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Central Australia!

Hello! G’Day! Howzitgarn? Please accept my many apologies for such a long absence between blog entries! I am sitting at a cafe called Red Dog cafe in the Todd Street Mall in Alice Springs. The weather has been really weird the past few days with drizzle, a few thunderstorms and rain! But let’s start back to when we were in Darwin!

We arrived in Darwin on the 10th October. My graduation ceremony for my Bachelor of Nursing was held on 12th October at the Darwin Convention Centre. I have to say, Charles Darwin University really made it a very special event for everyone and I felt so proud to be amongst a group of students who had made so many sacrifices and worked so hard to be there in their gowns and mortarboards.

I wore my beads made by a lady in the remote Aboriginal community of Canteen Creek. It was a reminder and a symbol of where I had come from, where I want to be and the people I want to serve and care for as a nurse.

The two parts I felt teary were when the doctors were given their degrees and called ‘Dr’ for the first time and when the people were receiving their Certificates; the tradesmen who had taken time off work, still dressed in their work boots, shorts and hi-vis shirts wrapped in a black gown and looking so proud of themselves. The people who had worked hard to learn English as their second, or third, or fourth language. The one and only recipient, a female, who had gained her certificate in metal fabricating!

Everyone receiving their qualifications on that day were from different socio-economic backgrounds, different families, different abilities but everyone had achieved what they set out to achieve regardless of whether it was a Certificate 1 or a doctorate. We were all in the same big room shaking the hand of the university Chancellor and feeling really damn proud of ourselves and each other.

My Mum came all the way up to Darwin from Albany and along with Tim, my brother Simon (who lives in Darwin) rearranged his work to be there to see me accept my degree; even though that meant he had to work longer to make up the time. I was so thrilled and proud to have them there with me on that day and very thankful they were able to come. I looked up at them after I accepted my degree and saw all three looking down at me with pride; an amazing feeling.

It was a long arduous journey to get my Bachelor of Nursing degree. There were many sleepless nights full of anxiety and self-deprecation. Mornings of clinical placements where I was in tears and wishing I had never started studying! But I had immense support from family and friends and I am now at the beginning of my next journey.

Last year, when I was up in Darwin for my clinical training block, I stayed with my brother and his family and made a promise to my sister-in-law that once Tim and I got to Darwin for my graduation ceremony (what seemed like a looooong way away!) we would sip champagne and laugh about how stressed out I was! So Katie, Tim, Mum and I floated around in their swimming pool, sipping champagne and I couldn’t believe I was finished!!

I wish I could say the rest of our stay in Darwin was as fabulous, however over the course of a few days I developed a tickling cough and on the Sunday, put myself to bed just after lunch where the cough quickly escalated into a raging fever, headaches and general malaise. I was as sick as a dog for days and couldn’t leave the granny flat bedroom where we were staying. Tim caught it off me and a few days later developed the same miserable symptoms. We both were in quarantine for just under a week until we felt slightly better to emerge and plan our trip down to Alice Springs! It was the worst flu-type illness I remember having and we were both feeling extremely worse for wear!

I bought a car in Darwin so on Friday 19th October, Tim and I planned to drive to Mataranka then Tennant Creek then Alice Springs. And that we did. Dosing up on Sudafed and cough mixture, we made the long journey to these destinations, stayed one night to rest then back on the road. We didn’t visit any attractions, focussing our energy on keeping alert while driving to each stop-over!

We arrived in Alice Springs on the Sunday and checked into the best caravan park in the town. ‘G’Day Mate’ Caravan Park is lovely and we had a grassy area with an en-suite bathroom – luxury! The swimming pool was large and clean so we floated around in it to escape the heat. Before long we were joined by a few people who live at the caravan park, 2 of them nurses! One was even a mental health nurse! So we had a lot to chat about and in true territorian fashion, they were quick to invite Tim and I on their social occasions and welcomed us to Central Australia. We are keeping in touch with them and hope to attend lawn bowls this Thursday!

