I’m not done posting. I’ve still got posts cooking from my time in Australia, let alone New Zealand and Singapore. But I really like to make lists. And while I have nothing but time on planes for the next 24 hours, it seemed like a good moment to reflect on what has just transpired.
Packing up to return home from five weeks abroad for my Eisenhower Fellowship was much like coming home from camp at the end of that junior high school summer. The anticipation (or really, anxiety) of that initial bus ride has been replaced by a kind of satisfaction – “Look what I just did.”
I have been away from home for 38 days. I have visited three countries, took 12 plane flights (including this bumpy one to Tokyo to start my long journey home) with two more to go to get all the way to Boston. I slept in 13 different locations. (There were only two snafus – one each with a flight and hotel – and both worked out fine in the end.) To get around, I rode trams, ferries, subways, countless taxis, and one helicopter, but no touts.
Going from memory, I had something like 74 meetings with approximately 127 people, including meals or coffee with 12 Eisenhower Fellows (and I have to say, they are an incredible bunch, including the former chairman of the largest mining company in the world, the president of a national political party, a national TV journalist, a successful entrepreneur, Ministers of various government agencies, and two members of parliament, just to name a few).
I met Australia’s federal secretary of health and ageing, Singapore’s Minister of Finance, and the chairman of New Zealand’s pharmacy purchasing agency. I met hospital CEOs, health insurance executives, entrepreneurs, consumer advocates, policy leaders and academics, economists, and journalists. I had dinner with two world-renowned geneticists and their three children in Brisbane, and breakfast in Singapore with the outgoing vice dean of Duke-NUS medical school and his wife. I learned about public policy, health care financing, culture, history, market forces, and incentives. I covered health care costs, health benefit design, transparency of cost and quality data, efforts to integrate care, rural health, Aboriginal health, palliative and end-of-life care, public engagement, health promotion, “the patient experience”, and most importantly, leadership.
I took 5,612 pictures with my actual camera and my phone. I’ll try to restrain myself here.
I’m embarrassed to say I can also count the number of times I worked out. It’s not zero, but it’s too small a number to share.
For fun, I hiked in the oldest rainforest in the world and took a helicopter ride over the largest coral reef in the world. I went spearfishing with Aboriginal guides (and did an excellent job not actually getting close enough to spear anything) and toured Melbourne’s Open House. I rode on a roller coaster, a giant ferris wheel (the Singapore Flyer), and to the top of two super high buildings (88 stories high in Melbourne and 58 stories high in Singapore) – just to catch the views.
I toured a Synagogue, saw a wedding in a Malay mosque, visited a Buddhist temple during a prayer service, and paid a $3 photo fee to take pictures in a Hindu temple (worth it).
I went to high tea at a historic 5-star hotel, tasted the best oysters I have ever eaten at an exclusive men’s club (where women can be guests), and ate the most delicious street food for ridiculously low prices. Unbelievably (for me), I only had sushi once. For breakfast I ate vegemite, marmite, and kaya. I drank an avocado shake, a Singapore Sling (from the place that invented it), and a chendol. And of course, all manner of coffee. I also learned how to eat dinner out by myself. It’s not my first choice, but a life skill nonetheless.
(simple, delicious noodles from QQ Noodle House near Bugis in Singapore)
Last night, as I came down off the high of successfully squeezing my new purchases into my already-over-stuffed suitcases (which did at first seem like it would be an impossible feat), I settled into my few hours of sleep with these experiences washing over me. Bits of conversations, impressions, and ideas both souvenirs of a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip and the fuel for whatever comes next.