Monday, March 28, 2011

Landed in Williston

Well, as you know, I've been off the blog for a while. On my way back to the US from Kwaj, I stopped off in Hawaii then on to Lynchburg. Spent about six weeks with my family, during which time I took two weeks off to travel to Shanghai and Singapore. I also did some job hunting in Virginia and Washington state. On the 28th of December I departed Lynchburg for Williston, North Dakota, site of my new career.

Williston is in far northwest North Dakota. It is the epicenter of an oil-industry boom. There are about 170 active drilling rigs and thousands of producing wells. Seems that the industry developed a cost-effective way to extract oil from shale. Williston lies in a region known as the Bakken Formation. This is a very oil-rich shale formation. There will be oil production here for years to come. The result is a population and economic boom. Here are some internet photos of Williston.

Along with the boom comes challenges: new schools, roads, houses, hotel rooms, apartments, workers, and restaurants are all in short supply.  People are moving here every week for work as we are one of the few places in the country that enjoy a thriving economy.

For a small town (population about 17,000 officially; actually probably much more) we have quite a few amenities. There is an actual drive-in movie theater in addition to the 8 screen cinema. There is a bowling alley, race track, municipal golf course and country club course, an airport with daily service to Denver, and many indoor/outdoor recreational facilities. Hunting and fishing are popular here too.

The practice I joined, Great Plains Women's Health Center, is an independent private practice group of outstanding providers working out of a state-of-the-art facility. The practice is paperless, enjoying the benefits of a well-integrated electronic medical record system. The practice has full-time ultrasound and two suites for in-office procedures. The hospital, Mercy Medical Center, is located across the parking lot.

Housing is in short supply in Williston and throughout the region. I was fortunate to secure a lovely two bedroom apartment a short distance from the hospital. I've been using my weekends to explore the region and all it has to offer. Recent trips have taken me to: Minot, Watford City, Regina (Saskatchewan), Fairview (MT), Sydney (MT), and cultural sites Fort Union Trading Post and the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center. In April I will go to Billings, MT to see Elton John in concert at MetraPark. I will also visit Grand Forks in April.

Meeting new people and making friends is one of the first things I like to do in a new place. To that end, I have joined the Rotary Club and have volunteered to serve dinner on Sunday evenings at a local church. They put on a dinner every Sunday hosted by a different church or organization every week. It is not religious or evangelical, just a good meal for whomever wants to come and partake. It is great fun to work with the guys in the kitchen.

I'll try and write again soon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PCS Party

I should tell you now about my PCS party. Doreen Matsunaga and Lauren Harrold hosted the party. It was held Sunday evening at the Matsunaga's yard, under a tent. It poured rain all day long until about 4 pm. Then the rain stopped - it seemed like a miracle. Between 60 and 100 people turned out, others wanted to come but had to work or were off-island. There were people from all areas: USAKA, active duty military, hospital, doctors, nurses, co-workers, friends, patients, racquetball teammates, Americans, Marshallese, Filipinos, Mexicans, South Americans, and a Bahamian. I was hugged by so many patients with tears in their eyes. Guys would pump my hand and wish me well.

And, did I mention the food?! OMG, everybody cooked their best dishes. The food tables were overflowing. The desserts had to be taken indoors until the main meal was over because there was not enough room for everything on the tables at once. It was a truly humbling experience. It was all I could do to maintain my composure during the event. Even now, just writing about it makes my eyes well up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Adventure Ends

Well, as the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end." So it is with my tenure on Kwajalein. I enjoy my work, the people I work with, and the place I live. So it will be a bittersweet experience to leave the Marshall Islands.

Officially, my last work day is 06 November and I depart Kwajalein on 09 November destined for Lynchburg, VA. Until then I will be occupied with job hunting and scuba diving. I want to do so much diving that I'm sick of it by the time I leave the island.

As for job prospects, it turns out that there are plenty. Most of the positions I am encountering are in the states of Washington, North Dakota and Minnesota. There is one position in Hawaii for which I interview tomorrow. I'm not exactly clear why there are not suitable opportunities in Texas or Virginia, but that's just the market at this time.

There are some international opportunities for which I am qualified. Right now, they are recruiting for Beijing and Shanghai (China) and Singapore. I was being recruited for a position in Dubai, but after talking with one of their current physicians by phone for over an hour, I have come to the conclusion that Dubai might be a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

More will follow.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween on Kwajalein

Halloween is a BIG DEAL on Kwajalein. In the morning the preschoolers came to the hospital in their costumes. How cute!

