Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Digging Deep

The countdown to the Holiday break is on!

Block 4 exams are over and now it's final exam prep time.
Time to dig deep and find those last drops of energy we aren't sure we really have.  Time to lean on the resilience that we've all been building up during our time on the island.  Just when we thought we had nothing left to give, we had to jump right back into the thick of things to prepare for final exams.  I would be lying if I said it wasn't difficult but it's not impossible.  We each have so much inner strength (and faith) that comes out when we need it most; like now.

Our families and friends are waiting for us to rejoin the land of the living; waiting for us to respond to emails, texts, phone calls and Facebook messages.  Once we reconnect with them, all of the stress and struggles of the last few months will be a distant memory. 

I pray the the time goes by quickly so we can get the break started, yet slowly so we have time to review everything.  From 15 weeks of classes I'm guessing we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000-7,000 Power Point slides to review for final exams!!  Guess I better get to it!

Six more days and we're done...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!!

Thanksgiving in the Caribbean is a little different than in the US.  There's no cool weather, fall colors or a day off from work/school.  There will also be no Black Friday madness to deal with come 3am at a mall near you!  We shouldn't need a designated day to show extra love and compassion to our family & friends but it's nice that this time of year we can focus on serving others and being thankful for our many blessings...things could always be worse.

Here at AUC, the administration recognizes that many students are missing a special time with their loved ones.  So today, the dining services staff prepared a Thanksgiving Feast for the entire student body!  The Thanksgiving lunch is complete with turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, veggies, and of course dessert. The special touch is that the faculty actually serve the students!  Today some of the special servers included Dean Testa-the Medical Sciences Dean, ICM preceptors, Professors and a former St. Maarten Ministry of Health Representative. What a great way that they show their appreciation to the students.  We had some time to socialize with our peers and share in a communal meal.  That's not something that happens very often so it was a nice change of pace.

While the folks back home are braving the winter storms, we are thankful for the opportunity to fulfill our dreams.

Until next time... 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TGIF--Thank God It's Fourth---Block!

"Block 3 will bring you to your knees"--that's what we heard the first week of 4th semester.  Could it really be that bad?  After successfully fumbling through first semester not knowing what was really going on, how to study, what to study, when to study, and the constantly shifting schedules, we can make it through anything right?  Right???

Block three was ushered in on the heels of Hurricane Gonzalo and left with just as much fury.  Every day from start to finish was like a being in a vortex.  We had ICM 4!  I'm probably exaggerating by 1 or 2 days but it was all the time.  Along with ICM, we also started Pharmacology which included separate small group group sessions which last for 2 hours in the afternoon a few times during the block.

Gonzalo, was a real life hurricane.  Hurricanes are bad when you live inland in the winds path and worse when you live on a coast, but on this tiny island...ooooh honey!  It was something to witness.  Anyway, he managed to single handedly shut down both countries on this island (French and Dutch sides), and more importantly delay block 2 exams by 2 days.  Unheard of.  Many were without utilities for three or more days, there was plenty of damage including more than 30 sunken boats, boats run aground, roofs ripped from buildings, mudslides, and of course flooding.  Even now, 4 weeks later not all services are fully restored.

Here are a few pics of the aftermath of Mr. Gonzalo. 

ICM is a great experience.  It teaches us to integrate what we've been learning in classes with patient presentations and physical exam information in order to come up with differential diagnoses for various medical problems.  We start to really feel like doctors.  But man does it suck up a lot of time.  There's pre-reading for the small group classes, lectures, interviews with standardized patients, advanced interviewing workshops on how to handle patients in domestic violence situations as well as those suffering from early dementia and we learned some additional physical exam skills. Sounds like a lot right? Well, it takes a lot to be a doctor!  And believe me, there's still so much more to learn.  My partner and I beasted the physical exam check-offs, which are graded evals on how well we performed neurological and musculoskeletal physical exams.  In the midst of all of this, did I mention we still had our other "regular" classes to attend and theoretically keep up with?  It was A LOT of work to say the least.

Think you have a pretty good idea of what my family will be subjected to over Christmas break??  I wonder who will willingly let me practice on them versus the ones who I'll have to do a lot of convincing, hahaha.  I hope no one comes with real questions because I still don't really know what the heck I'm doing yet people!  Hmmm, I'm wondering where I'll set up my office for physical exams.  I digress...

