Sunday, February 04, 2007

Australia Update #8: Monday, January 29 and Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Australia Update #8
Monday, January 29, 2007

Greetings from somewhere over The International Date Line at 35,000 ft. "It's 5 O'clock somewhere" so I am having some wine courtesy of United Airlines. I am 5 hours into a 14 hour jaunt! I am trying to stay awake – but really don't know why!!

I really enjoyed my weekend in Brisbane after coming out of Cherbourg on Friday afternoon. It was a holiday – Australia Day – so there was ONE bus out and I made sure I was on it. A few of the folks stayed until Saturday, but we were free to go because of the holiday, so I up and went! A shower – AC – massage – and good food were never so welcome. I hooked up with Hoppy's cousin Terry on Saturday for "a coffee" and it was fun to meet him briefly. He had just come back into town from some business in another Aboriginal community "up North" so it was interesting to share stories.

The last day in Brisbane venturing to Lady Elliot Island on the Southern end of The Great Barrier Reef was long: 6AM – 7PM, but well worth the trip. It is an amazing place. Even though the island itself was dry and most of the vegetation was brown due to the extreme drought, it was really interesting to see what the Reef was like and the snorkeling was fantastic. Basically, it is an outcropping of the reef and a big coral rock pile. I even got to see a "Steve Irwin Ray" but kept my distance!

The guide Marty was great and there were only a couple of us – plus a couple from the UK and their "bratty" kids. He loved the excuse to take me back to the water after lunch (plus Champagne!) to get away from the kids who just wanted to swim in the pool. We went to one spot off the island and saw some awesome HUGE turtles – who were quite curious and swam right up to us and gave us an eyeball!! They were in close to shore as it was egg laying time on the beach.

I returned to the hotel after my excursion for a last supper. The weather had broken and a cool front came through so my final evening dining on the River was outstanding – a river breeze - temps in the upper 70's and low humidity for a change – though it was not supposed to last. My last meal is worth describing: Grilled oysters (nice little small ones) in Worcester Sauce and bacon, Gigantic Shrimp Scampi fresh veggies and the desert!!! Sliced mangoes grilled in brown sugar , coconut and served with Guava & Passion Fruit ice cream!!! Ouch!!! What a nice way to end an adventure. By the way, I FOUND MY GREY GOOSE!!! – after all this time….. on the last night! Better late than never.

Today, Monday, Jan 29, began early and was promising to be a marathon with a departure from Brisbane to Sydney. Then it was on to SFO. I left Sydney at 3:00PM on Monday afternoon and am scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning – MONDAY AGAIN at 9:30 AM. I guess that makes up for the Wednesday that I lost on the way over. I am not sure what to set my watch to – so I hope I make my connection in SFO back to Portland. I will post this from Portland – whenever I get there.

Wednesday – Jan 31

I have surfaced at The Heathman Hotel in Portland after 48 hours of blurr!! The remaining flight to SFO and on to Portland was uneventful except spending 2 hours going through Customs and Security to get into the country and another hour getting on the domestic flight to Portland. It is sunny and 45-50d here and am delighted not to sweating my pants off anymore. My body still is not quite sure what time it is – awake at 3AM primed for coffee and eggs!! But it is getting better. This morning I was able to go back to sleep until 8AM – progress.

Andrew and I were going to try to go to the Blazers game last night but I knew I would probably sleep though the second half – damn they won too!! Andrew has informed the Sales Manager at Land Rover Portland that they are going to have an "honorary" salesman at the dealership tomorrow afternoon! Hmmm look like I will be able to test drive the new model LR2!! Test track???

We are having dinner Friday evening with Marty Lemke and family. She was the Team Leader for my Cook Island Trip and I looking forward to catching up with her and telling her of my Aussie exploits. Over the weekend – it's off-road time!! We are planning a trip over to the Coast – Tilimook State Forest for some Rovering with a bunch of our old PCRC (Pacific Coast Rover Club) friends. I haven't seen them since I was out here last September. It very well might be a mud fest with some snow at the higher elevations as the wet weather is supposed to return. Oh well – what are Land Rovers for! Andrew's work on our 1949 Series I – Winston – is coming along nicely – A great addition to our "fleet"! (photo included in case you haven't seen it!)

