19 December 2013

Madain Saleh

Can I complain about work again?  No?  I suppose I've met my annual quota.
Think Nursing Home.  Yugk.

Moving on then...a few weeks ago a handful of us popped up to Madain Saleh for a look at the old city & tombs built into the rock.  For those who may be familiar with Petra, it was created by the same group of Nabeteans, but on a smaller scale.  The landscape was not dissimilar to the American Southwest.  Let me rewind, "popped up" is not an appropriate description.  Ten of us piled in a minivan for a 9 hour trek on Thursday, we saw some amazing things on Friday (ate some Great food & had a real shower) and piled back in the van for the 9 hr drive home Saturday.  The spiciest part of the trip was an encounter with a local camel dude who thought we were trespassing.  Our driver stopped to ask him directions & he tried to grab the keys out of the ignition.  He wanted to get the authorities involved but let us go when he realized we were a bunch of women...he was not a happy herder.  We also horrified our driver by insisting we were going to pee on the side of the road.  Of course it was much nicer than the other nasty options we experienced along the way.  Needless to say, he only allowed us to do it once :)  Good trip, always nice to get out of town...but wait for the direct flight!

Oh, the weather!  So Fantastic!!  I've never considered 80-85 degrees "cool"...but it's so pleasant!  It even rained once - VERY exciting.


Yes, I had to capture it on film.  Notice the sky is still blue.  It didn't last long :(

I hope I don't turn into one of those crazy ladies who wears a hoody in September.

OK, I will complain about ONE thing.  Saudi Arabia is giving me gray hair!  I don't mind the pesky little crooked ones that stick up - very pluckable.  Its the sly, smooth ones that blend right in that are causing me angst.  You just catch a little glitter in the mirror & then spend the next 10 min trying to find it.  Ug, lame.  Maybe the gray hair will make me wiser...nsha'allah!  No, no photo here.

That is all.  I hope you are having a Wonderful holiday season - my brain & body have NO idea it's winter!  I work Christmas but am off to Morocco on the 27th...only 8 days and 5 more shifts!!  Yeah!
Take care ya'll ~

07 November 2013

Dubai & Abu Dhabi

I'm not sure what ya'll did this past weekend...but 3 of us jetted off to Dubai for a little change of scenery...and a few beverages!  Our generous hostess was a former colleague of Sioux's who is now working in the Emirates.  We kept the debauchery to a reasonable level...and packed quite a few activities into 3 days.  Thao fortunately had some extra Halloween costumes so we could properly attend her friend's house party Thursday night.  Afterwards we headed to the Westin's bar party near the beach & mingled with other freaksters.  Sioux had on this skimpy taxi outfit with a patch saying, "Free Rides" and I had a 1/2 angel, 1/2 devil getup complete with horns & a halo...a fitting choice for the crazy polarity in this odd country.  Needless to say, our little group got plenty of attention.  The next day we drove to Abu Dhabi where Thao had scored free Formula One tickets...combined with free Jay-Z concert tickets.  Ha!  I'm still chuckling.  I'm not sure what the race-car hype is all about & the rap concert was...pretty hilarious!  I will never forget my nice, proper English friend Katy bobbing her head and swearing right along with Jay-Z!  The next day we admired some of the crazy, futuristic architecture in Dubai & took our compulsory snaps of the Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world.  I swear these Middle Eastern countries are having a pissing contest trying to see who can top who with the highest this and widest that...incredible use of resources, but don't get me started.  Although this was certainly an atypical vacation for me, I have to admit good fun was had :)

Arabic, Wahbah Crater...Thank You!

To be clear, it is entirely possible to live & work in The Kingdom without more than a handful of key Arabic phrases.  At a minimum, you could even get by with 1 word - Nsha'allah - which means, "God Willing."  It is used profusely - and appropriately - in almost EVERY conversation, regardless of how brief.  Once in your vocabulary, this word will probably never leave it.  So, whatever possessed me to take a proper, structured Arabic class is beyond me.  Glutton for punishment I guess!  For those of you who are aware of my relationship with "the French lady,"...well, you are probably sympathizing with my Arabic teacher already.

I still have no desire to learn or comprehend the (literally!) backwards squiggles & dots that somehow coalesce into a functional language, but it is proving beneficial to sputter out a few more phrases to my patients.  Most laugh & love the attempt, some are clearly not impressed and continue to ramble on & on despite my blank stare.  Then there are a few that demand an Arabic-speaking nurse - surprisingly only a few!

