Apr 30, 2007

He's baaaacccckk!!

Manlocks, roused from slumber, and ever cautious, moves carefully through the microvilli of the Tubuli Recti and Rete Testis, taking the opportunity, from cell to cell, to hide behind each palm-tree like, waving flagellum, careful not to get hit by any wayward coconuts that might be around. With increasing care, he jumps from hill to valley to hill to valley of the treacherous, ankle-breakingly irregular ductuli efferentes before converging on, finally! The cover of the branching stereocilia of the ductus epidydimus.

"Sperm," he mutters. "Why's it always gotta be sperm?"

Yup, it's histology time, again!!!!!

Who's Yo Daddy?

Er... mommy, rather...

Did I mention I go faux urban when I'm tired?

But it's a good tired.

Today's rundown, and I know this means nothing to most of you, and I don't care, because dammit, I'm proud of myself. The following are the things I have COMPLETED today:

Histology: Female Reproductive System. Good freaking gods, we have too much going on down there! Onto the male reproductive system, which should be subtitled "This wouldn't be so damn difficult if you wouldn't give a different name to every MILLIMETER of sperm-duct"
Embryology: (we have a class called "embryology?") Placenta/Fetal Membranes
Anatomy: Two hours of videos: Deep Neck, Infratemporal Fossa, Pterygopalatine Fossa/Nasal Cavities/Nasal Sinuses/Larynx (GOOD video), Orbit
Biochemistry: Hemostasis, Eicosanoids, Cell Membranes.

For reference, that is a LOT of stuff. That is like "Go to Spiceland Mall, grab some supplies, and work from 1 PM until NOW (midnight) kinda stuff. Freaking hell!

Apr 26, 2007

Flipped again...

If it's not Manlocks, it's something else...

I don't like cytochrome P450, despite it's grooviness in ethanol metabolism, because it smacks too much of chemistry, talking about oxygen electron transfers, which is confusing to me, despite the fact that determining the differences in levels of conjugated versus unconjugated biliruben was just something I found to kick ass and didn't send up my "chemistry danger!!!" alarms.

So what does my brain do as I try to study it? Wanders off. Now, gloriously etched in my notebook, I have the adventures of SuperOxide.. namely, a free radical in a cape and underwear. I'm not sure how I got an O2 ion with an extra electron INTO a cape and underwear, but I'm talented like that.

Somehow, Superoxide ends up taking on a hero role, despite his tendency to rip into our genetic material like a fat kid after cookies. In other words, "Here, I'll break... Your DNA!!" all done in a singsongy voice.

So what to do when you have free radicals without a cause running rampant through your cytosol? Why you SCAVENGE them of course! Depicted as a giant superoxide dismutase vulture swooping down on the frightened hero, who naturally has a "Ruh roh!" exclamation bubble.

This scavenging leads to the production of hydrogen peroxide... which still sucks, as depicted by a picture of a crying liver with eyes. But at least we can use catalase (drawn, obviously, as a cat) to attack it... unless of course we have Renee Zellweger syndrome, which means our peroxidases are screwed, and we get into cat fights (catalase fights?) with Catherine Zeta Jones in movies based on popular Broadway musicals.

So yeah, my brain is fried. And after reading all that nonsense, yours probably is too.

The air conditioning is broken in the wet lab, speaking of fried brains, and boy howdy is that starting to smell stellar. Not surprisingly, dead bodies aren't ALL that nasally pleasant to begin with and when you warm them in the sweet salty Caribbean air, the aroma is made all that much worse. Vicks anyone? However, wet lab today WAS probably the most productive one all term because, realizing that there were a ton of hot, anxious, pissy students fighting for room around the demonstrators to get some last hopes for the final, our benevolent professors set up a camera and a single demonstrator and broadcast it to the tvs in the lab, doing an overview of structures they could tag for the exam. Love you guys, seriously.

Four lectures today, which is usually brutal, but today's were really interesting, including biochem, where we're doing a lot of nutritional evaluations and getting to look at the horrible multitude of complications that hit when you starve yourself. We also learned that "kwarshiorker" is how you say "The disease the older child gets when the new baby comes" in Twi (Ghana language). Talk about having a word for everything! I think the Germans have finally been beaten!

Some of you may be wondering whatever happened to poor Manlocks, by the way... Unfortunately, since I haven't picked up a histology textbook, oh... since midterms, this has left Manlocks with little to do except traipse around the pharynx and larynx wondering just how many freaking branches the vagus nerve could possibly have (a lot). It's a jungle in there!

Time Flies...

When you're cramming in your last study efforts in the last week and a half before finals! AIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

I'm feeling PRETTY prepared (not like 'take the tests tomorrow' prepared, but like, I think with another week and a half I can avoid failure), but still trying to avoid the freakout sessions. In the meantime, of course, stuff happens, but I don't blog it because I'm alternating between laziness and productivity, neither of which lends itself easily to blog posting, but let's see....

