Jetlag, jetlag! Everything’s topsy-turvy. I haven’t been in London long, and I’m still not sure what time of day it is. On a good day, or after a decent shot of coffee, I could tell you about circadian rhythms and body clocks and probably serotonin and melatonin and all the rest of it – I’m a trained nurse, after all – but right now, I barely know what day it is. I challenge you to be able to think clearly when you’ve done a trip halfway around the world – literally. Even the stopover in Hong Kong on the way over seems like a distant memory (I must dig out some of those clothes I bought there). If I could get hold of an IV, I’d put myself on a drip of coffee. If I could trust myself to find the right vein without my hands shaking, which I don’t. This is why my travel nurse agency has thoughtfully given me a week to acclimawhatsit… get accustomed… used to it before I start the refresher course (I will talk more about that later).
I’ve gone from one Bromley (in Christchurch, New Zealand) to another (the one in London). I’ve gone from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. I’ve gone from the Pacific to Europe. I’ve gone from spring to autumn without a summer in between. I’ve gone from GMT +12 or +13 to GMT 0. I’ve gone from Friday to Thursday… I think.
However, it could be worse. At least there’s not a problem with language. Working as a New Zealand nurse in the UK means that I won’t have to worry about learning a new language. This meant that I was able to find my way around the airport, have a reasonably coherent conversation with the person from the travel nurse agency who picked me up from the airport and could read the signs so I won’t get hopelessly lost. All the same, I’m sure there will be a lot to get used to.
How I Became A Travel Nurse In The UK
(Several coffees later – the bakery a little way down the road is pretty good, and I didn’t get actually lost on the way back. I only nearly got lost because having the sun to the south rather than the north in the middle of the day threw me when trying to use the map on my phone, but my GPS location soon put me right – thank goodness for modern technology!)
I decided to work as a travel nurse in the UK after having worked as a fully qualified New Zealand nurse for quite a few years. Now that all the Covid-19 restrictions have eased and the borders have opened for international travel again, I felt it was time to have a little bit of a look around the world and do the traditional Big OE. As I’ve still got my student loan to pay off – don’t we all? – I wanted to work while having a look at other parts of the world. Nursing is good like that – although some things differ from country to country, the human body is put together in the same way everywhere, temperatures and blood pressures need to be monitored, dressings need to be changed, and bedpans need to be emptied… and the same goes for a lot of the other work we do as nurses.
I’ve never been any good with languages at school, so I knew that I’d have to work in an English-speaking country, especially given how nurses interact with patients. I thought about Australia, but I’d been over there a few times when I was still living at home with Mum and Dad, so I wanted to look further afield. It looked like it would be difficult to get a working visa for the US, but then I found this really good agency that helped to organise nursing jobs in the UK for international nurses. New Zealand is a Commonwealth country – we had a day off and flags at half-mast for the death of Queen Elizabeth and everything – so this seemed like a very good idea. The agency also handles Australian nurses getting jobs in London as well as New Zealand nurses – so they’ve got tons of experience. The agency was brilliant at arranging my nursing visa for the UK (that was the first step), and now here I am, downing probably a bit too much coffee to cope with the jetlag on the other side of the world.
The Same But Different
One of the reasons I’m glad to come to London in the UK rather than, say, the US is that there’s an odd blend of familiar and foreign at the same time. For example, I’m going to have a nursing job in London, in Bromley, to be specific. However, when I was doing my initial nursing training back in New Zealand, I flatted in the suburb of Bromley in Christchurch. Now I’m over in London, I keep seeing some very familiar names: Beckenham, Sydenham and Bexley. Then I spot some that remind me that I’m in the UK, not New Zealand: Wimbledon, Orpington, Heathrow and quite a few places mentioning the Thames.
During my walk back from the bakery, I went past a small park. At that moment, I could have been either back in New Zealand or in London. I closed my eyes, and as well as the sound of traffic, I could hear the songs of starlings, blackbirds and thrushes. The trees in the park looked like poplars and planes and oaks and others I remember from parks in New Zealand, but something seemed to be missing until I realised that I had been half expecting to see New Zealand native cabbage trees and pittosporums as well. I walked a bit further down the road and crossed the street (feeling very grateful that they drive on the left-hand side of the road here as well), and I came across a set of houses that seemed really close together – and they weren’t even terraced houses. There were a lot more brick houses and brick walls than back home – but what with the Christchurch earthquakes 10 or so years ago, I guess that isn’t surprising. My uncle says that a lot of the brick houses built the UK way in Christchurch were taken out by the earthquake (something they don’t have much of in the UK – that’s going to be something less to worry about; it was bad enough 10 years ago, even though I was still at school at the time).
Some road signs looked familiar – I guess that they’re the same around the world – but there were some I didn’t recognise. I think they’re the ones for public transport. That’s going to be another thing to get used to here – public transport seems to be a much bitter thing. I thought about getting an international driver’s license to drive in the UK, but the people at the agency said that London’s public transport system meant that I probably wouldn’t need to drive. Even if I wanted to explore during my days off, trains were an option. So that’s another adventure awaiting me.
Speaking of that bakery, I had another little surprise. Yes, there were some yummy baked goodies on offer (which I’ll have to enjoy another time; at the moment, my body clock is so out of whack that my appetite is non-existent) and a good selection of coffees to go, but it took me a few moments to remember that flat whites are a New Zealand thing, so I went with a latte instead. It was also a pleasant surprise to find that this bakery, which I guess is typical – had fresh-baked bread for sale as well as all the usual cakes and pies and biscuits.
Actually, I now regret not having picked up that bread, as it would have been good for breakfast tomorrow morning. Just don’t ask me when tomorrow morning will be.