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Unfortunately the heat was too much to bear living out of a camper trailer so Tim and I bit the bullet and checked into a furnished apartment until we can move into our little rental house early November.

I have full time work which I start this Thursday until my graduate program starts in late March. Tim is taking it easy and looking at his options for the time being!

I met a fellow graduate student last week and we chatted for hours which was lovely. Other than that, we’ve been getting paperwork ready, viewed potential rentals, a little bit of sight-seeing and generally settling into a new city!

I’m looking forward to making new friends here in Alice and really miss my friends back home. I guess we can sometimes take having friends around for granted and I’m really feeling it being away from everyone. But this is what happens with change and I know both Tim and I will make wonderful new friends here!

So that’s about it for where Tim and I are at! We survived travelling around WA and have made it safely to our destination of Alice Springs!

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Stay tuned and I’ll update as much as I can.

Lots of love to everyone xoxoxo

 

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Our Story

Reading some other stories about how travelling came to be, it occurred to me that there are lots of you out there in this spectacular world who have no idea who I am nor how I came to be a nurse and travelling Australia.

So this is our story.

Tim and I met way back in 2010 and I moved in with him in 2011. Initially we decided we would like to buy a few acres and a house somewhere on the outskirts of our hometown Albany in Western Australia.

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I was working as a personal care assistant in aged care and Tim was (and is) a boilermaker working for a locally owned company. In 2011, I was offered a scholarship by my then manager to become an Enrolled Nurse. Working towards this goal, I also worked full-time while studying part time. As is required for many areas of study, I was required to attend clinical placements at hospitals so I used all my annual leave attending these full-time placements.

Tim and I loved to go away on weekends (or whenever I had a few days off, working shift work and all) and one particular weekend in 2012, we camped at Bluff Creek, a beach further up the coastline from Cheynes Beach WA. Sitting under the black sky scattered with bright stars and a warm campfire burning next to us, I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Albany paying off a mortgage having never travelled. I told Tim that I wanted to travel when I finished studying (both my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then Bachelor degree in Nursing). Tim said he would do it with me, so that night, we decided that when I had finished my degree and Tim was due his 10 year long service leave, we would pack up and become nomads. That year, so far in the future, was 2018.

For the next 6 years, I finished studying my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then my Bachelor of Nursing all the while working full time. I spent every hour of my accrued annual leave to attend clinical placements which left me feeling really exhausted and pretty burnt out.  However I left aged care and began working in Mental Health, an area I have and always will be passionate about. I was extremely lucky to have a brilliant manager who encouraged and supported staff studying so I was able to attend clinical placements when offered and even travelled to the Northern Territory for a full 2 months of clinical placements in various Aboriginal communities. I had the best time of my life in those 2 months and it ignited a deep and profound respect and passion for providing health care to Indigenous communities. I had wanted to be a Remote Area Nurse for a long time and this placement cemented my goal to become one and work all around Australia.

We set a date of 17th August 2018 when we would be driving out of our driveway and on the next part of our lives. This date was quickly creeping up and we had heaps to do.

We listed all our furniture on Facebook Buy & Sell groups and were surprised at how easily and quickly we were able to sell everything. The house became more and more empty until the final night was spent on a mattress on the floor.

We had saved money and added the dosh from selling our belongings to our travel kitty. I had paid off my debts over the years and Tim had chosen a real estate to lease his house through.

I didn’t have much furniture, having given away or sold a lot of it when I moved in with Tim. However it was harder for Tim emotionally as he was selling everything he had worked hard to buy especially his beloved motorbike, couch and TV.

We had a cat Leila and dog Izzy as well. Leila has gone to live with Tim’s dad and reports back are saying Leila is loving being a lap warmer and spends her days snoozing on ‘Grandad’s’ lap or under his bed covers! Izzy is staying with Tim’s sister until we settle in Alice Springs. Tim’s sister has 4 kids, the two younger ones being at home more and are loving playing with Izzy. We feel so comforted and grateful that our pets are being cared for so well and in homes full of love and attention. Of course we could have taken Izzy with us however we really wanted to see a lot of National Parks and decided it would be kinder for Izzy to remain in Albany rather than having to spend time in random kennels while we are on the road.

