Monday, November 4, 2013

What I’ll Miss. What I’ll Forget.

            I think I already covered my bases previously about my long absences on here.  I took on quite a bit this last term, from Christmas knitting projects to Christmas art pieces to the most significant photography project I’ve ever been a part of (and, incidentally, created).  All of that combined with my efforts to plan our departure (which includes selling most of our possessions in Grenada) and our arrival (getting our hands on a car as soon as we get back to the States has been the biggest headache so far) means that I’ve been stuck at home most days.  Of course I’d like to get out more and swim in the sea and volunteer and just hang out with friends, but those social and recreational urges are being smothered pathetically by my manic need to prepare for life back home.  I keep looking at our return as the jarring moment when my life gets real again.  And I can’t help but think to myself, “Oh [expletive]!  What have I accomplished in the past two years?!”

            So that’s been the goal this term—apply myself to building whatever marketable skills I have that are going to help us through these next few years as we continue to move to … wherever.  Since self-employment is the most obvious decision for me for a family that can guarantee no permanent address, I think I made the right decision in what skills to hone.

            At least I can say that we are getting out at least four times a week for a nice run around the neighborhood.  And we’re actually getting better with that also!  Once a week, we run an extended loop around a cute neighborhood nearby.  It’s a perfect 7+ mile run through fairly quiet streets lined with trees and flowers.  It’s also a pretty strenuous route since it includes a few ridiculous hills.  I’m convinced that there is no limit on a hill’s grade in Grenada.  And running up Campeche hill, I’ve sworn to myself a few times that it must be some insane grade that’s simply not legal in the States.  But, still, in the past three weeks, Ivan and I have shaved 5 minutes off of that run.  Just one week after Ivan said he didn’t think we’d break a certain time, we broke it!  I have to admit, it was a pretty great feeling.  Unfortunately I don’t think the same thing will happen with our shorter runs.  As it turns out, I’m awful at running short distances and can barely keep up with Ivan.  But after about the fifth mile, I could run forever!

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Parents Finally Visited (Part Two)

…continued from the previous post


Split Three: A Couple More Tours


            The Sunday after the hash, Ivan and I took the day off while Mom and Dad went on a kayak tour around Woburn Bay and Hog Island (around the southern edge of the island).  They had a blast and really enjoyed working with the tour guides.

            That evening, we had our “fancy dinner” at the University Club in L’Ance aux Epines (pronounced lance-uh-peen, by the way).  We arrived at the club a little early and walked along the small beach at Prickly Bay, behind the UC.  The sun had already set (6:30pm sunsets here), but we still got a few pictures on the dock.

            Dinner was excellent, even if the service was a little slow (hello, Grenada).  We tried the catch of the day and split desserts.  And we each got to sample a breaded swordfish with papaya chutney.  Very tasty!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Parents Finally Visited! (Part One)

            Once again, it’s been far too long since I’ve last blogged.  I have a halfway decent excuse, though.  My parents came to visit!  Also, I’ve been pretty sick for the past couple of weeks (even during their visit, yes) and am having very little luck shaking the bug (or whatever it is).

            But that’s not really important or relevant to this post.


            Split One: My parents first couple days


            Mom and Dad flew in on Wednesday evening, September 4th.  Ivan and I met them at the airport and took a taxi to their resort, The Grenada Grand (über swanky!), before taking an evening stroll down to “Wall Street” (a strip of financial institutions and other businesses), which is appropriately referred to as “Street Meat” when night vendors take over the strip and sell meats and drinks.  We had some drinks and got my parents some food.  Mom had grilled tuna and Dad got barbequed pigtails.  Sounds gross, right?  Surprisingly delicious!

            On Thursday we had a pretty relaxing time touring around the campus and swimming in the crystal waters just outside of their resort.  We had breakfast at Le Papillion (a French breakfast restaurant) and my parents got their first real taste of Caribbean heat and humidity.

Friday, August 23, 2013

This is the Final Stretch

            We are back, and so am I.  That is, we’re back in Grenada.  And I am back on my blog (figuratively speaking of course, since the Internet isn’t really a physical location, I couldn’t literally have left), with all of my cynicism intact.

            After thirty-seven days in the States, we returned to our petite island on the ninth of August.  Since then, we’ve been very slowly unpacking and settling back into the swing of things.  Ivan’s classes started the Tuesday following our arrival, giving us a few days to spend with friends before locking back in to the grind.