Even with all of the madness going on, one of the bright spots was a visit from my family!!!  One of the perks of living in a place like SXM is that it's a popular vacation destination.  My family was on a cruise and they stopped here for the day.  We got to hang out (around the ICM schedule of course) for a few hours.  

The obligatory selfie....

According to the uppers (students that came before us), Block 3 is the most dreaded block of the entire 5 semesters on the island!!!! Oftentimes, you have to take what the upper semester students say with a grain of salt (or sand) because maybe those were the exams they didn't do as well as they hoped.  Maybe those weren't their favorite subjects of interest.  Maybe it was repeat material.  It could be scare tactics to make you study more and not slack off.   Well, this time around, I'm actually one of those uppers who agrees with the consensus.  All the hype was true!!  It was a lot of work.  It was a logistical nightmare made even more complicated by make-up classes squeezed in due to hurricane Gonzalo.  At this point, we are all running on fumes.  We aren't putting much effort into our appearance when going to class--it's a miracle we make it some days.  But guess what...The most dreaded block at AUC is now history!!!! (insert happy dance).  Now that we've completed block 3 and ICM-the final was today, we can get back to the old, slower pace of "just" going to class. I sorta kinda want to slap myself for letting that even come out of my mouth.  Who would have thought that I would look forward to that as much as I did.  Don't be fooled, the "slow" pace is still no joke.  I think everyone will attest to the fact that there never seems to be enough time to get it all done but somehow we manage.  As with everything important, some aspects of our lives are being sacrificed in order to be as disciplined as we need to be to get to the next level.

                       Forego what you want now for what you want most.

Last Tuesday (November 11th) was St. Martin Day.  Something to do with Columbus claiming this island as Spanish territory back in 1493, which just so happened to be on Nov 11th, so he named the island after St. Martin of Tours.  Nov 11th was already a day celebrated in different ways around the word in remembrance of St. Martin.  Around the world, people commemorate St. Martin in many different ways-- there are often feasts featuring goose or duck, gift exchanges, music, wine tastings, and children singing and collecting candy from neighbors (similar to Halloween).  Here in St. Maarten/St. Martin the two sides of the island alternate years when one side or the other hosts the big events.  There's music, dancing, food, and EVERYTHING shuts down so many people can freely enjoy time with their families and head to the beach!  This was the first time I've ever seen a casino shut down for the day!  We had off from school...Happy St. Martin Day!!! 

Here are a few pics from the day.

Oh! Guess who's featured on the school's website as a favorite student blog??!!  What an honor! No added pressure there, lol!!!  I randomly found this out when I was browsing the school site while checking my student email.  I hope the future students and visitors
who decide to take a peek get a little insight as to what this med school life is really like through my eyes and experiences.  You can check out other student blogs on the AUC Social Media Dashboard

I have big goals and even bigger dreams and I hope you do as well.  Whatever your dream is: put a plan into place, set measurable realistic goals, and start taking the steps  to make your dreams a reality!!  You can do it!  Time is going to pass no matter what, so why not make the most of it. The hardest step is the first one, after that, you know you can do it.  Every day here on this island--very far from home, with what seems like endless classes, notes, and studying, brings new challenges but also a new opportunities for growth & development--academically, professionally, and personally.  I'm doing my best to make every day count.

I think that's about all that's been going on in my little corner of paradise.  Next thing on the agenda is to plan our Caribbean Thanksgiving celebration.  I'm thinking a pool party sounds like fun!!!
There are only 26 more days until winter break begins!  Until next time...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Steady Progress

Hi friends--

Lots of things have been going on, yet there are plenty of things that don't change.  It never fails: Either last week was Block Week, this week is Block week or next week is Block week!!!!  Arrrgggghhhh! I'm not upset, maybe a little frazzled but that just means the more block weeks that go by, the closer we are to the finish line. 
The most exciting thing lately was the Talent Show we had last weekend--The Black Medical Students Association hosted a Talent Show for the school.  Students from the different classes participated and everyone had a GREAT time while raising money to help support the St. Maarten Diabetes Foundation.  It was a win-win for everyone.  Great Acts, an Amazing Show (with super hilarious hosts), and good food too!  There were so many students who worked hard to make the show a success and they all deserve a pat on the back.  Hopefully the next BMSA E_Board will consider hosting another Talent Show because it was a lot of fun!     

