Mornings in the time of COVID-19

Well it’s a funny old time isn’t it?

Just look at my morning routine now.

I wake up, and the first thing I check is the number of new COVID-19 cases in Australia. I check how cases have increased around the world. I check the South Australia Health website to see if there’s been any credible reports of community transmission.

I check to see what new government policies are in place and how life is changing around us.

I look across to my wife still asleep and give thanks. It crosses my mind about what would happen if I got sick and passed it to her.

But there’s no time to dwell on such thoughts, and I reassure myself with reports from around the world that my risk is significantly lower than others.

It’s going to be a big week. We have already jumped from 700 to almost 1400 cases in about 3 days.

I try to maintain a degree of normality. I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz. Try it. Something about that creativity breathes an agile harmony into a chaotic world. As I sip my coffee this morning before heading off to an uncertain week, I think about what the day will bring.


I will do my routine visit to my 20-30 patients at the local nursing home and see what the situation is there. They are in a lockdown and I wonder what state of preparedness they are in (I’m already bracing myself).

Afterwards I’ll go to the clinic and I wonder if I’ll have enough swabs if required (last week I was down to my last swab tube), and whether I’ll have to use up one of the last two PPE gowns that I have.

I await letters from the government to see whether they’ll accept my proposal for me to setup a COVID testing clinic at the practice to help unburden the case load of our hospitals.

I feel somewhat apprehensive about possible backlash from other doctors and staff at the practice – I don’t blame them – they may see my plans as placing them at additional risk (and perhaps validly so).

I hope my shipment of 100 gowns arrives today – having had to resort to eBay after all stockists have closed and having received no additional stock from the government due to shortages.

As these thoughts swirl in my head, sometimes intruding on my personal life, I pray that God would give me wisdom and courage for a time like this. Though I am starting to feel the strain of constantly thinking about COVID, COVID, COVID, I also feel the strength of shared humanity, of a globe that is facing a common enemy, of a shared experience of all radically changing our lives for the good of our countries, our cities, our villages, our communities, our families.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

My First Impressions of South America

The Backpacker Diaries: A Junior Doctor’s Year-Long Journey Around the World

A continuation from my previous chapter:
The Strange Feeling of Coming Home After a Year Traveling the World

Chapter 2: Santiago de Chile, Chile

20th May, 2018

My journey to South America started with fear.

Fear about leaving the city I grew up in. Fear about leaving my material comforts and  living with a few select possessions out of a backpack. Fear that I would lose the motivation to ever return to medicine. Fear of not knowing the language. Fear of all the horror stories I had been told about crime and safety in Latin America. Fear that I had made the wrong choice to leave my job. Fear that I would be simply bringing the grief of my sister’s death to a place I had no supports and knew no-one. Fear of being alone.

But if my wife was feeling the same, she didn’t show it. PK’s constant chirpiness exuded an unshakable hopefulness. Her happy smile was a light leading me through the mundaneness of customs and airport terminals…and soothed the fears in the pit of my stomach.

After a long-haul flight from Adelaide, we finally arrived at the first city of our journey: the capital city of Santiago de Chile. “Welcome to Chile, pay up!” was our greeting. Australians are charged a $117 USD “reciprocity fee” upon entry, presumably because of the similar greedy greeting that our government extends to Chilean visitors.


Feeling the sting in our wallets, we made our way through the hordes of taxi drivers in the main terminal. “Taxi, taxi!” they shouted, hoping to rip-off weary travellers like us.

We were expecting to be met by our Airbnb host but they were no where to be seen.

Eventually an unshaven and friendly Irishman named Dom approached us. He was our man, apologising profusely for his tardiness. I didn’t care. I am embarrassed to admit it, but it was nice to hear a welcome from an English speaker in a very foreign country.


“Wow, you guys packed light!” he remarked. I felt proud – I had gone to great lengths to ensure that we only brought the bare minimum of belongings in order to be lightweight and mobile: a single T-shirt, two pairs of underwear and pens sawn in half to make them more compact (I am embarrassed to admit that I am not joking)!

We sped off in his little car through the streets of Santiago. Dom was a friendly but hyperactive host, jumping from topic to topic as he tried to explain the city of Santiago in a single conversation. But I wasn’t listening.


My eyes were glued to the window. These were my first glimpses of South America and I was in a new world. My first impressions were of fruit-filled markets, tall and colourful buildings, bizarre Chinese imported cars and the sun setting behind the Andean mountains. It dawned on me that here exists a huge sprawling mass of humanity, far beyond the Western world I knew. It was like another universe to me. All of the pre-conceived ideas I had about Latin America began to collide with what I was seeing around me.


We arrived at our apartment in Barrio Lastarria, a historic and beautiful part of the city. Cobblestone alleyways, grand buildings and numerous restaurants and musicians abound. To afford staying here, the trade-off was space: our apartment was very tiny.

But this was the beginning of a truth I would take to heart in my South American journey: as long as I had a clean bed and a clean toilet, I was happy.


Our apartment was part of a very tall block of buildings: endless rows of similarly tiny apartments extending far into the sky over a communal square. There was no air conditioning and the heat could be oppressive, so the locals had their windows open constantly. We did the same. As a result, it was never quiet – noise from the different families filtered between the apartments across the square. Adding to the cacophony was traffic and barking dogs who roam with impunity in the streets of Chile, proudly proclaiming their freedom at all hours of the night.

But I was happy to be living amongst the people, not in some fancy tourist hotel. What is the point of going to a foreign land if not to learn from the locals by living with them?