I went diving on Sunday, and while I didn't get all that much done in the way of getting my study groove on, I did see these little babies!

The vicious, the terrible shark!!! Observe the shark in its natural habitat as it irritably attempts to remove itself from divers and their flashy cameras. Also notable as my first REAL shark (kinda), horn sharks not withstanding, because they're wannabe sharks. Of course, many would state that nurse sharks, despite at least being BIG enough to mess you up, are also wannabe sharks. Phil also pointed out a reef shark during the dive, which was massively cool.

We did our first dive on the Atlantic side and managed to make it to the Hema-001, a ship that went down in 2005. Broken up, but a really cool (and big!) wreck. We backrolled in negatively weighted, swam for the anchor line and then shot down the line before any wayward currents could grab us, and what did we see RIGHT as we hit bottom (around 100')? SHARK!!!! I was an idiot and didn't have the camera settings right for that one, or the other one we followed around the side of the wreck, but Pete pointed out the above little beauty napping under part of the ship, and sure enough, I managed to snap off a few (backscattery) shots before s/he finally got pissed and swam off. Sorry sharky.

Put myself a wee bit in deco, but totally worth it, and I had the air to hang an extra couple of minutes at 10 feet anyway, so my computer (who is SUCH a nag) let me do the next dive.

The Atlantic side was a bit rough and a guy on board was REALLY feeling it (thank you, seasick patch!), so we opted to do the second dive (after giving up on Fisherman's Paradise) on the Caribbean side, and hit Purple Rain, which is absolutely beautiful. COOL little snake eel and the first one I've gotten a half decent picture of, and a stingray!! Everyone saw a couple squid except for me, because as a photographer, I only see what's through the LCD. D'oh!

As a quick addendum, and to quell my parents (love you guys!!!), a quick photo journey around the mangrove swamps of Venezuela. Yes, in that picture, those things on the mangrove roots are OYSTERS!!! There were also crabs, soft corals, starfish and all manner of life. VERY awesome, and more importantly (since I'm heading to bed), not requiring of a lot of text! Enjoy!

Our chariot awaited!!!!

Aforementioned oysters

Can't beat the view!

Mangrove swamp streetsigns. Also... should it be dedicated to the good sir's MANY loves? That sounds like an invitation to an asswhuppin by some ticked off mistresses.

More of grrr's archnemeses. It's like the island was full of em!!

Apr 22, 2007

It's Franken-STEEN

David was a VERY good boy by having his laptop, on the wireless connection, in class, because the powers that be of the Surgery Club announced a suture clinic that had limited space (though since it was limited to members, not TOO crowded), and he hooked me up with a spot by emailing on the double so I got to spend two hours of this evening practicing on ropes with various professional ways of making square knots and THEN, cadaver stitching! It's like sewing, but talking about it in polite company isn't considered to be socially acceptable, and hopefully, there aren't any cats playing with your yarn.

What did I discover? On the practice ropes, I am smokin'... which apparently means that if I don't pass biochemistry, I can make a STELLAR living selling friendship bracelets by the side of a freeway.

Stitching up cadavers? Not so hot... gotta practice if I'm ever going to make it to that surgical residency I'm shooting for, though since I like orthopedics, any discipline that involves power tools can't want your stitches TOO neat... right? Right??? Those needles are little!

But I'll get it! Laila and David are regular pros.

I'd make this entry longer, funnier, and full of pictures, however, I've been lead astray by Sarah, who peer pressured me into abandoning studying to dive tomorrow in the guise of an email saying that Phil told her to ask me if I wanted to dive the Atlantic side of the island tomorrow.

This may not SEEM like peer pressure until you realize that I've never dived the Atlantic side, it's for advanced divers only (thus stroking my enormous ego), and exposure to currents means we may get sharks (the more benign ones, Jaws fans). When I called Phil and he confirmed we'd be diving "Shark Reef" with a try for a dive on the Hema (a wreck), I was completely sold.

I try to comfort myself with the knowledge that I am now completely down with hemoglobin, having gotten my omitted lecture note page the long way by reading it (with the rest of the information) out of the Lippincott Bible. I've re-discovered that the long way of reading the relevant information out of Lippincott, and THEN recopying the lecture notes cements things pretty well.

So does learning about things I've seen disguised as episodes of House. Wilson's Disease, baby!!! Who could forget a disorder that was not ONLY figured out by Hugh Laurie, but (in real life!) gives you copper rings in your eyes? That's pretty cool!

I'm also down with problems in heme synthesis (porphyrias) because they have a historical precedent for the creation of vampire/werewolf myths, and I'm a history nerd.

So that only leaves extracellular matrix, special liver functions, vitamins/cofactors, eicosanoids, and hemostasis to re-cover before Monday before they CONTINUE to throw new material at us because they're... ya know, evil. Hey, it could happen!