Marshallese and American children dress up and go trick or treating throughout the housing areas. They are adorable and so excited.

After the trick-or-treat time, I was invited to an adult party at the Colonel's home. There were about 40 people there enjoying snacks and homemade chilis. It was a delightful evening.

I've put up a web album of all the photos of the children in their costumes. I think you will get a smile from seeing them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunset at Emon Beach

Sitting on Emon Beach on the evening of August 13th, the sunset was developing into a real beauty. Took out the trusty point-and-shoot digital camera and took 12 gorgeous photos. The other 11 shots are equally as gorgeous. In case you were wondering, yes, there was a "green flash".

Friday, July 31, 2009

Reflections On Pacific Diving

Sperm Whale photographed by Officer Mark Ervin at Gea Pass

I am doing plenty of scuba diving in Kwajalein. Some of the dives are from a boat and others are from the beach. I have been using Zofran to prevent my debilitating seasickness and it worked, all but once. There are a wide variety of things to see and diving environments. During the beach dives I've seen manta rays, eagle rays, octopi, and the usual variety of reef flora and fauna.

The water temperature is a comfortable 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm actually warm wearing just a Lycra dive skin. Some people dive just in shorts and a short sleeved "rash guard". I've tried the rash guard and shorts method too, but I like the protection offered by the Lycra suit.

I'm using my new SeaQuest Balance BCD. It is very comfortable, light weight, and well outfitted with D-rings, integrated weights, and pockets. It has a high pressure inflator coupled to an integrated second stage regulator. My first stage regulator has a Suunto tank pressure sending unit. The second stage main regulator is an old Mares MR12. I've used newer but never better regulators. A Suunto D9 dive watch computer receives the tank pressure directly from the sending unit. As a result, my regulator set up has just two hoses: my primary regulator and the high pressure inflator hose. The Suunto also gives time, depth, temperature, compass, No Decompression and Decompression data for air or nitrogen-enriched dive gas. My fins and mask are as old-school as the regulator but they work well.

I have to admit that I am very partial to the walk-in beach dives. No seasickness potential. Also, my house is about 100' from the beach dive shack. Most of my walk-in dives are from Emon Beach but next week I will do a dive from the ski dock. There is a wreck there at about 80 - 90 feet deep that I hope to explore.

To dive in Kwajalein one has to belong to the Kwajalein Scuba Club (KSC). Once one is a member, all the tank fills are free. I am told that the KSC does more tank fills per year than any scuba club or outfit in the world.
Click here to see a photo gallery of my home and surroundings.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fireworks on Kwaj

Today it is the Fourth Of July on Kwajalein. It was a full and delightful day. It started with surgery this morning, but after that it got much better.

At 10:30 am Bess, her husband, Stan, Kevin and I went out diving. Stan captained their boat and took us to the Pacific Ocean side of some distant islands. For those readers who know my handicap, seasickness, you will know that this was quite the adventure for me. Thanks to a fabulous medicine, called Zofran, I was able to make the 7 hour trip without incident. We did two dives. While Stan spearfished, Bess, Kevin and I tootled around the reefs. The 82 degree water did not require wet suits. The dives were spectacular. The second site had more clams and enormous stony corals than I had ever seen. Bess is quite good at identifying abandoned shells. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I got more sun exposure than I am happy with, but am not burnt. It was obvious that I am new here because my legs were the whitest on the boat.

After returning home I showered, changed clothes and went to Emon Beach. The whole day there were activities there for the holiday. Families were out in droves with barbecues, picnic tables, beach chairs, and all variety of events and music. The sun set at about 7:30 pm and at exactly 8:00 pm (with military precision) the fireworks began. There was a barge anchored off shore from the beach and for the longest time (which was really only about 15 minutes) we were treated to a constant and impressive display of pyrotechnics. I sat with Kevin, Mary, Marian, another Marian and her husband, John. We snacked and listened to the Souza patriotic marches as fireworks exploded overhead. A nearly-full moon lit the beach and water in a awesome display of natural moonlight. It was a special time: sitting on the beach, 50' from my front door, listening to music, visiting with friends, eating good food, and watching fireworks. What a finalé to a fabulous day.