Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Power of Asking, and the Beauty of a Small Town Community

The power of asking, and the beauty of a small town community…

My travels have taught me many things; one in particular is that a smile, manners, and a pleasant outgoing personality will get you places.  The generosity and care that I have experienced while traveling will often put a lump of emotion in my throat when I sit down and reflect and think about it.  Today was a perfect example of why it’s okay to ask for things… what’s the worst thing someone is going to say? “NO.” Exactly.  So, why not utilize your voice and exercise some movement in your life?  I did today, and haven’t stopped smiling since.

A minor “over-share” gets this story going.  I have had symptoms of a urinary tract infection for the last two days, and know that the only cure for this is antibiotics.  There are preventative measures you can take… several, in fact – but once the infection has set in, it can lead to kidney infections and even worse without proper treatment.  I was in hospital only briefly in May with a kidney infection.  Not a good time!  Anyways, that’s the basic seed for this story.  For those who have ever experienced this, it’s agonizing, and having the urge to pee every few minutes when there’s nothing to come out is BRUTAL.  (I told you it was going to be an over-share, this is just helping establish a proper setting.)

One of my best mates, Jess Bushell is here with me, traveling New Zealand for a few weeks!  We spent her first night with Sue and Anthony, friends of mine that I have been working and living with while I’ve been here.  We flew into Christchurch yesterday morning and were picked up by friends of Anthony and Sue, Andrew and Jane, at the airport.  We spent our second night with Andrew and Jane and their three lovely daughters, Bella, Heidi and Eliza, just north of Christchurch, in a gorgeous country home – the first leg of our South Island trip together!  Incredible barbecue dinner, beautiful company, and friendship.  Perfect evening! I was doing my best to ignore the symptoms I was having, figuring I would just deal with them and get to a Medical Centre after leaving Christchurch the next day.  I hate having to be waited on and have plans changed to suits my needs… I figured I would just deal with it on my own time.  Suck it up, you know.  Well, after drinking heaps of water and a few pain killers, I was in agony boarding the bus to Tekapo in Christchurch this morning, smiling through the pain.  My plan was to get to a medic immediately upon arrival in Tekapo.  I clearly didn’t know as much as I thought about Tekapo, and found out shortly after the bus left Christchurch that there wasn’t a medic or even a pharmacy in Tekapo… SHIT!  Now what… I wasn’t going to be in a city or place with a medic until Friday when we get to Queenstown, and between now and then, it would definitely make it’s way to my kidneys.  Our hike up Mount John and time in Tekapo would be beyond agonizing for me, and I would be slowing Jess down. 

Think think think.  Pain or no pain, I had to establish a plan.  Luckily I had enough service to check a few things online and make a few phone calls, and learn that even though Tekapo had nothing in the way of doctors or medics or pharmacies to help me out, there is a medical centre in another small town about on the way called Fairlie, which is about 45km east of Tekapo – we would be going right through it!  So I called the Fairlie Medical Centre and asked if there were any appointments available, and sure enough there was one at 12:15pm, but that I had to be there no later than 12:30 because the doctor was only there for half the day on Wednesdays.  It wasn’t looking like we were going to make it before 12:30pm, and if we did, I still had to walk another half a kilometer from the bus stop to the medical centre, since the bus doesn’t stop unless it’s on route… This is where the power of asking comes in.  I asked the bus driver if there was any chance of him dropping me off at the end of the clinic’s road, which was on route, which would save me 400m and would get me there much faster than if I had to walk… plus, I would be arriving around 12:40pm with the end of road drop off anyways, and that would put me late and holding up a doctor after his shift as it was.  The bus driver was fantastic, and told me if I was ready to tuck and roll, he could make it happen.  WIN!  What made being ready to get off the bus quickly was that Jess was staying on the bus and continuing on to Tekapo to our hostel, which meant I just needed the essentials, so I sat on the step at the front of the bus and was out lightning fast!  I called the ladies at the medical centre twice to update them and confirm that I was coming and was really aiming to be there as close to 12:30pm as possible, but that my arrival was dependent on the bus. 

What about getting to Tekapo?  Well, I had in fact thought that far ahead, and my plan getting off the bus was to hitch hike back to Tekapo after I got some meds, only 45km from the medical centre.  Heaps of my friends have done this and it’s very common for both male and female travelers, alone or in small groups, to hitch rides in New Zealand.  I was fine with this, and had to be, since there were no more buses passing through Fairlie heading to Tekapo until the next day at 12pm, and we had already paid for accommodations in Tekapo.  I was going to be getting to Tekapo, and hitch hiking was the only option. 

