Kwajalein

Kwajalein

10/14/00Jack Shipman

K-wa-what? Is that a place? Let’s see if Goggle maps knows where it is.

That was what I was thinking late one night sometime at the end of 2014. It’s all sort of vague to me now. I was tired and searching again for some sort of job that would take me out of a routine life and give me a sense of adventure.

By trade I am a veterinary technician. I jokingly say that I torture cats for a living. I don’t. I help them, but to the cat… I think it often seems like torture. No mater how lovingly I perform my job.

So while searching the job sites once again for something different I ran into this ad for a “casual” veterinary technician in a place called Kwajalein.

Turns out that Kwajalein* is an island on an atoll, also named Kwajalein, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands are pretty much in the middle of the very large pacific ocean about half way between Hawaii and the Philippines.

The United States has an army base on the island which employs lots of contractors. So there is a need to provide community services including veterinary care. There are about 100 dogs and 250 cats that come with their families to the island. Hence the need for a veterinary technician.

So of course I applied for it! Then I wondered about it for a few months until I was finally contacted, interviewed and hired for the position (this is the short version of that story).

Yippeee!

So now I am island bound!

There has been a lot of paperwork, background checks and a physical exam and I still have so many questions about what my life will be like there.

So far I know these things about my job:

  • I will be there for about a month in May.
  • I will train with Jenny (the vet tech on the island) for two weeks.
  • I will work with an army vet for one week.
  • I will learn how to work with the vet long distance to provide care for the pets.

What I know about island military base living:

  • Diving, diving, diving, diving, diving and oh… did I mention diving?
  • BQ – bachelor quarters. I will be living in studio type housing.
  • I will be eating in a dining hall because I won’t have much of a kitchen.
  • There is a gym, a pool, ceramics and more to keep people occupied.
  • Average high temp is 86 degrees and the average low is 77 degrees.
  • Oh yeah… and diving!!!!!

I have so many questions and as soon as a definite date is set for my departure I will be asking away! There are questions about the pets, the medicine that is practiced, the equipment in the hospital and much more. I’m so excited to care for patients in this new environment. What kind of parasites will the pets be exposed to? What is the number one preventable problem that is seen? What will I never see here that I normally see a lot back home?

There are questions about what to bring. I am an experienced wilderness and travel backpacker so I can size it down pretty well but I can also bring the kitchen sink if I’m not careful. I know it rains a lot and I need to bring my rain gear. Is an umbrella useless because of the winds? How much of my own dive equipment would I need to purchase and bring or can I rent it while I’m there.  What should I bring that I just wouldn’t even consider without actually ever being on the island?

Then the countless other questions. Are the sharks really not a problem? Is the food as bad as I hear? Are people nice and welcoming? Will I have good internet connection to stay in touch? How will I do my banking?

Lots to find out and I’m loving it all. It’s such an adventure and it is just the catalyst I needed to get my life moving forward. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

* Note: There is a lot more to know and learn about Kwajalein, the Marshall Islands, the United States, our military, wars, atomic bombs,  poverty and more. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows (no where is) and I’m interested to learn about all of this up close and personal on the island.

6 thoughts on “Kwajalein

  1. I have never enjoyed a vicarious rapture more. Be sure and try a mangosteen. It grows where you are and is said to be the fruit of the gods. All well and mundane out here: all the more the need to see the world thru your eyes.

    Any sight of ocean-going crocodiles? I have always wanted to have one and want to know where they can be obtained.

    Above all, did you manage to get Jose and Desiree in communication with each other?

    So long for now.

    With affection,

    Mel

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    1. Thanks Mel! We have been eating Mangosteen. It’s one of Al’s favorites. No ocean going crocodiles that I am aware of. If we find out about any I will let you know. I sent you an email about Desiree and included Jose. Take care and let the guys on the Wednesday night hike know I say hello.

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  2. I have never seen the thrill of adventure conveyed more rapturously. Makes me reach out and cinch my safety belt much tighter.

    You (and especially Jose) would enjoy the companionship of a kindred soul and world traveler: Desire H. Please share your adventure with her. Desire is a very cute and very sharp Phillipina and a superb hiker___ she is the gal Jose has been searching for all his life.

    Keep me posted as you rapturously traverse this perilous planet
    So long for now & with affection,

    Mel

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    1. Mel, You honor me with your kind words. Thank you my friend and I’m so happy to share this adventure with you and everyone else. I will contact Desire.

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