While people at home are posting super cute fall outfits and pumpkin laden recipes on Facebook and IG, we're here BAKING! I think the "Fall" here is the hottest time of the year. The humidity is higher than normal and the sun feels extra hot.  I love the warm weather but it's been so hot the past month that I've driven the 2 blocks to school every day because even at 745am you instantly start sweating once you walk out of your door.  Hopefully it cools down soon so I can stop feeling so lazy.

So that's pretty much what's new around here.  It's a good thing to say that mostly it's been a lot of the usual stuff!  Class, studying and the occasional water outage or slower than usual internet download speeds but other than that I'm just plodding along.  Did you guys actually expect me to tell you amazing stories about how I've been enjoying the island life and throwing caution to the wind and carrying on like all the tourists???? Hahaha, I wish!

Until next time...  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Over the hump

We're officially over the hump and 3rd semester already feels like a distant memory.  Just 2 more to go on the island.  We've been here a full year already and it doesn't really feel like it to me.  We've gained a lot of book knowledge and I've learned a lot about myself.  Over the last year, I've tapped into reserves of strength and resilience I didn't know I had and I'm sure I'm becoming a better me in the process.
The almost 2 weeks off went by at break neck speed. 
Today a new adventure began.
The new students seem fresh faced, well rested and ready to take on the challenge of med school. How bad can it be right?  We live on a great island, with wonderful weather, lots of activities, tons of restaurants, and some of the best beaches around.  When there's free time, there's plenty to do.  Finding the free time is one of the challenges but when you do it's worth it!!!!!

Here are our classes this semester:
Pathology 2

Behavioral Science 1
Pharmacology 1

Intro to Clinical Medicine 4

The lectures were pretty interesting today.  The rush that comes along with starting something new was there. Trying to figure out new teaching styles, new professors names, and what their quirks are is always "fun" in the beginning.  New seats this semester because we got booted from the brand new, fancy Auditorium and sent back to where it all began for us--LH1. And I escaped today with no mosquito bites, so it was a good first day back!

Hopefully the material will continue to be interesting and the professors will keep us engaged as the semester progresses. 
Here's to hoping the semester goes by as quickly as our last break did! 
Our Neuro professor pretty much told us to buckle up & get ready for the ride.  Say no more, let's get it!!!!

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Transfer your Power

As long as we are open to them, life situations can teach us so many lessons.  I fully expected to gain lots of cool scientific and medical knowledge while in medical school.  I also anticipated additional personal growth and development. But there are some unexpected lessons that have cropped up along the way.  The school of life will teach you many more lessons than any established educational institution can. 

I thought I did as much research as I could before coming to St. Maarten for Medical School.  I had tables, spreadsheets, and checklists galore before making my trip.  What to bring, which documents should be filed with the school, did I have all of my medical records updated and submitted, which areas I should look to live in when I got here, which prep books were recommended, what are the best ways to study, how best should I tackle all the material, and more.  I had lists that related to what I needed to do before I left home separated into time frames: 6 months out, 3 months out, 1 month out and OMG I'm leaving in a week and still have to do these 10 things and see these 5 people!  I'm pretty thorough when it comes to things that are important and I thought I had it all covered.  And then life happened, Murphy roared his ugly head and one thing that never made it onto one of my lists cropped up and is causing more aggravation than I care to deal with right now.  All because I was just unaware and uninformed.

With age comes responsibilities and the accumulation of stuff: like spouses, kids, houses, cars, businesses, retirement accounts and more.  I worked and lived my life for 11 years before starting med school.  I really planned my transition from full time employee and business owner to full time, unemployed student as best as I could. I read message boards, current AUC student and family blogs, searched online forums, articles--you name it, I was checking it out in order to make sure things would go as smoothly as possible once I started school. 

