Answers to our Questionnaire for Visitors of Solomon Islands

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Sex? female
Profession/occupation? Medical Student
Medical school year or years of experience since graduation? 4
Home country? UK
What made you want to go to Solomon Islands? talking to a previous visitor
Did you go alone or in company? alone
Arriving in Solomon Islands
When did you arrive in Solomon Islands? April 2010
Did you encounter any bureaucratic difficulties? no
What was your first impression after arrival? Very hot!! Otherwise a laid-back atmosphere and generally people were very friendly.
Living in Solomon Islands
What did positively surprise you? In general people are happy and content with their way of life. Patients were respectful and grateful for treatment.
What did negatively surprise you? medical facilities and lack of treatment options
What took longest to get used to? Having lots of spare time and not rushing around hospital all day - I didn't know what to do in my first few weeks.
What did you miss most in Solomon Islands? Food: cereal, meat (that wasn't fish!)... didn't miss not having a TV, but lack of internet/no phone was hard.
What should you have brought along? iPod! and a snorkel for all that spare time... the sea is amazing
What did you do to prevent malaria? doxycycline, slept under nets, 50% deet (didn't always work though!) and tried to keep covered but difficult as it's so hot
Place and province where you spent most of your time? Taro Hospital, Choiseul Province, and went on a cataract screening tour around clinics on mainland Choiseul
Other places/provinces where you stayed? Gizo Hospital, Western Province
Where did you stay? Converted TB ward at Taro with one of the nurses, then Phoebes resthouse (where all the medical students stay!) at Gizo
How long did you stay at each location? 2 weeks in Taro and 1 week in Gizo (plus travel days)
How much did you pay for each? -
Where did you usually eat? In Taro ate at home - there was nowhere to eat out. In Gizo sometimes at home, or PT's or the hotel
What did you typically pay for a normal meal? -
What local food/beverage did you like most? The fish is great - really fresh. Cheapest and nicest food is bought at market (in Gizo, Monday best). Be adventurous!
What local food/beverage did you like least? -
Mobile phone services
If you brought along a mobile phone, which services did you successfully use? -
Comments? Mobiles only work if you have a Solomon Telekom SIM. Otherwise your phone will be useless.
Money matters
Comments? I managed to change some AUD to SBD at Brisbane airport. ATM in Taro didn't work but I managed to get some out in Gizo.
Working in Solomon Islands
How did you usually go to work? walk
Where did you work? Hospital and in clinics around Choiseul mainland
What was your occupation? medical student - mostly observation
What were your working days and hours? flexible!!
What was particularly difficult in regard to your work? Learn some pidjin before you get here. I could understand it but couldn't speak it which made history and examination hard.
Did you feel accepted by the locals? yes
What did you usually do in your spare time after work? Market, swim, canoe, volleyball, read, cards... in Gizo also dived and went to Fat Boys or the hotel for a drink/meal
Questions for medical trainees of all levels (students to registrars)
How was the supervision? loose
Comments At Taro pretty much left to do what I wanted but everyone was helpful if I asked.
How was the teaching? poor
Comments Poor elective destination for medical experience in terms of knowledge and skill development but amazing life experience.
Leaving Solomon Islands and looking back
When did you leave Solomon Islands? May 2010
How long was your stay? approx. 4 weeks
How do you judge the length of your stay? just about right
What did you learn from the locals? -
Your advice to prospective visitors? Be adventurous and try and visit smaller islands such as Taro and not just Honiara or Gizo... it's a completely different experience. Go diving - best place I have dived including Barrier Reef and Egypt.
What did you miss most when back at home again? Relaxed way of life and community spirit. Patients there are also really grateful for treatment... not like some in UK.
What did you enjoy most when back at home again? The food and feeling properly clean! And my bed =D
Would you go back for another stay? Yes.
Estimated total cost of your stay (including travel costs)? around GBP 1,000 just on flights! Quite cheap when there though.
Additional comments? I recommend Solomons as a place to visit. Taro was very basic and a real eye-opener: I ate, lived, worked and played (volleyball!) with the locals which was brilliant. They rely on water tanks for all their water - do not expect a hot shower either in Taro or Gizo... and in Taro expect a bucket! The water may run out if there hasn't been any rain, which happened in Gizo and showers/flushing loo was difficult... A loo is a luxury in Taro by the way - if you are lucky there may be a shedded-pit otherwise it's a bush or the beach. Electricity in Taro is produced by generators which only work during certain hours. By 7pm I would be sitting in the dark waiting for the generator to come on! Some houses don't have any electricity. In Gizo because of expats, RAMSIs and more tourists there was little mixing with the locals but there is a good atmosphere and more things to do such as eating out/bars/diving etc. And there was internet!! Both Taro and Gizo offers a medical experience totally different to UK. I have never seen a spider crawling across a surgeon's hand during an operation before! And scrub-dresses and shorts (with flip-flops or bare feet!) is new for me too! Nursing staff have more responsiblity here and there are few doctors. Medical staff do not rely on investigations and I found the available treatments shocking... someone in UK who would be on a strong opiate would be managed with parecetamol or aspirin, if anything. All in all if you want an amazing life experience definitely consider coming to the Solomons for your elective, especially if you like diving. If you are more adventurous Taro is brilliant, if you want to meet students from other medical schools and can't quite let go of the Western world then Gizo or Honiara would suit you better.

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