Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I survived the three weeks of DTN

The last update was as we left for the DTN (Diploma Tropical Nursing) course in Liverpool and here I am a week home and working on my final paper so taking a break to post. Well…..actually, I'm having trouble motivating myself to get the darned thing done so I'm procrastinating but the blog is badly behind so…..  That there has been no blog posting for the pst three weeks of very intensive DTN course and a rushed Christmas celebration should come as no surprise. And since I am looking at a New Years holiday and submission of my paper by the first of January, things are not slowing down in the near future, so here goes. 

My travel buddy and I 'enjoyed' the overnight flight from Halifax to Heathrow and although she had enough sense to nap, I watched the movie Jersey Boys which I don't regret. Great music and I was going to be sleep deprived regardless. An early morning arrival in London, quick processing through Customs and my travel mate's friend was waiting for us as we exited. An efficient trip to the little village she lived in. The weekend was a whirlwind of sightseeing, shopping and tea shoppes in Ely and Cambridge. Lovely scenery, great food
Cambridge at dusk
and company. Sunday after a walk around the village and a proper British lunch at Poachers Pub we were off in the rental car for Liverpool. After an extended tour of the city from Albert Dock to downtown  while we were lost (Liverpool has really been fixed up a LOT since the 80s my travel mate decides) and eventually by asking for directions at the local bar we found our residence of Beacon Building. Straight up three steep stairs (no elevator) and we are settled in our rooms. We meet a classmate who is next door to our rooms and she helps with the settling in routine - internet, grocery stores and we'll head to class in the morning. 

About a two minute walk to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) for registration and the first day routine. Haven't brought my log in information, the online process is p-a-i-n-f-u-l (my sympathies to IT) and in a state of frustration we are finally herded into the lecture hall. A glance around tells me that 50/57 classmates are under age 30 and we are told 58% are Canadian, the rest mostly from USA or UK. Not what I'd envisioned when thinking of the demographics. I later learned that the DTN course is a requirement to work with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) so that explains the young average student age. After attending one of their information sessions a couple of years ago and realizing a nine month initial contract is required, I'd passed on that organization. A handful of international students from Nigeria, Ghana, Somalia, Australia, Norway and South Africa add to the depth of the attendees. We are asked to post a copy of our photo to two world maps - one where we live, one where we have worked and the visual is quite striking. 

The cultural immersion of living in England for over three weeks, studying in a British system with various accents as in "hello my name is Claire" which I can interpret as "hello my name is Cla hair" or scenario which translates to see nah ree o, or trying to figure out which coin was which at the grocery store - holding out my change in my palm so the clerk could help herself as if I was eight years old, was a bit of a learning curve. Although it was fairly mild and we had some nice days of sunshine, for the most part, it was as might be expected in Liverpool in December….kind of drizzly and grey, the travel umbrella didn't languish in the bag for sure. The description of the course was 'intensive' and it sure lived up to the name. Classes from 9am - 5pm daily with lectures, group work, labs and abbreviated breaks and lunch hours meant a LOT of information delivered. Although feeling overwhelmed, I thought how intense the experience would've been without the preceding ten years of being a tropical health groupie, attending three tropical medicine conferences, webinars, reading whatever I could my hands on for the topic etc. 

The first week also brought the intrusion of my paid employment life. A number of frustrations with my present employer as I have been wrangling since August with the other two regions in the territory to try and find a spot with attached housing. Yet to get my name on the casual list and I am already a GN employee - what a disorganized bunch! As I was on my way out the door for the airport I had received a call from the HR clerk in NWT regarding a phone interview for an 8 wk job share I'd applied for and I promised I would try to source a phone for the hour required. With the time zone differences the 1:15 pm interview slot translated to 8:15 pm and the caretaker very kindly gave me the door code to their office for the event. I was so distracted with the first few days of class, time change, travel etc. that when I discussed the interview a few minutes later with my travel mate asking "what would you do for a six month infant?" she immediately said "I'd do the weight, length and head circumference" and I sighed a huge sigh and said "well, I didn't even remember to say I'd weigh the baby!" I assume they thought I was nervous and not a complete idiot as I have since had a verbal offer for the position….more on that later. The first week flew by with great lecturers. One who is a runner spoke of the difficulty exercising in the tropics (the same but different as lack of exercise north of 60) in conflict zones - never mind the heat and dust, if someone sees you running….everyone may run. Several of the lectures were heard to say "I'll come on to that
St. Georges Hall
later" meaning "I'll get to that". We took an evening and shopped in the downtown which did give us a bit of the Christmas spirit. Lovely old buildings, some like the one on the left built on slave trade money. Before we knew it, we were shortly making plans to travel to Oxford for the second weekend. 

Blenheim Palace
Oxford was a scenic drive through beautiful British countryside as the Cotswolds are lovely. We met my travel mates nephew who is a lecturer at Oxford and entertained us in grand style. We walked the grounds at Christ Church seeing skulling on the Thames (Isis) River and enjoying the architecture. We toured Blenheim Palace which was stunning, decorated for the holidays and a wonderful way to spend the
Christ Church, Oxford
 afternoon. We dined at High Table in Christ Church (yes the prototype for Hogwarts if you're a Harry Potter fan) where our host 'presided' in his robes (Latin benediction) and had a wonderful meal prepared by the Michelin rated chef. I was seated next to an Irish mathematician (all of the academics were early 30s PhDs) who asked how I knew the host. I replied that I didn't, had only met him that day and in answer to "what brings you to England?" I explained about the LSTM - DTN program. "Are you lecturing?" the young fellow asked and with a grin I replied "no, I'm a student, do you think I'm too old?" which caused some stuttering on his part. When I realized on the final days of the course that I actually WAS the oldest student it caused me some angst but as a colleague reassured me "someone has to be the oldest". We stayed at
Alice in Wonderland 
Radcliffe Camera

Christ Church in lovely rooms, enjoyed breakfast and then a private tour with our host of such areas of the college as the garden where Alice in Wonderland was written about - the door through the wall and the tree where the Cheshire Cat sat. After a pub lunch with some friends of my classmate we headed back 'home' to Liverpool. 

The under 30 crowd had a relaxing weekend apparently too as one was exhibiting her new tattoo which she'd gotten in a bar after a number of tequila shots. The more sedate had travelled to Chester in Wales or explored Liverpool itself. The second week included a lecture and visit to
Green mamba
the venomous snakes laboratory, TB, anemia, maternal/child, learning about FBOs (faith based organizations) and various acronyms. Surprisingly, the younger set were most freaked out by the maternity aspect of the course. When the midwife lecturer questioned "who is a midwife? who worked maternity? who has seen a delivery? as we raised our hands in various patterns, then asked "who has never seen a delivery?" and a large number of hands were raised. I was gobsmacked - every one of us in that lecture hall writes RN after our names. I have been so lucky in my experience over the years to have had the opportunities I've had. 

Castle Howard
The third weekend of exploring took us to Yorkshire where the views are just out of a scene from the James Harriott novel All Creatures Great and Small with rolling hills, stone walls and sheep dotting the green hillsides. There we visited a friend of my classmate in Harrogate. It's a lovely little town and we travelled to Castle Howard for Saturday afternoon and then a walk on the grounds of Ripley Castle on Sunday. All three of the various castles we visited were privately owned and opened to the public with tea rooms and gift shops as a way of maintaining them. The brisk morning walk followed by tea and toasted teacake, some market shopping then some retail therapy in Harrogate on Sunday and a stop for lunch at Betty's tea room before heading back to Liverpool. By the third trip we were able to locate our residence with ease. 

