May 02, 2007

Adrenaline junky–tastic!!!

Hey guys, and welcome to the last blog of love! Brace yourselves, cos its gonna be a long one. I have rather a lot to fill you in on!

So I last blogged in Queenstown. That night I went out and sampled the delights of Queenstown nightlife – which is awesome. We ended up in a place called the World Bar, where they sell cocktails in teapots!This is a genius invention and should be adopted in all drinking establishments back in the UK. Having promised ourselves a ‘quiet one’, we stumbled back to the dorm at about 3am. The alarm went off at 6am as we had to be on the bus at 7am – kill me now!!!I was rough, and the bus we were on apparently had a truck suspension, and consequently shook and swayed like a bloody truck the whole way to Milford sound. I havent felt so chundersome for a very long time, and it was raining, to add insult to injury. However, the closer we got to Milford sound, the better the weather got. I know I keep going on about how beautiful the scenery has been blah blah blah, but seriously guys, it was absolutely out of this world. We drove right through a mountain range and were transported to a world of snowey-topped mountains, lush evergreen forrests, crystal clear mountain rivers and waterfalls – it was stunningly beautiful, so much so that the bus was silent for a good half an hour whilst everyone just drank in the beauty. Dave and I had booked to take a scenic cruise around the sound. It took about 2hours and took us right around the heart of lord of the rings country. In fact, we put the LOTR soundtrack on the old ipod, and listened as we sailed – it was awesome and I felt just like Arwen, minus the pointy ears, the floaty dress and an Aragorn to oggle at!!!
That night we stayed at a small hostel somewhere in NZ – buggered if I can remember the name!I do remember, however, that Dave, Beth and I got up very early the next morning to go sheep shearing!!!It was highly exciting – I got to bottle- feed a calf, watch the sheep dogs in action and then have a go at real life shearing. It was quite amusing really and I stunk of lamb when Id finished. Dave underwent a perculiar transformation into an ‘ooh arrr, oohh, arr’ farmer type and got very into the whole sheep shearing thing – it must be his west country roots.
We then travelled to Invercargill and stayed at a fab hostel with lots of nice facilities and comfy matresses. We did absolutely nothing!I have no idea what Invercargill looks like, but the TV room in the hostel was very nice. We had pizza for dinner then went to bed – this travelling malarky isnt half tiring, and a nice veg out day was just what we all needed.
The following day we travelled for most of it, but had a few stops along the way. The first was at…..nope, cant remember the bloody name of that place either, but it was a beach, at which a ship had run aground killing hundreds, quite a few years ago. Very sad, BUT, it had wild SEALIONS!!!Very cool.We were told in no uncertain terms to keep atleast 5m away from them. “Tosh” we all thought as we all broke the 3 m boudary….the initially serene wild mammal, swiftly transformed into a roaring bloody terrifying, teeth-bearing beast and started to chase us down the beach. They can move bloody fast considering their lack of legs! Luckily, we managed to get away, but I can now proudly say Ive been chased by a sealion. Way cool!!!
We arrived at Dunedin at about 4pm and booked ourselves onto the ‘Speights brewery tour’. Speights is NZ’s favourite beer and its actually quite nice…havent decided if it beats Vailima or not yet. The best bit of the tour was when we got to drink actually pour our own drinks from the handles, and then obviously drink them. That night we went out to a bar with a live band and I didnt get drunkard – shocker!
The following day we made our way back to Queenstown. We decided that far too little alcohol had been consumed over the last few days, so we were up for a big one in the party/adventure capital of NZ. Howver, Dave and Adam, one of the guys staying in our dorm, got fed up of waiting for us girls to get ready so decided theyd go down to the bar early. Bearing in mind that we were all already half cut, Dave rushed over to say farewell to me in rather a too vigorous fashion and managed to crash his hiking-booted foot right smack bang into my naked flip-flopped left big toe….I knew at once that whatever had happened wasnt going to be pretty…and I was right…Daves words of ‘OH SHHIITT!” pretty much summed it up – he’d managed to kick off my entire big toe nail which was now pointing up 90degrees, exposing the whole bloody nailbed underneath! Lucky for me Id had a drink cos the pain was like nothing before. We made an executive decision for Dave to push the nail back down and bandage it up – this was between my slight hyperventilation and cold sweating. But I DIDNT CRY – I was hardcore-tastic!!! However, as the adrenaline wore off, the pain set in. I decided that a trip to the local A&E was probably sensible so that they could give me some anaesthetic and just take the whole damn nail off, as one corner was now actually sticking into the normal skin. Luckily, I was the only patient, so there was no 4 hour wait that would have awaited me at the beloved UHCW. The Dr decided that ‘conservative treatment’ was best – ie. keep it bandaged and wait for it to fall off. So I did the only sensible thing – went back to the dorm, popped a few painkillers and got back on the wine!Sorted! Decided that a nightclub was probably not the most sensible place to go with a gammy toe, so called game over at about 2am. What an eventful night – and now we can say that we did do some medicine in NZ – Dave even has the pictures to prove it!
The next day, we went and seized the adrenaline big time. Dave and I had booked to do jet boating and a canyon swing. He wasnt going to let me use my disabled status to get out of either of them! The jet boating was fun, but over way too quickly and I got brain freeze from the cold water and wind. The canyon swing was the scariest thing Ive ever done. I managed to remain in denial until I was standing on the edge of the platform staring 109m down into the abyss of the canyon. Ive never come so close to acytually pooing myself. In the end I just jumped. The 60m freefall was gut-wrenchingly awesome, and the arc that you swing in at the bottom was amazing. The scariest bit was being whinched back up to the jump pod. Dave thought Id bottle it – I didnt!Big me up! Dave went one better and did his jump upside down, backwards, with a mask on and a bin on his head – bloody show-off.
The next day we went luge-ing down the purpose built tracks on the slopes of the moutain that acts as a backdrop to Queenstown – it was so much fun. It was basically just an excuse to revert to being a kid for the afternoon and race each other down the course.
Our final day in Queenstown saw Dave and myself make our way up to the Nevis highwire bungy, so that Dave could round off his new found psycho-ness with the most psycho thing anyone could possibly want to do – a 134m bungy jump. Ive never seen Dave looking so terrified – even more terrified than before the ICE exams – and thats saying something. I had to pay $30 just to watch….it was so worth it. I must say, however, that I was very proud of him – once he was out on that platform, there was no fannying about, he just leaped out and that was that. Complete psychopath. I was scared enough just watching. He has promised that his adrenaline days are now over and he is going to revert back to the nice sensible Dave that we all know and love.

