Thursday, May 22, 2008

Act III. Scene 1 - The woes fade out slowly

I've been back just over a week now. But this time it barely feels like I left in the first place. Most things went according to my grand plan for the transition to 3rd. Well, everything except rock diving* down Victoria Falls the day after the 2nd ended, and having to hobble home on crutches. I did, however, get to once again experience all the grandeur of both the Dominican and American medical systems. Let's just say that I unfortunately do not have greater faith in the latter, but that's a discussion for a later date.

I managed to register rather quickly despite arriving on the rock a few days late. Coming straight to campus from the airport, with all my clumsy boxes and stuff with me, I had to wobble across campus and through the hour-long bank line with an inordinate amount of junk. 'That was a long day' I thought as I wrapped things up with NBD.

I was stoked, thinking it was all coming to an end as I arrived at my steamy apartment around 5:00 p.m. I thought back to about 4:15 a.m. that morning, sitting in the airport terminal in Miami, burying the hatred of leaving my love in the intrigue of my first first-class seat assignment. And just as I had finished dialing back to that love, and proclaiming my safety, I began to flip some switches, and was greeted with more than just a little sweat. After 1,400 miles, 14 hours, 14 lines, a water-heater hose burst right in my face - literally. In the 15 seconds it took to get the water valve shut off, my entire apartment had become an indoor kiddie pool. I had been thinking of a shower, but this was ridiculous.

An hour and a half later, after mopping up buckets and buckets, and running a few older towels across the entire apartment floor, things began to normalize. At some point in that time frame a random guy actually came by to fix the bad hose. He finished the job, saw me and my failed attempt to turn my apartment into an ice-skating rink, and took off blazing-fast. He surely didn't want to get stuck mopping up anything. Lucky him.

Over the subsequent 3 days, I managed to catch up on the first week of lectures, and prepared for our first day of ICM. I actually managed ALMOST 2 completely normal days of class. My knee was even beginning to feel a little better, as I wasn't needing Aleve like clock-work.

And then on Tuesday afternoon, I was struck down by a good ol' Shack Attack! YEAH! Well, it's gotta happen at least once a semester. So I figure I might as well get it out of the way now. So that knocked me out of commission for another day and a half. Since, I've managed to catch up most of what I missed yesterday, and actually popped into one of today's sessions.

So at this rate, I'll be back up to speed tomorrow, and probably get a splinter or stub my toe or something on Monday or Tuesday afternoon. After that, I should be good at least until the end of the semester. As we approach that stretch, though, I'm totally getting that helmet that Chris recommended.

Oh, and I forgot to mention getting charged by mad mama cow...


And in case you're wondering, yes, it's worth it.

Kelly, I love you with all my heart. Hang in there, I'll be home before you know it.

* rock diving : n. - the act of intentionally or unintentionally propelling one's body into or onto solid rock surfaces face-first; Eduardo went rock diving on the way down from Victoria Falls and hurt his knee, but being hard-headed, his cranium fared well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Act II. Scene 4 - I bow my head to be cut down.

So this afternoon, I took a break to walk up the hill, and down a rocky, puddled street, to get my hair cut. I waited patiently for my appointment time to come up, as I read year-old car magazines, and listened to my mp3 player softly. I considered it a break from the past week of intense studying of biochemistry of glucose and lipid metabolism, neuroscience, and GI and renal physiology. Not to mention that I was happy to be out of the anatomy lab, and out of the ischioanal fossa.

So when I finally got my chance at the chair, I politely requested my preference, and proceeded to sit quietly as I normally do, listening to the television set switched on and set obliquely above the refrigerator. BBC international went through two cycles speaking about Indian and Pakistani news. A brief aside discussed New Zealand Cricket. Then there was a long-winded discussion about Sudan, Darfur, China, and the Olympics.

Benji, the man with the scissors, asked from behind my head, "Isn't the whole purpose of the Olympics to be free of politics."

I wanted to nod in agreement but remembered the scissors at my scalp. "I totally agree. It's always about money, or politics, or something..." I mouthed with my chin against my chest. "People just don't take the time anymore." It began to rain, and the sound of the drops against the metal-panel roof echoed in the single-roomed shop.

Benji then asked me my take on the American election. I tried to explain how there was still plenty of time, that anything could happen; the whole thing had started way too early. There was some hesitation in my voice.

Silence filled the small 15' x 15' wooden building for a few minutes, except for the fan oscillating in the corner, and the rain both above, and on the short concrete path from the rocky road to the front door. The cage of the fan was rusted from turning back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, for who knows how long in this open-air business. I was content not having a drop of sweat on me. It only took 6 months.

