Monday, September 9, 2013

Marshall Islands: Kwajalein

So now having a few weeks under my belt at Kwaj, I can give a little update as to what things are like here!

We'll start with work.  So there is a small hospital here with maybe 4-6 beds, lab, ER, minor procedure rooms.  I have a separate physical therapy office a few blocks down, but I come to the hospital for a couple of meetings, getting scripts, etc a few times a week.  My little clinic has a gym, treatment room, and an office, plus bathroom and kitchen/laundry, so I am very nicely set up.  I have been doing my notes on paper due to the fact that it would probably take about 5-6 weeks for me to get a Computer Access Card (CAC), and by then I would be gone.  That being said, documentation is a breeze!  :)  I have mainly orthopedic patients, everything from total knee replacements, to sports injuries, to chronic low back pain.  Since ortho is my love when it comes to PT, I'm pretty happy.  :)  I have an hour/patient and can schedule however I need to to accomodate schedules.  So it's a pretty sweet set up!

My room ins in a BQ (Bachelor's Quarters) kind of like a hotel room and I eat in a dining hall.

As far as the scenery here on Kwaj, it's pretty amazing.  We have the Pacific Ocean roaring in on one side and a more protected, calmer lagoon on the other side.  There is plenty of coral, beautiful fish, lots of nurse and reef sharks (I did see a few small reef sharks on my last snorkel, but the bigger nurse sharks hang out by the boat dock and get fat with people throwing them fish guts after they go fishing...around here people act like they're big puppy dogs...).  The water is clear turquoise or dark blue depending on which side you're viewing.  Coconut palms abound (as well as the sign to watch your head for falling coconuts).  Coarse white sand lines the beach, but I think it is dredged a time or 2 a year.  If you're into watersports, this is amazing.  I've been snorkeling 5x in 4 different spots - 1 time before church, 1 time before work, and once actually when I didn't have to go somewhere afterwards.  I got to try wakeboarding once, which is TOUGH!  My forearms felt like I'd been doing a lot of rock climbing for about 4 days afterwards.  I only got up for a decent round once, making it through a straightaway and about half of a curve.  (Wakeboarding is like snowboarding while being pulled by a boat.)

So the social life here reminds me a lot of being aboard the Africa Mercy.  I see a lot of the same people at the dining hall at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you make new friends constantly.  It is also a very transitional island with people constantly moving in and moving out.  (Probably not as much in the fall-spring as the summer, however.)  You walk or bike everywhere...unless you're a paramedic, security, garbage man, or have access to a golf cart.  Thankfully Nikki, the PT for whom I'm covering, let me borrow her bike while she's gone.  For 1.1 square miles, it actually can feel like a long distance to get some places sometimes.  I think you can make a loop up to 7 miles long, or just "doing the runway" is about a 5 mile loop.  I've gotten to play some beach volleyball, done some swimming (they just drain and replace the pool with ocean water 1x/week), had some Zumba classes, ran, and worked out at the gym for exercise.    There is definitely a party feel - I think this is kind of like the Key West of the Pacific, except without all the good food.

Everyone is very nice and welcoming, and being a female there is no lack of compliments or chances to hang out with the opposite sex as the male to female ratio is quite some point I might get a big head and start to think I'm a supermodel or something...  ehhh, probably not.

There's also a great deal of history here, even prior to WWII, but I was blessed with the opportunity to get a tour with one of the island's archeologists on Roi-Lamur, a 30 minute (free) plane ride away from Kwaj where about 80-100 people work and live.  This is the island where the huge radar systems are to track missiles.  It has been explained to me that between the 3 radars on Roi they could count the droplets leaking out of the space station easily (if droplets were leaking...not that they were...)  It definitely zapped our golf cart a time or two and killed it...  Thankfully it restarted.  But there are many left over Japanese buildings, lots of graves (that have and have not been completely discovered), some post take over (you can tell my military terms are pretty scarce) American buildings.  Very interesting and neat to imagine how the battles took place as you're standing on the spot.
I am so thankful for the chance to have been the PT on Kwaj for a short while, the work and play combined fora great fit for me!

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