Tag: Travel

Junket

Junket 2015 : 200 youth leaders in Australia (including yours truly) get whisked away to the QT Canberra to solve problems. Ideally, they’ll solve the biggest problems facing Australia today. It’s invite-only; you could only “buy” your way in with ideas.

I cried when I got the email inviting me out of the blue (sent to the WISE inbox), nearly tried to convince the current WISE president that the email was actually meant for her, and looked at the email about fifty times over the next two days to ensure it was real. I carefully didn’t mention that I’m a New Zealander.

I’ve seen enough startups that claim they will solve the world (or even just fill a niche) be impractical and overly optimistic and frankly grating with their buzzwords. I wasn’t super hopeful that hashtag junket was going to be any different – even when I signed up to the conference-specific app it seemed like everyone was more enthusiastic/less moderately jaded than me. I felt it was going to be an impractical love-fest full of people saying words like “disruptive”, “agile” and “lean”, but food was provided, and free food will get me just about anywhere.

a bowl full of donuts with a greeting card welcoming Ms Frentz to the QT Canberra
An example of the free food with which I can be bribed places

I cannot explain to you exactly how different it was.

It was a love-fest, sure – everyone was always excited to see you and keen to talk to you about who you are and what you’re doing. But it was practical. It was grounded. On the second day we had five hour-long sessions, with 11 options for each one, and every single one asked for practical action points at the end.

A lot of the sessions had people working in the field of interest, from arts to the sciences to education to indigenous issues to medicine; the list goes on. This meant that people took action points back to their work and can start putting ideas in place as early as this week. But it gets better than that.

Every person there was doing good things. It was an experience reminiscent of the International Biology Olympiad to me – I’d found my people. These were hyper-intelligent polymath overachievers with a social conscience the size of a bus. The core of Junket was the fact that people who wouldn’t have otherwise met were brought together to discuss things that mattered to us. I met other people who care about women in STEM, who think the social norm that is university is kind of bullshit, a volunteer for the Missing Persons Advocacy Network, queer activists, mental health activists, engineers, scientists, dancers, artists, all full of energy and passion.

I not only pitched about women in STEM at the opening night, but ran a session and pitched about a women in STEM students network in an actual elevator. I’ve got about three pages of my own notes as well as the write-up Junkee is going to supply to start taking action on. Everyone had really good ideas and I’m looking forward to putting them in action. Watch this space, I guess, but not too closely – I still need to recover.

Dark room with project screen featuring the word "Junket"
Scene from the opening night at Junket

While I’d love to focus on the content of the sessions or discuss the disconnect between corporate sponsors and social justice that is apparently a Big Deal but 100% doesn’t seem incongruous to me, that would bust this blog post out to thousands of words. Junkee.com will be writing articles on it over the next few weeks.

What surprised me the most about Junket, what mattered the most about Junket, was that I felt comfortable to be fully honest about myself and my experiences. In my daily life there’s a lot of things I don’t share, neglect to mention, avoid discussing – even with you, public forum of the Internet. I try to fit in and in doing so become a version of myself. I did not do this at Junket; there was no need.

At Junket I was open and honest. I was challenged and inspired. I was reinvigorated and changed and it was fantastic.

picture of every attendee at junket arranged in rows with a spotlight on them holding yellow flags saying
Final family photo at  #junket 2015 – photo shamelessly stolen from Jess Scully (curator of Junket 2015 and probably now my personal hero)

Perth-ectionism

My journey to Perth started with a healthy dose of panic-induced earliness; having not travelled with luggage since emigrating to Australia, I stressed out that I would arrive late and so had two hours in the Qantas departure gates to kill with some of the worst wi-fi I have ever had the bad fortune to connect to.

 

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At least I had some company for the two hours in Melbourne Quantas Domestic Terminal

 

I was travelling to Perth with most of my research group to present a poster at AussieMit 2014, the Australian Mitochondrial research conference and my first conference. I was nervously confident that I probably knew what I was about.

Perth itself was incredibly dead when I arrived, on a Sunday afternoon. Most shops had closed at 5 and while all I really wanted to do was sleep, it was still enough of an inconvenience to be an inconvenience.

The city is relaxed. The roads are wider, the houses seem further apart, and the city itself is much greener than I anticipated. The Harry Perkins Institute, where the conference was hosted, is less than a year old and had some incredibly wonderful installations (and a good cafe).

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This moved across the body and showed different things relevant to the position!

Perth is really into it’s street art – according to a girl who lives there, Perth is trying to become more like Melbourne and went down the “murals and enforced culture” path rather than the “get a load of hipsters together and see what happens” path. Sites such as the one below were pretty common while wandering around Subiaco and Leederville.

mural showing men with bags, possibly gold miners.
Mural in Subiaco

The city center, on the other hand, is fresh and open and at this time of year, incredibly Christmassy. Perth put on an incredible show for Christmas, with huge trees, stars, and various constructions of metal and fairy lights residing in almost every window we walked past in town.

Perth city centre. Look at that summer. Look at those fountains. Look at that weird sculpture in the background. Truly a great city.
Perth city centre.

I had most of a free day to see Perth, and explored SciTech, the Supreme Court gardens and law museum, and Koko Black.

