Sunday, July 31, 2011

I have organized our house to death (Part 2)

You'd be even more impressed if you knew how much of a pack rat my husband is. He wants to keep everything from the broken lotion bottle to the old router to his holey T-shirts.

I've made him throw out a lot of it. And he makes sure I never forget it.

But the results have been worth it.

Last week, my two glass shelves arrived. I have been waiting so patiently to put all the glasses from our wedding gifts on display.

Buying glass is complicated! I had to calculate the weight the glass would be holding, account for how much support the glass had from the shelving unit underneath it, and take wicked accurate measurements. But it is all behind me now.


Something I designed all by myself! So proud, so proud.

Yeah, guess who designed that centerpiece? It is three letters and rhymes with "Bomb"
Makes you want to have a drink doesn't it?

This part of our kitchen looks awesome. Let's look at the rest of it.

What is out of place in this picture?

Yes, that stove is lime green. Oh so lovely.
Wait, what is that green monstrosity? And now you know why I need that drink.

When I first moved in two years ago, my first order of business was getting rid of that stove. Not only does it barely cook our food, it makes others gasp in horror upon entering our house. But do you think in the 1970s they had any standard for stove sizes? No, that would be too simple.

Now the standard stove size is 20", 24", 30", or 36". Our stove is conveniently 27". Not helpful, green monstrosity. So either we cut into our lazy susan or we cut into our mini-cabinet on the right of the stove. Neither of these options are viable. So instead, the stove and I have forged an uneasy truce. On the one hand, I am sure the stove is just waiting for an opportune moment to slip raw chicken by me. On the other hand, I've seriously considering killing it with a baseball bat.

Enough of the horror, onto the living room:

Are you noticing a theme with the stuffed animals yet?
Yes, those walls are purple. And I love, love, love the color, but believe it or not, I didn't choose it. My husband did. 

My husband also has an obsession with David Blaine. Don't ask. I've had to work around it.
Before you see our bedroom pictures, ignore the curtains. My mom hasn't gotten to this room yet.

My husband is affronted by our pillows; he says they remind him of bath mats. But I love them. So they stay.
Yes, I color coordinate my closet. And yes, those are stuffed animals that I regularly play with.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I have organized our house to death (Part 1)

With medical school approaching fast, I've taken the month of July to deep clean and organize my house. As in, organize it for the next four years, so I don't have to do anything to it (other than basic cleaning).

While I may be living a fantasy about not having to change anything for the next four years, the results have been fantastic. I just feel better about myself every time I get home and the entire house looks like it could have come from "Okay Homes and Gardens" magazine.

I wish I could give sole credit to myself, but long ago, I recognized I have almost no decorating talent to speak of.

But my mother does.

Oh sure, I can tell when something went wrong with decorating, but only as an afterthought.

My mother architects her decorations. She is like a cake artist, knowing exactly how a room will shape up in her head before all the ingredients are put together. Her house looks like something you'd see in a celebrity magazine. When I visit for Christmas, I will take pictures so you all believe me. People come over to her house and beg her to decorate for them, to design curtains, to assemble centerpieces.

But she only decorates for family. Flawless victory for me.

I may be slightly neurotic
See those curtains? Mom's handiwork. And yes, that is Soda's cage. I know, I too am jealous of her tunnel.

See if you can find the Pokemon staring at you
Yes, it is a teensy bathroom and the tub is an outdated mustard yellow color

Are you a little concerned about my organization yet?
Woah, we actually have space to walk around our basement now. Craziness.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Radiologists probably don't do their own pedicures

The most devastating thing about going to medical school is the loss of my pink and whites. They don't allow them in hospitals because bacteria can live underneath the acrylic. I am still in mourning.

Given that I about to go into more debt than I thought possible, it seems prudent to save money where I can.

So, today, for the first time ever, I gave myself a real pedicure with foot scrub and soaking and everything. I had to buy some supplies first; there is a bit of an initial investment. All told, it cost about $70:

But considering that I do a pedicure about once a month at $30 a pop, that's a lot of money I just saved at the expense of my relaxation.

