Friday/Shabbat – Day 58/59

Posted on 25th September 2012

Friday morning algorithms was relatively standard, nothing exciting there, recursion relations. However, following that I had a good number of meetings to attend.

My first stop was the office of ‘Liberal Professional Studies’ to investigate further study at Penn at some point in the future where, the bottom line seemed to be, well, all about the bottom line. At five thousand dollars a course unit, study at Penn does not come cheap! Following that it was off to ‘International Student Services’ to investigate visa options and to look into required course loads, nothing exciting there.

Early afternoon was my singing lesson with Brian Carter, and while his approach was far different from my past experiences with singing teachers, it was well worthwhile and really opened my eyes to some new things. I am looking forward to a productive semester with him.

My afternoon however was much more exciting as I packed my bags, a little kosher food and headed to the train station with the PGC for a weekend retreat. After an hour an a half on the Amtrak (US regional train system) to Doylestown, we placed our bags in the room and chilled for a while before coming together as a group later in the evening for an ice-cream dessert.

After dessert, there were a few speeches by the board members and then a few games, notably among them, ‘Never Have I Ever’ (sans-alcohol) that was played for a good few hours in order to help the newmen and oldmen integrate.

Shabbat morning there wasn’t nearly enough of a sleep-in as we were up at eight o’clock for breakfast followed by team building activities. For some of you at home these will all be incredibly familiar, but they involved ‘trust-falls’, standing up in pairs back-to-back, sitting on each others laps in a circle and marching etc.. All up, the activities ran for around five hours before we settled in for lunch.

After lunch it was time for the ‘newman’ talent show, in which every newman was obligated to display a talent of theirs (non-singing), from stand-up comedy, to poetry or even card tricks, the show had it all. My talent that I presented was in fact my decent aussie accent, coupled with a translation of Waltzing Matilda, much to the bemusement of the crowd.

The late afternoon was reserved for the PGC to do homework, which for me meant reading a little of my textbooks and explaining physics and maths to Joseph, one of the other newmen.

After Shabbat came out, a bonfire was raised a little into the woods and with a ‘smore kit’ under my arm, I headed out there. For those of you who have never come across them, a smore is a toasted marshmallow, with chocolate melted underneath, sandwiched by two Graham crackers. I think they’re my favorite US food right now. Around the campfire, I ate multiple smores and listened and tried to join in with the glee club as they sang some of their repetoire.


We moved onto Disney songs, and a few other arrangements that I knew from prior experiences, including ‘For the Longest Time’ in which I was given the privilege of the solo.

After a good while of this we quietened down for a bit and Erik Nordgren , our director arranged for us to go around in the circle and discuss where we imagined ourselves in ten years time. This was a wonderful opportunity to contemplate a little, and was one of the times I felt most comfortable and tranquil since leaving home.

The peace couldn’t last for very long however, as we soon started ‘Viva La Company’, a song/game wherein the company sings a chorus after which a member of the company improvises a two-line comedic verse making reference to in jokes. This game was played by us for approximate two hours and resulted in much mirth, though by the time it ended at  2AM I was well ready for sleep.

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