The Cuppa Murri:

Well it was a final "feast" with all the trimmings. A BIG pit was dug and fire started in the morning to heat up the river rocks for cooking. Huge sides of pork - roasting chickens – legs of lamb had been marinated in honey – garlic – ginger and soy sauce etc. and wrapped in foil ( 3 LARGE size garbage cans full)- along with potatoes – pumpkins – squash – sweet potatoes etc. Everything was placed in a gigantic wire basket, placed on the hot rocks and covered with burlap and sand to cook all day. By late afternoon, all was dug up and the basket manhandled by 6 men who struggled to load it on the back of a pickup truck for transport to the Medical Center where everyone had gathered.

The party began with entertainment by a group of young boys who performed traditional dances. They were selected to be in this group and it was considered to be was a real honor. It was used as a motivator for them to stay in school and do well. Then "The Muddy Flats," a local band who have been playing together since they were kids took over. The music was a "varied" assortment of 50's-70's country: "Harper Valley PTA," "Stand By Me," etc!! Interesting renditions and great guys.

Lilian (Photo with me) had an awesome voice and LOVED Patsy Cline and belted out "Crazy"! A great celebration to end our stay.

Photos are assorted: Lady Elliot Island and the last night's festivities in Cherbourg – a "CUPPA MURRI" (underground cooking) Check out the Porcupine photos!!! I think this equals the eel in the Cook Islands, hands down! It was REALLY GROSS. Par boiled for 2 hours – "oven roasted" for 3!! It complimented the salsa and chips!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Australia Update #7: Wednesday-Thursday, January 24-25, 2007

The final countdown has begun as we are closing in on the end of our last week here. My projects at the Medical Center are coming to completion. One of the RN's, Sharon was off today on a bus for a 2 hour drive to "The Gold Coast" with 30 children to spend two days visiting a dental clinic. She asked if I would like to come along – I politely declined!! My overnight fieldtrip days are over! Anne, the other RN, and I spent most of the day revising the newly created Emergency Cart inventory and began to reorganize her "ER" area. She is thrilled with the information and plans to present a proposal to the Center's Board for funding approval to purchase the needed items.

We are planning a big final celebration with the Community Thursday evening – in the ground roast pig and all! I wonder if it will be as exotic as my "eel meal" in The Cook Islands? Similar to the Polynesians, the diet here seems to be full of carbs and starches, with added cold processed meats. However, we are being served lots of fresh fruit and veggies so my waist line is not expanding!

I spent some time yesterday with one of the Nigerian physicians – "Dr. Alex". Very pleasant. He and his wife, Dr. Janet, have been here for three years. When not here during the weekdays, they are "on-call" for the hospital over the weekends. There is no surgery available here. The hospital admits approx. 900-1000 patients per year. Complications from diabetes, alcohol intoxication, seizures and cellulitis (over 59yo) are included in the listed top 10 diagnoses. The nearest referring hospital with surgical services is 30 miles away.

My next update will probably be from Brisbane where I will be spending the weekend. Since it is not too far away, I hope to make a day visit to The Great Barrier Reef (Lady Elliot Island) on Sunday - photos. Then off to San Francisco via Sydney on Monday morning and get back the day I lost on the way here!

PHOTOS: A dinner guest, Steven playing the Didgeridoo – river cruise and lunch! in Brisbane – shots of Lady Elliot Island

Monday, January 22, 2007

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: January 19-21, 2007

Greetings from Brisbane – Cyndy, my cohort in crime, and I bailed out of Geriatric Central after lunch for a bus ride from Murgon to Brisbane for the weekend.

Brisbane is a wonderful city – Cindy had a leisurely day – sleeping and shopping. We met up for dinner at a nice restaurant in The Casino Saturday evening. I spent the day walking around the city and River bank and then spend a couple hours in the city's Botanical Gardens – about 40 acres. It was the original site for a food garden planted for the first settlers of the Moreton Bay Penal Colony established in the early 1800's.

