10 July 2015

Between Sydney and Hong Kong

CATHAY PACIFIC FLIGHT 162—Another two-week visit to Australia is over, and I am bouncing back over Typhoon Linfa on the way to Hong Kong. Turbulence on my last few long-haul flights has been bad, and this one is no exception. Like all seasoned flyers, I try not to look worried.

I have been fulfilling my adjunct professor role at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) and visiting my family in Brisbane. The UWS occupies several campuses and, for the first time in many years of visiting, I was in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, the first week. Situated on the site of a former asylum—a “lunatic” asylum, as it would have been called—the Parramatta campus takes in many of the elegant buildings associated with the place’s former purpose, and the older buildings are complemented by many fine, modern buildings.

Yours Truly with Associate Professor Michelle
Cleary, who organized my visit.
Numerous mental health hospitals in Australia are located on the banks of navigable rivers, as lunatics were not permitted to walk on the Queen’s highway—these institutions were built during the reign of Queen Victoria—and had to travel by boat. A steep set of steps leads from the river to the campus, and I imagine this is how many people were led up to their new and permanent home. I met one of the senior managers of UWS last year and only just managed to stop myself from cracking the old “the lunatics are now running the asylum” joke. He had probably heard it many times before.

With apologies to the occupants of Parramatta, this is not the most salubrious suburb of Sydney, and one of the missions of UWS is to serve these communities. My hotel website boasted “access to a state-of-the-art gym.” There was access, but the gym was a mile into town, a walk I made each evening past less than desirable housing and youth that appeared intimidating. Some of my colleagues were astonished that I had ventured out of my hotel. I reckoned that the sight of an elderly man in shorts and T-shirt in temperatures just above freezing was enough to keep me safe. It was very cold, the coldest winter in Sydney in 17 years.

Family time
The weekend I spent in Brisbane was warmer. I feel blessed to have such a great family, who make me welcome. Apart from Christmas, it is one of the few times of the year I leave work behind, literally in luggage left at the Sydney airport, and spend time with family. I always come away grateful, a few pounds heavier, and with an increased knowledge of Australian wines and beers. (Someone has to do it).

But my time in Australia was not all fun. Back at UWS, I gave a day and a half of writing-for-publication workshops and two video-conference sessions, one on social media and the other on marking theses and dissertations. Otherwise, I held staff consultations about publication plans and kept up to date with editing and supervising—from a distance—my PhD, master’s and final-year students. Two of my PhD students, one from Taiwan and one from mainland China, have completed their theses, and I am arranging for their examinations, which, in the UK, is done by viva voce, otherwise known as the “viva”). The viva is a terrifying prospect for most students, so I expect anxiety levels to be high when I get back to my desk at the University of Hull.

Two busy weeks
I have two weeks of intense activity coming up. It has to be two weeks because, although I have many July deadlines, it is only two weeks before I go on holiday and take the long-suffering and mostly tolerant Mrs. Watson—it’s OK, she never reads my blog—to New York. For the record, this is the first time in 31 years we have been away together on holiday without at least one of our children. We have gone on work-related trips to the Far East and Southeast Asia, but, as I am frequently reminded, those “don’t count.” 

So, before that happens, I have a PhD thesis and a pile of scripts from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to examine, a handover of my acting associate dean role to the incumbent who is now back in the role, Journal of Advanced Nursing author guidelines to revise, and lots of research data to analyse. I see the seat belt sign is on again, and I am trying not to look worried.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

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