Studying, Part II

November 30, 2010

So–to reiterate the last post, 1) show up to class, 2) listen, and 3) don’t get behind on reviewing the material.  You’ll do fine.  In case you’re in doubt, refer to this:

Oh, and if you’re going to bring binders, bring at least 3″ binders.  This is a 3″ binder that I have filled with just my handwritten notes, no printing out of powerpoints.

Lab

The cadaver lab is probably the first semester medical school class that everyone, no matter where the school is, has the most apprehension about.  From what I’ve experienced, it’s mostly a social stigma.  The lab itself isn’t that bad, just reiterate to yourself that it’s another hurdle you’ve got to get past to graduate.  First some basic facts about lab: the lab at MUA takes place in the lab building–it’s the building that lies parallel to the student parking lot.  As you enter the building, you’ll notice there are wooden cabinets–if you bring a small lock, you can store your things in them on a first come, first served basis.  The lab building is open 24/7, so you can study or finish up dissections whenever it is convenient for you–they’ll give you the code to get into lab at the beginning of the semester.  There is a dry lab (on the right) and a wet lab (on the left) which is where the cadavers are kept.  During your typical day, you’ll leave anatomy lecture, walk to the lab building, change into your scrubs, and have a 10-15 minute lecture in the dry lab about the day’s dissections/reading X-rays/learning on the models, then you’ll all head into the wet lab.  The cadavers are mostly elderly people, an equal mixture of males and females, who have a variety of medical conditions.  Our batch had passed on in December of last year, so they were about 9 months post-mortem when we began lab.  We cover the brain in our Neuroscience class in Med 3, so the cadavers have had their brains removed for the use of the Med 3’s.

On day 1, you’ll go into lab and stand at a “tank” (this is a stainless steel table with doors that fold over top of it, where the cadavers are kept).  Our cadavers were in cardboard boxes in the floor by the tanks, so our first job was as a group to open up the box and lift the cadavers (they’re in plastic bags) onto the tanks.  You’ll then cut open the bag, remove the bag, and drain the excess embalming fluid out of the bag.  Because you start on the back and upper limb, your cadaver will need to be in the prone position, or lying on their stomach, so you’ll need to flip them over.  The teachers will give you a twin sheet set (to wrap the cadaver in), and a bottle of diluted fixative solution.  It is VERY important that you spray your cadaver down at the start and end of lab.  When the cadavers start to dry out, the tissue all starts turning black and it gets very difficult to tell what structure is what.

You’ll eventually be assigned into groups.  Because there were ~100 people in my class and we have 7 cadavers, we were split into 2 large lab groups, A and B.  We alternate each block, one group will have lab from 2:00-3:30 and the other form 3:30-5:00.  If you share a car with another student or depend on them for transportation, you can request to be in the same group as them so that you can ride together.  Consequently, since there are 2 groups, each group takes a different side of the body, left or right.

Within each of the groups, you’ll be divided into 7 batches of students, one for each of the cadavers.  They are assigned at random, so you’re not guaranteed to be with any of your friends.  These assignments do not change.  At the start of each block, the teachers will give each person in the batch an assignment–that person is responsible for that assignment.  That doesn’t mean that you and only you dissect that part of the body, but it means that you’re the one who is responsible for making sure that it gets done, so if that means you have to come after class to finish it, then so be it.  At the end of the block, the teachers will go around and make sure all of your assignments are completed–that means that even if you decide to skip lab the day of your assignment because you don’t like dissecting, it’s going to come back to haunt you.  Just do your work, people.

It gets very boring coming to lab every single day.  Please don’t wear your scrubs to class, they stink.  And when you get home, please change.  You stink.  My suggestion is to bring 4 sets of scrubs, wear each set of scrubs for 1 week, then wash.  I keep a surplus of gloves in my backpack so I always have as many pairs as I need.  (When you’re working on the thorax and abdomen, especially, you’ll need a lot of gloves). You can bring a lab dissection kit at the beginning of the semester, but it’s really not necessary.  If you want to bring something useful, go onto amazon or ebay and order a box of scalpel blades for #3 and #4 scalpels–they get dull quickly.

