A Day in the Life on Kwajalein

What a full day today it has been. It started out with sadness and ended with bliss. I’ve been up and I’ve been down and I’ve shared moments I will cherish with friends and clients.

First, I wake up, late as usual. I’m really not a morning person and that has been cemented here as I have tried to adapt but no… It’s not happening. I decide to skip a shower, knowing that it will be fixed today. I’ve been taking luke warm showers and finally just cant hang with it any more.

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I arrive at the vet hospital after my three minute bicycle commute, no rain, no traffic. I am pumped up with new ideas and plans to discuss with my remote Army veterinarian in Hawaii about the elderly sick kitty we are treating. His (the kitties) owners are in Europe and he is being watch by the nicest man and his young teenage daughter who have been taking such good care of him. I realize that his prognosis is poor and he has multiple disease processes that have caused some severe dehydration and nausea but I’ve got some ideas in mind that I think might help his chances some.

I call the pet sitter to see how he did overnight, ready with a fresh start to put more effort into his supportive care when he informs me that the dear cat past away forty-five minutes earlier in his daughters arms. No!!!!! I’m thinking No!!! I want one more chance to help him, just one more push towards maintaining. I was heartbroken. Heartbroken for the cat owners who had called overnight and left messages on the vet hospital phone crying and in pain, not being able to be there with their beloved cat, heartbroken for the sweet, brainy, stronger than I ever was at that age, teenage girl who had to watch this sweet boy take his last breath in her arms, heartbroken for the cat who was so loved and so sweet and wishing I had thought of my bright ideas for today yesterday. In reality he was ready to leave this life and transition to the next and I know that but it still makes me sad.

As I clean up his hospital cage, through out the fluid bag, put away the food and medications, I find some peace in the fact that he no longer suffers. He past in the loving care of a friend and his parents were able to Skype with him the night before to say their good-byes.

From there I absorb myself into the tasks of the day. Answering emails, phone calls and helping new folks who want to move to Kwajalein with their pets to navigate the mind field of rules and regulations to get them here. It’s no easy task and I’m impressed with anyone who has the tenacity and patients to do so. It has been the hardest thing by far for me to learn for my job. I have it down now and all I can do is hope that my level of organization makes it easier for them to get through without too much trouble.

I take a break to talk to my Dad who is such a good man and always looking out for me. Before I left home, I took the liberty to wash my key fob for my car not once but twice. I completely ruined it. There is a tiny key that still works to open the driver door and if the fob is in it’s specific location in the car, it will run but is useless otherwise. Dad’s taking care of the car for me while I’m gone. Today he went in and got me a new key fob so I wouldn’t have to deal with it when I got home. Thanks Dad.

Back to more work on importation and before I know it, it’s time for lunch. This happens alot lately. I’m so busy and absorbed in my tasks at the hospital that I forget about lunch. I eat in the dining hall because my position is unaccompanied and I don’t have a kitchen. Lunch is available from 11am to 1pm. No sooner and no later so it’s best not to miss it or I’ll be eating frozen food. Which somedays…. the frozen food may be a better alternative.

Lunch is just fun and great today. I sat at a longer table where my new friend Jeff was eating. He eats with the same bunch of people each day and I had been welcomed to join them from time to time. Karen, a lovely woman who I had the pleasure to help with her cat, also sits there. We joked to Jeff about how he was so lucky that he only had to remember one name for both of us. That was when a quieter woman who was sitting a few seats down turned and informed us that her name was also Karen. Seriously! How often do you get three Karen’s at one table? An auspicious lunch it was.

I finish the second half of my lunch at another table in the dining hall where my good friends, Cara and Tammy were eating. It’s always a pleasure to speak with these ladies who have become my friends. They are good people and I will miss them dearly. A gentlemen at another table came up and asks if we mind if he changes the channel. There is an old time musical on that we were just commenting about so we gave him a hard time and he relented and went back to his table without changing the tv to sports. In jest I told the ladies that they should be nice to him because he has a very nice large catamaran. To my delighted astonishment, Tammy turns and tells him to go ahead and turn the channel. I inform him  that I let the cat out of the bag about his boat. We laugh and laugh about it. Hey, you gotta be nice to the boat people if you want to sail the seas.

