Friday, December 17, 2010

Snow 1, Chelsea 0

It's the Friday before break and all my classes have been canceled. Therefore, I'm officially on holiday. This would be pretty great if I weren't on crutches. Wednesday this week, as I was just leaving for school, I crossed the snow-packed street in front of my house and slipped landing on my left knee. It didn't help matters that I had about 10 kg of books in my backpack too. I managed to crawl back to the side and hobble back to the apartment. A trip to the doctor that afternoon didn't provide much insight except that my pain structure is abnormal for any of the typical knee injuries. I responded that I don't have typical knees.

I borrowed crutches from a friend, got a compression bandage from the doc, and he started me on 10 days of heparin. Why heparin, you may ask. Well, Monday I am getting on a transatlantic flight to head to Ottawa for the holiday break and, having a recent leg injury, may be at risk for a blood clot.

I am supposed to go back today, Friday, for an ultrasound to see if there is any soft tissue damage like a meniscus or ligament. After two days of staying off it though, I am feeling quite a bit better. I know I should go through with the ultrasound just to be safe, but I'm pretty sure they won't find anything. I have a feeling that in a few more days I may be back to at least 80%. That means no jogging for a while, but the fact that I fell just walking across the street means I won't be jogging outdoors anyway! It's gross out there!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Papers in order

We just returned from a whirlwind last minute trip to Gdansk to get P's new biometric EU passport. It means he is in the clear for leaving Europe next week and is the proud holder of two passports again. Now, this week, it's time for me to make sure I have all my papers in order. My resident card expires on Saturday and my new one should be in any day, though I have yet to hear from the office. I have to take a few hours on Monday to go and do some investigating and see if the decision has been made in my case and if my card is ready. Just more pre-holiday stress, something everyone needs more of, right?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekend update

It's snowing and sticking in Poznań! The place has turned into a winter wonderland. If I thought my cobblestone church-lined street was quaint before, it is downright picturesque now. The snow was a beautiful backdrop for our little and late Thanksgiving dinner. It was lovely with Turkey (parts, not a whole bird), mashed potatoes, 3-bean salad, wild mushroom stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a  homemade apple pie. We had a friend and her son over for dinner. The cats welcomed their attention and I welcomed their help in the kitchen.

It's going to be a big week around here as P starts his new job this week. Oh yeah, did I mention that he got a job?! I am so excited for him as it's at a really cool place and should be a challenging position for him. We are also starting to look ahead to the holidays and the prospect of a trip across the pond. We are not so excited about the new airline transatlantic baggage restrictions nor the scan/body search requirements as we transit through the US. That being said, I am still so excited to head to Canada for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Bells

One of the things I truly do love about living in Europe is that without looking at my watch I can tell you when it is 6am, 9am, 12 noon, 6pm, and 9pm. It's the church bells! We live across the street from a church and at those times there is just a cacophony of bells. They don't mess around with the 2 bells for 2 o'clock or 5 for 5 o'clock business. They just let them all ring five times a day. Even downtown, there are churches on every other corner and the bells ring out in succession across the city. It's a comforting sound to me. And a few times those 6am bells have saved my ass when I forgot to set my alarm!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NMBE Histology

In a couple hours I will go to take the National Board of Medical Examiners histology exam with my classmates. I feel fortunate that I received my histology education at Gdańsk as I see how unprepared my classmates are for this exam. I have been studying with friends going over material that has been purely review for me but has appeared to be new to them even at the end of the class. We'll see how the results will look.

As I have been surrounded by test-takers recently,  I realized that I've never been an exam freak-out person and for this I am very thankful. Somehow I seem to be able to keep my sympathetic nervous system in check and approach exams as games or problem solving rather than life or death tests. I recently listened to a Radiolab program that touched on this and made me recognize that this testing paradigm shift that I established years ago is extremely beneficial. When I've explained my test-taking behaviour to others, oftentimes they seem to assume that I am taking the material lightly or not being serious enough for the subject matter. I argue that if you stress yourself out with the material and/or situation, you will not perform your best and, particularly with medicine, if you do not preform your best there can be serious repercussions.

Ok, enough procrastinating, I have an exam game to get to.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Odd but true

It is illegal to perform a vasectomy in Poland.

