Sunday, June 30, 2013

New York, New York... Arriving in the Big Apple

According to Douglas Adams’ cult classic, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” (a 1979 novel that began as a BBC radio series in 1978), the meaning of life, the universe and everything is 42. So with this in mind, last Sunday morning at the age of 42, I set out on my very first solo overseas trip.

Travelling is something I love to do but the thought of travelling to the other side of the world all by myself was daunting, to put it mildly. Naturally, I imagined numerous catastrophic scenarios… that (so far) have never happened.

The fourteen and a half hour flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles on board a Qantas A380 went smoothly, I ate every skerrick of aeroplane food put before me (my former resolve to begin a “Look like a Supermodel for New York” diet all but abandoned) and watched movies, Les Miserables and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained… followed by a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

At Los Angeles, I cleared customs with only Vegemite and Tim Tams to declare and boarded another Qantas flight to New York, touching down about five and a half hours later.

Catching a cab from the airport, my friendly and very helpful driver was a former college mathematics teacher who’d arrived from Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. He saw me safely to my accommodation on 105th Street, East Harlem and didn’t leave until Maggie, who I was staying with, had opened her door and welcomed me inside.

Maggie and her husband, Sergio rent an apartment less than a minute’s walk from 5th Avenue and the iconic Central Park on Manhattan Island, New York City. I was staying with them through a website called, where people are able to rent out their spare bedroom to travellers. A concept that suited me down to the ground; staying all by myself in a lonely hotel room in a foreign country, is not my idea of fun.
Central Park

My first day in New York started with Sergio giving me instructions on how to catch the subway, a bank to go to, to get my cash passport card working and advice on which sim card to get for my mobile phone.

By the afternoon I had walked through Central Park, had some American dollars in my wallet, my phone was working, I’d eaten a bagel for lunch and had successfully caught the subway.

I went on to do a double-decker bus tour of downtown Manhattan and journeyed to the 70th floor observation deck of the G.E. Building, known as the Top of the Rock. Built in 1933, it forms part of the Rockefeller Centre and affords spectacular 360° views of the city and across to the Empire State Building.

Founded in the 1600s and now with a population in excess of eight million, the big apple is an impressive place… 
The view from the Top of the Rock

Friday, June 7, 2013

Winter Health Warning: Reversing Antibiotic Resistance

With the official start to winter last Saturday and those Change of Season illnesses floating through our community, my mind has turned to the topic of antibiotic resistance. (Helped along by the fact that my immune system spent last week fighting off some lurgy.)

The discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming and its commercial production in the 1940s, revolutionised the treatment of bacterial infection. Penicillin became a miracle drug that along with other antibiotics has saved the lives of millions of people worldwide.

The use of antibiotics is a double-edged sword; while highly effective in killing susceptible bacteria it actively assists resistant bacteria become stronger. So much so that the World Health Organisation’s Director General, Margaret Chan, warned in 2012, that bacteria were starting to become so resistant to common antibiotics that it could bring about “the end of modern medicine as we know it.”

Many people in our western world have become obsessed with eradicating all bacteria; believing this is the way to a healthy life. Many of us run to our doctors, expecting or demanding antibiotic prescriptions to treat minor illnesses.  The “War on Germs” has supermarket shelves awash with antimicrobial cleaning products that leave a low-dose bacteria-killing residue.

Unfortunately these cleaning products along with the misuse of antibiotics for minor ailments, are killing off the very bacteria and micro flora that keep us healthy and allowing the “super bugs” to flourish.

Antibiotic resistant “super bugs” are a serious threat to our health but each and every one of us can help to minimise this threat by learning and implementing the following guidelines.

·      Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary.

·      If you are taking antibiotics, complete the entire course (don’t stop early because you are feeling better).

·      Do not self-medicate using old antibiotics.

·      Remember: antibiotics do not work against viruses (the ‘flu is a virus… so is a cold).

·      Practise good hygiene i.e: wash your hands with soap and water; cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

·      Stay home if you are sick.

·      Avoid using products that claim to be antimicrobial, antibacterial or contain antibiotics unless advised to by your doctor.

·      If you continue to feel unwell, see your doctor.

Your health is your responsibility – no one else’s. I am a firm believer in sleep, good nutrition and exercise as my number one defence against illness… it’s just sometimes I forget this and burn the candle at both ends for a little too long… cue lurgy… cue chicken soup.