Well my lovelies, my journey is nearly over. Tomorrow we travel to Rangatata and stay over night there and the following day we head back to Christchurch to catch the flight home! Im so looking forward to seeing everyone. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventures as much as I have experiencing them! Thanks for all the lovely emails and comments. You guys are SWEET AS!!!
Love you all loads and loads and SEE YOU ALL VERY SOON!!!
Loads and loads of love
Alex xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

April 25, 2007

Burn baby burn !!!

Hey dudes!!!
You’ll all be pleased to know that I am currently sober and so this blog may have a little more content! Im having a ‘sweet as’ time in the most beautiful country ever. I’ll start from the beginning.
Having spent a night in Christchurch we hopped on the bus the next morning bright and early and travelled to Kaikoura, which is apparently the best place in NZ to see whales and dolphins. Excellent, thought Dave and I as we eagerly signed up for both activities. However, before we even got to the hostel the bloody whale watch was cancelled due to ‘south westerly bad weather’!Whose ever heard of a bloody giant mammal being put off by a spot of rain!So we sulked in the hostel for the rest of the day and eagerly awaited our dolphin swim, which I forgot to mention was due to start at 5.45 the next morning. Having dragged our sorry arses out of bed we arrived at the centre and got all togged up in the most attractive looking full-body wet suit attire, including hood!I looked like a giant black condom, for want of a better description…not that I know what a giant black condom looks like mum and dad, I can only imagine! Anyhoo, we were half way through the safety video when some chump walks in and says that theres a ‘south westerly’ coming in and the trip would unfortunately have to be cancelled. Dave and I were not amused, and if I ever meet this south westerly chap I shall thump him on the nose for ruining our trip to Kaikoura!
The next stop was Abel Tasman national park. The weather was absolutle stunning and really heightedned the already beautiful scenery. We stayed at a random little place called Old Macdonalds Farm, which was great apart from the mouse that lived in the toaster (discovered after having eaten toast) and the scary lamas that lived in the field next to our hut. They have very scary eyes. The first day we were there Dave went off to do his sky dive and I didnt because Im not a psycho. I met two lovely girls from England and we went off to trek round the coastal track of the park. It was a great day; the scenery was beautiful, the beaches were glorious and it was great to get to know Laura and Beth. We trekked for a good 5 hours and I felt very smug and healthy when I got back. Thankfully Dave survived his jump and said it was the most awesome thing he’s ever done. I still think he’s a psycho. The second day at Abel Tasman we went on a day cruise much further up the coast. Again the weather was splendid and we met some lovely peolpe and topped up the tan (which is fading rapidly). I managed to not get sea sick and Dav decided it would be a great idea to go for a swim in the sea. Ive never seen anyone swim so bloody fast – it was a tad colder than Samoa. Apparently, his balls shrank so much they inverted themselves! What a chump!
The next day we jumped on the bus and headed to the infamous Barry-no-town!As I said in my last drunken blog, its a funny little place. I spoke to mum this morning, and she said how worried you’d all been about us crossdressing and then hitting the town in red-neck-ville!.....Dave and I found this rather amusing! Its a barrytown tradition for all bus tour backpackers to crossdress, and we didnt leave the confines of the pub, so didnt offend any locals. Infact some of the locals came in to have a laugh at us all, especially Dave. We were on top form and managed to consume lots of wine and shots. unfortunately Daves shot bounced, but it was a tactical vom, and he was back wirth a vengeance afterwards. The night culminated in the most spectacular fashion with Dave falling off his stilettos and into the fire place. I didnt actuall see the fall itself, but was there to offer my expert medical knowledge back in the dorm…..I decided that savlon was the way forward….never trust a drunk medical student. Needless to say he was in quite a lot of pain the next morning having sustained three very impressive burns – one to his thumb, one to his elbom and one to his upper arm. he also thinks he may have bruisaed a few ribs. Drunken monkey!
We all very gingerly made our way onto the bus the following morning and fought off the urge to chunder for most of the day. I even managed to do some bone carning the next morning, much to the admiration of my compadres!I regretted it slightly, as the smell of hot bone smells kinda like the time I had to cut a cadavers skull off with a circular saw….vom-tastic!
We headed off to Franz Josef next, and the next day we all booked on to do hike the Franz Josef glazier. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!It was absolutel stunning. We all opted to do the full day hike which means we were walking from about 10am to 5pm and clocked up about 10km all together. The first hour was absolutely excruciating. Having gone in the slow unfit group i thought Id be Ok. Oh, how wrong I was. My lungs packed up on me completely as I huffed and puffed up all the chuffin ice steps that seemed to get steeper and steeper. However, once we got a bit higher, it was lots more fun and we got to do exciting things like squeezing through crevices (or crev-asses as our guide pronounced it, bloody kiwis) and jumping over big cracks in the ice and even climbing through ice caves. It really was awesome! Got back to the hostel and got pissed again, just incase I wasnt dehydrated enough from the hike!
Once again, the bus was very quiet again the next morning and we continued on to Makarora (or Macarena, as we renamed it). This place was even smaller than Barrytown, but the accomodation was stunning. The pub server fab food and had a karaoke tradition for us backpackers, with a chance to win some adventure bungy – highwire-psychopath activity malarkee. Dave was therefore up there pelting out such hits as ‘eternal flame’, ‘Youre the one that I want’ duetting with the bus driver, and Tracy Chapmans ‘fast car’ with the changing of lyrics to ‘fast bus’. I swear, the boy gets funnier by the day!
Today we travelled through the most spectacular scenery yet, through lake Wanaka, and on upto Queenstown. Ive just had a ferg burger, and now have a food baby. Ive never been so full in my life!
Anyway guys, best head off an get to the bar, peolpe will be worried!
Hope youre all ok. Im SOOOOOO missing everyone. Love you all loads and loads xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