As I was being swung around to slim down my sideburns, Benji switched to FoxNews. "I'm sorry," he said. For a moment I thought he might be apologizing for FoxNews, or for liking them. But it didn't matter, I wasn' watching the tube anymore.

Over the crackly, mono speaker, from the analog 19" CRT, came some hype-filled babble, once again about US politics, and it broke the silence between proprietor and customer.

"There's just a lot of questions that still have to be answered, and I think we have to get to know the candidates a little better - really get to know what they're saying," I said, trying to clarify and/or elaborate on my earlier answer.

In my left ear I heard half-hearted agreement, but it was more as if I spoke too fast or wasn't understood. So I thought I'd pause and listen. It wouldn't take long.

One of the talking heads said the word Clinton, and Benji scoffed under his breath. "After everything, and to have a no-name black man come out of nowhere and do that. You'd think she'd get the idea."

"Yeah," was all I could muster.

"But I bet everyone thinks Clinton was a great president, and made the country great?" The scissor-wielder came back, this time from the right.

I spoke what I thought was true. "A lot of people associate Bill Clinton with a good time in US history, with good economic times. But he wasn't all that good."

"What do you mean?" Benji asked, with genuine concern. He thought I would have instantly agreed that Bill was an almighty man.

I related that despite the economic prosperity, Clinton's presidency was mired by scandals, including Monica (which Benji brought up), mysterious deaths, and a long trail of shady business and personal dealings. I proposed to him, "Perhaps instead of Bill Clinton being such a great president, maybe Bill Clinton was just the president during a good time for the US."

And then I got a history lesson I hadn't been expecting.

"Well his regime was bad for our island." Benji came back.

It took me a second. I hadn't heard a presidency referred to as a regime. But I quickly realized it was the same difference. I asked if he could explain.

He related that it was under the direct influence of President Clinton, during a visit to a WTO meeting, that he personally influenced for the removal of a provision in trade agreements in which Dominica was a preferred provider of bananas to the US. At the time, the Dominican economy was based on bananas, and supported 75% of the population. Instantly, the market was opened up to large-scale (aka big business) producers in Central America, the international price of bananas plummeted, and with it went Dominica's economy. This was less than 10 years ago. Since, there has been an emigration of nearly 10% of the population of Dominica, simply because the economy, though improving, is apparently still playing catch-up.

"So, yes, we don't look too high to that regime." Benji said again, in a serious tone, but still managing to smile.

As I turned to look at my hair in the mirror, the lower profile made my widened eyes look even bigger.

I continue to be amazed at this world - so powerful to rise up storms, and tear down civilzations, yet made to feel so small by the actions of man.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Act II. Scene 3 - Worlds Apart

In the heat of the moment, when I'm busy-busy-busy, I forget how far away I am from my love. But the days tread on, steady-steady-steady, as do I. And I remind myself why I love her so...

But that's not what brings these here words today, sirs and madams. I happen to be able to relate to you, the events of not so long ago...

Recently, I had the fortune of visiting one of the school computer labs during a rather busy time of day, and sending a host of documents into a rather long queue. As I waited for the queue to turn, and my papers to appear, I figured I would take some time and peruse the online offerings I could perhaps purchase for the impending day of romantic celebration. I sat quietly, one ear busy behind an earphone, and browsed a website selling things I had no use for, neither in medical school, nor as a man in the eyes of current American societal standards.

The voice next to me, then asked, "Who's birthday is it?"

I looked towards my right, at a gentleman I did not recall ever meeting, or ever being introduced to. "Valentine's day is on the horizon," I replied.

He looked at his analog watch, and then replied, sounding rather awestruck, "Oh, yeah, I guess it's almost that time."

At that point, I thought our pleasant conversational engagement would have ended. Perhaps it may have indulged in a formality or two.

He then turned back to me, and hoarsely said, "I'm glad I don't have to worry about that shit." He fumbled his last three words, as a child does when learning to hold a heavy object. But he spoke them nonetheless.

I was quiet for a second. Time slowed in my perception, as I attempted to conceive of a response. The reactions and collisions that occurred for me to attempt to conceptualize things in the same terms were simply too exhausting. I resorted to, "In the end, you get back what you put in."

The man, now no longer gentle, made a few more comments, attempting to make a humorous reference out of his original question, tying it to insinuations of personal preference for feminine items and privacy issues.