Cue "Every Sperm is Sacred".

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I'm in weird position at my school in that I do not have to take Gross Anatomy due to my previous courses from Gdańsk. Well, I don't have to take the course, nor the school exams, but I am responsible for taking the NBME exam (National Board of Medical Examiners) with the rest of the class and have therefore chosen to attend classes and labs as a way to review for this exam. And this is what puts me in a weird position.

Long story short is that I'm teaching half of the lab classes. I'm running it much like I had anatomy in Gdansk, asking everyone questions and pointing out notable structures. Several of the students have joked that I should get a salary because I'm doing more than many of the assistants. I try not to step on the assistant's toes. When they want to teach, I step back and let others move up partly out of respect and partly because some of them drive me flipping nuts! However, when something is unclear to the rest of the students, which is often, I will ask questions to clarify answers. I am usually respectful and even-tempered especially when it comes to working with assistants and professors, but I almost lost it today.

In order to be a good teacher you must LISTEN! Big Baldy, we'll call him, can actually give good informative if not slightly off-topic lectures that most of the class benefits from. He cannot, however, answer a single g.d. question and when he asks a student a question, he rarely understands the answer and will say you are wrong--even if you are right. A large group of us were working together to identify a part of a bone today. We'd offered many answers and were told they were all wrong. We were utterly stumped for a good five minutes until Big Baldy finally tells us what it was...which is what we'd been saying all along. I pulled him aside and said in my most polite way, "Sir, we have given this answer at least 5 times and were told that we are wrong. Why is it suddenly correct?" He shrugged me off and gave me a BS answer.

His partner today received the brunt of my wrath, unfortunately for her. She'd asked us again about a part of a bone, stating that it is a specific name...a name which is not in any of our atlases, textbooks, or recommended resources for the class but is found in the Polish atlas. I'd had it. How can you possibly expect to test us on names of structures that are not provided to us in lecture, are not in the recommended textbooks, and are not in the English atlases? I continued that if something like this were on an exam, it would be worth going to the professor and/or the dean with it. The English division professors need to know what our textbooks and atlases name things if they expect to test us. I understand her point that the structure is important, which it is, and our text states the importance without naming the different parts, parts that are 2mm away from each other. I was not mean, but I was short and very serious which flustered her more than I'd anticipated, but oh well. The funny part is that I won't be tested by the department, so if it's on a test, I won't even know.

Taking a deep breath now. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Last week our Sociology of Medicine professor, a kindly old man who has been with the university for 50 years and is affectionately known as Papa Smurf, took us on a mini field trip to the part of the building where he normally works: forensic medicine. We had just been talking the class before about child and domestic abuse and he welcomed us to the forensic hallway where they have displays of the kind of things they see. Some are photos, some are specimens or parts of specimens in jars, and there is even a full body that was found in a mummified state with it's two aborted (also mummified) fetuses--that's mummified as in very well preserved, not with the wrapping like the Egyptians. Everything was arranged thematically: stab wounds, gun shot wounds, skull fractures, illegally aborted fetuses (Catholic country = no abortions), etc...

For the sake of all I won't go into details about what I saw, but there were both interesting pieces and disturbing pieces. It was a conversation I had on the following Monday about the trip that intrigued me. One of my classmates is a Romanian American guy from California. He said that the mini-field trip had hit him pretty hard because his mother had tried to have an illegal abortion with him--coat hanger and all. For him it was strange to look at the fetuses that were aborted (some also killed the mother during or after the procedure) and realize that it could have been him (and his mom). I know plenty of people who were "surprises" or "mistakes" for their parents, but I'd never met anyone who actually knew that they had survived a botched abortion. As a parent in that situation, in what circumstance would you release that information? It's a situation and relationship that I've never encountered before.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A weekend off--not really

Friday afternoon we caught the 2:45 train to Sopot for a weekend full of family, friends, and unfortunately business. We're staying at P's cousins' place but P was late because he had to go pick up the key to our old apartment--we had got a call from the posters our friend put up all over town, someone wanted to see it and the owner's rep was super sick. He finally made it and we had beers and sat up until midnight chatting with the fam.