So I was off the bus and hustled to the medical centre, only 100m from where the bus driver Pat let me out.   I called once more to tell them I was almost there, and they smiled at me when I opened the door and asked if they were the ladies I’d been harassing over the phone all morning!  They smiled and welcomed me in.  So I did the whole fill out the papers on the clipboard thing, and the urine sample, (lovely!), then went in to see the Doctor who tested the specimen positive for a severe bladder infection immediately.  We had a chat about my overall health and that lead to my travels, then plans for another hot Christmas, and then how I was getting to Tekapo.  I told him that I had planned on hitch hiking, and he told me I was safe in this area, but that he was sure he could find someone in the area who was traveling to Tekapo later in the day.  I didn’t want him to fuss over me, since he was already staying later than he was supposed to be and I appreciated that more than I could express.  We left his office and he filled me up a prescription in another office, asking the ladies at the front if they knew of anyone in the area traveling to Tekapo… the three discussed a few options, while I stood off to the side blushing and insisting that they not worry about me!  While the doctor printed some paperwork and called a friend to ask about a ride, the ladies asked about my travels and I shared a few stories and plans with them.  They asked if I’d met a kiwi yet, and when I shared my special story with them, they were so excited and were smiling and asking all sorts of questions.  Before I knew it, it became a full on story time in the office, and they were in awe with their hands under their chins and eyes sparkling!  Haha!  (That’s for another post!)  Anyways, the Doctor came back and told me that he had a mate heading through Fairlie within a half hour, and was hopefully driving right by the service station just down the street.  He told me that this man’s name is Barry, and he drives a brown truck.  There was no guarantee, but that was a hopeful option!  I thanked them repeatedly, so grateful for their kindness and time, and headed out the door with a smile from ear to ear.  My discomfort was much easier to ignore surrounded by such pleasant souls.

I made my way to the service station and sat under a tree tucked away in the shade but visible to Barry if he was to stop at the servo, or drive by.  I looked around, and saw a linesman’s truck a ways back that was parked on the shoulder of the road, and somehow knew it was him, but wasn’t going to interrupt him, and figured he would end up at the servo as mentioned by the Doctor.  Moments later, an Audi does a U-turn beside me… it’s the Doc, and he held up a finger as to say “just a sec!”  I turned around again, and the Doctor was pulled up beside the brown truck.  I watched as he turned back around and pulled up beside me.  He leaned out the window.  “Amanda, you’re in luck!  See that truck down there?  That’s Barry.  He’s just packing up, and is heading to Tekapo in five minutes.  Grab your stuff and wander down, he’s expecting you.  Safe travels!” … I was speechless.  Small towns and communities like this remind me so much of home.  They’re gorgeous, people and all.  I thanked him as he smiled and waved and drove out of sight.  As I made my way towards Barry and the brown truck, I noticed he had a golden retriever with its head out the window.  He smiled and leaned across the truck to open my door, greeting me with a smile and half a mouthful.  Instantly I relaxed and felt like I was hoping in with a long time family friend.  He told me he was sorry, he was just having some lunch… mate, no apology required!  I thanks him over and over, and he told me there wasn’t a problem, he was happy to help.  The drive was spectacular!  We got closer and closer to the mountains, some highlighted at the top with patches of snow.  Our conversation was a lovely two way flow of stories and questions and answers.  I was so grateful!

Barry told me all about Tekapo and the area.  He told me all about his hunting and trapping here, and why there are such beautiful weeds on both sides of the road between Fairlie and Tekapo.  I even know that the water level of Tekapo is maintained by a hydro electric dam and that the water level only ever varies 7m… I love local knowledge! I jumped out of his truck about a half hour later feeling more than happy.  I had arrived, safely, and more knowledgeable in numerous ways.  To the ladies at the front desk, the Doctor and Barry, this may have just been something simple, but to me, it was so much more.  It reminded me what kindness can do.  A simple gesture can make someone’s day.  It can help them when they need it most.  I told them I would write them a post card, and I just finished writing them before I started this post.  They’ll be in the mail tomorrow! 

I arrived in Tekapo two hours after getting off the bus… I wasn’t expecting that at all.  I arrived here safely, with a smile on my face, a lovely reminder that there are kind souls and strangers out there, and that it’s okay to ask for help.  It’s okay to ask for a bus to stop somewhere else.  It’s okay to ask for someone to keep an office open for another ten or fifteen minutes.  What’s the worst thing they are going to say…? “NO.” – and the chances are, the answer will almost always be “YES.”  Put yourself out there.  Sharing a little bit about yourself or about your life or a story proves to others that you’re human too.  Embrace your life!  I hope this post made you smile.

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