Most of what lab is, is painstaking.  You make a very shallow incision, peel back the skin, then dissect away the fat until you get to the nerves, blood vessels or muscles that you’re trying to find in your assignment.  Your back gets stiff, your neck gets stiff.  The major problem is that most people are impatient and sleep-deprived, so they’ll cut too deep or cut the structures they’re trying to find.  My suggestion is to take a conservative approach and go slow and be methodical.  If you cut structures, the teachers will still put them on the lab exam and it’s harder to figure out what something is if it has been cut.

At the end of each block, you’ll have a non-cumulative lab exam.  The profs will go around to each of the cadavers, grab some floss, and tie knots around structures you should know–they’ll then attach the floss to a written question at that station.  It is straight identification–NO “what does this muscle do” “what nerve innervates this muscle.”  It is multiple choice but it can be hard sometimes.  Each cadaver will have 6-7 structures flagged, then there will be stations that have models from the dry lab or x-rays with questions.  You have 60 seconds at each station, then you turn in your scantrons and leave–there is no going back to stations.  You aren’t allowed to touch anything, so gloves are not necessary.  I would, however, wear scrubs because of the smell.  You need a pencil.  A scantron and clipboard are provided for you.  Your score on the lab exam counts for 35% of your grade for that block; anatomy lecture exam counts for the other 65%–so don’t just blow off the lab exam.  I’m telling you now, if you don’t show up and make your lab mates do all of the dissection, 1) you’ll learn nothing, 2) they’ll HATE you, 3) you’re much less likely to be asked to be an anatomy TA because the teachers know you don’t show up (even if you have an outstanding classroom grade), 4) lab exams will be much harder, almost impassible for you and will significantly lower your grade, and 5) you’ll look like an idiot when you get out into the real world and realize that not every body has textbook anatomy–by any stretch of the imagination.

Your blocks are as follows: block I–upper limb and back, block II–thorax and lower limb, block III–abdomen and pelvis, block IV–head and neck.  At the end of the semester, you have NO cumulative lab exam–the cadavers have dried out too much by that point.  After you finish the block IV lab exam, you’ll come in the next week (which is what we just did on Monday), and have lab clean-up day.  You prepare the cadavers for cremation, then clean. the. whole. lab. very. thoroughly.   And just like that, you’re done.  It’s seriously not that bad, just get through it.

P.S. As I was going through my notes and reviewing I came across this–it’s the brachial plexus.  If you’re really ADHD and want something to learn before you come down here, knock this one out, it’ll make life easier:

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The Importance of Studying

November 30, 2010

Since you all are getting ready to go to medical school, one would assume that you have yourself together as far as studying goes but you’d probably be surprised to learn that there are many kids here who do not know how to study.  There isn’t really a solid method on exactly what to do, whether or read from the textbook or focus on the powerpoint lectures, but the point is that you know what works best for you and you utilize that method.

“High yield” is a term you hear thrown around here pretty frequently–the long and short of it is that there is a ridiculously vast amount of knowledge that is presented during your 8 hour day of people lecturing at you and there is physically no way possible to assimilate all of that information.  (We cover anywhere between 1300-1800 slides per block, x4 blocks–that’s a lot of cumulative information).  What “high yield” means is that, after a brief bit of experience (first block), you figure out what material is more likely to be tested, so then you focus on learning at least that material, then remembering as many additional details above and beyond that as possible.  Now for each class, there is a different strategy, so I thought I’d go over them now that I’m starting to review for finals next week.

We have 4 classes during Med 1, 2 of which have NBME shelf exams at the end (which are written by guys in the US)–histology and anatomy.  The other two classes are EBM (Evidence-Based Medicine) and Embryology.

EBM has supposedly been different every semester for a few semesters now because it’s a class that none of us really want to take and none of the profs really want to teach.  Right now it’s taught by the librarian and the psych guy–basically you show up twice a week, take notes on librarian/statistics lectures, then you have a midterm, a final, and a project that’s due.  The project is really easy and just demonstrates that you know how to make a bibliography and how to use pubmed to find useful articles.  The problem most people have with this class is showing up.  Because it’s the class we have the least often, we get the least excused absences for it.

Embryology is more akin to an undergraduate class–it meets 3 times a week, for 50 minutes.  We have 2 midterms and a final.  Each morning about 20 slides are covered, the prof takes a nice slow and steady pace.  The key to this class is to LISTEN to the prof–when he says something is important and you need to know it, like the pharyngeal arch derivatives or the aortic arch derivatives, just learn them.  Otherwise, show up to class, enjoy his jokes, watch him draw and just soak it up.  There are people who do poorly in this class because either A)they don’t come to class (and he does take attendance) or B)they don’t listen–just remember that you have 3 chances to determine your grade in this class and if you screw one of them up…you’re missing out on an easy A.