While at the beauty supply store, I met a radiologist randomly. I'm always a bit surprised to meet a doctor out in the wild.

Doctors: they are just like us! They need beauty supplies too.
I told her that my interviewers seemed convinced I would enjoy diagnostic radiology. She shook her head sadly at me and said, "Impossible to get into, but it's a great field." We had a nice chat, and she took her leave.

But now I'm a little worried. What if I do really like radiology? And not for the money or the lifestyle, but because that is my calling? And what if I can't get into the specialty? That would stink. I imagine my worry will have compounded a million percent by the time I actually begin applying to residency programs. Looking forward to that.

So now that I'm super relaxed, I go home to give myself a pedicure. I used the guide here, but I'm sure better ones exist.

Drum roll please. Our end result:

Not bad if I do say so myself. If we zoomed in on my toes, we would probably find they are a bit rough around the edges. I may or may not have slipped on every toe while putting on the polish. But from far away, they look pretty good!

Sorry to anyone that is grossed out by feet. You probably should not read any further posts with the word "Pedicure" in the title.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I met an owl at lunch today

No really, that's not hyperbole. I really did meet an owl at lunchy lunch today. No, I do not know why there was an owl at the burger joint we ate at. But I am not complaining.

I see into your soul
Today was my farewell lunch from my engineering firm. My last day isn't until next week, but a lot of people are leaving for vacation, so we wanted to sit down while everyone was still in town.

I have a problem being easily distracted by animals. Any animal really; it doesn't even have to be cute. Owl, snake, ferret, tarantula; doesn't really matter to me. You can be guaranteed if I see an animal while I am with you, I will point in excitement, as if it is the first time I have seen said animal and spend the next 15 minutes preening over it. As I did with Mr. Owl. That's what I named him. Pretty clever, huh?

Yes, I fussed over a random owl while my co-workers stood idly by. I got to pet him, and I thought for sure I would explode from cuteness overload. I'm fairly certain most of my co-workers were reconsidering that maybe it was a good thing I am leaving for medical school.

I can't help it. I'm a sucker for vicious birds of prey. 

I would not want to mess with Mr. Owl

If I ever become a wizard, I call dibs on you

I, for one, welcome our new overlords

Yep, I've run out of witty remarks

Thank goodness huh?
I can't imagine I will ever have another post about owls, but we'll tag this post "owls" anyway

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Globalization is le suxx0r

Alright, there are some really good things about globalization. Yes, someone is always working on your project, no matter what time it is. Yes, labor is cheaper in some countries. Yes, the talent pool is larger.

But this post isn't going to focus on any of that. It's going to focus on what I learned in my engineering position about why globalization sucks for morale.

Reason 1: You want me to call into this Asia meeting at what time? 1:00 AM in the morning? Haha, good joke. Oh wait, you're not kidding? And I'm going to need to attend this meeting for 10 weeks running?

Reason 2: So after waking up at 1AM, I read an email from HR. There's this little thing called "export control" which basically commands me to share as little information as possible with my Chinese co-workers. I'm not even allowed to share our meeting minutes with those Chinese employees who attended said meeting. Phew, our data is safe now.

Reason 3: So now I've dialed into my 1AM meeting with China and I've gone over what I'm allowed to talk about and what I'm not. But it's all fruitless. Because I can't. understand. anyone. And it's not just because I'm exhausted. There is a language barrier with people who speak two very different versions of English. It's like trying to get Mexico Spanish to integrate with Spain Spanish; it's difficult. It's uber painful because it is just as frustrating for my Chinese co-workers as it is for me.

