Funny story from this week –

I was out surfing on a nice brisk winter morning, when an older gentleman paddled up next to me on his longboard. “Pardon me, but does your board say ‘For Ian’ on the bottom?” he asked. It turned out it did. (I had bought the board second hand from a fellow American doctor.) “I’m Ian”, he replied. And just like that, I had made a new friend in New Zealand – who was kind enough not to ask for his board back.

We have been told repeatedly since we arrived that Gisborne has a small town feel. According to the 2013 census, there are 43,656 people living here. (86 French people, 90 if you include my four, according to the French osteopath that fixed my back this week). This makes Gisborne roughly the size of Burlington VT or
Charlottesville VA.

Both of my parents are connectors. I realize that I have a genetic predisposition to having more “small world” encounters than the average American ex-pat. But still, the number of these in our first couple weeks has been remarkable.

To name a few others:

  • My Californian in-town barber is the partner of one of our critical care nurses at the hospital. (New Zealand slang alert: partner encompasses spouse, girlfriend, significant other, etc. It’s all the same here regardless of sexual orientation or legal status.)
  • One of Lucas’s first friends from his middle school turns out to be the son of one of my new ED physician colleagues.
  • Our landlord is the partner of another one of my ED colleagues.

You get the idea.

It has even spilled over to the hospital. Last weekend, I found myself treating the partner of a storeowner who had been kind enough the prior day to fry up a scoop (serving) of chips (French fries) for my five year old whose wheels were falling off. Now she was the one asking for my help with an un- well family member. It’s becoming clear that you pay it forward in this town.

I’ve always romanticized about working in this type of environment. This is what being a physician was supposed to be – the Marcus Welby model. Now I’m not so sure how I feel about it. It turns out I’ve enjoyed the anonymity of living in a big city and working in another over the past several years. I have for the most part kept off of social media for as long it has existed. These days I have interns in my hospital telling me “I saw from your wife’s Facebook post that you are moving to the beach.”

As a family we spoke to the kids a lot about the major benefits of travel; about meeting new people and gaining new perspectives. What I failed to appreciate was that these same people may be just as interested in learning about us. I’m going to have to find some new hiding spots in this town… or more likely, get used to being two degrees of separation away from everyone. Including my new friend Ian.

Jesse Irwin

Jesse Irwin

It's Jesse. I'm an emergency physician and healthcare leader, a Navy veteran, a father of three children, and until recently a land-locked Washingtonian with dreams of living on the ocean. I'm also a Luddite and an unapologetic introvert. But I'm going to give you, my family and friends, and this blog my best attempt at sharing my experiences here in Gisborne.
Jesse Irwin

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