Because we are learning phonetically, challenged spellers can be pleased as we spell words however we want and are not wrong :)  Instead of Standard Arabic, we are focusing on the dialect most commonly spoken here in Jeddah - a fab decision since we are working with the general public.  Despite being from Egypt, and speaking his own dialect, our instructor is Fantastic & incredibly patient.  We are 7 (semi) stubborn nurses: 2 Americans, a Canadian, a Kiwi, a Brit & 2 South Africans.  The S. Africans have a slight advantage as Afrikaans also uses the back of your throat lugi-hawking sound.  It will continue to be interesting... nsha'allah I can at least learn some basics.  Although I won't need to know how to order a beer in this country, knowing the word for bathroom is handy in any language!  (Hammam, if you ever need it :))

Wahbah Crater

The same handful of gals joined a larger group trip to spend the night in the desert.  All-in-all not super exciting, but I figured a trip to the desert is compulsory while in the Middle East.  Somehow a 5 hr bus trip turned into 7...making multiple U-turns in the middle of the desert at night was slightly disconcerting, but eventually the driver figured it out.  Luckily gas is cheap.  How cheap?  Are you ready for this?  Petrol here is 25 Halalas/Liter.  There are 100 Halalas in a Riyal, 3.75 Riyals in $1 US.  There are 3.8 liters in a gallon...which I will round up to 4.  Math has never been my thing, but I think that's about 27 cents/gallon!!

Anyway, I digress.  We finally made it to our destination and crashed for a few hrs in a flimsy sleeping bag on large carpets under one big open tent.  We got up early to beat the heat (make an attempt anyway) and hiked down into the crater.  Whether formed by a meteorite or an underground steam explosion, it was pretty neat to see.  It was nice to know the desert wasn't ALL flat sand & tumble weeds for miles & miles.  Once we hiked back up it was Hot-Hot (as opposed to just HOT) and tootling around on old lava by the camp was even Hot-ER, so we just simmered under the tent until it was time to eat & sleep.  We slept under the stars that night...you can imagine how Amazing the view was far, far away from any light pollution.

Hugemongous Thank You's to those who have added postcards to my fridge door & an extra hug to the Boisvert's for the Fantastic care package - I almost did a cartwheel in the hallway, but remembered my abaya & thought better of it :)  The sticky ghosts are on my mirror, the mustaches are going to prove Awesome, and the puzzle will help me practice my new Saudi-appropriate cuss words!  Thank You!!

Oh!  A few ppl have asked about Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.  Muslims can travel to Mecca at any time, but if they go during this particular week they get bonus points :)  [I intend no disrespect with that description, just breaking it down...and I'm secretly jealous since non-Muslims cannot even enter the city!]  For us, banks, businesses, the administrative part of the hospital (including clinics) shut down for 10 days...the ER was, for the most part, nice & quiet...and now we are paying for it!  Busy, busy!

10 October 2013

Oh Vacation...

How sweet thou art!  I was hoping to write soon after returning, before the freshness fizzled out…but we all know how efficiently work-life sucks us back in.  Oh well, my trip is still recent enough to continue enjoying its ripples…

Before I get to the highlights, I’ll say a quick word about the airport in Istanbul (which I perused 4 times in 2 weeks.)  What a wonderful convergence of people, languages & cultures!  Initially I was a little embarrassed for them, but it was truly nice to see folks waltzing about in their tight tank tops & short-shorts.  And, OMG, some of them were even holding hands & communicating with their significant others!!  I know, Crazy!  I was only briefly traumatized and resisted the urge to give them more clothing to cover up.  All jokes aside, I look forward to checking out the rest of Istanbul sometime soon…

Next quick stop – Madrid:
Keep in mind I was about 32 hrs awake (including a 12 hr shift) by the time my feet hit non-Saudi soil.  I had a six hr layover so I zombied into town.  Since I had gotten my skin-shock over with in Turkey, my first thought was how nice it was to hear a more familiar foreign language.  Despite the Spaniard’s funny lisp & extra verb tense, it was comforting to my ears.  I loved the old waiter who served me my 1st beer.  He let me stutter Spanish to him & didn’t make me feel like a complete buffoon – even when I said, “Shukran” instead of, “Gracias” – oops! J