I'm also playing catch up in anatomy because there's still a lot I don't know and resting on your laurels tends to bring trouble. As noted, the ear is still a great mystery, summed up best by Eddie Izzard's: 'hmm... the ear... we'll have that cover... hearing and vomiting... yes, that should be fun'

Speaking of vomiting though, I need to go and slap a patch behind my ear to prevent just that. I hear that boat trip is *rough*.

Apr 19, 2007

Ima Spaz...

So... I'm afraid of biochem. Clinically and all, meaning that biochem seems to cause panic attacks in your average Ishie. And yes, I'll get to the rest of the Margarita pictures, impatient people.

I realized this today in anatomy with a biochem quiz review tacked on the end. Why?

I'm good at anatomy. By that, I don't mean that I know everything about anatomy. I just like it and understand it. But when we were going over the ear, it has sensory innervation by about six billion cranial nerves (but there are only twelve cranial nerves, Ishie? Shut up, and appreciate hyperbole). My reaction to that plus the 7 bones that form the orbit? Meh. Need to study more anatomy and keep putting it off, but the fact that all I know about the ear is that there are three bones and a membrane in it doesn't bother me.

Then, we started going through the biochem quiz. I had forgotten some of the causes of orotic acid in the urine, so instead of getting UTP synthase, which ALSO causes orotic acid in the urine, which I knew, as well as knowing that it's a gene with two enzymes on it, I start getting panicked because I forgot about the buildup of ornithine transcarbamoylase or whatever it's called (fortunately the test is multiple choice) despite knowing exactly what the enzyme does, that it's in the liver mitochondria, and what its position is in the urea cycle.

Why, when I know ALMOST everything relating to a question in biochem but still get it wrong, does it induce panic, but having to use Wikipedia on an anatomy quiz because I haven't studied embryo since midterms make me think I simply need to revisit the topic?

Easy answer: the title of this post!

Apr 18, 2007

Mushy Moment...

Okay, again not long, this time because I'm studying my butt off because I'm freaked out about finals.

Mush moment #1: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!!!!!!!!!

Mush moment #2: HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY to my gorgeous little first cousin once removed, Hunter. His is on the 22nd, by which time I will probably be crying into my Lippincott text and regretting every spare second I didn't spend on studying.

More extensive mush moment, termed "#3" to fit with consistency.

I'm not a school pride person at all... when I was in high school and a teacher suggested I try out for cheerleading, I laughed for about twenty minutes... for a number of reasons, actually. As you've no doubt derived from my blog, I can often be classified as bitter and cynical, and hopefully exist in an amusing enough fashion that people don't hate me for being bitter and cynical. I call it my postadolescent broody period, which is likely derived from being a goth in high school (that laughing at cheerleading is making more sense, eh?)

I liked UC Davis a lot, and I was proud of individual accomplishments say, in my department (anthropology), but I also have to say I didn't give a rat's butt when they went Division 1, and I was always ready to bemoan decisions I thought were awful (Hello, Mondavi Center!).

And I like SGU, despite complaining about it, largely because they gave me a chance (for the low low price of a quarter million dollars) when my alma mater sent me a 'thanks but no thanks' freaking EMAIL. Good gods, I didn't do *that* badly on the MCAT.

But.. you saw my above post about Reality TV SGU and why I think it's a worse idea than the return of wide polyester collars. I went to the student government meeting tonight, with some idea of the school's overall negative reaction thanks to 'word on the street' as well as ValueMD and SGUPost, but I wanted to make sure my slice of SGU life (internet people and lovable dorks) were not the distinct minority.

The overwhelmingly negative reaction to the idea at the meeting, the students' concern for their futures, the input of the Caribbean students, etc, really impressed me, even more than I expected to be impressed. Even most of the 'pro' points centered around image damage control (better here than elsewhere) than "I wanna be on teevee!" That doesn't mean any 'pro' people are evil, btw (they just look that way on television), but the fact that a prospect that can be so potentially alluring (you'll be on television!!! People get to experience what you experience and your friends and family, even if you aren't a STAR on the show, get some idea of what you're experiencing!) fell so flat made me proud to attend this school.

Oh, and to thread-starting dude who gave the speech, *I* thought it was awesome and that your points were not 'insulting', but brought up some excellent things I hadn't thought of (not that I was for the idea to begin with), such as distribution of consent forms etc, so good on you.

Even if the show does go on at another Caribbean school and ends up presenting island med school as an anti-academic, orgasmic binge-drink-a-thon, we will have the distinction of saying "Yeah, but we didn't GO to that school. We chose the school that had the maturity to send those vultures packing." Caribbean schools have ALWAYS had a sketchy to nasty reputation. SGU so far has distinguished itself (along with AUC and Ross later, my opinions of which will drop GREATLY if either of them green light this) by not conforming to that stereotype of "island schools", and I'm glad to see that the students, at least, are helping maintain that integrity.


