Locums for a Small World Blog

Call Stradivari for a violin; termites for a didjeridu.

Posted by Saralynn White

australia-didjeridooIt was with some pride weeks ago, as I watched Jeopardy! (America's Favorite Quiz Show) that my host, Alex Trebek, hit me with the $2,000 question in a category dubbed "Hollow"—and I knew it! See if your wits match mine:

Alex: "This Aboriginal instrument, also called a 'drone pipe,' is traditionally made from a Eucalyptus branch that is hollowed out naturally by termites."

Me: "What is a didjeridu?! What is a didjeridu!"

I yelled the answer so loudly I terrified my cats (who were otherwise unimpressed), but for someone who prides themselves on knowing that Australian culture is far more than quotes about dingoes/babies and throwing shrimp on the barbie, it was a nice moment.

Pronounced "did-jury-doo" (and soaustralia native child 123rfmetimes spelled didgeridu or didgeridoo), the Yolngu Aboriginal people of northeast Arnhem Land call it the “yidaki”, and its ancient sound is a call to all people to come together in unity. The didjeridu is also believed to be the world's oldest wind instrument—dating back thousands of years. Harvesting has to be timed precisely to ensure that the wall thickness is just right; and because it takes at least a year for termites to hollow out the Eucalyptus tree, a didjeridu is indeed a feat of Mother Nature.

Have you ever heard a didjeridu? Its deep drone is not something you'll soon forget. The sonorous tones are hauntingly beautiful. In fact, the term didjeridu is believed to be an onomatopoeia developed by Westerners to describe the sound the instrument makes, not a name of indigenous origin.

A finished didjeridu is around four-to-five feet long and two or more inches in internal diameter. Its mouthpiece is usually made of beeswax or hardened gum, and the player blows into the instrument trumpet-style. Traditionally, the didjeridu is played in ceremonial dances called Corroborees, accompanied by clap sticks or boomerangs clapped together; players also tap out rhythms on their didjeridu with their fingers or sticks.

Still in widespread use today—both in Australia and around the world—the didjeridu is often painted in remarkable colors and designs. The instruments are musically soulful works of art.

One of our fine locum doctors, Raymond Lewandowski III, MD, took to the didjeridu while he was Down Under. Another doctor who did clinical work for an Aboriginal community, David Stoltze, MD, befriended the local medicine man who took him on a journey to carve his first didjeridu.

Why don't you go to Australia for a lesson, or better yet, a performance? While you're there, don’t miss the
annual Garma Festival, to be held in September this year. Garma is one of Australia’s most significant Indigenous exchange events and attracts Yolngu people and neighboring clan groups from northeast Arnhem Land along
with tourists, locals and locums.

Topics: Dr. Raymond Lewandowski, Dr. David Stoltze, Didjeridu/Didgeridoo, Corroboree Ceremonial Dance, Garma Festival

Locum lore: favorite 5 stories revisited

Posted by Saralynn White

We've been blogging for a year now, and we have so many new subscribers that we thought we'd revisit these five great locum tenens stories that appeared in our
first post. If you've already read them, they're worth another look. Enjoy!

#1 Do you take this animal barb from your common-law husband?

caribbean sting ray 123rfOn Mornington Island - a speck of land about 50 miles off Queensland, Australia - Robert C. Bradley, MD, encountered a "large, extremely drunk woman" who'd been harpooned by her de facto husband with the 10-inch tail of a stingray - now deeply embedded in her shoulder. For over 45 minutes Dr. Bradley tried to remove the barb, finally calling upon the Royal Flying Doctor Service to transport her to the main hospital where surgeons worked for two hours to remove the spear-like tail. They finally had to shove it through her back and yank it out from the other side!

The following day as Dr. Bradley wandered the local beach, he found a dead stingray. The five foot cartilaginous fish was missing (you guessed it) his tail.


#2 Hey Doc, can you write me out a "sickie"?

describe the imageWhen he arrived in the beautiful coastal town of Denmark, Western Australia, Ramsis Benjamin, MD anticipated an orientation for his new position. Instead, he found a handwritten note:

      Welcome to Denmark

      Beer in fridge

      Surfboard in Shed

      Don't drown

That night, Dr. Benjamin "drank himself silly" at a neighbor's party and nearly drowned the next day surfing on his longboard. He should've turned in a "sickie" - a doctor's note given to Australians who party hard over the weekend and want to get paid to take Monday off. No kidding.

#3 The dangerous sport of fishing?

caribbean fishing poles 123rf resized 600ER doctor, David Stoltze, MD, who calls New Mexico home, went to the Australian Outback to locum with a pretty darn flexible attitude. A devout outdoorsman himself, he was a bit surprised when he encountered the incredibly dangerous sport of...fishing.

In Karumba, in tropical North Queensland, Dr. Stoltze got up close and personal with the old ‘fish hook in the arm' trick when a Barramundi angler showed up with an 8-inch lure completely embedded in his arm. (The enormous Barramundi fish are so big they eat foods on the surface of the water - like baby swans! Barramundi are also a favorite food of crocodiles, which is why many barramundi fisherman go fishing armed with large bore pistols.) Up next for Dr. Stoltze? The brutal contact sport of...golf.


#4 Crawk-crawk my boyfriend's back!

australia green tree frog 123rfJack Paap, MD, and his wife were enjoying an early morning in their cottage outside of Kuranda in tropical North Queensland in Australia, when "nature" called to Jill. She headed to the ‘loo' (or ‘thunder box', a quaint Aussies term for the bathroom), but seconds later Dr. Paap heard a shrill yelp followed by Jill racing back through the door - ‘underdaks' and all around her ankles!

Turns out an Aussie tree frog found Jill's bottom too much to resist.

Well-known to residents in the area (which is surrounded by a rainforest) this chubby green frog loves human dwellings, in particular the ones that amplify its mating call. Crawk-crawk. Crawk-crawk.

"It was so slimy!" says Jill.

With good reason: this climbing amphibian's body is coated with a sticky secretion. Ewwww. (By the way, Jill was the lead singer for the 1960's girl group, The Angels, who recorded the hit, "My Boyfriend's Back" - hey la, hey la!)

#5 Waxy buildup or a cockroach in your ear?

australia backroad outback 123rfIn the town of Alice Springs in the Australian Outback, Dr. James Stempien found himself taking a life - that of a cockroach that had crawled into the ear of a local Aboriginal boy. "He came in complaining of pain and a loud noise in his ear," says Dr. Stempien. Loud indeed: A cockroach inside your ear can make a real fracas. So Dr. Stempien asphyxiated the pest with olive oil, and then used the forceps to get the dead roach out in bits and pieces.

Dr. Stempien also recalls a stint in Barrow Creek, where the Arrernte Aboriginal tribe has lived for 20,000 years. Not realizing the pub also served as the clinic, he'd had a beer, but was then asked to see patients. The good doctor kept his beer imbibing to post-clinic hours after that.

What do you think of these stories?
Have your own locum story to share? Bring it on!


Topics: Dr. David Stoltze, Royal Flying Doctor Service, Dr. James Stempien, Dr. Jack Paap, Dr. Ramsis Benjamin, Dr. Robert Bradley, Locum Tenens, Australia

Locums for a Small World Blog

Twice a month, our inquisitive locum tenens community asks us to tackle topics ranging from cuisine and culture to recreation and entertainment. We also include great storytelling from our doctors. Have a topic you’d like to read about? Let us know.

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