Sunday, November 30, 2008

I thought I was in Europe...

Just for an hour or so...

We finished work early yesterday (and today for that matter) so time to play!!! A short hike in Andreas Canyon -I think Jesse enjoyed the drive out there as much as the hike-, a great stew dinner at Jesse and Cathy's (and free entertainment provided by Bryce and Conrad ;-) ) and than up to Cloudcroft in the mountains. A huge bonfire in the town center, cold and crisp mountain air, hot coco and toasted march mellows, and the grand arrival of Santa and Mrs Claus on the fire truck -with cookies-!! You've gotto love it!!!
I felt like it could have been any small town in Europe, a little German x-mas market, a local Belgian school fair, a French town gathering... I much enjoyed the atmosphere and the familiarity of it all....
Unfortunately I did forget my camera!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

An ordinary New Mexican sunset


As I had my camera with me on my run tonight, I took some pictures.....

My commute and the hospital

I went for a run after work today, on Scenic Drive, which is the road I take to get to work in the morning. As I realized I had written about it but not yet posted any pictures, here are some.....

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Hope everybody celebrated the true spirit of Thanksgiving! Here's to all of you who have supported me through my adventure over the past few months (and the weeks, months and years before that and the weeks, months and years to come I hope ;-) )!!!

Thanksgiving Friends

Thanksgiving is a time
For reviewing what we treasure,
The people we hold dear,
Who give us so much pleasure.
Without you as my friend,
Life would be a bore;
Having you in my life
Is what I'm thankful for.

By Joanna Fuchs

I volunteered at "the Mission" in Las Cruces today. I was part of the "meals on wheels' crew and drove around the city with Turkey dinners in the trunk of my car, delivering them to people struck by extreme poverty, poor education and mental and physical health challenges, ...
It gave me a strong sense of the immense privilege I've lived with my whole life: a wonderful supportive, loving family with solid moral values, a good education and financial security, excellent physical and mental health, a strong support system.....
I do have so much to be thankful for.....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The next few months.....

I just found out today my 4 week extension has been approved so I'll be here until mid January. After that, I have a 13 week assignment in Albuquerque. Although I feel a little ambivalence about leaving my "newly-found-small-town-outdoor-treasure",I am looking forward to a more cosmopolitan environment, a better selection of restaurants, culture and spirituality-options.

What have I learned so far??? Lots of useful information for my future!

1- I could live in a smaller town... I enjoy the smaller community. As long as there is a bigger town with good restaurants, performing arts and 'worldly' things within an hour or so drive, I can really see myself scaling down and living in a place with 10.000 to 100.000 population or even less. A slower pace of life, less traffic and a more developed sense of community would be worth it.
2- I can work outside of pediatrics. I am enjoying adult care quite a bit and can see myself transitioning more permanently to an adult setting, not necessarily in acute care, but a definite possibility.
3- A beautiful environment (mountains, high desert,...) makes up for so incredibly much. Every hour hiking out there seems like a full day of relaxing in a mainstream environment. That's why I have so little stress... Say 10 hours of hiking a week makes it seem like 10 days off!!! So living in the mountains or the desert would be an amazing plus. A more relaxed lifestyle GUARANTEED!!!!
4- I feel like I have some kind of deep rooted connection with New Mexico. I was here for the first time about 15 years ago as an extension of a Grand Canyon visit and have been drawn back here ever since. I don't really understand why or how. Maybe I was a cowboy or a native american here in a previous life??!!??

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quality healthcare and "deja vu"

I had to get a Physical today, for my next assignment in Albuquerque, starting mid January. (I'll be blogging about all that soon!!). It appeared there was no place I could get that done here in Alamogordo, so I had to drive to Las Cruces. I LOVE THAT DRIVE!! I generally don't particularly like car rides, but this one is just so special... Endless views of gorgeous landscapes, over the Organ Mountains,..... I don't think I'll ever get enough of it. I realize that for the majority of people it is an ordinary drive... They're probably questioning my sanity and shaking their heads....

