On the weekend of the 13th-15th September 2013, a long-awaited event finally came to fruition: a bunch of us SARE-ians took off down to Denmark for our (to become inaugural?) school retreat. What a fantastic weekend! Huge thanks need to go to Christine Kershaw for driving the organisation of the camp, and generally just being a great gal.The bus trip down - the high point of the journey was the brief deviation into the canola field of an unsuspecting farmer for an impromptu photo-shoot. Whilst this was indeed truly excellent, my personal favourite moment was watching the tall boys compete fiercely for the title of best windscreen cleaner (how many PhD students does it take to clean a windscreen?) at a petrol station along the way.
Staff and Postgrads were treated to an invigorating start on both Saturday and Sunday mornings with our yogi Michelle Burgermeister. She did an excellent job especially since she found out she was teaching the class about half an hour before it started! Despite our best efforts at focused serenity, a fair bit of giggling and silliness won out at various times.
We were treated to a wide range of foods throughout the camp, with many people contributing their time and energy to share some traditional recipes with us from their home countries.
An excellent communication workshop (also run by all-rounder Michelle) provided us with an opportunity to get to know each other better, and to improve our understanding of the different personality types present within the group. A lot of useful information was presented to us, and left us equipped with new strategies to work more effectively with others. The most rewarding aspect was the level of engagement shown by everyone who participated, with everyone offering their own insightful and interesting comments and reflections throughout the various exercises. The session also sparked a fair bit of enjoyable good-natured jibing over the course of the weekend.
Despite the somewhat inclement weather, we piled onto the bus on Saturday afternoon to head out towards Monkey Rock. After dragging ourselves up yet another quite substantial hill, we reached the rock and enjoyed spectacular views of the surrounding coastal bushland.
And now, the piece de resistance of the camp, the jewel in the crown of the weekend, the glorious and most splendiferous peak of the experience: the talent night gave many SARE-ians the opportunity to showcase their immeasurable artistic and creative talents (or lack thereof). The soiree commenced with the recitation of a beautiful yet funny poem read by Deb Swindells, which gave the Aussies a chance to reflect on some of the things we're most proud of about our home country, and also offered the international staff and students a glimpse into our Australian cultural background.
Following this, David Pannell dazzled us all with a rendition of his self-penned classic tune "Make up the Data" (closely related to, but naturally intellectually distinct from and far superior to the lesser-known Australian ditty "Waltzing Matilda"). Accompanied by the newly-reformed "Bennettes", Dave then treated us to an emotional tribute to our previous Head of School, a certain Ben White, who sadly was not able to be present to bask once more in his glory.
With some trepidation given the high quality of the preceding performances, the Ukelettes then took the stage and treated everyone to a set of three spirited tunes on ukuleles.
The final act of the night was an exquisite display of Colombian culture created by our own Vero Florec. As well as compiling a beautiful video presentation explaining the history of the Cumbia Colombiana, she also managed to teach no less than seven SARE-ians how to actually do this traditional dance, and hand made the costumes with the help of Alison Wilson.
On the last morning Katrina Davis ran us through a typical contemporary dance class. After the frivolities of the night before, some of us were feeling a little rusty, but Kat's energy got us moving and she managed to successfully teach us a "phrase" in a very short space of time. Great job Kat!
So our estimated time of arrival back in Perth was 7pm ... and the actual time we eventually made it home was something like 9:30pm. This delay arose from an array of extremely fun activities on the journey. We visited the Tree-Top Walk, climbed the Diamond Tree, stopped for a wander around Bridgetown. The absolute highlight of the journey back for me was when many of our international students shared with us their favourite songs from their home countries, including Kai Tang (China), Giang Nguyen (Vietnam) and Arif Watto (Pakistan).
What a fantastic weekend! Sharing the photos and rehashing some of the funnier moments has occupied a fair bit of time in the office over the last few days. This clearly indicates how enjoyable an experience it was. Thanks again to everyone involved!
Louise Blackmore, PhD Student (+61 8) 6488 1495