Them: "The pistle make has dog gar"
Me: "Umm, I'm sorry, could you repeat that."
Them: "The pistle make has dog gar!"
Me: "Wait, are you even talking to me?"
Them: "Yeah, the dog gar shamble face."
Me: "Oookay. Ummm, I'm not quite with you."
Them: "What for too computer circuit?"
Me: "I'm so sorry, I still don't understand."
Them: *hangs up*

Reason 4: So now I'm thinking to myself, "No more meetings with Asia, let's have meetings with Texas and California employees." Easy, peasy right? We're only a few hours off from each other. So I schedule a meeting with 30 attendees, none of whom respond to my meeting invitation. Surely they will show up though, because this is a life or death meeting in engineering terms. Our computer chip will make it or break because of this meeting. Meeting time rolls around and no one shows up. Crickets. I call some of the attendees. Voicemail. I send an email reminding everyone that I am sitting in a meeting room alone, feeling a bit like I'm still in high school. No response. And it turns out, indeed, I am still in high school.

Reason 5: Alright, so, fine, no one wants to talk to me. I'll get this computer chip out myself! So I call a designer in Texas, asking for him to fix a bug. He adamantly refuses. I tell him how much work it's going to be for me, and why it is the right thing to do. He still refuses. I ask him why. He says, "Because." So I spend the next two weeks doing extra work because of his refusal. Okay, against all odds I have done it! Our chip works. 20 minutes later, I find out the designer in Texas has fixed that bug, and in turn, all of my Oh-So-Carefully-Coded-Work-Of-Two-Weeks has broken. I spend another week undoing all of my work. Why, dear God, why?!?

Reason 6: People are just plain mean over email. I needed some space allocated for me on a computer; a place for me to do my work. After I sent the request, I received a flurry of responses which included gems such as "You must not know how to operate a computer" to "No one else seems to have your problem". Thanks for the support guys! It makes me want to work with you in the future. So badly.

TL;DR: Globalization makes it all too easy for people to dehumanize someone over the phone or the internet. It's much harder to treat someone poorly to their face.  Globalization also puts strain on relationships because of the time difference and language barriers.

Maybe we'll remote control robots to see patients...
And while I recognize that "anecdote" does not equal "data", I am confident I could pool together experiences from my co-workers to present cohesive data.

That is one of the reasons I am drawn to medicine. I will be in the same room with the patient, and most probably with almost all of my co-workers. I will not have to call a different time zone for permission to move forward with a treatment option. I will get responses to my questions in 30 seconds as opposed to 30 hours.

Yet something nags at me a bit. Is this the way medicine is moving? In 50 years, will surgeons just operate from their study using a joystick and a keyboard while 2000 miles away their patients chest cavity has just been opened by little robotic appendages? Will doctor patient interactions happen through Skype instead of in the exam room? Perhaps that is a little too far. After all, someone who need to be present to prep the patient and there is no easy substitute yet for a physical exam (except maybe a robot).

But as the world gets increasingly smaller, keep this post in the back of your mind. Because there are two sides to every coin, and globalization has some awful unintended consequences.

PS. Comic is from SMBC; Zac is a very talented cartoonist.

Monday, July 25, 2011

You look ridiculous

I know that is what everyone is thinking when I run by in my toe shoes. Either that, or they are wincing in sympathetic pain thinking of how horrible it must be to not be able to afford "real" running shoes.

The offspring of a drunken fling between crocs and toe-socks
I don't blame them; I had the same thought when my friend introduced me to them.

And we all know the military is a huge fan of this new craze. Well, maybe not so much considering they banned any shoes that cannot "accomodate all five toes in one compartment."

But, scientifically, are they actually better to run in? No one knows!

Let's not focus on how dirty these are
I've found some really interesting articles supporting running barefoot in a sort of science-ey way. Daniel Lieberman's research has some graphs and force charts about barefoot running, and is the most scientific study I've seen on the issue. But his research seems to focus on the fact that running while striking one's heel on the ground is bad, while striking mid-foot or on the ball of your feet is much better. This can be done with either the toe shoes or normal running shoes.

