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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First few days recap!

Wow - what a trip! I was 9 months old the first time I got on a plane and pretty much grew up on them and in airports. But my trip to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was by far the longest and most exhausting. My flight from RDU left about 10am on Thursday. I arrived at JFK by 11:30 and had an hour or so to kill before my classmate, Shamin, joined me. 

JetBlue Terminal 5 at JFK has several stations with free wifi and charging outlets. It also has a lot of shopping and restaurant options. Sadly, it doesn't have a sleeping lounge - believe me, we looked! I stayed up all night packing and was pretty beat. We had nine hours in the terminal! We ate twice (I had vegan Asian food and later tostados), lounged around on not so comfortable chairs and benches, got to know each other some (we just met!) and finally the time for our connection to Barbados came! We boarded the plane and then sat. The captain announced something about someone not on the plane, but their luggage is and we have to wait. Then later that the 'VIP' is coming and we are waiting still. Wish I could get a plane to wait for me! :) There was also a problem with the front bathroom (no, not stinky poo!) and it would be closed. Finally we start out to the runway...and then we sat for two hours. It went on forever and was hot! It was cold in NY so I don't know how it could have been so hot. We eventually take off and arrive in Barbados about 3am. I found out shortly before landing that the couple next to me were from Saint Vincent and Bequia. Bequia is small and they'd be there all month so Shamin may run into them as she's staying on that island. 

We all make our way through customs and out to the main area - which was all outdoors! You know you have some good weather when an airport is covered, but otherwise completely open air. We slept for a little while on a stone bench until we got chilly. Our flight to SVG was at 8:30 so we got to see the sunrise in Barbados.
Barbados sunrise
I think I nodded off briefly before the plane even took off! We arrived in Saint Vincent around 10am. The airport is quite small with only 1 tiny baggage carousel. Even before landing I notice the amazing views - including colorful buildings.
The airport is green!
After a small amount of difficulty getting through customs (we didn't have addresses and are staying a long time) we get our bags and meet our preceptors who have met us with a van. Sisters Allen and Glynn (Sister is a term of respect used for Nurse Practitioners here) greeted us and whisked us away to get our temporary RN licenses. These were $50 US. We then went to the Ministry of Health and met Sister Peggy Da Silva. She is the Chief Nursing Officer and was instrumental in setting up our visit. After some introductions to many of those at the Ministry of Health, Sisters Allen and Glynn took us to exchange some currency, shop for breakfast and get lunch. I was so tired I was feeling delirious. And while it is not very hot here (low 80's for the most part) it can be quite humid and it was a dramatic change from NC!
Green sweet potato, yams, salad, pumpkin and beans.
After eating we headed back to the Ministry of Health for a meeting. Representatives from Cuba were presenting on an injectable medicine to treat diabetic foot ulcers. I was so tired I do not remember the name of the drug, but I'll try to find out later. It is used inpatient for a few weeks and SVG is planning to start using it. I wish I remembered more details, but I was beyond exhausted at that point. 

After the meeting, we parted ways. Sister Glynn and Shamin took the ferry to Bequia and Sister Allen drove me to Questelles (pronounced Kay tells) where my apartment is located. It's about a 20 minute drive from Kingstown, the main town.  The roads here are very narrow, twisty and have lots of elevation changes. Driving here is, well, different. Even if they didn't drive on the left side, I'm not sure I'd want to try it. People drive very fast and lots of people are walking on the sides of the road. It is not for the faint of heart!
View from my porch

Me on my porch. I have the first floor apartment.

Saturday I got a taxi (arranged by Mrs. Alexander and husband whose apartment I am renting) to Blue Lagoon Marina (cost $70 EC or $26 US each way!) and met Shamin for her to start her SCUBA certification with Indigo Dive. While she did that I just hung out on the boat and then did a little snorkeling. It was so relaxing! David from Indigo Dive has been great to work with - very helpful and flexible. And the scenery was amazing! Caroline, an Engineering student from Sweden traveling on a gap year, was also doing the dive class that day. I hung out on the boat with David's wife (I am unsure of her name - so bad with this!) and did a remarkable job of communicating since she speaks only Spanish and I have forgotten most of mine. They just moved here in January to take over the dive shop. She is very sweet and had me pose for some pictures. 

I'm on a boat!
Kingstown from the water

Small islands everywhere - I love this pic!

This island resort is for sale. A mere $10 million US!

Postcard views abound!