Now the two big classes: I’ll do histology first.  Histology has been the achilles heel for many kids this semester–I think at last count 20+ people had dropped the class because the were either failing or borderline.  This is actually my best class right now.  The teacher is strict–a disciplinarian in the classroom–if you’re sitting there listening to music or trying to talk over her, she’ll call you out.  She likes you to pay attention or leave.  She covers a lot of material every day–at least 60 slides, usually more.  The key with her is details.  She’ll tell you that you need to read the textbook but you don’t.  Please don’t go out and buy Ross (the textbook)–I haven’t cracked it and I have an A.  Get plenty of rest, then wake up and drink diet Coke or Coffee and show up and try to learn as much as you can.  I wouldn’t advise asking questions in class–she doesn’t handle them well and generally makes you feel stupid in front of the whole class, but talking to her during the break or emailing her is an excellent way to get questions asked.  In general, if you pay attention in lecture and then come home and review the material either that day or that weekend (don’t let it get stale), you’ll do well.  P.S. The lab is a joke–we don’t use microscopes, she just projects slides and then we are tested on those exact same slides.  It’s like shooting fish in a barrel–try to listen to what she says about learning tissue characteristics and not just memorizing the slides like everyone else–it’s not going to help you on the shelf.

Anatomy–this is my toughest class right now, though I had anatomy in high school and undergrad.  It is very detailed and is worth 14 credit hours, so it demands the most out-of-class time.  Basically we go through regions of the body: upper limb, lower limb, thorax, abdomen, pelvis, and head & neck, and learn all of the muscles, their nerve innervation, their movements, the veins, the arteries, the lymphatic system, and basic pathology about what happens if you get a disease here or something breaks.  Generally speaking, our tests are on mainly the clinical aspects of the class–what happens if something breaks.  There will be some basic anatomy questions, but mostly clinical.  The neat thing is that you learn how to read x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.

The lab is your typical cadaver lab.  They split you up into two groups, you show up, do your assignment, and then you have lab practicals along with each block exam for lecture.  I’ll talk more about lab later–it deserves more attention and description than I have time to explain before the internet here at school cuts out at 8:10–in 8 minutes.  EBM is getting ready to start, but I’ll talk about lab later, promise.

So even though the two islands are just 2.5 miles apart in “the narrows,” the Southern tip of St. Kitts to the Northern-most part of Nevis, there’s a lot involved in going to St. Kitts.  First and foremost, you must catch a ferry over to St. Kitts–you can take the Sea Bridge from Cades Bay (closer to school but drops you off in the middle of nowhere St. Kitts), or you can take one of the pedestrian ferries (that take people only–no cars) from Charlestown to Basseterre.  It drops you off in the middle of town, in Basseterre, but that is far away from the Marriott if you are staying there.  The pedestrian ferry is $21 EC each way ($20 trip plus $1 EC port tax) while the Sea Bridge is $20 EC each way, $75 EC each way for cars.

There’s a lot of hurry up and waiting.  The Sea Bridge (the ferry most MUA students take) only leaves Nevis on the even hours, so you rush down to catch the ferry, then wait and wait and wait.  They have to load the cars, then there’s usually someone running late so the ferry guys will wait on them.  Even though the trip across the ocean takes 20 minutes, it’s usually the next odd hour before you get to St. Kitts (leave Nevis at 12:00, arrive at St. Kitts at 1:00) and then you’ve got a 15-20 minute drive ahead of you because the ferry drops you off down in Major’s Bay.  So there’s really no time advantage of taking the Sea Bridge over the pedestrian ferry.

Then once you’re in St. Kitts, transportation is an issue.  Unless you pay to bring a vehicle over on the Sea Bridge, you have to catch a cab or an H-bus around town.  Basseterre is considerably more busy and slummy than Charlestown or even Nevis for that matter, so I generally avoid it if possible.