The main attractions…

Gorgeous!  The friend I went to visit lives in Porto, which is where we spent most of our time.  Pictures fail at expressing the beauty & feel of the city.  A river from the mnts runs through town, shops and houses sit on the hillside, folks fish from the street & hang their colorful laundry out their windows to dry and, obviously, much of the architecture is older than America can remember.  Bakeries create little desserts that are almost too cute to eat, every restaurant serves Bacalhau (cod) and people everywhere, despite their current economic challenges, were beyond friendly.  Porto is known not only for port wine, but also for being the largest producer of cork in the world.  Since the trend for plugging wine bottles has diversified to other materials and the demand for cork has dropped, they are now making many other items – hats, shoes, bags, wallets – with the impermeable, buoyant, fire resistant stuff.  Tourists, including this one, ate it up!  Not only did we see the sights of Porto & hang with Diana’s adorable, non-English speaking family, but we hit up a port tour at a winery that was founded in 1692, took the train down to Aveiro & rode free bikes around the cute little town & drove up north to see an old castle.  Super Good Times complete with frequent, deep, appreciative breaths – Ah, the world really is continuing to go ‘round & function as we know it! J

Diana's Mom, Dad, G-ma & Uncle
I have found my new dream car!  I will have a Lada – definitely one built in the 70s or 80s!  Before you google it & laugh, be sure to check out the very practical 4-wheel drive version (Lada Niva.)  Of course mine will have sturdy tires & a rack…green please.  Most important, they look Awesome!!  Also slightly relevant, they can be easily fixed from Russia to Western Europe & everywhere in between.  Anyway, Kyrgyzstan you say?  Yes!  It’s SE of Kazakhstan, west of China, they speak Russian (& Kyrgyz of course) and have incredibly stunning mountains!  Good friends who used to live across the street from me in Portland are there doing a stint with MSF.  We had grand plans for borrowing their friend’s car & venturing out to see Lake Issyk Kul, traversing the mnt range to Naryn and then bopping down to check out Osh & the world’s largest walnut forest before returning to Bishkek.  Oh, the best laid plans! 

We packed up the minivan and excitedly headed towards the lake.  There were a few sputs, spurts, squeaks & other minor complaints from our trusty “Super Caravan” in route, but we were not to be dissuaded.  The gas leak we noticed under the car had slowed from a dibble to a drip…and stopped completely if we parked the car just right.  We also decided the plastic bag wrapped around the hose was normal enough.  (Keep in mind two of us have lived in the African bush & the 3rd has us both beat with crazy travel experiences.)  We spent the night in a fantastic Yurt Camp right on the lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks.  You would never guess this was probably the birthplace of the plague.  The air was fresh & cool – insert more refreshing deep breaths – and I even wore jeans & a fleece!  Day 2 found us optimistic and off to a wonderful start.  Despite our confidence (ie; denial) that all was well, we started formulating Plans B, C & D just in case the minivan refused to get us up and over the mnts.  The day progressed – complete with frequent roadside stops for reassessment, speculation & a bonus stop for apple picking.  At one point we had a repair shop take a look…the mechanic reassured us the car wouldn’t explode, but he declined to guarantee it wasn’t going to completely crap out & leave us stranded.  We carried on.  As our heroic driver was getting leg cramps trying to stay in the sweet spot – somewhere around 35 mph (60 k/h) – we began to accept the fact that this hunk of metal just wasn’t going to cooperate.  Our extremely resilient travel buddy – who happens to be 2 ½ – seemed to agree, it was time to head home.  For the record, I continue to be impressed with how well this young man tolerated our adventure – his capacity for reading (and re-reading) books is astonishing, and most adults would’ve complained more than he did.  We also figured it might not be the best plan to take his 35-wk pregnant mother over 4,000 meters…although a little pre-term labor would’ve really spiced things up!  We planned to abandon the vehicle in Karakol – where we stayed in a nice little B&B – but luck was in our favor.  The owner of the car came out from Bishkek, found s’one to tinker a bit more & we successfully made it back safe & sound the next day.  If only we’d had a Lada…

Yurt Camp
Inside the Yurt
Me n Aziz

While in Bishkek we also toured a felting co-op where they felted carpets, shoes, scarves & small toys – very cool!  We also spent an afternoon on an Amazing hike in Ala-Archa Gorge (I think?!) – if crossing bottomless bridges, fording glacial streams & being surrounded by breath-taking mountains doesn’t recharge your batteries…you’ve got some issues.  It was just what this soul needed.  My holiday cumulated with a serene evening sharing food, wine and stories with great company.  I crashed on the couch for a few hrs before heading to the airport for my reluctant journey back to Jeddah.

Bottomless Bridge

Freeeezing Stream

It felt a bit strange to be returning from vacation to a place that doesn’t really feel like “home”…but here I am!  Back to heat, humidity & the glorious frustrations of work J  Honestly, it was a Wonderful two weeks and, as we all know, without a touch of stress at home, vacations would lose some luster.  I want to again thank my hosts/tour guides/friends!!  Thank you for sharing your homes, meals, energy & time – I am such a fortunate gal!  Nsh’allah I will be able to offer the same hospitality one day...

