American doc gets taste of life in rural NZ

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 12:25 25/02/2013
Jessica Watters with her husband Marcos Rodringuez
SHIRLEY WHYTE/Fairfax NZ
Tuatapere doctor Jessica Watters with her husband Marcos Rodringuez.

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Californian doctor Jessica Watters and husband Marcos Rodringuez, of Mexico, had to come all the way to Western Southland to be proper newlyweds.

Dr Watters - who had been separated from her fiance by several hundred kilometres while his visa to move from Mexico to the United States was approved - said the couple were adjusting well since arriving in Tuatapere three weeks ago.

She has a locum position at Tuatapere Medical Centre for the next eight months and Mr Rodringuez would volunteer at a cafe to improve his English, she said.

The couple, who were married in Baja Mexico in November, found out three weeks before the wedding that a contract from Tuatapere had been offered.

She said she had the contract in front of her when she phoned her fiance to ask how he felt about a temporary move to New Zealand while awaiting his visa - expected to take about six months.

"New Zealand wasn't too hard to get excited about," she said.

The contract included a house and car and a return ticket to the US for her, but not her husband. It would have been difficult for a foreigner to take up the position without housing and transport, she said.

Dr Watters had been working with a nurse practitioner in Tuatapere and said so far the workload was full, but not overwhelming. She had been working at two-doctor clinics since graduating from the University of Michigan and doing her residency in family preventative medicine at Loma Linda University, east of Los Angeles.

Most of her patients in Tuatapere had the same ailments at practices she had worked at, most recently on a Miwok Indian reservation outside Sacramento, though farming-related injuries - described in Kiwi lingo - was a challenge.

"It is amazing just how similar medicine is all over the world. There are the same problems, but the injuries might be a little different . . . I have to have people explain the devices and the farming tools [they have injured themselves on] and say 'OK, now what does that look like exactly?' "

The community had been very friendly since their arrival and had already showed up with garden produce like cucumbers and rhubarb.

Because she grew up going between Mexico and California she spoke Spanish with her husband at home, she said. They met through her parents, who worked in different parts of Mexico as linguists. She met Marcos later through friends, and both discovered they had a common passion - to work in community development in China.

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Dr Watters said after returning to the US together after her contract is finished, they planned to apply for visas to work together in China.

- The Southland Times

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