Thursday, September 29, 2011

Trying To Spread My Overabundance of Optimism

Well, we're in the thick of it now.

Two molecular biology exams, a histology exam, and we just finished our fourth exam - the big one - the first block of Anatomy. The entire musculoskeletal anatomy from the neck down. Origins and insertions of the muscles, nerve innervations, blood supply, ligaments and tendons, lymph node locations, and more.

That's right. All of it. Whoo boy. Allow me to point out now that medical students may relate to this post a lot more, but I hope that anyone who reads it enjoys it for what it's worth.

But we somehow made it through, and had one of the most relaxing weekends we all have ever had. Hence, I am writing a blog entry. I actually started this entry about a week and three days ago, after the third exam, but due to the immense amount of studying I had to do for the next exam (and the fact that the Buffalo Bar Crawl was that night) I ended up putting it off. But here I am again, and I can remember the feelings I had that night as if it was yesterday.

I had walked out of that biochem exam at around 12:30ish, mentally exhausted but unable to rest because I had to go straight to my preceptor's office to shadow the doctor there and try to practice what few clinical skills I had. I had had a long week with two exams, as had the rest of my 143 classmates, and I really just wanted to go home and sleep, with a dim idea of attending the Bar Crawl and a despair stemming from the thought that I would need to wake up early the next morning to start studying for Anatomy. I stood there for a few minutes with some classmates who had also left the exam, discussing answers and wincing every time I realized I had gotten one wrong, and then left because I remembered that I had to stop at the bookstore to pick up a lanyard on which to put my medical school ID card. I remember wondering why I had chosen to put myself through this...why all 144 of us, the ones that did incredible on the exam and the ones that did less than incredible, the ones who smoked the anatomy exam like a holiday ham and the ones who got spanked with it, the ones who rock every encounter with a standardized patient and the ones who are still uncomfortable...why are we doing this to ourselves? Why the torture and the mental exhaustion, and the 19-hour days where you come home at 2 AM reeking of formaldehyde and Taco Bell? (Note: That second part might be just me.)

This question was answered by two things that afternoon. The first was as I reached my car, already dressed in a dress shirt, pants, shoes, and tie. I headed to the bookstore and picked up a lanyard, clipped my medical school ID card to it, and slipped it over my head...and then I went to my car and put on my white coat.
Now, I am aware that I am still just a medical student ("just?"), not an actual doctor. I am aware that I have only scratched the surface of treating patients. And I am aware that I am a little conceited. But as second-year med student (and my best friend) Ketan put it, "The white coat is designed to make people look good." And I must say...putting on that coat felt pretty good.

Immediately my day picked up a bit, but I still felt fried. How was I going to be enthusiastic for my preceptor, and for his patients? turns out that I would have a little help. Arriving at Dr. Stephan's office, I was immediately led back to the office kitchen (where the staff had been given lunch by a pharmaceutical representative) and introduced to the tall and imposing yet soft-spoken doctor who I will follow this semester. From the very first patient he took me beyond what was supposed to be an observational role - he had me assist in minor procedures he conducted, guided me through parts of the physical exam to observe abnormalities he found, and encouraged me to ask any questions of him or the patients.

Now, that's just a great preceptor, who is enthusiastic about his students - I had hoped for as much (and I know not all of them are like that). But the thing that really got to me was something that I had been told about but had never actually expected: the patients were really enthusiastic about me being there. Some of them were in too much pain or discomfort to care, but they were still happy to answer my questions, let me see what was happening in or on their bodies, and do anything they could to help train and advise a future doctor. For much of the morning I had been in a dense fog of biochemical pathways, histological sections, and anatomical figures. Still, with the very first patient I saw, the fog lifted, and I truly realized for the first time the incredible responsibility I have towards these patients and their bodies and minds, and how much they trust me. For me, that was not intimidating...rather, that is what makes all of this worthwhile.

