Hello from Kiwi land!
I arrived on a Thursday evening after a wonderful flight on New Zealand Air. They have a concierge in business class and put a mattress pad, duvet and real pillows on the full length bed. After delicious lamb and many glasses of NZ wine I slept 9 solid hours so was fresh upon arrival. I definitely recommend NZ Air.
Invercargill is very green with lots of trees. Every house has a garden. My rental house has 3 bedrooms – one of which I made into my office – and one shower but no bath. The house has a wonderful yard and I have been out gardening. Lots of roses, raised beds for herbs, fenced in for the dogs.
My contract included six weeks use of a car which I declined. They drive on the opposite side of the road as in the US and I cannot tell my left from my right at the best of times so I am waiting for (husband) Greg to arrive before we get a car. I walk 1.4 miles to work one-way and on my days off walk usually five to 10 miles to run errands. The exercise is great for me. People here are normal weight and everyone walks or rides bikes. There are taxis which run 24 hours per day so I can take them when I have loads of things to carry.
The food is incredible. The normal supermarkets have the organic quality food of Whole Paycheck. All chickens, beef and lambs are cage free / free range so the meats are less fatty but more flavorful. The produce and breads are excellent. Kumura are a type of sweet potato that are round with a purple skin that are used like we do regular potatoes. There is a little green fruit called a figueroa that has a floral scent and slightly acidic flavor. The lamb curries at the Bombay, an Indian restaurant run by a Nepalese man, are terrific. Dairy products are so good – the yogurt and milk taste rich and fresh even the non-fat stuff I prefer. My rental house came furnished with the basics but I had to hit the local kitchen store to get my definition of basics for cooking. Despite being alone, I cook daily since the ingredients are so good.
Invercargill has a wonderful library that is well used. I got my library card the day after I arrived and have been there weekly since. There is a small but very nice museum which has a great natural history section. There is a skeleton of the now extinct Moa bird – the knee joint is even with my waist. The birds here are unique because of the geographical isolation of the islands. I have been learning about new birds and plants. Queens Park has beautiful gardens with more varieties of roses than any gardens I have been to in the US and Canada. It is approaching winter here but many of the bushes are still in bloom. They also have tuatara at the museum – George is over 110 years old and still fathering other little tuatara. Invercargill is the major breeding facility for these unusual reptiles – unchanged for 220 million years.
Relaxed pace of life
People here value their time off. Most stores are closed Sunday and open for only 2-3 hours on Saturday. People start getting ready for the weekend Friday so not a lot gets done on Friday. Just about everything shuts down for a holiday. The hospital owns three holiday houses in the South Island that are available for rent for about $50 US per night.
Most of the patients are employed. Anyone who has an accident is provided all the health care needed until they return to work – this applies to foreign visitors also and includes the ED, surgery, rehab and covers all lacerations, fractures, soft tissue injuries – even overdoses which makes no sense to me! There is no payment required for NZ citizens who use the ED; they have a small co-pay to go to their GP. District nurse referrals are easily made to follow-up on discharged patients. Prescriptions are either free or require a $3 or $5 co-pay. Specialist visits are free if referred to by the GP or ED.
New Zealand is not a wealthy country and has determined that they cannot spend more that 4% of their GDP on health care (unlike the US 15%). The policy is to emphasize preventative care. All schools have a dietician, a school nurse and a dental technician. Dental care is free until the age of 18 as are all vaccinations. Preventative care is free. Good nutrition, exercise and balance in life are emphasized. People are universally more relaxed, kinder and more helpful. There is crime but I am perfectly safe walking to work at 11 PM or home after midnight. I tried to tip a taxi cab driver who helped me carry loads of groceries into my house and he told me that they don’t accept tips – that they are paid for what they do and happy to help.
The entire hospital staff is on first name basis (finally the nurses call me Jennifer!) and the doctors introduce themselves by their first names to the patients. So I am learning to relax! The nurses oriented me and have been super. It is fun to talk to docs from all over the world and hear differences in how medicine is practiced. There is a wonderful spirit of collegiality.