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.

            Long term, we anticipate ending up in New York City for clinical rotations.  We should be placed sometime around May or June of next year.  Because preparation is my department, I’ve mapped out the subway system relative to the hospitals Ivan will be working with and created a Google map marking each location and finding a central area to begin apartment hunting.  With safety and location in mind, I found a number of studio apartments in Brooklyn (all large dog-friendly) with rent equal to or less than what we are paying on campus.  Granted, they are unfurnished, but we will make do.
            May or June of next year is the furthest I can project any productive planning.  From then on, who knows?  Closing the gap between now and May, Ivan should take his Step 1 in March of next year, after a few months of intense studying.  Between finishing the exam and clinical placement, we have one last wonderful break before medical school collapses on us again and we are buried until years of work will finally give way to real vacation (maybe when we’re, oh… forty?).  We’ve already decided that a portion of that last gulp of freedom next spring will be spent on one last real vacation.  Aside from being utterly thrilled at the prospect of traveling internationally again (and outside of the Caribbean), I also have yet another substantial foothold in our future.  As we move closer to April 2014 and I can begin making reservations, those footholds solidify and another part of our future unfolds.
            Our final flight home is already booked for December 18th of this year.  In time for not only Christmas, we will arrive two days before Ivan’s thirtieth birthday.  As luck would have it, his birthday lands on a Friday and, as he will have just finished his first two years of medical school, I think a little soiree might be in the works.  Finishing basic sciences is a pretty big deal.  Turning thirty is also a pretty big deal (or at least I’m going to pretend it is).  So I’ve got a little more tangible future to plan.
            From the most difficult preparations (should we rent an apartment we haven’t even visited?) to the most trivial plans (should the party be mustache-themed?), thinking ahead gives me motivation and propels me forward so that I’m doing more than just going through the everyday motions.

            Then there is the short term productivity—in other words, what have we been doing since Vicki and Larry left.
            Third term ended and we celebrated by lounging in the lap pool at a friend’s house.  I can say with certainty that it was the first time I have been in an outdoor pool in February.  And surrounded by palm trees nonetheless!

            Ivan and I joined one of SGU’s intramural kickball teams.  Ivan played for Kickaholics Anonymous last term as well, but this term was a first for me.  It was a perfect opportunity to showcase my phenomenal lack of coordination.  And phenomenal it was.  After a couple games, I decided my skills were better applied to scorekeeping and subbing any missing players’ positions.
            On Sunday, Ivan and I were guests for a free dinner at the University Club as part of Ivan’s induction into the honors society, Iota Epsilon Alpha.  We now have a pretty certificate and a momentous amount of respect for the chefs at the University Club.  That beef wellington was out of this world!

            Again, I am so happy we live on campus where pets are not allowed.  I’m afraid I would never make it off the island without one of the many strays I’m constantly driven to feed.  Last term, there was a cat that lived on campus (one of many strays at SGU) and had a litter of kittens.  Unlike many other strays, this cat was outgoing and friendly with the students.  Her kittens were playful and, naturally, adorable.  While she was pregnant and nursing, the students fed her.  But then, once the kittens were gone, no one seemed to want to feed her anymore.  Ivan and I began to notice her more and more this term, and it became obvious that she was getting thinner.  Because I am who I am, I bought some cans of cat food and began carrying them with me so I could feed her any time she showed up.  Apparently that was an open invitation for her to stalk me, find out where I live and wait outside my door for me to feed her in the mornings and evenings.
            We have named her Caleeco (kah-LEE-ko), a play on her coloration: calico.  The notch in her ear may indicate that she was spayed by the SGU vet students.  I hope that’s the case because I’d really like to find Caleeco a home.

            The Photography Club had its first excursion of the term to Mt. Carmel falls at the beginning of the month.  Ivan and I took the opportunity to get a little island exploration in before getting too heavily into the dreaded fourth term.  With ten other club members (and a few invited guests), we made the trip up to the parish of St. Andrew and hiked along a worn trail to the waterfalls.
            Earlier in the week, the SO organization made the very same trip and a few of those SOs were in our company that Saturday.  Acting as tour guides, they led us along the path and gave us some extremely invaluable information.  For example, when we came across a wooden pallet-turned-bridge, they advised we cross one at a time.  Considering the give in the springy boards, I’d consider the advice well-placed.

            Before reaching the falls, I heard a rustle in the leaves next to me.  Assuming it was just a lizard, I glanced over my shoulder.  I was completely shocked to see a snake gliding away.  That was the first snake I’ve ever seen on the island!  (Because of a superstition, locals generally kill any snake they come across.)  It was a solid dark grey and about two feet long.  I was completely taken by surprise; otherwise I would have tried to catch it for some photos.  After all, that might have been the first and last snake I’ll ever see in Grenada.  Before the thought occurred to me, though, it had slipped into a heap of banana leaves and out of my reach.
            The first waterfall we stopped at was a few stories high.  We neatly crossed the rocks that made a walkway through the creek and took photos at the base of the falls where a mist of water thrown into the air created a sort of pre-dawn haze.  Ivan and David were the adventurous ones, of course, and ventured beneath the falls before following the rest of the group downstream to the smaller falls.

             The natural slides at Mt. Carmel contribute immensely to the popularity of the falls.  At the end of the stream, the riverbed drops in a smooth slope into a deep pool and it is easily accessible for swimming and sliding.  We spent a little while at the pool while a few of our group slid and swam and the rest of us mingled around the edges of the water, taking pictures of the undergrowth, the rock formations, the waterfalls and the artifacts of human presence marked by, of all things, discarded pants.

            Ivan is already being taxed heavily by fourth term.  Without his availability, I’ve moved on to my own devices and am back in the swing of things with painting, knitting, writing, photography, etc.  I’m leading the book club this term and am still volunteering with the orphans on Mondays. 

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