*Addendum: Lest anyone point out the obvious hypocrisy in the fact that my *blog* tends to center around activities, vacations, and drinking, that actually goes to emphasize my point... I am not trying to score ratings, yet just simply relating the events in my life that any of my friends or family would ever be remotely interested in gives an insufficient picture of what medical school is like. Those who know me know that I am a primarily boring individual who likes dorky things, does dorky things, and drinks less than frequently. What do people do here? Study. They study and study and study, and when they're not studying (about 5 percent of the time), some party off the excess. Those are the interesting bits. If there's a major exam, they tend to REALLY study, hence Sandblast being an MTV-worthy affair. What would NOT be shown is the three weeks prior where people only left their dorms, study halls, or library cubicles for long enough to get sufficient sunlight to continue synthesizing vitamin D.

So take that, have it hacked at by the people that did Laguna Beach, cast people that are likely FAR more interesting and attractive than I am, and stick it on national television. Hello, academic death. And again, GO SGU!

The Real World: SGU

We've picked 10 adults to live in dorms, be continually stressed out, and attend medical school while we record their generally uninteresting lives and splice the fun bits into sufficiently interesting bits that it makes Chico State look like a nunnery. Find out what happens when people stop being nice and starting being partial to asinine ideas that might score them 15 minutes of fame, and all it will cost them is a good residency.

The Real World: SGU. Except it would be on the Oxygen network, so maybe it would just be a bunch of female SGU students (and I so do NOT volunteer) talking about menstruation, but more importantly, having to stick together as female medical students because it's a MAN'S WORLD, baby. And then two of them would jump into a convertible, and while being chased by the entirety of the Grenadian police force, they'd drive off a cliff. And somewhere... there would be Brad Pitt. He was even presented in one of our lectures demonstrating the "danger zone" of the face because if you pick a zit there, apparently, you like... die or something. So now, every time I picture Brad Pitt, I will picture him squeezing pus out of a pimple on his nose. Thank you for that, SGU. Fight Club just doesn't seem the same.

On that reality show shit, I'm not freaking kidding. The Oxygen network wants to do a show here and the school wants student feedback, so if you want me, I'll be the one at the meeting tomorrow imitating Dr. Cox from Scrubs screaming "'Nay', 'nay', a thousand times 'nay!'"

The show, Scrubs (and House, which I saw tonight!), by the way, is one of few remaining on television that actually has writers, not having been infected by the virus that is reality television. For those of you that want to write defending how your one reality show isn't like the others, please direct all comments to the Recycle Bin lest I offend too many people by going full rant mode on American Idol, which I keep being subjected to the last ten minutes of because I have to guard the television for when House comes on. And who the hell came up with that pairing??? Standoff was better. C'mon! Peter from Office Space?

No reality shows at SGU PLEASE. It's going to be hard enough being IMGs without being portrayed as a complete school full of rum guzzling (I said 'rum', perverts) party animals. When we're blowing off steam, please let it not be televised?

And speaking of parties, I'll keep blogging the pictures from Margarita. Right now it's anatomy time since my brain has officially overloaded (there was smoke and the smell of burning plastic and everything) from doing NINE DAYS of biochem. Televise that, suckas.

Apr 15, 2007

LOTS of pictures to sort!

Dang, and I'm not kidding either. My new roomie is asleep, so this won't be the longest entry, thus FURTHER dividing my blog into sections because man... Saturday was like a week long vacation packed into a single day... rainforest, boat ride, jeep ride, beach, aquarium trip, more beach, shopping, cute little roadside stand to get Coco Loco (it's a drink, you rampant cocaine addicts), sunset, dinner, strippers... ooh, piqued your interest with that last one, didn't I? That hotel has EVERYTHING!

We got up on Saturday morning, applied COPIOUS amounts of sunscreen and bug spray, packed up our stuff for the trip, which means Nina (Grr) and I had bags, and David *thought* he was just taking a wallet, but as a man, made himself in so doing, the 'spare bag holder', aka man-who-doubles-as-living-purse. Usually, you don't get one of those until you're married, but David is an overachiever.

First off, I discovered that when you arrange a jeep ride... let me retract that. When you arrange ANYTHING, for god's sake, get the name of the guy you talked to and the company, lest you end up in front of the hotel watching the FLEET of jeeps from different companies arrive, and have no idea which one you're booked on, nor where your alleged voucher is or whether you were supposed to get one.

Fortunately, a guy from the awesome hotel ran up and identified us in Spanish, hurriedly handed me the voucher, and vanished. More comforted now, since by that point, I was half-convinced we'd missed our tour, our chariot arrived... a very nice, modified jeep arranged so that people could sit either next to the driver, in a bench seat behind the driver, or sitting across from the other passengers in the back which had an opening one could stand up in and yell "Woo!" at passerbys, which I believe, as translated through the Pimsleur language program means: "I have too much money. Please rob me. I am an idiot American/German tourist..."

Speaking of Germans, there are a bunch of them in Margarita, but not too many Americans, so they seemed to like us largely for the novelty of having us. At least one country doesn't hate us! REALLY wasn't expecting it to be Venezuela, though...

