photo1_output_smallSome of this weekend was spent in the mountains a few hours East of the city, where we had a departmental retreat for a short while. It was fun – lots of fun. There’s a lot to be said for going off to some other place with your work colleagues, being together with them for meals, business, and recreation, and getting to know people you had not met before, or getting to know better people you’d already known.

There were several short talks from people sharing a bit about what they or their research group have been up to, with coffee breaks and meal breaks. The latter were signaled by a nice gong, and we were served tasty vegetarian food that everyone seemed to enjoy (even those who eyed longingly the In ‘N Out Burger in the town at the bottom of the mountain before making the trip up – you know who you are!) with wide ranging conversation among ourselves and occasionally with the Buddhist monks and volunteers who run the centre. (Hence the sitting cross-legged on mats in the above picture…)

photo3_output_smallThe evening had a few more talks and then was free for socializing. A large game of trivial pursuits broke out and hilarity ensued in one corner, along with chatting, guitar strumming and drawing (me) in other corners.

After what was a cold and windy night outside (I was glad of the extra layers I brought), Sunday had an early start for breakfast, 7:30am, and then a large group headed off for a hike. I decided that I needed to get some work done on The Project and stayed by the toasty fire in the dining room and did some drawing and inking, listening to the chanting and gonging going on upstairs. photo4_smallCoincidentally, another participant, Bruna (the student who was the main organiser of the event), had brought her watercolour equipment and having had the same idea, sat at another table working on her creations. We sat there in the room for some time, silently working away.

Eventually, the hikers came back, bit by bit, and then we had lunch, a useful discussion about the department, and then went our separate ways, returning to the city…

This was a great event, for faculty, graduate students, and family members that came, and there’ll be more photographs on a site somewhere I expect. It was unfortunate that it was not so well attended, but that might be in part because it was the first one of its type for our department. If you are in the departmental and did not make it for whatever reason, you did miss something pretty special, but come again next time, ok?


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6 Responses to Retreat

  1. Supernova says:

    Wow. “Retreat” in my department is synonymous with “all-day faculty meeting, held in the business school’s conference room for a change of scene.” I think we need to take a page from your book!

  2. I went on a similar retreat recently that was about 1/3 meeting, 1/3 revelry, and 1/3 quiet contemplation. Which was a good balance for me, since I tend to gravitate toward the final third in the list, left to my own devices.

  3. Marco says:

    We have something similar in my department in France, but going in a buddhist center sounds so new-ageish-Hollywood that it would never be possible here.

    Also, I am a bit surprised that this was organized on Easter sunday. Here, in old Europe, Easter is usually a respected holiday, irrespectively of the religious orientations. Was this done on purpose? Or did I misunderstand?

  4. Clifford says:

    Hi Marco,

    1. Really? So it is a nice facility in a scenic mountain setting with a good affordable rate… Surely scientists of all people should be able to disconnect that from the irrelevant and harmless issue of it being run by buddhists … If it were Trappist monks in France or Belgium would it have also been a no-no?

    2. I don’t think anyone cared one way or another aboutnthe Easter aspect, to be honest. Actually, maybe some people took the retreat as an Easter outing with family…



  5. Marco says:

    Hi Clifford, thanks for your answers! 1.Really 😉 My department carefully selects some of the most depressing family resorts in northern France. And the retreat is usually organized in mid-october, in order to maximize damp and cold weather and to make sure that the switch-on date of indoor heating is a few days later… Anyway, one could try to suggest a monastery. But I suspect that someone would find a confessional choice inappropriate, for one reason or another.
    By the way, CERN Theory Division also has a retreat, they (we) meet at the Mont Blanc resort of Les Houches. That’s much much better.

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