The week began with thousands of flying foxes flying over the vans at dusk on Sunday night. After picking the students up from their homestays, we ate dinner in the park in Yungaburra, and watched the flying foxes winging low over the fields, their shapes barely illuminated by the remaining night. It was among the most beautiful things I’ve seen here so far.
Monday morning began with a similar sense of enchantment; we drove to Lake Barrine for a run, and as the sun broke through the morning fog, I felt filled with love for the land here. It’s been incredibly interesting talking to the students about the land here, because they feel so passionately about the rainforest and about revegetating land that has been cleared. I, while I feel that the rainforest is beautiful and important, love the cleared land. I love the rolling hills, the tall grasses, the cows sighing as they lumber around. I love seeing the sun as it breaks through, creating the most golden light on the land, highlighting the hundred shades of gold and yellow on the landscape. This place may never feel like home, but it will be a place I love. It is a place I love, although my love for it is only brand new.
This week required more time at the centre; our academic dean, Robin, came to visit along with two of the directors of the Bhutan program. It was such a pleasure to talk with all of them. Both due to their presence and to the impending midterms for the students, we stayed at the centre more. Monday began with a day off for me. Because we had guests, I wanted to bake a cake, which was incredibly soothing. I inadvertently baked two cakes upon realizing that Siggy (our ecology professor) had a birthday the next day. While it was incredibly warm in the kitchen, spending the whole day baking and thinking quietly to myself was relaxing and well-worth the work.
Tuesday was full of classwork, including a discussion of tragedy of the commons. As the semi-TA for the Econ and Policy class, I have been watching very carefully to ensure that the students are enjoying the class and getting enough out of it. I’m not yet sure that this is happening, but I am very determined to help them enjoy the class. We had a good discussion about tragedy of the commons later, as they were reviewing for their mid-terms. Wednesday involved studying for exams, and my attempt to create a study guide. I have slowly but surely been catching up on the students reading, some of which is much more relevant than others. Nonetheless, I am officially caught up, and at least have some idea of what they should have read.
Thursday was a very busy, but also very interesting day for us. Robin came to visit not just for jollies, but because it’s time for SFS programs to rework their five-year plans. As an institution, SFS runs its research on a five-year basis. At the end of five years, they meet with their stakeholders to address what they’ve been able to accomplish, and what the community would like to see in the next five years. As the interns, we were primarily involved in ensuring that the food was set up at the correct times, but we were also able to contribute and listen to the goings-on. I greatly enjoyed it, although I was somewhat dismayed to see that there were very few suggestions for the social sciences. As a whole, SFS attempts to be holistic in its approach to environmental studies. However, because two of the three classes are aimed at biology of some kind, the students that choose SFS are often very science-oriented. The stakeholders in Australia are similar; they are often government ecologists, resource managers, individuals involved in revegetation efforts, and so on. As a result, few suggestions were made for the social sciences at the meeting, which was disappointing. I personally feel that there are all sorts of interesting social science questions that could be addressed here, but are failing to be examined. Hopefully this will change as the research plan is put into place, but it was certainly interesting to observe.
The week has ended with student midterms and a trip to Cairns. This is the first time for the students to head into the city, and they are incredibly excited. I am equally excited, although my interests lie not so much in the beach as in the capacity for internet usage (like how I’m going to get to use YouTube for the first time in a month and a half! And update my computer!) Additionally, I am planning to submit two of my graduate school applications this weekend; I am applying to six, so this isn’t as many as I would like, but I will feel incredibly accomplished if I can get them sent off. The week has been full, and I often feel so full of emotions that I could overflow. Nevertheless, I am hanging in there, and looking forward to a bit of a respite this weekend.