            We started our few lazy days with a trip north to find some of the hot springs with a couple friends.  At the northern edge of the parish of St. Andrew, near Mt. St. Catherine, we found a narrow road that (according to the locals’ directions) would lead to the hot springs.  Everyone we spoke with, though, warned our taxi driver that his car wouldn’t get us far.  When the narrow road turned to one lane, we idled for a few minutes to allow oncoming traffic to pass.  One Hummer stopped and our driver verified with the passenger that we were on the right road for the hot springs.  She affirmed, but warned us, “You won’t get far in this car.”

            True enough, we barely made it another quarter-mile before Bertrand had to pull his taxi to the side and park.  We headed out on foot to find the springs that were just off the road and easy to spot—or so we had been told.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Countdown Time

            I deserve an award at this point.  I’m thinking maybe it could be a cone with a crown-sized diameter?  Maybe big black letters could spell DUNCE vertically up its seam?  And I can wear my award while I sit on a too-short stool in the corner.  And maybe I can snivel a little.
            I am a thoroughly horrible blogger.  Or at least I have been this term.  I look back at my blog and shake my head woefully.  I am just the worst, especially for those family members who are not linked in to networking sites like Facebook.  At least I answer messages on Facebook.  At least I let my family and friends back home know that I am still existing somewhere tropical and occasionally partaking in ridiculously fun activities.  For anyone whose news of me and Ivan is strictly limited to this blog, I hope you’ll forgive me and have, during my intermittent absence, learned of our wellbeing through word-of-mouth.  Now enough of this; I am the blog dunce and it’s time to move on.

            I see that my last post was from the beginning of May.  So I’ll try to take up from there.  First, second and fifth term medical and all vet students had their finals around the middle of May.  (Keep in mind that third and fourth terms are paired together since third term is only about a month and a half long.)  So it was about that time that we said goodbye to a lot of people, some of which we won’t be seeing again for a long time and some we won’t be seeing again ever.  This, of course, is when I become most grateful for the limitless applications of the Internet and its promise that distant friends will be more than just memories.
            While other students were knocking out their finals, Ivan and his fellow fourth term students were taking their second pathology midterm, CPD midterm and microbiology final.  After the pathology midterm, Ivan came home uncharacteristically dejected and, after a quick walk around campus, we found he was hardly alone in his disappointment.  Medical school is a far cry from the undergraduate experience.  It is considerably more taxing, physically, emotionally and monetarily (there’s no point in leaving out the cost—it adds to the stress and expectations these students already manage).  So it’s not really all that uncommon to see students cracking under the pressure—even just a little.  When we walked past the throngs of fourth termers exiting the path exam, I could barely hear a breath being taken in between the cursing.
            Needless to say, we were pleased when the grades were released and Ivan did better than expected.
            He has since completed his nutrition class and is now just taking pathology and CPD.  He spends roughly twelve to thirteen hours a day on those two classes and still runs the risk of falling behind.

This moth has nothing to do with exams, but how cute!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Malaria Complex

            I have not written a blog post in almost a month.  And I have no good excuse.  So now I run into the dilemma of having so much to update, I’m guaranteed to write yet another excruciatingly long post.  Which means you’re going to take one long, scrolling look at this column of toppling words, read the last sentence and, as long as it doesn’t say I’m dying of malaria, close the post altogether.  I’m not dying of malaria.  But I might say that I am.  At the very end.  Just to entice you to read this ridiculous update.
            Where do I start?  Oh, who cares, right?  I’m going to start somewhere in the middle because I can’t remember in what order anything happens these days and it doesn’t really matter, anyhow.
            I went to the GSPCA to volunteer with Ivan and a friend.  And now cute pictures of dogs.

            Caleeco has become more brash these days.  She has settled in, very firmly, to our general area, adopting the married housing apartments and the super-dorm across the drive as her territory.  If any of the other campus feral cats come into her territory, she will end them.  Loudly.  In the middle of the night.  So the numerous dishes and cans of cat food that materialize outside of doorways throughout the day are hers and hers only.  If any dare to forget to offer up their edible token of appreciation for her constant protection and vigilance, she responds with off-key, non-stop mewing.  Whether or not she’s actually hungry or willing to eat is unimportant to the demand for food.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cruising the Caribbean Sea (and other adventures)

            I suppose not everyone is on Facebook, but I would wager that most people reading this blog are a part of the popular networking site.  And I’m also guessing that most of you are my Facebook “friends.”  If that’s the case, then you’re also probably aware of my super awesome weekend.  Want to know more about it?  (That was a rhetorical question.  By the time you’re reading this, I’ve already completed and published this post and the following tale of my super awesome weekend has been written for X amount of time.  So by answering that question, you’re just deciding whether or not you’re going to continue reading. [This is a parenthetical statement inside a parenthetical statement just to tell you that this blog is called Digressions for a reason (Ooh!  Something shiny!).].)  Great!  Here you go:

My super awesome weekend

            At the risk of sparking a world-wrecking argument about when the weekend actually begins, I’m going to go ahead and say that our weekend started on Friday.  The day Ivan’s first set of midterms ended.  I don’t actually remember what we did after the Microbiology midterm was finished.  I’m pretty sure we just geeked-out (that’s like vegging out, but with more dork-friendly activities and less potato chips) and played games all night.  Super awesome, no?
            Okay, scratch Friday.  Nothing really happened except that Ivan finally had a night off!  And we spent it dork-aliciously!
            Saturday the fun started.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Did I Ever Tell You About Cockroach Fight Club?

