I feel like we’ve graduated tiers of traveling on this assignment. We’ve reached a realm with only the other wild-ones. On this small, 8,000 person, 1 hospital island the two traveling nurses we’ve met are doing their work the rest of the year in places like West Sudan and St. Thomas. We have arrived. It’s just us and the other nuts who cannot fathom the inhumanity of a 9 to 5 in Pleasantville, USA. We have traveled far to the remote, quiet, pristine island of Molokai… only to continue working the 9 to 5.
In our first 2 weeks here, I have already found this island to be a place that will broaden my view on life and how life can and should be lived. Earlier this week, while out hiking, I said to Kate, “I think this assignment is going to be life changing.” She asked me why, and I quickly back peddled. OK, “life changing” may be a little dramatic, but this is a different place, and for 13 weeks I’m living a different life than I have ever known. It’s slower here, there are few people, much of the land is pristine – this is how the rest of Hawaii used to be. Last weekend, as we were walking from the local farmers’ market that takes over the center of town each Saturday, I had my arms full of local papaya, tomatoes, and avocadoes. I took a look around at the people and buildings – and the scenery – and knew that this place is very different from anywhere I’ve been before.
This past weekend, we headed up to large forest reserve. Between off road driving from sea level, then mountain biking, and then hiking to an overlook at 4,300 ft, we covered 16 miles one way (pretty good on an island that is 38 miles end-to-end). We saw one group of hunters while we were on the roads. On the bike and hiking trail we saw no one at all and on Labor Day weekend! The lookout at the top was socked in with clouds, but we had heard that if we waited a bit, a hole would usually clear. As Kate and I waited, we talked about Molokai. We’ve done travel assignments in a lot of places and hiked to a lot of far-off summits, but decided we have never been in a more remote place than where we stood at that moment. The clouds later parted, and we were treated to one of the best views anywhere.
Somehow, through all this quaintness, the 14-bed hospital remains a part of the 21st century. People show up on time for appointments, the days are busy, and JCAHO and their misguided standards reign supreme. I find myself rushing through the hallways to patient rooms, back to scheduled appointments, off to grab equipment. It’s a great place to work and is full of extremely friendly people (the “Friendly Isle,” after all), but it’s a busy hospital like any other. The dichotomy of the two lives I’m living in and out of work were displayed for me full force the other day as I headed out for a quick errand at lunchtime. I had the time, but needed to move quickly to be back for my 1 PM patient. I zoomed out of the hospital parking lot and briskly down into town where the speed limit is 20. As I hit the first stop sign*, a man driving 7 mph pulled out in front. SEVEN. This guy was driving 7 miles an hour. On the weekends, or after work, I behave. I’ll drive slow, walk slow, pop into little shops, and have exceedingly long conversations with strangers. But, I had to get back to work for a patient, and this guy was driving 7 miles per hour.
This life here is definitely going to change some perspectives for me because of its simplicity and the slow pace. To really make things interesting, we are going without TV altogether, and because of weak cell signals Netflix is really hard to stream. (Now, no cable, that’s life changing. I’ve already decided to put the hospital-supplied cable box away when we get back to Colorado… except for football… or hockey playoffs… or…) Despite the slow pace, the roosters waking me in the morning, the empty hikes, and the empty beaches, a hospital is still a hospital and there is work to be done. In fact, here, there is work to be done 6 days per week (yeah, more on that later). We’re working hard while at work and trying everyday to slip back into lazy island life within minutes of walking out the hospital doors – It’s pretty awesome.
More soon. I have some great blog topics coming, but getting them written down takes some time. Stay tuned, and get out on the road! As travelers, we are given an awesome opportunity to see the many different sides of this country and world – Enjoy it!
*They call it a one stop sign island – However, I have counted several. There are no traffic lights at all.