Rotary District

Rotary District 5710 electronic newsletter, December 2010.
“Rotary Group Study Exchange Earns Gold Stars.” Study Exchange in Australia

L to R Front: Traci Fruit, Team Leader Pam Eglinski, Sarah Laib. L to R Rear: Chris Meiers, Ryan Wright

The sign read “close the gate behind you.” We heard the click and knew we‘d entered another world – the Australian bush country. A small caravan of off-road four-wheel drives labored over parallel ruts in the red earth. The Peterbor-ough Rotary Club was determined to show us a good time, and without question, they did just that.

Peterborough, unique because it is in the bush and board-ers the infamous outback, was among eight clubs we visited while on our month-long Group Study Exchange to Australia.

South Austra-lia, one of six Australian states, is known for its many accomplish-ments, including the beautifully planned capitol of Adelaide. Surround-ing the lush metropolis is a “greenbelt” that is sacrosanct to develop-ment. Beyond the belt, numerous suburbs form a horseshoe-like shape around the city‘s perimeter, with the Gulf of Vincent to the im-mediate south. Our travels took us from one side of the “shoe” to the other – with geographic and climactic changes as different as you might find between California‘s Wine Country and the Canyon lands of Utah.

From Ryan Wright‘s Blog: Ron pulls a sample of port from the barrel to show me how you taste and them blend batches to arrive at just the right mix. It was a lot of trial and error, but I was committed.

We began our Australian study exchange in the city of Gawler. Our second day on the continent started with a tour of Turretfield Agricultural Research Station – home to Dolly, the cloned sheep, and biological testing that may one-day lead to cures for many of our most debilitating diseases.

North of Gawler, we were introduced to the lush vineyards of Barossa, Claire, and Eden Valley. Along with the wine tasting, came an expansive education in viniculture. And just when I thought I was beyond carrying wine home from abroad, I found myself buying two bottles, a Reisling and a Syrah, from the Bethany vineyards. “For my husband,” I explained to the GSE team.

To the immediate west of Adelaide lies Mawson Lakes, home of District 9500‘s conference center. While attending the conference, we addressed over 400 participants, sharing American culture in general and more specifically the history, politics and art of Kansas. But our responsibilities didn‘t stop there. We were also the program for eight Rotary clubs while in Aus-tralia. Our presentations were uniformly met with dozens of questions about America, and we often performed for our meals by singing, “Home, Home on the Range.” The Aussies knew the words, and joined in with us.

While in Adelaide, numerous “vocational days” were booked for each of us. We were matched up with Australians that hold similar professions. Each GSE member spent hours, and sometimes days, with university staff, leading publishing houses, police detectives, children‘s health clinics, and non-profits with a mission to train young people in the many aspects of leadership.

Our farewell dinner, in Walkerville, was filled with wonderful memories and splendid complements. District Gover-nor, Ed King, praised our team for a “job well done.” We left Australia, the next day, having made life-long friends of our Rotarian hosts.

Come April 2011, our District will reciprocate the Australian generosity by welcoming their team to our great state of Kansas. We are already polishing up our singing, and I suspect they are doing the same. It wouldn‘t hurt to learn “Waltzing Matilda,”before they arrive.

Below is a glimpse of the GSE Team Blog  and Ryan Wright‘s blog. If you haven‘t taken a peak at these yet, you are in for a real treat! Check out their YouTube “Farewell to District 9500″ on the District website.

Footy is basically organized chaos. While the players are running (as in the middle of play) their support staff are running on and off of the field bringing them water; men dressed in white chuck the ball into play (backwards) when it goes out of bounds, nobody wears pads/helmets and nobody stops the play when somebody gets hurt on the field. And, of course, there are three goals at each end...center one is worth six points and the two side ones are worth one point, respectively. What‘s not to love?

Over the past month, we have worked our way across South Australia and been to some amazing places. Our philosophy was simple…leave no grape unsqueezed. We succeeded. It is hard to give a proper shout out to all of our favorites, but I have tried to give you just a sample of the incredibly awesome Austra-lian wine industry. To the men and women of this region….Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, Clare, Langhorne Creek…you gave us some amazing memories, helped us through some awkward times, caused us to buy one too many kangaroo themed items and always (somehow) ensured that we were up and ready to go in the morning. It must be some-thing in the water… In short, you made our trip memorable and exciting. We came to your industry as neo-phytes and leave with a healthy respect for your craft. You are artisans and we thank you for your service. You make our world just a little smaller with each bottle.

On Monday, Traci and I found a Rotarian in distress. He needed assistance moving his flock of sheep from one paddock to the next in preparation for sheering. We knew what needed to be done and our GSE training kicked in as we sprang into action. With the speed and ability of a sloth, we commenced Operation M.H.a.L.L. (aka Mary Had a Little Lamb).