I realize that I had a great day and that there will be bad ones (to those that have already had those...I'm so sorry). There will be difficult patients and coworkers and insurance crises and all of that. But does the good outweigh the bad? I'm betting it does. Maybe I'm too much of an optimist, but I really believe in that.

The experience puts things in perspective. So even though I spent the next week studying anatomy until I was blue in the face (which is really hard for a brown man), I kept my head up. And over the last week, I took pleasure in the fact that I have had time to chill out with my friends. I have enjoyed the little things in life, like a classmate's homemade carrot cake or apple pie, or the sound of a new jazz album. But all the while I have kept these feelings in mind.

So to the patients I met that day: Thank you.

To my fellow medical students, dental students, and any students who are wondering why they are doing what they're doing: most of the patients/constituents/customers/clients really do trust you, which is an amazing feeling, and I hope we all take it as seriously and with as much gratitude in twenty years as we do now.

And to the med students: you look damn fine in your white coat.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thus Starts a New Season of the Seriocomical TV Show That is My Life

I was inspired to write this blog post because I started running yesterday. I have a bad habit of wanting to get back into running, and then actually doing so for a few days to a week, only to drop it again when things gets busy and I feel compelled to do other "more important" things with my time. Which, as with many of us, happens often. This is shaping up to be another one of those times, but I'm only on day 2. Anyway, I went running down the bike path at UB's North Campus (a great running/biking area right next to where I now live) and as I came back, I saw this little ten-foot path that went into a tiny clearing with some well-placed rocks for sitting or whatever. And in the path, there was a rabbit. He hopped into the center of the path and just stood there, one little eye staring as the weary jogger walked by, trying to shrug off back pain (incidentally - don't try running with non-running shoes - using your everyday worn-out sneakers SUCKS). Then today, I went running again, along the same route (this time with my running shoes and it was amazingly better) and the rabbit was again in the center of that little ten-foot path into the clearing. And on my way was still there. As I went by (jogging this time), I realized this phenomenon and doubled back to look again at the rabbit, thinking it may have tried to settle in right there.

And it was gone, off to find a new path. Go figure.

And I'm pretty sure that little tale has nothing to do with the rest of this post. But it was kinda crazy. So now, post-run, I sit here in Timmy Ho's drinking a large raspberry iced tea that is seriously hitting the spot, and reflecting on the week that has been. My first week of medical school. I have actually been dreaming about this for most of my life, with the usual questions - what will it be like? Will I be overwhelmed or find it easy? Will I know what to do? Will I have good friends during my time? Will I make it through alive? And how will it change me?