April 21, 2007

Cross dressing…..

Hello my beauties!
So, New Zealand officially rocks hard, but its bloody FREEZING!!!! I am in Barrytown at the mo, a strange little place with a population of 45. I am currently dressed as a man with hiking socks for a crotch (rather impressive if I do say so myself) and an eyeliner moustach. Dave has a rather fetching dress on and blue eyeshadow. We is lookin HOT!!!Some wine may have been consumed along the way. I am afraid that this blog is not going to be very long or informative. Just thought Id let you know that am safe and well and currently pissed up. So will write as soon as am sober and able to. Having fabulous time and NZ rocks!!! Love you all lots and lots xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

P.s. you have no idea how long its taken me to write this xxxx

April 15, 2007

Star gazing and sandy bits!

GUYS!!! Im back and raring to blog, having got over my nasty virus and having developed my suntan something chronic!
So we got to Lalomanu on Monday morning – Easter Monday, and were seriously unimpressed at the number of goddam people on the beach – it was like bloody Blackpool! However, I cheered up slightly when the whole of the Samoan Upolu rugby team rocked up and stripped off. Imagine if you will, about 15 tanned, muscley, beefed up rugby players all lolling about with not much on…twas eye-candy-tastic!!! Things took an unpleasant turn for the worse, however, when they produced a rugby ball and started to ‘have a little game of knock about’...I spent the next half hour or so waiting for the ball to land on my head, or for me to get trampled on etc etc. Bloody boys!
The food was absolutely fantastic. They lay out 2 huge long tables and then just keep on bringing the food – it was like the great welcome feast in the great hall at Hogwarts, food just kept appearing. There was rice, king prawns, white fish, chicken stir fry, mussels, sping rolls, salads, chops…so very yummy. I consequently have about 3 stone to lose in New Zealand.
Our fale was right on the beach – which was amazing…apart from the bastard sand…which manages to get EVERYWHERE. I know I shouldn’t moan, and afterall, what was I expecting on a beach, i hear you say but BLOODY HELL, IT GETS EVERYWHERE!
After much deliberation and fannying about Dave eventually decided to do his PADI dive course. So that meant I had 3 days of pure unadulterated sunbathing to look forward to. I usually get very bored of my own company, but actually enjoyed the time just lying/lolling/eating/drinking alone. I even went and got pissed alone on the happy hour cocktails on Thursday evening! It was great – the sad thing was, I didn’t think I was pissed untill I attempted to exit the bar and bumped into two of the people we’d met the previous night, one of which had got an ear infection. My attempts at the phrase ‘Hows your ear holding up’ were pitiful and rather embarassing! However, at about 5.30pm each day which was about the time that the dive guys got back, I reverted to a small excitable child at the prospect of some company!!! Dave really enjoyed doing the PADI and he saw a reef shark which he was highly excited about as you can imagine!
One of the most amazing spectacles since Ive been here has got to be the sky at night at Lalomanu. After dinner we went down onto the beach and just sat and marvelled at the stars. They were truly awesome. As it goes, on Thursday night, the same night i’d got shooed alone on cocktails,I left Dave in the bar and went onto the beach to gaze at said stars and promptly fell asleep. I woke up at about 11.30pm, slightly confused, with a mouth like a dead badgers arse and oh so very very sandy!
Our last day yesterday was fabulous. We sunbathed ALL day and went snorkelling which was AWESOME. Nearly as good as diving, but without the fear of death, or the hot South African guy! We had a final vailima-fuelled blow out last night and had a great laugh with some of the peope we’d met. It was so sad to leave such a beautiful place, and we drove off this morning with heavy hearts. Our cab driver, however, bought us back to reality with a thud….nearly literally. I could see his eyes in the rear view mirror and he was actually nodding off at the wheel!!!Seriously, Samoan driving is ropey at the best of times, but I find it always helps the situation ten fold if your driver has his eyes open! You can imagine my fear on the ‘coast road’. But we made it back to Apia safe and sound, and have spent the last few hours trapsing round town cursing the fact that the whole damn place shuts on a Saturday afternoon!The concept just doesn’t make sense to me – surely Saturday afternoon should be the prime shopping time the world over!Apparently not!
Anyway, we’re heading back to the Outrigger now to do depressing things like pack. BOO HISS! I’m having palpatations at the prospect of having to fit all my crap into one bag…shit a brick!Wish me luck!
Will blog next when in NZ!!!How exciting!!!
Love you all loads and really missing you all. Can’t wait to see you all soon. All my love xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