10 August 2013

Ramadan Kareem!

Or Ramadan Maasalama rather…We are wrapping up the month with the 3-4 day celebration of Eid al-Fitr.  Eid marks the end of Ramadan & is the biggest Muslim holiday of the year – often compared to Christmas.  Indeed, work has been pretty quiet this past week – especially during the day when folks are sleeping.

Unfortunately I haven’t been around long enough to get much of an insider’s look or a really good feel for all the intricacies of Ramadan, but I can try & share a few things from the periphery.  Superficially, almost EveryThing is closed, or has severely reduced hours, during the day, during the entire month.  They even altered our “shopping bus” schedule to run later.  Here are a few (fuzzy – sorry!) snaps from Balad (the older district of town) at 1 am…plenty of men, women & children milling about.

As you probably know, fasting during the daylight hours is a big part of Ramadan.  It is also an important time for prayer, reading the Qur’an and for personal reflection.  It's recognized by almsgiving and, my favorite, “watching one’s tongue”…to mean “refraining from obscene & false speech.”  Feasting, visiting with family, and making trips to Mecca are also significant activities this month and during Eid – plenty of dates & delicious deserts!  Here is a snap of some families waiting for the sun to go down so they can break their fast with a picnic by the sea – nice!

The Mutawa, or “Religious Police” who work on behalf of the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue & Prevention of Vice” – No, I’m not kidding.  Go ahead, read that title again :)  They enforce the dress & behavior codes, crack down on public entertainment, make sure women don’t drive & check businesses to make sure they are closing 5 times a day for prayer.  They are said to be more prevalent during Ramadan & have a legitimate reputation for being verbally aggressive.  Fortunately I haven’t had the pleasure of interacting with them, but friends say they have been harassed in the mall – mostly followed around and told (unprofessionally) to cover their hair.  I don't think they can actually arrest you.

Illegal Mingling

Speaking of “watching one’s tongue” and while I’m on a down-beat, the work tid bit of the week was that one of our locum staff (3 month contract) was fired & sent home for cussing, coming clean on a med error, and having a personality conflict with one of her colleagues – obviously the wrong one.  Disturbing & concerning to be sure, but I've decided not to bitch about work in this post :)  Rumor has it the nail in the visa was the cussing…needless to say, those of us remaining with explicative tendencies are trying to come up with more appropriate words to express our frustrations – think “Fudgesicle.”  All suggestions are welcomed :)

On to more pleasant & exciting news!!  I bought my plane tickets for a much anticipated holiday in September!  I’ll be going to visit a friend I met here from Portugal for a week & then to Kyrgyzstan for a wk to see the sights & catch up with old neighbor friends there.  Both places look absolutely Gorgeous & I’m looking forward to seeing some GREEN, and red…as in wine!  Now I just need my Exit/Re-Entry Visa to go through & then it’s only 26 days to departure!  But who’s counting?

My Portuguese Habibi 
Well gang, I hope you are enjoying your August weather & bountiful gardens – Svetlana said she planted 15 tomato plants in my backyard (among many other things) and I can’t imagine it!  Maybe she ripped up part of the lawn :)  
Take care ya’ll & keep in touch – I love hearing from you!


17 July 2013

Just when I thought...

...they had made a day-shifter out of me.  Whew!  Welcome back to nights Nelson!  No offense to the suits, but it's so much nicer to work when only the necessary folk are wandering about - especially when you are busy.  Speaking of work, I'd like to retract a few statements from the record.  The part about ALL the pts needing to be in the ED & how most of the pts & families are grateful and awesome?  Yeah, subtract about 65% of that.  AND, if we have a few docs who are ADHD, then they have a few here who are Bipolar.  Both require a bit of duck feather, but I prefer the former.  Have I mentioned how much I miss our Pharmacists & the tube system?  Good.  While I'm at it I'd like to thank our XR/CT techs for collecting & returning our pts, Social Work & Psych for facilitating & solving sooo many important issues, Admitting & Secretaries for keeping the background running smoothly, and Techs...Oh, my dear sweet Techs, there aren't enough muscles in my fingers to type the ways in which I miss & appreciate thee!  I'll even thank the lab...well, it seems the ED/Lab - Love/Hate rel'shp is universal :)  Thanks at least for spitting out results this century.  Also, a fat SHUKRAN to our docs (regardless of your psych status) for having more than 1/2 a clue and for treating us as colleagues and respecting our judgment & opinions.  You are Wonderful!  Can't forget my peeps...again, not nearly enough ink kids!  Oh Emanuel, how I miss you!  It's probably a good thing they don't have alcohol in this country or we'd all be alcoholics!