Best yet, unlike the other jeeps that pulled up that were packed so full of tourists, they needed a ring-top to open them, our jeep had only us!!! Not sure how we lucked into that arrangement, except that the guy I spoke to on the phone must have intuited that we were awesome. Yeah, that's it. Or so socially inept as to not be trusted around other people... or the only people on the tour that didn't speak German or decent Spanish... (lots of mainland Venezuela tourists on Margarita too). Whatever reason, it was nice. Private tour!!!!

We met up with other members of the caravan in a little town where we met the main guide, the one who spoke excellent English (and his sidekick, an English guy who spoke excellent German; I didn't ask).

Our guide. Aqui esta George:

He's holding a map of Margarita while essentially saying "Yes, you will be seeing all of this. No, there aren't any hidden charges. Just the 40 bucks... for a 9 hour jeep tour. Yes, gas here costs 60 cents a gallon."

The little town also provided our first of many opportunities to buy muchas cosas, and unlike Porlamar on Good Friday, there were people in the shops!! So prepare for vacation-gifts, family! The town also had the first of three birdie photo ops (also free), providing us with the first glimpse of Grr's hatred of them... tsk... do we now have a vegetarian that only eats parrot?

Polly says: "I'll see you in hell, bitches!"

After Grr's near death experience with the parrot, which consisted largely of her pointing out that birds, inexplicably, have beaks and claws (and feathers), we were off again! (and boy, is Grr going to make me pay for this entry, but not to worry; we haven't gotten to David's hair yet!!)

This time, after getting permission from our driver to stand up in the back of the jeep and yell "Woo!", we were whisked off and up into the mountains, through little towns where people waved at us (even when we were woo-less) and smiled and generally acted like they were glad to see us. Hooray for Margarita people!

We first stopped at a national park that featured mangrove trees, a short hike, and a really pretty view overlooking Porlamar. Observe:

We got drinks with the Caravan, and then back into the jeep to zoom along the Venezuelan highways and backroads until coming to another little vendor area... or so I thought.. turns out it was the dock to our cruise!!! Boat ride through the mangrove swamps, and those little boats were VERY close to the Jungle Cruise boats at Disneyland, but with some horsepower! Yet AGAIN, the three of us were treated to a private vehicle...

Aren't they cute???

But alas, not everyone could go...

Having seen what water does to a midrange Olympus digital camera, I don't even want to CONTEMPLATE what it would do to that thing.

So we'll end here for the night... you don't get to find out about the mangrove swamps yet (or if a hippo rose out of the water and wiggled its ears, indicating we had certainly taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque). Ha ha!!!

In the meantime, my laziness means we're racking up other events... curses!!!

New roommate is one of the St. Vincent 6th termers displaced by the recent crime wave. She's cool, and tends to dispense wisdom about what to expect, which is a DEFINITE plus. She's also from San Francisco and likes the room at subarctic temperatures as I do. No power bill until next term and I wants my moneys worth of my housing cost! Bwa ha!!

Lyla/Leila/Lana lane, but never Layla, which means "sheep" in Arabic thus she doesn't appreciate my singing Eric Clapton songs at her, had her magic 21st on Wednesday! Which we ignored to take her out to dinner on Sunday, because that's how med school works! We WANTED to take her to Margarita with us, but someone wanted to be responsible, stay home, and study. Feh. She also got robbed of her legality milestone since I think the drinking age in Grenada is 18. Poor thing. But I gave her a Venezuelan mask with a vertebrae (not human) stuck in it, so hopefully that'll make her feel better... some chicks like diamonds... I'm partial to dry bits of animal carcass, and I project that love onto others. Be advised if you ever want a present from me...

And speaking of birthdays (and mom's is on the 18th with her unbirthday on the 17th, so don't you THINK that I forgot you and rip out the mom guilt on me), Grrr celebrated turning the ripe old age of 26 on Friday, which she only did so she could be more like me... heh heh... she's going to hit me really hard in class on Monday for this blog entry.

For Grrr's 26th, we all went out to... uhh... expensive hotel across from Spiceland Mall. I don't think that's what's written on their welcome sign, but that's what it's called now. VERY nice restaurant in there, great ambiance, bug spray provided upon request, steel drum player more than willing to play happy birthday, NICE, TIMELY waitstaff who were also willing to ice a cake for the birthday girl, and (drumroll) lambi (conch) that wasn't chewy and steak (David's order) that wasn't the consistency of toothpaste! Damn, there's a reason they're expensive! Though actually, Grr's order wasn't outrageous. I'm going back there soon for that creme brulee with nutmeg ice cream though. When I saw that listed as a menu item, I thought any minute I was going to end up in my biochem exam in my underwear and then I'd wake up with a start...

And speaking of waking up, one cannot wake up without first going to sleep. Adios and goodnight!

Apr 11, 2007

Queremos comprar muchas cosas...

So, I have these Pimsleur language tapes that crack me up, because while they are good about teaching you some really useful phrases and doing so in a manner that aids memory, they also tend to teach you things, in stilted language no less, that will either get you mugged, laughed at, or slapped.