But after all that red tape, St. Kitts is a fun trip.  There’s the movie theater: http://www.caribbeancinemas.com/Default.aspx?SecId=60&id_theater=34, the Subway, the KFC, the Indian restaurant (right by the Subway), the duty-free shops at Port Zante, the giant IGA that is the closest thing to a real grocery store you’re going to get here, and the Marriott.  Most stores are closed on Sunday unless there’s a cruiseship docked, but you can always drive to the Marriott and eat there.  I’m not a huge lobster fan, but I’m told the lobster roll at the bar by the pool is mouthwatering.  I love the tropical wings.  And the hotdog is enormous and a value at $9 US.

It’s sad riding back to Nevis–you know you’re coming back to so much work, and tiring–you don’t realize how much you sweat when you’re waiting on the ferry and then running around town.  But I’d say all in all it’s worth it every now and then.  I wouldn’t plan on going every weekend–you just don’t have time, but after block, it’s a nice escape.

A few words on finances

November 28, 2010

I finally got around to posting my photos on facebook of my trip to the Hermitage for dinner the other weekend, and it got me to thinking about finances and what would be a good recreational budget for the island.  First and foremost, it really depends on your habits.  Me, for example, I’m from North Carolina–not a lot there in the prospects of nightlife.  I don’t go clubbin’, not much fine dining, went shopping and to the movies, but mostly, my money was spent on gas and grabbing food either on my way home from work or going there–probably spending…$100/week on average.  Now, how does that translate to Nevis?

Well, we have no fast food places here, there is no mall to go shopping at, and the movie theater is all the way over on St. Kitts, a ferry-ride away.  What people usually spend most of their money on over here is booze.  I don’t mind having [literally] a couple drinks, getting a bit tipsy after block, but I refuse to get completed wasted here–it’s just not safe.  Our first major block party out, a friend of mine had something put in her drink and passed out–so after that I went to one of the grocery stores here (they all sell liquor) and picked up a couple of bottles that would last me for quite some time.  I sit at home with my friends, “pre-game” with as much liquor as I would like, and then we call an H-bus to take us out to party.  No druggings, no car crashes, it’s a pretty sweet deal–but back to money.  Since I made a 1-time investment of ~$100 ECD/$37 USD, I don’t spend money out on drinks.  So here, my entertainment money goes towards gas and eating out.

Gas–I consider gas a recreational expenditure because you can exist just fine on Nevis without a car.  It might take you a while to get things done, but if you plan ahead, a car is not a must.  So–gas varies in price across the island.  Most of the gas stations are either Sun or Delta Petroleum and consist of 2 or 3 little pumps with a person who comes outside and pumps your gas for you.  With my car, a Mitsubishi Lancer, to fill her up cost me about $80 EC and I’d say with regular trips to the store and to town to run errands, we filled her up about every 2 weeks.  When I went to fill up the other day, I stopped by the new gas station by campus that is self-service (like back home) and it was $10.9 ECD/gal–don’t go there–it’s considerably more expensive than the other gas stations.

Eating out–it really depends on what you order.  Keep in mind that you pay for drinks (non-alcoholic) here–there are no fountain machines; at most places you get a 20 oz bottle of Coke, Sprite, etc.  for about $5 ECD average.  You can ask for water but not everyone’s water tastes good so some places will bring you a bottle of water and charge you for it (often just as much as if you had ordered soda!).  (Oh–while I’m on soda–if you’re like me and you exist on diet Coke back home or you like Pepsi products–start converting yourself over to Coke Zero and coke products.  They have diet coke here but only in cans and they’re just as expensive as the bottles of coke zero (the diet coke has to be imported from Puerto Rico, hence the extra charge).)  But, back to cost of eating out–most meals at the types of restaurants students frequent, relatively close to the school, will run you between $20 and $30 ECD.  The favorite place to go is Flavours where you can get a burger and fries for $22 ECD, chicken fingers and garlic bread for $12 ECD, a salad for $20 ECD, or pasta for $24 ECD (I’m guestimating on the prices–I don’t have a menu in front of me but they’re approx.).  So you add the cost of your drink to that and then VAT tax, and you’re up closer to the $30 ECD/meal price. I would also put the Water Company BBQ in this category, but they’re only open on Fridays, FYI.

Then there are the slightly more expensive places.  I would put Young’s restaurant (the Chinese place) into this category, Pizza Beach, Gallipot, and the new Indian restaurant, Nisbet Plantation, Indian Summer.  These places run about $30-40 ECD/entree without tax taken into consideration.  Still–that’s less than $20 USD–but more expensive than places like Flavours or the sandwich shop inside the Gingerland Best Buy grocery store deli.  They’re nicer sit-down restaurants where you can expect to spend 1.5-2 hours eating if you don’t do takeout.