I'm glad it's done. I can confidently say that the place has likely not won any awards for efficiency lately and it would have been challenging for the girl at the front desk to have acted any more disinterested. Being in dyer need of a potty break (3 mugs of coffee and a bottle of water within about an hour will have that effect), the staff re-assured me that a physical does not include a drug test and I could use the bathroom. What a relief!!! As I am walking out of the bathroom, one of the nurses informed me kindly they would "just need a little urine" for glucose / protein tests. Not good. I barely stopped myself from lecturing her about the physiology of bladder control, instead I just started drinking cold water until I couldn't stand the brain freeze anymore, all this whilst fantasizing about overflowing foley catheter bags.
I think I saw the MD for about 5 minutes, 4 minutes and 30 seconds of those were used to tell me about the horrible air quality, nasty traffic jams and unfriendly people in Albuquerque. Considering I feel pretty ambivalent about leaving my small town southern New Mexican treasure here already, I didn't particularly enjoy that one-way-conversation either.

You'd be glad to read my day got better from there. I hiked in the Organ mountains again; Pine Tree trail, a 4.5 mile loop on the Alamogordo side, a little more East than the one I did last time. It was almost 70 degrees at the base and up towards the top I still saw some sheets of thin ice covering the little springs.

I had another encounter with a tarantula, this one was a little more agile than the last one and a little lighter in color. Just note I freaked out a little less and was able to take a picture from a little closer. (I'm so proud !!! ;-) Maybe next time you'd get a close-up of a hairy leg or so...

More views

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Girls night of wine and cheese

To celebrate Tammy's successful organization of the 5K race, (and the "I'm-so glad-it-went-well-and-it's-over"!!!), we had an all-girls-get-together tonight; wine and cheese and anything else edible or drinkable...

From left to right: Letty (PT tech), Traci,(PT), Cathy (Jesse, PT's wife) and Tammy (OT)

I had to add a picture of Tammy on the day of the race...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

5K Hospital race

A team at the hospital (lead by Tammy, our OT!!!!!) organized a 5K/3 mile run benefiting the hospital foundation and the "boys and girls club" of Alamogordo. I volunteered 2 hours late yesterday afternoon to man the desk at the hospital so participants could pick up their pre-race packets.

Quite an interesting experience... I was sitting at the main entrance as the only live body in the vicinity so my volunteer job quickly expanded beyond race registration; As a contract employee who has been there barely 2 months, I ended up directing people all over, from human resources for employment applications to the billing department, from bathroom directions to X-ray requests, from transportation for discharge enquiries to cafeteria menu options,..... I think I learned quite a bit about the hospital!!!

The run this morning was a great success, It was a beautiful crisp fall mountain morning. Although I had to work today, I ended up going in a little later and volunteering at the first mile marker giving out split times. It was a happy crowd: runners, walkers, volunteers and organizers! It made me go for a great run after work today!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lucky me!!!

I feel like I've travelled quite a bit, lived in different places, met very different people along the way and somehow I have always been lucky meeting the kind of people that I have, wherever I happen to be; genuine, kind. generous, open,......
It really is amazing; in this messed-up world with trouble, violence, selfishness, egocentricity, excessive materialism, superficial life values and morality,.... I always end up being surrounded by good people.

It's no different here. Somehow the -although small- therapy department ended up being just the absolutely perfect fit of people. It just works (and it did, pretty much from day one..). It's also wonderful I have been able to spent time with them outside of work too!!

In Belgium we have an expression that does not translate well into English but I think you'll get the idea: "I ALWAYS END UP WITH MY ASS IN BUTTER!!!"


I stopped on the way home at the "Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site". I is one of the few locations in the Southwest set aside solely because of its rock art. There is a short walking trail with direct access to petroglyphs. The number and concentration of petroglyphs here make it one of the largest and most interesting petroglyph sites in the Desert Southwest.

Pretty landscapes and crazy skies....

Trail or no trail

Fall is officially here. I turned my heat on... It has started to freeze mildly at night but we still have daytime temperatures of about 60. I got a call from work on Monday (my day off) saying that it was snowing up in Cloudcroft in the mountains. I had to drive up there, excited about the snow in the mountains and the start of a whole new outdoor season. Disappointment!!! It was grey and muddy and cold and wet. No appealing snow loaded trees.... No velvet landscapes,.... I decided I'm definitely NOT ready for winter!!!