The final week brought a lot of freaking out about the exam vs an overview of the content from the younger majority. One of our midst had celebrated her 23rd birthday (yes you read that correctly) meaning she was over two years younger than my last child. When we did a wrap up during the final class and shared some of our thoughts of the experience I stated that although I would do my best on the exam, I wasn't going to stress as no one knew what I was doing at LSTM anyway, I was going to tell folks I'd passed and have a big party to celebrate in February as I'd learned a great deal in a short time and it exceeded my expectations. The younger folks who were focused on the diploma to show to MSF were not reassured by my attitude. One of the class who had travelled/worked extensively for MSF, is a midwife, taught English overseas etc. asked what my plans were and I replied "something to do with maternal/child health as I have some talents to offer in that direction" and we discussed the length of contract as I explained about my northern job share, workaholic husband etc and she said "oh I forgot, you have a real life" as she and her husband live in Sicily sometimes, she goes home to Nebraska, they do MSF contracts etc. The final exam was a challenge as it's been over 20 years since I 'wrote' an examination as multiple choice is the North American way and writing non stop short answer questions for 90 minutes was not easy. There was very strict invigilating of the exam, immediate relief afterwards and a group photo, then a sponsored lunch with beer and wine served - you would NEVER see that at a Canadian university, even for a longer program. Lots of visiting and goodbyes before getting the luggage out by the door for the sherpas, I mean caretakers. 

A decision to reward ourselves with a trip to the Beatles Story and since it was sprinkling (and my travel mate isn't a hiker) we sprang for a cab. The Liverpudlian cab drivers are an entertaining lot and this one was chatty and very opinionated (not a fan of Princess Kate or various entertainers etc) but as we made our way to Albert Dock he explained that the traffic was heavy as it was 'Mad Friday' which is the final one before the Christmas holiday when all the students are out of class and employees heading out on days off to drink. As we stop at a light, he looks in the rear view mirror, pulls up on the emergency brake, jumps out of the cab and with his arm raised yells "you there 'ere put your finger down and get over yourself then" as we're trying to
Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
figure out what is going on. Apparently the guy behind us made a gesture at him after being cut off. Good thing he was on our side. The Beatles Story is well worth visiting and we spent at least 90 minutes having a major flashback with the music, photos and the backstory. The ferris wheel ride in the pouring rain and stiff winds was as exciting as the cab ride but with a wonderful night time view of the city. 

Back to pick up a classmate and head downtown for a final supper. We settled on Mowgli which is a Nepalese restaurant which had wonderful (and very different) food. As we arrived back at the residence we opted to sort out some last minute details before our trip to the bus depot and our classmate headed out to visit at CLV (which we believed to be a pub). As I was posting photos on FaceBook, my travel mate arrived at the door to my room with an ashen face to confess that she'd given the paper with the door code to access the office where the luggage was stored to our classmate as there was a phone number for a cab on the paper. I made a decision in my mind that I had my passport and the luggage could be shipped to me after the holidays as I was getting on the plane in Heathrow tomorrow morning with or without baggage. My travel mate tried frantic combinations of what she thought the number might be and I chuckled afterwards about the staff reviewing the closed circuit footage in the morning of her escapades. A search up and down the street for a pub named CLV was (no surprise) unsuccessful, but we noticed on our way back that an apartment building had CLV on the front and  questioned a smoker outside who admitted it was a student residence. A quick glance at the sign in log revealed her name and the creaky security guard quickly agreed to summons her. Whew, luggage freed, cab to the bus depot and we settled in to wait. There was entertainment in the form of an irate customer berating the night station clerk (who we interviewed to discover was from Gambia, had 3 children and a wife and a brother in North Carolina) repeatedly until the threat of calling 999 was made and he disappeared. A phone call from HR offering me the job share position and giving me 48 hrs to consider before deciding was a nice way to start my journey home. Details on the location when the start date is worked out after the holidays. 

I quickly settled into a nap on the midnight bus and completely missed the trip through the tunnel to Merseyside and across to Chester in Wales, waking only at Birmingham and completely out as we (so I was told) stopped in Oxford, arriving at Heathrow. A nice breakfast, some shopping in the duty free shops and then it was time to board. Lots of turbulence across the pond which didn't prevent me from sleeping (lots of practice), clearing customs in St. Johns and a wait then a short flight to Halifax. Met at the airport and a quick visit with the travel mates family then an uneventful trip home. Arrived to the smell of burnt lobsters and a sleeping spouse who couldn't be awakened to move to the other side of the bed. Welcome home!

Having only four days to prepare for the holidays was enough with the scaled down version we created this year. A family dinner on Saturday night at the in-laws, some house decorations (no tree) put up over the weekend, a trip for some groceries and last minute errands and some family visits. The gifts were downsized this year to donations according to the talents of each of the offspring CUSO (as I couldn't get the website for Electricians Without Borders to work for a donation - next yr.) Teachers Without Borders, Ecology Action Centre (sustainable fishing) and Operation Smile (facial repair surgery) for the nurse. The good feelings and the good work will last for longer than something they could provide for themselves as they're all functioning adults. 

The lobster season here is in full swing and the catches are record breaking - in the first week the shore captain had bought an equal amount of crustaceans as he'd done in the full six month season last year. The boy captain has had incredibly high landings and has purchased a new truck as did his hired man. The addition to the market of the Chinese importer has kept the price up as well as moving a perishable, luxury product. Fingers crossed. 

The shore captain has been up the past two nights at 3 am so is hoping to sleep through tonight. Saturday was a planned rendezvous to retrieve lobsters from a boat arriving during the night and would've gone smoothly except he left early forgetting to shut off the 3 am alarm so I had to pull the plug on the clock, hoping he hadn't woken our grand dog and his parents who were visiting. Last night was a frantic call from fishermen who noticed 'blue smoke' in the bait shed as they picked up their bait for the day and wondered if there was an ammonia leak. No ammonia there, but apparently someone had poured Javex-12 (double strength bleach) onto the floor. So another early morning and chance to go duck hunting by daylight. After a lengthy chat with the electrician brother-in-law who came to check on the heating system settings it was past the shore captains bedtime. They were both warned "it had best be fixed as I pay the power bill" and of the two of them the electrician was (as usual) the most compliant. 

Time to wrap this up and head to bed as I have my research completed and need to begin drafting my paper tomorrow. Plans are to take a short New Years Eve break in the city for supper, a movie and the show at the Grand Parade with fireworks at midnight - look for us on TV with the countdown. Times Square for midnight is on my bucket list but I've got to ease into such grand plans slowly. 


Catch you in 2015…..

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A university student again…..