Saturday morning, P showed the apartment while I had coffee and caught up with friends. We met up and headed for his uncle's place to have dinner with his aunt, uncle, and grandpa. Dinner with this group of people always includes at least 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of something else, this time homemade fruit infused vodka, as well as a huge meal with coffee, tea, and cake. I can tell my Polish is progressing because I could participate a little more in the conversation. Bit by bit, I'm making progress. We headed back to the cousins' place and had to start taking care of business while slightly tipsy. The guys who saw the apartment would like to rent it and we have to work with the owner to come up with a satisfactory plan which meant a late night call to Canada. It's more complicated than it sounds, unfortunately, but we're working on it.

Today, Sunday, I'm meeting with a few more friends--ones who seem to be on the path to burnout with too much studying and I've been asked by other friends to try to intervene. A 19 year old isn't going to listen to anyone, but I'll give it a shot. It'd be an easier intervention if she was doing something bad, drinking too much or sleeping around, but it seems even studying too much can be bad for one's health.; everything in moderation, right?

The rest of the weekend will include: a giant party for P's aunt (where the wine will flow like water), a (perhaps drunken) phone call to Canada to arrange things with the apartment, a trip Monday morning to the old apartment hopefully to sign a lease with the new people, a trip to city hall so I can de-register that I live here in order to register in Poznan and get my visa process started. Then we'll get on a train for 5.5 hours and be home around midnight Monday night. Ugh. Here's hoping that all goes to plan.

Friday, October 08, 2010


We've moved so many times in the last 5 years, you'd think we'd be pros at this by now. The unpacking has begun in earnest. We (re)built the record shelf and the reshelving process has begun as well. Our bed is in place, though our headboard still needs to be unpacked and installed (it attaches to the wall, which will require purchasing a drill). The kitchen is almost done unpacking. It was a pretty complete kitchen, so we're packing up what was there and replacing it with our stuff. If I'm going to break a dish I'd rather it be mine!

The hardest part of unpacking so far has been the clothing. We don't have a lot of space for hanging yet and we haven't figured out a great storage system so most things have been living in piles around the house. It will get better with time and planning though.

School is in full swing and I am counting myself lucky that I received exemption from two of the big classes (anatomy and histology). I will still have to take the NBME exams, but my presence in class and lecture is not required. That frees up a lot of time to get stuff done. Yesterday, for example, we walked 30 min to get to the office to sign up for internet. We've signed up and received the modem but it may be up to 3 weeks before it can get installed! Here's hoping for a speedy installation guy.

And just when you think everything is going so well...the bad stuff. We still have not found someone to rent our apartment in Gdansk. The lease we signed did not have a clause to give notice to break the lease so we are legally responsible for it until either (a) we find someone to take over the lease or (b) the lease ends in February. Every lead we've had has fallen flat and we're having to post fliers around the schools hoping to entice some students. It's an extremely frustrating situation and, after having been through a very legit lease signing process with our new place, we realize at how we have been totally screwed over by our old land lady. The lease protected only her interests and none of ours. Ah, but we live and learn.

This weekend looks like it will be the last weekend of good weather for a bit which makes it even more exciting that I get to pick up my new bicycle tomorrow. Piotr is heading to the flea market and I am going for a bike ride. It's getting chilly enough outside that I need to find my bike gloves though--these long fingers don't work so well when they get cold.

Once we get internet, I fully intend to keep this blog updated more regularly even if it's just one liners. We'll see how it goes once I start to get buried in studying. You know what they say, even the best intentions...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bagel Shop & School

I have to say, so far I am really impressed with Poznan University of Medical Sciences. I don't know if they got EU funding or if it was paid for by student tuition, but they've taken great lengths to renovate the buildings and lecture rooms. The lecture room I was in this morning has an electric outlet for every seat as well as what looked like a DSL internet plug! I think the fact that this school has been around longer than Gdansk makes a difference too. Gdansk was built post war when everything was gray and made of concrete. Our major building was built before that so it has more character than the communist era buildings. Even the stair wells are amazing. The side stairs that lead up to individual departments have a skylight above and almost an MC Escher feel to them as the next flight of stairs begins at a different place than the first one ended. It's a great illusion.

