Dec 30, 2007

More touring

That is, when I wasn't training a toy parrot to either use profanity or recite lines from the Monty Python "dead parrot" sketch. Yes, I'm 12. But that at least makes me precocious rather than being on the fast track to burnout.

It also means I shouldn't feel bad about having to regularly rip myself away from a Futurama marathon on Adult Swim, right?

So, America! I can prove I'm here AND that I didn't end up on the no-fly list due to weird Wikipedia searches:



Huzzah! My brush with Homeland Security. It's also I think one of my only stamps to date that doesn't disallow me from working while I'm here. That one's self inflicted.

I also realized I've been in New England now for well over a week, and I haven't posted a single picture of a church despite the fact that now they're all covered with snow. The horror!



This was part of a beautiful journey to the arbitrary destination of the day: the Vermont Country Store! This one's huge, but to be the "Vermont" country store, versus the per-town country store (quaintness required), they must have done some cage fighting. Behold the outside:



The route there largely involved more screwing with the GPS, like seeing a mountain with a ton of ski slopes, a sign that said "Okemo", and figuring... hey, let's see how well it recalculates the route.

To answer the question, yes, though it gets a little petulant with "recalculating" every time you take a 'wrong turn'. But it also means Okemo is DEFINITELY a place to go before I go back to Grenada! I figure as difficult as it was to navigate SGU with a sprained ankle, it'll be all the more fun with a broken femur. Pictures then as well.

Dec 29, 2007

Robot Parrot

Intrigued by the title? Try actually seeing the toy. Yes, Christmas was a merry one, and netted me the bewildering combination of a professional-grade stethescope and an animatronic toy parrot.

That last bit is made creepier by the fact that the last parrot I spent a lot of time around was this one. To vindicate myself, I didn't actually kill the thing, but I did piece its skeletal remains together into a festive pose for profit, which may be sufficiently damning for the robot parrot to kill me in my sleep.

And yes, articulating skeletons is as ridiculously fun as it sounds. If I thought it were a remotely long term employable market (since I never learned to do true taxidermy), it would be ahead of Alaskan crab fisherwoman in my backup plans for what to do with my life after I've replaced my first patient's heart with a baked potato and have my medical license revoked.

I suppose, we could just restate this as "Christmas was awesome". I'll go with that. My mom arranged a huge to-do; my dad flew up from Winston Salem and we picked out the tree so we had a nice family Christmas with snow on the ground. I got my mom a fancy car GPS unit, which is worth mentioning because I've never had a GPS before and am now orchestrating winter road trips in a two door Hyundai Accent just so I can play with the thing before I head back to the land of no-car. I am getting one the *second* I get back to the USA for good. I cannot even imagine the amount of free time I'll have when I can actually go from one destination to another without getting lost, not to mention the reduction in stress from not having to watch out for cops as I make my 19th illegal u-turn.

HUGE thank you to my cousins, aunt, and uncle, for the Czech travel book with the enclosed crowns, and the beautiful shirt!

It was also a wonderfully practical Christmas, with a huge amount of provisions to take back with me to base simple meals around, since my parents heard about how very poorly I've been taking care of myself when my stocks run low and I'm too lazy to go to the store. Mmmm... food.

For any incomings reading this, by the way, don't waste space on your first luggage trip on food or unless you have very specific requirements, since you are not going to go hungry on the island (unless, like me, you are too useless as a human being to climb onto a bus during finals week). Save your package space for living necessities, since your dorm comes equipped with nothing but a shower curtain and toilet paper, but once you're established, go nuts on the return trips. A good cooking pot is an early must though, since cookingware on the island tends to be low quality and REALLY expensive, and no, as you can likely tell, I am not picky when it comes to what I cook, how I cook, if I cook, and what I eat.

Hmmm.... I'm sleepy and disoriented so I'll probably come back to this tomorrow. Happy Holidays!

Dec 25, 2007

Ahhh, Christmas

And the best way to spend it? Hmmm... what's the opposite of Grenada?











Ahhhhhhhhh.... it's so cold. I love it. I don't have to come in drenched in sweat even when I'm out at 2 in the morning. I actually didn't take these pictures; my mom took them before I got here (hence the date stamp) and I'm so lazy I haven't gotten my camera out yet, but what's really cool is that all of these were taken within about 2 miles of each other, and everything is even *more* wintry now, despite a rain last night that took out some of the snow and layered a nice ice layer on top of everything for ankle breaking excitement. I'm also getting my upper body workout by shoveling snow off the back porch.

So much has happened in a year. Just one year ago, I was sitting in a Denny's having burned across the country in an insane amount of time during an insane time of year, preparing to spend my Christmas dinner in a great little Indian place in Winston Salem because they were the only people crazy enough to be open on Christmas. Mmm... Christmas Vindaloo.

This year, it's gonna be Christmas a day late (accommodating work schedules) but with a prime rib, and enough food to burst at the seams and a little chalet style condo tucked into the heart of ski and snow country. And maple. Lots and lots of maple. Vermont is made out of maple. And snow.

Got a tree today (and you thought I only procrastinated in medical school) from the Ottauquechee Country Store, which sells trees, rock salt, maple covered pecans, gasoline, and ice cream. You know, the essentials. So everything is trimmed and pretty, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing Carol of the Bells on the tv. Perfect. Oh, though leaping through the house yelling "THE BELLS!!! THE BELLS!!!!" every time someone rings a bell is only appreciated by a select few.

Dec 21, 2007

Snow!!!!!!

No, not in Grenada, though that would be something.

I'm home! To a place I hadn't been before. But it still feels like home. I flew from Grenada to Trinidad (Liat) to JFK (Caribbean Airlines) to Boston (American Eagle).

Unfortunately, I spoke too soon and marveled that I'd made it to Boston with no delays or mishaps on behalf of the airlines, just in time for American (why are you after me AGAIN, American?) to lose my bag, and better, claim they never had it since apparently claiming it and dragging it through customs in both Trinidad and New York was just a figment of my imagination. Though I got my passport stamped by both, and the homeland security guy in NYC said "welcome home" while doing it, which was nice. He also didn't strip search me, which was even nicer.

Miraculously, they found my bag in New York (no doubt with their ticket agent), after having a couple new pieces chewed out of a particularly apathetic baggage claim girl, and shipped it to me in Vermont, where I am now. Phew. Traveling sucks. Though the journey was surprisingly good. Liat managed to screw about half the people in the airport by claiming their original flight time was at 6 am, canceling that flight and merging it with mine (at 7:20), which was fine for me, but not fine for their original connections. D'oh. Sorry guys. Enjoy Trinidad. Nice people.

Caribbean Airlines is awesome. Not to be confused with CaribStar, Caribbean Airlines is the official airline of Trinidad, has excellent service, allegedly has a 90% on time rate (my flight was on-time/early), tell you everything that's going on right down to geography and temperature, got my luggage through and in a crowning moment, when I dozed for about ten minutes, I started awake to realize a blanket had been placed over me. Dayam. Caribbean Airlines... so attentive, we'll freaking tuck you in. Unfortunately, they fly like four places. From Trinidad. I'm thinking it's worth the swim. They're looking for investors though, so if you have a boatload of money, please invest in them to reward them for not sucking? I want these guys to take over the airlines for the *world*.

So no problems with them, and had a pretty good treat considering the horror stories I've heard about Liat and my own joyous experiences with Air Jamaica (they lose your luggage for five days, but at least they don't claim not to have it) and American Airlines, who is rapidly going from my favorite airline to my least favorite airline because they're not even screwing up in ways that are easy to predict. Liat will screw with your flight times (so you schedule long layovers) and AJ will lose your luggage (so you pack all your essentials in your carryon). That's what they do. AA is dabbling in everything.

Anyway, arrived in Boston to be met by my mom, who was carrying seventeen different layers of clothes, since the warmest things I could get together were jeans, vented running shoes, and a hoodie. I was a little concerned about trying to run that ensemble through the New York layover, but it turned out not to be bad at all. I forgot that the monorail between terminals had indoor stations so spent the majority of my time browsing shops in my shiny new "Trinidad and Tobago" t-shirt, since I'd sweated through the old one in, you guessed it, Trinidad and Tobago. Nothing like trying to dress appropriately for a 60 degree temperature change.

But when I got to Vermont, there was already two feet of snow on the ground and it started snowing almost instantly when I got here. WINTER!!! I have to put on hat, gloves, jacket, long pants, and scarf just to walk the dog (my baby!), and I love all of it. Everything looks Christmasy, everyone is nice and they're playing real holiday music. Ahhhhhh... Not to mention I can watch Comedy Central again.

