Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Evan and Lie Visit: Queenstown Adventures

Evan and Lie came to visit back in March, and we had such a good time running around New Zealand together. It was pretty much non-stop laughs, mixed with a lot of radio sing-alongs. For their debut on the blog, I figured I should start with their arrival, which was to Queenstown - also delayed significantly. And in keeping with the Queenstown festivities, I'm including the zip-lining tour that Lie and I did after dropping Evan back off at the airport at the end of his visit.

I haven't flown in or out of Queenstown yet, so I haven't gotten to see this view, but I figured it was worth sharing:

Amazing,  huh?  I've been pretty impressed with some of the airplane pics my friends have taken on their flights down. Here's another:

So after a lot of adjustments to our plans and quick messages to get the updated flight information and all that, the arrangements were made, and I was away to Qtown to go pick up my weary travelers. But as it turned out, their delays had actually put them in Auckland overnight, so they had somewhat adjusted already and were ready for adventure right off the bat. So I found them along the lakeshore in downtown Q-town, and we decided the only right way to spend the rest of the afternoon was to take the gondola up the mountain right there and do the roller-luge!   - after a quick stop at Patagonia for some ice cream, of course! they are lucky I didn't stop there first, then go try to find them!

Lie at Lake Wakatipu! Welcome to NZ!

Mountaintops here we come!

Going Up!

Happy Reunion in the Gondola! Or maybe we were just excited for the luge!

At the Top!
I kind of lied there. From this spot, you actually get on another small ski lift to get to the top of the roller luge:

Note the guy with the sweet mohawk. I wonder how that looked after he had to put that helmet on... 

OHHHHH Man! This is gonna be AWESOME!!! They make you do your first run on the starter track, then you can move on to the advanced track if you want. You sit on those little carts like those people are doing- obviously... but to go forward you lean forward and push the handlebars forward. to brake, you pull back. the tricky part is if you lean all the way forward, it just brakes hard.

I don't want to brag, but I was a natural at this. some unsuspecting woman was ahead of me on the course, and I am pretty sure she will have PTSD from me passing her with such speed and aggression... It probably haunts her dreams just hearing me scream "coming through!!!" and just whizzing by.  Evan and Lie saw the whole thing - or should I say they didn't because they blinked and I had passed her. Evan can vouch for it. true story.
Three Amigos with our luge helmets! That pretty much set the tone for the rest of our trip. Fast, hilarious, and exciting.

The top of the mountain offers several other adventure activities, including mountain biking (you can hook your bike to the gondola to take it up and you can ride down on the bike if you are brave enough... I"m not). Or you can jump off of this platform for a combination bungy/canyon swing that promises a seamless transition from free-fall to swinging... we watched, and it was certainly not seamless. The seam was right at the bottom of the free-fall, and it kind of makes your head snap and you seem to get the air kind of knocked out of you.... no thanks.

We also took a little drive up along the lake for some evening views, and this was what we got to see. Not too shabby, eh? this is on the way to a town called Glenorchy.

And that was pretty much it for Day 1.

The remainder of this post is from towards the end of the trip. We had just dropped Evan back off at the airport, and Lie had a NZ must-do to still cross off her list: Zip-Lining. Lucky for us, that same mountain has a zip line course all the way down it. This time, we opted for the hike up instead of the gondola. We were told it should take about an hour. It isn't really marked that much, so we couldn't tell what pace we were on, so we just kept going really fast, and we made it in under 30 minutes. And we were very tired. Luckily we had these crazy chairs cut from tree stumps to rest on during our hike up.

Once all rested up at the top, we got suited up and were ready to fly the friendly skies a la Zip Line.
They call zip-lining Flying Foxes here. Hard to argue when you see this picture, huh? Huh??? Get it? A couple of foxes right there!  ok...sorry. I'll move on.

