‘I’m Afraid You’ll Have to Fly to Tahiti’

‘I’m Afraid You’ll Have to Fly to Tahiti’

The nurse gave me a sympathetic look over her glasses. I was in the clinic of a remote atoll trying to figure out a chronic ear infection. Unfortunately, my next step was to go see a specialist in Tahiti – an hour away by plane. The next morning, I walked to the local airport, a cozy one-room house next to a strip of runway. There was no security. Walking straight from the ticket counter to a set of glass doors, I found myself on the runway facing a tiny plane.  

An hour later I was in Tahiti. Rain streamed down the windows, and a large bucket of umbrellas waited at the foot of the airplane steps. The clinic was a forty-minute walk, so I tied a trash bag around my backpack, and threw a rain jacket over the whole ensemble. Despite the drizzle, I enjoyed the journey. Compared to the remote villages I’d been exploring lately, Tahiti was bustling and colorful. I found the hospital easily and squished my way into reception. The room was tiled and dead silent. Four or five people sat waiting, but there wasn’t a whisper of sound. My wet shoes squeaked on the tile as I began to untie the trash bag from around my backpack. Each crinkle echoed in my ears. Draping the wet bag over my sodden jacket, I eased myself into a chair to await my appointment. 


 A nurse led me down a corridor and into another reception area. Several hospital beds were pushed up against one wall, the occupants staring dully at the ceiling. A round counter in the center contained a few nurses. I was shown into a small room and left alone. After a few minutes, the staff from the desk began taking turns peeking into my room. I stared back at them, amused by our mutual desire for distraction. Eventually, one of them indicated that I should follow a nurse who was wheeling one of the beds out of reception. He didn’t glance behind him, and I walked a few steps back, looking around to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood the French instructions.  

Nobody called out to me, so I tailed him down a hallway, into an elevator, and through a mostly unlit corridor. At a junction, the nurse passed off the bed to a college and turned around. Did I follow the bed, or the nurse? Catching my confused expression, the nurse indicated that I follow the bed. He gave me a smile, then disappeared back into the unlit corridor. The occupant of the bed was a middle-aged man. His bare feet curled underneath his body, and his face was impassively blank. I wondered if we were going to the same specialist. The new nurse drew me deeper into the maze and eventually deposited me and the bed next to a closed door in the middle of a long dark hallway. She instructed me to wait until my name was called. 

Eventually, I was admitted to the ear specialist, who examined me with a complicated machine and gave me a happy diagnosis. He then shooed me out of the room, telling me to go back to reception. I waved goodbye to the man in the bed, then walked back down the corridor and almost immediately got lost. After a few minutes of wandering aimlessly through hallways, I ran into a security guard, who led me to another nurse. The nurse glanced at my papers and then made a call on his phone: “I have the American.”  

The nurse led me back the reception area with the round counter. He handed me off, saying proudly: “Here’s the American!” Finally processed, I walked back into the light of day. The whole hospital visit, which included seeing a doctor, a specialist, and purchasing medication, cost under $200 without insurance. It was well worth the trip. 


Author profile
Holly Martin

We strive to bring our readers the best content possible and provide it to you free of charge. In order to make this possible we do utilize online ads.

We promise to not implement annoying advertising practices, including auto-playing videos and sounds.

Please whitelist our site or turn off your adblocker to view this content.

Thank you for your understanding.