Lastly, there are the really expensive places that you go a couple of times a semester–these are the resort-type places that are designed for tourists visiting Nevis.  It’s basically like eating at a nice hotel.  I would group the Hermitage, anything at the Four Seasons, the Montpelier, Bananas, all those places into this category.  Most of these places list their prices in USD.  The Hermitage was running a special where you could get 4 courses for $35 USD but there was no substitution and I liked other things on the menu, so my 4 courses ended up costing $65 USD but I got what I wanted. They’re elegant, romantic, the service is excellent, and you really feel like you’re rewarding yourself for your hard work and studying. It’s a more mature way to celebrate block being over than going out and drinking.

Frequency–how often you eat out at these places depends on how much food you ship down, how much grocery shopping you do, and how much free time you have to cook.  Keep in mind that during Med 1, you leave for school at 7:30 and sit through class until you get out either at 3:30 or 5:00.  Some days, I’m exhausted and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking, so I’ll grab Jo and we’ll run down to Flavours to get a burger out of pure laziness.  I try to go out at least once a weekend, to feel human, and I’d say I do takeout maybe 2 or 3 times a month.  One of my favorite things to do is to order a giant pizza from Pizza Beach (~$70 ECD) or $150 ECD worth of takeout from the Indian place, then put it in my fridge and just have easy, microwave-able meals for a week.  So, I’d say that I probably spent $300 ECD/month or a little more than $100 USD/month on food.  Couple that with the $160 EC/month on gas (although I usually split gas money with Jo since we owned the car together) and you’re looking at around $500 EC/month or $185 USD entertainment budget.

I <3 Protein Fridays

November 27, 2010

For those of you coming to the island, I must share with you my love of the Water Company BBQ over on Pump Rd.  It happens every Friday evening–the fellas who work at the water company set up tents and music and grills right across from their offices and they go to town on those grills.  They sell racks of ribs (pork) for $25 EC/$9.26 US, chicken quarters for $7 EC/$2.59 US, and garlic bread for $4 EC/$1.48 US right off the grill!  We’ve been 2 Fridays in a row now and I think we’ll be going back next Friday.  It is, quite honestly, love–an excellent opportunity to be a carnivore.

But, back to school–grades are up.  When I say ‘they’re up’ what I mean is that when you become a student at MUA, you’re given a sign-on onto this http://muacampus.org/Gateway/Gateway.html page.  As soon as your tests are graded (and curved if necessary), your scores are posted online and this is how you access them.  There is a button to push that will give you the class’s statistics like the average and the numbers of As, Bs, Cs if the profs take the time to calculate them.  Thankfully, after the fiascos that were the anatomy tests on Thursday and yesterday of this week, were curved.  There was a 10 pt. curve on the anatomy lecture exam but it still left a >16 pt. standard deviation–not good.  Wonder what they’ll say about it on Monday?

Everyone is happy that the week is over, but now we’re all trying to balance having a bit of fun after blocks and getting started studying.  I opened up First Aid 2007 (I’m cheap, what can I say?) tonight and was greatly disappointed.  It has a small section on embryology, and then most of the immunology section is useful for the corresponding section we covered in histology, but overall, it doesn’t seem very useful for studying for Med 1 finals.  I am sorry to those who have picked up a copy based on my booklist that I posted from the beginning of the semester–total bust, though perhaps useful after later semesters.   Part of me wants to fall back to the old familiar lectures and my personal notes from the semester, but then the practical part of me realizes that my profs will not be writing these exams, so the specifics they’ve taught me won’t necessarily help with these NBME shelf exams.  There were some major topics in BRS that were not covered in class that definitely need visiting.  So I guess I’ll be going through BRS then.  We still have reviews next week, but now that main histo prof’s gone and on her way to India, secondary histo prof’s histo reviews will probably be almost as useful as a towel in a rainstorm.  Anatomy…meh.  Embryo…meh.  Which reminds me–I have part 3 of 3 due for EBM by Monday morning–might as well get it knocked out.  Night guys!