So that was how we came to travel, in a nutshell. Of course there were a lot of emotions going on. I had been living back in Albany for 12 years and Tim had lived there all his life (apart from stints living away) so we were leaving friends, family and pets behind, not to forget stable jobs! However now we are on the road, we keep in touch regularly via social networking, phone calls, texts and postcards!

I’m sure many people who travel, both overseas and around Australia are often told how ‘lucky’ they are. But luck has nothing to do with it. Travelling and having the funds to travel requires a lot of work, sacrifices and dedication. For seven years while I studied both my EN and RN I never had a holiday, not to Bali, not over east, not one holiday. Tim and I took little breaks for a day or two but otherwise I was either working and studying full time and/or attending clinical placement in hospitals (full time shifts).

We both had our sights set on becoming free from the daily grind and worked hard to achieve it. Once I finish my grad year in Alice Springs, we will be back on the road picking up nursing/welding work to fund our travels.

I am sitting at my laptop at a place called Cygnet Bay on the Dampier Peninsula. It is a balmy evening and I’m sipping on icy cold apple cider, looking forward to what tomorrow brings. In a couple of days we will be doing the Gibb River Road then heading to Darwin for my graduation ceremony on the 12th October.

So if you want to travel, anywhere in the world or around your own country, you CAN do it! It doesn’t need to be expensive and you can do it on a budget. Just work hard and save as much as you can, you can always pick up work on the road if you need.

There are heaps of Facebook pages that are really informative and helpful. I have found quite a few really helpful, here are some links:

MY RIG Adventures

Not Grey Nomads

Trekking Downunder

Seeking the Serenity

Thanks for reading! – Rachel xoxox

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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!

 

The Scribbling Nurse

And that was that! (for now)

It’s done. Or in the fine vocabulary of Vicky Pollard “I DUN IIIIIT!”. 326171

I have finished my Bachelor of Nursing degree and now waiting for my registration with AHPRA (the governing body all health clinicians need to be registered with in order to practice [legally]).

It was a bittersweet ending to my time in Hermannsburg. As is usual with student placements, you just get to know the staff better and feel like you’re fitting in just a little bit more then *woosh!* you’re leaving. You say heartfelt goodbyes to staff you came to admire and enjoy being around, but they will soon have another student to fill your place and the merry-go-round starts up again; same moves, same motions, same things to sign-off.

The Hermannsburg Ntaria clinic staff, like the Tennant Creek, Ali Curung and Canteen Creek staff, are all a really wonderful group of people who I would love to work with in the future so maybe this student might return one day!

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Most of the Ntaria Health Clinic staff!

There were a couple of people in Hermannsburg who I spent time with who I will miss and look forward to seeing again when Tim and I return to the NT.

Ems is a strong and determined new student, who was a pleasure to sit with and rehash knowledge even I had forgotten. She reignited in me the excitement of new beginnings and a sense of self; ‘Why am I doing this’? Ems knew, she’s known for a long time why she is doing this. And being around her, listening to her story and sharing mine, I remembered why I was doing this as well. Thank you Ems.

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Ems, Fran and moi!

And Lulu. Lulu is a magical dog because for some reason I have this crick in my neck and every time I move it, I hear a voice say “Lulu HAS to be in your blog! I’m not writing it down because I just said it. Lulu HAS to be in your blog!”. I’ve never been afraid of a midwife before but I have heard urban legends so Lulu, a rescued pound dog who has white fur that gets stuck in your clothes and is way older than she looks, has now been mentioned in my blog. And I get to keep my womb and any other bits midwives deal with. Lulu’s Mother is a midwife and she isn’t afraid to travel in her new little car.

This week has been a countdown to the day I finish. I was on-call with two RAN’s (Remote Area Nurse, in case you forgot) on Anzac Day and attended a few call-outs with them. I still love remote area nursing and working/living in Aboriginal communities.