Over the years many exotic plants and trees were planted to experiment what would grow in this tropical climate. It is beautifully laid out with expansive lawns, variety of trees, and a thick rainforest area. I found a delightful Café in the center and enjoyed a delicious healthy salad (photo) and some "vino collapso."

After lunch, I wandered around some more and ended down the Brisbane River bank walking along the path back toward Center City. There was a nice breeze coming off the river and temps in the 80's so it was quite pleasant. The city reminds me of Portland, OR though on a little larger scale – very manageable. By the way – a little city detail tid-bit: Prostitution is legalized in Australia with "licensed" government controlled brothels!!! NO I DIDN'T PARTAKE!!!!

We have planned a lunch cruise on a river boat today (Sun) to see the sights of The Brisbane River returning around 2PM in time to pick up our bus ride back to reality in Murgon (Cherbourg) – However, the really is that we only have 4 days left as next Friday is a National holiday – Australia Day (our Independence Day), and there will be no work to accomplish in the Community sooooooo we can leave that day if we wish instead of Saturday. YES!!!! For Cyndy and me, working at the Medical Center has been fun and rewarding and an easy time for us – all the staff – Aboriginal and Whites are delighted that we are there and thrilled at the work we are helping them with. It is a very welcoming and positive work site. I am hoping perhaps to go on some home visits with the nurses this coming week.

As an aside, The Indigenous Peoples do not recognize Australia Day - they call it "Invasion Day" and promote protest marches against the celebrations and parades that the white Australians put on. Should be an interesting experience as we will be back in Brisbane on that Friday.

Photos: Some of the Medical Center staff joined us for dinner – photo of Brisbane River and Gardens – (being in the heat of summer & drought – not a lot of flowering plants in this season – but can imagine it is gorgeous in The Spring & Fall

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Australia Update #6: Wednesday, January 17, 2007

G'day from Cherbourg!

The heat has returned – after two days of welcome clouds and temperatures in the low 80's - the sun reappeared this morning and by 4PM it was back up into the mid-90's. I am appreciating my Medical Center assignment with AC more and more! Unfortunately, there still has been no appreciable rain here locally. Warren, our host, has said this drought has been going on for most of 5 years! If the rains do not come within the next two months – their remaining Summer – they will have to wait another 12 months!

Though I am having limited patient contact, I am continuing to be utilized by Ann and Sharon, the two RN's in helping planning Outreach programs,organizing their current stock of emergency supplies/equipment (limited) and identifying items they might consider (a lot!) The doctors have the only emergency meds – Epi – Atropine – Lido etc. in their own personal bags sooooo if they aren't around …..and most of their "pharmacy" inventory are samples procured from someone somewhere. However, pparently the funding is there from the Government (perhaps pay-off, guilt from past treatment/abuses of The Aboriginals - maybe?) so "the sky's the limit" – Lifepak 12 defib. with all the accessories – "No Worries, Mate"!

Another individual in the community died yesterday – now 6 in 3 weeks – This fellow had just returned from vacation – went back on the job and dropped with a heart attack – 50 years old. The funerals – two last week, two this week and one next brings community work to a halt – out of respect for the deceased – thus our work stops too. The Medical Center will close early Thursday and Friday though most places shut down totally. We were told that in some Aboriginal communities, the funeral/grieving traditions of time from death to burial can last up to 3 months and the entire place just stops everything – depending upon the position of the individual in the community, especially if an Elder!!

Since we will be closing at The Medical Center early on Friday probably by noon, this will enable me to catch an afternoon bus from the nearby town of Murgon into Brisbane for the weekend. I was so jet-lagged from the flight over when I arrived – I really didn't get a chance to poke around, so this will be another chance to explore.

Photos – Check out the Medical Center reception area – see any patients??? How about the flat screen? – all the staff comes out at lunchtime 12:30 – 1:30 (no visits scheduled!) and watches OPRAH (Meg Ryan was on that day!)

Cheers, jw

Monday, January 15, 2007

Australia Update #5: Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 7 and this morning, breakfast brought us back to reality post haste. Cyndy and I returned after a full weekend of 4x4 off-roading on Fraser Island. We couldn't wait to have a meal with the group!! The remaining hearty adventurers bumped around the area in their Thrifty Rent A Wreck.