Some examples. For starters, both the Czech and Spanish lessons spend an awful lot of time trying to teach you how to pick up women, including women that are reluctant to talk to you. It also teaches a woman (need to be equal opportunity and all) how, upon meeting Juan, who asks her out to a bar and orders three beers for breakfast, to go about discussing his drinking problem ("Bebe usted demaciado!" or "Sir! (formal) You drink too much!"). Yes, having an intervention with a stranger in a foreign country in a language you aren't fluent in is a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

Also, the translations aren't always spot-on, and they tend toward the lofty. For starters, referring to Spanish as "Castillano" in Mexico or Los Angeles seems vaguely insulting.

With Spanish, at least I have enough training to somewhat moderate the language tapes as in "Hey, wait a second." In Czech? No telling. I can't WAIT to get my ass kicked in Prague. "Please no! I just wanted to know how to get to Voditchkova St!!"

I do like Slappy's idea of learning how to say "Pardon me, but my language tapes have made me inexcusably rude" in every language I plan on attempting with native speakers. Come to think of it, I should have employed that strategy when coupling cognates, training, and Babelfish (ah, Babelfish) at Annexcafe.

But what does this have to do with the cost of piranha teeth on Margarita Island?

Well, we'll start, as is common (unless you're in a Tarantino movie), from the beginning.

Something you should know about Margarita Island aka an island off VENEZUELA if you do not want to end up like the pissed off Ozzies at the end of the trip frustrated that no one spoke any English: They speak SPANISH, people. They will TRY to meet you halfway, but start with an "hola", would you?

Flew in via Conviasa, which is apparently the new official airline of Venezuela, which I thought would mean new airplanes because I'm a moron; however, having flown Southwest MANY times, old rickety airplanes do not bother me, and the service on them was good.

Oh, and note to little Grrr... grabbing for the drink cart to read what "Sprite" sounds like in Spanish is muy malo!!!

Getting through Point Salines airport (Grenada) wasn't too bad. They don't have a Conviasa counter well marked though, because the flights only leave once a week. They also wanted some little form they gave us when we got here, that we were allegedly supposed to hang onto.

I laughed at this assumption, since I'm the most disorganized person on the planet (thus perfect to be a doctor), but laughed again at thwarting myself since as it turns out, I DID have said form... why? Because I haven't cleaned out my passport case in 3 months! I trumped lazy with lazier! It all goes full circle someday, babies. Found the voucher for my laptop import tax too, since I thought my dumb ass had lost it and would have to pay 50 bucks again when I come back to the country.

Boarded the plane and had relatively uneventful flight. Of course, the fact that it was a 40-50 minute flight jazzed me, because I STILL can't believe that I'm only an hour away, tops, from such an exotic place. The entire time, I insisting on annoying fellow passengers by sing-songing "going to Venezuuuueeelllaaa".

Plus, I got a stamp on my passport, BOTH entering and leaving and a new Grenada stamp when I re-entered, and that kind of insanely geeky stuff appeals to me.

Landed at the airport and went about the process of trying to secure an ATM since I haven't had US dollars since a week after I got to Grenada and the Venezuelans are so very uninterested in our pretty Caribbean money.

The conversion rate is around 2200 Bolivar to the dollar. I mention this to make brief fun of ATM paranoia, which I have previously only experienced in Mexico, and hardly to the same degree. ATM paranoia is when you are standing in front of an ATM having a panic attack at the prospect of taking out $200,000 from ANYTHING, as if it's going to fake out to American dollars and your bank won't call you saying "did you authorize a charge for 195,000 more dollars than you've ever SEEN?"

So got a taxi and that is when we discovered the relevance of those language lessons I mentioned above. You see, the only word of "English", the cab driver knew was "Hotel", which is cheating since "Hotel" in Spanish is "El Hotel" (love me, love my cognates).

On my language lessons, I was bemused when it stated "Yo tengo demaciado dinero. Yo quiere comprar muchas cosas." Supposedly this literally means "I have too much money. I want to buy many things." I always translated this phrase as: "I am a complete frigging idiot, aka an obnoxious flamboyant American tourist. Please mug me. Leave me for dead in a ditch. No one will miss me."

Until... leaving out the first part, you realize you want to go somewhere to shop, but you have no idea WHERE. The largest city on the island is Porlamar, which is a proper city in its own right. Unfortunately, it is such a proper city that it has an airport, incidentally, the one we flew into, thus saying "Queremos ir a Porlamar, por favor) (we want to go to Porlamar, please) when you are already IN Porlamar, is confusing.

We settled on "queremos comprar muchas cosas in la ciudad, por favor" (We want to buy many things in the city), and were whisked off to the shopping district, though unfortunately, not the big time shopping mall, since none of us could remember how to say "mall" in Spanish.

