Today we finally saw land. Crazy how exciting that can be, but this past week has been long—you kind of lose track of time after being out at sea for so many days. It’s a pretty powerful feeling to step outside and see nothing but miles and miles of ocean stretching all around you with nothing else in sight.
It’s weird to think that I’ve only been here for a little over a week. Sometimes it feels like ages. I’ve really gotten myself into a nice little routine, and have to call this ship home for the next month or so. Every morning, I’ll wake up early, get ready, head to breakfast, muster, go to dental to do work and help out with the enlisted, have lunch with other PDS members, go back to dental afterwards for additional duties, have dinner, take a fitness class, shower, relax in the lounge, get ready for bed, then start the whole day over again. In dental, we help do some chairside assisting, prepare baskets for CHE’s (Community Health Engagements), take x-rays, do inventory, move and organize pallet shipments, sterilize instruments, take alginate impressions, and the list goes on.
Highlight of the day today was helping serve food in the galley with other PDS members. We decorated our hats and served everyone food, and had a lot of fun while doing so. People enjoyed our hats, and we had a lot of fun just talking to people and helping out in the galley.
Well, back to what I was saying earlier. We finally saw land today, which means that we have officially arrived in Papua New Guinea! I’m really excited for the next week once we’re able to actually go on the field and interact with all of the people. I know for sure that this is going to be such an eye opening experience. Thinking about the fact that the majority of the population in PNG has probably never seen a dentist is such a crazy thought. However, knowing the reality of accessibility to healthcare in developing countries, I guess it’s not all that crazy. What’s crazy to me is the amount of impact that Pacific Partnership is going to be able to bring to an entire nation-providing medical care, dental care, veterinary services, engineering projects that help build schools, community outreach programs, etc.
In my mind, part of being a dentist was begin able to see some type of tangible change and knowing that I was a part of that change. Patients come to dentists with some type of problem or pain, and as a dentist, you have the knowledge and skills to fix those problems and take away the pain. It’s a small but fulfilling feeling to know that you are capable of making a change to someone’s life. I always knew that part of why I wanted to be a dentist was also so that I could use whatever knowledge and skills I had (while also fulfilling my love for travelling) and apply it to serve on a humanitarian mission. But I guess I never imagined just how much of an impact one could have—after working with the enlisted and talking to some of the people who had the chance to volunteer in Fiji, I really realized that we have the capacity to change lives. And that is such an incredible thought.
Written June 27, 2015