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Un-culture shock

I’ve been back in WA for two weeks today. I’ve caught up with a few friends and my Mum, returned to work and entered a few short story competitions (finger’s crossed!). I greatly miss the NT and it has been difficult keeping my mind focussed when I keep daydreaming about being back there!

Life in Albany has gone back to how it was before I left and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve changed, as I keep saying, but Albany hasn’t because it didn’t need to – I did. I often think back to places I was living in the NT and the people I go to know there; what they are doing right now and if they are happy. Fortunately Facebook has enabled some of us to stay in touch which is a blessing.

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Albany at night. Unsure of who took the photo so can’t acknowledge sorry.

So I don’t actually have any news or exciting things to tell you! The day I flew into Perth I got obnoxiously long sparkly nails which I got removed yesterday – for the sole reason of being able to pick my nose without scratching my brain! – and I feel liberated by typing one key at a time!

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View of Perth city from our hotel room.

I am loving cuddling my dog Izzy. I appreciate her more than I ever have. We just snuggle into each other and breathe the same chilly Albany air, promising to each other that we will cuddle all the time. It has been the opposite with my cat Leila. We have lost any semblance of a relationship we might have had and she looks at me with disdain every morning I get up as if to say “Gee I enjoyed those two months you were gone”.

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We are packing up the house and organising renovations because we aim to leave around early August to go up the coast of Western Australia and hopefully get to Darwin in time for my graduation ceremony. Graduate position applications  for Alice Springs, Darwin, Katherine and Tennant Creek open on Monday so I’ll be getting everything ready for that. As I said, I have two excellent people willing to be referee’s for me so I doubt I’ll have a problem getting one of the positions. Plus my aim is to live and work in remote Northern Territory. Wish me luck though!

The next couple of months is going to be pretty quiet but please stay tuned because I will update regularly (with far more interesting content!) when Tim and I begin our next lot of travel!

Before I go, I do want to thank the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs, particularly Jessie Anderson who was extremely supportive and bent over backwards to ensure I was safe, supported, housed, transported etc etc. She was always happy to have a chat and help weigh up options with sound advice and a genuine interest in students having a positive and varied experience. I don’t want to sound gushy, however for someone who is away from home and alone in remote areas, having someone who knows where you are at all times is comforting. If you’ve ever thought about experiencing placements in the Northern Territory, give the Centre for Remote Health a ring, you won’t regret it!

Love to you all. – Rachel 🙂

P.S I had a few bumper stickers made which my three brothers have agreed to put on their vehicles! Here is one of my nephews, Archie, displaying it!

P.P.S AHPRA registration came through so I am officially a Registered Nurse!

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My gorgeous little homey Archie John modelling my sticker!

 

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Tales from a new grad!

I have a friend, Serenity, who started her grad program a while ago. I keel over with laughter when she relays stories to me. With her excellent sense of humour and ability to sum up even the most awkward situations in a sharp-witted little package, I just had to ask her to send me a couple of stories, in her own words, I could share with you!

Take it away girl…

“Reg.

I’ll call him Reg to protect the innocent…and protect myself from litigation. Hahahaha!!

Reg has deteriorating dementia. This day Reg couldn’t follow instructions, couldn’t speak and couldn’t safely get about. After giving him a damn good scrub in the tub, I set him up for the day. But he was air plucking.

A couple of days previously someone had unearthed a fiddle rug, or activity blanket, call it what you will. You know, things within zips sewn on, Velcro, textures, bits and bobs. Lovely things made by volunteer ladies. So I pop it on Reg’s lap just before smoko and trot off. The NUM (Nurse Unit Manager) comes by to say hi and let’s go get a cuppa. We decided to check that Reg was managing his cup of tea and muffin. Well bugger me! Old Reg is drooling fit to drown! We race over and can hear his choppers clanging on something hard.

fiddle rug Something similar to this!