It is with great dismay I admit that I have reached the age where I feel self conscious pushing small children off equipment that looks fun, and SciTech was smaller than I had hoped (or perhaps I am just larger than when I was last at a science museum). The inner suburbs of Perth have a fairly great free bus service connecting all of them that goes about every 8 minutes, so I got in from SciTech with no hassles at all.

Koko Black had been recommended to me by the “Urban walkabout” tourist brochures, using language that lead me to believe this was only available in Perth. AS IT TURNS OUT there are TWO Koko Blacks in Melbourne. I had kind of hoped I was eating at some Cool Perth Eatery, but I’m not one to sniff at chains of gourmet chocolate stores. Instead, my Perth Eating Experience was at Wild Duck on Hampden Road during the conference – five courses, one of which included a foam. I wish I could ever remember to take photographs of my food, because it truly was an experience worthy of documenting.

The Law Museum was mostly an accident – I was trying not to be awkwardly early to Perth airport, especially seeing how much I really dislike bad wi-fi. I went for a wander past a lot of construction (I’m sure it will all look great in like three months but it was dusty and uninteresting) and came upon the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by some quite wonderful gardens and the oldest building in Perth and the Law Museum.

Much of the Law Museum focussed on the interplay between Aboriginal and English law, and how West Australia has dealt with that. The Museum definitely made it seem like a genuine attempt to peacefully bring the two cultures together, but history is written by the victor and the violent history of Australia (and large-scale ignorance of it) makes me incredibly uncomfortable. But on the other hand, I sat in the head judge’s chair, so that was fun.

Supreme Court gardens, Perth
Supreme Court gardens

We had walked through Kings Park the night before (everything in Perth is so green, everyone is so fit) and I got to experience more Australian flora and fauna as well as some stunning views of Perth.

View of Perth skyline showing skyscrapers and blue sky
The view from King’s Park

Finally, Perth had the cheapest airport transfer I’ve ever had: the train into town from accomodation was $2, and the bus out to the airport $4.40. The bus takes just under an hour, and takes you to terminals 3 and 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Best Travel, Probably

I have attended a lot of tournaments and conferences now, and learned a lot by making a lot of mistakes. Here are some indispensable tips for any kind of tournament, learned the hard way by yours truly.

1. Always take emergency chocolate.

You think it’ll be fine. You think there will be places to buy candy if you get cravings. You think you won’t really want it.

Well let me tell you right now, you are dead wrong. Have you ever been trapped in Kuala Lumpur about to cry because you want 70% Whittaker’s? No. You haven’t. And if you follow my advice, you will never have to.

2. Eat breakfast.

Even with the (insane) (terrifying) breakfasts we got in Japan) eating breakfast each day was a must. In KL, we had to get up before 7 in order to eat breakfast. Done.

If you’re at a tournament or conference, you’re representing your locality. It’s your duty to be on top of your game. And you’re not going to be on top of your game if you don’t eat breakfast.

Even if you’re not at a tournament or conference – not being on top of your game makes you sad, eat breakfast.

3. Choose your roommate wisely.

If you’re going to be sleeping in the same space as/sharing a shower with/stinking up a room with someone, you better make sure they are a true friend. Thankfully, I’ve always managed to hit the jackpot with my roommates, mostly entirely randomly. Don’t take this risk, some people are bad with personal space.

The flipside of this point is to be a good roommate. Stay chill, don’t clip your toenails on their bed, and just generally be a nice human.

4. Be friends with people you’re travelling with.

No matter how big or small your group, be friends with them. They’re really cool people and probably have a lot of the same interests as you. An optional sub-point here is Do Not Start Dating Or Otherwise Have Relations With The People You’re Travelling With While Travelling I Do Not Care If You Think You Are Both Adults It Gets Weird For You and Everyone.

5. Think Before You Kiss

All right now I recognize that not everyone else is as into the sweet make-outs as I am, and also that other people probably have standards, but this still needs to be said because oh man being sick is the worst:

IF THE PERSON YOU WANT TO KISS HAS A NASTY COUGH OR OTHER ILLNESS, DO NOT KISS THEM.

YOU WILL GET SICK. IT WILL SUCK.

KISS SOMEONE ELSE, OR JUST HOLD HANDS A LOT AND USE A LOT OF HAND SANITIZER AFTERWARDS.

YOUR HEALTH IS NOT WORTH MAKE-OUTS.

Also just like, be sensible. I had the most awkward sex talk of my life at the IBO (age 16), because me and this australian boy were sweet on each other so our respective team coaches told us to Not Do Anything We Would Regret which literally took me like 15 minutes to get that they were telling us to not have unprotected sex.

(also ideally be aware of any professional effects this might have, I’d enjoy it if we lived in a sex-positive utopia, but we don’t, so keep an eye on that)

6. Take work, but be okay with not getting any of it done.

If get sick, it’s the best way to distract yourself from just lying in your hotel room going OH GOD I FEEL SO GROSS THIS IS THE WORST.

Take a trashy novel as well to cheer you up if you get sad.

7. Have fun.

It seems self-evident, but when you’re travelling (tournament/conferences especially) it’s really easy to forget that you need to chill out. Try your hardest, do your country/region/parents proud, but also remember that you’ve done pretty well and that you are allowed to not be stressed the entire time.

Relax. Don’t get wound up. Try to not get to the point where you want to stab someone. You’ll get back home to your bed and shower soon.