To get her New Zealand nursing license, Rebecca needed transcripts from the colleges she had attended to get her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. This was not as easy as it sounded. Even though Rebecca had become an R.N. in a three year program after high school, it had taken her more than a decade, well actually more than two decades, to get her college degree. Things kept getting in the way. Like all of us she just got caught up with living.

I kidded with her that she should be required to retake History since so much had occurred in the decades since she first took it.

She had actually taken one class, Statistics, numerous times.  I think five times. It never seemed to take. She would start it, get discouraged or not like the teacher, drop the class, only to restart it some years later, perhaps imagining that the subject would have somehow changed in the interim. She had gone through the part where you learn about the median, the mean and the bell curve, oh, so many times, but once the subject started thickening up with chi squares and frequencies, she was out of there. She even tried to take a three-week condensed version of Statistics but that didn’t seem to take either.

Rebecca finally obtained her degree several years before the idea of moving to New Zealand had sprouted in our brains, doggedly hammering out her last few credit hours at her computer under the auspices of some on-line school. Occasionally I would hear outbursts of frustration from where she worked and on one occasion, the mouse had actually been hurled at the computer screen. I had learned to stay away.

One of the final requirements to graduate, however, was that you actually take at least one course at the school’s campus. The word ‘campus’ is used lightly here. Don’t expect sprawling tree-lined walkways linking old ivy-covered buildings with Latin engravings above their gothic doorways. Don’t expect a football team, fraternities or an active student body campaigning for politically correct issues.

On a cold February weekend, Rebecca flew to the school located in some obscure town somewhere in central Missouri. The ‘campus’ was located in a strip mall between a Tae-Kwon-Do studio and a Veterans of the Korean War Lodge.

A number of students all considerably younger than Rebecca were present at an introductory meeting.

The administrator went around the room asking each student how long each student had been enrolled in their degree program.

“Six months.”

“One and half years.”

“Three months.”

Finally it was Rebecca’s turn. “Let’s see, I’ve been through four presidents, I’m on my second husband and I’ve had six different advisors.”

Just then the speaker overhead sputtered into life and announced, “Those of you who have Ms. Lois for your advisor are being reassigned to Ms. Whitaker.”

“Make that seven advisors,” Rebecca drolly added.

Every bureaucracy has a gatekeeper and for a New Zealand nursing license it was a certain Abigail Lawler located in Wellington, New Zealand, the capital on the far southern tip of the north island. Rebecca emailed and spoke with Abigail numerous times.

Kiwis generally have remarkable good natures. They are upbeat, cheerful and have a certain refreshing promptness to handling things. But to be fair, you sometimes can’t be sure whether these qualities in any given individual are a sign of competence, or just—well, the result of being a simple happy person.

For whatever question Rebecca asked Abigail, the answer was generally the same.

“Can I have the school send the transcript directly to you?”


“Is that the way to do it?”


“Will it then be reviewed and processed right away, or will I need anything else?


New Zealand also required actual course curriculums from each class Rebecca had taken for her degree. This proved quite difficult to obtain since the first college she had attended no longer had any records from those days, let alone the specifics of what was taught to a young, eager-eyed Rebecca way back when. What exactly did they teach you that second week in March so many years ago? I dunno. And the school concurred—we don’t really remember back that far either.

More phone calls to Abigail.

“Do you need the actual course curriculum?”


“Can they write something up that summarizes what the course covered? Would that suffice?”


“Once you get that, will that be all I need for my nursing license or will there be anything else?”


After many phone calls, emails and letters, the college finally ended up putting something together which apparently satisfied Abigail and the Nursing Board authorities. And several months after this whole process started, Rebecca triumphantly received her New Zealand Nursing License which she promptly left in a copy machine at the local office copy center but fortunately recovered the next morning.

But with her New Zealand nursing license, she also received a medal. That’s right, a medal. New Zealand is the darndest country. The medal was the dangling kind that a soldier might hang on his dress uniform to represent his participation in a particular campaign. Years and years of practicing medicine as a nurse in the United States and never a medal. In this case, Rebecca’s medal was engraved with “NZ RN” on top, and then on the back of the colorful dangling portion, her name was engraved and her nursing license number. She wore it on her last day of work at the hospital in Colorado Springs.


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