun conference.
Leon’s Caribbean Food
I had been scheming on this place from before even arriving in Pittsburgh. Leon’s Caribbean Food had something on the menu that had my eye and I wanted to make time to go to the restaurant and try it. Unfortunately, between the conference and the sporting events I didn’t have the opportunity to go to the actual restaurant. However, there is always a million food delivery choices so I opted for that.
The curry lobster with rice and a side of plantain. That is what my heart desired. During one of the conference lunch breaks I ordered via Uber Eats some Leon’s to my hotel room. It was DELICIOUS. I will say the curry was thicker and more on the Thai-curry side than the West Indian curry, but still, amazing. If you go to Pittsburgh, make sure you try this dish!
One of the conference attendees who was actually from Pittsburgh recommended we try Bakersfield. He said the queso alone was worth the visit, and I sure love me some queso.
My coworkers and I wandered over during one of the lunch breaks to try out their queso and tacos. Let me say, yes, the queso was very good. Nice and thick with a lot of chips on the side for dipping. Now, the tacos? Eh. I’ve had way better tacos and these were also so tiny so I needed them to really pack a flavorful punch but they didn’t. Also, my one coworker who is allergic to avocado specifically said no guac on her tacos and they brought it on both anyways. Not a fan of that either.
Just go for the queso and tequila.
This place isn’t a food place, but I can assure you they have liquor. That’s a food group right? Great.
Seven Nightclub was where all the conference attendees ended their week. I was unaware that many had actually been going all week to party here, apparently we were late. We just went on the final night.
It was kind of funny that Thursday night was karaoke night, so until midnight we were listening to peoples renditions of Eminem and Lauryn Hill. My poor ears.
After that we got to dancing and the DJ was pretty decent. I think we all head home at about 2:30am. Good times.
Sports, Sports, Sports
University of Pittsburgh
This was going to be a first for me!
I have never attended an NCAA basketball game and my one opportunity to do so would come in Pittsburgh. My coworker Adrienne and I got tickets to Pittsburgh vs Monmouth. As a Duke fan, I didn’t know anything about either of these two teams but it was OK because I got to watch basketball and that’s a win either way.
Can’t say the game was particularly exciting, the scoring was slow and there was just bad shooting overall from both sides. We had really good seats and watching the Pittsburgh band was the best part of the experience. They sure get into the festivities.
The $30 price tag for two tickets was a STEAL. I have to add that. The facilities at the University of Pittsburgh are beautiful and watching an NCAA game in some nice seats at $15/per person couldn’t be any better.
The house of Sidney Crosby.
Shit. Nevermind, Crosby is injured.
Still had an awesome time. My coworker Elysha and I got tickets to Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders. Again, for a fucking steaaaal of a price. I think combined we paid $90.
Do you know what kind of seat I can get for $45/per person for the Maple Leafs? I can’t. Maybe I could sit outside of the arena and eat a hot dog for that price, I can’t even enter the building for $45. Meanwhile, at PPG we had nice seats and you know, a team that has won in the past 50 years to watch. (sorry, makes me sad having to throw shade at a Toronto team, but our prices are shit!)
Did I mention there was $10 bottomless popcorn? We literally entered some magical NHL land.
The game ended up being really good, even without Crosby. They went into overtime and sadly ended up losing to the Islanders. But I’m not going to complain about extra free hockey watching.
We had a great time and I can see why Torontonians venture to Pittsburgh and just get a hotel + tickets to a Penguins game instead of forking out the huge bucks for a Leafs game.
Definitely suggest for all of you to visit Pittsburgh at some point. This city is super fun, especially if you’re into sports. The downtown area being so walkable makes everything really simple and straightforward to get to.
I hope I get to return to Pittsburgh again one day, heck, even if it’s for another conference, I’M IN!