Well, it's already looking like it will be overwhelming. But a healthy dose of overwhelming. I didn't really know what to do at first, but we're all in the same boat that way, all of us med students. Between the professor in charge of the lab screaming at us to respect the cadavers (with good reason) and taking a total of 2 hours to talk to us about things that really could have been explained in 30 the absolute and utter disarray that was the introduction to our new the injuries our classmates suffered during orientation (proving once and for all that the amoeba race is not a wise game to play) the White Coat Ceremony in front of our families and the general craziness that is a first week at a new school. From the highest joys and pride in our accomplishments, to the excited terror in front of a new cadaver, we are all entering a new and amazing time in our lives.
And yeah...there are a lot of cool people in my class.
There's the girl who I offered to help with her move-in. I decided to impress her with my heavy box-carrying skills and my knowledge of the streets of Buffalo...and then proceeded to make a wrong turn and take a twice-as-long route back to her apartment, and almost killed her in the process when I made a hasty turn that forced her to cut off a semi truck.
There's the four or five people who I've come to know extremely well over the last four years as my friends and classmates as we went through the craziness of the Biomedical Sciences major and pre-med classes at UB - one of whom is now a bandmate, and one of whom I am particularly close with as we fought many a hard battle in the trenches that were the Early Assurance Program for Medicine at UB - going so far as to take ALL of the same classes one semester, and going through interviews, nervous breakdowns, and joyous celebrations when we got in. All four or five are some of the smartest people I know, and many others in my class are soon to join that list, and I look forward to being challenged and encouraged by them.
There's the splendid organizer who almost single-handedly has been responsible for getting many of the new med students to get out and experience Buffalo, and more than just its bars.
There's the super-tall guy. He's great in a lot of ways, including personality, but when I first met him all I could think of his "Holy crap, he's tall!"
There's the gentleman whose laugh is becoming famous throughout the ears of all our classmates.
There's a great many Buffalonians who have been here for many years or are just coming back after undergrad elsewhere, and who share my love for this fine city and all its idiosyncrasies.
There are the people who didn't attend UB undergrad but also interviewed Early Assurance with me - one of whom I think only remembers me because, despite all my nervousness that day, she saw me start to nod off while Dr. Severin gave us the pre-interview talk. I still to this day hope and pray that he didn't see me and/or doesn't remember it.
There are the people who are slowly making me realize how little I've scratched the surface of the concept of long-term and healthy relationships.
There are the members of my lab group that may kill me at some point because I'm way too perky at 9 AM when we're dissecting a human body.
There's the girl who is as excited about jazz as I am. I'm really glad your apartment is okay after that fire.
And there's everyone who came out to see Mayday, the band I play in, rock the crap out of the Buckin' Buffalo Saloon. One of my favorite things in the whole world is playing music for my friends that they enjoy. And the bachelorettes were hilarious, too. 
And so many more that I would love to mention but if I tried to go through all of them, I would go on and on for pages and pages. And this entry is probably long enough.

I'm excited to get to know more and more of my classmates, and work hard alongside them as we strive to make it through the next four or five years together. It's going to be intense, but amazing, too. Will we make it out alive? Probably. Will these new friends I have (and I) be the same people? Absolutely not. Somewhere in the next four years we will surely find our calling, and it will definitely change us. So at this point we are like that rabbit, disappearing off into the unknown to start the rest of our lives.

See what I did there?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Thank-Yous, An Apology, and a Lesson

Even the proudest experience can turn humbling.

Back in May I started this blog, just a week after undergoing the nostalgic and celebratory craziness that is college graduation. I've been meaning to write about my experiences from that weekend. Actually, one experience in particular that really left a mark on me...
Yup, that's broken glass.

And I wasn't sure what lesson to take from it. And more importantly, I didn't know how to put a humorous spin on it and create a good blog post about it. Special thanks to my good friend Chelsey for helping me talk my way into learning something.

There were a lot of things that helped define my college career. A great UB education, surrounded by awesome people in my major that pushed me to do well in our classes together, and a great circle of friends. But one of the most significant aspects of my time at UB was my leadership: Helping to lead the Residence Hall Association, interacting with other leaders there and with Mortar Board Honor Society, leading jazz band rhythm sections and more. And yes, maybe I worked too hard on leadership things, to the point where it detracted from my academics. Maybe I could have gotten better grades if I had devoted more brainpower to my studies, but looking back...I don't think I would have changed anything. I learned a lot, both in books and out of them, and I had amazing times with my friends. But I digress. A lot.

Anyway, in early March I was chillin' in the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement (which I was doing a lot during the year), when the director asked me if I'd received a letter from UB's most beloved "silver fox" (named by female friends of mine), the VP of Student Affairs Dennis Black. I replied that I had not, to which she responded "Okay, let me know when you do." And then she walked away. Leaving me very confused.

Eventually I was told that I was going to be recognized at the College of Arts & Sciences graduation ceremony with the VP Student Award for Senior Leadership. I felt honored. Dennis said some nice things about me, people cheered, and it was an amazing experience.
So I would like to thank the Department of Student Affairs for giving me that award. It was beautiful.