I transitioned from normal running shoes to my Vibram Five Fingers about a year ago. I'm not going to get all analytical on ya'll, but I will give you some anecdotes from my own exercise. Take from it what you will.
  • I don't have knee pain anymore when I run. I used to get knee pain after about 5 miles with normal running shoes.
  • They are machine washable (nevermind that I can't seem to ever do that)
  • Very multi-purpose; I use them to hike, bike, for waterparks, scuba diving and as water shoes. 
  • They force me to run with better form.
  • The soles are completely safe to walk through rocks, forest, glass, anything short of hot lava or a bed of nails. However, they are porous, so if you step in a puddle, your feet will be wet.
  • I feel like I run faster in them. Whether or not I actually do is another thing. But psychologically, I like the feeling of bending forward into the wind and gripping the pavement with my toes. It reminds me of running barefoot as a child, flying across the grass, my hair whipping behind me. 

To anyone thinking of looking ridiculous with me, you should check out some of the literature surrounding barefoot running and try on a pair at your local sporting goods store. They might take a bit to finagle them on, but a snug fit is important. Take it slow when you first start running in them; your calves take a lot of the impact previously doled out to your knees so you'll probably be a little sore the first few times.  

To each his own with the running shoes, but for me, I'll never go back.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

You're going to choke on that

Harder than it looks
This week, at spin class, I saw a woman chewing gum. For the entire hour long class.

For those that don't know, spinning is an intense, indoor exercise where you pedal a stationary bike for around an hour to the beat of fast (or slow) music. Lots of resistance for your legs, lots of sweat.

Did I mention it is intense? Last time I brought a friend to spin class with me, they almost passed out.

And here this woman was, chewing gum through the workout. And she was no slouch either; she was soaked with sweat by the time the workout ended.

Two thoughts flashed through my head.

The first was, You're going to accidentally inhale that and choke.

And that was immediately followed by, Oh my goodness, please don't do that; I'm not a doctor yet.

The woman was seated almost directly behind me, so I could see her in the mirror as I cycled. So I spent the entire class watching her out of the corner of my eye, with this irrational fear that she was going to get her gum lodged in her throat and likely die at any moment.

I had to resist the urge to warn her about the dangers of chewing gum while breathing heavily. Here is how that conversation played out in my mind:

Me (awkwardly): "Um, I noticed that you are chewing gum there. Be careful you don't accidentally inhale that or I'll have to give you a very layperson tracheotomy with a pen and a mini flashlight. And I've only seen one of them, so it probably won't go well."

Her: "Who're you - my mum?"

Holy crap. Am I turning into my mother already? Is this what motherhood is going to be like? Have I started turning motherly and I don't even have a kid yet?

Worse, what if she really did need a doctor? I'm so close I can taste it, but how much life saving technique will I really learn in the first two years?

I can just imagine as she is choking, "Oh too bad. If only you'd caught me after my emergency medicine rotation, I would know how to get that out besides the obvious Heimlich maneuver."

So, people of the world, you are on notice. There will be no dying until I am a doctor and can help you. I mean it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why so serious?

My biological dad wasn't invited to my wedding.

It was a pretty easy decision considering I haven't seen him in three years, and he rarely responds to my emails. Through no choice of my own, but his very active choice, I have been eschewed from his life.

There is nothing quite like the exquisite pain of rejection by a parental figure. Those of you who have experienced it know the feeling, like a knife twisting in the side of your ribcage. Except it's somewhere in your stomach and suddenly your breath is ragged and tears are welling up. It's like a heartache I've carried around for 26 years, worse than any break-up you can imagine.

And every time I am reminded that my biological father has completely moved on from me, and the familiar sting of rejection rises in my throat, I ask myself, "Why?" "Haven't you had enough, Kate?" "If he wanted to see you, nothing could stop a father from his daughter."

I saw a picture of him a year ago; I hardly recognized him.

I daresay he and I have gone through some of the most traumatic moments of either of our lives together. Which makes it especially difficult when someone you share such a bond with chooses to push you away. And no matter how I try to hold on to him, I just can't.