It feels like that’s where I’ve been.  This week has been a nightmare of hurdles.  Rather than our usual block schedule where we have all 4 tests in 2 days, we had them all stretched out over 4 days this week and it has been exhausting.  There’s definitely something to be said for getting them over with quickly.  I appreciated the extra brain power to study for histology exclusively, not having to worry about studying for anatomy too, but still…exhausting.

So I did quite well in histology on Monday and Tuesday, but then the last part of this week was a bust.  Out of 75 questions on the anatomy lecture exam, I had 32 flagged [that I didn’t know] after my first pass-through of the test, to come back to and try to answer.  I had studied 10 hours for this test and was completely devastated by my score.  I’m not a scholar by any means in anatomy, but it was a dreadful performance.  Come to find out, I was not alone.  Before our anatomy lab exam today, Dr. Dave came into the dry lab (the holding room for group B while group A was finishing the exam) and told us not to expect grades to be up too soon–the average on the lecture part of the test was a 63!  I was shocked–and relieved.  It put my grade into perspective.  I’m still nervous because I can’t imagine this is anything a 10-point curve will fix, but at least it means I’m not a moron and didn’t turn stupid, as previously assumed by my horrible performance.  It’ll be interesting to see what they do.  I know exactly what the problem was–Mike, our SGA class rep. figured it out, though I thought it to myself–our class is taught by two teachers.  One teacher taught us the majority of the material during this block, yet the other teacher insisted on being the instructor to give the 3-day review for it.  I showed up for his review, listened, took notes, but then ultimately, it seems that the teacher who originally taught us the material was the one who actually wrote the test.  So the material we were tested on was not the material we reviewed.

The lab didn’t go well either–it was quite difficult.  Thank goodness I wasn’t relying on it to pull my grade up to where it needed to be.  There were so many muscles and foramena available but they chose to make almost the whole exam on arteries and nerves, mostly nerves.  They’re the hardest things to identify because they’re tiny, are usually mistakenly cut by the dissecting students, branch out everywhere, and can assume random patterns in different cadavers.  WHY?!  No one requires you to make the test that hard, yet you choose to–why?!  So, yea, this last block was a complete homewrecker for most people, but hopefully our grades from previous blocks will buffer it enough that none of us will fail.  I do feel sorry for those people who were on the edge and tried to pass the class without dropping it.  They’re so screwed.

Timing is Everything

November 24, 2010

You don’t really appreciate the North American mentality of time until you arrive here in the islands and you’re at the mercy of “island time.”  Everyone mentions “island time” with a light-hearted smile and then looks at their feet for a reason–it stinks.

I’ve mentioned before that there is a problem with the first semester schedule and the way that this island chooses to run its businesses.  The normal business day in Nevis is from 9:00 AM (usually 9:30 or 9:45) to 4:00 PM, unless you’re the bank, then it’s open from 9:00-2:00, which is just ridiculous.  The grocery stores are a bit more lenient with their hours–some even staying open as late as 9:00, but in general it is a problem how early the places around here close.  The issue is that we have class from 8:00-11:00, 12:00-2:00, and then either 2:00-3:30 or 3:30-5:00, Monday-Friday unrelentingly.  So–if you’re trying to get to the bank, you literally have less than an hour at lunch to try and get to the other side of the island (20 minute trip–minimum) and back whilst getting your business done (20 minutes minimum–I’ve waited up to 45 minutes in line) or you face the prospect of missing anatomy.  Even if you come back a bit late, not only do you face a dirty look from the professor for interrupting lecture to come in late, but if they’ve already taken attendance, many times, they will not revise the big A they’ve put beside your name for the day.  I’m waiting to see if the email I sent out turns into one of those situations–I had to go to town yesterday, I’m trying to buy a car and get all of the paperwork done–got back at 12:15 despite my best attempts at promptness.  Waited until the break at 1:00 to go into the classroom, grabbed one of the only available seats in the back, and sat there for not only the last half of a regular lecture (til 2:00) but still sat and listened while the prof lectured an additional 1.5 hours–so I was there for 2.5 hours–which I pointed out in the email–so we’ll see if he decides to keep me marked absent.