Dec 17, 2007

Ambushed again!

More civilized than some of those construction workers on the road to Monte Tout that day though:



Though it's all fun and games until they start channeling the demons of the underworld:



Ahhhhhhhh!! Devil Cow!

Save me, Liat!!!



(Since this is Liat we're talking about, there's a good chance this is the 7:20 am flight taking off). What's the expression? Lost In-between Antigua and Trinidad? Heh heh, just kidding guys... you're going to get me to Trinidad on time to make my flight up to New England, right? Right? It's like a 40 minute flight. Please?

Anyway, turns out the devil cows were protecting this view:



Woo hoo!!! There's a detour to campus from out this way that has overgrown a LOT since I was last there. I think Dave (I suckered him into going with me on my evening walk, which consisted of asking him) and I needed a machete apiece to pass through more effectively, but it deposited us eventually onto the point above the Black Sand Beach (beautiful... deadly...), which rewarded us with the following:



And best:



It looks so much less sinister when finals aren't going on, eh?

So that was today. What'd ya do yesterday, Ishie?

Glad you asked; jumped off this (and four of its sisters; I actually bothered to count this time):



You did all this over the course of two days and those sunset pictures were standard fare; you just bothered to bring your camera along? Then why don't you do anything but bitch and whine?

Because medical school did this to me:



It made you look like a strung out junkie AND would motivate you to take a picture of yourself looking like a strung out junkie during finals week?

Yeah, pretty much.

Dec 16, 2007

Meesa goin' home

I know; I know, I hate Jar Jar too, but I couldn't think of another title.

I'm a second year med student. I can't even believe it, nor does it feel real, nor does it feel real that I'm going to see snow and America and all that, nor does it feel like Christmas even though the reggae buses have been ceaselessly playing something that involves a soca beat with "Christmas!" thrown in a lot. That and the "Top up my phone and leave me alone" song. And the "Beautiful girls, you're making me suicidal" song. Those are pretty much the only three I've heard for the last... oh, month when my ipod isn't on. Current students, back me up.

Exams... I already mentioned neuro. Physio killed me, but I passed it, which is good because I really really really didn't want to take it again.

Pretty much, in the endgame, I realized that I had no CLUE about pulmonary physiology despite spending a really good portion of my time desperately trying to understand it from the sped-through lectures. So I decided to ignore it, and considering I think I got precisely none of those questions right on the final exam, was probably the best decision, since that is a VERY low study for question ratio, compared to endocrine and reproductive which was the opposite. So I focused on that. My main regret was not going over renal, which I initially understood but hadn't looked at in 6 weeks, and the funny thing was despite not getting a chance to review it, I think I got more of those questions right than pulmonary, even though pulmonary was an entire week by itself with hours a day about two weeks before the final for it. Shrug.

Oh, and get West's 7th edition Respiratory Physiology book. It's short and paperbacky but it is inexplicably not on the required booklist; it's the only section we weren't given notes on (versus the others which had long, detailed notes); and they don't tell you need it until you're on the island, and it's not on the required booklist. Blech. Should be cheap though; it's pretty short.

The BSCE, though I don't know how I did on it yet, wasn't too bad, though it could be because physio questions on it requiring math I sort of skimmed because I knew I wasn't going to get them right anyway, but I remembered a lot more biochem and anatomy than I thought. Plus, it's nice to have an exam where there aren't significantly immediate consequences for tanking it.

But decisions decisions... should I report on Dave's birthday celebration on Thursday (his b-day was on Tuesday but mid-finals, so we rescheduled it), Fish Friday, and yet again, jumping off the Seven Sisters? Or should I be responsible, continue getting my stuff together to leave on Tuesday? Decisions decisions.

Dec 14, 2007

Stress? Who me?

So we technically have one more exam that most people (myself included) are more interesting in planning their activities AROUND it than how they actually do on it, so more later after the persistent celebration of *hopefully* not having to do neuro or physio again until the USMLE.

BSCE is at 1 PM, which is a cumulative exam for all of first term. If you fail it, and fail the BSCE 2, and get below a 2.5 GPA, they won't let you sit the USMLE without extra help. Which means people should take it as important, prolly, but a day and a half AFTER respiratory physiology in which you get to relearn anatomy, embryology, biochem, and histology? Right. I didn't even learn embryo the first time around.

So reports more after that because no reason to be tired for it.

Oh, word to the wise... if you're going shopping and use your credit card while forgetting you don't actually have a valid photo ID on your person, when you present the ONLY photo ID you have on your person in place of a driver's license, and it's a PADI rescue diver certification card, TRY to keep a straight face when the cashier copies down the cert number.

In my defense, the giant shark on the front of the card should have been a giveaway.

Dec 10, 2007

Goodbye Neuro!

One hopes, at any rate.

I feel cautiously optimistic about the exam, despite the fact that it was freaking hard and I didn't sleep well (surprise surprise). BUT I also didn't have complete panic attacks before and after. Of course, that could be a bad sign. Or it could be a sign that my stress levels this term have been residually high enough that I don't notice significant changes in them. Let's go with that. I'm also getting used to the fact that I'm absolutely useless at determining how I did on multiple choice exams (boy, did I pick the wrong profession, eh?), so I need to just not bother with it until the shiny day that academic warning comes in the SGUMail.

Though, age of sexual differentiation in rats? Why? I mean, yes, reading off a chart, but why? Maybe I watch too much TLC (okay, I lie, I mean House and Scrubs), but I have never seen a doctor run in and have someone scream "QUICK! Read this chart and tell me if castrating a rat on it's 7th day of postnatal life will cause it to differentiate into a phenotypic female! The patient is coding!!! Dammit, doctor, if rodent gonads aren't important, then what is? NOOOOO, he's dead!!! KHAN!!!!!!"

My celebration of having one (technically two, to count immuno) exam done with consists of studying endocrine physiology and determining whether I'm going to even attempt to go back over respiratory phys tomorrow or just accept that I'm never going to understand it and focus on renal to make up the points. Decisions decisions.

It's finals... you know what this means.

I figured you'd seen the watered down version of what midterms are, but it's time you knew!

Dec 9, 2007

Ugh, no mas

Man oh MAN am I burned out! I've been on the island less than a year and I find myself running after airplanes screaming "take me with you!!!!"

The latent stress seems to be finding this sort of stomach-pit apathy where part of me is working my gosh darned hardest to be the best overall medical student I can be, so I can be on all the "Become a doctor" commercial giving a toothy grin and a big thumbs up, but most of me is like "Just let me get the 57% I need to pass these classes so I can get out of this term and set my notes on fire."

And we won't even talk about physio. What physio? Hence my policy of only putting my best effort into my first exam, no matter what it is, and then merely hoping to ride through the second. Plus, I spent so long doing respiratory physiology and understood so little of it, that I finally abandoned panic and settled into a state of "if it's gonna be that hard, screw it; I'm never going to understand it". Tres healthy, no?

So instead, all I can think is that next Tuesday I'll be on a plane to see snow, family, and a blissful but brief period where I don't have to study or feel guilty about not studying.

This term's been a rough one for almost everyone, as the spike of incidences on the crime reports would suggest. A fight in the library? Geeze!

I'm also beginning to be able to differentiate people by term. The first termers still seem a bit wide-eyed at the island/school itself, and their stress seems to be a lot more acute, like a slightly less pathological version of what I was last term, but still a very hyper anxiety.

My fellow second termers seem to be in a wide, glassy, humorless fog of underlying depression and anxiety with a grim determination to just get this term over with. At least that's the emotion I'm projecting onto them. I've met a couple people that are like "I like this term so much more than last one", but not most of them. About half, like me, rarely leave their apartments, including to go to lecture, and instead sit watching Sonic Foundry, occasionally cursing. Island stuff has gotten far more normalized (like no longer looking up when you here a reggae bus burn off its tires on the roundabouts), but may still be distracted by larger things. They trade ideas on professions to pursue when they fail out of medical school. Mine is "Alaskan crab fisherman(woman)".

Fourth termers seem to have a more stressed second term vibe, but it seems to be overlaid with a sort of 'coping' humor of "wow, I thought things couldn't possibly get worse, but now it's fourth term." A lot of them seem to smoke. Or started smoking. Or are trying to kill themselves in an incredibly passive aggressive way. Generally unphased by everything on the island, possibly because they don't notice with their heads buried in the Robbins book.

