Nowhere in Dr. Leonard Bentch's CV does it mention his knack for writing, but his talents extend well beyond Internal Medicine. A retired physician, Dr. Bentch was sailing the Caribbean when he received a call that took him on a six-month locum adventure with his wife, Sue. He recently put his many remembrances to paper, and we're proud to present the first of three installments here.
Twenty miles off the Coast of Martinique Island in the Caribbean, at the beginning of a two-month sail of the Windward Islands and the Grenadines, we recieved a phone call on a cell phone we'd brought along in case of emergencies. We did not expect to hear the voice of a Global Medical recruiter on the other line, but there they were, asking if we'd be interested in a six-month locum position in New Zealand. Recently retired from active practice, I'd forgotten that I'd completed a GMS application several months earlier. I looked at my wife; we smiled, and quickly concurred.
Our plane descended into New Zealand fourteen hours outside of Los Angeles. Condensation on the port side windows cleared as our plane dropped through the clouds. The rising sun, with rays parallel to the vast ocean, reflected off a mirage of white skyscrapers. The span of the Auckland Bridge came into view, then the first image of New Zealand: a land of more boats than cars, more sheep than people, and more visitors than citizens. We were Down Under, approaching the Antipodes, the land of the Southern Cross.
Upon arrival, I met with the representative of the New Zealand Medical Council for the official interview and inspection of documents. GMS had thoroughly briefed me on expectations and provided me with a list of documents that I needed to bring. The interview was worthwhile and informative, mostly having to do with the organization of New Zealand health care, the Medical Council expectations, and the issue of medical liability.
With the interview process completed, it was back to the hotel to gather my wife and our belongings. We decided to rent a van and enjoy the scenic six-hour drive from Auckland to our new home.
Our condominium was a modern complex with stunning architecture that afforded us a fabulous view of the harbor. We were within walking distance of the pristine 50-mile beach, which stretched eastward in a gentle arc from Mt. Maunganui (our local extinct volcano).
As we unpacked our things it all of the sudden became real for us. This was to be our home for the next six months! A beach-side community of spectacular architecture, parks, boardwalks, cafes, restaurants, shops and bars. What more could we ask for?
We quickly found a favorite local hangout. Eggs Benedict seemed to be the classic breakfast offering everywhere, but we also learned to enjoy the flavorful Tarakihi fish, tempting savory pies, local Millsreef Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and the local beers: Speights, Emersons and Monteith's.
Sue quickly found out about Yoga and aerobics classes and the public library. We enjoyed the Salt Water pools, either swimming in the "cold pools" or relaxing in the jet streams and showers of hot pools that are geothermically heated by Pacific Ocean water.
First run movies were playing at out local theatre; daily runs, walks and hikes around and to the top of Mt. Maunganui offered exercise; and the never-ending vistas of the wind, sky, tides, and changing flora continuously tantalized our senses.
A European-style walking community - with everything within walking distance - supplied all our domestic needs. Separated by time and geography from her world as professor of Law and Fullbright Scholar, Sue enjoyed keeping house, shopping, preparing local foods, reading, keeping up with all that was going on and making friends and aquaintances among the panoply of people making up our new home. Although recently retired, I was all about the business of rediscovering medicine and was quickly getting my second wind...
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