Cross on an island

Shamin, Caroline and David getting ready to submerge

Trying out the waterproof camera


action shot of Shamin

After a few hours on the water, we had a late lunch at a cafe recommended by David, a couple of local beers (Hairoun - Saint Vincent's prize winning lager), and then our taxi came to get us. He took us to a grocery store and we spent quite a while looking up and down the aisles. There were some unfamiliar items and some very expensive ones. Strawberries were $25.99 EC or about $9.60 US. So no strawberries this month! I bought some fresh items as well as staples like cooking/dressing oil, spices and PBJ ingredients. I even found almond milk! I don't know for sure the bread is vegan as the ingredients aren't listed. But since there is only 1 kind of sliced bread offered, it's not like there is a choice. For the next month I will eat vegan in every way I can, but there will just be some unknowns like the bread. I need it for easy lunches to take to clinic. While I have access to many vegan options, it does highlight the 'vegan privilege' I have at home. Below are some pics of the many wonderful things I found! 
My grocery store haul. Price $198 EC or $73 US.

A vegan has to try the 'jumbo soy chunks', right?

Spices were the deal of the day. These were packaged in FL.

Shamin stayed over Saturday night and we planned to dive on Sunday, but she was unsure if her ears were ok to dive so we just checked out Questelles (after unsuccessfully trying to get a van to Kingstown). The vans don't run much on Sunday, but they are much cheaper than a taxi. As many people as possible cram into them and pay $2-3 EC to go a ways down the road. We had to walk into 'town' to the petrol station to the van stop and after we gave up (about an hour) we just walked around checking out the village. I mentioned the roads are narrow, they are also very steep with lots of up and downhill elevation changes. It is quite a workout! 

A man brings goats every day to the yard next door 
and they munch away.

Petrol station where the van stop is.

Many goats! These were little cuties!

Colorful houses in the valley

After walking downhill for a while, we got an ocean view. 
One of my clinics is in this valley.

The houses are so beautiful here.
The two green roofs just above the red center roof 
is one of the clinics I'll be at some days.

We walked all the way down to the valley. Long walk!
Small field of banana trees
Unfortunately, after you walk down, you must return by walking up. 
I wish this pic gave any idea of the scope of what we walked up. 
I was not sure I would make it!

 On Monday I went to clinic for the first time. For this first day I was in Barrouallie a village about 25 minutes away by van. Mrs. Alexander walked with me to the van stop and told the driver where to get me to. The van made a lot of stops letting people on and off - it was very crowded. Music was blaring playing mostly early 90's pop music. For a while the guy next to me sang along to Cher's Do you believe in life after love. When we got to Barrouallie, the driver's assistant pointed me to a young woman that would show me to the clinic. It was up a very steep hill. I was glad I abandoned the idea of heels. 

The Barrouallie clinic has different focuses on different days of the week as well as two beds for the birthing ward overseen by the staff nurse/midwife. The village of has a population of a bit over 7,000. This Monday Sister Allen was overseeing a diabetes/hypertension clinic. We also saw one sick child. There were several nursing assistant students present also. I enjoyed talking with them and the staff nurses and sharing info about how our programs work. I found out my Littman Cardiology III stethoscope I paid $164 US for would cost $1700 here (about $630 US)! No wonder people think we are rich!
View from the Barrouallie clinic - a church they are building in the 
foreground and ocean in the background.

Tomorrow I have clinic in Clare Valley (the long walk down), then Sister Allen takes me to Kingstown to the wharf and I head to Bequia on the ferry. I will do clinic there Thursday and Tuesday and spend the long Easter weekend there. The local celebration seems quite entertaining and there is a regatta as well. Bequia is more of a tourist spot so should be quite different than the more remote Questelles. 

I'll report back when I can! Let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions!

PS - Shamin is also blogging. Check her out at 


  1. This is all very exciting! We also used vans when we visited the Caribbean last year. I feel bad for your extremely long journey - I'm surprised there weren't better connections. I loved your update - what an experience you're having and so kindly sharing!! Best wishes.

    1. Thank you, Dilip! It's been fun so far. The long flight plan saved me about $300 so it was really worth it.

  2. Post pics of the apartment's interior, please. :-)

    1. I know, I know - I have to remember to do that! :)

    2. Stefanie - I have posted apartment pics along with a bunch of other things!

  3. What is your apartment like? Do you have time to get to make some local friends? It would be neat to be able to host them if they ever can visit the States - I'm sure you'd love showing them around. Do you counsel folks on diet?

    1. Some of my recent posts answer your questions I believe - I posted apartment pics and talked some about patient education. It is very different here! I am making lots of new friends, but most of them would not be able to afford the trip to the US.