April 09, 2007

Alive and kicking…Dave up the bum

Happy easter guys!!!
So to start with, can I first of all thank you for all your emails regarding the Soloman island tsunami, and can I secondly reassure you that Dave and I are 100% fine and dandy, and Samoa is still standing in its entirety!!!Mum, Mike told me you had lots of kittens…and that the local cattery in tenerife is now full…!!!Thank you all for your kind concern but all is well in the land of Vailima. However, the temperature has taken a turn for the worse and has rocketed since the ‘official’ end of the rainy season. Its baking out here, and I am being very sensible and staying out of the midday sun…Dave, however, is readying himself for the ‘lobsters r us’ competition at the end of the month, and at the moment, stands a pretty good chance of winning!(Dave, if you ever read this, IM JOKING, you are tanned and buff!).
So, we finished hospital on Thursday, and dave took some photos of us listening to chests so that we can stick them in our report when we get back – photographic eviodence that we did actually do some work!!! The staff were lovely on our departure and invited Dave and I to the ward easter BBQ. I was feeling a little rough so didnt go – Dave said he’d go for ‘an hour’. This was at 5pm. At 10pm Dave rocks back up to the hotel, having had one or two vailimas – classic really!The next few days involved me feeling even more rough. Think I had a virus – achey and headachey, mixed with intense heat – nice. But nothing that a few paracetamol couldn’t handle. Am feeling much better now. We plan to head off to Lalomanu tomorrow for our last few days so I may not be able to blog till I get back. However, I will endeavour to try!
Have just read this back to myself and have realised that it’s the most boring blog so far – Dave has just reminded me that this is probably because the last few days have involved only three things: feeling rough (Dave had had a dodgy burger – schoolboy error), lying by the pool and going to hospital, in that order.

A few personals…
Mum Dad Lise Jon Rosie & Beth: Hey guys! hope you’re having a fab time. Looking forward to speaking to you asap.Miss you all loads and love you more xxx p.s. Minky is fine – Matt assures me that they have devloped quite a bond – apparently she kicks his ass at the wii golf!!!

Mike&Jan: Another classic Mikey email – comedy legend!!!How did the interview go? Send Sarah huge congrats from me. Loads of love xxx

Els&Cos: Thanks for your email lovelies. Can’t wait to see you all soon. Love yas xxx

Rosa&Phil: Hey lovelies. Els and Cos tell me youre reading this!Hows things going? Be great to hear from you!Loads of love xxx

Nombo: Hey babes, thanks for your emails. Its been lovely to hear from you!Any news on the move yet?Im getting frustrated for you!At least I’ll probably be back in time for the house warming – small mercies!!!Love you loads xxx

Vena: Any news…????big forrest love xxxx

Soes: Love ya xxxx

Anyway guys, big love to you all and will blog when am back. Loads of love as always xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

April 04, 2007

Birkenstocks rule!!!

Hey lovelies!
Hope all is well in palangi land! Sorry I had to rush off last blog…I’d just finished about diving and was about to tell you about our trip to Savaii (the ‘other island’) was shit, for want of a better word! So we exited paradise on leaving Lalumanu, travelled in the pissing down rain for 5 hours, got sea sick on the ferry again, had a hair raising journey on a traditional Samoan bus and finally arrived at ‘Reginas beach fales’ which had one toilet and a crappy beach. Not that Im a beach snob or anything! By tea time I was absolutely ravenous, having not eaten much all day. We sat down to a feast of chicken bone soup, deep fried fish, deep fried undercooked chicken, taro and breadfruit (sorry excuses for carb-potato-esque-root veggies), deep fried sausages that had a distinctly liver-y taste to them, and rice, which was actually quite nice. I appreciate that we had turned up just before tea, and they’d probably had to resurrect food from somewhere to feed us all, but it minged HARD!!! We did however, manage to arrange a round the island trip for the following day. We were picked up at 9 am and the first stop was a visit to the ‘canopy walkway’. It included a rather ‘ropey’ (in every sense of the word) rope bridge, suspended about 9 metres off the forrest floor. The view out to sea was immense!
Our next stop was the ‘blow holes’. Between 1905 and 1911, Savaii was battered by a big old volcanoe eruption which spewed tonnes of lava, engulfing huge swathes of the island on its way to the sea. The lava on which the waves break onto, contain various holes that send huge jets of sea spray rocketing 60 metres into the air, as the waves crash into them. Spectacular – especially when a little local man very courageouly made his way out to the holes with a basket of coconuts to chuck in, in order to show us just how high the water went. Very entertaining until he demamded 20tala for the show – cheeky git!
The penultimate stop was at a rather glorious water fall, deep in the middle of Savaii no-whereness. We trekked for about 20 minutes and then reached a rather steep/vertical precipice. The steps that I’d been promised were very clearly an exaggeration of the greatest degree. I looked at the guide, who laughed, and then I looked down at my feet and my highly inappropriate footwear – one – strap birkenstocks. Fabulous, I thought. Wth a bit of sliding on bum and a lot of swearing, I eventually made it down to the water fall and had much fun acting out the herbal essences ad mark II behind the waterfall itself. However, it then started to rain – so not only did I have to climb back up the steepest, most treacherous mountain side ever, I had to do it in one-strap birkenstocks which were now wet and horrendously slippy. Soes, you’d have been so proud of me, I swear I rock-climbed, minus any fancy hi-tech carabena-rope fandangleness, up the damn precipice, and made it to the top alive. I was then very smug at Dave, who had his north face trainers on, and told him that I was clearly a far superior climber, as had managed in said Birkenstocks! Lise, I always knew Birks rocked!!!
Our last stop was some more lava fields, which I tried hard to be enthusiatic about, but at the end of the day, it was just a bit of black rock!
We got back to Reginas and had another ropey dinner. I got eaten alive by mozzies again,and had to wait 20 minutes for a goddam pee before I could go to bed, which was the last straw – Gwen and I decided that we wanted out and we wanted out asap the next morning. So that’s what we did! It was so good to get back to the Outrigger and we celebrated with some well deserved sunbathing. It was also good to see Kate and Mimi again, who we’d left at Lalomanu.
The next few days were taken up by Gwen and I shopping and haggling for some right good bargains!I am now a seasoned haggler!
Alas, the day came for Gwen, mimi and Kate to leave on Friday. It was so very sad! Dave and I spent the following day moping and mourning the loss of our homies – we were so very alone! The only comfort was crisps and biscuits and Vailima, of course. However, we woke up the next day and felt much better, having reminded ourselves that we were actually in paradise and had 2 extra weeks of tanning time left!Hurrah!!!
We started back at hospital on Monday and have seen some really interesting patients. I got major brownie points today by suggesting an investigation that hadn’t yet been thought of and diagnosing a funny heart murmur!I shocked myself – it’s more work than Ive done all elective! Also, the house officers have all rotated and the general medical ward have gained 2 fitty doctors!So life is GOOD! A nice bit of eye candy never did anyone any harm!!!

