I thought I'd take a little break from just posting about all the weekend travels and exciting trips to all the natural wonders of New Zealand, and give a little mid-term evaluation of my time here. Now that I have been here several months, I'm getting a lot of questions about my thoughts on NZ vs USA and about my job and my future job in Missouri. So I figured I'd try to address some of those questions and give a little more of a substantial update on my real life here, outside of the travels and excitement.
And like any mid-term evaluation I've ever had, this is kind of late. but that's ok.
So the first question I get is usually "So are you liking it there?".
Those people are clearly not reading this blog. I absolutely love it here. You could have the worst job in the world and still love it here because any time you aren't at work, you can be somewhere amazing in no time. Lucky for me, I have an awesome job, so that's not a problem. I'm obviously soaking up the natural splendor of NZ and trying to take advantage of everything this place has to offer. A lot of the locals comment that I've done more in my 7.5 months here than they have in years. That's because I know that I have a small window to get it all in. Tasks expand to fill the time available for them. So if you have your whole life to go check out some cave down the road, you can put it off again and again. I don't have that kind of time here. So when I get a hot tip on something to check out, I usually check it out the following weekend. Any time I get an invitation, I accept it.
This leads me into the next topic I get asked about a lot. "Are the people nice? Who do you hang out with?"
The people are shockingly nice. The people of NZ are known for being friendly, but even New Zealanders think the people of the Southlands are nice. We get offered fish, vegetables, dinner, etc. I keep note paper on my desk for the soul purpose of writing down suggestions on things to do from my patients. The last minute of every patient encounter goes like this: I hand them their prescriptions and say 'good to see you'. Then they ask how much longer I"ll be here, then ask how I'm finding Otautau. They're all proud as peacocks when I say I love it, then they ask if I'm getting 'a look around'. I tell them I'm trying to get it all in, and they usually suggest one or two neat things worthy of checking out, and I write them down. That's how I've found out about almost everything I've done here. They all genuinely want me to enjoy my time here and they try to help me have the best time I can.
The question of who I hang out with is a little harder. the quickest answer is that Aaron, Rebecca, and I spend quite a bit of time together. Moreso at the beginning, but still quite a bit. Not as much when we have visitors (which has been a LOT lately - which has been amazing). I joined the squash club, which was probably the best idea I've had this entire time, and have met quite a few people through that. But as far as just hanging out with people, it's tricky. People are sooo nice at clinic, but transitioning to a friendship outside the office is often delicate for small-town doctors.
Some people don't want to befriend their doctor. some people can't separate those worlds. And most people are just too busy - especially the people our age. A lot of the people our age have small children, are busy trying to push harder in the jobs, or are otherwise content with their social circle and aren't really zoned into adding someone new into their world. Really, they probably just don't think about it. When you meet new people, especially in a professional setting, it's pretty easy to forget about that person as a social being. They exist for a purpose and that's it. They don't exist in your real world. I've noticed more of the older people are a lot more aware me as a person, not just a doctor. maybe it's because they have the time and energy, or maybe they see me as a child that needs some protection or something, but they tend to get more personal than the younger crowd. I don't mind. I ask people personal questions for a living, so they can pry all they want.
Another piece to the social puzzle is probably a little more self-sabotaging. Like most people, I hate goodbyes. That was the worst part of coming here. I had to say goodbye to everyone I love. Over the past 12 years, I've had to kind of do that on a smaller scale every 3-4 years as I went from high school to college, then to med school, then to residency, and then here. It's exhausting! I've had to start fresh each time, clinging to old friends as best I can. People inevitably fall away. Luckily, some stick. So now, I know I'm only here for a year, and deep down, I know it will be easier to say goodbye if I don't have anyone to say goodbye to. I know, that sounds pretty dramatic and ridiculous, and it's not really that serious. I am a social being at my core, so I can't help but get out there and make friends, but I think I have kept it pretty superficial up to now on purpose, but I promise I will knock that off.
I can identify people in the community who I would be friends with 'if I lived here'. So now I need to just forget about timelines and just go with the flow and enjoy the time I have with people. Come what may. I just think it's a lot to ask of someone to invite me into their life knowing I'll be leaving in a matter of months. Lately, however, it has been pretty great having people say "I haven't seen you at squash lately (so many visitors, I'm missed several weeks now!)" or "How did your dad and brother do in the Roar?" or "Do you have a place to go duck shooting?" It's been a really nice realization that, like it or not, I've weaseled my way into this community. I'm on their radar, and they're on mine.
There are a lot of great people around, and a few local families have been particularly welcoming, and I feel very lucky to be included in their whanau (Maori for family/friends). So, I guess my plan on 'making no connections here' failed. I have kind of come to that conclusion as I've written this entry. As I've typed, and retyped, I've made the social part less and less cold and have realized that, 'yea, I guess I do have friends here...' A couple dinner invitations, engagement party invites, random texts, etc - all signs that people are invested... So I guess after a slow, but polite entry into the social webs of the greater Otautau area, I'm locked in now. I'll ignore the part about having to say goodbye in a few months...
Which leads me to the final question I'll address this entry (this entry ended up being a LOT longer than I expected!): "Are you coming back???"
YES. I am, in fact, coming back to Bowling Green, MO, in September. Definitely excited about that for many reasons. Terrified of that for other reasons. Sad about that for all the reasons listed in the above sections. I really do love it here. Nice people, great job, awesome activities, beautiful scenery everywhere. I'll have my family at home, so that will definitely be a huge plus. But how will my job compare? What's gonna happen with medicine in America? How will my return to BG go socially? It's strange that moving home can be scarier than moving all the way across the world.
Ok, that's more than enough out of me. I was gonna give you my thoughts on the pros/cons of the US and NZ medical systems and how my job differs in each system, but I think you've had quite a large piece of my mind for one sitting (if you've made it all the way through this entry...) So stay tuned for that entry at another time.