And the students! I am in love with my classmates! Yes, quite a few of them may still be spoiled brats, but at least they are slightly older brats and are that much more mature and I'd say they are the minority. One guy showed me to this little mall near the school that has free wifi so I could check email. It turns out that a Bagel shop just opened there 3 days ago. I met the owners (a Dutch/Polish couple) because the guy had come around giving opening gifts to all the ladies. And the bagels...OMG, YUM! I have not had a bagel since Christmas last year in Ottawa. Both he and his wife spoke perfect English, of course, and told me all about their business plan and were super nice. It's a place I will definitely be going back to. Unfortunately, it's not the cheapest place, but I guess it's on par with US prices. I had an AMAZING bagel breakfast sandwich and a coffee for about $6. Actually, that'd be cheaper than some places in the states. Strolling through the little mall afterward I found they have a small world food store (hello, peanut butter and Asian delights!) and a pet store. The whole place is super-chic and geared towards international clientele. I went in the pet shop to see what prices were like for the cat litter we use and they were actually on par with our shop in Gdansk. I told the lady in Polish that I was learning Polish and tried to infer that Piotr and I were moving from Gdansk with two cats. She cracked me up, she started correcting my Polish! That's great! Most shop keepers (that I've experienced in Poznan) will switch into English at the first sign of Polish struggle, but not her.

I'm about to go in for our first Anatomy lecture. Anatomy may be interesting this year because I already took it. Unfortunately, I don't think it will transfer though because they have a higher credit requirement than Gdansk did, but it's worth asking.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Our New Apartment!

We've got a place! We sign the lease and get the keys next week. You can watch the slide show below or click here to view it in Picasa. The place is fully furnished, albeit with slightly ugly furnishings, but we will be able to make it ours easily. It's less than 500 ft from a tram stop with service to either downtown or the train station (about 10 minutes each) and a little more than that in the other direction to the "fast" trams that arrive in the center in about 5 minutes. It's closer to the city center than when we lived in North Portland and Poznań has been adding bike lanes and bike routes all over the city. Oh, I have a bike now too!!
Here's a map of where it is:
View Larger Map

We are very excited about it, but not so excited about actually moving. Those of you who have helped us before understand why. Our packing supplies arrived yesterday and this weekend we begin attacking the records! Oh, one more thing about the apartment--we have two couches that fold into double beds, so there's more than enough room for guests! Come visit!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

We are moving!

We are moving to Poznan and I start school on Wednesday. We spent Thursday and Friday of last week beginning our apartment hunt and it will continue when we return on Tuesday. While in Gdansk, we're starting the packing process, ordering extra boxes, and arranging all the logistics.

As for school, I am already on the official student's list. I will find out Monday what group I'm in and Wednesday I'll get to meet everyone. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. I can say this: every interaction I've had with the school has been great. The dean's office gave me a welcome package--a PUMS bag with course catalog, maps, and a nice new PUMS executive folder--with  with all the information I need to get things started.

I will try to post updates as the week(s) continue, but we haven't arranged for internet in Poznan yet.
Back to packing!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A morning of peace

This morning is different. This is the first morning in too long that I feel at peace. Perhaps it was the release of going out last night or sleeping in until 11am, but my stomach is not in its usual stress related knots and I have a feeling that everything will be alright. It's P's first real day off in over two weeks--two weeks of 12-20 hour days, almost no sleep, and way too much caffiene--so perhaps its the fact that both of us are relatively stress free today. We know that our situation will most likely be changing in the next week, but the fact that we will soon know what is going on is more of a relief than a stress. But for today, we are sitting around in our pajamas, listening to records and drinking coffee while we write emails and tidy up work spaces.

Application Submitted

This is what I received Friday morning in my inbox:
 Dear C.D.U.,

We've received your recent enquiry regarding our 4-year MD Program and, judging from your description, you would be a very good candidate for the our program. The classes have already started here, however we've had a couple of last-minute resignations which freed up positions in the freshman year.

Could you please scan and send to my e-mail or fax a copy of the following documents as soon as possible:

-completed application form this page
-college diploma
-college transcripts showing that you've completed your pre-medicals (Biology, Chemistry organic and general, Physics)
-a photocopy of the bio page of your passport

After reviewing your application, we will let you know in the beginning next week, if we can offer you acceptance for the academic year 2010/2011.