So far, there have been small things that I needed to ask my family to send in the mail or go to a government office to take care of for me and they have been mostly hassle free...And then this past weekend my parked car was hit, probably by a drunk driver, and the insurance company said it was a total loss.  Man, I loved my car and I wasn't expecting that news over the phone or via email which is how it was delivered.  My mom was handling everything until they needed a signature.  Uh Oh! A signature that can be compared with what's on file with the DMV.  My mom can't sign on my behalf for something so legally binding.  No problem, I can transfer her Power of Attorney and then she could sign.  That requires me signing a form and having it notarized and then sent home.  Uh Oh again!  Problem #1-finding time to locate a notary on the island during exam week. Problem #2. The mail system here can be so hit or miss.  My family sent birthday cards back in June and I still haven't received them 2 months later.  I have no idea how long it takes outgoing mail to reach the US.

The lesson in all this: Anyone who owns any property (car, house, pony, etc), a business, legal custody/responsibility for kids or aging parents should sign over limited Power of Attorney to someone they trust BEFORE you need it and before you leave home!  You can search online for a form and explicitly document your wishes of who will be able to handle specific affairs on your behalf if necessary and what they can/cannot manage for you. It will outline who can make legal decisions (in consultation with you) while you are away.  If I was in school in the states, I could depend on the mail system to get a notarized document to the correct location in a reasonable amount of time and this wouldn't even be an issue.  But we aren't in Kansas and nothing is fast or guaranteed to proceed as smoothly as you plan here on the island.  I wish this tidbit had shown up on one of the Things To Do Before Moving Out of The Country lists provided by the school or that I'd come across on line.  It won't apply to most people, but for those that need it, you can save yourself a lot of added stress. 

This advice probably wouldn't apply to >95% of the students getting ready to start in a few short weeks but I'm sure there are a few that may want to add this to one of the endless lists I'm sure you probably have...because you just never know what may happen.

While I'm giving unsolicited advice, I might as well add one more thing: If you are older or have been traveling internationally (military families, 1st generation Americans) for many years, check the expiration date of your passports!!!!! IF they are expiring in the next year consider renewing them soon.  Take new passport photos, fill out the renewal  application, SIGN it, and leave it with your family at home.  When it comes closer to your expiration date you can have your family mail off the completed application.  My passport was set to expire this year.  I would have still been on the island with no way to get home.  You have to renew in the US or wherever your home country is.  Kinda, almost, virtually impossible to do from here without going insane.  Luckily my family and friends visited and I was able to send them home with an application and passport photos to get it renewed.  It then cost my mom $50 to send my passport to me via 3 day priority mail.  Guess how long it took to arrive???? Nearly 3 weeks.

To the incoming students: Enjoy the last few weeks of freedom, carefree living, and getting ready for one of the best transitions of your life!
To the current students: Best of luck on Blocks and Final Exams!
To my family and friends: See ya soon.

Until next time...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Striving for Balance

Since the first day of orientation our Wellness Counselor and staff at AUC have been encouraging us to do our best to aim for a balanced lifestyle; a healthy balance of school responsibilities, healthy diet, exercise, and some rest & relaxation.  As you can probably imagine, that is much easier said than done.  

In a tropical location with great beaches and nice weather all year long you would think we would strive to be ready to hit the beach at any given moment.  I'm used to cold weather and a chance to hibernate for a couple months in lose, comfy clothes and a few months to not be a slacker and get my self ready for summer vacation.  I know, it's a totally warped sense of reality that hasn't transated well here.  I've watched my "beach body" morph into something totally different than what it was when I first got here.  Sitting in class the first half of the day, then sitting on my Lord Have Mercy the second half of the day has brought some not so friendly changes to my waistline.

Lucky for us, we got a brand new gym this semester!  It's nice! It's big! It has lots of equipment, free weights, and even space for students to just hang out and relax.  Believe me, it's a huge improvement from the super small, slightly smelly gym that we used to have. 

With this new space comes the the newest craze--Ping Pong.  Or do people call it table tennis?  The table is rarely free and there is always a crowd of spectators to cheer on the players.  In actuality, I think they are waiting for an opportunity to play themselves not really for moral support!  Hands down, it's probably the most popular section of the gym throughout the day.  Maybe Ping Pong was big before but the table was in some hidden location and I didn't realize how popular it was.  Now that the new gym is in the heart of campus, ping pong is front & center.  

There are some students that work out faithfully.  Religiously.  Without fail. I guess it's really at the top of their priority list.
1. Sleep 2. Eat 3. Workout 4. Everything else.  