So, as I leave supper on the stove and wrap the shredded wheat bread for the shore captain…I shall update this blog. The shore captain title is actually a misnomer at least for the first day of the lobster season as he has been press ganged (due to a serious illness of one of the local fishermen requiring immediate and long term treatment in the city) onto a boat. The plan is that he will get the traps set and then have to be ashore buying lobsters at the closer to home buying station (all green staff there this year). I think cloning himself is the only option but what would I do with two of him? I have enough trouble handling one most times. The season has been postponed five days at this point , there is still debate about tomorrow or Saturday being the first day and a conference call for LFA reps is scheduled for 4 pm. I do feel slightly guilty to be leaving him with the busy schedule as I usually keep the home fires burning and really do want to be close with both the boy Captain (and now the senior version) on the water, especially as it is very rough after the past few days of wind. I have warned them both to "BE CAREFUL" and reminded myself this is the way they make their living, whether I am across the pond or not.

The final wrap up in Nunavut was as per the usual routine. I did a handover to a male nurse (farmer up from Saskatchewan) who was learning to be a CHN. While we were getting the STI program sorted out - with all the attendant social dysfunction that unearths he frequently said "wow". Am sure he'll say that a few more times before his contract is over. He'll do just fine. This is the first time in two years that I've left the north without a return date for the next contact as I've been holding out for a health centre with an attached apartment. I have been persistent in my pursuit of the other two regions (at the moment of this writing, still unsuccessful) for such a spot and have ignored the Kitikmeot HR email asking if I want to return to Kugluktuk for Jan/Feb. Not because I have anything agains this placement but I'm not a fan of dressing up in parka, wind pants, mitts, hats, scarf, boots, unplugging the vehicle, warming it up, driving in -55c temperatures to the health centre, unlocking the door, getting out of the winter gear and….on exit, a reverse repeat performance. If I can't find a spot which suits by the end of January, I'll look at NWT as I've paid my $917 RN registration which will allow me to work in either territory.  I have decided I am too old to do things I don't want to, especially if it's just for the money, so will think positively and wait. It actually feels pretty good to say "I'm going to take some time off". 

It was -35c on the afternoon I left and so I'm finding the 'down south' climate very balmy. I flew out with several elders and the premier of the territory Peter Taptuna who had been in the community doing a meet n greet. He nodded but didn't waste energy on me as I clearly wasn't a voter. The flight to Yellowknife was uneventful but the second leg was more of a struggle. Several delays at the gate, over an hour for de-icing and we weren't in to Edmonton until after 10 pm. The baby daughter met me at the terminal (nice to not have to struggle with the shuttle) but most of the meal planning sites had closed by that hour. We had a late supper, short sleepover and she put she back on the plane in the early am. Nice to even have the short visit though. The Air Canada gate clerk was really not nice as I checked in (I'm thinking she didn't pass her customer service exam) and insisted I pay $105 for the third bag so I smiled anyway, put my oversize totes through the baggage and off through security. Uneventful trip to Toronto, short layover there spent in the Maple Leaf Lounge with all the executives heading home on Friday pm and off to Halifax. The flight was actually on time and my booked taxi was waiting but….I arrived with only one action packer and the duffle bag. NOT impressed. Had to file a claim for the bag - did you know that Air Canada has outsourced its call centre to India? Not an easy procedure. Nice visit with my nursing school classmate (who stores my car) and I headed out late for home, arriving by 1:30 am. 

Spent the weekend getting caught up on the news, visiting with friends, running errands and settling in. The Cloud Nine Shuttle arrived with my missing action packer on Saturday pm and was I ever glad to see the other BOGS boot - having one just makes you really cranky when you look at it. So, it's been a busy few days of appointments, lunching with friends, and the Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band concert in the city which was amazing!!!!

So, no photos this posting as I'm out of time due to trying to handle the logistics of an interview with a 7 hr time zone difference…. more on that next update. I am very excited to be a university student again, got good feedback on my pre-course assignment and am looking forward to travelling/studying with my buddy. I am all set to go and have my textbooks in my carry on knapsack because…..I'm flying Air Canada tonight. Updates to follow from Liverpool, UK. A link for you to educate yourselves with:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bed head packing shirt hair

I often end a blog posting with the quote of the day, so instead I'm leading with quotes, 60 of them to put you in a positive frame of mind:


I am in a very positive frame of mind as I hit send on my 16 page pre- course assignment last night and I'm not sure who decided that it was 18 hours of study but I found that a very conservative estimate. I had to go to the clinic last evening and use the computer in the office as I don't have Word on my Mac, just a Text Edit program. Needless to say the alignment was all messed up between the two so I picked at it until 9 pm.  As I walked home in what felt like milder weather as it had moderated from -35 to about -13 c, I noticed that the northern lights (aurora borealis) were putting on a wonderful show for me as the green lights danced over my left shoulder all the way to the apartment. My excuse for not continuing with the readings this evening is that I am first call and don't want to have to leave them and come back. 

And mostly that there's no point in trying to retain anything after a full day of call. We had the usual busy day back after being closed yesterday, drew bloods first thing and there was a full list of regular appointments in the middle of the waiting room of lab patients. I had a few calls, then a few more when people got up just before noontime. The afternoon was well child immunization with its usual screaming plus we do walk in flu shots from 3 - 4:30 pm from now until the vaccine is gone. Planning on getting mine tomorrow so I'll be protected when I go across the pond.  In between this I kept busy with walk ins and calls - a lady called for husband who got tired and took a nap…..okay, thanks for letting me know. One of the flights (Canadian North) flew over  here this afternoon leaving a number of patients booked with medical travel so that was a bit of scrambling. One of my roommates headed home to BC today and was fortunate to be on First Air which did land and take off before the ice fog struck. Just think that'll be catching a First Air flight a week from tomorrow. Ah, tis time. 

The latest smiles on the local front go a bit like this…..the very cute one year old who belongs to the
travel clerk came with her mother to work and even knew how to take a handful of papers and tap the bottom on the desk to line them up. She's a smiley girl and when I patted the back of her head with some frizzy hair, her Mom explained that it was "packing shirt bed head" as she wears her on her back and Emilia naps as she works or the six month old baby with a full head of black hair or "millions of hairs" as one of the clerks referred to it or an overhead page is heard at least once a day saying "sewings for sale, sewings for sale in the lobby" and if you investigate you find someone displaying slippers, wall hangings, decorative zipper pulls, kamiks etc. or the request to "have my tubal out" was a bit disconcerting at first, thinking that someone had written 'informed consent' when the procedure was done and obviously the permanency of the situation had not registered but….when I realized that the slow patient requesting it, surely needed it for that very reason - it made sense or the very cute sixteen month old who came in with a parent and was very taken with one of the class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;">
 'babies' in the waiting room. There is a black one (Femi the Nigerian mental health worker says it's his) and a white one in a display to discourage fetal alcohol syndrome. She insisted on bringing the dolly with her to the office and very carefully picked it up when I made a move towards it. What a good momma she is. Another full day tomorrow and then I'm on call Friday again. Getting into the countdown with only two more first call days left this time around. Almost there. And to close off the work related quotes, here is a link to something we already knew, although it's not an issue here, I'm sure we can all identify at one point in our lives:

The days are certainly getting shorter here as we head into the 24 hours of darkness. Sunrise is at 9:45 am and sunset at 3 pm tomorrow. It feels as if it is time to go home from work as the dusk appears. Some of the more northerly communities are already into the 'no sun' days now. By the time I'm outta here we'll be having only a few hours of light. One more week, one more week. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Welcome Nunavut Baby

So at about the two week mark since the last post, I am ready to update you. I was ready to update you many times before the two week mark but…..northern life got in the way. The eight week contracts take on a rhythm of their own where as you ready to travel in, you don't really want to leave - kind of like looking at the last day off before heading back to the next set of shifts - but once you start packing and actually get going, it's not all that bad. Once you're 'in community' you just settle in and make up your mind to make the best of it and then….. I've found that the third week in of the contract is the longest, where it seems like I've been here a long time and still have a long ways to go - this feeling only lasts for a couple of days and is akin to losing sight of one shore while not being able to view the one I'm headed to. I am past the mid-point marker with only three weeks remaining and as the slide to the finish edges closer, the time seems to speed up. Such is the life of a transient person. 