Best regards,
Mr. Man from Poznan

By Friday afternoon, I had submitted all the requested materials and now I am just waiting. I'm pretty good at waiting; I've been doing it for a while now. It's not a sure thing, but it looks pretty probable. My MCAT scores come out Tuesday as well, so by then we can make the most informed decision. Until then, I wait.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The news is no news yet.

We heard from our man in Poznań, P, this morning that the rector is out for the week. He'll be back on Monday and already has an appointment with our guy, who has forwarded our letter and his on to the rector and the deans. We also learned that P not only knows the rector as a classmate but was a former business partner with him too. Apparently they go way back. P says he's a very nice man, so we'll see what happens on Monday.

Until then though, I am still working on my US applications and Piotr will be heading to Warsaw on Wednesday morning for a couple days of intense business meetings. The cats and I will hold down the fort and keep each other company.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Time for plan K

Plans A through J haven't worked so far, so it's time for a new one. Here is the latest update.

The school did not get the 15 student commitment it needed to hire a full-time financial aid person--there were holes the size of Texas in the plan anyway--and so the plan fell through. One brave student has decided to take on the role of financial aid officer, and all the responsibility that it entails, in addition to his studies to ensure that he can get financial aid. He will handle other students' loans as long as he is in school--for 3 or 4 more years. Good on him.

Here is why that plan doesn't work for me. One, I'm interested to see if the Department of Education will allow him to have this position. It seems a huge conflict of interest to be both financial loan officer and student, as he is effectively loaning himself money. Two, if the Dept of Ed does allow this, what happens to the students who are still in school after he graduates? There is no guarantee that the school will allow another student to take over this role so that these students could continue. Three, why would I want to continue at a school that obviously doesn't want me?

Piotr labeled this relationship as a battered-wife syndrome. The school and the American students were in a working relationship, though I dare say neither were exactly happy. The school, in between kicking us while we're down, has moments where they welcome us back with, "If each of you pays $2000 more per year and is responsible for the cost in case of an audit, then I guess we'll let you back." At which point, many of the US students are ecstatic about returning only to find out the next day, "Haha, just kidding! You guys are on your own!" After the Chancellor lied to our face about when the school found out about this issue (he said mid-July but I have it from another authority as April 9th), that's when I checked out. Thanks for playing, on to plan H.

The one promise that the school has come through on is that they worked out a deal with the University of Medicine in Poznań, arranging for all students in good standing to be offered places in their respective classes. Piotr and I had been considering a move to Poznań anyway because it has a much better economy for Piotr to work in, however, moving to another 6 year program full of 19 year-olds is not that appealing. In a long shot effort, I emailed the rector of Poznań on Friday asking if there was any chance to be admitted into the first year of the 4 year program. It's highly doubtful, but the worst he can do is say no, right? We also have a secret weapon: Piotr's good friend in Poznań, Dr. Piotr, went to school with the rector and has agreed to go talk to him on Monday on our behalf. If it works, it means I would be starting classes, oh you know, Tuesday--which brings about a whole other load of timing issues with the move, but it could work.

Again, it's a long shot. In the mean time I am still working on my application for the states. I am trying my best to get my personal statement in check and get it out to those people who are writing me letters of recommendation. All the school related events this week seemed to put my life in slow motion and consequently, I accomplished very little this week. So now it's time to get my butt in gear and let my tenacity take over.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Personal Hell,oh wait, I mean Personal Statement

Writing a strong personal statement can take a couple weeks to a month to draft, edit, re-write, only to then trash it and start over again...and again. A couple weeks would be a luxury right now. The stress of timing my application is upon me and I am really struggling. I am trying to brainstorm stories, ideas, themes, and it seems all that is coming out is drivel. I gave myself all week, with the deadline of today, to have it finished to send off to all my writers of letters of recommendation and I find that I am in no better position today than I was on Monday, save a few pages of pure backwash.

The personal statement is my chance to make my application stand out from the GPAs and MCAT scores and I know that I have a diverse non-traditional background and life history from which to draw anecdotes and stories, but I cannot seem to find a theme to start with. Every time I try to write something I get a paragraph in and hit a wall. I wish I could just write, "Can't you see how awesome I am?"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

London Photos!

London Photos are up! (well, mine are. I'll see if I can link to Piotr's when he gets his up.)