Speaking of alcohol...had my first glass of red wine in 10 wks at an Italian Consulate dinner last wk - it was Delicious!!  I sipped & savored every grape.  There are a few other opportunities to get (bad) home-made wine and "Sid" here.  Sid reminds me of Zambian kachasu/latuku which is one smidge better for your esophagus than draino.  The Saudi vice seems to be puffing on the shisha (hookah) - it's flavored tobacco vapor (think artificial grape) - men & women alike enjoy it at home & at some open air restaurants.

Other pleasantries...a few of us had a lovely walk along the Corniche a few nights back.  It was nice to see a few stars & hear the waves crashing...and crashing again.  A powerful force beyond man & beyond rules & restrictions.  It provided a refreshing sense of normalcy...

What else?  You may have heard about our change in wkend days - they decided businesses could be more productive with other bits of the world by moving the wkend from Thurs & Fri to Fri & Sat.  Sounds simple enough, but it'd be like the U.S. saying, "Our work week will now be Sun-Thurs."  No arguing or debating - official decree from the king.  Done.  Imagine, we can't even get day-light savings time sorted out! :)

A more significant life shake up = Ramadan!  Very interesting...and tricky for those of us with tape worms (just kidding Grandma!)  I'll save Ramadan for my next post...it has barely started & I'm curious to see how the rest of the month plays out.

Well, (most of) you are probably enjoying summer weather & activities...if you need some extra sweat I'll gladly lend you my abaya & some of this humidity!  I think I'll end up being the crazy lady who wears a hoody when I go home and it's "only" 80 degrees :)  Do some camping & hiking for me - in shorts!!
Maasalama ~

28 June 2013


I just couldn't go to bed without posting this Immediately!

So, there I was, out for a run (cuz I will decidedly apoptose in the air-less gym), when I see some sparkly bouncing bits off in the distance....what the?!  As I get closer I could hardly believe it...SPACESUITS!! Although it was difficult to maintain my composure, I stopped, complimented them profusely, and begged them to please let me take a picture!  Of course they were thrilled.  Not quite as good as in the flesh, but please enjoy : )

23 June 2013

The Honeymoon is over...

There is really nothing more to say without going overboard :)  It's a unique unit - not really a true ED & certainly not a typical in-patient ward.  It's like a mix between an ED, a chronic medical ward (Thank You OBC for my in-pt experience!) and an ICU.  We also see a lot of transplant pts...not usually fresh ones, but no shortage of kidneys here I guess.  I do try to remind myself this is a specialist/referral hospital so our pt population will be a little distorted.  Just like at home - too many days at work made you feel like 80% of the U.S. was either heroin addicted, drunk, diabetic or wanted to jump off a bridge.  Here, you feel like all Saudi's are either borrowing a kidney, have a congenital abnormality, have had cardiac surgery, are jaundiced or diabetic...obviously not true in either country - just a skewed perspective.  And rather fascinating of course!

Which is why it's important NOT to work too much!  I'm happy to have gotten off the beach (boring!) and into a boat.  A bunch of us booked a trip out on the Red Sea - a few went diving, the rest snorkeled.  Really cool coral reefs with Amazing fish - next time I'll try & get some underwater photos.  I will probably refresh my dive cert & hope to try some wind surfing....I've heard women are "not allowed" to do the latter.  More investigation will be conducted.

Last week a Filipino friend from work took us to the fish market - much cleaner than some I've seen and always more fun than buying seafood in the grocery store :)


Lesson of the day - choose boy crabs instead of girl crabs...

Actually, just stick to Oregon crabs & get regular fish - Yum!  After the market we went to another co-workers house (not in a compound!) and enjoyed a lovely meal & afternoon.

On my next stretch off we plan to take a trip to Taif - it's east of Jeddah, past Mecca, and quite a few clicks away.  Apparently there are mountains to hike & camels to ride & monkeys to see!  We may even visit a "flower water"/perfume distillery (not, for the record, my preferred type of distillery!)  We'll see what actually happens.  It's a hospital organized trip so all I know is that it is from 7:30 - 11pm.  Stay tuned...