I couldn’t sleep due to the worst jet-lag I had ever experienced. But as those first few nights went by, I began to notice a new life in me. Excitement is not the right word. Nor is the word healing. But perhaps a sense of coming alive. A sense of becoming aware of one’s surroundings and of entering a new chapter in one’s life.

Perhaps it was the journey into the unknown, or the journey into a new world. I think there is a hunger in the heart of man to see something new, to create new memories. My soul still clings to the traumas of the past, clamped down tightly on the darkness of my grief and hardened in order to survive the daily grind of hospital work.

But to see humanity afresh with a new lens… perhaps this begins the process of slowly wrenching the heart open again, bit by bit. I began to forget the fears that I had taken with me from Australia. Not conquer, but forget (there is a difference). I was thousands of kilometres from home but I was not running away from my issues. Maybe with physical distance, we are given space to reflect and look inward. We were at the start of our journey – lying before us was the open road, and the supreme feeling of an open future with infinite possibility.

Maybe what I am describing is the feeling of hope.


Next Chapter of The Backpacker Diaries:

Coming soon

Social Media:

Instagram – @nathan_and_pk

Photography Blog –



Why I Quit My Job As A Doctor

The Backpacker Diaries: A Junior Doctor’s Year-Long Journey Around the World

The first chapter of my travelogue:


May 9th, 2018

So it has been an extremely long hiatus. The last time I did any writing was years ago! Life has been busy. In the last couple years, I have:

  • Graduated from medical school and started work as a junior doctor
  • Passed entrance exams into general practice training (family medicine)
  • Got married and moved out
  • Experienced medical mission work in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea
  • Lived in Jerusalem for a few months and challenged my ideas on what Christianity looks like.

So for the last three years, I’ve felt like a pinball bouncing around. No time to catch my breath. My first year as a doctor was a whirlwind. I loved it. But I struggled to find balance in my life. I struggled to find time to collect my thoughts. And I struggled to find time to talk to God.

Then some important things happened last year in quick succession. A close friend died suddenly and unexpectedly. I was devastated: he was a very young, devout Christian and someone I deeply respected. I asked my workplace if I could take leave to attend the funeral. They said no.

Later, on a different unit, I experienced prolonged and serious workplace bullying by senior doctors. I was expected to shut up, keep my head down and get on with it. I was encouraged to do the same by other junior doctors. “Don’t rock the boat” is the prevailing ethos in Australian hospitals, and I was told as such. But something inside of me forced me to stand up. I stood up for myself and things (predictably) got worse. The ensuing escalation was extremely stressful and it came to a stage where I was ready to resign if a solution could not be found.

Thankfully, the doctor’s union supported me to an outcome in my favour. But my bosses were not particularly fond of me after that and made that known on a daily basis.

I became increasingly depressed. As I began to question my work as a doctor and what life was all about, I was further exposed to the tragedy and brevity of life whilst working on palliative care (an expansion on what I had observed in the poverty of Papua New Guinea). I found the work incredibly meaningful and worked harder than I have ever before. But maybe the death I saw also made me realise my own demons: that I am still grieving the suicide of my sister and the accompanying alienation from my church community, who didn’t know how to respond in the aftermath (they chose silence).

All of these events took their toll.

My medical students commented on how cynical I had become. I laughed it off, but It was true.

I struggled to write or blog anything. I felt jaded and did not want to talk to God. What I have written before on this blog and elsewhere feels like a wholly different person. This is something I am still wrestling with – just where am I with God?

A blessing came: I took a long overdue holiday to Tasmania. I went camping with my wife in a remote national park and remembered what it was to live life again apart from work. Perhaps being in the wilderness has that effect on the soul.


With the support of family and a few close friends, I realised that I needed a break. I felt weak to admit it (especially to other doctors), but I was burned out. I felt deeply humbled to admit my weakness, but perhaps the admission out loud freed me at the same time.

I finally decided to take a year off work. I am sad, but extremely thankful that my wife is making a sacrifice to do the same in order to support me.

We decided to spend the year travelling the world. It is hard to explain, but when we finally arrived in South America for the first leg of our journey, things just felt right.

What am I searching for by travelling the world? What am I hoping for this year? I still do not know exactly, and it’s already been three months in this mysterious and wonderful continent.

Perhaps to see humanity with fresh eyes.

Perhaps to see what life can offer outside western paradigms.

Perhaps to see beauty in the vastness of landscapes, and to be humbled by living a minimalist, frugal and nomadic life.

But above all, I wish to see God again.


Next Chapter of The Backpacker Diaries:

Chapter 1: The Strange Feeling of Coming Home After a Year Traveling the World

Social Media:

Instagram – @nathan_and_pk

Photography Blog –


Balancing Life, Medicine and Faith: How Much Time Should I Be Spending With God?

Spare time is precious to me.

The time commitment of studying medicine has taught me to value any spare time I get to myself.

As I look to the future – I can only see things becoming busier with increasing demands, responsibilities and commitments.

I’m sure I’m not alone. It’s not just medical students – we are all busy in this fast-paced world.

Every day there is the tension of Continue reading

Memorials: An Antidote To Fear (Prayer on the Eve of OSCEs – Part 2)

Continued from The Lord is My Rock (Prayer on the Eve of OSCEs Part 1)

And I write to you 5 months later, overjoyed with praise for God, for by his strength I did end up passing my final third year exams!

Earlier in the year following the death in my family, even passing seemed an insurmountable challenge to me. So with overflowing gratitude and amazement I joyfully report to you Continue reading