I replaced the second earphone... Some people.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Act II. Scene 2 - War Games

About a week ago, I was walking home, keeping one eye on the bull in the field along the rocky road to my apartment. And off in the distance I heard the pounding of the waves. I'd heard and seen it before, last December, just before the gates were opened on our third trial. But it sounded more pointed this time, echoing through the night, and the moist air. Since then, it's been raining pretty steadily, so I haven't had much of a reason to venture down by the sand - expecting more of an uneasy sight than I would care for. But today, as a break from reviewing the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone system, I strolled down to the beach. And as I walked along, eating an orange, over expansive piles of small, smooth rocks, and looked out at a calm, lapping bay, I stopped everything in my head. It felt right.

Luckily I brought along my umbrella in my back pocket, and the rain knew, and greeted me just as I turned to walk back. We called it a draw.

But this is just a temporary distraction.

The strategies start being drawn up as soon as I walk back through the door. I count days, review blocks, run scenarios in my head. I go about making dinner, and showering, drawing pictures on an imaginary dry-erase board, and planning it all out. There's two weeks left in this campaign, and it's a battle I must win.

Certainly there will be a battle after that one. One I will gladfully engage with all my heart. But for now determination settles about the intelligence, and makes itself at home.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

ACT II. Scene 1 - They just go 'round and 'round.

I was telling Kelly the other night that I seem to have forgotten my own advice not to expect too much from people over here... I don't think it's a novel dichotomy - that between the wonderfully pleasant and providing people, and those that just seem like they are in a careless, different world, it certainly can be documented back home. I just think the distance, perhaps, between the general standards of performance and expectation of service I'm accustomed, and the randomness of here, separates the two presentations so distinctly that I occasionally get flabbergasted. But I shouldn't dwell on the negative...

...It's been too too long since I've let loose some words here. I've been busy the last month or so, between the holidays, and wedding planning, and trips, and going back home, and coming back here, and trying to crack back into the books... you know how it goes...

And it just goes and goes and goes. School's getting more interesting with a more clinical slant to our classes, and a thicker workload. And now, with some sense of what was, ambitions begin, and the glimpses into the future embolden. But I work hard at what's in front of me... And the rest of the time I just try to sleep. Here's to Act II. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

When it rains, it tsunamis.

I've had so many intentions in the last month and a half, some related to this blog. But most of those intentions have drowned under the workload of being a first semester medical school student, or at least the interesting experiences I've had along the way.

I probably sound like a broken record, but I literally have to stop myself every once in a while, and enjoy the sites, the cool warmth at the beach, or just the picturesque views around campus and town, which easily get hidden by persistent preoccupation with relating which muscles attach to the greater trochanter, or which of the superficial veins passes posterior to the medial malleolus, not to mention how one might calculate the LOD score of a family with an autosomal dominant disorder based on a pedigree and a given rate of recombinance. And that's not even scratching the surface. Oh wait, what do I want to eat for lunch? Yeah - that's how it goes. And before you know it, it's time to go to sleep. This is best done at home, and not in the library, face down, on top of your laptop keyboard.

And then the alarm clock goes off, and you drag yourself out of bed, put the coffee on the stove, shower to wash the fragmented thoughts out of your hair, and start the day fresh. You try to do all this in time to beat the 9:00 AM heat wave. There is no rush hour here. But by nine, the temp is sufficiently high that you'll drown in sweat 10 steps out the door. That'll slow you down worse than any bumper-to-bumper back home.

Where was I? Oh, stopping for a moment...right. So, a few minutes ago, I looked at my watch, and it said Wednesday. Well, it didn't actually say Wednesday, but you understand. And at that moment, I stopped and realized that there was but a week left before I was completely done with my first semester. And then all the highlights rushed back, as if I were watching them in 2x Mediasite. The earthquake played back a bit slower, though. Anyway...

There is so much that's been left unsaid, unseen, and to tell you the truth... I have to go study.

So much time, so little to do... wait, strike that, reverse it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Time gets washed down with the rain

I can't believe it's been 3 weeks since my last post. I mean, I guess I can believe it. But part of me can't. Part of me still relives the feeling of taking that first exam. It's still rather vivid, getting off the plane in San Juan and seeing my love again. And it feels all to real remembering realizing I was back on this island to do it all over again after just three days away.

And I've had my share of experiences since. And I keep meaning to come on here and share them, but something always trips me up. I even had a concept map of the blog in my head, and title worked out - it'll seemed like an awesome set of vignettes. Maybe I'll hold on to them and publish a book one day.

Interestingly, as I look down the barrel of my second set of exams, I feel eerily like I did the first time around: excited, sick to my stomach, and ready to get exhausted, all at the same time. But I'm a bit wiser now, and I'd even venture to say, a bit stronger. And I'm that much closer to making it happen, and coming home to my love.

So here's to another lap around the muddy track. ¡Salud!