Sixth termers seem in half disgust with the island, remain unphased by everything, but may "fsst!" cows out of their ways and into the streets because why go around the thing. They seem to primarily be focused on getting the stuff they've collected over the last two years out of their apartments and marking days off on their "DAYS UNTIL I LEAVE THE ROCK" countdown.

Back to muscle spindles. They're about as fascinating as they sound.

Dec 7, 2007

Incentive to study

One of our instructors came up with a good way to motivate students to do well on a section of the physiology exam:

Is it... the threat of decelling? Of having to explain things to an academic committee? Of compromising your career? Of disappointing yourself and your loved ones? Of having to stay here for an extra six months in a different class with strangers and get a summer break that knocks you out of your scheduled plans?

No.

If you miss the acid/base questions, he will HUNT YOU DOWN IN YOUR HOME.

Dayam. That's some hardcore professoring, right there.

On a completely different note, ya know what's incredibly not sexy at all and makes girls cry about how much they hate a place that's normally quite beautiful while wanting to break the legs of all creatures with a "Y" chromosome? (Knee jerk reaction guys; advanced apologies)

Seeing a girl that's minding her own business, wearing an ipod and sunglasses (which is the global universal language for "please fuck off") while she's jogging in an oversized t-shirt, gathering with all your low life friends while you're supposed to be working your job, and hooting and hollering and making lewd suggestions at her. Better yet, do it right before her exams.

Yeah, thanks for that, assholes.

There's been a conversation on VMD lately about the appropriateness of a school sending out a memo because apparently a LOT of girls (I wouldn't know since I never go to class) were getting regularly sexually harassed by construction workers on campus, complained, and the school is implementing a policy where grabbing your crotch and yelling at women when they walk from their dorms to the anatomy lab is considered to be unacceptable. Go fig, right? And go school!

I got my own taste of this, when stressed out for studying finals, I went on a run yesterday off my normal route because one closer to my home just opened up, and it's a shortcut to Lance Aux Epines, which is a nice place to jog where there are lots of people around.

Somehow, my easily-misdirected butt ended up in Mont Tout, and en route, got yelled at by no fewer than 20 guys at separate construction sites, who really seemed to thrive on the fact that they were intimidating me (couldn't go back the way I came, since it would involve passing the FIRST group of jackasses) while I was maintaining an "eyes forward and down, music cranked high enough to cause sensoryneural hearing loss" policy.

So I *finally* found my way back to the Maurice Bishop highway (that Texaco station has never looked so sweet), went back past home, and went my NORMAL way which has given me few to no problems, so I could sit out on a point, with the school way off to my left and the sunset off to my right, (which is a scene out of a postcard) and had a good cry because I wished I could get the hell out of here and never come back.

Fun, right? And yes, my bad for going off in an area where I apparently shouldn't have been, but didn't know I shouldn't be, and being somewhat lost. Hopefully no tourists ever venture that way, because they'd never come back.

Well, back to studying. That little experience proved an even stronger incentive to get done and get out than the "professor might kick my ass if I get a question wrong" thing. At least he's probably man enough to do it by himself.

Fortunately, this is not all or most of the men here, nor all construction workers, since the ones in front of my apartments seemed more concerned with helping me through so I wouldn't stab myself on rebar while they were paving. But when guys are obnoxious to girls, they tend to be in packs, which REALLY sucks because there's little you can do about it, it's intimidating, and is something that even obnoxious kids are supposed to have grown out of by the age of 14, probably because they realize that no one will ever willingly have sex with them so long as they continue that activity. Honestly... anyone here ever met their wives, girlfriends, or one night stands by standing in protective flocks with five of your friends while all of you scream? Anyone? No?

Dec 5, 2007

Neuro fun fact for the day:

If you are an obese, alcoholic 56 year old male smoker with untreated diabetes and hypertension and you do recreational cocaine, your health may suffer for it. That's pretty much every after school special you've ever seen rolled into one terrifyingly unintelligent patient, eh?

My exam life would be so much easier if they would allow us to put down the diagnoses *I* keep making on the clinical cases like: "So close to death, who cares why?" or "Terminal stupidity and I'm surprised he made it this long" or "FUBAR".

Dec 2, 2007

Diffusion Defects

The title of this post is to illustrate that this term will be burned into my brain for eternity.

In Anatomy in first term, Dr. Curry mentioned that we didn't have to know the supreme thoracic artery ONCE. As a result, I will remember it forever. When I die, that will probably be the only part of me that doesn't decay because it has become that ingrained.

You know what's worse than doing that? Spending 25 minutes over the course of two respiratory physiology lectures going over something you keep saying isn't all that important and then wondering aloud why students constantly latch onto it, particularly when you've accompanied it with charts and diagrams.

Honestly, on the exam, "diffusion defect" will probably be my answer to everything, including the part of the scantron where I'm supposed to bubble in my name.

Nov 29, 2007

Earthquake!

Wow, you really *can* go home again.

I managed to drag my lazy ass out of bed in time for my last physiology small group today (at 3 PM), and had just gotten to the third floor of the library and was standing up talking to Dave.

Then I felt a rumbling...

"Nah," I thought. "They don't get earthquakes here. Must be a high wind."

More rumbling. Students starting to look concerned. One fellow obviously also from California scoffing "Oh calm down, it's like a 2.2" and my response "That's gotta be up near a 3."

(Earthquakes in California are a form of offtrack betting. Everyone does it.)

Apparently, they get earthquakes here. And apparently, the buildings can at least handle the little ones, which is nice to know. Through the grapevine, apparently Martinique got hit by a pretty significant (in the 7s) earthquake, so we got the ripple effect, thus giving students from all over the world a little taste of it.

You know... living on an island that was formed by a volcano, which is 2 miles south of the "hurricane belt", and off a country that is currently fairly politically unstable, earthquake would probably not have been on my top 10 potential phenomena I'd experience in Grenada.

To everyone's credit, no one ran around screaming "We're all gonna die!", which, when I moved to North Carolina as a teenager, everyone seemed to think is what *should* happen during an earthquake... to which my response was "Don't you guys have hurricanes?"

I've also now seen a monkey! A real one!!! Dave's neighbor apparently has one as a pet, and he told me about seeing it, and while walking to his place today, lo and behold, there was a guy across the street with a mona monkey on his balcony!

So monkeys and earthquakes. Unfortunately, both still pale in comparison to impending finals!

Carbon Monoxide is good for you

And I can't wait for the flood of lawsuits that comes from that remark.

I'm trying to cram in a lungful of respiratory physiology because thanks to studying for immunology, I got woefully behind in the classes that can actually cause me to decel in favor of focusing attention on that one that can't. D'oh.

Apparently, when one wants to measure diffusion capacity in the lungs, in order to do it using oxygen, you'd have to stick someone's granny on a treadmill at 12,000 feet, when she ostensibly came in complaining of breathing difficulty, so instead you use carbon monoxide. Which is much healthier. It also causes students to quickly try and scribble down as much hardcore college-level math/applied physics as possible.

But it all worked out in the end because ha ha, the point of the nineteen pages of differential calculus was to illustrate that measuring diffusion has two different parts, a point I had about 15 minutes before my postcentral gyrus shot itself. Thanks for that.

Musical update: My neighbors with the obnoxious mutt that runs across the ceiling all day while someone with ADHD tosses a golf ball to it are currently listening to "My Immortal" by Evanescence. Sigh. At least it's a song I like.

On a completely unrelated note, the earplugs they sell at the bookstore are really good. Fairly comfortable. Ask me how I know that. Then ask me how I know what musical tastes my neighbors have.

Nov 27, 2007

I PASSED IMMUNO!!!!!!

I've got sambuca on my C3R

And now, thanks to the immuno final, I know what one of those is!

So you may be wondering how the immuno exam went. Me too! No answers or grades yet.

Before the exam, I felt pretty good and pretty prepared. I did a bunch of questions, was fairly confident in the answers, and the rest of it.

Exam did NOT feel good though, and apparently didn't to a whole lot of the class since the vast majority were there at the end of it. It was really difficult and took a lot of stuff I did know, and turned it on its head. There were also a LOT of questions where I could only narrow it down to 2, and then it's a 50/50 crapshoot.

On the other hand, the instructor did completely bail me out during the exam, and not only helped my concentration markedly, but kept me from being hauled off to jail for the brutal murder of two proctors.

You see... I'm easily distracted/irritated (really? Naw), and a little OCD anyway, which tends to be increased at exam time. An example is that I was bummed because I got "Exam D", which I hate, since I far prefer "Exam A" or even "Exam B". Yeah, I'm weird that way.