As always, I hope all is well - wish I could send ya'll some of this hot, super sunny weather!
Thanks again for your comments - just when I feel "over it" (like after Blog Post #1 :))  I read your comments & am encouraged to post again!
Until next time,

PS:  Warren, I am dreaming of your...gorgeously....delicious...STOUT!  You bet your rokba you are saving me some!!

02 June 2013

White Scrubs?!

It probably goes without saying, but my appreciation for our uniform is quite opposite from that of the abaya.  First, they are semi see-through (scandalous!) and probably a reason we are required to have tops that cover our bum.  Second, I know I have a big mouth, but s'times I still miss it.  Lastly, did I mention they are WHITE?  The blue color of my folder even rubbed off on the pants while it was sitting on my lap.  Also, the powers that be obviously don't know what kind of substances are flying around the ED.  Enough said.

Sooo many potential comments about my first few shifts...I'll try & stick to the ones I can express "on air."   My preceptor is Very nice & has been gracious in showing me the ropes.  She's British so there are a few too many "darling's & lovely's & brilliant's" but I suppose it beats the alternative.  I tried to explain my need for a snack every few hrs and, I'm not sure why, but I think I freaked her out a little.  Now if I mention I'm going to grab a g-bar she says, "Do you need to sit down?  You should take a little break, are you ok?  Are you sure?"  I reassure her that all is well, I'm just going to shove a bite in my face & I'll be back in 2.  Apparently "The Look" that Jamie and Mo can see from across the room is acquired :)

I don't want to bore the non-medical folks reading this, but work is a huge chunk of life here...and there are some Crazy differences:

- Patients are OFTEN held/boarded in the ED for 3-4 days.  In my 5 shifts I have only D/C'd 2 pts and have sent Zero to the floor.  Clearly the concept of "Pt Flow" has yet to cross the Atlantic.  Are you sure you don't want to come over Dr. Strear?  Plenty of time to fix our flow problem AND watch heaps of TV!

- That being said, I have yet to see a pt that doesn't need to be here.  This is a specialty hospital so there are a lot of oncology, renal, diabetic, chronically sick pts.  So far most of the pts & families have been pleasant & grateful for the care you are providing (weird, I know!)  Although communication will definitely continue to be one of the greatest frustrations, the charades that inevitably occur can be Hilarious!  Jamie, you would do wonderfully! :)   I'm almost reluctant to learn the Arabic words for vomit, diarrhea, dizzy, CT/XR, pee in the cup...because it is so fun to act them out.

- Narcotics.  Perplexing...in good & not so good ways.  In these 5 shifts I have given 2 mg of Morphine, twice, to one patient.  No joke.  I don't think they even have "...what's that one that starts with a D?" here.  Also interesting is that in order to give that snifter of MS I had to go to the med room with the charge RN who had the keys to the double-locked Narc Cabinet.  We took a vial, both of us recorded how much we were giving and wasting in 2 different spots on the paper flowsheet...and then the empty vial was returned to pharmacy for further counting and documentation.  I'm just going to pause here & let all that sink in.

I'm also going to refrain from describing the process for getting REGULAR meds from the Pharmacy...I am still baffled and you wouldn't believe it anyway.  I'll just say, Julie & Spencer & Pyxis I love you and miss you all terribly!!  And the tube system...Oh, how I miss you too!  Folks, if you ever find yourself complaining about work - ANY aspect of it (docs, colleagues/communication, "the system"), call me & I'll gladly make you feel better :)

What else...they call Vital Signs "Observations" and "Endorsing" is giving report to each other...the CBGs are in mmol/L so the normal range is 3.5 - 6.2...they love IV Tylenol...1/2 the pts are on Heparin...each lab test needs it's own tube...oh yeah.

Enough shop talk!

For FUN...we (my friends from England, NZ, Ireland, Australia, Portugal) have been to the beach a few times.  The hospital provides a free cab & you usually spend the day.  Most beaches are private & associated with a hotel so you have to pay to get in.  Once there you can take off your abaya & wear "normal" clothes, including normal swimsuits (quiet peanut gallery!)  It's a little "canned" but it's a good opp to get out & chill.  It's also nice to see men, women & children talking and interacting together - most are expats or rich Saudis.

A few of us also went to another (much nicer!) compound to watch a play.  There are 2 theater groups in Jeddah that put on productions q' few months.  It was another non-abaya event & dinner was included.  It sounds like there are occasionally "parties" at other compounds too...I'll keep you posted.