The drive was pretty darn cool, and though this segment is desolate, in places really reveals the area around Porlamar as being quite developed:

You know what isn't a wildly good idea? Going shopping in a Catholic country on Good Friday. Observe:

If you press your ear to the screen, I think you can hear crickets chirping. Or perhaps not, because they were probably also in Mass.

BUT it gave us a cool chance to wander around the city without being packaged in huge crowds. Fortunately, I insisted on dragging our luggage around a little longer so that we could explore (since our hotel was 40 minutes away on Playa El Aqua), thus we not only found an open shopping district with stores and living breathing people selling things (like sandals! Beautiful beautiful, I haven't worn socks in three months level sandals!), but check out this beauty!

Booyah! It was gorgeous inside as well, but there was a service going on, and while I felt comfortable enough (the locals are REALLY NICE) to go inside and stand in the back for a little bit, I was not about to start snapping pictures.

Then it was time to hail a cab (which is really easy, and tends to run 30 thousand Bolivar, or circa 15 bucks, for a 30-40 minute ride for three people combined) and hit the hotel:

I was thinking the price on the hotel was a bit steep, not realizing that not only was it all inclusive with some surprisingly decent food (particularly compared to the on campus fare), BUT was a pretty decently sized resort that came complete with at least 5 pools, a stage with nightly entertainment, a playground, a little garden, and a pathway that involved crossing ONE road and you're on the beach! Dang!

Plus our hotel room was really nice, not only sporting a killer bathroom (don't ask):

But also, a sweetass balcony that wrapped all the way around the corner.

Our first course was to check out the beach, which had vendors galore as well as bars and restaurants that are usually COMPLETELY slamming (still were, to a lesser extent), but had been quelled to some extent by the Easter alcohol ban.

Then sunset:

Then DINNER!! This sure beats the hell out of Pearl's!

I'd read on Virtual Tourist that the Jeep safaris were pretty cool, so wanted to arrange one for the next day. Managed to convey that in broken Spanish to the desk clerk (though actually a good number of them spoke functional hotel English and were very accommodating), and the guy called up someone, put me on the phone to a man that spoke excellent English, and offered us a 8-9 hour jeep safari including full circuit of the island, ride up to the rainforest, boat cruise through the mangrove swamps, lunch, trip to the beach, offroading across the desert, and another trip to the beach for sunset. This, he told me almost apologetically, would cost 40 US dollars a person.

Oh. Baby. I love this country!!!! So booked that ASAP and bedtime. Rest of the story (and the best pictures!) come later!!! And you thought you'd find out the origin of the parrot picture. Silly readers!

Apr 9, 2007

Arrrrrr Matey!

Predictable, but meh...

Ohhh, you wanted to hear about Margarita Island, right?? Well, that's later, and let me just tell you, frigging FANTASTIC, by the way. And though there's almost no English on the island, they don't hate Americans! Hooray!!!! And between three people, we can speak enough functional Spanish to do quite well, though I'm sure we amused them by collaborating like we were on Family Feud before saying something.

But I promised you pirates, so pirates you'll get, thus I won't try to do some major megablog that incorporates both, particularly since I have so much Venezuela stuff that I'm probably just going to be dropping pictures in here and there. For now, we'll go with pictures of pirates at the Lance Aux Epines party and a couple pictures of the afterparty at Banana's, because if there's one thing we know how to do, it's drink!!!

For reference, here's what Ishie SHOULD have been doing instead of partying... or instead of going on vacation, really:

But instead...

We were not the only ones to abandon studying. The concept of it left some pirates more vehement than others:

Now, I felt pretty tricked out as a pirate, despite realizing that I wasn't dressed ALL that different from how I normally am. Argh. Or Arrrr.... yes... bad pirate humor. You can't escape it. However, once I found myself among other wanderers of the sea, I discovered that some take it VERY VERY seriously:

So seriously, in fact, that I did not bother to enter the costume contest, but merely vehemently cheered for the dear captain with unbridled glee, since he so richly deserved it just for having the brass cohones to take the real sword and not real pistol through customs and explain them.

As the party started to wind down, having sucked down plenty of grog and sulked that the people at the entry gate stole my kickass "P" stamped on the arm ala Pirates of the Caribbean idea and were drawing on on EVERYONE as an entry pass, I headed to Banana's with fellow pirates (Hawaiian pirate and Sublime t-shirt pirate) over to Banana's.

Banana's is the local watering hole for students, stays open until frick-knows-when, has cheap beer, is on the bus route, and is conceivably in staggering distance of campus, though they recommend not careening through the dark at night while inebriated. I've mentioned it before, but here's pictures:

So there you have it!! Next blog... we begin our trip through Isla Margarita con no margaritas! Muchas gracias, Senor Chavez! But here's a taste of what's to come:

Look! It's a birdie!! We'll get into why Little Grr is the only vegetarian on the planet that hates animals such as birdie in our next blog, though perhaps only Grrr could tell you for sure.

Apr 6, 2007


Well, in a couple hours, but the howling outside is awakening, to say the least... The "Shhhhs" are already starting down the hall. My my, sound does carry through the dorms, as does the voice of the person who got the requisite role of 'bad guy' by asking people to keep it down. Heh heh.