As my beach bod fades away, my goal is to channel a little of their dedication and commitment.  I decided to check out the new in actually use it, because I surely did a walk thru when it first opened =) 

                                 I'll take you on a brief photo tour

                             Ping Pong Suite (and a lonely dart board)


                             Chill Space w/comfy couches and cable tv


                                              Partial Cardio Area

                                     Weight machines and addl cardio equipment                                      

                                                                     Free Weights

                                           Group Fitness Room

Just when I think I can get my mind right to incorporate more routine exercise, to work on a more healthy and balanced lifestyle, look what greets me after class.....

An Ice Cream bar for AMSA Appreciation day!  Lots of ice cream with more toppings than you can think of.  Guessing I'll have to work a little extra next time I hit that brand spanking new gym!

Around here, although it's the weekend, many of us will be making sure we are all caught up on the last few weeks of information because our last week of classes is next week!  Then Blocks! Then final exams! Then a much needed BREAK!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Countdown Is On

Another set of block exams are complete, and like one of my friends mentioned: The best part of blocks are when they are over!!  That couldn't be more true.  Whether the results were good, bad, or indifferent--they are over with and it's time to start fresh.  This isn't our first time at the rodeo but the anxiety that comes along with exams has not lessened very much for me over the past 3 semesters.  I've come to accept that it probably never will.  All we can do is prepare as much as possible, try to get regular rest to allow the mental consolidation process take place, and then go in and give it our best effort...and don't change your answers without 100% certainty that you are changing it to the correct choice.  Yeah, I'm still working on this one.  I can kick myself for a couple of these blunders but the lesson I learned is that those will be mistakes that I never plan to make again.

We covered sooooo much information in the past 4 weeks--Cardiac, Pulmonary, & Pediatric Pathology; Male and Female Reproduction including Pregnancy, Childbirth & Lactation; Endocrine Physiology; and discussed the characteristics of more microorganisms than I ever knew existed to cause bacterial and viral Meningitis, Exanthems (aka rashes), Soft Tissue & Skin infections, Conjunctivitis, Kerato-conjunctivitis, and Retino/Chorioretinitis. The one that still gives me the willies is a Loa loa which is a worm that lives and travels under your skin if infected but can migrate to your eye.  Ewww, your eye!  Of all the gross things we've seen so far (yes there are some infections/conditions that have been pretty disgusting), this is one that makes me want to turn away when I see pictures and think about it being in someone's eye--yikes!  It's not oozy, bloody, scabby, scaly, open, gangrenous, or filled with pus BUT the thought of that thing being in my eye gives me a shiver every time.  If you don't believe me, go to Dr. Google and do an image search for Loa loa/eye worm...didn't it creep you out too???  Ok, I'm done skeeving you out for the day.

We have Block 4 exams in 4 weeks and final exams in 5 weeks from today.  The semester will be over in a flash.  There's still an endless amount of information to be digested in these next 5 weeks but we can do it!  The idea of almost 2 weeks of pure relaxation is enough motivation to keep pushing me forward.

With so much work to be done the last few weeks there wasn't much time to explore so unfortunately I don't have anything new or exciting to share about life on the island this time around.  Hope you got enough of a dose of school to hold you over =)

Until next time...

Monday, July 7, 2014

No place like home...

I never thought I would miss home or my family and friends as much as I've been missing them lately.  Technology has allowed us to remain connected but FaceTime and Google Hangouts doesn't always cut it.  I was really in need of those hugs from my mom and the time in the shade just talking with my dad.  The semester is stressful, there's a lot of work, even less time and the stakes are only getting higher.  All things school was getting to be a bit much and I needed to get away from it for a minute.  So after 6 lectures in one day, I had enough!  I purchased a plane ticket leaving out in less than 24hours.  Just the thought of getting to see my family put the biggest smile on my face for the rest of the day.
After yet another Med Micro Quiz on Friday afternoon, I headed to the Princess Juliana Airport and got off the island I've grown to love.  It took everything in me not to tell my family I was coming home.  I'm not often surprised but I love surprising other people.  This was going to be the ultimate shock for them and I knew it.

