Bryan Kelly checks robotic patient
Grading the apples for market
Peggy Stanley checks the vats
Ed Amburgey samples a Victoria plum
The opposite side of the world is not so far away these days. It's five and a half hours to Los Angeles, by way of Atlanta, then fifteen and a half hours on to Melbourne.
The Group Study Exchange team led by Putnam's Don Broyles, left Charleston on a Tuesday afternoon (March 7th) and arrived in Australia Thursday morning (March 9th).
And to square the time with the dates, they lost a day in crossing the International Date Line somewhere over the Pacific.
The five-member GSE team sponsored by the Rotary Foundation represented young professionals from southern West Virginia, District 7550, who were hosted for a month by District 9790 in Australia's state of Victoria.
"They wore us out," said Broyles with a shake of the head. "From the time we arrived, we were on the go from nine in the morning until nine in the evening -- or later.
"But," he added, "the activities were of so much interest that we were always ready to go on."
Of sixty clubs in the district, eight local groups shared the hosting duties.
The team was met at the airport by the Pascoe Vale club and toured around Melbourne. "It wasn't crowded," says Broyles. "Transportation in the city is by trams and bus -- some at no charge."
They visited the "Vic" -- the Queen Victoria Market -- a farmers' market in the heart of the city for fresh vegetables, fruits and meats.
"Animals were dressed on the spot," says Broyles, a guarantee perhaps that the meat would be fresh.
Vocational visits that would continue throughout their stay began in Melbourne.
Teacher Peggy Stanley visited some primary schools and the local girls high school. Greenbrier chef Bryan Kelly toured restaurants. South Charleston policeman Ed Amburgey viewed the Broadmeadows regional police headquarters and the Moreland district station. And therapist Chris Eads visited the Dorset hospital unit for patients in recovery after limb surgery.
In Alexandra, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the northeast, the West Virginians toured Meggitts Fish Farm, the Gould Logging operation, and the Eildon Dam empounding Victoria's largest state-run water storage.
During four days with the Yarrawonga/Mulwala club in northern Victoria, the team visited an ammunition factory, several wineries in the region, Lake Mulwala and the Murray River which marks the state boundary with New South Wales.
In Shepparton, the team visited a fruit processing plant for pears, apples and plums.
"They had advanced optical technology for grading the fruit," said Broyles. Optical scanners identified the color of apples and sorted them by size and ripeness.
Fruit is stored in "cold boxes," he continued, at a low temperature. The natural atmosphere is replaced by an inert gas, and the fruit is preserved in near-original condition for up to six months.
Broyles saw "tons of kangaroos" on a golf course in Yarrawonga. "They came out about dark," he said.
Golf club memberships run from $200 to $800 per year. "That's Australian dollars," he noted. "One dollar American was equivalent to about $1.32 Australian." Most of the clubs have poker machines -- "they call them pokeys" -- and their heavy use defrays most of the cost for upkeep of the golf courses.
The return from Victoria was quicker than the trip down. Broyles, who remained behind a few days, left Melbourne about 10:30 in the morning of April 13th and arrived back in West Virginia at nine in the evening -- on the same day.
But crossing the Date Line on the homeward track he gained a whole day.
And crossing the equator, he returned from autumn in Australia to springtime in the West Virginia hills.