Anyway lovelies, best go and get off tinternet!
Love you all loads and hope you all well and happy
Loads of love xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

March 30, 2007

Sea sickness sucks!

Hey my lovelies!!!Long time no blog!
You’ll be glad to know that I’m back at the outrigger following our mini excursion, I am in one piece, the mozzy bites are under control, and I have acquired zero medical knowledge since I’ve been away…unless advising a fellow traveller to use antibacterial mouthwash for a mouth ulcer counts as knowledge???Nah, didn’t think you’d buy that one!
Have just read through all the emails you’ve sent – thankyou so much, they’ve all really made me laugh…Mikey, I’ll sort the photos and send them asap…I have some really fit new friends aswell…I’m sure I could convince them to strike a few poses!!!

So, on Saturday we set off to Lalomanu beach – supposedly the best beach on the whole of Upolu. There were 10 of us going from the Outrigger so it was a pretty cost effective journey. Anyway, we arrived…and they were right…it was GORGEOUS!A strip of gleaming white sand decked with beach fales, and water like Ive never seen before – crystal clear. Dave, Gwen and I had decided that if we were going to do a dive, this was the place to do it, especially as Dave and Leah had promised me a dive as my birthday present. So we presented ourselves to the diving office and were given a registration sheet explaining that scuba diving could cause serious injury/death and should we need a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, we would have to travel to goddam New Zealand…’shit a brick’, I thought, as I literally signed my life away. We made our way to the dive centre in order to be kitted out with wet suits and fins. Johanna, the slim, brown, beautiful, Swedish dive instructor looked me up and down and to my mortification handed me a mens XL wet suit, that when zipped up, bulged attractively around my lower belly. I was looking HOT!!!NOT!!!However, the extra room proved to be quite a blessing in disguise as when I jumped into the water, the air trapped in the expanse of extra room made its way to my shoulder region and acted as a fabulous bouyancy aid – no need to tread water when you have a fat ass wet suit on!RESULT! The plan for the afternoon was to go to 2 dive sites and the experienced divers in our party would dive at both. However, there were 4 of us newbees, and it was decided that two of us would dive at each site. Dave and one of zee German girls who were staying at the Outrigger aswell, decided to go first, so Gwen and I decided to do some snorkelling whilst we waited. It was absolutely amazing. Some of the fish were so beautifully coloured and irredescent – like nothing i’d seen before. However, I did wet my self slightly (or not as the case actually was…more of that later) at the site of the ‘DROP OFF”. I have a slight fear of very deep water so when the reef suddenly disappeared it took me a moment or two to calm myself, give myself a mental slap, and remind myself that I could actually swim, and besides, there was no hope of drownage with all the excess air horded in my wet suit anyway!!! Back to the wetting myself incident…so it turns out I can’t pee in the sea! Very unfortunate when you’ve drunk about a litre of water and are about half a mile from the shore…have never been so delighted when Johanna told us we were goin back to the dive centre to change the oxygen tanks!A toilet had never looked so good! All too soon, we were at the next dive site, the so-called ‘Turtle minefield’. Apparently, we were almost guaranteed to see turtles…up to 6 per dive, according to some of the dive masters!!! Bollocks!!!We didn’t see any. The swell was so immense at this dive site that I started to feel majorly sea sick whilst waiting for the pro divers to surface. I popped a sea sickness tablet but nada…I was having another mental struggle with myself, convincing myself that now would be a very bad time to chuck. Plus, my dive buddy, Brian, happened to be this hunky, South African fitty (not as fit as you my darling Soes), and vomming infront of him would have been slightly embarrasing. He reassured me that being sick under water was a possibility, so not to worry if I still felt sick once we’d submerged…plus, he said, you’re likely to sea more fishes as they’ll all swarm round to eat it…...UGGGHHH – GROSS OUT, I thought. Anyway, I was more concerned about being able to breathe under water, let alone how the hell you’d logistically figure out how to vom and breathe at the same time. Anyway, after a very ungraceful jump into the water and a few panicky minutes of “oh shit, what the hell am I playing at, I belong above water, not under it”, Gwen, Johanna, Brian and I all submerged and the dive began. I must say it was the most exhilarating, alien, terrifying yet amazing experience of my life. We went down to about 10 metres and at one point floated over the top of a deep ravine/under-water mountain – it felt like I was flying!!!The coral and fish were out of this world – but no bloody turtles!!! Neddless to say, I was quite tired when we got back – it felt like I’d sat about three exams, what with all the adrenaline I’d gotten through.
The next day we chilled on the beach and topped up the tan. It was soo very hot, spent the mid-day in the shade so didn’t burn. Dave and Gwen went snorkelling and saw a SHARK…which actually turned out to be a barracuda, scarey all the same. Iv’e never seen Dave move so fast!Quite amusing from my safe spot on the sand! The food was fabulous at Lalomanu, and on Sunday they produced a WHOLE PIG for lunch – literally!
Got a bit carried away on the old diving story and have unfortunately run out of time on the internet…promise to fill you all in on Savaii the next time I blog which will be asap!