Turns out Tammy and I both had the same errand to run after lunch and got to “drive” as I call it (riding bikes) to the badge office together. It’s fun to ride a bike next to a friend. I don’t know what it is about it but it’s fun.

So after that it was back to the tasks of running the vet hospital on my own. I send out an email to the dog owners on island to be on high alert with their dogs on Fourth of July. Fireworks are fun to people but can be a torment to dogs. Apparently last year a dog got loose and did not come back for a week!

I register a new dog on the island by doing a physical exam and explaining further the rules (pick up poop), parasite control, billing, emergencies and the like to the owner.

I’ve spent a good deal of time this week researching a particular dog breed. There were some concerns about importing one out here due to some breeding that occurred initially in creating this breed with some breeds of dogs that are banned on the island. It’s a long convoluted story really and I’m not even going to go into detail about this. I will just say that after considerable review of the facts and lots of supporting letters and documentation the puppy will be recommended to come to the island. Note that I am not a support of breed restrictions. I think they are dumb, ill-founded and not based in science. With that said, it doesn’t matter what I think. It’s the rule for the base and upholding that rule is part of the job. So I’m happy that I get to support this dog coming in. If you want to know about the dog breed, it is an Olde English Bulldogge. Exactly like I spelled it.

Earlier this week I helped a client with the ending of his cat’s life. The poor baby had started to have seizures and it was time but still hard for Dad to see that. So I helped him as best I could to come to terms and we cared for her together and helped her transition out of this life.

This afternoon he stops by to visit and thanked me for my support. I am happy to see that he is happy with my care. He hands me something in a grocery bag and I thank him for it. I am thinking it is a nice pastry from the bakery but it’s not. I open the bag to find a sweet thank you card and a beautiful basket, hand crafted by the Marshallese. I am very touched. It is such a thoughtful and kind consideration and expression of his gratitude. I will enjoy this basket for it’s beauty. I think it is so awesome that my way of being there for him and his cat, touched his heart so much that he was moved to show his expression of gratitude to me. That is the true beauty and I am so moved and inspired by this exchange between us.

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When I get off work I am in such a blissful haze, not only from my experience of gratitude, but also because the work week is over and we are embarking on the Fourth of July – kwaj style! I’m so looking forward to experiencing the July 4th celebration here. I have a feeling that it is going to be a great mix of small town meets the tropics and I can’t wait!

So I walk into my “hotel”  doorway and up the stairs with a smile on my face full of excitement for the weekend and exit out of the stairs on the second floor of my hotel and promptly try to open the door to room 216. The only problem is that I’m staying one floor up in room 316. This is literally the third time I have done this. When I realize what I have done, I take off running and giggling like a little kid. Not once, not twice but three times people! I’m not even that old yet!

I finally make it to my own room and I see that the shower is  fixed. Woot! Woot! I am so happy that all I can do is strip down naked and jump in. It feels so incredibly wonderful. I don’t know why I took so long to request it to be fixed but I’m happy I finally did so.

Clean as can be, I Skype the love of my life, Al, and catch up. Skype is a poor substitute for having his wonderful self right next to me but I’m happy for it. We are in awe of the technology we have and think about the times, not so long ago, when letters were the only means of communication when separated from your loved ones. It’s always a joy to talk to and see him. After sixteen years as best friends and two years as lovers I can be with him everyday and not find it boring. I’m glad I’ve taken this part of my adventure to experience alone but I don’t feel whole without him by my side. I just don’t and I look forward to just another nine days when we are together again.

