I ran away and joined the circus. Okay, it was only for a weekend, but it still counts. Before traveling to the tiny town of Tambellup I was nervous. And I should have been nervous – I don’t have any circus skills. And country fairs only want entertainers with skills. Juggling? I can’t throw one ball without it coming back to hit me in the head. Unicycling? I endanger myself and others when I ride a regular bike. Balloon animals? No matter what I tried to twist, it turned into a link sausage.

That’s where Maureen came in, or Mo as her children call her. Mo sat down with all of us and showed us the basics on how to make balloon animals. Mine began to look more like dogs and swords than leftover animal parts. My skills still weren’t there so Steve, our group leader tried to help. He patiently watched as I dropped the juggling balls an embarrassing amount of times.

I made a lot of progress, but while in Tambellup I stuck to something I knew I could do – face painting. I transformed more small people into Spiderman and dogs and cats then I can count. Children really are booger factories. They would pick their noses and immediately a new booger would form that needed to be found. I got over it. I painted over it. Working on a moving canvas with the knowledge that your creation will be washed off in a few hours can be disheartening, but when I’d finish and a kid would smile real big or say “wicked” it made it all worth it.

As is the case with any place the people make the experience. The farm family that we stayed with was incredibly hospitable. The dad took us out into the bush and told us about all the different kinds of plants and flowers. My favorite is the trigger plant, a tiny white flower that when probed smacks down this little do-dad that helps pollinate the flower. In place of a dog eagerly awaiting scraps underneath their breakfast table was a kangaroo. Getting to see a kangaroo out in the open interacting with people on its own free will was amazing.

The people in my group were also fantastic to spend time with. In fact, we all liked each other so much that even after a long day of driving and manual labor, we still wanted to meet up for dinner after the trip ended. Everyone brought something special to the group, and I would not have met any of them had it not been for John Curtin Weekend. I tend to be a bit lazy when it comes to making friends- it’s not entirely my fault, it’s just easier to build relationships with people in your classes, at work, or who live by you. Plus you might get the police called on you if you walked up to someone who didn’t meet any of those stipulations, told them your life story and requested their friendship.

But I wasn’t talking about restraining orders, I was talking about Tambellup. A couple of the guys did fire twirling. Have you ever seen that? And not just on TV, but close enough that you can smell the petrol on the batons? I held my breath the whole time. I can’t even light a candle without losing a clump of hair, so to see the control that these guys had over the fire was incredible. And to watch the children watching them was even better. It would be a real treat for someone in a big city to see fire coming within centimeters a dude’s face, so I can’t imagine the appreciation that a town that doesn’t even have a Mackers felt for the flames.

The town stuffed us with BBQ, and the evening was completed with star gazing. The sky looks completely different behind the sheet of pollution that we city folk look at it through. If you doubt this then you have to drive out to Tambellup just to see the night’s light. Of course Steve even found a way to make this better, as he whipped out his giant lazer. The green beam was so long that I felt that I was touching the stars with it. I hope that everyone has a chance to experience a small piece of what I did in Tambellup.