Back to Gdańsk

We had a fantastic trip to London this weekend. For those of you who don't know, I retook the MCAT because my old scores had expired and if I'm really going to go for another round of applications, then it's required. The exam went ok, not as well as I'd like unfortunately, but probably about the same as last time which is fine. London, on the other hand, was fan-freaking-tastic.

It was Piotr's first time to the UK and he fell in love with London at once. We stayed with his cousin and her family in Ealing and took a bus/tube combo to get into the city daily. We packed so much into four days without it feeling overwhelming.

But returning home has it's own issues. Well, I say "home" because it's where our cats are but really we're not sure where real "home" is right now. Stressful situations always seem to compound themselves too. As we need to make some potentially life changing decisions, Piotr just got a big job and is working 12+ hours a day. While this is a blessing (we'll be able to pay rent!) it's also tough because it means we don't have the leisure to really explore all our options. Or at least we both don't have that option, it's kid of up to me. On top of all that, I'm trying to get my application together, organize transcripts, letters of recommendation, and write that damn personal statement. I hate personal statements.

I'll be sure to let you all know what happens when it happens, but until then we're trying to get by living in limbo.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

We may be screwed.

Earlier this year, the United States passed student loan reform. I was very excited about this reform especially as it pertains to the changes in repayment options. Well, while this reform makes the whole loan process easier especially for international schools, it does require each school to sign a contract with the US Department of Education. Schools were notified about the changes in early April. Medical University of Gdańsk chose to ignore the warnings and only when the subject was approached by returning students did they look into the problem and decide that the new terms are unacceptable to them. This leaves about 20 students from the first 4 years of study in a very difficult position of trying to arrange private funding or having to transfer to another institution. We have met with the Chancellor face to face and, unless the unlikely case that he was unaware of the April notices, blatantly lied to our faces that the school learned about this situation only last week.

Many students, including myself, cannot afford to take out private education loans to pay for school and rely on the Stafford loan not only to pay for tuition but to provide for living expenses as well. Some students are trying to further negotiate with MUG to be able to stay at the university. While I am interested to see where these negotiations go, if anywhere, I also want to make sure that I have other options lined up. Transferring to a six year program that cooperates with the US loan system, such as Poznan, is one of my options. There maybe some curriculum differences between MUG and UMP and I am trying to figure out how those would be reconciled.

I am also taking the MCAT next week in London as I am one of the few students eligible to attend a 4 year medical program. Depending on my scores, I will be applying for US schools again and perhaps some 4 year programs in Poland as well. Though, that doesn't necessarily help Piotr and I figure out what to do for this year.

The saddest part of all this is that the school is potentially going to lose some of their best students. It's the Americans who are the majority of class leaders and group leaders. I have already been  named as the 2nd year class representative to the student council, but I may have to forfeit this position due to the current situation. The other terrible part is that we RELOCATED OUR ENTIRE LIVES HERE at great expense to attend this school and now it looks like we may have to move again.

In the meantime, I am trying not to focus on all of this as I have the MCAT exam a week from today and I need to get back to studying. I will try to post updates here as I get them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Studying

Some of you know that I will be taking the MCAT again this summer. Yes, I am already in medical school, but I am considering the possibility of a last round of US school applications. My old scores have expired and to apply again, I must test again. If I do as well or better than my last attempt at the exam, then I will continue with applications. If not, then it will be a good review of the materials and I'll get a short trip to London out of the deal. Regardless, I have started the whole application process and, in so doing, wrote an update for my letters of recommendation from Portland State. I thought I'd share that letter with you because I feel it describes my position well. 

This update is somewhat unorthodox, as is my application. I am applying to medical school yet I am currently a medical student.

After years of applying and rejection, I was accepted at the Medical University of Gdańsk in Gdańsk, Poland, my husband’s home city and country. Once enrolled in their 6 year program, I withdrew my AMCAS
(the med school application service) application because I had finally made it to medical school. While not my first choice, I was ready to accept it after so many attempts.

I just completed my first year at the school and have done very well. Attached is an unofficial transcript. I have been very happy with the quality of education and the subject matter, but I am missing the camaraderie that comes from a strong small class of medical students. I long for a class of educational peers.  The program I’m attending is intended primarily for students who do not have prior degrees and often have very little other experience. I am finding that my years of preparation and other experience are definitely not the norm.