With medical school fast approaching, the window of opportunity to visit my biological father is shrinking fast. Of course, he would never visit me, in case you were wondering. I know I won't have time once I start school, begin residency, have kids, live my life. And with a surety, I know that if I don't use this time, I'll never see my biological father alive again.

My husband has never met him. And he doesn't want to. I told him I was thinking about visiting my biological dad one last time, and my husband pleaded with me not to go.

There is a song by Bonnie Raitt "I can't make you love me" which says it perfectly:

Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Just give me till then to give up this fight
And I will give up this fight

And I ask myself,

"Haven't you had enough, Kate?"

Yes, I suppose I have. So onward with the new chapter in my life; no looking back. As much as I wish things were different, or that I could change them, I can't. And even through this hurt, this betrayal, this agony, this anger, this senseless decision of yours, I wish you well, Joe-dad. I doubt I will know when you pass from this life, so this is my sort of goodbye to you.

I wish I could say my well wishes to your face, but I deserve to be happy. And that's what I'm going to do.

For those of you in my shoes, I know some of you. It gets easier every year, now that I don't expect anything from him, or make an effort to talk with him. I wish you all the strength to move on with your life. But please do; lots of people are lining up to love you like you deserve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wild speculation

I got some interesting advice from one of my interviewers for medical school:

"Choose the specialty you aren't the best at. It's easy to fall in love with something you excel in, but 10, 20, 30 years down the road it loses its luster. There is no challenge in it for you, nothing to keep your interest. But the specialty you struggle with, the one you grow into, the one that always has room for improvement is the one that is going to become the love of your life."

It was a bit of a heavy hitting interview.

Advice from the many residents I have met amounts to: "Doesn't matter what you like now; that'll change in medical school."

Well, I ,for one, have no idea what I'll end up doing. But I definitely have my predilections towards certain specialties based on my non-extensive experience. At the risk of embarrassing myself, I will share them with you now and we'll see how things shape up in the next four years.

In alphabetical order:

(+1) Anesthesiology - 95% of the time watching monitors and the patient, 5% of the time fighting with every fiber of your being to keep the patient alive. Sounds awesome to me.

(0) Dermatology - Meh. Skin diseases and alopecia just don't excite me the way trauma or the operating room do.

(+1) Emergency Medicine - Probably the most similar to waitressing, lots of multi-tasking, dealing with crazy and teamwork. Sign me up. (Also, trauma surgery is win!)

(0) Family Practice - I'm open to liking this, I just have no experience with it. Maybe it will be a puzzle I need to figure out in the 15 minutes allocated to see my patient. We'll see.

(0) Internal Medicine - Lots of options for practicing with this choice, but nothing exciting jumps out at me.

(-1) Neurology - A lot of these maladies are so grave that I think it would be difficult to maintain my optimism. My time shadowing a neurosurgeon was a bit depressing; few people left the hospital and those that did were under hospice care (most likely for the rest of their lives). Makes me sad.

(-1) Obstetrics and Gynecology - Holy cow bells are there a lot of women in this specialty. Coming from an almost all male college major and engineering firm, I'm not sure I could handle the estrogen.

(0) Orthopedic Surgery - As far as surgical specialties, I think digging around in the abdomen is a little more my speed, but I don't have my experience with broken bones having never broken one myself. Again, we'll see.

(0) Otolaryngology - Could be super neat? Although I don't really like working in the mouth. I hate going to the dentist. Hate. Not sure how this will translate to ears, nose and throat.

(0) Pathology - I like science and this specialty seems very science-ey? More data must be gathered.

(0) Pediatrics - I like kids, but I'm not so sure I'd want to work with them all day every day.

(-1) Psychiatry - Ha, I get enough of crazy from my husband, family and friends. Did I mention myself in there?