Now, the muffins are sometimes a bit tough here, but this was obviously not muffin! I grab gloves and try to poke my fingers in his mouth (brave I hear you say) and catch a glimpse of a large green object. “Reg. What have you got in your mouth? Spit it out mate”. Round and round and side to side goes the object, drool pouring over my hands and down his shirt. The NUM is clearly on her game and races off to find forceps. I am getting frantic…and louder. “SPIT! IT! OUT! REG!!!” Another nurse hears my squealing and bravely comes to my aid. Between us we manage to get a quick snatch and grab at a 2 litre milk container cap! The NUM races back in and we all high five and cheer. Except Reg. Who seems pretty disappointed we pinched his ‘biscuit’.

Ever tried to write up a CIMS (workplace incident form) for something like that? I am so glad Reg didn’t choke. But of course, the bottle top did have two little holes where it had been sewn onto the blankie. So he may have just wound up with a whistle instead of a voice if he HAD got it down. Crikey. If he’d swallowed one of the bells we all could have sung Christmas carols. Anyway. Two weeks of being a nurse and I could have found myself in coroner’s court! New rule here. NEVER use fiddle rugs. Always check on patients eating. Who would have thought?

Hilarity amidst the drama!

ED patient in severe pain about to be transferred by ambulance. Boss nurse draws up the Fentanyl, tags it, takes that and 2 x normal saline flushes to the moaning guy. I draw up the Ondansetron (or dancing thongs as I like to call it – it helps stop nausea and vomiting). Boss nurse takes her time with the slow push (slowly injecting the drug into the vein) and I walk over to take over and push the Ondansetron. Just in time to hear her say “That’ll help with the pain” Big smile. Well, I doubt it, as she’s just done the slowest 2.5mL saline flush I’ve ever seen! I nudge her and point to the tagged syringe. Our guy is clearly not feeling better and can’t understand why we’re laughing fit to bust!”

If any of you have any stories you’d like to share on this blog, anonymous or recognised, please feel free to email me: rachel@thescribblingnurse.com

The more embarrassing, disgusting or mortifying the better!!

Cya! – Rachel

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Canteen Creek 2

I woke up on the Thursday (29th March) morning feeling excited and with a sense of calm especially after a beautiful evening the night before watching the stars while munching on pizza and sharing stories with my new friend Jenny and her partner Graham at Battery Hill mine. It was precious getting to know Jenny a bit more and I look forward to seeing more of her when Tim and I move to the NT.

There is a saying ‘People come into your life for a reason’. With all the time I have recently had to sit and reflect, I truly believe this is true. Even if you don’t really agree with or like someone, they are placed in your life to learn from, or learn more about yourself.

Around 2pm on the Thursday morning, the Canteen Creek driver turned up with the relief RAN Sini and two scruffy dogs. We realised we didn’t have enough room for all the luggage so it was decided that Sini was going to be picked up the next day. Arriving in Canteen Creek, a thunderstorm came over the community complete with thunder and lightning. I was thrilled but also nervous that the roads would become unstable and Sini wouldn’t be able to get into the community.

Fortunately, Sini arrived safely and the next morning we met to go for a long walk. We agreed to meet every morning at 6am to walk to and along the airport strip, watch the sunrise then walk home, just over an hour’s walk. Molly, my adopted community dog comes with us and tells the other community dogs to leave us alone. It is really good protection having Molly walk with us; even though she isn’t a big dog, she warns any potential aggressive dogs to stay away.

Molly doesn’t have any dog toys so she finds empty 1.25 litre bottles and tosses them in the air. She does the same with sticks and anything else she can find that would be a suitable ‘toy’. She reminds me of those TV ads featuring African children who create their own toys out of bicycle inner tubing and a variety of items Westerners would consider rubbish. I went to the shop today and bought 3 cans of dog food for her. I will feed her in secret so as not to attract the other 100 community dogs here. Molly won’t tell on me.

 

The length of the lawn around the house Sini is staying was up to my knees so we spent the better part of the morning mowing it.

 

That evening (Saturday 31st March) we attended the Easter celebration at the local church. The band played country –style music with almost all the community sitting on the grass eating their tea and enjoying the festivities.

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I got chatting to a member of the local council Estelle who gave me permission to take some photos. Estelle told me that Canteen Creek is not a part of the Shire of Barkly so they make their own agenda’s in accordance with the wishes and needs of the community. Estelle believes this is better than having an over-seeing shire with their own expectations and requirements. Estelle had grown up in Canteen Creek and it was heartening to hear Estelle had enrolled in a business course and was looking forward to continuing her education.

