In January of 2010, at the tender age of 22, I ventured off to an Island I had only heard about a few months prior - Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. I was sick of doingunpaid veterinary placements with farmers who worked me to the bone in the freezing winters or sweltering summers of rural Australia and was ready to explore the world!
I spent a few weeks on google trying to find somewhere tropical and beautiful to spend my four weeks of Veterinary Placement, which was required tobe completed during my uni holidays. I thought it made sense to utilize my time wisely and have a holiday while I was at it!
I finally stumbled upon the Esther Honey Foundation in the Cook Islands. It had everything I wanted. Balmy tropical weather - check. Vodka-clear 30 degree C ocean - check. Dogs, cats and a volunteer run hospital -CHECK! So I saved up my meager wage and booked some flights.
While organizing the trip the director of the clinic, Greg, asked if I had access to veterinary supplies that could be donated to the hospital. So I packed my bag with a few t-shirts, bikinis and shorts and crammed in medications, anesthetic circuits and surgery kits! Greg assured me I wouldn't have any trouble clearing customs with my assortment of drugs and sharps but I couldn't help but feel a little nervous in the lead up to my flight.
I touched down in Rarotonga airport close to midnight and was greeted by the airport security dressed in hula skirts handing out leis to passengers - I liked this place already! Sure enough my bag was stuck at 'customs' - aka a large polynesian lady wearing a security outfit sitting behind a fold out table in the airport. Me being me - had an immediate freak out and started explaining that I was volunteering at Esther Honey. Upon mentioning the foundations name I was greeted with big smiles, a hug and told to go on through and there was a car waiting for me!
I arrived at the clinic in the dead of the night and Greg showed me to my room on site. It was nothing fancy but their was a bed, a shower and a kitchen - what more could a girl want! I fell asleep that night to the sounds of the waves outside the window.
I awoke in the morning to the hustle and bustle of volunteers preparing food in the kitchen. I met Greg the director, Kayla another Volunteer and Dr Susan and her team of Vet Techs from the USA who would be volunteering for the week. Boy did I get a surprise when I walked outside - I could see the ocean right across the road! Little was I to know that this adventure was going to be full of surprises...