I finally have the internet at home (dial-up - eek!) and just in time for another update. But where to start?

I started out my life in Tauranga in the hospital accommodation. Like university residence only with medical residents instead of students and hopefully no frosh-15. On my first night in Tauranga, one of my co-workers held a potluck at her home out in the country. This turned out to be a crash course in roundabouts, absent street signs, and subjective directions, such as “look for the curve in the road with the tree along the edge and you'll know you're on the right route” instead of “turn right at the third exit.”

After dinner, my new coworkers suggested we play a game called Eat the Chocolate. Those of you who are familiar with my affinity for games and passion for chocolate will understand how immediately welcomed I felt. One of the audiologists, Jemma, who is also new to New Zealand from the Philippines, took me under her wing and made it her mission to tour me around Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.

SPEECH THERAPY UPDATE - Any engineers, accountants, students, or other uninterested, non-study group attending parties can disregard the next section.

The system here is quite different than in Canada, though similar enough that it hasn't been a tough transition. We get referrals for inpatients for communication and swallowing assessments, then follow patients through inpatient rehab, as outpatients, and into the community. We can decide if we'd like to follow the patients all the way along or if a change in clinician would be best. There is a basically no waiting list and patients seem to be offered as much therapy as needed. We work very closely with the ENTs and neurologists. The radiologists aren't too much different than those in Canada though!

Most of the communication assessments we have are UK-based so new to me and I’m learning about using botox for saliva management and laryngectomies for motor neurone disease. I have really noticed a difference in the profile of SLTs here compared to Canada. There are still physicians with their own opinions about communication and swallowing disorders, but on the whole, decisions seem much more team-based than I have previously experienced and the role of the SLT seems much more valued for assessment and rehab. One of the geriatrician's sent me a letter last week thanking me for doing a communication assessment for one of her patients.

The nurses have been very supportive and involved. They consistently thank me for coming and follow recommendations carefully. There are flip chart signs by the head of every patient's bed, which makes for simple and seemingly effective information transfer. The nurses call us SALTs for Speech And Language Therapists.


Next came the daunting task of finding a place to live and the age-old question "Does one choose to live near work or near the beach?" The beach, of course! I am flatting with an Aussie, Tallulah, and a New Zealand Māori, Tamati. When they're not arguing over who invented pavlova (the Aussies or the Kiwis), they are teaching me new things everyday. It's about 10km from home to the hospital and I've been riding Jemma's bike most days. When I get home from work, I walk for 2 minutes around the corner to the beach. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this would be my real life, pinch, pinch. Last week there was a rumour about a shark hanging around the Mount Maunganui beach, no pinching necessary.  

People here have been incredibly friendly and I've become great friends with my team at work. I have met just as many pommies (from England) and Aussies as Kiwis. There has been no shortage of things to do. After work, my week looks a little bit like this: yoga, climbing, swimming, running races, and surfing lessons. Not to mention all the tourists spots and tramping. Never fear - Leanna and I have started a list so we'll be sure not to miss out anything!

I met up with Ralph and Leanna in Taupō last weekend. Taupō is a mountain town built around a massive freshwater crater lake with views of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Tongariro, aka Mordor, Emyn Muil, Mount Doom and the Plains of Gorgorot for any Lord of the Rings fans. We teamed up for a 160km relay race around Lake Taupō then divided up into vans for runner drop-off and pick-up, cheering, and water distribution. Ralph delegated legs 5 and 6 to me, the best legs of them all. After my van duty from 2am to 6am, I started on my first leg in the dark, wearing my headlamp, blinking tail-light, and carrying a glow stick. As I began my second leg, the sun began to rise and light up the mountains and I was able to shed my night gear and enjoy a run in the fresh morning sun. Back in the van, my support crew was pretty knackered so we stopped along the lake for a little nap, followed by a nippy dip in the fresh lake water, a real treat after all the salt water swimming. We met up with the rest of the team for the last few legs and raced to the finish together. Celebrations followed.  Another weekend was a 24-hour relay for cancer in Tauranga. It was a lot of fun, but I've got to stop signing up for things that go on all night!

On another weekend, Leanna, Ralph, and some new Canadian and pommy friends headed up to Fletcher Bay in the Coromandel. There were lots of possum, cow, and sheep sightings. I'm still pretty excited about the sheep. Possums are considered to be pests in New Zealand and we are encouraged to run them over, "New Zealand's Speed Bumps." Fortunately, we were a car full of Canadians so there were no possum fatalities on my watch. The roads in the Coromandel are legendary for their ability to induce nausea and our trip was no exception. After several pit stops, we arrived, pitched our tents ten metres from the ocean, enjoyed the moonlit beach, and readied ourselves for the sunrise swims. The ten kilometre (return) tramp along the Coromandel Walkway from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay was amazing with spectacular views of the turquoise water contrasted with the dark islands and green hilly pastures. We won’t discuss Ralph’s doomed plan to cool the wine by burying the bottles in the shallows. Rumour has it, the treasure remains.

I have managed to meet up with a few of New Zealand insects and been relatively brave. I had close contact with a Huhu in the toilet in Taupō. Ralph was too scared to rescue me and/or the Huhu so I conducted my own save the Huhu operation to prevent further Meg petrification.

Stay sweet!