Lie getting locked in for one of her rides. Watch as she performs her stunts as she goes:

Yep, she's upside down. on purpose. the guides gave us all challenges for each line. We nailed every one of them. Lie excelled at the no-hands upside down challenge. My personal best was when they wanted us to yell for an entire line - one of the longer ones. Everyone had their own battle cry. I opted for a classic Tarzan cry. I had it until I started laughing at the end because I thought it would sound really funny because I was spinning on the line and just imagined it getting louder and quieter like a siren as I came hurdling towards the platform...  ahhhhHHHHhhhhhhHHHHHHhhhhhhHHHHHHhhhhh  : )

Here's a quick video of one of the take-offs on the longest line with the best views of the lake, so this one is more for taking in the scenery, not so much speed:

More peaceful than expected. It's more thrilling if you do a backwards trust fall to nothing or start with a back somersault. 

No kidding: I actually took this picture from that zip line in the video. spectacular.

But this is what you see on all the other lines. Just a crazy blur.

Coming in for a landing.

good 'ole Queenstown. Always delivers for a good time.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Otautau Street Party

Now that fall is beginning and its starting to get colder here, I thought I'd look back to the warmer days of Christmas in NZ.  Rebecca and I went on a 6 day trip around the entire south island, which will take several posts to show you, but before we went there was a street party here in little Otautau.  For being such a little town, there is great sense of community and it seemed like everyone was out that day.

For starters, the kids of town prepared some dance moves at school and performed for everyone.  One of the finest chicken dances ever!  Well done kids!

Of course, what kind of Christmas festival would you have without Santa Claus!  He was their taking pictures with all the kids and I'm sure collecting gift ideas...  Looks like someone is thinkin' real hard about what they want for Christmas...

Nearby was a little Christmas tree full of ornaments from the local children.  Lots to be grateful for...  You will notice there is no snow on the ground in the middle of their Christmas... :)  It was a beautiful day...

Lots of activities for the kids to do...  They would crawl into these inflatable balls and stumble around trying to run into each other on the water.  No one is in them at the moment, because they are all participating in Karaoke down the street at the moment.  Watching the middle school boys rocking Katy Perry's "Roar" and Justin Timberlake's "Bringing Sexy Back" was pretty epic...  Great job guys!

No Cole... you CAN'T jump in the bouncy castle...

Talents were on display...  This guy was carving wood lawn sculptures including this small kiwi...  Actually a pretty good representation...  They auctioned them off for charity later in the day.

Other groups were getting in on the action too.  Instead of the dunk tank they had a little water bucket...  People were volunteering to take the splash for the local pool...  3 throws was pretty loose, when the kids missed on three they would just run up and hit the plunger anyways... 

The fire brigade had an interesting approach for raising money too.  They brought in an old junker of a car that was pretty much gone.  It did still start though.  They took bets on how long it would take for the engine to burn out if they dropped a brick on the accelerator... what would your guess be?  I said something like 2 minutes (not the most, some people as high as 10 minutes!)  The thing didn't last 30 seconds...  

One of the best things about all the street fairs is the fair food!  The donut dude is usually at most of the events...  you can buy your mini donuts by the bucket!  Don't worry, we haven't ordered that many yet... but not bad at all...

All in all it was a pretty good showing for our little town...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

NZ vs American Medical Systems

If you don't care to hear my thoughts on the pros/cons of the US vs NZ Medical Systems, this isn't the post for you. Thanks for checking in though! We are at almost 9000 views! That's pretty awesome, huh?
But for those of you who are interested in hearing how a socialized medical system works (meaning when healthcare is largely covered by the government through tax dollars), keep reading.

After working in the NZ system for about 8 months now, I've almost got it figured out... which is actually pretty fast because I honestly still don't understand the American system. So round 1 'Simplicity' goes to NZ. Beyond that, I'm pretty split on which one is better. Each has things that I really like, and each has things that drive me crazy.

American System Positives
- Fast!  I've learned that we Americans are quite spoiled when it comes to access to primary care as well as specialty care - ESPECIALLY the specialty care. If you want to see a specialist, you can often contact them directly or your Primary Care Doctor can refer you, and the wait is short. In NZ, the waits can be months. or you may get denied completely.

- Primary Care in America is more interesting. I can order pretty much any test, MRI, CT, etc, and can manage people with a lot of problems. The NZ system limits what Primary Care doctors can order, so I have to refer people to specialists a lot, sometimes just so I can get a CT scan. - more on that later.

-Our cancer screening is better

New Zealand System Positives
- My job is pretty easy. Because I am limited on what tests I can order, meds I can give, etc, I am left with a narrowed scope of practice. So it makes for a cruisey day.