So I sit down in the exam in the far right corner of Bell, near the door... exam starts and I jam earplugs in, which by the way, is a fantastic thing to do. Highly recommend it.

The proctor for our area, at first, seemed content to pretty much stand directly behind my right shoulder, occasionally moving part of himself in our out of my peripheral vision.

FREAKING GROWL. Do NOT stand over my shoulder for long periods of time. It activates my punching reflex. I don't like it on a subway and I certainly don't like it when I'm trying to concentrate. There was an empty desk next to me, and I'm not cheating or I'd get better grades. Go away.

But this is also a somewhat (though hardly unusual) personal tic. So I resigned to ignore it and tried to focus my attention away from my right temporal visual field (thank you, neuro), wish for hemianopia, and try to focus.

At which point Proctor1 is joined by Proctor2, since 2 apparently decided 1 wasn't being annoying enough by himself. More wandering in and out of my peripheral vision... and I don't mean walking back and forth... I mean hovering right at the outskirts of my vision and moving just often enough to constantly divert my eyes in that direction.

And then they started whispering/chatting. Like two feet from me.

Really? I mean... really? We can't have a watch on our desks, but two people presumably getting paid for the sole purpose of shutting up for two hours and babysitting adults just can't swing it? Plus, if two of the proctors are tying themselves up with each other, doesn't that mean any of the students in their monitoring zones can then pull out "The Idiot's Guide to Cheating on Immunology Exams" with impunity?

But at this point, the prof rushes up, leans in, and I couldn't overhear it, but I suspect it wasn't nice, and they separated the gab session and Proctor1 had to resign himself to merely perching on my right shoulder again.

I was honestly already grateful at this stage. But then... student bathroom time, which meant more whispering, and the opening and the closing of the door outside next to me, and I'm just trying to focus on the exam without a killing spree and the prof comes up, genuinely sympathetic and says "Would you like to move seats?"

To which my answer was something like "Oh my god, YES." So she took me to the front row toward the middle, which, with earplugs in, was dead silent, and no one could stand over my shoulder, plus the proctors up front only walked purposefully back and forth occasionally through my central vision, which for some reason, doesn't distract me at all.

Then at the end of the exam after scantrons were in, she asked me if it was all right where I moved, and said that she felt so bad for me where I was. All quite genuine.

But this is an immuno exam. I'm so conflicted.

It is nice to have an instructor acknowledge that this is stressful and it is hard, and a distraction-free environment should be preserved. Things like a foot bouncing, people whispering and giggling in the AV booth (anatomy) or whatever, can kill when you're stressed, so having an instructor sympathize and change the situation is pretty good.

But I also may have completely tanked the exam simply due to the "holy crap"ocity of the questions themselves. Gah.

So what to do with your grade hanging in the air and a grim feeling that appears to be shared by a good percentage of your class? Remember the pathways:

Taking immunology exams activates depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety activate the urge to say "screw all of this" and go out with your equally depressed anxious friends. Groups of depressed anxious friends activate the urge to drink, activating Shiraz (which was great) and sambuca, the latter of which I'd never had before, but think viscous Italian uzo. Good stuff. Hey, tonight's liquor brought to you by the letter "Z". ShiraZ and uZo. I do love the wine bar, particularly since the sambuca was free. Due to a simple error on our bill which was reversed anyway, we got to do a sambuca shot with the owner. Salud!

Nov 26, 2007

And End to Immuno?

Could it be?

Why yes!!!! In under 12 hours, this alphabet soup nightmare will presumably be over! All I have to do is pass, which I think I'm in a good set to do right now, though time will tell. I've been doing questions ALL day. Seriously... ALLLL Day. And I feel like my head is full, but sleep helps cement things. Right? Didn't we do something like that in neuro? No? Bueller?

And what kind of night of enjoyment do I have to look forward to in the aftermath of what I SO hope will be a victory? I have my SOAP notes for physio due Tuesday. So Monday night I get to... diagnoses a fake patient and write up a report on it using diagnostic skills I haven't learned yet because I've been ignoring physio for a week and a half to study immuno. D'oh! It's like a party... without the alcohol, friends, beach or fun.

But for now, I'm focused on the end being nigh. Oh let it be nigh... Summer with biochem was bad enough, but Christmas with immuno is a whole other kind of horror story.

Nov 23, 2007

I'm learning things!

The study of immunology is quite fascinating, and I've found out that I'm actually learning many things, such as:

1. Donkeys like eating tamarind (and fingers)
2. A circular saw outside makes an annoying alarm clock
3. Don't split on a pair of 10s
4. The warning symptoms for an impending psychotic episode are exactly the same as those exhibited by most students the week before exams
5. Given enough time, you will end up dressed from hat to sandals in SGU gear because you're too lazy to shop anywhere but the bookstore and your clothes fell apart in the Caribbean climate
6. Procrastination is an art form

And tonight's "facts", brought to you by the people of Old El Paso tortillas, who think the world's population is too dumb to dress itself in its freshly acquired schoolgear:

7. Chicken should not be cooked rare
8. Tortillas must be taken OUT OF THE PACKAGE before they are microwaved
9. How to fold a burrito, thanks to the diagrammatic instructions in back, for those of us who have never eaten one, never seen one made, and have never been to Taco Bell, but want to be as culturally accurate as possible while we're eating our pre-packaged, pre-made, microwaved Old El Paso tortillas.

Nov 22, 2007

I'm being hunted...

There is a mosquito in my apartment the size of a short-wing hawk. She periodically likes to pop up, fake out a "I'm gonna land on you" thing, and then once I yelp, throw my notes aside, and go after her, she disappears into some unforeseen location to stalk me again the moment I put my stuff back together.

This thing is large enough that I suspect she's already taken a fair sample from me and just really liked the taste of tea and despair. I imagine if I do ever manage to end her miserable life, it will throw up a blood spatter like I'm making mosquito torture porn (Cary Elwes, what have you done? I can never watch the Princess Bride again).

If she would just pick a spot, bite me, and then screw off to some other location to bother others, that would be fine. It can add to my other 15 bites that I got from neglecting to use DEET every time I run (I want dengue; I do; it has a funny name), but I think this one is just lurking around and nipping me periodically, causing small but numerous welts, which I dislike. What also sucks is that it's 2:30 in the morning which means I KNOW she could just slip right on over to another apartment where there would be a complacent sleeping victim just waiting to get anemia, but no. She enjoys the hunt, the thrill, the adrenaline rush. Do mosquitoes have adrenaline? Do they have alpha and beta receptors? Moving on.

Happy Puritan Imperialism Day! For those horribly offended, I didn't like Thanksgiving any more last year, so get used to it. This is one of the few holidays I don't miss, except for the fact that it marks the time when I begin enjoying Christmas decorations and stop being pissed off by them.

See, I LOVE the holiday season minus the whole gorge yourself on boring food one, and I love the materialistic trappings of Christmas. Like everyone else that has written anything about Christmas ever, I don't enjoy getting my 4th of July infringed on by it, so I resolve this by being jaded and pissy about Christmas trappings and drowning out mall music with my ipod right until the day after Thanksgiving. Then I can throw myself into them with unabashed joy without suffering the "Season Sickness" that affects so many. Though I haven't gone out on Black Friday since I discovered Amazon.com in the late 90s. A discount on children's toys just isn't sufficient for me to suffer the ruptured spleen from the elbow of a soccer mom. I need my secondary lymphoid organs to combat my mosquito-related infections.

Of course, in Grenada, Thanksgiving is in October, which makes me conflicted by this "no celebration until after Thanksgiving" standard, because starting the holiday season in late October is still annoying.

Speaking of "in Grenada", "in Grenada", I got bitten by a donkey on my evening jog.

Now granted, it was totally my fault, didn't break the skin, didn't really hurt, and I was feeding it while it was behind a fence with the help of an awesome woman that's the wife of one of the vet anatomy professors, but saying "When I went to medical school, I got bitten by a donkey" just sounds so much more hardcore. I'm *Thankful* (see, I can be festive) for not getting donkey rabies, since donkey bites are the leading cause of donkey rabies. You don't wanna know the second, but it happens a lot in Tijuana.

I've also rediscovered that few things are cuter than baby donkeys. Awwwwww.

On the donkey feeding, thanks to cool wife-of-prof, Marty, I learned that there are two types of tamarind, and the one that isn't made into suspicious-tasting candy is a really good base feed for farm animals. I mention this because it means I now know exactly one fact more about feeding donkeys than I do about immunology. A shame that the final on Monday is on the latter!