Just a few personals

Soes: You are a comedy genius my darling! The tag rugby story had me crying! Love you squillions and missing you so much xxxx

Mikey: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear big -bruv, happy birthday to you! Hope you had a phat one babes! Sorry I wasn’t there to celebrate with you! Thanks so much for the quality email, once again, dribbling mess in the internet cafe!Big up to the Lawrence sheriff massif! Love ya loads xxx p.s send my love to Sar and wish her luck and tell her I haveny forgotten about the hobbit!

Vena: Hey hun, heard anything yet? Am so excited, sounds like you kicked ass at the interview. Missin you! xxx

Mum, Dad, Lise, Jon, Rosie and Beth: Have fab time on hols guys – you all deserve it. Go staedy on the tannage – wouldn’t want to be out done on the tanning front now, would I!!!Love you all loads xxxx

Elly, Cos and George : Thanks for email lovelies. Hope George isn’t picking his scabs!Big hugs and kisses to you all xxx

Love you all loads and loads and missing you xxxxxxxxxx

March 24, 2007

Kids, culture and lots of pina colada!!!

Talofa lava my lovelies!
Ok, so am the sweatiest beast that I have ever been…even more so than when I first arrived. Gwen and I have just arrived at the internet cafe following a beasting day of shopping. We started at 11am, its now 4.45 pm and we’ve been walking for what seems like forever in 35 degree celcius – GROSS OUT!!!
Ive had a fabulous week and have actually been to hospital every day, except today, which is Friday, and we don’t do Fridays, so thats all good! Having done general med on Monday again, we made it to paediatrics on Tuesday. I sat in on a clinic with a lovely young Samoan Dr called Fiona. Shes been qualified for 4 years and was fabulous with the children. I must have examined about 25 young children and babies – it was a fantastic experience. One 4 year old girl took an instant liking to me and jumped on my lap almost as soon as she’d walked in the room – bless! The mother smiled and commented ‘she must like palangi!’. Classic! However, things took an enormous unexpected turn for the worse when I whipped out my stethoscope and tried to examine her chest – lets just say the screams muffled her breath sounds somewhat!
Having not done paediatrics yet either, I apologised to Fiona half way through, incase she thought I was an imbecile, like the O&G Drs had…thankfully she turned and said ‘I would never have guessed, you’re doing very well!!!’. ‘RESULT’ I thought. Maybe paediatrics is the way to go!
Gwen and I went to the paediatric ward round the next day, having left Dave in bed with an almighty hangover (will fill you in on that later…). Once again, we managed to hold our own against a barage of questions from the Drs. The children were all such sweethearts, all with huge smiles and big brown eyes – adorable! On Thursday, somehow Dave managed to be hungover again, but so did Gwen and I. HOWEVER, we were studious and dragged our sorry asses into the neonatal ward, leaving Dave in bed AGAIN. We figured that the neonates would be safe from our alcoholc breath fumes in their incubators!!! The neonatal ward had 8 incubators and there were 5 babies being cared for. They were SO CUTE! The staff were amazing, and we learnt how to do a neonatal examination. The paediatric consultant was a real inspiraion – she was so passionate about her work and did such a wonderful job despite such a lack of facilities and money.

I can guess that you’re all amazingly impressed at how many hours of medicine I’ve put in this week…but don’t worry, cos Ive managed to have some fun aswell! The weather has been ultimate shite this week with huge downpours at least twice daily. So on Tuesday we decided to do some cultural stuff. First off, we visited Robert Louis Stevenson’s house and museum. RLS lived in Samoa for quite a few years and wrote some of his classics out here. Apparently, having travelled all around the Pacific islands, he landed in Samoa and claimed that he had found his paradise. So he set up shop and lived out his days here and was buried on the mountain behind his house. The house was amazing – a huge, white, colonial structure set in astoundingly beautiful grounds. Inside contained many original features, and we had the most comedy guide showing us around. Unfortunately …(!!!) it started to rain so we couldn’t embark on the 45 minute hike up the moutain to visit his grave, as the ground would be too slippy…I was absolutely gutted, as you can imagine…could think of nothing better than hiking up mountains in blistring heat. Our next stop was the Bahaii temple. Apparently, Bahaii is a legitimate religion that basically encompasses all of the good bits from the 9 major world-wide faiths. There are only 8 temples in the world, and Samoa has 1 – random. The temple itself had 9 sides representing the 9 different faiths. It was a very serene place, with flowers that delicately perfumed the air. Our last stop was the Papapapai-tai falls – awesome name, awesome spectacle. It was a bloody big waterfall that cascaded down the side of a mountain. It had just finished raining so some whispy clouds had formed around the top of the falls creating a magnificent picture.

