this beautiful sun-drenched winter day with Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and
the Olympics striking in their snowy glory and the islands stretching out
around us, we are feeling extraordinarily fortunate to live in this wondrous
place. What a wonderful home to return to after more than a year of
adventures in travel and work.
I have donned layers of fleece and down as I adjust to winter on Orcas after just returning from an amazing three months spent working as the doctor for an association of safari lodges in South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia. I cared for tourists ranging from swooning Italians to feverish Norwegians and for expatriate and local safari camp staff, and I even started an intravenous line on a baby elephant in need of rescue. I spent most of my time volunteering at the local rural health center caring for the local Zambian population. My local patients suffered from ailments ranging from black mamba bites to diarrhea and malnutrition to severe burns to malaria to AIDS. I struggled with the challenges of working with very sick patients without any laboratory or x-ray capability and with only a very basic array of medications. At times caring for the appalling number of AIDS patients in a place where 20% of the population is HIV positive was heartbreaking. Some days when I felt beyond frustrated by the lack of medicines available to me, I reassured myself with the knowledge that at least a few patients were better cared for each day because I was there.
I’m afraid I never managed to mail out Christmas cards last year. My excuse was that I had just returned from a trip with my Dad to Krabi and Chiang Mai in Thailand (one month before the tsunami) and Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the wonders of Angkor Wat. Bill and I were then busy packing for our December 28th departure for London where I spent three months studying for a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I learned to recognize a malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito at twenty paces among other new skills, and I reveled in being a student again with my 65 classmates from 30 countries. Besides having amazing parasitology labs where I studied parasitic worms and the nasty habits of tsetse flies, I also had lectures and seminars led by experts from the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the London School of Economics in addition to the charming Brits of my school. To top it all, by wonderful serendipity, my dear friend, Kris Prenger from Shiprock days, was also studying at the London School, and I so enjoyed being able to spend time with her again. What an amazing educational experience!
While I trotted off happily to school each morning, Bill slaved away on his software project for Uncle Sam in our beyond-belief expensive flat in posh Marylebone. Being two of twelve million souls was a shock, but we both enjoyed the wonders of London, especially the museums and living history. On my free weekends, we communed with the ponies at Dartmoor National Park, wandered with the crowds at Windsor Great Park, discovered that Brighton is NOT a quaint seaside village and strolled through lovely Regents Park on our doorstep.
Fresh from all that education and three days of exams, I
traveled to The Gambia, the poorest and smallest country in Africa, with
twelve classmates and poor Bill. For any of you wondering, Gambia is
definitely not a garden spot, and we can’t recommend it for any sort of
travel agenda other than studying the reality of medicine in the developing
world. After seeing the horrors of the National Psychiatric Hospital, which
was formerly the jail in Victorian times, my classmates and I were all
certain that we preferred the tribal psychiatric healer’s method of chaining
psychotic patients to a mango tree. Proving what a wonderful husband he is,
Bill endured endless rounds of Scandinavian tourists badly singing “Country
Roads” to the accompaniment of our hotel’s karaoke machine while awaiting my
return from each day’s studies — greater love hath no man! He does remain
convinced that I don’t deserve the “Hygiene” part of my diploma since I
still practice the “Five second rule” despite all the information to the
This page was last updated 01/07/06