Wednesday night, I went to a BBQ down at Fink River with Fran, Lulu’s Mum. There we joined a group of people and sat under the stars, chatted and enjoyed watching the little kids run around. The serenity was, in my opinion, better than Bonnie Doon (sorry Darryl). Everywhere I go, I make a mental note to come back with Tim and Izzy and spend more time there, get to know more people and learn more about ourselves, even if it is sitting quietly and being in our third space.

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Picnic on the Fink River bed

Thursday, we had a lunch together at the clinic and one of the visiting clinicians had made a lime cheesecake to say goodbye to a RAN called Marcia and a congrats to me for finishing. So lovely and appreciated.

This morning (Friday) was my very very last day as an RN student. I went over to the museum to have a look around at the history of Hermannsburg. I took some happy snappys and had a cool drink at the tearoom. Hermannsburg is beautiful little community with lots of places to visit. I’m keen to go back and see Jesus’ footprint near Fink River and just spend more time enjoying the area without rushing.

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Everything seemed slightly surreal as I wandered around waiting for my ride coming into from Alice Springs to take me back. Unfortunately, the driver of the car who picked me up was the most rude, obnoxious piece of work I’d encountered in a long time. I don’t usually draw attention to negative experiences however I am managing to find the funny side in the situation. I’m very assertive and choose when to enter into swapping words, but because I didn’t feel like being left on the side of a desert road with no phone reception and a warm can of Coke Zero, I ignored her comments!

After 8 weeks, moving 9 times and working in 6 different facilities, I have met and worked with some of the most genuine, hardworking, loving people I have ever met. I feel so blessed to have had this experience in the Northern Territory and can’t wait to call it my home, again, but for longer.

I just went and watched ‘Gurrumul’ at the cinema. It is about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind Aboriginal man from Elcho Island who is a musical and singing prodigy. He has a haunting and powerful voice that can take you to different parts of the universe. I’d highly recommend seeing this documentary.

I had the entire cinema to myself and as it was playing on my mind, I thought I’d quickly check to see if my last two units had been marked. I squinted at my phone and saw I had passed my last two units meaning I now had my degree. I turned my phone off again and sat in the darkness, tears of joy rolling down my cheeks as the rich soulful euphony of Gurrumul’s music swirled around the theatre and caressed my heart. ‘I did it’ I thought proudly, ‘I did it’.

– Rachel

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Photos courtesy of Fran!

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Hermannsburg & Uluru (and everything in the middle)

NB. All photographs of Uluru and Kata Tjuta were taken at sites where photographs are allowed. No photos were taken where it was forbidden. Cultural acknowledgment and respect was shown throughout the tour. 

I just walked to Piggly’s Supermarket and got some milk. I can’t remember ever walking to the local shop to buy milk. So that’s something exciting.

I’m sitting in a cool (both temperature and aesthetic) house in a suburb called The Gap in Alice Springs. Walking out the front door, the McDonnell range peers down at you, keeping you safe from anything coming up from the south, like South Australians or…stuff. I’ve been here two nights, getting in from Hermannsburg on Friday morning, hitching a ride from a lovely midwife called Fran and her pound puppy Lulu. I haven’t checked the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders #5) but I do believe I may be slightly addicted to dogs. I miss my dog Izzy terribly and experience withdrawal symptoms including the need to talk out loud to her in her special dog voice (when no-one’s around; I may be mad but I have insight) to pretending she’s on the bed with me and using a pillow to hug as if it’s her. However, once I get to have a cuddle and pat of another dog, my longing for Izzy is placated for a while and I can function. So I patted Lulu and that was nice.

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Isabel Elizabeth aka Izzy Lizzy

HERMANNSBURG

Last week I spent in Hermannsburg, an Aboriginal community just over 120km west of Alice Springs. Ntaria health clinic is fairly new and has a team of health professionals including a doctor, Aboriginal health practitioners and nurses plus a receptionist and driver all of whom are friendly and welcoming. The clinic is  located near another facility called West Aranda Health Aboriginal Corporation (WAHAC) so the staff of both support each other to provide a holistic service. It also has lots of visiting specialities like the mental health team I eagerly waited for on Thursday! (I work in MH and aim to do my Masters degree in it so any other MH clinician is a friend I just haven’t met yet.)