(+1) Radiology (diagnostic) - I know what ya'll are thinking: "She's an engineer, of course she'd choose this." Hear me out though. It's actually negative points that radiologists often spend their time holed up in a little dark room speaking softly into their little dictate machines. However, there are parts of radiology where you get to operate on a patient using real time imaging to figure out where to put your instruments. That's what I would like to sign up for. Not the dark room thing.

(+2) Surgery (general) - Alright, if I had to be honest, this would probably be one of my top choices. Surgery just fascinates me. No, this doesn't have anything to do with Grey's Anatomy or Scrubs. I like the idea of a team working together to save someone's life. I like the pressure and stress of it, the unpredictability of this. Let's see if my interest stays the same in four years.

(+1) Urology - I know, it seemed weird to me for a girl to be interested in urology. Like a male gynecologist. But a few months ago, I met a female Urology resident in the gym locker room (don't ask how that happened). She described a bit about her job, and I have to say, it sounded awesome. She does a lot of procedures on an equal mix of men and women. It's a good pace and quite a challenge from her description. So into the mix goes Urology.

So there you have it: a pre-med almost medical student's view on specialties she knows almost nothing about. While I am leaning more towards certain specialties, I still have the utmost respect for all specialties and what they do. They are all valuable and needed, I just think my skill set will fit certain specialties better than others. But what do I know?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New conversation norms

I went to the "Revisit Night" for my medical school, where accepted students mingle while enjoying wine, beer and fantastic hors d'oeuvres.

Several hours into the evening, I was in a conversation with seven other students. I asked the nearest student what he did prior to medical school. His response silenced the circle of students: "I work on IBS research." IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and drums up visions of diarrhea, constipation, bloating or maybe all three simultaneously.

Now, the normal reaction to this bit of information is to crinkle your nose, perhaps say "Ewww", or maybe tell an anecdote of that one time your friend crapped his pants.

But we were almost medical students. No one's face scrunched up. Instead, I saw interest piqued on at least half their faces. One person across the circle asked, "Oh really? Are you researching causes or solutions?" And the conversation went into a grown-up, rational discussion of bowel movements.

I think I am going to enjoy medical school.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting into and surviving the operating room

I've known that I wanted to attend medical school for 4 years now. But seeing as I didn't have the required coursework, I've spent 3 years of that getting said required coursework. As such, I've talked with a lot of pre-meds. One thing that always boggles them is how I have witnessed so many surgeries and procedures as a pre-medical student.

Looking back, I guess I have seen a fair bit. I've seen robotic heart surgery, a tracheotomy, burr holes drilled, brain surgery, defibrillation, extreme limb trauma, a baby being born, spinal trauma, a split scalp and have even been present when a doctor informed the family of a loved ones imminent death. So how did I do all of this?

The answer is so deceivingly simple many people haven't thought of it: I asked. After setting my sights on medicine, I decided that I really wanted to see one of the Da Vinci robots in action. So I found the one practicing physician in my city trained in robotic heart surgeries and called him to ask. He checked with the hospital, checked with the patient and approved it. Simple as that, I was in.

Of course, the next challenge was that I had never actually been in an operating room before. Oh sure, I'd seen them on Grey's Anatomy and I'd even been a patient in them a few times, but I'd never been a witness. I'd never seen a living, breathing person being opened up; how would I handle this? I'll admit, I was a little scared. Whether I was more scared of embarrassing myself by fainting, or of totally screwing up something important, I couldn't say.

