Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dispatch 56 Life in Oamaru, week two

15 May 2010

I've amused Richard with my descriptions of life in our wee house in Oamaru so I thought I'd just put it in a blog and share the experience. He is on his way to Fiji on a friend's catamaran so I've had to deal with my first week in the house and the first week at work alone. He has spent exactly one night here so far. Perhaps we'll add pictures to this when he gets back.
We are living in a cute house, 2 BR, rather a rabbit warren layout with, as is to be expected here, no insulation and no really effective heat. I met a Swiss doc who described the houses here as "thin" which sort of sums up their cold resistance capabilities. There's a "heat pump" up near the ceiling in the living room which doesn't effectively get heat anywhere else in the house. There's a space heater in the kitchen. And, after 4 days I found out from Richard that one of the 3 switches in the bathroom turns on a little space heater in there too so now I don't have to turn blue as soon as I take my clothes off before my shower. There is, however, a towel heating switch--a very British thing that I've taken a liking to.

So, my first couple days here in the house alone, I would awaken at 6 (dark, cold) shiver out of bed, take a quick walk for exercise, turn on the space heater in the kitchen so I could eat breakfast with some modicum of heat, shiver into my clothes after my shower, turn off all the heaters before I left for work and come home to reverse the whole process. Oh, and there's heating pads on the bed to get that pre-heated.

Now I've got it all worked out. I bring the kitchen space heater into the bedroom for the night, cart it back to the kitchen in the morning, shower in relative luxury with the heater kicking out all kinds of warm air in the bathroom and only shiver on the way between there and the bedroom to get dressed while I let the space heater (now in the kitchen) heat up the breakfast area. All the electrical outlets have on/off switches so I do have to remember to, say, turn on the outlet while I'm charging my phone, or, oddly, the phone is no more charged after a full night plugged in than it was when I started.

There is a TV in the house and, since I had 10 minutes I felt like doing something mindless last night, I tried to turn it on using the remote. No go. So I tried to turn it on using the power button on the TV. No go. Then I noticed it was plugged into an outlet with a switch (some have indicators to say they are on, some don't and you just have to guess) so I flipped the switch and the power turned on at the TV, but the remote still didn't work. Then I noticed that one of the two batteries wasn't quite in place (and the cover for the battery compartment is gone), so, when I shoved that back into place, lo and behold the remote worked too. Man, I was feeling really good about all my problem solving abilities. Then I noticed what was playing on TV: that medical TV show about Seattle's Gray hospital (Gray's Anatomy I think?) Damn. I turned the channel to what turned out to be the only other channel we get. What was playing? House. I don't know about other people but I gotta say, after an 11 hour day working at a damn hospital, those are just not the TV shows that are high on my list to watch!!

I wrote the above about my 4th night here. Since then I washed my clothes in the washer that the previous tenant told us doesn't spin the clothes dry real well. I figured out why: it doesn't spin at all. So, after wringing them out one by one I hung them on the line outside (people don't really use dryers in this country). I was waiting for them to stop dripping before I hung them on the drying rack inside that I had bought because it occurred to me that it might take a mighty long time to dry clothes in 42 degree weather outside.

And, I'm enjoying the medicine here. It is up to date, the doctors are thoughtful and read the research closely. They like to discuss the patient's problems and think hard before they order tests, weighing whether the test will change the treatment in any way. The only problem is that they are keen to keep costs down so occasionally treatments that are more convenient for the patient (but more expensive), yet have shown no advantage in outcomes or health measures, are not used in this country (like insulin pumps for instance) and that makes me upset. There's so much more to say about the medical practice here but I haven't got my thoughts completely together. But I am trying to write about it while it's fresh in my mind and everything is new to me.

The Kiwis are a tough and self-sufficient bunch. They are also friendly and helpful. The town has some of the amenities of a much larger community like an awesome public pool (which I've already used a couple times) and an Opera House where Liberace will be performing next month (who knew he was still touring, let alone still alive?!) And we have two kinds of penguins and fur seals for the wildlife lovers among you. So I say, come visit! Oh yeah, but wait until it gets a little warmer!