General Travel

Hello USA!

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I’m in the USA getting ready to attend the Future Leaders Institute (FLI) hosted by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Unlike when I went to the UK alone, this time the entire family is with me, so it has been an action packed two weeks so far!

After the long-haul plane ride, which is probably as bad as you can imagine with an 18-month old in tow, we arrived into LAX jet-lagged, tired, and ready to sleep. Unfortunately it was only the morning, so we got in a car, and drove a few hours into the desert town of Palm Springs…and it was beautiful! It was hot, the architecture was amazing, and we had a swimming pool. It was 37C at around 9pm at night, which was perfect because that’s when we were awake and swimming in the pool!

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We followed Palm Springs with a day-trip to Santa Monica, where we visited the famous Pier and watched the sun-set – lush!

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We then braved another 6-hour flight, which was once again challenging with the baby – there is only so much Wiggles that a grown up can take before it starts to send you batty!! But once we made it to the East Coast, everything settled back down. Turns out Lachie (the baby) is a big city kind of guy. We all drove down to Pennsylvania to visit family and to take in the Fall leaves – beautiful!

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After much family-time and much Pierogi-eating, we headed over to Hoboken, New Jersey for a few days. Hoboken has to be our all-time favourite place to visit. Hubby and I lived there for 3 years when we were first married and we loved every minute of it. Only a stone’s throw from Manhattan, with the world at your feet, it’s a beautiful city, with some of the best views in the world.

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As part of our perpetual quest to ensure that our children take up some sort of STEM career, we took them to the Liberty Science Center. Although we spend the best part of the day there, we only managed to see around half of it. There was a great exhibit to teach kids where oil comes from and to let them build their own hydrocarbon molecule. Despite many attempts though, the configuration didn’t let me make a benzene molecule which was a bit dissapointing…where’s the fun unless you can make a carcinogen I say!

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It’s been a great trip so far and I still have a week before I go down to Arlington, VA for FLI…so I can’t wait to see what else we can get up to before then. It’s prime pumpkin pie eating season at the moment, so I’m sure it will be good!

London for the day

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This was the view I had last night for some pre-dinenr drinks. I tried to think up a link between going for cocktails at the Shard and occupational hygiene, but I couldn’t think of any. The thought process was also hampered by the cocktails. You win some, you lose some!

Faced with a free day in London, I did what I figured young people do. I went shopping. It was tough, but I managed to pull through it. After mastering the tube (which I consider to include just not getting lost), I figured that Piccadilly was the place to be.

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In the afternoon my wonderful cousin, who abandoned her home country around 10 years ago (not that we are counting), treated me for a walk through Hyde Park and an introduction to slalom. As tempting as it was to do something where the probability of breaking a bone was high, I decided to film it instead.

Overall a terrific relaxing day, perfect for gearing up for the next phase of the trip, the BOHS Conference in Nottingham.

Farewell in style

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So I was waiting in the hotel lobby for my transfer back to the airport, when a Mercedes S Class turned up for me. The lovely folks at Drager sure know how to treat a guest!

I was then treated to my second trip on the autobahn…only this time at 200 km/hr! We were going so fast it was tricky to take a photo as I felt like I was in an airplane about to take off…one for the memory books!

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Germany, from an Australian’s perspective

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I am leaving Germany to travel to the UK today, so I thought I’d take this time to reflect on the small time I have had to spend in this fantastic country. In doing so I’d like to highlight the top 10 things in German culture that stand out for me as an Australian.

1. The little red man. You cannot cross the road unless the little man turns green. Yes we have this law in Australia too, but like most things, it’s seen as advisory – merely a suggestion. There can be no traffic to be seen for kilometres either side of you here, yet no German will cross that road until that little man turns green.

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2. Smoking lounges. I feel like I’ve gone back in time to 1985 (yes I was alive then)! I guess it’s just another way of looking at the ‘hierarchy of control’ triangle. In Australia we have elimination. In Germany, they have isolation.

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3. Bike riders do not wear helmets. No, there is no law that says you have to wear a helmet. I know this because Germans follow the rules, and if there was such a rule, everyone would be wearing one! On the plus side, no one has helmet hair. On the downside, referring back to the hierarchy of control, this falls off the scale into the realm of natural selection.

4. Germans are on time. I hate being late, and it annoys me when people are late. If you arrange to meet at 5pm, then they are there at 5pm…not 5:10pm, or 5:15pm, but EXACTLY on time. Love it.

5. The food is amazeballs. Maybe it’s my eastern European heritage, but the food is fantastic. Most of the time I have no idea what I am eating as I have randomly pointed to a dish that has landed on my plate, but it has been great every time.

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6. Water is always fizzy. If you order water, then they always assume you mean sparkling water. Again – Love it.

7. You pay to use the restroom. This may sound like a drag, but to be honest, I would rather pay 50c to use a sparkling clean restroom equipped with toilet paper and hand soap, than be greeted by a filthy alternative. I avoid public restrooms like the plague with the kids in Australia. If you hear a random woman screaming, “don’t touch that!…stop sitting on the floor!…why do you need to lick everything?” then that is me caving to the need to use a public restroom in Sydney with my kids.

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8. The streets are clean. There is no rubbish lying around, bins are not overflowing, and I have yet to smell any dodgy urine smell whilst walking around the 2 cities I have been to. That’s a big change from the City of Sydney.

9. The roads are fantastic. I have no idea how the tax system works in Germany, maybe the taxes are exorbitant, but the roads, footpaths, and general open areas are all pieces of perfection…again, a lot different to Sydney.