Here's my advice to all the pre-meds and/or medical students about to step into the operating room for the first time:
  1. Make friends with the scrub nurse. She or he will be able to give you pointers on where to stand, and cues about when to stay quiet and when to ask questions. They will probably be the ones to revive you if you faint. Be respectful, otherwise they may draw on your face with black sharpie while you are passed out.
  2. Don't touch that! No, but really, most likely you won't be touching anything in the operating room. Especially avoid touching things that are blue. Blue means sterile. Your hands are not sterile, no matter how many times you antibacterialized them today. No touchy. 
  3. Don't even touch the blue LEGOs
  4. Don't tick off the surgeon. I learned this lesson from an awesome nurse anesthetist: try to know your surgeon before going into the operating room. Does he mind if you ask him questions? Does she like teaching students? The surgeon is busy and focused, try to be mindful of that even when you have a question you want to ask so badly you think you might explode. Take a deep breath and wait until the surgeon isn't in the middle of sawing through a major blood vessel.
  5. You passed out; your life is now over. False. I've been told by many a nurse and doctor that many medical students or pre-meds faint their first time in the operating room. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Not everyone is meant to be a brain surgeon. (I get grossed out by dentists, ick!) If you think you are going to faint, get a chair, or better yet, leave the operating room for a little bit to get some air. Let the nurse know you are nervous. Make sure you're not going to fall on the life support equipment. Also, a common mistake I'm told is to lock your knees. As a med student or pre-med, you know what happens. You cut off the blood supply to your brain and wind up horizontal. Shift your weight back and forth slowly to keep the blood flowing.
After about 30 minutes watching the robotic heart surgery, I was just fine. I had forgotten about my nervousness because the surgery that was being performed in front of me was breathtaking. This was the first time I've ever seen the lungs rising and falling in a chest cavity. The first time I'd seen an artery taken out of the body. It didn't look anything like I thought it would. It was grey, and tiny! No bigger in circumference than a cocktail straw. Amazing how something so small could hold the key to life or death.

From then on, it just got easier to get approval to shadow doctors. I cannot overemphasize the importance of volunteering in a hospital setting. I learned HIPAA guidelines (essential for shadowing) and got references I could give to the doctors. In fact, some of the doctors I shadowed were people I met while volunteering. I'd notice the hospital department logo emblazoned on their shirt and straight up ask if I could shadow them. That's how I got my next shadow gig with a neurosurgeon.

Shadowing surgeons takes a lot of patience though. They are busy, busy, busy. Their schedules change erratically. I can't tell you how many times I showed up to attend a surgery that was cancelled. But finally seeing a lot of procedures I did made it all worth it. I now have another basis for saying why I think medicine is the right place for me. The excitement I felt during this shadowing was unlike anything I've ever felt doing engineering. I can't wait until I'm doing the procedures myself.

Friday, July 15, 2011


We didn't take many pictures. I know, I know, tsk tsk. Family and friends have already expressed their disapproval, but let me defend myself!

We vacationed in Cancun, Mexico in June. June! The humidity was 90%+. When we walked outside, we were immediately soaked. Our clothes were dripping, our towels were useless, even our books we were reading got wet. Not ideal conditions for a camera. As if that wasn't enough, it rained 3 out of the 7 day of our honeymoon. So. Not too many pictures. Don't be angry at me.

Our Resort

Obviously we didn' t take this picture; it's the stock photo from the hotel

Things We Did

Oh get your minds out of the gutter. We sludged quite a bit in the air conditioning since it was so hot. We went swimming, snorkeling and to some of the major theme parks around Cancun/Playa Del Carmen. 

We visited two theme parks that I'd highly recommend, with the caveat that I'm fairly certain they are destroying the environment in that area. Also, none of these are our pictures since these were both water parks. No camera for us. 

The first is called Xcaret (pronouned Ish-ka-ret). We went snorkeling in their underground rivers, saw a lot of wildlife, and even went down a waterslide that ended up in a natural tide pool. Tons of fish were trapped in the natural tide pool, so it was pretty neat to fall in the water and see huge 4 to 8 feet fish dart away from you.

We got to snorkel several miles of this; absolutely breathtaking!
But the real treat at Xcaret was swimming with the dolphins. There were five people in our group, and there were 10 dolphins in the water with us. 10. 4 mothers and 6 babies. You heard right. Baby dolphins. 

The mothers were the stars of the show. We got to shake hands with them, get a kiss, splash with them, pet them. Two mothers jumped over us while we tread water. Dolphins are big! I'd hate to tick one of them off. 

