I don’t pretend to be someone that only dreamt of white coat days in an MD haze. For myself and many others, the question between MD vs. PA school manifests itself. But to what extent and when is anyone’s guess. The last summer after year one and calls to 4 PA friends doesn’t seem ideal, but neither is regret over staying simply because you are capable/smart/expected to etc.
That’s hear as in your ear kind of hear.
And if you’re reading out loud, which I quite enjoy doing, despite dirty glances and an occasional chiding “keep it to yourself” spat my way, you would especially enjoy taking these out for a spin: otoscope, eustachian tube, transilluminate.
Upon returning from spring break, us first year medical students just wrapped up the head and neck portion of the physical exam. In my starchy white coat, I attempted to decipher words fuzzily familiar to those from anatomy class. My eyes on the patient, my chin nodding in agreement, my brain all aflurry–how is it that I can’t recall what I literally learned a month ago!? An hour of that and I walked out of the examination room hearing a distinct and distant invitation to [word]press on.
And if you’re returning after having ready my lil posts from France, I extend a hear-ty welcome back! to you as well as myself. It has been an awfully long year and some extra months since I last blogged away my adventures. Why not? you may ask, dear reader, and I would reply, without any more French words which are sadly more distant than those pesky anatomy terms, that I have been many a place without much time for recording. But for my sanity and your amusement, I am back.
Let us look back together. How many milestones can we blaze through in a single paragraph? Remember goodbyes in France? Some plane brought me back to undergrad for a final spring semester. My last season of track. 4×4 conference champs. I interviewed to be a doctor. A school sent me some love. I re-met a guy then fell in love. First kiss. An organic farm took me in. A second farm nearer to home won in the end. I left for medical school. Glorious rental home experience. I went whale watching over fall break. 4 Christmases. New Year’s wedding bash! Cheered my spring-breaking, ecstatic heart out at an NBA game…
So no complaints in this first year with many firsts. At least nothing comes to me quite yet, but I’ll keep trying to figure out medschool and maybe share a few laughs, tears, and some sassiness along the way!
Is that even possible? is the question I posed on the eve of a day slotted for merriment and gluttony. The morning of, 0715 brought me to wake then open my shutters like a good French girl. Traces of the words “H.TG.” were forbidden from my mouth lest all the associated memories spill over and wash what little sanity I had. Under the rare and sunny sky, this day would be and had to be fantastic, an answer to mine and mom’s and everyone else’s prayers for joy that overflowith like gravy over turkey.
My apple tart rested between my little gloved hands during my 15 minute walk past the glass music hall, the train station, and post office. In passing, many stares were garnered and a man even condescended to say “bonjour” and see if I were sharing un gâteau that morning. The excitement over understanding a stranger for the first time without requiring a second listen nearly convinced me. But my name was already put to the desert column for the class luncheon. How could I forget all my new friends, three whose birthdays required une fête!?
Around noon, everyone sat at down to a thick clump of desks and paper-plated Spanish and Texan appetizers. Our Vietnamien nun had outdown herself with shrimp pasta to compliment the Chinese and Tiawanese chicken dishes. Finshing the meal with cafés, we laughed over different food cultures. The shrimp, thankfully, were not traditionally presented–semi-alive. When most had left, a friend mumbled that he felt like dancing. So I poked and prodded until he offered a couple pointers! And making a fool of myself (to “Billy Jean” with a Japanese friend before a clapping, tapping audience of apple tart, prof, a handful of classmates and gawkers outside) ran clear up to the last class!
There remained a get-together at a restaurant that night, the very antithesis of all tradition. But my opinion changed once cozied next to familiar faces under rustic beams in the warmth of English conversation. Oh, the salad with whipped, honey-covered camembert was divine. The duck tender. La tarte tatin impeccable. With rosy wine cheeks, we split our sides over faux-pas in this foreign place and stories of past groups. While no one gave one whit to the time at dinner, I peaked at my watch before falling to sleep. 1230. AM.
That was the same time seen the following night along with 0230, 0430, 0530 until I gave up to get ready for the early train to Paris. At the heart of the city, amidst the pyramids of the Louvre, two dear friends and myself clasped for the first time since May of track season. There are not words for gasping simultaneously at Rembrandts or oohing in chorus over animated Christmas windows. It just is. And somewhere between the Champs-Elysées Christmas markets and a pick-pocketed wallet, I felt like the me of back when… a bit more French, a touch less fanciful, but completely and totally loved all the same.
Thank you to those you prayed and/or made this turkeyless Thanksgiving quite memorable.