We had (another) blizzard last week and as we were in day two of what looked like four snow days….we delivered a baby at the health centre. A prenatal (who was booked to travel out the next week) having her fifth baby and was about 35 weeks gestation, slept through the labour and presented herself with regular contraptions about 5 minutes apart and almost fully dilated. I was giving a lady the antibiotics for her chest infection I'd diagnosed, when my roommate appeared at the pharmacy door and said "you're the maternity nurse, we're having a baby, come on" and….away we went to the OBS room. I decided not to share that it had
been at least 20 years since I'd been an OBS nurse. The physician (although only 28 yrs old is one of those wise souls) had delivered about 100 babies and the room was all set up. Now, a blizzard, in a fly in northern community is not where you'd choose to have a premature baby but….this was one of the smoothest and easiest deliveries I have seen and that lusty cry was the most welcome sound! Jakson who must've wanted to be a Nunavut not a NWT baby arrived at 11 am, was a good size, very vigorous and both he and mother were stable. The nicest part was that although it was their fifth child, the father had never been present for a birth (as prenatals wait at least three weeks and deliver - usually alone - in Yellowknife) and Dad was very supportive and emotional. The siblings came with their grandmother an hour or so later and weren't told they had a baby brother - the looks on their little faces when they realized he had arrived was priceless. We called for a medevac that afternoon after he didn't feed well and his sugar dropped and somehow….the pilot landed about 8 pm that evening in just about zero visibility. I couldn't find the door of the plane to drive up to on the runway, the wind took the door of the SUV from my hands and we plowed our way through huge drifts on the way to the health centre with the medevac crew looking out each window to see the edge of the road. As I returned them to the airport and the flight nurse took ahold of that mother to help her walk across the polished ice surface with a premie in a Snuggli under her parka, I found myself getting emotional. I struggled over
loading equipment 
to the door of the King Air where the pilots were arranging equipment in the cramped cabin with the flight paramedic as the wind whipped snowflakes into my face, stinging my cheeks and making me squint and said "I want you to know how much we all appreciate the fact that you made this flight tonight"walking quickly away as my voice faltered. As I beat my way back through the walls of drifts, fishtailing on the slick icy roads, peering out through the frosty windshield hoping I was still on the road, I though of the wild ride for crew, mother and child on their way to Yellowknife. 

5 pm sunset towards the airport
It's well and truly winter now and the snow machines are out in full force. Still a few Hondas around as they'll still start, but the roar of skidoos is the predominant sound. Very disconcerting when you're first call to see and hear them whipping by. As I was walking home from the store the other day, the smell of snow machine exhaust from two that passed me caused me to feel 23 yrs old on the back of ourskidoo in Labrador. Smell is such an evocative sense isn't it? I went for a walk after work tonight (clearing my mind after wild child afternoon aka well baby immunization clinic) and the 5 pm sunset was beautiful, even at -16c with the wind chill. 

One of the good things about working in a more relaxed northern setting is laughing WAY more than in a traditional 'southern' workplace. For example, as the A/SHP (acting nurse in charge) and I were standing outside the pharmacy door, one of the local staff approached to say there was a lady wanting something. We both heard "she wants some NIX for her knees" and responded in unison "What? Nix goes on your head!" but Edith clarified "NO, she wants some NIX for her niece". Nix of course being the treatment for head lice. The Mental Health Worker was explaining that he led with the things no one wants to talk about "hi I'm Femi, I'm 55 years old and I weight 220lb. now that we've got that out of the way we can get along". I explained that I wasn't telling anyone how much I weighed, but my age wasn't a problem. I am the STI (sexually transmitted infections) nurse - meaning I'm supposed to be testing, treating, tracking down contacts then doing test of cures. I was discouraged to find last week that there were enough new cases of STIs that I would need to take my socks off to count them, couldn't just use my fingers. There were several cases of 'the immaculate chlamydia' where married couples each named only the other partner as their sole contact…..ummmm I don't think so. On Monday, when I was first call (the health centre is closed for lunch and first call nurse puts on the answering machine and takes the cell phone home) I received an emergency call wondering if anyone wanted to buy sealskin kamiks. A coworker had a call from a rather slow person who babysits and she was describing the child's sore throat, when she was told to "come in to the health centre" she said "should I bring her?" Ummm yes I think so as she's the one you're calling about. It's not all fun and games as I got 1 hour and 45 minutes of sleep (not consecutively either) on Thursday night and had to work the following day. Mind you, Rosie the CHR (community health representative) often makes us bannock fried in a cast iron frying pan and served warm with jam at the end of the week and so we've come to look forward to Bannock Fridays. 

We of course, as any employees do, look forward to paydays, especially those of us who haven't received a direct deposit since July. I am never impressed when I see the amount of income tax deducted but if I'm doing well enough to have that bother me…..it's a first world problem. We have been working short so with fewer nurses the call is closer together and it's been fairly busy so... lucrative. Next week with additional nurses arriving we'll be down to one in five. Since we're on the topic of the filthy lucre I should mention that I was casting about for various employment options and discovered that the agency nurses are paid according to the size of the health centre + a standard per diem. This translates to $650/day for a CHN in a two nurse centre, $620/3 nurses and $590/5 nurses per 24 hr shift (callbacks aren't compensated) which is comparable to the $600/day which my ACP (advanced care paramedic) buddy earns on contract in the oilfields. I have at times considered doing OHN work there as it sounds equally lucrative. I have applied for an 8 wk job share position in a small (140 souls) hamlet in NWT but am not sure if I'll go through with the process as a colleague tells me the pay will be about half of what I'm earning now. And speaking of money and contacts…. my roommate committed to a 9 wk contract over Christmas and her hubby (who was going to join her for 2 wks) can't get Aeroplan flights in - would cost over $4000 to get in and out from Ottawa. I haven't dared ask what their plans are. I know her long term plans include working in remote BC locations vs coming back here. 

It's not as if I am without non work activities to fill my time. As I mentioned to my roommate today "your knitting is coming right along" and she replied "about the same as your crocheting". Meaning neither of the projects had been handled in any way except to move them from one side of the coffee table to the other. I did read a book I found in the nightstand entitled My Mountie and Me which was not even a long publication and have made a thank you card from my scrapbook supplies but….only one. 

