It was my second visit to Philly and DC, my first visit being 10 years ago to the month, pretty much. Funnily, I don't remember much from that trip, though I took lots of photos. Hence, rather than taking photos, I took notice. Walking, meandering, people watching. And conferencing.
Philadelphia, or the city of brotherly love (Phile - love, adelphi - sharing the same womb...in Greek), is, according to Wikipedia, the 5th largest city by population in the US. It is a 2 hour train ride North-East of DC. It has a feel which is very similar to Melbourne - though there is a Starbucks everywhere, there are a great deal of independent shops. Also, the weather is very changeable. Like 28 degrees on one day and 11 degrees another. DC is similar.
I did some of the touristy things in Philly, like visiting the Magic Garden, and ascending the Rocky steps to the Philadelphia museum of art. The PMA has a great collection of French Impressionist artwork which is worth a squizz, if you go there. In my spare time, I mainly just meandered, people watched. One of the days I meandered to the tune of 30000 steps; I've just bought a fitbit blaze and am getting use out of it.. There are plenty of murals to look at in the streets.
I was alone in Philly. I usually travel alone and quite like it. I met my colleagues for the ACP meeting in DC, and was a bit worried that it would be stifling. I need not have worried, they are great people to travel with. They are easygoing, enthusiastic and like many of the same things I do, those being travel, shopping and eating. My boss was one of the people on the trip, and she had organised the trip down to the hour, and arranged us some things to do.
One of these things was a bike riding tour of the national mall. I had seen many of the sites, but not all, in my previous trip. Two of the more moving monuments were those to Martin Luther King and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Being an avid researcher, I looked up these gentlemen on Wikipedia, both great men, and changing the USA for the better. Mostly, it was just great to get a hint of sunshine and bond with my friends/colleagues.
The other great thing we did was go to a show called Capitol Steps. If you go to DC, it is worth a look. They do brilliant Political Satire, and don't spare either end of the political spectrum. Bernie, Trump and Hillary (as well as Barry, Dubya and Vladimir) got a skewering.
We ate and drank like queens, sampling some great American / Soul food, as well as a restaurant which was a fusion of Asian and Peruvian. We ate sparsely and walked liberally during the day, but went hard at night.
A professor once told us "never let your study get in the way of your education". In addition to some great medical facts, I learned, or had reinforced, some of the following - both in conference and general travel aspects:
1. How to show respect to members of the LGBTI community, and manage their medical issues appropriately.
In the ACP meeting, where there were 7000 delegates and hundreds of parallel sessions, there was one on health care for a person from the LGBTI community. It included things like keeping greetings gender neutral (ie instead of "good morning, Sir", just "good morning" is fine). How getting transgender men to have pap smears and breast examinations can be a challenge ("if you have it, check it). The staggeringly high rates of HIV in certain sections - up to 50% in some cultural groups of gay men.
2. No matter what your religious, social or political allegiance is, some things are dear to everybody's heart.
I love a good heart to heart with a person I've just met. I met a few American women of my own age, and had a good chinwag with them. One or two of them were politically conservative, pro military, religious and did not even cringe when Trump's name was mentioned, but we still managed to see eye to eye on a few things. Here was the opportunity to listen and not shoot my mouth off. Always good to practice. Differing views are interesting, if nothing else.
I agreed with them that veterans of past/current wars should be looked after, and certainly not be homeless. But I questioned the need for young men to be sent to more wars in foreign lands. They conceded agreement.
There are issues common to us all. The whole biological clock thing.....plus or minus the finding the appropriate partner to procreate with. And utual admiration of shoes/hair/eye makeup. I have been introduced to the wonders of Chanel Fantasme eyeshadow. Sah sparkly!
3. The USA is trying to find it's place in the new world order.
I went to the museum of American History. I have been there before but needed a refresher on it, as I find history very interesting. America's history is punctuated by wars. I learned about the war of independence/ revolution and the war of 1812 - as the White House was being burned down by the Brits, there came the inspiration for the lyrics of "Star Spangled Banner". Four score and seven years after independence, the civil war. Where the US established itself as a world power was WW1 and 2, particularly the latter. They were reluctant to enter into WW2 but their hand was forced after Pearl Harbor. They produced munitions, sent men and just generally went hard, looking like the hero in the process. Returning soldiers were sent to university and made babies with their wives. Korea was yet another battle. Things started going downhill, I realised, during the Vietnam War. That was politically very dicey, with many opposed to it.
There was the arms race with Russia, which cooled after the fall of the Soviet bloc. 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put the US under severe pressure for many reasons. They are no longer the hero or the saviour, nor are they the most powerful country in the world, with the rise of the BRICS countries.
I realised that, with unemployment a major issue in the US, in some parts more than others, the war and the military is a major employer for the US. This is one of the many problems. The middle class is dwindling. The world appreciates that this former superpower cannot employ its people or provide them with healthcare, and judges accordingly. The world questions the US's interests. In my opinion, the US is trying to find it's way in the new world. Hence some of the potential leaders wedging things.
Anyway enough about that.
4. Doesn't matter how interesting the topic of a conference talk is, the speaker has to be good or nothing will be absorbed.
This is fairly self-explanatory.
5. It's good to schmooze
I made a special effort at both conferences, particularly the first more research based conference, to meet people, say hello, state my business. Mostly I met nice people. Sometimes I met important people who gave me good advice. I made myself known, pressed the flesh, collected business cards and email addresses. These will come in handy.
6. I am barking up the right tree, research wise.
It is always a bit of a fangirl moment to meet a researcher whose work you have referenced extensively in your PhD. It's even better when their thoughts on the research topic are similar to yours. Better still when they are doing a pilot study on something you have done and are about to publish (HAAAA I BEAT YOU! I nearly said, but didn't.)
7. Americans are very polite
I had a cold, my first in 18 months, during this trip. I was sneezy as hell. Without fail, every time I sneezed in public, I would get a "bless you". Isn't that charming?
- pair of new balance casual sneakers, which were featured on my instagram account
- new handbag. Cole Haan. On sale, no less. I had thought about buying myself a Balenciaga City handbag as a gift to myself for completing my PhD, but I just cannot bring myself to part with 2K for a handbag. I just cannot. So functional Cole Haan it is.
- A dress from Anthropologie
- Rain jacket from Nordstrom Rack. BCBGeneration. Not ugly.
- Some unintentional shoes - nice Italian boots. Like 75% off. Very sweet. Cost per wear will be low.
- Chanel mascara.
- Pills, lotions and potions from the chemist.
- Assorted other small things.