Trip Start Feb 11, 2007
Trip End ??? ??, 2008

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hello everyone.  It has been another exciting week!  On Friday, we flew to the 2007 Rotary District 9800 Conference in Canberra.  It was a great experience.  I had a chance to network with Rotarians in my fields of interest, meet other Ambassadorial Scholars, listen to some amazing presentations, and explore the capitol!
I arrived in Canberra at about 10:00am and had a chance to tour around town a bit.  Canberra is an interesting place, with an even more interesting history. Located in the Australian Capital Territory, it is the largest inland city in Australia and was a planned city.  The location was selected in 1908, to settle a dispute between Sydney and Melbourne.  Apparently, both cities wanted to serve as capitol, and after no decision could be made, the Aussies decided to build a capitol right in between. Crazy Aussies.  There was an international design contest for the proposed capitol, with the winner being an American, Walter Burley Griffin.  Canberra is the home of Australia's Parliament House and High Court, as well as numerous other governmental departments, the Australian War Memorial, and a number of world class museums.
Once I checked into the hotel, I met up with the Dutch Group Study Exchange team and set off to see the Parliament House.  Built in the shape of two boomerangs (seriously), planning began in the late 1970's, and it stands as the most expensive building in Australia.  It is very impressive.  Within its walls, one can find an array of artwork and historical exhibitions amongst the governmental chambers.    
I also had the chance to rent a paddle boat with one of the other Ambassadorial Scholars.  We took a nice tour of Lake Burley Griffin, before the opening cocktail party at the National Museum of Australia.
I must say, the opening of the conference was a strong indicator of the quality we were to expect for the rest of the conference.  Once we registered (about 600-700 of us), I had the chance to meet some very accomplished Rotarians, as well as a few of the presenters.  It really is amazing how passionate Rotarians are.  It is a quality that bridges nationality and language.  After exchanging contact information and setting up a few presentations, we were free to tour the museum for the rest of the evening.
Built in 2001, the National Museum of Australia contains exhibitions covering all aspects of Australian history, from the first aboriginal inhabitants to modern Australian celebrities to surfboards.  A few hours really didn't do it justice, but it was an excellent experience.
The conference officially started the next morning, and throughout the next two days,  was able to meet some more people and witness some great presentations.  A few of the highlights were speeches by Dr Andrew Thomas (Australia's first astronaut),  Professor Jeffrey Rosenfeld (a world class neurosurgeon), Keith Payne (a Victoria Cross recipient), Kerryn McCann (a champion marathon runner), and Peter Davidson (an ocean rescue paramedic).
It was also a great opportunity to learn more about what Rotary does around the world.  Tom Henderson, the creator of the Shelter Box, explained that this Rotary program has provided more than 500,000 people around the world with emergency tents and supplies after natural disasters.  A presentation was given explaining Rotary Overseas Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC), where children with life threatening injuries and diseases receive world class medical aid free of charge. There were also presentations on the variety of educational programs funded by Rotary (like Ambassadorial Scholarships!).
On Sunday, I was volunteered to run in a cluster relay before lunch.  The clubs were separated into teams, with each group selecting 6 people to participate.  We, of course, won.  My lighting fast speed helped as well.
Sunday evening, the conference closed, and I put on my seersucker suit for the gala.  There was a great Jazz band, and I even made it out to the dance floor!  That social dancing class came in handy!
I returned back to Melbourne yesterday and am back to classes.  It was a good weekend, and I am looking forward to meeting with many of the Rotarians again.
I have a busy week ahead, but I plan on exploring more of the city this weekend.  Keep checking back!

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