10. Last but not least would be to say that the general hospitality and friendliness of the people I have met here has been wonderful. Maybe I am just used to the general rush hour frantic mornings and afternoons of life, but people have been friendly and courteous, from strangers opening doors for me everywhere I go, to everyday people just being generally cheerful at a laundromat, people are just generally friendly.

It has been a true blessing to be able to come to Germany and spend some time here, even though it was short. Now my bags are packed for the next leg of the tour – onwards to the UK!

Lovely Lübeck

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I am a bit overwhelmed today at the hospitality that Drager have shown me. They have gone out of their way to make sure that I have the best experience out of this trip, which is entirely unexpected. I was all ready to sit in the hotel last night and chow down on a pretzel, when Matt from Drager called me and took me out into the city for some German fare. He then gave me a guided tour of the city today…which is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.

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I’m a bit of a church fan, which meant I was in luck today. The amount of care and attention to detail was amazing.

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I even got to hang with the devil for a few minutes. The story goes that when the first stones of St Mary’s church were laid, the devil believed that the building would be a wine bar. He liked the idea, because many souls had already found their way to him after frequently visiting such a place. So he mixed with the crowd and started to help the workers. No wonder that the building grew higher and higher amazingly fast. But one day the devil had to realise that the building would be a church. Full of anger he grabbed a huge boulder to smash the walls, when a bold fellow shouted at him, “Just stop it, Mr Devil…leave what has already been created! For you we will build a wine bar just here in the neighbourhood”. The devil was happy, and dropped the boulder beside the wall, where it is still lying to this day. Just opposite the church the workers built the wine celler of the town hall…and here is me with Mr. Devil!

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Pretty soon after a fair bit of walking, it was time for a sausage. As expected the sausages are awesome!

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Matt then took me around the town to explore the sights. As it turns out, not all Germans are tall. Take a look at this entrance into a courtyard of houses.

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After a few hours of walking, we hit the road to visit some local wildlife. Luckily for me, Matt drives in style. I admit that it was hard to go from the Barina to the Alfa Romeo, but somehow I managed to push through it. Even better was that we went on the autobahn!

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Then at the end, these guys were waiting for me to say hello.

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This fantastic day ended with a lovely dinner at Schiffergesellschaft. Try saying that three times fast.

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…almost impossible when a standard beer is double the size of your head!

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A very big thank you goes to Matt for putting up with me all day and showing me around such a lovely town!

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En Route to Luebeck

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Stage 2 of the tour of Germany involved getting to Luebeck. Before leaving Hamburg however, I needed to go for a swim as I knew you’d be disappointed in me if I didn’t blog about it. It’s a tough life but someone has to do it I guess. It was rough, but you’d be glad to hear I survived.

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I’m celebrating today as I managed to find the train station, the right platform, and the right carriage to take me to Luebeck. I did end up sitting in someone else’s reserved seat on the train…but that’s not too bad considering how bad it could have turned out!

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I also managed to find the most useful invention I’ve seen for a while. Here are my new gloves that both keep my hands warm AND that I can use my iPhone with. Now I have seen it all.

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There is a downside in travelling by yourself, in that it can be a bit lonely. On the plus side, when I got to the hotel I got two peices of marzipan to myself! I have a feeling that I’m going to love Luebeck.

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In preparation for 2 weeks of intense travelling and excitement, I decided to use the rest of my travel day for laundry. Here are the instructions I was greeted with on the wall. Simple right? 20 minutes later I was very thankful that a kind bilingual stranger walked in. Now that I have clean clothes…the world is my oyster. Or perhaps, given the menu’s I have seen lately, ‘the world is my herring’.

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Hamburg Adventures

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So now I realise that what I thought was cold yesterday, was actually a nice spring day…because today was freezing! I thought if I went for a run outside I might literally die from the wind chill…so I found a treadmill at the hotel and went for a run, so I wouldn’t feel so guilty about eating all the fabulous pastries I keep walking past. As I should have guessed…the treadmill only spoke German…so I’m just going to assume it was telling me I did a good job!

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Then I was out bright and early to go for a walk this morning to find a café for breakfast. I had visions of enjoying a nice cappuccino alongside some German fare…only to be greeted by a bitter 1C cold, and the realisation that nothing except Starbucks opens until 9am. I couldn’t bring myself to go there again…so I found a German equivalent of Starbucks…which is absolutely identical…except everything is in German. Apart from not being able to read anything on the menu, the coffee was great!

Upon realising that it was near impossible to be outside for more than 10 minutes, my plans of going on a walking tour of Hamburg were quickly replaced by me hunting out a warm museum. I went to the BallinStadt, which is the Emigration Museum, which takes you through the lives of the more than 5-million European emigrants who left Europe via Hamburg…mainly to the USA. My grandparents emigrated from the Ukraine to Australia via Germany…although I doubt it was through Hamburg (history…or remembering a historical event is not a key strength of mine!)…nonetheless it was amazing! As it turns out, hygiene was important then too.

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And for a double-bonus I finally got my German fare from the museum café…lentils with sausages and herring in potato salad…score!

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After the museum I braved the train system and didn’t get lost. To celebrate this, I hit the shops as the second warm thing I knew I could do. On the way I walked past this gorgeous building. Now had I gone on the walking tour I could have told you what this building was. As it stands I have no idea…but it’s gorgeous! Let’s face it…I don’t make a great travel guide.

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Overall it was a great day…I leave Hamburg tomorrow and travel by train to Luebeck. Fingers crossed my luck with not getting lost on public transport won’t run out!
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