After the music, female elders of the community held up paintings they had done and explained to the audience what bible scriptures they had painted. Estelle explained that many of the elders are illiterate and this is their way of passing on bible stories to their communities.

 

This morning (Sunday 1st April) Sini and I enjoyed our usual walk then received a call out to the clinic. A toddler had ‘fly bite’ on her right eye and it had become very swollen. Fly bite is very common in the NT and is a result of flies biting and laying eggs in the eye. The result is an allergic reaction, swelling and clear discharge. It’s not painful but itchy and irritating. It is treated with anti-histamines and checked on the next day.

After we returned from the clinic, we got stuck into finishing off mowing Sini’s lawn. I got charging along with the lawn mower and came across a particularly difficult bunch of weeds. Tilting the lawn mower, I attacked the bunch of ‘weeds’ and was rewarded with a torrent of water saturating me and the lawn mower. Oh NO!!! Sini ran up and we turned the water main off. I felt so stupid! I went to Cassie’s house and told her what happened. Cassie shrugged it off and said “Don’t worry, accidents happen”. Appeasing my obvious embarrassment, Cassie said “Hey, [a RAN at another community] drove the brand new ambulance into a pole the other day, so don’t feel bad’. I was told to go to one house and ask for Riccardo and if Riccardo wasn’t home to go further up the street and ask for Ray.

Walking the streets of the community, I stuck out like the proverbial. Lily-white skin and a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off that lily-white skin, I was met with many looks but I didn’t feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Little kids yelled out “Hey lady! What’s your name?”. Apart from Cassie, I am the only white person in this community (Sini is from Tonga).

I found Ray (waking him up from a siesta) and explained my situation. He came and had a look but didn’t have any suitable parts so he used duct tape as a band aid. After Ray had left, I crouched down and reinforced the duct tape with even more duct tape, just so I felt I had done something. Sini stood next to me with her fly net on her head, hands on her hips and remarked “Well, we don’t need to do any neurovascular obs on that water main, it’s got a great flow!”.

Coming home feeling a bit silly and quite exhausted, I had a lie down on my bed. I woke up with a start and felt the presence of someone looking at me. I sensed it was the spirit of an Aboriginal woman in her sixties simply seeing who I was. I didn’t feel any emotion whatsoever, no fear, no foreboding, just a simple ‘seeing who I was’ and that was that. There is a nice atmosphere in this house. In this community. A sort of acceptance. Smiles and waves are met with smiles and waves. I have come here to help these people and do no harm. I hope they know that; I think they do… even the spirits.

Cya! – Rachel

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Opportunities. Look for the opportunities.

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I’m going far away. Nine hours from Alice Springs and four and a half from Tennant Creek. The most isolated nursing station in Australia and I’m going to be there for just over two weeks. No internet. No phone reception. No housemates. Just me, Canteen Creek Community and learning, learning, learning. And I am EXCITED!!!

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Me, Cassie, Jenny and a new AHPO.

Canteen Creek is a 4.5 hour drive south east from Tennant Creek along red dirt roads. When not graded, it can be extremely riveted and has actually caused some people back problems. During the rains, the road has sections that are impassable by vehicle and require boats to carry essentials. The communities become ‘flooded in’ and simply have to wait for the water to subside. In emergency situations, people are air-lifted out.

On the way we saw beautiful scenery and stopped at a waterhole that was whispering to us ‘Come in for a swim!’. We had a little splash and told ourselves we would stop for a swim on the way back into TC.

Jenny (Aboriginal Health Promotion Officer and all-round beautiful soul), myself and another health promotion officer turned up to the Canteen Creek health clinic on Monday afternoon and got chatting to the health clinic manager / RAN / Nurse Practitioner Cassie. When Cassie learnt I was aiming to be a Remote Area Nurse, she said I had come to the right place. Cassie is super keen to have students and teach them as much about being a RAN as possible. Canteen Creek usually has a population of around 150 people but it is Easter this weekend and the community was expecting an influx of family and friends to celebrate the occasion. This also means an influx into the health clinic. So I cancelled my RFDS placement and got permission to stay on in Canteen Creek to be personally mentored and taught by a Nurse Practitioner with so many post-grad quals that she would need them made into wallpaper should she wish to display them. I grabbed this opportunity with both grubby (from patting the dog) hands!

