Saturday, September 19
I stepped off the plane into the jetway and it was just as I remembered. There was the small stream of warm, moist air which blew through the narrow opening where the outer stairway went down to the tarmac.
Stepping out of the jetway into the terminal waiting area, more memories greeted me: the scents, the soft, almost soggy air, the bright tropical colors. I am not a fast walker, but even I had to slow my stride to keep from nudging the pedestrians in front of me. There was a pronounced slowing of movement, of conversation, even of thought. I was glad I had decided to check into the hotel before reporting for duty on Monday. I needed a night to decompress.
I’d spent five years in Hawaii the first time, going through medical school and internship at one of Oahu’s oldest hospitals. I felt totally immersed in Hawaiian culture at the end of those years; the wonderful, warm expressions of hospitality, the acceptance into the Hawaiian “ohana” (family), and the unexpected mystical quality of the spiritual life of the Islands. Though I had been raised a Christian, it was easy for me to accept a blend of Christianity and the strong beliefs of the Island people in the powers of nature.
Now, ten years later, I was back. I was to be the in-house Physician at a private resort on Waikiki Beach. This included privileges at three hospitals, a staff of one Licensed Physician’s Assistant, two Registered Nurses, and two part-time unit clerks. If that sounds excessive, it is. However, it was meant to be proactive: better to be over-prepared and over-staffed than to have the reputation that we were unable to provide medical care when needed.
The ten years I’d spent back home had reinforced my Christian beliefs and experience, but I knew in my heart that the mystical gods and goddesses of Hawaiian culture and religion could be quite seductive, particularly when mingled with traditional Christian tenets and practices.
So I approached this coming year with a twinge of anxiety. Martin Spenser, the Director of Guest Services to whom I would report, had come to Santa Ana to recruit me, and we had many long, open talks regarding Hawaiian philosophies. He had scheduled a traditional Hawaiian blessing before opening the new medical suite. I argued against it, and to appease me, he postponed any decision until I’d moved in and begun my duties.
Martin met me in the hotel lobby on Monday, and walked me to the Infirmary—otherwise known as my luxurious medical suite which would be my domain, God willing, for the next year. Excitement raised my heart rate, as Martin left me alone to get settled. I introduced myself to Kalani Akau, my Physician’s Assistant, who spent the first hour with me alone, getting me up to speed on the rest of our staff, where medicines and supplies were stored, and who in the Hotel would be our best friends.
But I took a deep breath when she began dusting off a tiki god sitting in the entrance way, which somehow I hadn’t noticed as I walked in. I made a mental note to talk with Kalani later.
The rest of the day was spent getting acquainted with the rest of the staff, the six of us going over the policies and procedures I had prepared before leaving my home in Santa Ana.
Sunday, March 28
It certainly didn’t seem like six months had passed since I’d opened up shop at the Majestic Surf Hotel back in September. Although we’d had some close calls, there had been no deaths, no outbreaks of flues, rashes, or any other serious maladies – except for some mild insanity along about Halloween time. I didn’t attribute that to anything mystical; just the usual seasonal hijinks.
There still was one more challenge for me there.
It had begun on that first day when I asked Kalani to remove the tiki, as I knew that many locals connected the power of the tiki with healing powers. She took my directive to the Hotel Manager, and one thing led to another.
I was given a choice: Admit that my position regarding the clinic’s tiki was an exaggeration to reinforce my own authority, or leave. I would be given a letter of recommendation, with an explanation that the anticipated year was cut short because I had difficulty adjusting to the climate.
The last day of March, I’ll be gone.
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