Friday nights are yoga nights on Kwaj and I still have to eat dinner so I end my conversation with Al and head to the dining hall for a quick bite to eat without much fan fair before walking up to the pool to pick my spot for class.

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Yoga is taught by a big fireman named Ben. He is great and I am not sure if he realizes how great he is. I’m going to have to tell him. He is not what you would expect a yoga teach to look like and I love that about him. However, when he opens his mouth and speaks to us students it’s so completely evident that he is in his element. It is a peaceful and gentle yoga that is slow and meditative and brings me back to center after work. The pool is right on the beach and we get a lovely ocean breeze wafting the salty scent into our inhales. We hear the waves crashing behind us and the wind blowing through the palms. All the while watching the sun set ahead of us. It’s pure and simple joy.  It is also a great workout and I’m so happy that tonight I learned something new in a pose. I am noticing some improvement since starting here. The yoga has been amazingly grounding and I’m so grateful to Ben for generously offering this class twice a week for the price of a high-five and a smile.

Afterwards Cara, Emily and myself hangout at the pool talking and drinking some wine while enjoying the absolutely perfect night temperature, the crashing waves and the warm salty ocean breeze. When they decide it’s time to head home, I stay back for awhile in solitude closing my eyes, riding my buzz and feeling the air sweep over and around my body. I hold my hands at heart center and express my feelings of gratitude for my day and sit in amazement of my life.

I eventually gather myself up and drive/ride my bike the short distance to my parking area and go up to my room (mindful of my floor). I rinse off in my hot shower, brush my teeth and start writing this post. I’m so happy to share this day with you. It is a good day and I’m glad to have you along.

Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments. I’d love to tell you more. Cheers!

13 thoughts on “A Day in the Life on Kwajalein

  1. Thanks for writing this article! Are you still on Kwaj? I’ve applied for a Gov’t position there and waiting to hear if I get a chance to get back to Kwaj. This time however, I’ll have my wife with me. We have a Silky Terrier and we understand there are “quotas” on how many pets are allowed. One of the questions we have is: If we get this opportunity and get “Nikki” there with us, we’d like to travel and wonder is there any temporary boarding there for long weekend trips?

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    1. Hi John! Sorry for the time it has taken me to respond. I am no longer on Kwaj. When I was there the quotas for dogs still had a bit of room but my best recommendation would be to get a hold of someone in Veterinary Services as soon as possible. There are plenty of items to put on your “to do” list to get you dog ready to go and the more time you give yourself the better. There are plenty of people available on Kwaj to pet sit for you while you are away. The folks in the BQ are always looking to pet sit in the houses. Should be no problem. Good luck to you guys and enjoy!

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  2. I lived on Kwaj back in 1972 as a 9 year old. Keep these updates coming! You’re now my surrogate set of eyes back to this special place. More photos! 🙂 You had mentioned that you were only scheduled to be here for a month in another post? Is that true?

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    1. Hi Eric! That must have been great to have been there as a kid. I was on Kwajalein for a temporary assignment as the vet tech for seven weeks. I just left a few days ago. There are a couple of more posts that I am looking to put up. In the meantime though, I hope you enjoy the posts as I travel through Southeast Asia

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  3. Karen you are a good writer. I envisioned all your experiences. The family and I went to the cabin. While down down, I accidently walked into the men’s bathroom. What a strange place! I man kindly showed me to the door.

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  4. Karen,
    Remember me (and Howard) in San Diego?? I am living vicariously through your blog!!! The adventures you allow yourself to have inspire me! So excited to hear more once you and Al and your friend begin your journey together! Much love, be safe.
    Lynn

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    1. How could I forget! Thanks for following the blog, Lynn! It means so much to me to have your support. I am sitting next to Al in a hostel in Singapore right now. I’m so glad to be back in his company.

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  5. Thank you for your kind description of me. It is good to feel appreciated for sharing what I love. I’m stoked that you are experiencing the benefits of yoga, and that I can be a part of your contentment and healing. Much Gratitude, Benjamin

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