The set-up in this clinic and quite a few remote area health clinics is very similar to that of a GP office, except there are no GP’s. There are RAN’s and they mean business. People come in with a variety of ailments, accidents, complaints and needs and are seen either one after the other or ‘triaged’ (AKA who’s got the most serious life-threatening complaint in the waiting room, NOT necessarily who can scream the loudest – though that might work on a Friday afternoon when the RAN is in serious need of a G&T…). RAN’s are highly educated and experienced and are required to not only assess and treat but also diagnose and prescribe medications / treatment. They are the doctor. But possibly quicker.

I’m going to be a different person after these two weeks but for the better. Cassie has discussed some plans she is working on (which I can’t divulge) but will be great news to people interested in working in remote areas.

So to sign off, I will be fairly sans internet for a couple of weeks although I can use the clinic’s internet so I will endeavour to update if possible.

 

Take care and talk soon! – Rachel

 

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Ginger Beer

Off to a place called Canteen Creek (it has a new health centre, this site is really old) on Monday with an Aboriginal Health Promotion Officer called Jenny and a new staff member who is doing her orientation. I’m not nervous (wow! Rachel, is that you?) but I’m excited and looking forward to whatever I will do there. I saw Jenny at the Saturday markets and she said if the health clinic is too quiet, she will get me out and about like I did in Ali Curung. Awesome!!!

IMG_4882 I don’t think it will take 10 hours to get there.

The sunsets in the desert are supposed to be magical so I went sunset seeking a few nights in a row. The problem is, I kept leaving it too late and by the time I got to wherever I could get a decent view, the sun had already said goodnight to the town and had pulled the horizon over its head. So here are some grasps at what few sunbeams remained…

Yesterday (Saturday 24th March) I called into the markets and bought a book about Australia’s worst crimes; just a bit of light reading on a warm desert day. I bought an iced coffee from Cafe Buzzbean (say hello to owner Kristen when you’re there, she is really friendly) and bumped into my AOD RN buddy who invited me to join her and her friend who had just started a new job as a parole officer. After chatting for a while (and with me now wanting to be a parole officer…It just sounds cool… “gotta report to my parole officer or I’ll be back in the clink”) I meandered off and read my new book at Lake Mary Ann.

Coming out of IGA today, I nearly collided with a you-beaut electric scooter carrying a bloke called Walter Boulter who likes to be known as Tony (pity, cos I think having a rhyming name is awesome). Tony and his lovely wife Joy, an ex-school teacher, have lived in Tennant creek for almost 50 years – 49 to be exact. Tony told me he used to be a Ginger Beer (engineer) who helped build a lot of the roads in Tennant Creek. When he arrived, they were all dirt. Tony told me the population of TC at the height of gold fever was 50 thousand! The last gold mine shut down only 8 years ago and the population plummeted. I had to lean in to hear Tony at some stages as he lowered his voice to tell me about the more sensitive issues about TC and his thoughts on them. I respected his opinions and appreciated his honesty from his point of view and experience living in a town for half a century. Getting on my way, we shook hands. We shook hands again, then it turned into a homie handshake then a fist bump. Not kidding you. Tony and I have a secret handshake (I suppose it’s not secret anymore). An 80 year old on a gopher and a 34 year old in thongs doing a secret handshake outside IGA Tennant Creek; beat that Dr Dre.

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So I am now sitting in the dining room with one of my flatmate’s sitting at the same table sniffling snot every few minutes. I told him he doesn’t have a cold and it must be symptoms of rheumatic heart disease, syphilis or scabies – 3 common illnesses in Tennant. The common cold doesn’t exist here, it has to be something far worse. He is not impressed and does not find me funny.

See ya’s! – Rachel.

thumbnail_IMG_4945Mum! Whippett Street! 20180224_073723 Mum’s whippet Zena

thumbnail_IMG_4938 Frozen Roo tails at IGA

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Which is Which?