Whatever you’ve heard about lighter European meals is not true in the Alps. At all. Le pire is that the pounds sneak up like the Freshman, or rather in the gastronomical capital of the world, the French fifteen… ok, I’m fibbing. But really, the only way they maintain their paint-tight-skinny-jeans-sveltness is by skipping their breakfast and walking everywhere. One can tralala to the patisserie, bounce over to the fromagerie, then finish up at the boulangerie (not to be confused with the boucherie where the only pain you’ll find is stomaching the sight of freshly hung/dead rabbit and the like.) After an eternity of hunting and gathering, the national sport, they walk a few blocks home sans breaking a sweat.
Prepped to play along? Are the eyes closed enough to imagine and read?
(Setting: Six hours from home base, you’re living with your host family and their friends with their 4 kids in a 250 year old chalet nestled on the top of a mountain.)
Before “à table” was called, you sip an apéro along with a snackie dish. As the token foreigner, you wait to be told where to sit and know it will be at the kids end. Next you dig into a warm dish of either un planchet randonneur, an assortment of melted cheeses and ham, or une tartiflette, this sausage-potato-cheese casserole gone haywire. Or if it was Saturday, les raclettes. You take your little pan, load with cheese, place on a hot plate then dump over potatoes with lots of Savoie sausage. Repeat.
(Setting: You’re a speck on a mountain dotted with ski lifts overlooking the curves of a valley where you’ve discovered a little trail for sprinting.)
In endorphin euphoria, you laugh out loud having just realized the extreme blessing of your location. The fact that there is nothing to do but romp around under a brilliant sun makes you forget the cheese sticking interminably in your stomach. With the mountainous air burning your lungs, you fly over the hills. You almost get your heels nipped off by the dog of random hikers.
(Setting: Your heels live to see the next day.)
Descending towards a restaurant, you start down a diamond ski course up until a cow path. Alpines rise on your right and roads carve the hills to your left as you and the kids and a mom crunch, crunch, crunch over leaves. The swapping of childhood songs and prancing and laughter are all heightened by the unusually warm weather. You perform a show choir number in an attempt to avoid the crottes of cow, goat, and rabbit variety in the mountains.
Over a couple brooks, past gigantic roots, the lingering stench proves your jig was unsuccessful. To be amid two families, neither of which is your own, stinks as well. You thought that a rural trip would take care of the odorous aspects of France… But glance by glance at the surrounding magnificence, your nose is drawn up. You take in proof of a Creator who refreshes completely. And you know that no matter in which corner of the globe you find yourself, he will navigate you through the crottes of this life.
Homesick. OK. I give up trying to pretend like I can learn in 3 months what a French woman knows after 20 years. The idea struck me on the heels of an incapaciting stomach bug, exasperated by my endless to-do list. I had taken on so much that by the end of October, the time of our trip to Normandy, my body decided to shut down. I don’t blame it. If anyone, I point my finger at my parents and anyone else who encouraged my insanity to forsake family, familiarity, and the following:
1) Mon Kitchenaid me manque. Once by myself, once with my sister, chocolate chip cookies were made with this weird vanilla flavored baking soda powder stuff. Last week was a lovely apple tart from a recipe from Cooking Light which everyone still found a bit lourd (heavy.) Anyone that knows me can attest that I am neither Paula Dean nor a Farenheit to Celcius processor nor a cups to grams calculator.
2) Le système éducatif des États-Unis me manque: Last weekend I stayed in the first arrondissement of Paris with my host family who helped me conquer Musee d’Orsay and a hilarious A Midsummer’s Night Dream (set in the 70s). That preceded Tuesday’s La Toussaint, the national holiday of strewing chrysanthemums about the cemeteries. To quote my grammar teacher, never give French families that flower and never faire le pont (skip that Monday of classes between the weekend and the Tuesday…) What happened to my lighter, American load of classes with logical breaks?
3) Le soleil me manque : It might be 60/65ish regularly here but I would appreciate seeing Mont St. Michel, St. Malo, Loches, or Chenenceau without the rain. The center of France in the middle of autumn is one big puddle.
4) TUTF me manque: I was beginning to wonder if French people run track at all when I finally discovered a little soccer field ringed with synthetic red tartan! A bus ride from my house, the entrance required jumping over this chain link fence (my spandex and therefore myself getting snagged mid-straddle a meter above a staircase. Fantastic). Reunited after two long months, the track and I passed a few moments of silence in the fading sun before my deathly 600s. Every sprint workout tears at each muscle down to my heart, alone without my TUTFers. (╙╠╣╜= I’m feeling it.)
5,6,7,8) Mom et Dad et Jon et Mitt me manquent. Nuff said.