On the positive side, I have a Jeep now–well, almost.  I have on-paper ownership and insurance for this jeep, but because the girl I’m buying it from has a shelf exam today [and therefore MUST have a car] and claims that the wire transfer from yesterday morning still wasn’t showing up on her side of things yesterday evening at 6:00, I still don’t have the jeep.  I’m crossing my fingers today that she doesn’t wreck it or get a ticket or have an accident.  They hold EVERYONE accountable if/when something goes wrong here.  That–and I foresee trouble getting the Jeep from her.  She wants to continue driving the Jeep but she’s not on my insurance and technically it’s my jeep now, I paid for it.  I feel for her but she’s just going to have to rent a car.  I don’t want things to get ugly and I’m afraid they might.  I still have my own tests to worry about this week, and I have to move out of the dorms, oh and then there’s the little problem of not having a car myself for 2 or 3 weeks–lots of business in town that needs catching up.  Bakery, post office, grocery store, pay bills, bank–because I was trying so hard to get back on time for anatomy yesterday, I only got the essentials for the car transfer done–nevermind the rest that makes life livable.

I’ve been feeling guilty for missing anatomy lab on Thursday and Friday, and then last night when an email arrived stating that because the block IV dissections weren’t exactly completed and the cadavers were a mess (finish them & clean up or else) well…my guilt kicked in.  I walked to school this morning, while it was still dark, against my better street smarts, and cleaned up the lab.  (I was shocked I was the only one there–I was just certain that someone would come join me but no one–is everyone really that apathetic?)  In my opinion I’m only a fair dissector, so I didn’t want to take it upon myself to ruin anyone’s dissection–there are better dissectors in the class who will hopefully pitch in, but an hour and half and 3 pairs of gloves later, the lab is pretty clean.  The email said if we didn’t clean up and finish the dissections, that the profs were going to intentionally make this last lab exam difficult.  Well–I suppose I’ll find out on Friday afternoon just how much my peers care.

Now I’m just trying to kill time until the cleaning ladies will open up the new building at 7:20 and I can go reserve my seat.  Sitting in Timbucktoo yesterday in the back of the classroom was awful–no wonder those people’s grades suck–who could pay attention all the way back there?  Ok–this is cracking me up–I’m sitting in the dry lab of the anatomy lab with two other people who have come in and while both of them got to school early and are in the anatomy building, 20 feet from the lab, neither of them have been in even to look at the tanks and see if anyone’s done anything.  I guess I answered my own question–yes, they are that apathetic.  Wow.  Guess I better go study…this exam’s gonna be a tough one.

Running out of stuff

November 22, 2010

The hardest part about planning [for studenting down to Nevis] is what do you bring and how much?

I planned religiously for months.  I researched not only MUA on the forums, but Ross, SGU, AUA, AUC, and others–I thought I had all the little hiccups worked out: bring extra shampoo–it’s hard to find what you’d typically use in the US, bring plenty of clothes–laundry is time-consuming and expensive, bring an extra adapter for your computer–it’ll take a week (minimum) to replace yours if it goes on the fritz, bring plenty of school supplies–especially if you’re particular about them, bring flashlights–the power goes out often, bring duct tape–it fixes most things, bring a toolkit–stuff breaks, etc.

Now it’s the end of the semester and I’m running out of some things and have excess of others.  For instance, I just started on my second bottle of shampoo (and have 2 more sitting in my cabinet), but just finished my one and only bottle of shaving cream.  My spaghettios are long gone, but I have 4 or 5 cans of cream of mushroom soup left.  I have an excess of Kashi/Snickers Marathon meal bars, but I buy granola bars every time I go to the grocery store (it’s too hot to eat something that heavy).  I’m almost out of sugar-free koolaid, but I have loads of Crystal Light + antioxidants left.  My thin gap pima cotton t-shirts are becoming stretched, stained, and thin while the shelf-bra tanks I brought to layer underneath them sit dusty in my chest of drawers.

The point of all of this is to let you know that while the lists on valuemd are useful, apply them to your daily habits.  If you sweat like a yak and go through 2 tubes of deodorant a month, then bring enough for 3.5 months (7 tubes), but don’t bring 7 if you, like me, go through a couple of tubes a year.  The forums can make these islands seem like hot, sweaty, rain forests but they’re actually not that different from the states and Canada.  Pretend you’re moving back into the dorms for undergraduate except you’re going to a school in a really bad neighborhood in Mexico–it will be hot most of the year, there will be power outages often, hot water is not a guarantee when you’re showering, food will be available but it will not be what you’re used to, clothes will be available but not ones that you would particularly like to wear, dishwashers do not exist, many things are unsanitary, you walk a lot, it rains almost daily, you spend most of your time studying, queen bedclothes are a safe bet, there are bugs who constantly try to bite you and eat your food, there are loads of movies & lectures & music to be downloaded.  If you keep these things in mind when you’re packing, you’ll be fine.