Last week was quiet in the clinic which allowed time for me to have a chat with the nurses and Aboriginal health practitioners, research some information online and complete some online study. It was lovely to spend time with different staff members and find out more about their role, where they are from and what they like about living and working in Hermannsburg. As usual, this clinic, like others, has both permanent and locum staff yet all the staff seem to enjoy getting together either for walks, BBQ’s or exploring the region. On Wednesday, we helped send off some school kids who were riding horses to Alice Springs arriving in time for Anzac Day.

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Seeing off the kids riding to Alice Springs in time for Anzac Day.

 

ULURU

Last night I got off the coach bus from a very long day exploring Uluru and Kata Tjuta with Emu Run Tours. We started at 6am picking up people from various motels, hotels and caravan parks then trekked to Erldunda roadhouse and wildlife park for a hot breakfast. I chatted to a couple who caught The Ghan up from Adelaide. Next we picked up more ‘explorers and adventurers’ (the tour guides refused to call us tourists because tourists are ‘people who drive badly and we aren’t driving, we’re on a bus’) from Uluru resort and went on to Kata Tjuta where we were given a strict time limit of 35 minutes to race to the gorge, take pictures then race back. The gorge was beautiful and it would have been magical to sit and meditate in the shade overlooking the green foliage being protected lovingly by a mountain of red striped rock on either side.

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I had the impression from tourist photos that you could only get within a few kilometres of Uluru so I was pleasantly surprised when we got to walk around the base of the rock, seeing the caves and waterholes and touching with my own hand the cool hardness of a significantly sacred area for the Aboriginal people. Next time I come back with Tim, we will be able to spend more time absorbing the powerful environment and appreciating one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.

We had a BBQ dinner at a ‘sunset photo’ spot which our group had to ourselves for all of ten minutes before processionary caterpillars in the shape of tour buses synchronised their parking and hoards of visitors, just like us, flopped off each bus and clicked selfies, spousies, friendies and more selfies this time sipping champagne (guilty!).

Sleeping on a bus sucks so getting home, showering and sliding into a clean bed was AH-MAZING. Great tour, long day, tired student.

OTHER STUFF

So I got my nose pierced as well. It was the first thing I did when I got into Alice Springs from my beautiful Tennant Creek (how I miss thee!). I’ve had over 13 body piercings and 7 tattoos in my time but this nose piercing hurt the most. So much that I yelled out a profanity while the poor apprentice was trying to squeeze the stud into the hole she had just made. Fortunately tattoo parlours aren’t notorious for policing language so I didn’t have to pay more and/or leave with 3 holes in my schnoz and no stud.

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It’s not a huge zit. This time.

Five days left of this nursing degree and I’m finished. FINISHED! Wooohooo! But to be honest? I’m shitting myself. What if something happens in the next five days and I can’t get signed off? What if I fall over and can’t go to prac for a week? (I associate falling over with bad injuries for some reason. Other than extreme sports or 4 wheel motorbike riding.) What if the Ntaria health staff think I’m an idiot and give me a crap final assessment? Sounds all silly but the end is near… and so far! I will be very relieved and happy when I am holding in my hot, sweaty hand the 160 hours attendance record, decent final assessment and the last two completed objectives – all ready to scan and send to Charles Darwin University. THEN I will be okay… except then I’ll be worried that CDU will find fault with something. Okay, anxiety get behind me.

Am looking well and truly forward to going home and seeing Tim, Izzy and the ocean. I am looking forward to seeing my cat Leila as well but Tim told me she said she doesn’t care if I come back but to just send money for food. And not biscuit food, WET FOOD. And not just WET FOOD, Whiska’s Casserole wet food. And NOT only when it’s on special.

I am going to apply for a nursing graduate program at Alice Springs Hospital, applications open in May 2018. I have referees lined up (and really good ones too!) so I really hope I will get a place. I’d love to spend some time in the ED in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek hospitals then go on to do a Transition to Remote program. Finger’s crossed!