After a connection in Charlotte and a cab ride once I got into Philly, I was ringing the doorbell at my parents house.  Utter shock and disbelief on their faces was an understatement.  They didn't think it was really me!  My dad wasn't even sure if he should open the door because there was no way it could really be me.  They knew they were just texting me "in St. Maarten"...not quite.  They were definitely surprised  as was everyone else who happened to see me over the course of the next day.  In celebration of July 4th, the neighbors were having a block party (does everyone know what that is?) and most of our immediate family and friends came by to visit.  That stunned look and even a few tears were repeated over and over throughout the day.  It really was priceless.

As happy as my family and friends were to lay eyes on me, I was even more excited to see them.  They helped to refill my cup with the love, support and confidence I need to finish strong in these last 6 weeks of the semester.  

Thanks guys for pouring into my spirit.  You have no idea how much it helped!  No matter how old you are or how many responsibilities you accumulate in life, there really is no place like home!  I'm already looking forward to the next time I click my heels and end up with you again.

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Emancipation Day

July 1, 2014 is Emancipation Day! Slavery in St. Maarten unofficially ended back in 1848. The French abolished slavery and once slaves on the Dutch side of the island found out about it, they escaped to that side of the island.  In order to prevent an even larger revolt the slave owners on the Dutch side of the island freely released their slaves and began paying them wages for their work.  On paper, slavery wasn't officially abolished in the Dutch West Indies until 1863.  Learning about slavery in yet another location is just as difficult as learning about it in America.  There are some nice monumental tributes to the contributions of slaves in St. Maarten.   Here's one in the heart of town...

Note: Slaves weren't the only people who worked in the salt ponds but they were a huge part of the labor.  

We had our Emancipation Day celebration after a few hours of studying; because as you probably realize there aren't truly any days off around here.  We had the next session in the Strategic Information Management program that I'm participating in.  I don't even know what the program is really called but it's a series of seminars and exercises to help us hone our critical thinking, data management and focused activity skills.  The goal is to help us enhance our decision making processes and test taking skills by teaching us tools and techniques to learn with intention to systematically process and manage the extreme volume of information we are presented with.  The program has been proven to help high ranking CEO's, politicians, leaders, and top doctors enhance their professional performance.  The goal is to help us become better students in the short term and ultimately better physicians.  I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help me be a better student and physician; even if it means giving up every "day off" to attend another session.  No pain, no gain. 
Thankfully, the day wasn't a total wasted day off.  There was some down time involved, yay!  I went with a few friends to see "Think Like a Man Too" in the local theater.  That was one funny movie!  We laughed the entire time.  It was a nice break from the norm.  We also went to my new favorite restaurant, Crave, for appetizers and dessert.  My first time at Crave was Friday for a friends' birthday dinner.  When I say the food was amazing, that's an understatement!!!  Have you ever had food that was so yummy that's all you thought about for a few days?  I'm a foodie so I definitely have.  After the Friday night experience, I came home and searched for some of the recipes so that I could try to reproduce the dishes myself.  I've never made Persian food before but it was just that good that I'm willing to try it out!

I promise this won't turn into a food blog/review site but I really love to eat and appreciate a good dining experience.  That's what I do for fun.  I like to try new restaurants and St. Maarten has something for just about every desire.  So while we're talking about food, there's another restaurant we went to for yet another birthday celebration last week--Bamboo Bernie's.  It's a sushi restaurant that has a few other things on the menu but their specialty is fresh sushi.  Let me say this: I am not a sushi girl.  Never have been.  It's hard for me to get past the idea of eating raw fish.  However, I'm trying to expand my palate so I agreed to go to this place first semester because that's where my friends wanted to go.  I enjoyed my first real Sushi experience.  We had a few different rolls that all contained cooked fish of some sort.  I've been back a few times and on one visit a bartender begged me to try "real sushi"...aka the raw stuff.  It didn't go over so well.  I think it was more of a texture thing than the taste.  Yeah I'm weird like that.  Can't describe it, but I didn't like it.  This last visit I ordered my tried and true Volcano Roll, a Lobster Roll and Veggie Tempura Roll.  YUM!  I didn't know what the new rolls would taste like, but I was pleasantly surprised!  I would definitely order them again.  Jumbo lobster, they couldn't fail with that one and the Veggie Roll was delish as well.  I may have even liked it more than the Volcano Roll that has been my favorite since the first visit.  I'm guessing sushi isn't so bad after all =) 

I'll be sure to bore you guys with some school related stuff next time. 
Hope all is well in your part of the world.  Until next time...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June Madness

What a crazy month this has been so far and it's only half way over!  Even better is that it marks the half way point of the September 2013 class being on the island!  Time sure does move fast when you're moving with it.  Don't get me wrong, I love the island but some days are so tiring and so filled with air conditioning and studying that I briefly forget I'm even on a beautiful island.  I didn't even think that was forget that I'm living in one of the top vacation destinations.  

