I wonder what the receptionist says when you enter the door, “Welcome to the Wellcome Building”? And nothing cheers up an anatomy lesson like a big guy in a Red Suit. Yes, the Christmas cheer is everywhere in Dunedin, even in your genes. (Look at the sign..DNA sequencing…..oooh, that was bad….)
This was not the normal Christmas for me. While I’m accustomed to working some part of the Christmas day on many an occasion, today I’ve missed my family very deeply. Thanks goodness for phones and Skype, which brought us all closer today. It’s also nine o’clock in the evening and still light, which feels…weird… on Christmas.
My solo status did not go unnoticed here in Dunedin, and I was very kindly invited to no less than six or seven homes for Christmas today. I’d weigh about 300 pounds if I had gone to them all, so I accepted a couple of invitations to the holiday festivities today. But I’m getting ahead of myself. There was last night…
Last night’s Christmas Eve party was with the registrars. These are young doctors with healthy livers, or is healthy doctors with young livers? Well, regardless, they are- as you can see from the photo- a fun group. It was a festive affair with lots of food and liquid refreshments Then, we played Cranium. I’d played this once before, but apparently they play it a lot here. And, I’ll swear we were playing with the British version. The idea for the game is you draw, or hum, or pantomime clues about objects or movies and such to your teammates. Me, I had to sculpt, with Playdough, ‘Yorkshire pudding’. Really, Yorkshire Pudding? (For the record, someone did guess it, and our team won the game). It was a lot of fun and when I left at 1am, there was no sign of things slowing down.
I was told Dunedin kind of shuts down during the Christmas break. Earlier this week, I encountered an increasing number of very agitated people, and just assumed it was the usual mania of holiday shopping. Then, on Christmas Eve I walked down the hall and spotted the reason for the sudden spike in agitation.
It all made sense. All those ‘unhealthy’ people walking around.
Last week, I finally secured a key to the most elusive club in the hospital (nothing to do with the above mentioned clinic, I assure you).
And how many hospitals have a foyer, anyway?
I also got new tires and brakes on my car, which is now truly outfitted to officially be a New Zealand car.
Which brings me back to my very New Zealand Christmas today. While everyone else was bemoaning the weather, which has been cool and rainy for the past two days, it just seems to me like winter back home. That is, until I talked with everyone back home today to hear their winter weather was much better than our summer weather. Oh well, at least it’s still light so I can SEE the rain outside. If it wasn’t warm outside, it was warm on the inside today. I was warmed by the voices and images of my own family. I wasn’t with them physically, but we were certainly together in spirit. I was warmed by the generosity and spirit of people who truly welcomed me not just into their homes, but into their families. These people, whom I honestly don’t know all that well, embraced me as their own. We enjoyed wonderful food, drink, company and played Charades. We shared stories and laughed as if I had been in their family for years. They know I’m a locum, and could be gone from the hospital in just 8 months, but they don’t distance themselves from me or see me as someone just here to get a job done. Instead, I’m invited to their homes, meet their spouses and kids, and they seem genuinely anxious to meet my own family.
One more story…I took care of a very nice man a few months back. He had enjoyed a long and very full life, but he was admitted to the hospital with some problems which turned out to be not very fixable. We did our best to care for him in the ways he wanted, and after several weeks in the hospital he went home on hospice and passed away a couple of weeks later. Yesterday his daughter phoned me and asked if she could be bring by a note for me; it was seven o’clock in the evening and I was home, but she it was no problem and she drove all the way to my house just to give me the Christmas card with a lovely note inside from her and her mother. On the note, there was a picture of her father, holding a salmon he had caught in the Dunedin harbor. I was in the middle of making enchiladas for my upcoming Christmas Eve party, so while they cooked we shared a glass of wine and toasted to our mutual salmon fishing fathers who passed away this year.
So, maybe there were a few more shut doors in Dunedin over the Christmas holiday, but I found many open hearts. I hope you, too, open your heart and find many open hearts this Christmas. Let the joy in.
And to you, dad, Merry Christmas and tight lines….