I am at present procrastinating from doing my pre-course assignment for the Diploma of Tropical Nursing course that I'm attending in about a month. The multiple pages of the over one dozen readings (381 page books, 165 page PDF documents and 18 page articles for example) are barely begun. One additional chore will be learning to use the Harvard referencing system, which in all the studies I've done is not one I've used (of course). I was eating my lunch and reading about worm burden (only a nurse can write that truthfully) this weekend and realized….this is a LOT of work….what was I thinking? I am using flash cards I've created with the various worm names on the front and I am sure there will be lots of discussion about EVD (ebola virus disease) in Liverpool as many of the lecturers at the LSTMH work in the field in Africa. I have decided as I watch events unfolding in the media that fear-bola is worse than ebola itself. I've tried to review a couple of webinars but those will have to wait until I'm in a location with more bandwidth. I ordered the two course textbooks from Amazon and they should be delivered this week at home. I did however register online for the University of Liverpool and uploaded a photo - likely will look like one of those distorted mirror shots by the time they get in on an ID tag. I am not concerned. My roommate was looking at photos of fruit in a third world food market and I told her the rule is….peel it, cook it or forget it….and she said "the lettuce looks great" and I screamed "lettuce and sprouts are THE worst" and she sighed and pronounced "this course is really twisting your mind". Now that I'm not arguing with. 

The physician, her husband (who has been substitute teaching here) and their dog flew out today. They'll be back here in February for another locum but we already miss her. One of those great Dr. you not only trust but like and yes you can have various combinations of those two descriptors. When the little guy we delivered arrived for his well baby checkup as he was home from Yellowknife yesterday she had us take her photo with him.  Nice to have someone like that be on the other end of the phone when you have to call for help. 

So….I must get my act together and read another article as tonight I'm not on call and the days are slipping away. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Snow machine season

Hello? hello? Can you hear me down south from up here in the great white north? Oh good, then let me fill you in on the past 20 days. As you have deduced….I have arrived in Kugluktuk and am all settled in. Well, as settled in as a transient person can hope to be. It's been a busy start of up most of the night on calls, extended waits for a medevac flight, long weekend days of call after call and frantic clinic days. 

Sharing a chair
Started out with a gastro bug that went through the community and although I'm almost certain it wasn't noro virus, just a regular tummy bug, there was a LOT of drama. As in….falling on the floor screaming in front of the front desk, being found lying on the floor of the entryway to the health centre, groaning so loudly that office doors must be shut to hear answers to assessment questions, yelling "I need an IV" and then further questioning shows they vomited once four hours ago. There were votes by nursing staff as to who should be awarded Oscars for the best performances. Since the gastro bug has moved on, we are now seeing lots of respiratory symptoms. Colds and coughs with those who think they have pneumonia (usually the smokers) or the frequent flyers who don't hesitate to come see a nurse (most often outside of regular clinic hours) with a VERY well child - the one running up and down the halls with the other kid who is waiting for the dentist, or the one tearing your office apart. Often this happy, smiling, squealing child morphs into….evil kidlet. Screaming, lying on the floor or running around the office, clamping two hands over their mouth (they already know where you're going to examine) requiring both parents to wrestle them into a partially submissive state while you attempt to see eardrums and tonsils on a moving target. And don't get me started as to how you auscultate breath sounds in such a situation. These two lads above were very cooperative but they were just hanging out with someone else, not actually needing to see the nurse. 

Have had a run on human bites (very nasty) which have required aggressive antibiotic treatment, some opening of wounds to explore and some partial closing of a large deep one - had to get the Doc up one night to put an upper lip back together as it was a full thickness (through to the inside lining of the mouth) 3 cm x 2.5 cm ragged gash - have never seen a human bite like that in my 40 yrs of nursing. Apparently teeth have become the weapon of choice. I'm purposely not including in the stats the four toddler boy victims who came in over the past two weeks from the preschool - I'm thinking the female biter has been dealt with (root cause analysis) so the visits have ceased. 

I'm the STI (sexually transmitted infection) nurse here this contract and it's a busy portfolio. I knew that from my previous gig last year and still switched for it with my roommie - better the devil you know…There is a three inch binder of two page forms in a community of 1420 souls since……July. We should just test everyone at every visit. It does help that I enjoy doing family tree work when you're doing contact tracing. You can tell if someone is frequently treated if they say "where are the pink pills?" referring to the zithromax which from another supplier is now issued in white. Hmmm, I thought that too when I opened the bottle but wait…..you're not a nurse! I am determined to get a handle on the status of the program - who tested positive? is the treatment and contact tracing done? have they had test of cure after 4 wks? are the reports / results faxed to the communicable disease coordinator? STIs are reportable and syphillis is making a comeback. Clearing using a small shovel to put out a fire but just stacking the lab reports in a pile (as I found them upon arrival) is not helping. I find that I do remember some people from my last time here - that is not usually a good thing as it means they were either sick, badly behaved or both. 

A lot of the frustrations are mediated by having a good roommate - my demographics - who describes herself as  "it's not my first rodeo". She's worked north since 2001, has a wealth of experience and has been in this community multiple times, so is a great resource. She also has a pretty wicked sense of humour, great work ethic and a good deal of common sense. Lots of organization needed here as it's a pretty jumbled spot but with an experienced team of nurses we're making some headway. We're not exactly twins though as she is a vegan and is now eating some kind of weird Gwenyth Paltrow regime to fit in to a very form fitting dress she bought for renewal of vows ceremony in Bahamas in December. Myself, I am of the school of thought that if you promised 'till death do us part' once, it doesn't come with an expiry date. Mind you, they've been through a lot the past two years as her hubby is a cancer survivor and this was a promise. Her husband had post op complications and put their small dog in the kennel and it was mauled by a bigger dog, had to have emergency vet care with IVs, x-rays, exploratory of wounds, antibiotics etc (which the other dog owner paid for) and he is taking home tomorrow. So an upsetting week for her. 

I walked home tonight from work with big snowflakes softly falling and
6 pm walk home
snowmobiles whizzing by and realized that the snow which came the end of September will be here until May. Snapped a photo of a little cutie in a parka her Grannie made her. We are slipping into darkness as the 24 hr. night approaches 
and today we were an hour later in the morning getting light than NS and were dark half an hour earlier. We have been weathered a few days and had a 24 hr. delay for a medevac flight (14 mo old who swallowed a lithium battery into his esophagus 24 hrs before the mother casually mentioned it to the nurse at a appointment for herself) so we were thrilled when they finally arrived. I stopped at The Northern and gave in and bought parmesan cheese. I have searched several times through all my bags and have never found the container of it I bought in NS, packed into an action packer and zip tied / duct taped securely in. The life partner saw me pack it, although he did graciously look at home when I asked. I think it entered a Bermuda triangle somewhere. 

Had a brief chat with my tropical nursing course classmate as she has decided to rent a vehicle for the first two weeks of our UK adventure - I told her that she was in charge of the social arrangements and I will contribute my half.  Trips to Cambridge, Oxford and Leeds fill the weekends and we have the Beatles Museum and some pub visits on the agenda. So many choices, so little time. We heard from the accommodations in Liverpool that we can stay for the three weeks for a total of $665 Cdn in a residence with private room and shared kitchen / bath i.e. nurses residence which is a two min. walk from class. Less than six weeks now, so getting excited. Or at least I was until I opened the email LSTMH sent today with the pre course assignment (16 pages of instructions). We have a month to get it done. I will start tomorrow……perhaps. 