Today was much more fun!! Although it didn't start out that way. I had decided to hike "three rivers trail", about half an hour north of Tulerosa in the Smokey Bear ranger district. A 6.1 mile trail along the river. I spent about an 1 1/2 hour on the trail, or let me rephrase that; about half an hour actually on the trail and another hour looking for the trail that wasn't there.... looking for markings along the washed out riverbed, between the rocks and the trees.... Little luck.

I subsequently gave up and went walking in the foothills with beautiful views of the Sierra Blanca Peak -with snow- at 12003 feet. LOVED IT!!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election results

I am absolutely thrilled with the election results... I am happy they were so clear cut there is no doubt the majority of Americans want Obama as their president. Obama's speech last night was so powerful and inspiring..... One million people downtown Chicago, victory parties not only all over the US but over the whole world. In a strange but real way I feel privileged to have been part of this election as a brand new US citizen! There are so many times I roll my eyes whilst saying "only in the USA", whether it's about American consumerism, attitudes towards finances or life's conveniences. This time I am saying "Only in the USA" proudly without rolling my eyes...

I don't want to describe the long list of extremely challenging job responsibilities Obama is facing, but I feel, if it can be done, he is the man to tackle it!!! Hopefully he'll be able to undo the huge damage done by 8 years of Bush/Cheney, nationally as well as globally.

The other, more personal, side is that I'm happy about the results in Colorado and New Mexico. Both traditionally "red" states went democratic pretty decisively. Considering I will likely (eventually) settle down in either of those states, I guess it's good to know I'll be among my political peers!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bayler pass

I had to take my car in for service in Las Cruces so decided to explore the Organ Mountain range as it's right there. I always enjoy crossing San Augustine pass by car as the views of the mountains and over Las Cruces are so beautiful.

Baylor pass is a 6 mile hiking trail that crosses from the North East (Alamogordo side) over the mountains to the South West (Las Cruces side). It's a fun trail to hike, especially the first 3 miles are gorgeous. It's not overly steep or difficult but it did end up taking some time, ... 12 miles is a long way!!!

Scary post Halloween

This sign was posted at the start of the trail. I assumed it was to inform hikers but mainly to cover their ass against lawsuits (like the famous one of the hot coffee at Mc Donald's).....

Well, this is what I encountered....

I have no idea if this was a rattle snake or not. I was assuming so and FREAKED OUT! My mind was racing a hundred miles an hour... Bite... Get down the trail somehow,... gangrenous tissue and all.... It was as if the toxins (of the bite that I didn't have) already infiltrated my brain....I wasn't thinking about 'last wishes', leaving family and loved ones behind,..... instead I was contemplating the fact I wouldn't know who won the elections if I died on the trail...

It wasn't just a few miles further I saw this tarantula in the middle of the trail, moving slowly but steadily. I swear the thing was about the size of Paris Hilton's dog.... (and just as un-appealing).

I got off the trail healthy and well but a little more weary about the dangers. I consider myself quite a rational human being but despite that, I went with "If I don't see it, it's not there" - attitude. Guess I'm not really that smart....

More -less scary- creatures

They really are huge....

Seriously, in the middle of the trail....? Please......

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Less than 3 days to go... I'm ready for it to be over, .... You truly can't turn your head without hearing Obama's intelligent interactions or McCain's more-of-the-same speeches. without seeing poll results of swing states, photos of people lining up for early voting, interviews with various experts on both sides.....

I am very excited about having become a US citizen just prior to these elections and having voted here for the first time; This is such an important one for the future of the US and the rest of the world!!!

I might go to the Obama office here in town on Tuesday night to hopefully celebrate the night away..... I'm confident but don't dare to take the victory for granted.....

Obama office in Silver City

I only found out about this website today, it would have been great to wear this button instead of the boring "Obama/Biden 08" one...

Bathroom time

It seems like I have spent a lot of time in the bathroom this week. No worries, My bladder and bowel habits are just fine but somehow a few patients have started to associate my daily or twice daily therapy visits with potty breaks. As soon as I walk into the room, they break into a big smile and greet me with "I want to walk, I need to go to the bathroom." And off we go, walker, IV pole, O2-tank and foley catheter in tow.... As I'm in the bathroom "taking care of business" I wonder about the years of studying for my degree and my hourly wages......
I have become a true expert in over-80-bowel-care... If anybody has any ideas about an appropriate way of adding this adult acute care PT skill to my resume, let me know....