But the real treat was watching the baby dolphins play. They were not "part of the show", so to speak. The trainers encouraged them to be kids, and as such, asked us not to give them attention. But they were so cute! And, apparently, dolphins love to be pet, so the babies would try to swim slowly by us to get our attention. When that didn't work, they would dart at us, veering away at the last second, playfully vying for our affection. 

We spent a full 60 minutes in the water with the dolphins, and it was well worth the money. The finale was when the two dolphins pushed our feet using their noses and propelled us out of the water like: 

Fair warning, don't wear a bikini to this. We definitely saw one woman almost lose her bottoms.

Several days later, we visited XPlor, touted as "100% safe". It was the least safe theme park we have ever been to. But it was awesome.

The first thing we did is zipline all around the park. The ascent to the zipline was not safe at all. It was a stone staircase, with a tiny railing, and only a three foot wall separating me from plunging to a 70-foot fall death. However, I actually felt very safe during the ziplining; they had it down to a science. After the first three or four times, the zip lining became almost mundane. The water landings were pretty neat though:

I don't know why that teradactyl is overhead
We again swam through underground rivers, but unlike Xcaret, the ones at Xplor were limestone. We also went paddling through underground rivers. They kept telling us, "Don't touch the limestone", but it was impossible not to! We did not have goggles, so we couldn't see under the water. Sometimes, the rock would jut into the main swimway, taking me by surprise when I scraped the entire front of my body against it. Safe indeed.

Why are they smiling?
Those little paddles attached to your wrist were so ineffective it was laughable. We kept running into walls, getting turned around, but we laughed hysterically through most of it. By the time we finished, we were absolutely exhausted. Least relaxing "ride" ever. We also probably destroyed thousands of years worth of limestone accumulation. Oops. 

What really made the park was the amphibious vehicles. We got to drive them at a fairly good clip, maybe 25 miles per hour. 

When we took them out, it was raining and spectacularly unsafe. The roads were precarious, steep and slippery with little warning when a cave entrance was coming. I remember us flying over one hill to see a sloping decline into a cave...with an immediate L turn at the cave entrance. My husband slammed on the brakes to no effect. We slid down the hill, screaming the entire way. Right as we entered the cave, and I was sure we were going to hit the cave wall head on, he jerked the wheel, sending the back of our vehicle into a spin, slamming us sideways against the wall (sorry limestone). And we just kept driving, laughing like maniacs. 

See those roll bars above? Ours didn't actually connect to our vehicle; it was rusted through. So we could jiggle our roll bar. We told one of the attendants about it. She told us she would "make a note of it", but she never did. 100% safe my butt.

The Wildlife

We saw all sorts of wildlife not only at the theme parks we visited, but also at our hotel. Every morning during breakfast, birds would flock to the open air buffet tables and attempt to steal everything. And I do mean everything. They even took Splenda packets. 

Iguanas would come right up to our table and beg for food. My husband pet an iguana, fed another iguana and then got bit by an iguana. These iguanas were anywhere from a foot long to three feet long (tail not included!)

In the wild, we saw parrots, geckos, an alligator, spiny star fish, a sea spider (gross; don't Google that), sting rays, a huge 8 foot long fish (no idea what kind) trapped in a tide pool, pencil fish and countless tropical fish.

In captivity, we saw dolphins, panthers, sting rays (that we got to pet!), sea turtles (including giant 7 or 8 feet long ones as well as little babies), jellyfish, sea urchins, flamingos and manatees.

We didn't know at the time, but this is called an Agouti. We thought it was a squirrel rat dog combination.
Mr. Gator was actually in a fenced in cage on the hotel premises. He was probably 8 feet long. We saw another alligator that was not in a cage. He was just swimming along in the water feature. While some workers were working in said water feature....

This coatimundi was probably the cutest animal we saw, although I didn't take this picture
Mr. Crabby was teeny tiny; about the size of a quarter

Overall, it was an amazing trip. I highly recommend visiting Cancun if you can.