When my travel classmate asked how long I was home for I explained that I arrived (hopefully with weather etc) on November 21st and we leave for England on Nov 27th but….I am going to the Bob Seeger concert in the city on November 24th with a buddy (first day of lobstering so no music for the shore captain). She said "oh don't tell them in England about Bob Seeger they won't think you're cool". As if they would anyway? Made me giggle. 

Am closing with a photo of the Heritage Visitors Center which is shaped like an ulu (women's knife) and houses some exhibits. The link below is a great local resource. Will attempt to to get in there before I leave. So, you're all caught up to date and I'm heading to la la land.  


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Across the pond

Well, Sunday was the full day session for the writing group I sometimes manage to hang out with but….being realistic there weren't enough hours in the day (or days in the week) to cover all the to - do list for the six 'at home' days in between Europe and Nunavut. Or as a former safety officer colleague used to say in his French Acadian accent "you can't put ten pounds in a five pound mesh bag". So….I shall update the blog as my 'writing exercise' this afternoon. 

The past week the critters in their fur coats and I in my fuzzy sweater and socks sat in patches of sun streaming through the living room windows, the interior temperature was a balmy 65 F (or for those inclined to metric 18 c) which is not freezing but lower than the usual 22 c we enjoy, you can deduce that NO the shore captain had not gotten the hot water heater replaced. To recap - we have a R2000 house with super insulation which is heated by circulating warm hot water through pipes in the concrete floor. The warm water is heated by two energy efficient hot water heaters and is our primary source of heat although we have a propane fireplace for power outages and shoulder seasons when it's too warm to 'turn the heat on'.  While I was away working last May the two visiting dog walkers mentioned water on the floor in the mudroom and reported it to the occupant. When I questioned him on a video chat as to the significance of this event he stated "I took care of it". I discovered in August when the domestic hot water heating tank leaked as well (all three heaters were purchased at the same time of course) and that was quite a saga of several weeks of leaking, wet dirty towels, attempts to purchase an energy efficient replacement which would fit in the closet in the mud room etc that 'taking care of it' meant draining it and shutting it off as the heating season was over until the fall. Well…..autumn is here. So every day he picked up more pipe / tools and each evening there was muttering, banging and mess made - I did put my foot down at the use of the blow torch inside and sent him out on the steps with that - but still no success. He actually spoke of calling a plumber on Monday - I was shocked! But after all that,…..it's working. Plumbing issues are at the root of divorce or worse I am sure. 

In reviewing the summer's postings it appears as if the blog is in danger of becoming a travel blog - a hazard of blogging by a transient person it seems. I spent most of the weekend unpacking from our 'across the pond' vacation and organizing and packing for flying out to my next contract. It was a bit more challenging this time to sort/pack as I wasn't able to store my northern stuff in the community i've been working in as a husband and wife team were hired full-time there this month so I will be working in Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine) where I did a contract in the spring of 2013. It's a bit larger, so more staff (less on call, less responsibility pay and less northern allowance) so not as lucrative, more southern issues  as it's closer to Yellowknife and the government housing is spread throughout the community so this means no 14 stair commute to work. But it will finance my trip to the tropical nursing diploma in December so I'm adjusting my back to work attitude. Since I don't enjoy panic packing at the last minute I packed everything (except the food which was purchased last and stuffed into the two action packers) into the duffle bag and knapsack - think eight week remote camping trip with uniforms and reference books. Since I'll be staying until November 20th I have to drag along my Canada Goose parka and LL Bean snow pants as it'll be 24 hours of darkness and cold by then. It's snowing there today at -3c . But enough talk of that W word. 

To recap our three weeks in Europe without being one of those tedious armchair travellers who yang on about their trip, I shall summarize as follows:

Overnight flight to London, wandering from Terminal 1 to Terminal 1 in Heathrow in the early morning, a pricey airport breakfast of bubbles and squeak and dramatic people watching at the TAP (Portugal's airline) gate with a full flight and restrictions on carry on bags. The life partner and I were seated about 11 rows apart (so no one even discuss this with) and as we were nose down on final approach to Lisbon airport at about 800 metres, we suddenly pulled straight up and with major G forces climbed back to cruising altitude heading away from Lisbon. Absolute silence on the plane then a few murmurs, worried looking flight attendants and no announcements. After what seemed like hours there was a lengthy Portuguese announcement of the situation followed by the English version which explained that as we were to land there'd been an emergency event involving two planes with fuel present on the runway and so we were diverting to Porto. When the seat belt sign went off I made my way up to the travel partner (turns out there was an empty seat next to him) to ask "where is Porto?" we decided it was north and we would simply rent a car there or try to find a flight to Faro for the Algarve the next day. Smooth landing in Porto, had to sit in your seat with your seatbelt unfastened (international law according to the flight attendant announcement) while the plane was refuelled, and we headed back for another try at Lisbon. Smooth landing there - thank you to the pilot for his great work as we departed - and the luggage had made it from NS so just a bit of a delay. 

Picked up the rental car - yes to the GPS and the chip for the toll roads - and we were off in
Pousada de Palmela
our little Leon to find Palmela. The roundabouts with rush hour traffic were not a good start but we were soon across the bridge and out on the Portuguese Autobahn where driving 140 km meant you were being passed by a stream of traffic. We had planned a short leg to the first night accounting for sleep deprivation and jet lag and so were thrilled to find the town in about 45 minutes. You can see the castello (castle) across the countryside as a landmark. We checked in to the Pousada (former monastery) and headed over to a newly opened tapas bar for a Portugese supper. A bottle of local red wine, local delicacies and great atmosphere were just the way to start our vacation off. We wandered our way back to the castle and crashed. The morning sun streaming in;
cork trees by the roadside
through the open shutters past the stone walls was our wake up call. A wonderful buffet breakfast and programming the GPS we were off to explore. We made out way through the hills to Sines (coastal town) to check out the wharves, fish plants and gear (of course) but also the markets, narrow cobblestone alleys and beaches. A late afternoon lunch at a family run roadside BBQ restaurant which was delicious! Through mountainous roads with breathtaking views, lots of cork trees and truckloads of harvested product being transported, a stop for some provisions for the apartment an finally out to the Algarve. We
discovered that Albufiera is NOT a sleepy little fishing village but a huge bustling tourist strip and so had to have some assistance with directions to find the resort but made it by 5 pm. 

Castello de Silves
Alfagar Village is a large family resort and we had a third floor balcony 1 bedroom suite. Pools, grocery store, restaurants, beach and lovely grounds - a great spot to use as home base to explore from. We ventured out on day trips to do a wine tasting outside of Estombar, visit a castle in Silves, drive in the mountains, visit Sagres, Portimao and other coastal towns and returned to veg out by the pool in the extended summer we enjoyed as it was sunny and warm every day - just a few sprinkles on the windshield during the early morning drive to Lisbon airport. 