There’s another scribbling nurse. And it comes up at the very top of a google search. Dang it. He is not me and I am not him. Good luck to him though; as both scribbling nurses, we might one day meet and play scrabble. And scribble. And hopefully not battle for the title of THE Scribbling Nurse but I’ll sharpen my thermometer just in case…

Last Friday I spent the morning with one of the Child Health Promotion Nurses who was happy for me to go with her to the local primary school and talk to the kids about the importance of washing their hands. We attended the ‘transition’ class which is in-between kindergarten and pre-school (?). I walked in and 3 little kids ran up and wrapped their arms around me, welcoming me into their classroom! They watched a DVD about germs then all had a goo put on their hands which they could only see under a blue light (the germ seeker!). They then had to wash their hands and come back to check under the germ seeker if they had left any of the goo on. It was a great way to not only tell them but show them how germs work and why keeping little busy hands clean was very important.

Last Sunday I went for a walk along Lake Mary-Ann. Crossing the bridge, I looked up to see enormous spider webs. Sitting proudly in the centre were enormous makers of the spider webs casting 8 protective eyes over their enormous spider eggs.

Since my last post it’s been a week and a week it has been. I have spent all week (including tomorrow) in the Alcohol and Other Drug sector with one of the coolest mental health / AOD nurses I’ve ever met. There’s no drug she hasn’t seen smoked, ingested, injected or inhaled. And no liquor that hasn’t seeped deep into a person’s cells and soul that even facing the loss of everything dear to them hasn’t stopped them from wetting their lips and feeling the burn.

Tennant Creek has a multitude of services dedicated to the provision of support, treatment and care for people facing an addiction of some sort. Ranging from frontline grass roots support such as the service I have spent time in including the ‘sober up shelters’ to the people behind the scenes researching and creating programs that are person-focussed and culturally sensitive. The need for experienced and dedicated staff, like many services around the nation, is chronic. However, the people who are here are present in body, mind and spirit and sticking around – for as long as they can – to support the community in their fight against substances which are breaking down family units and adding to the health burden of Australia.

Check out this list of all the Volatile Substances that people can use to get high. AOD and VSA (Volatile Substance Abuse) workers have tried to be one step ahead yet are often just one step behind because sadly, where there’s a will there’s a way.

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This week I was shown around a facility called the Julalikari Youth Accommodation Centre. The Julalikari Youth Accommodation Centre provides individual accommodation on the property for Indigenous young people who have employment and need somewhere safe to live. This will open in the next 6-8 weeks.

I also had the enjoyment of meeting a guy called Fraser Tahau who is a musician and involved in Uncle Jimmy’s Thumbs Up program. Fraser is an amazing guitarist and singer and assisted many communities to write and create songs to educate young and old people about the importance of good health, good hygiene and good diet. The below video is one of my favourites. Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that can lead to blindness. It can be easily prevented by good hygiene and not infecting eyes with grubby hands.

Eye Know – Uncle Jimmy’s Thumbs Up

Last night, myself, my RN AOD buddy and Fraser went to watch Hillbilly Horror, a play with no props and an outstanding cast of actors and musicians. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. The Barkly Regional Arts Coordinator and other artists and facilitators gave the audience a run-down of future artistic plans for the Barkley region and I felt a swell of pride amongst the attending locals. Despite what has been happening in Tennant Creek and surrounding regions which has been broadcasted in the media, in the wise words of Chumbawamba, they get knocked down but they get up again, ain’t nothin’ gonna keep them down.

This was also in full show at a meeting I attended with my RN AOD buddy this morning. A room full of community minded people of police, council representatives, Territory families staff, AOD, Aboriginal health workers and more all brain stormed ways to make Tennant Creek a safer place for everyone. I provided some information on a program that used to be run in Albany where youth workers and peer workers would be on the streets talking to the youth, playing music with them and reaching out to people who may not reach out first. It was taken on board by the attendees and meeting facilitator. A lot of kids and adolescents are very anti-authority, not helped by American music and movies that make it seem cool to hate the police or aim for an anarchist society. Peer to peer support ie. someone who has walked the walk can be a positive mentor to other kids currently facing difficulties at home, school and with their friends and can have a huge impact on whether habits are developed or not. Or if habits are continued or recovered from.