And I'm really, really sorry I dropped it. And shattered it. In the last ten minutes of the graduation ceremony.
It slipped!

And thank you again, Student Affairs, both for worrying that I would cut myself and taking away most of the shattered pieces, and for giving me a new award. One that is twice as thick as its predecessor.

So far this post has basically been an exercise in expressing arrogance, and for that I apologize. But I did learn something that I hope everyone bears in mind - a humorous lesson, but a lesson nonetheless. No matter how much we succeed, and no matter how amazing a leader can become...he/she can still do stupid things, have silly moments, and in general, make a fool of him-/herself. Those are the experiences that bring us back down to earth. We need those moments to keep us humble, and thereby keep us human.

That's why I keep those two pieces of glass - the only parts of the original award I have left. They remind me that I will always make mistakes, so while I can be proud of my accomplishments, I shouldn't let my successes go to my head. Gotta stay on my toes.

So what are your pieces of glass?

Friday, July 8, 2011

We've Got the Hashtag Fever...Do the Hashtag Dance...Hashtag This...

Most people that know me know that I text like a fiend. And most of those people know that I have recently and heavily embraced Twitter and all its Twitter-ness. I am twitterpated with Twitter, basically, complete with lame hashtags and useless updates that hopefully are funny every once in a while.

The other day I had a conversation (again over text message) with one of the three musical acts with whom I have been playing this summer, the vertically challenged but immensely talented Sara Elizabeth (see her Facebook page and check out a sample of us at this YouTube video). Sara also greatly enjoys texting and Tweeting, and this conversation (among others) helped us realize that we may be too attached to our social technologies (WARNING: What follows is pathetically funny. Or just pathetic...hopefully the former).

Joe: Where's Saturday's gig?

Sara: Goodrich Coffe & Tea.

Joe: Ah, right. Cool beans.

Joe: Or hot beans, depending on how you like your coffee. #badpun

Sara: Iced beanz #totesmostdef

Joe: Hellz yeah! #Godwearelame Fwd: From Sara Genco Iced beanz #totesmostdef (I did this in order to use the texting equivalent of a Retweet)

Sara: #unstoppablepowerofnerdywhitegirlandindianboy #ilovecoffee

Joe: Booyah! #unstoppablepowerofnerdywhitegirlandindianboy #ilovecoffee (Subsequent thought: "Did I just use 'booyah'? The '90s called, they want their word back so they can bury it for good.")

Sara: bahahaha are you tweeting these texts too?

Joe: No, but I may have to, haha.

Joe: That's why I called us lame...

Sara: Hahahaha #werenotlame #doesn'teveryoneusehashtagsinnormalconversation #duhz

Joe: #mybad #realizationfail #Twitterislife

Sara: #ithappenz #canwealwaystalklikethis #imightsavethisconvoforevz

Joe: #thingsweneedtodo #kindofourthing #imightsavethisconvoforevz

Sara: #thisistoomuch #alltextslocked#unstoppablepowerofnerdywhitegirlandindianboy #thatissolong

...(About twelve hours later, discussing subsequent weekends and possible gigs - my schedule is a little up in the air)

Joe: I'd like to play...Not sure what else life will require of me that weekend, though. :)

Sara: Haha alright we can play it by ear! One weekend at a time ha

Joe: Indeed, that's how I've been living the entire summer!

Sara: We live life playing by ear #bahaha #morebadpuns

Joe: #groan ;)

It's a good thing we're semi-professional musicians, 'cause the automatic coolness that comes from that is the only thing that could possibly validate us.

Anyway, for a much less pathetic display of our interaction with each other, come see us play at Goodrich Coffee & Tea this Saturday (tomorrow, July 9th 7:30-9:30 PM) - you won't be disappointed, I promise! :) And stay tuned to our Facebook pages for upcoming gigs, we've both got a bunch of them coming up this summer, both separate and together. See you there, hopefully, and keep an eye out for our soon-to-be-trademarked hashtag:


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wrong Turns, Bubble Tea, and a British GPS (Part 2 of 2)

Previously on Joe and Gamy's Adventures...
Gamy and I had just had a somewhat difficult, but far more comical border crossing experience, and were on our way into Canada, to Markham, Ontario, part of the Greater Toronto Area, and once home to Gamy Wong.