Hope you’re all keeping well! Thanks for reading my blog 🙂

Oh and check out: http://blog.feedspot.com/australia_blogs

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– Rachel

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Bye Molly. Bye Tony. Bye Honkey. Bye Canteen Creek.

Hello from my comforting friend Tennant Creek. It’s so lovely to be back here after my adventure in Canteen Creek.

Where to start? I know, the itchy bites on my legs are driving me crazy. I don’t know if it’s the flies or the mozzies but I can’t wait for them to disappear! Okay, got that out the way.

Canteen Creek was an experience and a massive culture shock for me. As I discussed in my last blog, I have changed. I have learnt so much in the two and a half weeks I was in Canteen Creek working alongside two highly experienced and great fun Remote Area Nurses (RAN’s). I have learnt to treat a person and look past their choices both to themselves and their loved ones. Be beneficent. It is human nature to judge and compare people’s life choices with your own. Compare the way they were raised and the skills they were taught against your own life skills and family culture.

But I, as a nurse, am trained and hold dear the belief of serving the community. I am trained to educate people and support them in the health and wellness. And I enjoyed doing just that in Canteen Creek.

As well as working alongside Cassie and Sini in the clinic, one of the highlights was providing influenza vaccinations to people in the community straight out of the ambulance on the sides of the roads and even at the front of the local store! We filled an esky with pre-filled fluvax syringes, swabs, sharps container, gloves, teeny bandaids and an anaphylactic kit and trawled the streets jabbing everyone who came within arm’s length of Sini and I (with their permission of course!!).

At one point, we had a group of women sitting with us outside the store who identified people coming past who hadn’t had their flu jab. When each person had their jab, we’d all chorus loudly “Woohoo! Next!”

Cassie gave me as many opportunities to practice skills and knowledge as possible, always with practical “have a look at this and tell me what you see”. Following that was an explanation about what the condition was, how it came about and how it can be treated. I also got to have a go at certain tasks (within my scope of practice as a student RN) like centrifuging blood tests (putting them in the whizzing machine), performing heaps of intramuscular injections, using the online computer data entry system and generally being a member of the health care team. Sini was very patient with me, often in her side of the clinic, fumbling about and asking questions I really should have known the answer to… “Do you draw back on every IM?”

I loved sitting in the staff-room listening to Cassie and Sini talk about their nursing experiences. Cassie with her sharp wit and acute observations (with a ‘she says what we all think’ technique) and Sini’s laid -back, tongue-in-cheek recounts of life in a busy ED and remote clinics. Laughter was welcomed in this place.

One evening I was pouring myself some iced-tea and thought to myself “gee this stuff looks like urine”. Then an idea for a prank came over me. I snuck a urine specimen container home and filled it halfway with the iced tea marking the container with the word ‘trick’ (to ensure I wouldn’t confuse it with a real urine specimen! – unless a patient’s name was Trick, then that would serve me right). I smuggled it into the clinic in my pocket and waited for an opportune time. Then it came. Cassie had just seen a patient who had provided a urine specimen. Cassie left it on the bench asking me to ‘test for leucs’ (dipstick testing for leucocytes amongst other things) then she turned back to her computer. I pulled the fake urine from my pocket, opened the lid and walked up to Cassie saying “This wee looks a bit weird…”. Cassie turned and looked just as I sniffed it and took a sip! Cassie’s face lost all colour and her expression went from disbelief to horror to disgust in the matter of seconds! Her hands reached out trying to pull my arm away from my mouth while she spurted out all the possible diseases I could catch by drinking someone else urine! It was amazing that even in such a bizarre and revolting few seconds, she was still able to list communicable diseases spread via urine! I stopped and through my laughter told her it was iced tea, I had brought it from home to prank her. Relief washed over her face and today, after recovering, she said the prank was ‘hilarious’ – phew!