Anyway, there is so much to learn and so many people to learn it from. For me, they haven’t just been my clinical instructors but people in the community, patients, clients and acquaintances. There are more people reading this blog which I’m thrilled about but I’ll always keep the content as real as I can because I am an observer and writer. And this world is my muse. Goodnight Tennant Creek, you are loved. And so are you.

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Ciao for now! – Rachel

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One week over!

I like Tennant Creek. I really like it. It’s not fancy, ha! We all knew that! It’s not sexy, suave or metro, – heck, it’s an outback country town. But I WOULD write home about it. And I have, in the form of 2 postcards that are sitting on the passenger seat of my loaned car waiting to be posted to my Mum. Sorry Mum, they’ll get there.

I just had 2 days in the dialysis unit with a very experienced RN called Jimmy. He was softly spoken, patient and keen to share his knowledge, even though he knew I was only there for 2 days. This particular unit is seperate from the Tennant Creek Hospital and is specifically for chronic end stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD is where the kidney function has decreased to the point the person needs kidney replacement therapy (KRT). KRT is either in the form of dialysis or transplant. Kidney dialysis uses a machine to filter out the toxins in the blood, a job normal kidneys perform. 99% of the patient’s were Aboriginal, the youngest patient I nursed with ESRD was 30 years old. 30 years old.

Today is Saturday 10th March 2018. I have been in the Northern Territory for 7 days, 5 days in Tennant Creek. I had my first sleep in for over a week (oh poor me!) then began a day of leisurely sightseeing. First off the rank was Battery Hill Mining Centre which has 3 different exhibits. I saw two of them because I arrived late. The first exhibition showed the life and times of Albert Berolla, a WW1 & WW2 soldier who volunteered to join the army. From Tennant Creek, he walked, rode a horse and hitch-hiked to Darwin so he could enlist. He won a prestigious Victoria’s Cross for his efforts in WW1.

The next exhibition was about gold mining and how they set up camps and lived. Apparently the Tennant Creek miner’s were renowned for being very muscly due to their extreme efforts to slug through hard earth with picks and shovels with water more scarce than the gold itself.

Helen, the customer service lady at Battery Hill Mining Centre is really friendly and so helpful. Say hello to her when you go in.

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Briefly called up to ‘One Tank Hill’ which is an obscure name for a hill with one tank on it – dang locals. Beautiful views of the township to the left and some remote camps to the right. The pinkish wall isn’t snake shaped, it’s just the panorama shot. It’s actually a circle.

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Onwards to Lake Mary Ann AKA Tingkkarli, a man-made lake about 2km east of Tennant Creek township. The green trees and grass, with peacocks, geese, peahens and even roosters wandering the grassy areas made the whole scene look like an oasis compared to the red earth and stark bushes surrounding it! I wandered around until a car pulled up and little Aboriginal kids leapt out, running to the water and splashing about. They told me a peacock was in the tree and has ‘feathers that stand up near it’s bum’. A family were sitting at a picnic table, a dark eyed baby eyeing me off as I walked past. When I went past again, I stopped and said hello. They were about to have a BBQ and had 3 Kangaroo tails, wrapped in plastic with an IGA price sticker on each. The man briefly explained how he was going to cook the roo tail (singe the hair off, place it under coals and BBQ it) and was happy to show me the tail out of the wrapper.

After having a quick chat to my Mum on the phone, I pulled into the old Telegraph station. It was a self-guided tour with the whole area very well maintained. I think I was the first person to have been there in a while because I was ‘hugged’ by spider webs criss-crossing some of the areas! After a good walk around with the sun on my face and the clouds on my back, I drove back into Tennant Creek for a quick shop and an afternoon at home.

Looking forward to next week with the Remote Outreach Midwife Yvonne, who I met on Friday morning. Will keep you posted. Thanks for reading my blog, I hope you enjoy the pictures and what I’ve been up to 🙂 – Rachel

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I love NT