At this point we realized that we had absolutely no idea how to get to Markham, where Gamy's friends were (hopefully) going to meet us. Then we realized that we had not made arrangements to actually meet any of Gamy's friends. So Gamy bit the International Roaming bullet and called up his friends. Thankfully, some of them were around. We drove on the QEW for a while, and eventually pulled off to figure out (using Gamy's phone's GPS) which way to go. Wrote down the directions so we wouldn't overuse his phone, and took off again. Unfortunately for the two of us, I have a terrible sense of direction while driving. Walking I do quite well, but in driving I am somewhat terrible at navigation. I am getting better, but it's still pretty sucky, especially when I am driving in a new place. After a couple of wrong turns and ending up on a few random streets and tiny little one-horse towns, we reconsulted Gamy's phone's GPS and this time left it on. We eventually pulled into the Toronto suburb of Markham, Ontario around 9:00 PM, and following Gamy's friend's directions over the phone, we finally found First Market Place and its Asian Mall. By this time we were frazzled and it was getting dark and God knows we could not see straight. We walked around the mall, trying to find A Place For Us, a tea place, where Gamy's friends were meeting us and where I was going to experience my first bubble tea.

We wandered around that mall for a solid fifteen minutes and then waited by an entrance another ten. Finally we couldn't stand it anymore and called Gamy's friend again. Turns out...we walked past it once or twice. Oy. Our only solace is that after such a crazy day and drive, we were completely frazzled. Once inside, we met up with Gamy's friends and I finally was able to put faces to the names of Eric and Kelvin. Cool guys, finishing school and working in the Greater Toronto Area. Something that has always interested me is the kind of jobs people can get that are somewhat off the beaten path. Kelvin gets paid to travel on behalf of a travel agency, and also works as a photographer for a couple of companies. Eric, still a student, is currently in a co-op with the Toronto Transit Commission. Not necessarily outlandish, but definitely a creative use of their college degrees and their skills. Many of my other friends are making similarly interesting career moves, and I am always fascinated by where their education and networking takes them.

We stayed there talking for close to an hour and a half, talking about topics ranging from Gamy, Eric, and Kelvin's old schoolteachers to their jobs to RHA to why America is better than Canada and vice versa, to the disappointing game the Vancouver Canucks were playing. But eventually, realizing we had a 3-hour drive back to Brockport ahead of us, we left the bubble tea shop around 11:00 PM. In the colossal "duh" moment of the evening, we realized that we needn't have relied on Gamy's GPS and its roaming charges, because simply changing the country on my plug-in GPS in my car would've enabled us to navigate Canada's unfamiliar roads. You may now facepalm, as I did.