- Visits for Children 5 and under are free. period.

- There is a system called ACC that basically pays people who are off work due to injury. They will pay you a good percentage of your salary while you are injured, but that percentage decreases over time - incentivizing you getting back to work.  They will also help with return to work plans, or do training if your injury makes you not able to ever return to your prevous job. They teach skills so you can get a different job.

- Nurses here have a lot more clinic responsibilities. They see patients for more things that the nurses in the states do. They do all the immunizations. They do skin biopsies. They do liquid nitrogen treatments. The trade-off is that I do my own vital signs for every patient and go get them out of the waiting room and bring them to my one exam room. No waiting for the nurses.

- Documentation is more straightforward and the billing side of things is much simpler. I don't have to focus on stupid things in my notes that are actually irrelevant to the visit for the sole purpose of documenting a 'level 3' or 'level 4' visit. I just have to write what matters here. the notes are shorter and more useful.

- prescriptions are mostly $5.

American System Negatives
- People abusing the disability benefits.

-Documentation is a nightmare. 

- There are a lot of changes happening, which is scary as a primary care doctor. 

- the patients are more argumentative

- more demands on physicians on time, billing, documentation, paperwork, forms, insurance hurdles, etc.

New Zealand System Negatives
- People abusing the ACC/disability benefits.

- My job is too narrowed here. I get frustrated that I can't just order certain tests/studies which would allow me to diagnose and treat things faster than it takes to get someone in to see specialist. If I could order/do more, it would decrease the burden on the specialists and their wait times would be shorter for the people who actually need a specialist.

- Their colon cancer screening system is terrifying. We battle the GI department to try to get people colonoscopies. It's really scary.

- There have been some shocking situations where people are declined services based on their age or level of complexity. And this is beyond what I see as reasonable. 

- it is not rare to have to wait for more than 6 months to see a specialist. a month to get an ultrasound. People do have the option to have private insurance here as well, which is typically faster, but quite expensive.

- with high suspicion of cancer, they have special people who are hired to push people through all the hoops to get them in to the proper specialists, imaging, cancer doctors, and start treatment. Their goal time to get this done is like 6 weeks. In America, that is more like 3 days.

So that's my initial assessment of the situation. In summary, I think the NZ system is better if you are young and healthy. There are systems in place that will give your toddlers free doctor visits. If you get an injury, there is a system in place to help cover you during your injury and to get you back in prime condition so you can get back out in the workforce and be productive for NZ. I think the American system is better if you have multiple medical problems or if you are over 60. America has pretty good coverage for the elderly and for pregnant ladies and their babies. And we can make things happen faster for diagnosing/treating big scary stuff.

and that's that!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dad and Brandon's Visit: The Recovery

After we came in from the Bush, we had one day to check out a little more of what NZ has to offer. It was a little dreary weather-wise, but that didn't stop us from getting out and about to check out the Southern Coast to spend a little more quality time before they guys headed back to the States.

First Stop was Riverton. We played around on the rocks, took a little walk to Back Beach, and got to breathe in a little ice-cold ocean air.

Brandon and Dad at Back Beach, Riverton.

Howells Point, Riverton.

Next stop: my musseling Beach! It wasn't low tide, so we weren't able to really gather up any, but we scrambled around on the rocks for a while.
Dad investigating the cliffs.

Brandon's camo was surprisingly effective, don't you think?
But even with his camouflage, he couldn't hide from the waves:
Wait for it.

SPLASH! but keep watching. It gets worse:

Oh no!
Just kidding, he was gone by the time this happened. But that first wave did get him pretty good.

Keeping a little distance from the icy waters....for now...

Cold and Windy Day at the Beach!

Just hanging out on the sea cliffs.

We headed down the coast towards Tuatapere, stopping again at Gemstone Beach, hoping to find some precious stones.
After close inspection, Brandon discovered that was just a plain rock. no gemstones here.

And this is where Dad couldn't escape the cruel waves any longer, and a rogue wave came up waaaay farther on the beach than any other wave had, and just soaked his feet. Brandon and I were quite a ways farther up on the beach and it almost got us too.