Lisbon airport is very chaotic and we realized after several attempts that Air France tags your luggage at check in (not through kiosks) but finally were free with only knapsacks to have Portuguese breakfast pastries and await boarding. We flew through Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris and it's a very futuristic terminal with wi-fi and wine. A second short flight to Venice and we were soon landing over sea level islands at sunset. We decided against a private water taxi at 150 euros and instead opted for the vaporetto (public water taxi) at 15 each. A wait at the pier and we were soon making our way past the islands, other watercraft and even a swan in the dark before being deposited at Gugli stop in the Canareggio district (Jewish Ghetto) . When considering finding our hotel and making our way to the cruise port we had been concerned that we'd look ridiculous dragging luggage across the city, however there were so many doing so that we'd have look odd if we hadn't. We made our way past canal side cafes of people getting supper, stalls of masks and other trinkets, shop windows of jewelry, lots of Venicians strolling with their small dogs, and then up and over a bridge and
Sunday morning in Venice
across a square where we happened upon the street we were looking for with Hotel Guerrini. Great staff, immaculate rooms, free wi-fi and breakfast and a recommendation for a pizza shop for supper with a discount. What is not to like? Had a wonderful meal of antipasto, pizza and red wine and ambled back to crash. Sunday morning we awoke to church bells, cafes serving breakfast in the square and all that Venice had to offer. After a great hotel buffet, check of email and final prep for the cruise we made our way to the terminal via the People Mover train. We were deposited at the terminal and made our way to the MSC check in.

The MSC Fantasia is very swishy, extremely clean, has wonderful food and is…..very European. Most of the passengers were Italian, although passengers could embark/disembark at every port in staggered schedules as opposed to one departure port. Lots of families, many screaming children and top volume conversations - the buffet was particularly chaotic. We had a wonderful cabin steward from Indonesia who even tied the shore captain's tie in a very elaborate knot for him on formal night and our Head Waiter from Honduras was top notch. However, for the most part the staff appeared harried and disinterested, for ex. when returning from a port call we would make it all the way back to our cabin (through boarding, security, hallways, elevators and stairs) meeting various staff without being acknowledged or spoken to - as opposed to other cruise lines where you're told "welcome back, how was your day?" with broad smiles by every crew member you encounter.  We tried the speciality restaurant and it was an epic fail - expensive, food wasn't particularly good and the service was slow. The itinerary was very busy with a port of call each day and so we enjoyed our balcony before and after ports. Would we sail with MSC again? Will have to think about that and get back to you. 

Bari, Italy was a wonderful historic northern Italian city in the Puglia region. We strolled the cobblestone streets, visited the cathedrals and fort and had wonderful bruschetta and rose at the Knights of the Templar Cafe. Katakolon was the port for Olympus and it was a charming seaside town of about 500 residents, we took a shuttle bus to Olympia and toured the site of the first Olympic games and the museum - both over whelming in their antiquity and the heat - 34 c that day. A bit of shopping in Katakolon before heading back onboard. Santorini was a tendered stop and we did an excursion here so were transported by private boat to the shore and up winding mountain roads by an excellent bus driver. Our guide took us to a Minoan site (Akrotiri) much like Pompeii where the settlement was buried in volcanic ash and
preserved, then we stopped at Oia and Thera for some wandering and shopping. Santorini is extremely beautiful but filled with tourists so perhaps if you could escape the crowds….We also did an excursion in Athens with a wonderful guide and were taken to visit the only outdoor theatre made of marble then through the city to the Acropolis. We climbed the hill and I reinacted my school trip of 1972 where I managed to get some photos to match those of 42 years ago. In comparison Athens has expanded but has less smog, there has been more reconstruction done of the Acropolis and we were able to sit on the steps of the Parthenon decades ago. We visited the new Acropolis Museum which made us feel quite uneducated in our Greek history. A bit of shopping and back to the ship to decompress. Corfu was an attractive historic port city, very touristy and crowded, but we did enjoy a nice lunch of Greek food. Dubrovnik in Croatia was a beautiful stop, even though it rained as we began and ended our visit it would be a wonderful spot to spend a week or so. The walled city with its white stucco buildings and red tiled roofs next to the ocean is breath taking. Lots of cathedrals and markets in the narrow winding alleys and friendly, helpful locals and cheap prices. Still very immediate signs of the war in 1991-92 with craters in some of the columns and many of the roofs replaced. 

Back to Venice and a wonderful trip up through the city to the cruise port at sunrise. An orderly disembarkation, retrieval of luggage and over to the vaporetto for a trip to our San Marco hotel where we stored our bags and wandered as tourists. Stopped at a cafeteria for some lunch and met two ladies from Vienna on a tour, then took in the Doge Palace in all its splendour and finally did a prix fixee supper at a cafe on the edge of St. Marks square which was reasonably priced and good (neither is assured in Venice) before stumbling back to our hotel. Took a trip to Muarano and watched glass being blown, invested in some art and jewelry, wandered the colourful and less busy island and then caught the water taxi to Burano. This island is known for its textile industry and is even less crowded. We had a great lunch of pizza at a small cafe and shopped a bit. Took the vaporetta to Torcello which was
Murano glass blowing
very quiet with some cathedrals and retraced our steps back to St. Marks through a series of stops on our 12 hr. ticket - fantastic way to see Venice. Topped the day off with an over the top supper - will have to call it a birthday celebration to justify it - in a wonderful outdoor cafe. Our final day was spent having a gondola ride which was very relaxing, some might say even romantic and touring the Correo Museum to get ourselves straight on ALL the history. We finished up the day with a lovely supper at Aqua Pizza where we sat next to a couple from Florida. As I mentioned flying Air France back to Lisbon he said "Air France is on strike" and so as we sighed, made our way back to the hotel and searched for flights. We found a one way business class flight for double the cost of the return flight over. What could we do? 

Business class on TAP isn't as swishy as with Air Canada but at least we had seats. Chatted with a nice lady from Grand Cayman who was extensively top drawer travelled and heading for a Douro River cruise and Lisbon tour. In to Lisbon, finally sourced a cab and over to the Oriente Olissipo which is a very futuristic business hotel. Expedia came through again. Dropped the bags and out to explore the area a bit. Walked down to the aquarium, have to leave the interior for another visit but wandered through the fountain, paths and over to the cable car. Saw a lot of the skyline through the glass surround of the peaceful glide. Wandered along the waterfront and found a Brazilian steak house where we sourced supper - great buffet, seafood tray plus never ending cuts of meats - a carnivores happy place. We wandered back to the hotel and collapsed, awakening to a before 5 am alarm for check out and cab ride to the airport. The expected Lisbon airport confusion, unable to check in from the kiosk either, wait in several lines, told to go to check in, barred from the agent by a very self important 'little man' in a vest which read Check In Assistance who insisted that the kiosk be used. This obstacle was overcome by the old nurse firm voice insisting we WILL see an agent and finally dismissed with a frustrated wave of the hand. Nice check in agent (from Madeira) who checked us through to Canada, through security then fresh squeezed orange juice from the cafe and we're off. 

A rather uneventful (whew) flight from Lisbon to London. We enjoyed Terminal 2 (Queens Terminal) which had opened after we spent about 45 minutes making our way from Terminal 1 to 2 along moving sidewalks, up and down steep escalators and walking, walking. Some naps, movies and reading and we have arrived. I am not a city person but faced with that three hour drive after a long flight does make me envious of the locals. The sleep schedule was messed up with all the time zone changes an I found myself awake at 5:30 am and doing laundry - kind of frightened myself really, being up at that hour and not being paid for it. 