On the way back we stopped at a Tim Horton's - it was Canada and it seemed to be the right thing to do, especially it being so late. I am of the opinion that Timmy Ho's most commonly served beverage is rather on the poorer side of coffee, but I am not enough of a coffee snob to snub it. I also buy coffee iced more often than not, because I get extremely annoyed when I burn my tongue on every other hot cup of coffee that I drink, so my selection of coffees is limited. But I digress. The reason I bring this up is because I made the mistake of ordering a small iced coffee. Canadians are serious about the size of their small. I have never seen the movie Super Size Me or anything like that, but it never hit home just how generous America is with its portions until I ordered a small drink and it was brought out in a cup about as tall as two, maybe 2 1/2 Timbits stacked on top of each other. The drink barely lasted halfway out of Markham as we departed. I only made one wrong turn. A few other things we learned on the way home:
  1. At 12:45 AM, the waxing crescent moon looks like it has a nose.
  2. A crushed Corvette makes my heart weep.
  3. It is impossible to find an open bathroom in Amherst, NY at 1:30 AM.
    • The Delta Sonic was completely closed.
    • The next gas station where I filled up had a bathroom out-of-order.
    • The nearest restaurants with bars were both closed for the night, since it was a Monday night and no sane people were out.
    • We finally turned to the Marriott for relief.
  4. There are no discount retail stores open in Buffalo at 1:30 AM, either. At least, not in the immediate vicinity of Niagara Falls Boulevard and the 290. (Author's note: I have since realized that the Wegmans I use most was about 2 minutes away from where we were. Sleep-deprived fail.) I had forgotten to pack a pillow and a blanket when I moved to Brockport, and lying on a cold bed using a curled-up sweatshirt in one's pillowcase is not ideal.
Finally giving up on finding an open Wal-Mart or Target in Buffalo, we set off for Brockport. A few miles after exit 48, the sheer amount of driving I had done all day was getting to be too much and I pulled off the road, slapped my hazard lights on, and settled back for a 10-minute power nap. I woke up 5 minutes later to Gamy announcing that a police car, lights flashing, had just pulled up behind us.

The cop asked us what was going on, I explained the situation, and he pointed out with the barest hint of annoyed warning that there was a rest stop a few miles down the road. For my part, the shortened nap had actually done wonders and I drove us the rest of the way home to Brockport. We pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot and found out that at 3 AM, Gamy and I are too tired to navigate our way through a store. In trying to find the right pillow and the right size blanket for my bed, I must have grabbed the wrong size three times each, sometimes grabbing the same wrong size off the shelf twice, convinced it was actually the right one. In retrospect, I don't know what on earth was wrong with my brain-to-eye-to-hand nerve signals.

We finally made it home to my apartment and proceeded to slowly sleepwalk through our evening routine. I had left my apartment at 2:00 PM that Monday. Over a tankful of gas, close to 400 road miles, and nearly 14 hours later, my head hit my new pillow a little before 4 AM. Yup - pretty epic things can happen when you put me and Gamy together.

Oh, by the way, the bubble tea was delicious.

A Day With Gamy Wong, or How Spontaneity Can Drive You Insane (Part 1 of 2)

So Gamy Wong came to visit me on Monday.

Well, he didn't really come to visit me as much as to go check out his home country of Canada. Being an international student with a Canadian passport, he's gotta check in with them every now and then. Getting to see each other was a perk for us and what was originally supposed to be a simple cross-over-and-back trip became a rather epic trip.

Before I tell you this epic tale, let me give you a little background on a couple of things:
1) I am currently residing in Brockport, working for the month of June. This village/college town is located just west of Rochester, a little over an hour away from Buffalo. This detail is to illustrate the driving we had to do.
2) awesome. He just graduated, but while he was studying at Ithaca, if you were anyone at Ithaca or in Northeast Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls, you probably met Gamy. He has a way of reaching out to everyone around him and he's instantly likeable. He also somehow manages to be on Facebook 24/7 without being annoying about it. He was a valuable asset to Ithaca's Residence Hall Association and, like me, it became a semi-obsession for his four years of college. AND (also like me), he's a huge musicophile. I know that's not really a word, but you can figure out what I mean. So we had some pretty amazing conversations about music while he was staying with me, but those happened between the epic events of Monday night. Ready to hear about that? Cool. Here we go.

Gamy arrived around 3:45 PM or so. We then made our way to UB's North Campus. When I had checked out of my apartment the previous week, I had accidentally left two bathroom rugs there, and wanted to go pick those up so the apartments staff would not charge me for their removal. The staff was only too happy to help me and then we headed off to dinner at Santora's, whose food was excellent as always. We then decided to get his Canada visit out of the way that night because my Tuesday was going to be rather busy. In discussions along the way, we decided that rather than just go to Niagara Falls and cross over to the Canadian side and back, we should give Gamy the opportunity to see some old friends from his hometown, since it would be the first time he would be anywhere in Canada in over nine years (save one trip to Vancouver, which isn't exactly close). This was somewhat impromptu, but we decided to go for it. So we drove to Niagara Falls and onto the Rainbow Bridge. Here's where the story gets interesting.