That night we went out for a cheeky boogy and drinks to say goodbye to the kiwi girls who had been staying at the Outrigger with us. Dave devoted the entire night to Vailima and was a drunken monkey. Gwen and I were sensible and stopped after our third glass of malibu and pineapple juice. When we got back to the Outrigger, having been chucked out of the club at 12 (RUBBISH), Dave thought it would be a great idea to join some of the other guys out on the deck to drink more Vailima. I half-heartedly tried to discourage him, but alas, he ignored the Robbo advice. Thank goodness for ear plugs, is all I can say. The night apparently culminated in a swim and he reappeared in our room at 3.30am – drunken beast! Needless to say, he didn’t make it in the next morning!
The following day after hospital, a few of us took a trip to the Papaseea sliding rocks – and they do exactly what they say on the tin – they are a series of smallish waterfalls that you can slide down…IF YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH!!! I took one look and decided that it would be a very very bad idea for me to attempt them. Basically, if you veered slightly to either side of the ‘suggested’ path down, impalage was inevitable, and I didn’t fancy the walk back up the 200 wet slippy steps to civilisation, with a broken tibia, thankyou very much! Dave called me a wuss. I didn’t care! Gwen and Mimi were of the same opinion as me, so we went and lolled in one of the rock pools and let the other psychopaths to enjoy themselves “sliding”.
That night, it was Katies’ leaving do, so we went out again. Had dinner at the yacht club, which sounds extremely fancy…but wasn’t. The food was fantastic though, and Dave, Gwen and I got champagne! We then went on to ‘Cocktails on the rocks’, a random little place that sold a JUG of pina colada for 20 tala – thats about 4 pounds…oh deary, deary me. Lets just say 60 tala later, Gwen and I were in the mood for a PAR-TAY!!!The music in the bar was random but classic, including palangi hits like ‘bohemian rhapsody’, ‘living on a prayer’ and ‘the macarena’. WE WAS LOVIN IT!!! Got back to the Outrigger and went back to mine Dave and Gwens room to continue the party – very much fun. However, champagne and spirit hangovers near the equator are not. I woke up with a mouth like a dead badgers arse and a head to match.

We plan to go to Lalumanu this weekend (supposedly the best beach on Upolu), and then we head over to Savaii, the neighbouring island, to do some “rural medicine”. We stay till next Thursday so will not be able to blog till then. Hope you’re all well and happy. Thinking about you all lots.
Love you all loads and loads and missing you all tremendouly xxx

March 20, 2007

Nuddy in the jungle!

Hey my lovelies!
Thankyou for all the fab emails – they’ve all made me smile big style! Can I start by offering you all my commiserations for the terrible weather you’ve been experiencing lately …my heart goes out to you all and I hope that the cold spell passes as soon as posible…I’ll shut up now before I rack up any more cuffs round the earole from Mikey! You’ll probably be pleased to know that there is some justice in this world, and we experienced an almighty storm on Thursday just gone, which flooded the deck area of our hotel. It really was a spectacle – the most comedy part was when the torrent crashing down the road somehow redirected itself into the Outriggers’ garden so that at one point, we were playing reservoir to the whole of damn Apia! However, the sun came out the next day and dried it up as fast as it came down, but alas, all the moisture in the air saw the return of Wendolene…I swear, I havent seen one decent photo of me since I got here!Damn hair!
As I mentioned last time, Dave, Gwen and I went to Virgin Cove again this weekend and stayed over in one of the beach fales. We got there on the Friday, and it rained a bit, but it was still warm enough to sit on the beach and swim. The resort there is quite small and the shower facilities are a sight to behold – it was basically a cold water shower head attached to a tree trunk, encased within a c-shaped wall of volcanic stone, set against a jungle backdrop. The wall supposedly covered you from the neck down…I was dubious, as had nearly caught a couple in the buff in the shower,on my way to the toilet earlier on in the day. So, the time came for me to brave it – I was way too sanded out to contemplate leaving it till I got back to the outrigger. I left the tankini on and sheepishly began washing, my eyes flitting all around, checking for pesky nosey parkers. I decided it was maybe safe to remove the shorts as the lower regions were definitely out of sight. However, I suddenly got brave and decided that sand removal was winning out vs my modesty! The top came off aswell and it was like one of those herbal essences adverts, minus the moaning, obviously! Needless to say, Ive never showered so quickly in my life!
The evening meal took place in the main bar fale. It was beautiful – steak, potatoes and vegetables ( a rare delicacy in Samoa) in a thick, rich sauce!Yummy! The cocktails were even yummier – Lise, the pina colada was rocking my world, and at only 3 pounds a pop, it would have been rude to not get atleast 3!!! Pudding was fruit pie with fruit (imaginitively). Gwen and I were pleased to discover that the orange fruit that lay inside was infact peach and not papaya – or POOpaya as we’ve renamed it!Trust me, guys, it smells of fart and doesn’t taste much better!
The whole resort was lit by kerosene lanterns at night – very sweet, but quite tricky to navigate your way around. We got to our fale only to find a hermit crab had moved in with us – it was Daves job to remove it! Now, you’d think that with 50%DEET mozzie spray, a mosquitoe net, socks and pyjama bottoms on, I’d have escaped being bitten….oh how wrong you’d be. I was nibbled to within an inch of my life.
The next day (Saturday) was glorious. A few of the guys from the Outrigger that we’ve become friends decided to join us for the day. We had a blast! It was such good fun. They are all medical students aswell; Kate, Katie and Mi-Mi are from the UK and Florian and Max are from Germany. They are all lovely and extremely funny!
We spent yesterday, which was Sunday just lazing round the pool – it’s amazing how tiring doing nothing can be!
Today we went into hospital and joined the general medical ward round again. We saw a 26 year old guy in HDU who wasn’t expected to survive the day…he had poisoned himself by drinking methylated spirit, as had two other patients in the medical ward, who had been more lucky. One guy had already died yesterday. Horrendous!
Anyway my lovelies, hope you are all well and happy. Will look forward to hearing from you soon. Take care and blog you later!!!!
Loads of love xxxxxxxxxxxx

March 16, 2007

Mosquitoes for extermination!!!

