Post authored by Yenziwe Mbuyisa
I recently read an article by the Enago Academy that spoke of the prevalent loneliness experienced by academics. The long hours that academics spend alone reading, writing, and analyzing a niche interest can easily lead to many academics feeling lonely and isolated from family friends and sometimes even colleagues. The article also cited some ways in which academics can combat loneliness and isolation, firstly academics were encouraged to GET OUT of the lab and not confine themselves to four walls and a screen, another recommendation was for scholars to join writing groups where they could collaborate and share their work with like-minded people, complete tasks and network all in one sitting.
On the 29th of August, the Eucxylo team made their way to The River House, for what is becoming the teams ‘annual’ writing retreat. This retreat is by design, an opportunity for members of the team to escape their routine work environments and devout some time to productive writing and collaboration and knowledge sharing with their colleagues. Alongside this, the theme for this year’s retreat was also to ‘REST’ and ‘INTERACT.’
Upon settling in the team prepared for an intensive GitHub workshop, which was facilitated by the labs Dr Kim Martin. In this session, Kim demonstrated to us how we could use and incorporate GIThub into our data management and analysis protocol. This was an interactive session with Kim and Oluwaseun Gakenou helping members of the team maneuver around the software’s interface with test data sets and examples. With a goal of making the Eucxylo work more opensource, this workshop was a necessary exploration of the potential of GitHub to help us reach that goal.
As the evening settled Dr Letitia Schoeman with help of Liesel Strauss, treated the team to a classic Stellenbosch food and wine pairing dinner. As we enjoyed the tasty meal and delicious ‘De Laan’ wine from the universities cellar, Letitia eloquently educated us on the wine, textures, taste and smell. We chatted around the table, and all enjoyed the wind down the opportunity to interact with one another in a more casual and personable setting.
Day two of the retreat was dedicated to us working on our writing tasks. The team was free to find a comfortable spot around the house where they could sit and work on their, literature reviews, papers, and general edits. During these sessions Prof David Drew made his way around the team to guide and give input on our work. He emphasized that this session was not meant to be viewed as a high-pressure task completion session but rather as a time for us to have access to his input and guidance as we put our work to paper.
As a sort of team building activity the team also took some time to complete two tests on team and personality dynamics. This was a fun exercise to help us better understand our team’s make-up and dynamics. The ‘principlesyou’ test made a vigor assessment of an individual’s personality and how we interact in different settings while the ‘123 test’ explored the roles an individual can take when working with in a team. In between these session team members were encouraged to preoccupy themselves with wholesome activities in and around the house. And interact with one another and get feedback from Prof Drew. And the rest of the evening was filled with more team building and group games.
The rewrite concluded a final writing session and cleaning up the space. As we all wished we could work in this peaceful and conducive environment always, we all appreciated the opportunity to find rest within our work and remind ourselves of the community in each other. This truly was a necessary and encouraging retreat and really helped to uplift and stimulate us in our work.