1.      The First Rule of Cockroach Fight Club is—You don’t talk about Cockroach Fight Club You get the wicked jeebies talking about Cockroach Fight Club
2.      The Second Rule of Cockroach Fight Club is—You never leave Cockroach Fight Club with all of your limbs.
If you have all your limbs, you have to fight.

How much have I complained about our first apartment on the island?  That’s a rhetorical question.  The answer is always not enough.  Aside from the mosquito massacre (1,000 dead mosquitoes in 19 weeks) and the tick-infested, matted dogs owned by a landlord who told me my bout of illness (complete with roaming hives and fistfuls of prescriptions) was a figment of my imagination, we had bug issues.  Ants are annoying, especially barely visible sugar ants that can find a molecule of oatmeal on a countertop and will withstand persistent bleaching.  Millipedes are crunchy underfoot and a pain to clean up.  But cockroaches?  No amount of the most heinous obscenities you have ever heard can possible match my loathing of these shiny garbage-munching ^$#&*^@*&!  Probably the biggest influence in my abhorrence is the implication of filth that goes hand-in-hand with cockroaches.  Having never lived in an environment where cockroaches would be prevalent, I assumed cockroaches are only a nuisance for those people who practice subpar cleaning techniques.  As I have been known to kick people out of my house for leaving crumbs on the counter (that’s a hyperbole, but you get the point), I had a hard time not taking the bugs’ presence as an insult to my cleanliness.
            One of the strangest aspects of their visits was the legs we’d find every morning underneath our wooden knife block.  Peculiar, right?  Once I’d gotten over my complete horror at the daily cleanup of bug crumbs, I began wondering what on Earth was happening in my kitchen while I slept.  Ivan and I came to the conclusion that the cockroaches had organized a Cockroach Fight Club and were holding meetings under the knife block.  For as much as I detest the revolting soft-bellied beetles, I was actually pretty entertained at the thought of them gathering for the spectacle of their own brothers dismembering each other.  I even mentally added cartoon cheering every time a limb was snapped in half or gnawed away at the joint.
            I never used the knives from the block because… gross!  But I didn’t throw the block away because I liked to think they were killing each other under there.  And maybe every time a cockroach croaked, a little insectile chant flooded the countertops: “his name was Cockroach Paulson… his name was Cockroach Paulson… his name was Cockroach Paulson…”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Two Months into Year Two

            Our “long stay” (that is, the longest of our four stints in Grenada) is one-third done.  Two months down and four more to go before we’ve emerged from fourth term and are preparing for the final leg of the basic sciences portion of medical school.  Once that milestone is done, we get to face some real challenges, starting with the notorious U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE Step 1), before lifting our shallow roots and settling somewhere brand new for a couple more years of school in the form of clinical rotations.  Then (do I even need to think this far ahead yet?) we start the process of matching for residency programs and relocate yet again.  Our future, it seems, is paved with uncertainty.  I laugh when I think of answering the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” at a job interview.  Where will I be five years from now?  I will be precisely five years in the future, thank you very much.
            With all of this perfect ambiguity of what’s to come, I find comfort in immediate productivity.  That is to say, I do my best to keep busy because, idle, I do nothing but stress and I’ve already found a grey hair before my thirtieth birthday.  As it turns out, I’m not so bad at keeping busy.  Short term productivity, I have a number of hobbies and a handful of responsibilities that keep my downtime at a freedom level, rather than a boredom level.  Long term productivity gives me something substantial to project into our uncertain future.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Visitors in the Caribbean: Part III

            In my last post, I discussed our island tour with Vicki and Larry—definitely a highlight of their visit.  Despite my best efforts to get right back to the blog and finish up these posts about our guests, I’m afraid I was waylaid by unexpected responsibilities and am only just now attempting to wrap this up.