Hello my beauties!
So, since my last blog the mozzies have reached new levels of evilness and bitten the only place left to bite…the sole of my foot!How low is that?!So have taken to wearing long pj bottoms tucked into socks, yet they still get me through the goddam material!Unbelievable!

You’ll be pleased/relieved to know that I have actually spent a significant amount of time in hospital this week – a whole 4 mornings and 1 afternoon. We’ve been very studious. Decided to give up on the obs and gynae as a)we didn’t know anything b)there were no immenent labours and c) quite frankly, no one seemed to like us ‘palangies (colloquial for white foreigner)’ very much. So we sloped off to the general medical ward and instantly felt at home!We understood what was going on, could answer questions confidently, and more importantly, answer them correctly (!) and the doctors were lovely. We’ve seen some amazing sites, that I won’t go into in detail, for the sake of Mikeys’ stomach! Suffice it to say that because people not only have to pay for their care, and tend to consult the Fofo (village healer) before they seek medical attention, they present with signs and symptoms that are very advanced and therefore hardly ever seen in the UK. There are unfortunately an unbelievable number of very young Samoans, ie 15-20 year olds who contract a heart infection called rheumatic fever and get lost to follow up or don’t finish their course of treatment and end up with heart failure aged 20. Heart failure is bad news – and the youngest person Ive ever seen with it in the UK was 54. Also, repeat chest infections and, again, loss to follow up and cessation of treatment due to cost, has resulted in lots of young peolpe developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung problems. It’s very sad. The patients are lovely – even in the midst of their lowest, illest moments, they still manage to say hello and give us medical students a radiant smile.
The only thing ‘intensive’ about the intensive care unit is the air conditioning. There is one ECG machine (heart monitor) to serve the whole 240 bed hospital and they do not have a CT scanner, therefore, if you have a stoke, basically, you’re buggered. This is not good as a vast majority of Samoans are diabetic, obese and have sky high blood pressures i.e. strokes are on the cards for a fair number of them! Mum, the lowest blood sugar I’ve seen so far is 17! That is deemed as good and stable here! Despite the undercurrent of poverty, the Drs do a great job and I have really enjoyed being attached to their firm this week.

Forgot to mention when I wrote last Sunday, a few of us went to church, as we had been assured that it was a must, if only to hear the singing. So we rocked up for the 9am service and got some seats at the back. Most of the congregation were in white; the girls looked like little brides and there were some fabulous hats on show. Just as the service was about to start a HUUUGGGEE Samoan gentleman of about 55 came and sat next to me. He had the most beautiful bass voice which reverberated the whole pew when he sang. He gave me a hymn sheet for the first hymn. This was all good as it had the music written at the top, although the text was all Samoan. However, he substituted the sheet with a hymn book, which had no music, for the rest of the service and told me to ‘SING UP!”. This proved to be quite difficult when I didn’t know the tune or the language! Ah well, I had a go! The sermon was all in Samoan, but at the end the reverend noted our presence and gave a short synopsis. We were greeted by many of the congregation on the way out, who were delighted to learn that we were English as John Williams’ bones (the first English missionary to introduce Christianity to Samoa) were buried at the entrance to their church.

We ventured into town on Monday afternoon and found the most fabulous fabric for sarongs. I also plan to have a few skirts made – it costs about 5 pounds!Bargain-tastic!
Today is Thursday – officially the end of the working (!) week! Dave, Gwen (our friend from Warwick med school out here on elective aswell) and I are all off to Virgin Cove again tomorrow and we’re staying over in one of the beach fales. Some serious tanning is going down this weekend. We’ve already planned our itinerary – it involves alternating half hour intervals of front, back, swim and suncream reapplication with an hour or so thrown in for food and toilet stops. Lovely jubley!
The rest of the week we’ve just vegged out round the pool and deck, although there have been some amazing thunder stormas and torrential rain – amazing! Worryingly, I have started to drink beer. It is called Vailima and is brewed locally and is extremely scrumptious. Soes – you would love it – Dave’s trying to work out how we could smuggle a case back to the UK – I’ll keep you posted!

Hope you are all well and happy! Some personal messages:

Mum and dad: Hello my lovelies!Am missing you very much! Hope you’re managing to keep yourself busy – sounds like Lise is helping out on that front!I can’t believe you’ve taken Minky with you!She’s too fat to fit into crevices anymore – wherever will she hide?!? Mum, how’s things on the palpitation front? Ive been worried about you but forgot to ask last time we spoke. Dad! Can’t believe you’ve got a Wii – QUALITY. I forbid you to get too good at the bowling/golf before I get back so that there will be a fair contest! Needless to say, Im sure Soes will be round for a visit soon enough!Also, we star gazed the other night and Orions’ on his back!Amazing! Love you both loads xxx

Lise: thanks for email babes. It made me smile! Glad the party went well. Am thinking about you lots and can’t seem to get the Santana ‘Maria, Maria’ song out of my head, which remonds me of you even more!Can’t wait to see you soon. Will reply to email properly asap! Send my love to Jon and the girls! Love you loads xxx

Mike: can I just say that you once again managed to make me gaffaaww out loud in the internet cafe with your email! Very embarassing! The zipper comment is now local legend! I hope you appreciated the vagueness of my descriptions of ‘amazing sites’. I know how much you hate to hear about huge festering boils and gangrenous feet, and the like, so I thought I’d save you the images! Big love to you, Jan, Sarah, James, Jamie and Edward. Love you loads xxx

Loads and loads of love to you all as always xxxxxxx

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