I'm leaving for Venezuela today, which means I'll see you lovely people on Easter Sunday, just in time to uncelebrate Hugo Chavez's impromptu ban on alcohol over most of Easter weekend and hope the bartenders take pity on me. If not, hey, it's all good, right? And I can get trashed Sunday night here.

So, I won the on campus waitlist housing lottery. Heh. I actually got notice on the day (Wednesday) that I signed the lease with my new apartment for next term. I think I'll be happier there anyway, quite frankly. More space, better sitting area, and honestly, the noise in the halls every night does start to wear, as does having to share any part of my domicile with other human beings.

Well, back to bed to bed, but happy token spring holiday to you all and Wahoo!!! Margarita!!!!!!!!!!!!

Apr 4, 2007

Not gonna be homeless!

Now if I can only get the grades that will let me come back! Oh, make it so!

I got an apartment! I got an apartment! I'm heading off to sign the lease later this morning (Wednesday) but I've already put in my down payment for August. Wahoo!

When we last met, I was still desperately trying to find a place to live after abandoning the idea of being grateful for the opportunity to pay 5000 dollars to live in a somewhat rundown apartment with an outside kitchen, and that's if I WON the Grand Anse housing lottery. What I was HOPING for was placement in Superdorm 3 or 4 for the luxury of having my own room, even if I was sharing a place with two other people, who, due to the random nature of the housing lottery, may have been complete strangers. And not large places, though having seen them, nicer than where I'm staying now.

So I won't be going for convenience over cost-effectiveness anymore! After shopping around a bit, talking to some people, I made a call, hopped on a bus, did the tour and handed over the credit card. My place is huge, near Big Fish for added access to being lazy, has a laundry room, twice weekly maid service, basic cable, a tv, microwave, separate sitting area, an OVEN (man, I never realized how much I'd miss an oven with simply making due with a stovetop) etc etc. It's great! It doesn't have Lori's balcony and hammock, but that's what you get for dragging your feet.

And all for about 2 grand less than I'd be paying to live in Grand Anse... and cook outside. So I'm jazzed. I have to pay for electricity though, which means that oscillating fan I grabbed from Spiceland Mall (for 60 EC! Sweet deal!) is going to get some serious work. I think it'll be nice to have my own place too, because I am answerable to no one and can wander around my facilities at three in the morning in my underwear making raw meat sandwiches and singing "Boys of Summer" off-key... or perhaps I've said too much.

Speaking of living by myself, my awesome roommate moved out, which means hopefully she jumped at the enviable shot of getting a single (even with an awesome roommate, sharing the same sleeping quarters with another person can be a drain on your average 24-26 year old) rather than jumping at the opportunity to get away from a not so awesome roommate (namely, me), but I tried to vomit quietly during midterms!

Truth be told, it's kind of strange by this age to be expected to share the *sleeping* quarters for many people for first term. I'm midrange on age, but some people are older and have come from owning homes or living with a spouse to now sharing their bedroom with, in many cases, someone they met the first day they moved in. That's rough. I got off quite lucky with my roommate, but I have heard some horror stories that makes me think that with all the stresses of medical school, the additional interpersonal skills it takes to cohabitate with someone who may be INSANE (like me!). Even coordinating sleeping schedules, when sleep is such a precious commodity in med school, adds that tiny extra bit of stress that med students don't need.

Or maybe I'm spoiled. I dunno. But I have an apartment for second term! Which is where I'll be getting my party on when I'm not over at Lori's mooching off her sweet sweet porch or swiping homecooked Indian food from my new second term neighbor Nina, aka Little Grr (and don't worry; I won't tell the story, L.G.).

Speaking of L.G., she, David, and I (and mom, I'm sure there's a grammar error in there, and I don't care, because I'm hardcore) have rightfully secured airline tickets, AND thanks to David, hotel accommodations, in Margarita Island! So this weekend's a go! The hotel is about 25 miles from the airport, but it's all good. Gives us a chance to see the island a bit, right? (she asked innocently).

I mentioned the pirate party in Lance aux Epines. Since the viewer numbers indicate you guys like pictures, I'll be posting the pictures from that and the afterparty at Banana's on my next blog, but for now, you're just gonna have to wait! Mwa ha!

Apr 1, 2007

Wasted away again in Margaritaville...

Though not on Margarita Island.. YET

Nothing like dressing like a pirate and going to Lance aux Epines to a club you've never heard of before to say "ARRRRRR" with pride, before ditching out to head to Banana's for, you promise yourself, only a half hour or so.

And then it's 5 am and you realize you were intending to cram in another hour of biochem and get a nice head start on your studies tomorrow. Yeah right.

But the main reason for the blog... MY AIR CONDITIONING IS FIXED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pre-party, after they were here, I can't even express how heartily I slept. It was beautiful. And I intend to repeat the experience in the next say, five minutes.