See, that afternoon when I'd left Brockport, I was so excited to go to Buffalo and see Gamy (and thinking about how I had to go fetch those rugs) that I forgot to take all the stuff out of my car. So when we pulled up to the Canadian Border Customs agent at about 6:30 PM, here's the conversation we had after we handed over passports:
Agent: Where are you from?
Joe: I'm from Bu- Brockport, New York, he lives in New York City.
Agent: Whose car is this?
Joe: Mine.
Agent: You're from Brockport...but you have Pennsylvania plates? What are you doing there?
Joe: Oh...I just moved there, I'm a musician.
Agent: How long ago?
Joe: A day (this was true).
Agent: How did you two meet?
Joe: We're students, we met at conferences.
Agent: Where are you students?
Joe: I'm at U at Buffalo, he's from Ithaca.
Agent (to Gamy): You're international? Do you have proof that you're a student? (Gamy fetches his ID forms). Where are you going?
Joe: Toronto.
Agent: For how long?
Joe: Just the evening, we'll be back tonight.
Agent: You're driving all the way to And coming back tonight?
Joe: Yeah, I have work in the morning.
Agent: Why are you going there?
Joe: Seeing friends and family.
Agent: What kind of family?

After we answered that, the agent then proceeded to repeat every single question she had already asked, in different order. We patiently answered, and then she stated that they needed to "verify our claim." She had us pull over and an officer came to search our car. It was then that I realized I had a ton of stuff in my car that one does not normally carry in a vehicle. The officer opened the backseat and found a large bag full of percussion stands, very sharp metal objects with lots of knobs and pokey parts. Then he noticed the cymbals underneath that bag. Then he found a bag of 10 novels I'd picked up when one of my father's co-workers gave away a bunch of her old books. His expression was already perplexed. Proceeding to the trunk, he found my rolled-up bathroom rugs, a UB Residence Hall Association shoulder bag that was empty, and Gamy's suitcase. After rifling through that, he came around to the other side and searched both of our backpacks and then discovered a large rolled-up object. My jaw dropped as I realized he was unrolling a giant window cling of Chewbacca that I had inherited from an RHA predecessor. He just stared at me and asked what it was, and continued to stare in disbelief when I told him. "Sir, you have a lot of random stuff in your vehicle" was all he could say. He then proceeded to ask me about what kind of music I played, expressed his disbelief at the fact that we were traveling all the way to Toronto for less than a night, and sent us on our way. We drove off into the Canadian evening, on our way to Markham and Gamy's friends. But that border crossing was only the first challenge on our epic journey.

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Post That Made Me Start This Blog

Second blog post! Which means I can actually commit to this blog and announce to the world that I'm blogging. 
Preface: In January of this year, I realized that I was not writing in my journal very much anymore, but I was not ready to give up on the challenge issued me after high school graduation by my tenth-grade English teacher - that is, to never stop writing creatively. So I turned to technology as we so often do in this day and age and thought of starting a blog. Almost six months later, I'm finally biting the bullet and posting, with the original story in full to preserve the original humor. If you could bear in mind that while mostly true, this post is rather tongue-in-cheek, I would be much obliged.

So over winter break, I went to India. It was an amazing trip as always. I've been to India five times in my life, and it is always an adventure. This trip was no different - wonderful to see family and friends that I hadn't seen in a long time, my grandmother doted on me as much as she could (while still asking the hard questions: when was I going to come back to visit? When would I bring her great-grandchildren?), and traveling to beaches, jungles, and other exotic places that I never see in my daily location of Western New York or Northwest Pennsylvania. We visited churches as well, and for the first time I experienced a real celebratory church service in India - there were fireworks, processions (both somber and not-so-somber), and general good times as I watched my parents reunite with school chums and long-distant family.