Division Three

            Following our exhausting—albeit thoroughly enjoyable—island tour on Monday, we relaxed on Tuesday.  Ivan had a much-needed opportunity to catch up on some of his schoolwork and I was able to wrap up a few loose ends with my duties.  Early that evening, we met with Vicki and Larry again for another outing.
            A few days prior, I’d contacted a water tour company by the name of First Impressions to book a sunset cruise.  The boat ride was two hours long, casting off at 4:30, placing the catamaran at its furthest point from the harbor, along the gentle southern curve of the island, just as the sun set, before returning to Port Louis.
            First Impressions sent a bus to collect us, along with six other passengers, from the resort and brought us to Port Louis where the Starwind V was awaiting our arrival.  The catamaran was crewed by three Grenadian men who made an effort to provide the ten passengers with a great experience, from beginning to end.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Visitors in the Caribbean: Part II

            In my last post, I covered our experiences at Fish Friday in Gouyave, wherein Ivan, his parents and I survived the harrowing bus ride and mediocre fried seafood and even managed to peel away from the event a number of unique (if not always positive) experiences.  I can’t say that I intend to go to Fish Friday again, but since it was on my Grenada Bucket List, as it were, I’m happy we went.
            Following our disappointing first lobster experience on the island, we took a friend’s advice and tried again that weekend at the restaurant, De Big Fish.  There, Ivan and Larry both ordered the lobster Thermidor.  Full disclosure here: I’ve only had lobster a handful of times in my life, but if I never eat another lobster again, at least I will have nothing to compare to the best seafood I’ve ever eaten.  If you need a reason to fly to Grenada, here it is: lobster Thermidor at De Big Fish.  Forget the beaches, the spices, the chocolate, the monkeys, the mangoes; just come to this island and absolutely ruin your appreciation for every inferior seafood you’ve ever eaten with a single bite of intoxicatingly rich and tender lobster.
            In keeping with my previous post’s organization:

Division Two

            After a couple days of seaside relaxation and a free brunch at the school, we were ready for our full-day island tour on Monday.  Originally when I had called the taxi driver, I only requested that we be taken to Belmont Estate (the cocoa plantation) and Rivers Antoine Rum Distillery.  When we got in the taxi, though, it was immediately apparent that Leslie (our driver) intended to take us to various landmarks and attractions outside of my specific request.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Visitors in the Caribbean: Part I

            As I reported in my previous post, Ivan’s parents had their vacation right here in Grenada.  Their flight arrived on the evening of February 5th and their stay extended right up until the morning of Valentine’s Day.  Since their departure, we’ve received notice of their safe arrival back home and belated Valentine’s Day dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (of which I am seething with jealousy).
            If you’re anything of an avid reader—or as I presume, more accurately, a skimmer—of mine, you know that I am hopelessly incapable of abridging any of my mundane experiences, let alone happenings that I consider exciting, captivating or, at the very least, noteworthy.  Submitting to my wont to drone on and on at the expense of my waning enthusiasts, I’ve decided to just go ahead and divide our recent adventures into more than one blog post.

Division One

            Vicki and Larry stayed at the Flamboyant, a resort that caps the western point of Grand Anse beach.  The location was ideal, providing immediate access to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and just a short walk from restaurants, the Spiceland Mall and the SGU Grand Anse bus stop.  From their balcony, Vicki and Larry had a (somewhat) uninterrupted view of the turquoise Caribbean waters cradled by the mountainous green island and the constant flow of tourist-laden cruise ships porting in St. George.  During the day, the orange-roofed buildings around the Carenage harbor were as visible as the blinking lights of returning yachts in the evening.  Were it not for the series of thick, black electric cables running just above the balcony, the view would have been perfect.  
Vicki and Larry during our campus tour

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quality Time: Celebrations and Strays

            My last post was two weeks ago and already Ivan has had his midterms!  Third term really is as brief as everyone made it out to be; even more so, perhaps, due to our apprehension at what’s to follow—fourth term and the dreaded Pathology.  But that’s not worth worrying about now.  For the time being, we are enjoying the relaxing weeks we can spend together.
            This evening, Ivan’s parents will be flying in to spend their vacation here!  We already have most of our days planned out, and the remainder, I hope, will be spent just relaxing and enjoying the perfect weather, warm sea and amazing fruit.  They will be staying at the Flamboyant Resort along Grand Anse beach—a pretty ideal stretch of white sand and glassy water for a Caribbean vacation.  I’m disappointed they missed the sailing regatta last weekend, but they will be around for Grenada’s Independence Day.
            Since I anticipate being justifiably busy for the next couple weeks, I figured I’d throw together an update post before slipping off.