I'll conclude with a blurb about prayer time.  Most Muslims pray 5 times a day, signaled with a loud public "call to prayer" called Athan.  (Think tornado or tsunami siren but with pleasant singing instead.)  Almost q'thing stops or closes during prayer time - some grocery stores/shops let you continue shopping & just close the checkout line, some will require you to leave the store mid-shopping.  Restaurants don't make you leave, but "service" will be paused for 20-40 minutes.  At the hospital, some procedures (meds, CT, even surgery) can be delayed if the pt or family is praying.  The precise prayer times vary a little each day & they are slightly different in each city.  So far I have only been foiled by prayer time a few times.  I missed a bus while waiting in the check out line at the grocery store, I missed lunch once, and we all had to leave the 5 Riyal ($1.33) Store after 10 min d/t prayer time.  No biggie, just s'thing to be aware of...I'm totally golden now cuz I have an APP on my pod that tells me when prayer times are going to be :)

Sorry gang, that was long-winded!  I reassure myself that reading this mess is optional & I won't be offended if you don't!  I hope life is going well for everyone.  Keep me posted on the happenings & drop me a line if you get bored!
Love ya,

PS:  The highlight of my week, besides barely passing my blood administration exam, was Face Timing with my work peeps!  So Freaking Awesome!  Despite it's challenges, even I have to admit technology is pretty amazing!

18 May 2013

Well, there were no flying colors...

...but I survived the Dosage Calc test!  Let’s just hope I fair as well on the ECG & Blood Administration exams – apparently there is a fairly high re-do-over rate for both.  I realized today I’ve never been taught Junctional Rhythms…and have reaffirmed that I don’t care about Junctional Rhythms!! Are you having an MI? Yes, or No? Are you dying? Yes, or No? Let’s stick to the basics. :-

Other survival moments this week...the “blood extraction.”  Everyone kept asking if I had “done the blood extraction yet?”  Thankfully I was only subjected to a regular blood draw.  Plus 2 vaccinations and a PPD.  “Needles” to say (haha), not the best part of orientation.

On a more pleasant note, I bought some real, live, green plants!  Not sure if I’ll keep them alive, but for now they are a Great addition.  Speaking of…how are all my plant-sitters doing?  I didn’t give you all that free TP for nothing!  Status updates please.  Feel free to include photos :)

It also turns out that I LOVE my abaya!  The abaya is the long, black gown I have to wear every time I leave the compound (which includes all these orientation sessions.)  Cultural implications aside, it is Wonderful!  I don’t ever have to decide what to wear, I can wear the same thing q’day, I can wear very little underneath, it’s black so I can spill crap all over myself…besides being a little hot, it’s Awesome.

Also, there is something about it…In my naiveté, I feel there is some mystery behind the gown & veil. (Not all, but many women wear the full burqa.)  S’times I find myself wondering what she looks like under there. Only her husband, family and a few friends know.  According to more than one (male) Saudi instructor, they wear the gowns/veils "to protect them" from the stares & potential advances of other men.  Of course I recognize there is much more to it than that, and I’m not saying I necessarily agree, this is just a peripheral pondering.  We place so many judgments on someone’s face or body type, the way they dress or carry themselves.  They’re not all bad judgments – some are just cues to help us determine what type of person they are and what we may have in common, etc.  I guess I’m just still fascinated by it.  Intriguing thoughts to help balance all the negative things you hear…and many folks assume.

Sooooo much to learn here!  I’m anxious to see how my initial perceptions change with time & further exposure.  Hopefully I’ll make some Saudi friends and have opportunities for first-hand perspectives.  For now, I’m looking forward to getting my buns out of the sit-&-listen mode and into the ER!

Hope you are all doing well – I Love the messages, snaps, texts, email, comments here...except for trying to rotate pictures, it’s all Super Fun!  If all else weren't so different I’d hardly believe I was on the other side of the world!
Take care ya’ll,

09 May 2013

Marhaba from The Kingdom!

After much deliberation, I've decided to attempt a blog.  I know, "Gasp!"  I hate the thought of shoving my banter down people's throats with mass emails...so I figured this was a more "optional" approach.  PLUS my technological prowess is progressing by such leaps & bounds I may as well ride the wave!  Anyhoo - keep your expectations at a minimum & this might work out fine :)

I am a fan of the bullet point, so let's try that...