My adaptation of this wisdom:

it will be hot most of the year (bring a fan & cool clothes)

there will be power outages often (bring candles and a flashlight)

hot water is not a guarantee when you’re showering (don’t plan on taking long, luxurious showers)

food will be available but it will not be what you’re used to (if there’s food you absolutely must have, bring it)

clothes will be available but not ones that you would particularly like to wear (bring a lot of what you like to wear in the summer)

dishwashers do not exist (bring cheap, easy-to-clean dishes/utencils)

many things are unsanitary (water filter, cleaning wipes, swiffer)

you walk a lot (good, SOLID shoes–Keen & Chaco sandals have been awesome)

it rains almost daily (pocket-sized umbrella for your bookbag)

you spend most of your time studying (any necessary books, school supplies, and things to make almost constant studying suck less)

queen bedclothes are a safe bet (even if you’re in the dorms with a twin bed, just tuck them, you’ll need them when you move)

there are bugs who constantly try to bite you and eat your food (LOTS of bugspray and ziplock bags for everything)

there are loads of movies & lectures & music to be downloaded (1 TB external hard drive–for the shared drives at school).

In the mean time, I am looking around at my excess stuff and dreading my move, while concurrently enjoying the silkiness of my legs while it lasts, before I have to resort to soap and razorburn next shower.

Committed to buy a car today.  I would be embarrassed to drive it at home, but here it’s quite luxurious.  It’s a Suzuki Jeep–much more practical for island life than Betty, my car that I share with my neighbor who is leaving.  I’m excited.  It needs work, but I’m still hopeful.

Went to the Hermitage for dinner with Jo, Areef, and Kish tonight and it was absolutely breathtaking.  I had a salad (for the first time in months) with balsamic and grapefruit and it was incredible.  Then I had the rack of lamb which came with mashed potatoes, haricot vert, and glazed carrots (that I actually liked!).  Best of all was dessert: walnut pie, the distant cousin of pecan pie, the closest dish to a conventional US Thanksgiving that I’ll get.  Oh, and the pina colada was pretty good, though I still think that the one Areef had at Rumours was better.  Expensive, $70 USD, but totally worth it.  Will get the set menu for $35 USD next time, as long as they don’t have fish as a part of it this time.

Feeling Empowered?

November 19, 2010

I can’t help but give this post a tongue-in-cheek title since my lack of power owned my night yesterday.  Yes, the power goes off quite frequently here in Nevis, but it’s usually for a couple of hours and then is back on.  So, the power went off last night, fine…you wait 5 minutes, flip the trusty generator switch, restart your A/C and it’s gravy until the power browns back off, meaning that the main power is back on and it’s time to switch back over from the generator.

So I waited.

And waited.

And thus far, the brownout has yet to happen.  Been on generators all night long.  It presents a problem because the brownout off of the generator happens without warning and resets all the clocks, routers, etc.  I stayed up until 2:00 waiting for the regular power to come back on last night so I could take my shower in peace of mind that it wouldn’t go black with my hair full of suds.  I gave up this morning when my alarm went off at 6:00 and it ended up being fine.  But now I’m concerned–why has the power been out 12 hours?  Last time it was this long, it was at the beginning of the semester when the storm blew in.  I don’t think it rained last night.  I don’t want to leave my room with the generator switched on because then if the power comes on in the middle of the day, there’s no one to switch my room back on to main power from the generator and my stuff in the fridge will go bad.  At the same time, if flip off the generator switch when I leave this morning, then my room is powerless until the main power comes back on, but what if that doesn’t happen all day?  Crap.

BTW–I should add that I’m so excited about being almost caught up.  The plus of sitting up all night waiting on the power was that I got yesterday’s histo lecture and a couple of anatomy lectures done, so that I’m just a day behind in anatomy which I can knock out today during lunch and this afternoon.  I might actually have a good block weekend where I actually only have to worry about histo since the anatomy blocks have been moved to Thursday and Friday.  Excited!  Might have to take a trip to the Hermitage for breakfast….or not…still carless.