Nov 18, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

It was pointed out to me that it has been a year (and a day) since I started this blog. I'd like to just take a second to reflect on the number of typos, grammatical errors, and stress outs over that time period. Ahhh, memories.

How innocent I was back then... well, sort of. How I went to Spiceland mall with a look of majestic wonder rather than the "Hey, delayed committing hari kari another day" blank expression. How I marveled at the goats being used as lawnmowers rather than contemplating smuggling one past customs because it'll save me time and money.

It also reminds me that in a little over a year, I'll be done with basic sciences and be ready to move back to cooler climates for a while, though if I do some rotations in England, I will still technically be on an island where they drive on the other side of the road. Does England have reggae buses? Does New York?

So it's back to studying for me, but I wanted to update with yet another arbitrary milestone.

Nov 16, 2007

My birthday ROCKED!

Oh yes, it did.

Quickly, to the fellow student that contacted me on the insomnia post, I posted an answer under yours, so I hope that helps.

Continuing... it's been a couple weeks of birthdays here. We celebrated Ashley's for lunch at Coyaba, did Jay's 24 hour birthday bender, consisting of him jumping onstage (after invitation) with the band at Prickly Bay resort and rocking his trombone (no, seriously; he has a trombone; that's not a euphemism for anything) after lunch at La Bo, the surge party at the Victory Bar which we absolutely did NOT have to carry him home from, and so it goes.

For my birthday, let me tell you what my ideal birthday was: I wanted my parents to email me, some nice birthday emails from my friends from afar, a pleasant dinner at Aquarium with my friends here, House night, and then dive the next day.

Simple. Basic. Happy.

My birthday bitchslapped my expectations and I have awesome friends, parents, boyfriend, and cooperative marine life.

All sorts of emailed well wishes, which I greatly appreciate to you guys out there, and thank you. Got a birthday card from my mom via snail mail. Went to small group, which went well, and still was happy, but didn't really feel like it was my birthday, and that was fine.

Met up to head out to Aquarium with Nina, Ashley, David, and Jay. It's a pretty restaurant with good food that I've forgiven for contributing to my persistently troubling ankle sprain I sustained first term. Everyone was wonderful, we had a great meal, and Ashley whipped out the brownies she'd baked herself and stuck in the candles as everyone sang happy birthday.

AWWWWWWWW.

Dave had apparently been in cohorts with my mom, she'd sent him a bunch of presents for me, that he'd finished wrapping (they had to be partially open because of customs), so I could have wrapped presents on my birthday which he whipped out and presented to me at dinner.

AWWWWWWWW.

Then Dave pulled out his present to me. At first, I pretty much saw an SGU bear in surgical top and mask (it was commented that he can't be a real SGU student because he's not wearing a scrub top with shorts and flip flops, like most people in gross lab) that they sell at the bookstore that I'd said I thought was really cute and thought about getting, so I was thrilled he'd remembered that...

Until I realized that strapped to its chest; however, was an American Airlines ticket envelope containing a US dollar, 5 EC, 5 Euro, and 10 tien gulden (Netherlands Antilles). He said something to the effect of him knowing how much I like seeing new countries and getting my passport stamped (I'm a dork), so over Easter, we were gonna do four countries in four days: the US (Puerto Rico), St. Marten (Netherlands), Sint Maarten (France), and Anguilla.

So essentially, my jaw was hanging open for the rest of the meal, the check for which he picked up. Whoa.

And Jay piped up with throwing in the departure tax, since he's apparently known about this and is just that awesome (along with Nina, who's gonna teach me how to make foccacia because I'm addicted to it) at keeping secrets.

THEN it was back to my apartment for House night, which we arrived just in time for.

Woke up the next morning, still encompassed by the awesomeness of my friends and family, to go diving.

Dived the Bianca C, which I've wanted to dive since... well, before I came to the island the first time, and five minutes into the dive, the divemaster pointed up to indicate there was a giant spotted eagle ray above us. We moved toward the forward mast of the ship, which was fairly thick with barracuda, as shown:



This wreck is many degrees of awesome in and of itself, by the way, and it was also my deepest dive at max depth of 125 feet, and to scuba divers out there, yes, I did feel pretty narced. I'm apparently a cheap date.

Second dive was beautiful and involved spending half of it chasing the first sea turtle I've seen since coming to Grenada, which came close enough to me that I could touch its shell.

All in all, a birthday that was supposed to be a "I hope this day is actually less suckful than the usual day to day activity of being under constant stress" became seventeen different varieties of awesome. Thank you to all!

Nov 13, 2007

My birthday present...

Is having to attend a neuro small group today! Wahoo! Now, if they want to give me a really *good* birthday present, they'll make attending that small group worth like 100 points that they give me for being so goshdarned awesome that I don't have to prove I know anything.

Come to think of it, could that be my present for physio too? Or instead, really. I'll study neuro, like double time, so I get the hot neurologist knowledge, if it means no physio.

I'll even take immuno, really. Granted, it's only 2 units, but it's 2 of the worst units.

I turn/ed 27 today, which somehow makes me feel closer to 30 (by the slight remainder of my ability to do math), yet 30 feels hideously far away because it'll mark the end of medical school, which feels nothing like close.

In celebration of my 27th birthday, not only am I doing an Aquarium party Tuesday night and diving the Bianca C on Wednesday morning (which couldn't possibly produce ill effects), but I have my first wrinkle! Wahoo! It's in a really awesome place too. There is now a little line across my forehead in my fairly token "What the hell?" expression, which I apparently have made more throughout my life than I was aware of, but it's a badge.

It's also notable that my face has remained relatively unlined until setting foot in a medical school. I'm betting on liver spots, chronic hypertension, and an aortic aneurysm by May.

Nov 10, 2007

Relevant Information?

In Neuro, we have a list of the Levels of Unconsciousness, which differentiates between lethargic, obtunded, stuporous, and comatose. While this is interesting (as neuro has been now that it's taken a hard turn away from the tracts of the body, which is slightly less interesting than reading a road atlas), I fear it does not have the same relevance to medical students as it should. So I present the Second Term Medical Student "Levels of Unconsciousness":

Neuroscience: Patient can be fully aroused, but would be easier to arouse if lecture were not typically at 8 in the morning

Renal Physiology: Patient cannot be fully aroused. Though visiting professor's use of vaguely dirty words, or himself as a clinical example, may raise consciousness level.

Endocrine Physiology: Sleep-like status, not aided by the fact that professor is eradicating his own character tics in the interest of being a better public speaker. Counting 'Uh's (George Bush Sr.) or 'Okay?'s (prof) keeps people awake!

Immunology: No purposeful response (normally due to either a lack of patient's presence in lecture, or patient's subsequent suicide after attending a lecture)

Addendum/Edit: it has been brought to my attention that the correct term would be "rouse", not "arouse", which means something entirely different, but may net me more blog hits. Since the "arousing" parts are cribbed directly from my lecture notes, I think I'm going to leave them as an homage to grammar/usage. And it's still loads better than the GI physiology lectures were.

Addendum/Edit Jr: Jogging in Grenada earlier made me ask a question I never thought I would have to ask: If given no other option than to pass far closer to a cow than you would like to, which end of the cow is the most dangerous? As a follow up question, when choosing which bovine is going to be the safest bet for the above question, do you run closer to the bull itself, or do you run closer to the cows, which may make the bull think you're trying to get up on his women? Because having to take a leave of absence due to being EITHER kicked or gored would probably emphasize the wrong aspects of this medical school to a residency committee.

Nov 9, 2007

Czech it out

Oh, bad and easy puns. You can tell it's 3:30 in the morning.

Prague meeting!!!! On Wednesday, there was a meeting for all the people that got into the 2008 Prague selective, and we got to talk about how awesome Prague is going to be, ask questions, and meet Dr. Stransky, who not only runs the selective but owns the local bar. Now, that's handy.

If you want all the official info, and not my "never been to Europe before OMG" gushing, go here.

If you want to hear from someone who's smarter than I am, and a better writer than I am, and has actually *done* the Prague selective, go here.

Still around? Suckers.

The meeting didn't tell me all that much I didn't already know, but just sitting around with other people confirming that this was actually how we are going to spend our summer was awesome. Also got a little more elaboration on the selective itself, such as students being able to do anything from observe the goings on to scrubbing in and holding retractors. Whoa. I cannot contain the potential awesomeness of that. While, of course, being in Prague.

The selective will be from 8-12 five days a week, with two afternoon seminars a week. I want that schedule when I'm a real doctor. Dr. Stransky also cautioned us that if/when we take weekend trips to Berlin, Vienna, or Budapest, we should be careful to make sure we're back in time for Monday morning rounds because the trains can get delayed.