            I hate to sound like a broken record, but I really am loving having Ivan around so much.  I know I shouldn’t get too comfortable; still, fourth term’s demands will probably come as a shock.  Last week, we watched movies together—as in, simultaneously, without my having to wear headphones as to not disturb the studious hubby.  There was even popcorn to be had!  Three nights in a row we watched a movie, and thus finished the most recent 007 series, wherein the role of James Bond was played by one Daniel Craig (insert suggestive whistle).
            We had enough free time to go on a hash last weekend.  Read: we ran, tripped and tumbled four miles through a tropical forest and up a rocky river.  We ended the hash sharing oil down (the national dish) with a stray dog and sharing beers with a couple new friends.  It was, as all good hashes are, moderately muddy; so there was a line for a hose to clean off before leaving for the evening.  While waiting, I actually caught myself shivering.  What I’ve forgotten in a year is that the dry season is considerably cooler than the wet, particularly in the early morning and evening.  During the dry season months, Grenada plays host to the brisk trade winds and when the sun is not beating you into submission, the air actually gets a little nippy.  So there I was, in the Caribbean, twelve degrees north of the equator, shivering.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Third Term: Grazing Before the Slaughter

            We’ve been back on the island for over a week now.  Third term classes started for Ivan on Monday; so he’s been at it for a week and, as everyone advised, third term has thus far been relaxing, albeit in a I’m-taking-easy-classes-but-I’m-still-in-med-school relaxing way.  Semantics aside, the free time allowed by an easier workload has given Ivan the chance to get out… quite a bit, in fact.
            But let me take a step or two back.
            In my previous post, I said that I wasn’t able to visit my brother and his family in Pittsburgh before departing, due to that nasty circulating flu.  Apart from being a total downer that I couldn’t spend a little extra time with the kids, this hitch also meant that we needed to drive to Pittsburgh from Erie (two and a half hours) the morning of our 6:20am departure.  I was not, despite my best efforts, able to fall asleep until about 10pm the night before.  Up at midnight and on the road by 1:00am, I had only two hours of sleep.  Needless to say, I had a jumbo coffee copilot for the extent of the drive (yes, I was behind the wheel: one last taste before returning to Grenada, where we don’t drive).  So, what am I getting at?  I had very little sleep and was wired for the two flights ahead.
            We arrived in Miami without a hiccup, spent our seven-hour layover traversing the airport’s web-like layout, consuming the last of our well-loved greasy American food and Starbucks, before the final leg—our flight to Grenada.
            Immigration at the Maurice Bishop International Airport was, per usual, no problem.  Then we reached customs; more accurately, we reached the end of the line for customs.  The end of a very long, unmoving line.  After a half hour of standing in that static queue with our luggage piled next to us, word finally arrived that the customs officers (of which there were approximately two actively working) were searching every passenger’s bags.  Individually and thoroughly.  Just to give you some perspective: the Boeing 737-800 seats about one-hundred and forty-two people.  And that’s about how long the line was—the line in which we were last.  It hardly needs stated, but there was a fair amount of grumbling and riotous murmurs (of actual riots, there were, disappointingly, none).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Brief Respite

            Well, our vacation is over.  Though, I must admit, I don’t recall much relaxing.  I’m not complaining, of course, but I believe we have just emerged from the busiest three weeks of my life.  But now we’re back on the island, (almost) unpacked, (relatively) settled in, and Ivan has already started classes.
            To say that I was excited to go home over the break would be an egregious understatement.  During our time in Grenada, I have and continue to struggle with identity and separation issues.  Most individuals in my position face the same concerns, so it’s nothing particularly unique; I’m just learning how to cope with continuous dramatic change and do my best to adapt.  Unfortunately I’m also learning that adapting is not a remarkably strong skill of mine.  Understandably, returning home was a pretty big deal for me.  Thankfully, Erie, Pennsylvania has done very little in the way of change and we arrived to find our home as ever it has been.
            Before even getting to Erie, we spent our first night in Pittsburgh.  Despite a serious lack of adequate sleep, I thoroughly enjoyed my morning with nephew, Eddie, and niece, Emma.  Particularly enjoyable was sicking Eddie on a sleeping Uncle Ivan and Grandma, then feeding him cookies for breakfast.  (Because what kind of aunt would I be to deprive him of the sugar necessary to send him cartwheeling into deep trouble with his groggy dad?)  Following our horseplay, Ivan and I met with his parents to have an early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (cue the Homer-Simpson-drooling-for-doughnuts sound) for Ivan’s 29th birthday.  That’s right; we are both officially in our last year of adolescence.  I admit, I am not ready for thirty.  For some reason, I assimilate thirty with adulthood—because, let’s be honest, no one actually acts like an adult in their twenties.
            But I digress; that’s a story and a tiny violin for a birthday yet to come.