On Friday after work, Kaz dropped us off in Maryborough an hour from Cherbourg – (on the Mary River) on her way to her home nearby with Jane spending the weekend. They are old friends from previous GV trips. Cyndy and I caught a bus for Hervey Bay (pronounced Harvey) an hour away on the coast – access to Fraser Island. The bus driver was a hoot and gave us lots of travel tips.

We had arranged an all day four-wheeling excursion on the island and were up to catch the ferry at 8AM for the 1 hour trip across the Bay. We quickly determined that this spot was a popular vacation place for Germans, Swedes, Dutch, and Japanese – get my drift!!! We picked a small tour group and did meet one other south Australian couple who spoke English. Out tour guide/drive Kirk was tri-lingual and was a great "wheeler" and informative guide.

Fraser Island is basically a sand island 100 long and 25 miles wide with amazingly abundant vegetation in some areas. These Uni-Mog vehicles were really interesting and Kirk knew his stuff. Having been so dry the sand roads were very soft and we needed every bit of traction. We were also shoulder-belted in our seats – and learned VERY quickly to keep bucked up. There is NO question that you could end up on the ceiling without the belts. It was a blast.At mid-day we stopped for a "barbie" where Kirk became chief and grilled up rib-eye steaks and fish. There was also an ample supply of Australian wine and XXXX lager! We returned back to our hotel at 7:30 PM and enjoyed another non-geriatric dinner – though realizing that the clock was ticking until our return to The Team but thankful for our brief respite. Kas and Jane picked us up again in Maryborough and the four of us had a fun few last hours of company and conversation.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Australia Update #3: Tuesday-Wednesday January 9-10

Initial team members meeting in The Brisbane Airport – June from Montana – Shannon my "Roomie" from Minnesota – Ruth from Alabama - Kaz our Australian Leader and Cindy, the Senior from Univ. of SFO. Warren (left) is in the other seated photos as we toured the Emu Farm.

The projects have begun! Yesterday we continued orientation of the area with Warren, the Council CEO taking us on a tour of the community and potential worksites. In the morning we met with The Mayor and some additional council members. The history of Cherbourg was shared along with a clearer understanding of the economic and cultural plight of all the Indigenous Peoples.

The current "self-governing" Council structure was established in 1986 – though most decisions, especially those involving financial concerns, are still "dictated" by the Government. As recent as in the late 70's, when it was "administrated" by the Government, there was even a distinct "White Zone" in town where the officials lived! Sound familiar? Prior to that there were also limitations and permits required for travel into and out of the community. It seems to be an interesting delicate balancing act between Local – State (Queensland) and Federal control, funding and spending. Cherbourg was originally established in 1904 as one of a number of government run "reserves" were Aboriginal peoples were forcibly moved and settled.

The Medical Center where I will be spending time is funded by the Federal Government and run by a separate organization and Board. The present facility, opened in 2002, is modern, light and airy, and quite impressive. It has a number of clinic rooms, admin. offices, with up to date computers, AV equipment, etc. It employs 2 full-time Nigerian doctors – husband and wife (Dr. Alex and Dr. Jane) – who have been here for 3 years – 2 RN's and an additional staff of 16 varied types of healthcare people! They have a whopping caseload of 300 "clients" annually!! Their funding comes from The Cherbourg Council and not the State or Fed. Govt. Intriguing expenditure of monies but they don't seem to be as constrained by bureaucracy. The State funded 30 bed (!) hospital in the town has its own MD's and nurses – rooms must be REALLY small. Additionally, there is a State funded "Community Health Center" that supposedly offers programs for "chronic" issues – diabetes – nutrition, etc. Appears to be much duplication of services but in actuality I'm not certain what substantive services are really provided, except on paper!.

Bruce, the health center manager, seems delighted to have me and we met today to begin planning where I might be utilized. There is interest in assisting with home visits and some basic staff emergency health care training. I have been invited to attend their staff meeting on Wednesday – so we shall see.