There was also a segment on consulting local consulate/embassies, oh, and we'd be meeting the American ambassador, etc, and it was around this point (and the whole "be careful not to get stuck in Hungary over the weekend" thing) that I realized I was hearing all this while living in Grenada, closer to Africa than I am to California. I spent last Easter on a weekend trip to Venezuela. I was inconvenienced by having to sit on the floor of an airport in Jamaica, and I'm getting home for Christmas by way of Trinidad.

A year ago, I had been to Canada as a baby, border cities in Mexico, and one dive trip to the Philippines that was under the protection and arrangement of my friendly local Sacramento shop.

So it's become bizarre. A really awesome, mildly scary "wow, I feel like a globetrotting rich kid despite buying lentils because meat is too damn expensive" bizarre, but bizarre nonetheless.

Before I came to Grenada, I always had this "ooh, ah, how incredible" for the people that went to this school and were constantly flipping between countries, and thought their lives were so infinitely fascinating to listen to, and couldn't understand why none of the students seemed to think of it that way. And it's funny how quickly a lot of weird stuff becomes standard (hey, don't you hate it when stray dogs run at you?; Oh wow! You have a blender???), and then every so often, it slaps you in the face just how far removed from your normal dynamic you are, and the Prague meeting was one of those moments. Heh. It is surreal to me that in eight months, I may be trying to mangle "Where is your pain?" in Czech.

Nov 7, 2007

The most awkward conversation ever...

Was probably on House tonight... to paraphrase:

"So, remember that time you tried to attempted-murder me by stabbing me with an infected needle?"

"Oh, you're going to bring THAT up?"

What, you thought this post was going to be about medical school? No way. The hypothalamus is boring. Really really really mondo important, and yet. BORING.

But does this episode and the newness of next week's episode (of House) mean no writer's strike on Fox? Will Scrubs be spared as well? Because if I don't get my share of cranky, dysfunctional, drug-addicted tv doctors, I go mad, uh... madder.

Nov 5, 2007

NOO!!!!!!!!

My life has been stripped of all meaning.

Just say you won't take out House or Scrubs. PLEASE!!!!

Combine this with the gained knowledge that the immunology midterm will be cumulative, and you MAY see my lifeless body hanging from the nearest palm tree.

Nov 4, 2007

The Sonic Foundry Effect

From the time most of us are in elementary school, we have noticed characteristic tics or expressions in our teachers, and this carries onto high school, college, and medical school.

This also, since our childhoods, has allowed us to relentlessly make fun of and imitate our instructors in a relatively mindless way. Not quite as mindless as taking easily-molded last names and screwing with them "Yeah, Mr. MORON!", but still pretty easy marks.

But with Sonic Foundry, one of our physio professors (whom I really really want to like because he's charismatic and tells jokes, yet really really want to hate due to the atrocious things the physio exam did to my brain) decided to pass time by watching himself and then headed his next lecture by making fun of his own catchphrase, and swearing off it with clever jokes.

Well now, that just takes all the fun out of it, right? So he's trying to reduce the number of times he says "Okay?", which he perceives (and from the laughter in the class, many seem to agree) as annoying, though it's never particularly bothered me, and quite to the contrary, allows me to imitate him while differentiating between my version of his voice and that of the Croc Hunter, because my imitation Oz accent only sucks slightly more than my imitation Trini one (which inexplicably sounds Scottish). I'm bad at accents. But I'll never stop trying.

Yes, that's right: Sonic Foundry: Enabling professors to remove lecture tics since 2007. Also enabling me to discover all of this at 3 in the morning, rather than when the lecture was actually given.

In other news, new X-Files movie! (former fangirl squeal) Though I'm hoping they forego the inevitable disappointment of a plot and just have the two main characters make out for two hours. Don't ask.

In other other news... jogging at dusk, fun. Jogging after full dark, not so fun. Dark, scary, and break-ankle-y.

Nov 3, 2007

Two more

"Jogging at sunset" pictures, if blogger cooperates:



Beats a treadmill...

So what do you do when you have Rock Fever and about half the people in your class seem to wanna kill themselves?

When you're tap water looks, well, like this:



When you feel the way you hate; when you hate the way you feel (anyone remember that Bush song or am I the only former Gavin Rossdale screaming fangirl?)?

I go for walks. Right at sunset. If I'm feeling particularly down (or productive, pick one), I jog. Because jogging at dusk never caused anything bad to happen to anyone ever. It gets me to reset; it boosts my mental health; it floods my body with endorphins; I actually get to listen to my more headbangy music, and I make my ankle swell up so I can go "ooh, peripheral edema".

But basically, it's hard to stay depressed when this is the scenery during one route of one walk that took nearly exactly one hour:





Pretty, eh? And definitely soothing But you have to wait for the other pictures, also taken around the same time, because blogger is being a buttmunch. Which kind of screws my mojo, so time to come up with a method to figure out what on earth is going on with immuno. At this stage, I'm torn between Ouija and reading tea leaves, since either is a better option than going to the "oops, taught them out of order but not going to really remedy that" lectures.

Oct 30, 2007

A fun neuro group?

For a time in small group, we've been doing neuroanatomy, which essentially means we get to go over structures in the brain and thumb through a badly arranged atlas to identify things. Snore.

Now, we get to move onto testing each other for stuff and playing with the "My First Doctor" kits. Incidentally, this week, I get an "A+" in eyes. My pupillary reflex rules! Stay tuned for next week when I fail auditory though. Curse my ipod and it's unreasonable loudness!

Getting to test each other for stuff is all kinds of fun. I'm also in the smartass group (awesome), which prompts things like:

Student doctor to tutor: "Do you want me to turn the lights off for this?"
Student patient: "Why? What are you going to do to me?"

Oct 29, 2007

Recreating!

At last!!

And because I am yet again behind in updating fully on my blog, I find myself with too much to blog! Should I do the Venezuela thing and just say "screw it" and start from scratch? Nah.

Thursday was Grenadian Thanksgiving, which is apparently a celebration of the anniversary of the American invasion. Um, awesome?

I suppose because a bunch of us are homesick, have classes on American Thanksgiving, are in post-midterm slump, and like eating, we decided to have a party, and throw it at my place because I have the crash-pad and (gasp) a television. More for the space though. This also marked my first official party at my place, and a dinner party no less. Ooh, ambitious!

Naturally, I was afraid it would either be a complete disaster, or no one would come, but despite short notice, TEN people came, fit nicely into my apartment, Rich actually managed to find a football game on television, there was no fighting (unlike the Thanksgivings I see on tv; my family was never big on fighting on Thanksgiving, because my family's never been big on Thanksgiving), everyone brought goodies, and Nina went on a cook-a-thon and made foccacia, pies, cheesecake, etc.

And what modern party would be complete without youtube? BWA HA HA HA.

In addition, the post-party "trashed" state of my apartment amounted to a few dishes in the sink, about half of which were already rinsed due to guests actually *washing their own dishes*. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the knowledge that everyone I know is more polite than I am.

The spread!

And that was before about half the guests arrived.



So Thanksgiving was great fun.

To completely break with that thought, back to the waterfalls I've been waxing on about.

Saturday, as noted, Lori, Lisa, Nina, Jay, and I ventured out on school buses to reggae buses to go up to Grand Etang rainforest to hike to the Seven Sisters waterfalls.

About a mile before the Grand Etang Lake turnoff, there's a little hill up to a staging area for the waterfall hike. On Jay's advice (he went there last weekend), we hired our wonderful guide Ivaldo, and paid the fee to the waterfall area. This whole thing, bus fare included and not including celebratory beer/ting, tallies up to about 40 EC (~$15 US) a person for a full day of hiking, funning, and jumping off waterfalls, including transportation. NOT bad. The trip there is really pretty too:







She who crosseth the falls of death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side she sees.

The staging area looks like this:







Unfortunately, when you're in a location as beautiful as this, you must defend that beauty at all cost:




We also got pre-hike use of the local kitten:

Kittens not only make good hat protectors:



But are excellent when added to salad:



(No kittens were harmed in the making of this blog)

The person swinging the mean machete (and wondering why on earth I'd want him to pose for such a terrible picture) is Ivaldo, our guide. He points out all the cool stuff (windbreak trees, cinnamon trees, nutmeg, cocoa, leads anyone needing assistance very carefully along the trail, and oh yeah, may have saved my life, but that's later.