I always enjoy India, sure, but there are a couple of things that really annoy me that I never noticed until this trip. Everyone always talks about New Yorkers and how impatient they are. Heck, Americans in general are considered an impatient people. But you have not seen impatient until you encounter a churchful of Indian grannies. I have stood in a large church with pious men and women around me, asking for forgiveness of their sins and being thankful for God's grace. This changes as soon as the priest calls us up to bless us - he stands at the steps to the altar and waits with a cross about the size of my head which he will tap on each person's forehead as they come up to him. And then suddenly these quiet and pious men and women are shoving past me. I have watched tiny quiet Indian grandmothers push my sister out of the way in order to get up to the priest first. This astonishes me. It's not like the priest's cross will run out of blessings! It kind of nullifies your blessing if you have to elbow someone aside to get to it first...

But I am not going to make this a religious post, because that's not my goal with this anecdote - I only hope you see the humor in this situation. It continues outside of the church, too. Well...right outside the church. I went to a wedding or two while in India as well, and at the dinner after one of them, there was a table set up where volunteers handed out ice cream. Here's where the grannies started shoving me aside, trying to get to the ice cream first. Seriously?  I mean, it was about 85 degrees, sure, but it's really just ice cream. You'd think it was gold or something!

Still, while it goes against my favorite mantra, "Patience is a virtue," I do love the South Indian culture and whenever I go visit my extended family or go to India and become surrounded by Malayalam (the language of my parents and, ergo, me), my thoughts are filled with one question: since I have a barely passing knowledge of the language (having never been immersed in India for more than a month at a time), how will I pass it (and the culture that goes with it) on to a future family I raise? Now, obviously I have several years before I really have to confront this question, since I still have four to five years of medical school training left before I even get a job and start raising a family, but it still sticks in my head. My parents have never held me to the ideal that I must marry an Indian girl, but rather, their primary wish is for me to find a girl that makes me truly happy, which is all that matters. So the question remains, but only in the far corners of my head: will I find a girl that speaks Malayalam who can teach me the language and make me a stronger Malayalee? We'll see. I am already one of the whitest Indians you'll ever meet in terms of mannerisms, but every year brings change.

In the meantime, if you're a pretty Christian girl who speaks Malayalam, feel free to comment on this post or e-mail me - we should talk about getting married. Or at least set up a tutoring service of some sort. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Customary Introductory Post

So I've been thinking about starting this blog for about six months now. It started when I went to India and came up with an idea for a rather funny post. My problem was that I didn't have anything beyond that one post, so it would've been a fruitless endeavor. In the last week or so, I have come up with a couple of additional post ideas and my mild case of narcissism has come to a head, so here goes nothing.

I'm holding off on giving you what was to be the starting post just yet. I'm starting this initial post as the opening scenes of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" unfold in the adjacent window on my computer. It strikes me that corsets must be unbelievably uncomfortable. And no matter how many times I hear "The Black Pearl" or "He's A Pirate" it never gets old.

As today marks the one-week anniversary of my graduation from the University at Buffalo, I could go into some sappy thing about all the people that have made my four years wonderful and amazing. But that's never fun to read unless you're mentioned, and there are way too many to mention all the names necessary.

So what can you expect from this blog? I tend to walk the fine line between good-natured biting sarcasm and a general hope for the world and its goodness. We'll see what prevails more as I spend the summer blogging and playing music before I enter the next step and start medical school. I know this post wasn't incredibly entertaining, but hopefully the future posts are better-suited for that purpose. In the meantime, the pirates are raiding in an attempt to capture Elizabeth Swann, so I'm going to tune in. Have a good day!