* The Journey... It turns out zero good sleep for almost 2 days was a blessing.  I was so wiped by the time I arrived I slept like a champ & suffered practically no jet lag.  By the time we got from the airport to the compound it was after 6 pm...and we started orientation promptly at 07:30 the next morning.  Awesome.  But I get ahead of myself...
- The plane ride...obviously it was long.  Of course you had the obligatory screaming kids & folks trying to jam Super Large bags into the overhead bin - shove, twist, flip, try & shut the door, shove, flip, repeat...you know the drill.  There were also a number of men who were not happy with their assigned seats & were asking, while q'one was still boarding, why they couldn't move up into the better open seat - including the space where the flt attendants sit.  The incredulous look on their face was like telling the pt with abd pain in the WR that he shouldn't eat his Popeye's until after seeing the doctor.  Good times.  The lovely couple next to me apologized & begged me not to judge all Saudi's based on this.  I assured her this behavior was certainly not unique to their country.
- In-flight movies...of course the "inappropriate scenes" had been cut out, but they had also made all the women's bare skin blurry on the screen.  Upper arms, chest (cleavage of course) and bare legs were all fuzzy!  They put black boxes over the same bits in the imported magazines as well - quite distracting. 
- The hype about customs proved anti-climactic.  They didn't even open my bag let alone plug USBs into my computer or pod...this time :)
* The Compound... I could say more, but basically it's just a HUGE apartment complex.  There are probably thousands of ppl living here divided into sections:  Single Women, Single Men & Families.  My room/studio is a bit beat up but despite the rusty bathroom light (with water actively dripping from the bulb?!) it suits me well. Definitely an upgrade from my mud & thatch in Zambia.  There are also little shuttle buses that take you places - to & from the hospital, grocery stores, markets, Ridiculously Massive malls...Melissa C. you would be in heaven!

* When Saudi chooses your friends... Again I will refrain from too much description (online at least :)) There were 2 other American women who arrived at the same time, both from Florida:
Keisha is originally from Jamaica, lived & worked in Riyadh last Dec-Dec & is trying Jeddah after finding return to work in the US...distasteful.  She loves lipstick, has a long reddish wig & listens to Kenny G.  Very nice & not shy at all. 
Rohini is originally from India & is having a rough transition.  She was very dependent on her husband & children in the US & is finding it difficult to function (At All) on her own.  She requires constant reassurance & hand holding...but slowly I think she will find her own routine. Needless to say, this Mama Bear is being tested...thank Allah Keisha is more patient that I :)

The rest of my orientation group is comprised of an Irish lady, a girl from Malaysia, one from Jeddah, a large contingent from the Philippines and 1 dude from Lebanon who could pass as George's younger brother :) There are also many ppl here from South Africa & India with a small handful of Europeans, Australians & Kiwis.

Side Bar:  I have challenged myself to try & be a little more soft-spoken...you chuckle, as do I!  By "soft" I mean "lower volume"...and probably less cussing.  The rest will have to stay :)  We Americans, myself in particular, are embarrassingly loud.

* Death by Orientation... It may be worth NEVER having a new job again...just to avoid having to sit through another hospital orientation.  I am not joking.  Between the plane ride & this 1st wk my pressure ulcer can now be considered Stage 2.  Besides the expected redundancy of paperwork, it's Organizational Structure, Ergonomics, Infection Control, Fire Safety...you've all been there.  Actually, considering the state of my bathroom light, and the fact there have been 3 recent & major fires in the housing complex, I probably should've stayed awake for that last one.

We are now suffering through 2 wks of general nrsg orientation, which is at least more relevant...all the way down to BLS & the Dosage Calc test - UG.  That bears repeating.  UG!  I won't bore you with more details.  I will say, proudly, that I made it 4 full days before coming home & really feeling like I needed a drink - Warren, where is your stout?!!

* TGIF... I never thought I'd be so happy for a Wednesday afternoon!  Thurs & Fri is the wkend here & I'm ready for a wee break.  It'll be nice to settle in & grab a few more bits for the apt...hangers, a non-stick pan, a giant H2O jug, hand towel (I'm using the sock from the plane right now)...maybe I'll check out a souk downtown & chill a bit before orientation starts again Sat morning.

Well gang, there's an initial update for ya - here safe & sound, internet's set up, haven't melted yet - it's supposed to be 102 F on Sat!  I don't expect future posts to be so long-winded...soon the new interesting bits will peter out :)  I hope q'thing is going well on the home front.  Feel free to pass this link on to whomever I've forgotten...it's a work in process.  Please also forgive the learning curve - I've only smacked my computer twice!  Keep me informed on the latest...I have a feeling I'm going to miss those heroin addicted alcoholic psych pts!  There is a +10 hr time change & I'm SUPER connected...Skype, Face Time, email...for those who didn't get my Magic Jack #, it's: (503) 568-8454.

Take care & I'll write more soon!
Assallamu Aalaykom,