I'm sure there was March, April, and May Madness as well but this month has seemed more hectic than usual!  Along with our regular classes we had ICM3 (Introduction to Clinical Medicine) classes, quizzes and physical exam & interviewing skills checkoffs, basically a fancy way to say an evaluation to make sure we have some idea of what we're supposed to be doing.  We also celebrated my Birthday!!!! More about that epic celebration in a minute.  We also had Block exams.  All in a span of 3 weeks.  I'm still trying to catch my breath.  I know I was there for everything but it's all pretty much a blur at this point.  When I need some inspiration to keep going I think back to all the fun we had on our full day off!!!!!!

We chartered a private yacht from a company called Private Yacht Charter (PYC) and planned have a great time cruising around St. Maarten.  After a 35 minute drive we pulled up to the pier and all stared at the boat in amazement.  Wow! Were we really about to board this beauty for the day??? Yep!

The 2 man crew quickly gave the safety briefing and we set sail.  Breakfast of fresh French pastries, fruit & mimosas were on the menu and boy were they good.  Then...sea sickness hit half of our group!  Yours truly wasn't spared either.  There was a passing storm in the morning and the water was pretty choppy.  This most definitely was not how we planned to spend the day.  Our crew, Jeff and Emmanuel, promised that it would get better as soon as we made our first stop.  We just needed a little time for our eyes, ears, and brains to all sync up.  I won't bore you with the scientific details of how all that works but he was right! The first stop was Tintamarre, a protected island close to St. Maarten.  The waters calmed and once we got on shore everyone felt great!!! There was no more sea sickness for the rest of the day--Thank God.

We spent part of the day on Tintamarre and then set sail for Pinel Island.  I think Pinel is my favorite beach in St. Maarten so far.  I've been to multiple beaches and I love, love, LOVE Pinel Island!  It's so chill.  A place to just relax and enjoy paradise.

Lunch aboard the boat was delicious and the conversations and camaraderie was unlike any other.  We snorkeled, swam, lounged on the beaches, ate, drank, tanned on the deck, laughed and joked all day long.  There were no thoughts of school and no guilty feelings for the entire day; at least I didn't have any!  That was a miracle in itself. With so much pressure to perform well, keep up with everything, memorize endless diseases, drugs, microorganisms, processes, integrate everything and apply it to real life situations is a feat unlike any other. Not thinking about any of that for just one day was just what these Future Doctors needed!  Having that time off re-energized us and made going back to the daily grind more palatable, especially since the dreaded Block Week was upon us, as usual. 

I know it probably seems like it's always block week.  If it's not block week, we either just had blocks or block week is next week, hahaha...that's how we live.  3rd and 4th block are a little better because there are 4 weeks in between each one.  More room to breathe but that much more new material is crammed into the added time.  By now, we're pretty used to the endless information overload.  Each of us in our way does the best job we can managing it all. 

Feels a little weird but dare I say, things really are starting to come together!  Some of the bits and pieces we learned early on are starting to make sense now that we're getting into more systems based learning and pathology.  This is what it's all about.  The 25,000 piece puzzle has a border and the inside is starting to be filled in.  Random I know, but I loved putting puzzles together when I was younger.  They were really difficult until you got the frame done then the rest started taking shape much easier.  School feels a bit like that.  Starting off, putting the border together seems impossible, and school is like working on a puzzle without the box to let you know what it's even supposed to look like.  As the professors add more nuggets of information it's like we now have the box and see where we're headed so some days, putting the pieces together is a LITTLE more manageable.  I'd say that's progress. 

I hope June Madness hasn't been as crazy for you as it has for us.

Here's one my favorite pictures from our time on the boat. 
Too bad it feels like an eternity ago =)

 Until next time...