To round out our tour of the South Coast region, we popped over to Lake Hauroko to see some of the terrain that we had almost gone to hunt in instead of Pleasant Valley. When we got to the lake, it was a bustling port for hunters as it turned out. There were people getting choppered in after their hunt, and three jetboats were docked, just getting in from some hunts.  

It was pretty cool to see all the buzz around this place. Any other time I'd been there, it was completely deserted.

And that was about the end of the tour! The guys had to leave back to The States the next day, so we had a quiet night at home to rest up for their long journey home (and to dry out their shoes!!!), which luckily went more seamlessly than their prolonged trip down.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dad and Brandon's Visit: The Hunt

My Dad and Brother-in-law came to visit, and the only real plan was to hunt red stag. Luckily, Poss came through and had us all set up out in the bush with an awesome campsite and was kind enough to guide us through the bush and 'roar' at the deer relentlessly.  You see, the prime time to hunt red stag in NZ is late March/early April, and this time is called The Roar because the stags actually make a low rumbly roar sound when they get all fired up. Pretty crazy, really.
So after an unfortunate flight delay, the guys arrived, and we set out for Pleasant Valley:

Worthy of the name, I'd say. Seems quite pleasant. It is a large sheep and cattle station in the Southlands at the edge of the Takitimu Mountains.

The first day was pretty cloudy, so you couldn't really see the mountains in the background. But they were there. If you don't believe me, ask all of our tired legs if there were mountains, because they were painfully aware of them.

This is the terrain we hunted. Native Bush. Primarily beech trees with moss covering everything and ferns all over the place.

Dad taking a breather.

Brandon and Poss listening for the call of the wild...stag.

As it turned out, our first two days, we didn't even hear one stag. But that doesn't stop Terry Scherder from killing one. No Sir-ree. You can run, but you can't hide from Sure-shot Scherder.

Dad's deer!

Profile view. We had walked MILES for this thing. This was near the end of Day 2 of not seeing or hearing anything, then this guy just appeared out of nowhere.

Family portrait.

They were so excited to dress this deer!

Taking out the backstraps - prime eating.

Brandon got to carry out the hind quarters. If he'd known how this was gonna go down, he would have learned a new technique for gutting the deer out the side instead of between the legs - thus he would have saved the legs from being all gross when he put them on his shoulders.  But in the thrill of the moment, that didn't really come up, so Brandon got a bloody deer butt to sit on his shoulders. Next time he'll know better! But to be totally honest, I don't think it bothered him too much. We all had a little more pep in our step at this point, even with the added cargo.

Kind of a bad shot, but actually the best I've got about the terrain and how we got this deer packed out of here. There were times it was like walking up a vertical cliff. but we made it!

Brandon getting a cold drink from the creek, which is actually completely safe to do here! 

And before we knew it, we were out of the bush, and back in the valley, heading back to our camp, deer in tow!

And that ended Day 2. I actually had to go back and work at the clinic for a couple of days, so they stayed out with Poss. As I fully expected, they all got along just fine, so I was not worried about that at all. They did hear a few deer on days 3 and 4, but no more trophies. The evening of Day 4, I came back out to camp after work, and this was the view that greeted me as I entered Pleasant Valley:


And Day 5, we were at it again, hoping for another deer. We heard a few early on, but they all got very quiet very quickly, so it was another day of walking through the bush. This stuff is actually really difficult to walk in. We took turns falling down. At one point, I fell on my butt, and just slid down the hill for a few feet before getting my feet back under me and just kept walking, never missing a stride... 

Another snack break. Snickers Bars and these One Square Meal Bars I found here were our lunch/snack staples.

So after our last day of hunting we returned to camp and packed it all up. But before we did that, I snapped a few pics to show you our Home Away From Home (or in my case my home away from home away from home!)

three room unit with 1 bedroom, 1 dining room/bed room, 1 kitchen.

Pretty luxurious, really. Note the carpeting! We also had a propane heater in the dining room.

the kitchen.

Camp. Pretty sweet set-up. The bathroom was behind me in this picture - a chair with a hole cut through the seat sitting over-top a sewer pit.

So after 5 grueling days, we came away from Pleasant Valley with 1 Stag, 6 tired feet, and about a million memories of our 'first' stag hunt in NZ.