The way the waterfall trip works is that there's a pleasant, not too bad trail out to the lower two waterfalls, though it was muddy from some recent rainstorms. What's nice is that a most of the steep places have carved in stairs, otherwise it would have been like trying to climb up a waterslide:



Still slippy, but a definite plus.

Grr was breaking in her hiking shoes, thus thought we were trying to kill her by sticking her on the double black diamond trail, to which I present this image:



And before she kills *me* for this, I kid! I kid! Grrr did quite well and left us in the dust on the way back. Plus the tiny tiny little girl in diapers was carried for most of the trip by her father, lest this picture gives the *impression* that this trail can be traversed by tiny tiny little girls in diapers. I think after this blog post, by the way, I'm going to end up having to buy Grrr ice cream before she speaks to me again.

I found the scarier parts of the trail were things like this:



But we had Ivaldo to make sure we didn't trespass, thus end up with "No head" just in time to be the Headless Horsestudents for Halloween. Yipes.

Minus threats of death, the trail was stunning:





When you get to the base of the two waterfalls, there is an additional trail up (necessitating a guide, versus just having one recommended like the regular trail) to the top of all the waterfalls. The only way to see all 7 is to jump off either 5 or 6 of them, since I don't think there's another way down that doesn't involve cutting a path through steep, rocky, virgin jungle, so once you've jumped the first, you're committed!

Now, I didn't think the trail to the base was too bad, but I like hiking and was in the girl scounts since I was a tiny tiny little girl in diapers and they make you go on forced hikes to prepare you for the inevitable extortion death march that is cookie season. The trip to the top was rough! There was a family from the UK accompanying us, and two of their kids (probably around 12 and 14 were the only ones besides me and Jay stup...er brave enough to head up it. FUN, but difficult, particularly we were all going barefoot in bathing suits. There was not an inch of me below the neck that wasn't coated in mud after scrabbling up. Fortunately, you get to rinse off in that cool cool water. Ahhhhh...

The trip along the stream that makes up the waterfalls is also a bit rough. There's a place where you have to kind of shimmy along a rock wall where Jay unfortunately fell and did a real number on his ankle. Then proceeded to strap a smile to his face and do the hike and jump through all the waterfalls. Good gods. One missed step at Aquarium last term and I was down for the count. I certainly wasn't going to trek anything, and if I'd had to, I probably would have been whining the whole way. In fact, I think I did just for the walk to the taxi. Ow!

I forget if there were two standard straight-in jumps or one, which is why I can't remember if I jumped off a total of 6 or 7 waterfalls. One of the waterfalls required a shallow dive head first, which was a little spooky, but didn't hit any rocks, and one was a required cannonball due to some shallower rocks, which I touched, but didn't get hurt on.

There is one area where there's a pretty rough flume and you have to half crab walk over it by putting one foot on each side of it along the rocks. Being the token clumsy girl in a group with a dude and two overly-athletic kids, I got all the guide-attention for "please don't fall in and die", so he was telling me where to put me feet.

Did okay on that part. Then, we got to the BIG waterfall. For reference, jumping off it looks like this, though this video is sideways. To my credit, the second guy jumping in the video *also* nearly fell off, though in a different spot, so I feel vindicated. Thanks, random youtube guy.

We were crossing the stream at the top to get into the right position, when I slipped on the rocks. This doesn't seem like a big deal, except the current was stronger than expected, and I started getting swept toward the, ya know, giant bone breaking drop. I squawked (no really, I think that was the sound I made), Ivaldo grabbed me, righted me, I slipped again (though not as closely), and so he essentially pulled me up where he was standing, muttered something (though smiling) and crossed himself. Heh heh. Whoopsie.

Jay jumped first. Then the circa 14 year old girl jumped and made me feel like a chump, because she looked down said "That's quite scary" and leaped off without a second thought. Her 12 year old brother took a little longer, but tipped a little too far backwards and the water gave him a pretty good backslap and he came up crying. Poor kid. At 12 I would probably have been crying at the thought of the first waterfall and would have had to be carried back. I was a wimp.

I was looking off the edge for a little bit to see if he was okay, got the big okay sign and... for a split second, had no problem but hesitated just a WEE bit too long and then had time to think about it.

Wow, that's a high waterfall! So I stood there, then my thighs started shaking a little, which was spooky because you have to jump out to make sure you don't hit anything, so then I yelled "ONE TWO THREE" and SPLASH! Actually "ONE TWO THREE" (seemingly eternal drop to water) and SPLASH!

WAHOO!!!!!!! Then it was off the one at the bottom and success.

So all waterfalls jumped. Headed back to the staging area a steady victor (if a hesitant and clumsy one).

Oct 28, 2007

Bonsai!!!

Bonsai kitten? (no, to those who apparently haven't been to an myth debunking site in the last decade, the site isn't real)



No, I'm not an albino; I've just been inside studying for midterms.

"Bonsai" is also what you yell when you jump off a thirty foot waterfall. At least, it's what you think, because the only thing you yell is "three!" because it takes counting to three to get your terrified ass to actually jump.

I spent most of today, as promised, jumping off waterfalls or hiking to waterfalls for the purpose of jumping off of them. Since I'm also diving tomorrow as part of my post-midterm, finally got enough sleep to go on a bender- bender, no details until then! Ha!

But I can tell you that I dived off BOTH these waterfalls (and nearly fell off the top, aka, tallest, because I'm an idiot), and four or five of their "sisters" (there are seven sister waterfalls, but I can't remember whether you can dive off six of the seven or all seven:



More Sunday evening!

Oct 27, 2007

Jumping off a cliff?

Yup, that's on the schedule for tomorrow!

"But Ishie!" some of you may say. "Shouldn't that have been DURING midterms?"

Alas, no. But tomorrow (today, technically, I suppose), I'll be hiking up the Seven Sisters waterfalls, and jumping off a number of them. And no worries, allegedly people do this all the time without death or injury, so I'm feeling lucky.

So I'll be able to update with waterfall stories, jungle pictures (hopefully) and stories of the Thanksgiving-That-Isn't-Thanksgiving-but-kinda-is party later.

Wish me luck!

Oct 23, 2007

If one examines all the symptoms...

Checking for upper and lower motor neuron function, checking muscle tone, checking anal sphincter reflex, checking cremaster reflex (don't ask), determining if there's a Babinsky sign, determining whether paralysis is flaccid or spastic...

We conclude that the patient is a big ol Faker Fakerson.

Good thing we had all that training, eh?

In other news, there is the storm of the century (except for Felix) going on outside, with one "earth shattering kaboom" so significant that I wandered outside, only to see neighbors of mine doing the same. Sheesh.

Med school before the internet?

There's no way! At first, I was jealous of the long-ago docs because they got to become doctors before half the biochem and immuno stuff was discovered, which is so wonderful.

Nothing makes you hate scientific discovery quite like medical school, and nothing is sweeter to the ears than "And A becomes B, but no one is sure of the mechanism". Versus "A becomes B, and thanks to research done two years ago, we now know the seventeen page esoteric, difficult to conceptualize process by which it happens. This WILL be on the test." Damn! Is it wrong to beat someone with their own Nobel Prize?

Which is all the more impetus to get into school as soon as you can... before they discover anything else!

But to continue my first thought, I am no longer envious of the ago-docs because WE HAVE INTERNET. I have come to the realization that it is impossible to pass medical school without the internet, particularly if you're as lazy as I am and have no intention of bussing it down the the library to page through reference books to find something that's confusing you.

Nope, instead, while watching a neuro lecture on Sonic Foundry, in the air conditioned comfort of my apartment, I realized I didn't quite get what the instructor was saying about testing clonus... so it was onto Wikipedia. Hmm.. kind of hard to visualize that test. Oh wait, Wiki has a link to a video SHOWING it being done. Huzzah.

So I suppose I can trade all the obnoxious discoveries (like in immuno, any fragment of anything containing the letter "w", meaning "workshop", meaning "discovered in the last five minutes and will change names by the end of the week) for my sweet sweet internet.

Oct 22, 2007

Not quite the "bender"...

Problem being that during first term, you finish midterms and then have a week before Sandblast. In second term, it's the day after your last midterm.

I was planning the sort of self-indulgent bender that killed Hendrix, when I discovered something: Midterms are Tiring.

Friday after the exam? How about some lunch at the mall, a trombone concert outside, home for some vegetation, and then a quiet dinner at the local pasta joint after getting kicked out of Coyaba because they suddenly decided to enforce a dress code (in the Caribbean??) and were going to grant us the distinct honor of sitting off from everyone else in an area that wouldn't get waited on, but we'd get to pay the same price. Er, no. Then? Hang at my apartment with friends.