The clinic was often busy but I never felt useless or out of my depth. Cassie was acutely aware of what I could and couldn’t do but also taught me so my knowledge would expand during my placement. This might sound like an obvious thing to happen but as other nurses and nursing students would know, some clinical placements are as boring as batshit because you don’t learn anything or everything is outside your scope so you can’t do much anyway. Or the worst, there is nothing new to learn.

I was invited to stay on at Canteen Creek for the remainder of my time in the NT however, after discussion with the Centre for Remote Health placement coordinator Jessie, it was decided I should experience as much as I can in the NT so will go on to Ntaria clinic in another Aboriginal community called Hermannsburg about an hour outside Alice Springs. I am looking forward to that and my day trip to Uluru.

After my first night at Canteen Creek, I was moved to another house which was really lovely with brand new recliners and was generally more comfy. I was visited one afternoon by a donkey who stood at my front glass sliding door staring straight inside. I poked a carrot through the crack wondering if he might then leave. No such luck. Honkey (as I named him) stood and waited. I was unsure if he may nip me should I try to get past him so I rang my colleague to walk to my place and shoo him away. Honkey visited a few more times, pushing my gate open with his nose and waltzing on in. I no longer felt nervous around him so often stood next to him feeding him carrots and feeling sorry for his weepy fly-blown eyes and small open wounds. He looked sad but I don’t think he was; when we left Canteen Creek today, he trotted gleefully past my house with a pretty dark haired female donkey (known as a jenny, or jennet) in hot pursuit!

Molly visited often and so did Tony. Tony is the little black dog with the stumpy tail but since one of Sini’s dogs was also called Stumpy, I renamed the little black community dog Tony.

Tony is an odd little character. He showed no affection and engaged in very little interaction yet liked to quietly be around us. He always came along when we went for a walk and seemed to enjoy being a part of our odd ‘family’. He did have a bad habit of picking fights with the other community dogs, often relying on Molly to step-in and put out the fire. One morning Tony got cocky and picked a fight when Molly was nowhere to be seen. He had his back foot hurt slightly, some hair pulled out of his head and his left ear bitten. Unfortunately his left ear became infected, and combined with the red dirt and ticks plaguing the little guy, he was in a sorry state. There are no vets in Canteen Creek so I played vet as much as I could, picking off the revolting ticks and gently bathing Tony’s ear with all I had; wet-wipes and warm water.

Tony seemed to know he was getting helped and sat quietly while I carefully wiped away pus and red mud. I am buying flea and tick treatment tomorrow and sending it back with Sini to give to Tony and Molly. She will also bathe his ear and apply iodine if possible. He will always be a community dog but he is our community dog and I know the other nurses who come to Canteen Creek will care for him and Molly because they have in the past. As Sini and I drove back into Tennant Creek today, I told Sini I wished Tony and Molly were in the back coming as well and not being left there. I left two large bags of dog biscuits at the nurses house for them which Sini will ask the other nurse coming on to continue to feed them. Typing this, I have tears in my eyes but I know that Sini and the other nurses who visit Canteen Creek will care for the both of them just as well as they care for humans.

Sometimes it’s not the nursing or study that is hard, it can be other factors of life in remote communities. The home-sickness. The yearning to hug your own pets back home and tell them they will never ever be neglected or unfed. The flies. The lack of activities we are often accustomed to in bigger towns/cities.

But what this placement, in particular, has taught me is appreciation for what I have, how I was raised and the skills I have and am learning. The skills I can use to help others and hopefully teach a whole new generation. And those people passing it onto the next generation. And the one after.

This blog was going to be a ‘this is what I did and these are the photos I took’ but right now, I feel humbled…fortunate. I look around at the house I am staying in, the house the Centre for Remote Health have generously let me stay in again because I arrived in Tennant Creek early. The genuine support I have received from the CRH, Tennant Creek Hospital staff, CDU and the amazing remote health clinic staff. I think back to the precious faces of the little kids and babies I cuddled and helped treat in Canteen Creek and I hope they will grow up strong and fortunate. I hope they do.

Take care and thank you for reading my blog.

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