Eastern Travels, Part II

Finally, I’m getting to the second half of my travels of last October!

After the conference in Beijing, I flew to Perth, Australia, to visit a collaborator.  This guy, Nigel, had recently visited us and we are trying to get some joint work going on nuclear waste forms, materials for storing nuclear waste.  He had just moved from Sydney to Perth, which is a shorter hop from Beijing, so that was convenient.  Even more so, there are other Uberuagas actually living in the Perth area.  They are from my dad’s home town of Munitibar, and grew up in a house just across the way from my dad.  Having a name like Uberuaga, they are likely related, likely distant cousins, but I haven’t quite figured out what the relationship actually is.  In any case, it was another nice convenience of flying to Perth.

Flying from Beijing to Perth, I had a stop in Hong Kong.  I didn’t get to see anything of Hong Kong, but did have a panic in the airport as I couldn’t find a piece of equipment I was supposed to have on me.  I really was in a cold sweat, as the last thing I wanted to do was lose government property, especially with all the negativity we’ve had recently about that kind of thing.  Fortunately, I found it, but not without more that a few moments of true panic.

Nigel got me a place to stay very close to the water.  The photos are from near my room.  Perth is separated by a river and I was on the side opposite down town.  A great view!  Unfortunately, I had caught a cold in Beijing, so I wasn’t the most adventurous explorer during my time in Australia.  But, I did get together with the Uberuaga clan — two brothers and their families — who treated me to a great Aussie barbie.  That was on Sunday.

On Monday and Tuesday, Nigel and I discussed work we’d been doing and some new directions we could take the collaboration.  We have, in my opinion, some really good ideas; now we just need to convince a funding agency.  One night, I went to dinner with Nigel and some colleagues of his.  I had a sampler plate, which had a number of things, including kangaroo.  I can’t really say it had much of a distinctive taste, but it didn’t taste bad either.  I guess in some parts of Australia, kangaroos are like we think of armadillos in Texas.

Wednesday, I took some time to do some shopping.  I wanted to get Lisa an opal, so I searched for a shop.  It took me a while to find something, especially as they tend to open a bit later — 10 — so I had a bit of a walk.  I was also looking for some souvenir boomerangs, but didn’t find anything I really liked.  The lady at the opal shop was pretty sweet, though I also thing she was in full saleswoman mode.  She told me how great a deal I was getting and how the young American sailors who came through were always so polite and such.  In the end, I think I did get a pretty good deal, as foreigners who are taking opals out of the country don’t have to pay tax and she gave me an extra discount off the sticker price.  Not entirely sure why, but I was happy to get it.

That night I flew to Sydney.  The next day, I was supposed to meet with some folks from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, sort of Australia’s version of us.  Karl, my host there, picked me up at the airport, which was an adventure in itself as he lost track of his car in the parking garage.  But, we soon were on our way.  The hotel they put me up in there was on the beach, a famous surfing beach that I forget the name of.  The next day, I got a tour of ANSTO and met a lot of good people.  I gave a seminar there (and in Perth too, actually) on the work we are doing.  I think there is some potential for new collaborations with these guys.  That night, Thursday, we had dinner at Karl’s place.

Friday, I walked around the beach near the hotel.  I never made it to downtown Sydney.  I was still feeling the effects of the cold a bit so didn’t venture too far.  But, I saw a lot of kids, young kids, trying to catch some waves, learning to surf.  That was cool.

About mid-day, I got on a plane and came home, after about two weeks away.  As the plane was passing over Sydney, I snapped the photo at right.  You can see the Sydney Opera House there.  Sydney looks like a cool city.  I’ll have to go back. But, it was good to get home, back to my family.  Two weeks is getting to be a long time to be away from home.

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