So Saturday; THAT'S the day everyone parties, right? I can sleep off the no sleep before neuro, wake up at noon and party hard? Except, it's kind of rainy, I WANT to feel like partying but really don't, and my cupboard has been stripped to nothingness by midterms. So I'll just go shopping. But that takes awhile, and then Sandblast is over, and oh, gosh darn I missed it and it was pretty expensive, and there's an after party at Aquarium, but there's parties like that all the time, so no need for this one, so quiet night hanging with Nina and watching Fight Club. Ahhh...

This, at first, made me feel like a loser (the skipping partying; not the hanging with friends), until I realized that nearly all the second termers I ran into were doing the same thing. That week sucked.

So how'd it go? I passed everything. Which means Ishie Happy. It also means Ishie's standards have lowered significantly from "I'm going to try for straight As" to the post midterm/pre grade posted "Gee, I hope I get an 'F' high enough I can bring up during finals".

Neuro... sucked for me, though the test was fair. Was going to pull a deliberate (Ishie, Ishie, you never learn) all nighter to learn everything I could, particularly in neurodevelopment, which I'd been neglecting. Because cramming the entire night before an exam during a week where you've used up all your mental reserves and are living off dry honey nut cheerios because you ran out of everything else is a good idea.

This meant in the exam, I got the distinct pleasure of nearly passing out. Fantastic. Stress + sleeplessness = Health problems. I was sitting there, heard humming, thought "no way", started sweating profusely, and nearly dropped. Asked for a restroom run, which of course is highly moderated (thanks, cheating microbio students that screwed up the privilage of going to the bathroom by yourself, for that, by the way), and they apparently had my number and I put my head down and drank water, which recharged my batteries, so I burned through the rest of the exam.

Someone, fairly close to the exam, said "Don't expect neuro to be any easier than physio", which considering physio was harder than giving birth to an rabid adult Saint Bernard is less than encouraging.

Er... your results may vary, but neuro was easier than physio. It was not easy; don't get me wrong, and was made far more difficult by virtue of it being the last exam. But while the physio exam almost seemed deadset on punishing you for knowing ALMOST enough but not quite enough, the neuro exam seemed to, for the most part, hit on key points that were made. The questions were fairly straightforward with a few curve balls, and many of them answered other questions within the test. Oh, though guys? Venom properties? An aside paragraph in one handout? One question, but c'mon now. Ask me about tetanus. I know about tetanus.

But so my "party weekend" was really more of a "Ahhhh.... I can relax and lounge without feeling GUILTY" weekend. Which I really like. This was punctuated today by diving with Lori. Hooray for diving! I went out on the water for the first time in 6 months and just the sensation of being back in the water was wonderful. No pictures I'm afraid, since I was reorienting and didn't want to mess with my camera.

And tonight? I learned to properly make lentils, which should carve a substantial slice off my food budget.

Oct 18, 2007

Caribbean example

When it comes to sound, we have a twofer Caribbean example!

If you recall, for illustrating sensitization of the area around a burn, we have "burning yourself when you light your stove".

Now, we have sound waves traveling through water when you're snorkeling at Grand Anse Beach, hear a high-pitched whine, and want to avoid getting hit by the boat that's inevitably heading towards you, as well as the delay in sound when you're overlooking a valley and a man is cutting down a tree with a cutlass/machete.

All in all, this professor is pretty cool, and is the same one who let a student jab him in the eye to demonstrate corneal reflexes. But will this offer be made again *AFTER* the midterm?

Note to self:

When trying to demonstrate the vestibulo-ocular, and optokinetic reflexes to yourself, do not stand up and spin around really fast in a circle, especially when you're full of tea.

On the plus side, now I *really* can visualize my endolymph sloshing around. Glurgh.

Oh, and I passed immuno, which means if I don't tank the final, I never have to see the alternative pathway of complement again, which fills me with a joy I cannot adequately express.

Oct 17, 2007

Two Down!

Today's Final Jeopardy answer is: "The class you've avoided all term to study physio that is about to bite you on the medulla oblongata."

Hmm... What is Neuroscience, Alex? No... really. Because I need to know by Friday.

Verdict on Physio: OMG, I FREAKING PASSED!!!!!!!!! To repeat myself. Hardest. Exam. Ever.

Today was Immunology, a 100 question test consisting of first order questions I probably should have known more of the answers to. As to why I DIDN'T know a lot of them, it's probably because by the time I got to studying the TWELVE interleukins (creatively named "IL-1" and up, that we needed to know, my head was so full of letters and numbers that they all just spilled out into a jumble on my floor and I was too lazy to pick em up.

So Jay showed me a great video that represents not only the kind of logic you need to understand immuno, but represents pretty much what the inside of my head looks like after two midterms.

My brain kind of rebelled last night, and I think it was after I wrote down the following:

"Classical: C4a & C4b; C2a & C2b; C3a & C3b; (C5a & C5b) to C3conv:C2aC4b and C5conv: C2aC4bC3b"
Alternative: C3a & C3b (tickover); Ba&Bb; (C5a & C5b) to C3conv:C3bBb and C5conv:C3bBbC3b"

Yeah. Wrote that down. From memory. On the front of my summary notes. I still have it. And then I looked at it, and told *myself* to go to hell. Because I've seen more coherence on an eye chart. I could make more sense out of the letters on the scantron sheet. So I tried to concentrate after that, and decided to go over the interleukins "quickly" because I knew they were important and would definitely be on the test, and that pack/cram regurg stuff is usually something that works pretty well for me, but I think I overestimated my ability to do it this time around.

I can't really complain (well... that's not true, but you know), but the exam was pretty fair, I think (just know the disproportionate crap for T cell differentiation and interleukin secretion, but though I wasn't good with it, it didn't come as any major surprise that it was there), and you get flat told the sort of thing that's going to be on it. The questions are all first order and don't require much logic, some are the same ones given as samples in either the summary notes, the text, or in lecture, but do require you to separate letters and numbers that don't really mean anything to you, and I'm not that great at it.

But I do actually think I passed, and it didn't give me the brain aneurysm feeling I had after physio, so it's onto neuro!! And then a 48 hour bender!

Oct 15, 2007

Ouch.

First exam: Physio.

Having heard this was a notoriously difficult exam, I devoted a pretty disproportionate amount of my study time to this so that I would feel REALLY confident when I took the test, understand the concepts, be able to extrapolate, and all that.

Yeah... that exam was so bloody difficult, it made the MCAT seem like an "Is he that into you?" Teen Beat magazine quizlet. And the weird thing is that except for the like 20 minutes of yesterday I spent reviewing heart sounds and EKGs (you know you're in trouble when calculating the mean electrical axis of the heart is the EASY part of the exam), I have no idea how I could have studied differently or better for it. The seven HOURS of yesterday I spent dedicated to understanding all the relationships didn't seem to help, but it's also not like the quiz was full of minutia. I don't even know how to categorize it. 17th order type questions that required a form of logic I'm not sure I have... can you just let me be a doctor yet? I promise I won't be a heart doctor!

What also didn't help was that the test was exhausting. Halfway into it I wanted to be done, and not like "Gee, I wish I weren't taking a test" kind of done, but a "My brain is overloaded and I'm getting to the point where I don't even CARE what the answers are anymore." For every question, I ended up feeling like I knew about 85% of what the question was talking about, and understood what it was, and what it related to, but when it came to that final "So then, what color are the bus driver's eyes?" endgame, that bridging connection just wasn't there. So I dunno. I would have preferred the Histo approach with "Hmmm... had time to cover that lecture. Know the answers. Hmm... did not even LOOK at that lecture once, thus am completely justified and comfortable with getting every one of those questions wrong... because I didn't earn it."

This one, it was more like going to work for a couple weeks, doing your best, and then they just decide not to give you a paycheck this time around. You earned it, but too bad. Unfortunately, neither medical school, nor likely the USMLEs, let you by on what you EARNED. Instead, it's on what you KNOW. Whether that takes 20 minutes or 20 years.

What's weird is that tests with 150 questions, while grueling, were much less so. Know it or don't. Next question. Not "I know most of this, so let me spend 10 minutes working out three perfectly logical conclusions to this problem, and have all three of them be answer choices." I also kept having those moments Dr. Curry joked about with us last term where you read the question with the answers covered, feel confident in an answer, and then realize that the "right" answer isn't there. Awesome.

And two more exams to go! On the plus side, if I don't fail physio completely (as in the final), I don't have to LOOK at cardiovascular again until the USMLE. Hallelujah.