The final few days at home flew by in a rush of appointments (the Dr wasn't there after I drove an hour to the appointment which had been cancelled, I got my glasses adjusted and they put the lenses back right for left so I had to drive 45 min. each way to get them to fix it, nothing worked with all my last minute errands as what should've taken 2 hrs took 7 - yes, yes first world problems), unexpected visit of the oldest daughter, dog walks, helped a buddy with her project as she works her way through a course, ladies day trip and supper at German friends then with the summer neighbours. So an enjoyable but busy send off. Up at 2 am, drive to drop off the car, meet the taxi, to the airport, drag those heavy bags to be scanned and finally the departure gate. The flight is overbooked, tensions running high and we are off. Nap to Toronto, short stop at Pearson and off to Edmonton, more naps and reading and we're down and all 200 lbs of my luggage has arrived with me. Summon the shuttle, store the tote pans in the hotel cooler, check in for tomorrow's flight, a short walk and now time for supper. An early bedtime as the 6 am shuttle is booked for the flight to Yellowknife then on to Kugluktuk and……work. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Animal days of August

Cats in relaxing mode
Dog days of August
A beautiful sunny, breezy afternoon at the beach house so the animals and this human are living in the moment. Cool tiles under foot in the veranda and the million dollar view. ahhh. But enough bragging from a semi retired soul. It's been a while since an update but that doesn't mean I have nothing to report, simply that I've been enjoying the brief maritime summer to the fullest. DId you know that I've been able to enjoy wild raspberries, blueberries and blackberries  as I walked down the driveway this week from retrieving the newspaper? 

Three of us enjoyed the Magic Winery Bus Tour and yes, it did live up to it's advertisements. We had an uneventful drive to Wolfville and caught the 10:30 departure and wandered our way back to the Blomidon Inn after 4 pm so a full and fun day. Certainly well worth the ticket and we were joined by some other semi retired local nurses with a connection to one of our party, making us five in total who managed to climb our way to the top of the double decker bus all day. Of the four wineries we visited, the consensus was that Gaspereau was the most fun, generous and had the best buys,  Grand Pre was the least to our taste and a bit uppity, we enjoyed the tour and staff at l'Acadie but only found one vintage drinkable and Lucketts was as one would expect from entrepreneur Pete Luckett. - a beautiful view of the valley, great restaurant for lunch, a phone booth in the vineyard and lots of fun staff. The bus tour provided more talks and perks than just arriving by yourself and it was a great way to spend the day. We were back at the inn and able to enjoy afternoon tea, shop at their very unique gift shop and settle in to our expansive suite before the rain began. Downtown Wolfville offers a number of culinary experiences and we chose The Naked Crepe, making it take out and settling in to our cozy suite to enjoy a donair and a chicken cordon bleu as main courses and fresh lemon curd and whipped cream dessert crepes. Yum. A great snooze and up in the morning for the full breakfast as provided by the inn and pleasant drive home. 

This same trio enjoyed a day trip to Lunenburg and visited the market on Thursday. No better spot than a German based community to source some homemade sausages which were delicious. Lots of peasant skirts, long hair and the left over hippies that go with them. Beautiful crafts and the opportunity to enjoy a tasty lunch - my companions enjoying curries as I opted for a sausage roll followed by lasagne. Yum. 

We have enjoyed a multitude of great meals these past few weeks and have considered entitling ourselves BBQs R Us as we hosted a yummy surf and turf (lobster rolls and ribs) and then a family get together which has become an annual celebration of my baby sister's August birthday. The menu is simple - potato salad, burgers and hotdogs with Dan's ice cream cake for dessert. It is an opportunity to visit not only with my sister and brother-in-law but with my nieces, their husbands and the great nieces and nephew (they line up in approximately the same ages as our own offspring and it's a trip down memory lane to our past as well as how much those two oldest great nieces resemble their mommas at the same age). Good times, good times. 

Did the his & hers eye exam / new glasses routine recently and picked out black rimmed frames and then tortoiseshell frames for my sunglasses - very retro and they are more comfortable and larger for the bifocals. Have finished both No Great Mischief (Alister MacLeod) which for some reason I'd never read and The Sentimentalist (Johanna Skibsrud) this past week and they were both wonderful but slightly disturbing readsStarting Under this Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell now. 

Was also disturbed to chat with a friend and discover that Moe (their lab who is the age of Pete the grand dog) had a traumatic experience. Apparently while out being walked in the morning with another (visiting) dog, the two disappeared through a path and….couldn't be located. Apparently they had been picked up by animal control and taken to the SPCA about an hour away which wasn't open until 11 am the next day. When retrieved poor Moe was dehydrated, had forgotten all his training and only wanted to sit on laps. Happy ending at least. 

And somehow not nearly as disturbing as this article about blind gunmen - yep, the kind with guide dogs:

Does anyone see a problem with this? I thought so. 

As well as an article (clearly written by a creative person from the sounds) about clutter and creativity:

Had some back and forth emails today with work as they attempted to slip by me a day earlier departure - no thanks, only a few days back from Europe - and have finally settled on the original date (I think as no final e-ticket has appeared yet) with the early leave I appreciate to give me time in Edmonton to enjoy daughter visits. The oldest is on the move to North Battleford and will be the downstairs neighbour to her baby sister. They will both get to hang out with their father who is travelling to Saskatchewan on his AirMiles the first week of October to see his girls and watch a Roughriders game, then hunt geese with his buddy in Prince Albert. Considering families, creativity and messiness I came across this table above describing birth order and I can assure you that the shore captain (oldest of five) is neither on time or organized but….the others all fit him perfectly, even he had to admit. 

So as I surfed the net researching ebola and other tropical afflictions I read an ad in the NEJM for a "nocturnist" which turns out to be a Dr who does 1 wk of nights (7 pm to 7 am) a week off and 1 week of evenings (4 pm to midnight) which allows for overlap on the busy evenings - then a week off and repeat. Never thought of myself as being described as a nocturnist but if the shoe fits….

On tomorrow's agenda is the intrepid trio's day trip to Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle Ecosse in Lower West Pubnico. Although it's only a half hour drive from us, I've never been. A number of my nursing school classmates were Acadien and the teacher daughter of course studied en francais so time to make a visit and travel back in time.  And yes, I'm having rappie pie for lunch in the cafeteria - it's an acquired test and I acquired it in the mid 70s when classmates would bring me back some on their weekend visits home to the Pubnicos - there's Pubnico Head, Upper East, East and Lower East Pubnico, Upper West, West and Lower West Pubnico , well you get the drift - there are 15 Pubnicos named. Rapure or rappie pie is grated potatoes with some meat in a broth, gluey base baked to a crusty top - as I said…an acquired taste so…I'm going to acquire some. A review of the village here:

Found a link from some travel writers about the town where the Nova Star ferry links Portand Maine to Nova Scotia, there has been a real resurgence in tourism in the area which is great to see:

Thinking of travel, I got as far as making a packing list this morning for Europe, have to ease into such things. Will be on the move a bit so keeping the bags to a minimum even with the cruise which requires some dress up - we won't look as classy as all those Europeans anyway so aren't going to try but…don't want to stick out too badly. Always dreaming of travel, here is a link to Greenland which is on the bucket list:

Gotta keep dreaming, but first the kitchen has cooled enough to make shredded wheat bread. Later