What a difference a year makes. Although I've heard this sentiment expressed throughout my life, it has come to have special meaning to me. Exactly a year ago, I was on the road as if on one of those whirlwind European tours, arriving in a different city every day as I crisscrossed the nation on the CaRMS circuit in hopes of a coveted residency position in anesthesia. I became quite adept at navigating my way around unfamiliar metropolitan areas while braving bitter cold and snowdrifts sporting my interview suit and street shoes, with luggage in tow for the next flight. Many times I was mistaken for the pharmaceutical representative upon my arrival at hospitals, a little unsettling under the circumstances. Interview, airport. hotel, orientation, social. So it went until the time came to return home, resume the normal routine of a fourth-year medical student, and await Match Day, the result of which would determine my future in the profession.
At the appointed time I anxiously logged on a computer, entered my password, and there it was: anesthesia at Memorial University of Newfoundland. While relieved and pleased to have successfully secured my specialty of choice in a program that was both welcoming and supportive, the prospect of leaving my birthplace, family, and friends was, nevertheless, daunting. It was definitely a bonus to discover that two of my
classmates would be joining me on The Rock: Sonia MacDonell, also in anesthesia, and Shane Seal in orthopedics.
The last two months of med school flew by. We faced the dreaded licensing exam and dealt with a seemingly endless stream of paperwork, ultimately celebrating our achievements at the Hooding Ceremony and Graduation Banquet, bittersweet in that we were saying goodbye to life as we had known it during the past four years and, for most, preparing to relocate anywhere from coast to coast and in between.
And so, one year later, here I am, a "townie," living and working in
. I've come to love the incredible magnificence of its rugged landscape and natural harbour, the deep green waters of the
, and have grown accustomed to sudden and dramatic changes in weather from rain and wind at night, to fog in the early morning, followed by glorious sunshine during daylight hours all within a 24 hour period. While
does experience snow, the temperature tends to hover around the freezing point most of the time, so it can fall and melt over a period of hours. I've seen icebergs float by in July, enjoyed boat tours to observe whales and puffins close up and personal, climbed Signal Hill from where Marconi transmitted the first trans-Atlantic telegraph signal, and marvelled at the picturesque row houses and historic homes.
My off-duty time has been spent visiting nearby communities like Brigus to enjoy their country-style weekend festivals, in addition to touring amazing historic sites such as Trinity Bay that date back to the 1500s. Next on my list are a trip to
to what Newfoundlanders refer to as the "West Coast" for a ski weekend and, hopefully, a visit to nearby Saint-Pierre and
, the French-owned archipelago a short ferry ride away from Fortune. Who would have thought those years acquiring a second language would come in handy in
, both when travelling and with patients?
I've learned that family, friendship, festivals, and music are in the lifeblood of Newfoundlanders, and that there is always something to do for those who wish to be out and about. Duckworth and George Streets are world famous for their many bars and night spots, each alive with local music when the sun goes down. I've been amazed to see elderly people walk downtown after dark and children play safely outside their homes without fear of harm. I've been touched by the patience and kindness of both the general population and my department, each of whom welcome newcomers in an inclusive and supportive environment.
And, of course, my non-Newfoundland colleagues and I have been inducted as per tradition with doses of Screech, the potent local rum, followed by the requisite "kissing of the cod." We've come to appreciate the signpost and map at the top of Signal Hill depicting a Newfoundland-Centered World. The other day, someone remarked that I sound like a Newfoundlander, a great compliment and statement of acceptance. As I said earlier, what a difference a year makes!