In my current program, I will graduate in 2015. If I continue while I attempt one more round of applications for the chance of attending a choice school, I will still graduate in 2015. The difference, aside from tuition costs, lies in feeling that I may have a closer connection with and have more opportunity to be challenged by my fellow classmates. I have looked at the possibility of transferring, but very few schools entertain the idea of medical transfer students, particularly from foreign institutions. I will be retaking the MCAT this summer as my former scores have expired.  I will also be submitting my new letters of recommendation directly to AMCAS.

I am gaining valuable experience and knowledge that I would not have been able to achieve were I still working at my hospital job in Portland and continuing my US-based volunteer efforts. In summary, the way I have improved my application is by becoming a medical student.

One major downside to another round of applications is the cost. Taking the MCAT internationally costs  $295 plus the cost of travel to and from the testing site in London. If I continue with applications, the first school is $160 and each one thereafter is $32. There is a program setup to help students with these costs.  I applied and was denied. After submitting my appeal I receivedan email that reiterated: "The Fee Assistance Program (FAP) is provided to assist individuals with extreme financial limitations whose inability to pay the full MCAT registration fee or the AMCAS application fee would prevent them from taking the examination or applying to medical school." I was rather upset by this and I felt it warranted a response.

Dear Sir or Madam or Automated Response Generator,

Thank you for your response.

In light that I am not sure how I will be able to pay my rent next month, much less the MCAT fee or AMCAS application fees, thank you for assuring me that I am not an individual with extreme financial limitations. This is very reassuring. Since I do not have the funds to pay the registration fee, I suppose I can always use my credit card and burden myself with even more crippling debt.

Thank you for providing me with the awkward decision of choosing between food and shelter or my higher education goals. I had hoped my appeal would garner additional assistance, though, unfortunately, it seems it has fallen on deaf ears.

Chelsea Unruh

I didn't receive a response.

One of the most frustrating parts about this whole situation of possible reapplication is that I feel I must be secretive about it. As I stated in the essay, I don't feel that I have many classmates here who challenge me. However, if I tell my classmates that I am applying for US schools, they will inevitably ask why and that's difficult. I want to go to a school that has smart students.* How can you say that without hurting feelings or sounding like a complete ass? It's a similar issue with my professors, although trickier as I need letters of reference from them.  I need a letter of reference so I can go to a better school, a US school.** As you can see, I have to handle this delicately. 

Starting tomorrow I am beginning a strict regiment of studying for the MCAT. I have less than a month before I take the exam and I have SO MUCH to review. I may not be posting as much, here nor on facebook, and I may be slow to respond to emails. I'm hoping I can handle 2.5 weeks of intense study without burn out. During this time, I will, however, be accepting emails or comments of encouragement and as much positive energy as can be sent this way. For now, it's off to a pre-study sleep.

* This is not exactly how I feel. There are smart students at my school. However, due to age and experience differences, there are not many students that I would call my educations peers. 
** Again, not a true statement. The school is excellent. The Polish division is the top in the country and int he top 10 in Europe. The English division, however, is not as developed and is not as competitive.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tom and Rebecca came to visit

Piotr's brother, Tom, came from Ottawa, Canada, and Rebecca came from Shanghai, China. They met in Poland because it was exactly half way. We had a great week together, cooked amazing meals, visited some great beaches, and did some quality hanging out. Check out the photos of the week here. We have another guest coming next week, so look forward to more photos from that visit too.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The end is here.

Exams are done, school is out, & summer is here!

The day after my last exam, Piotr, his mom, and I took a train or a long weekend in the city of Poznań. It made me realize how small Gdańsk really is because Poznań is a real city! It was the new shiny sparkly Poland where Gdańsk is just not. A weekend away was exactly what we needed. View our Poznań pictures here.

This week was Piotr's name day (like a Polish 2nd birthday) with a family dinner party. Last night we had taco night with a bunch of friends from school. What I realized is that these girls don't know how to cook, so getting together to cook and eat is both a socializing and a learning experience for them. I told them what ingredients to buy and then we all worked together to make a huge great meal. It was a lot of fun. At the very end of the night though, I managed to cut open my big toe with a piece of glass which ended the night on the dramatic side as we had to improvise with what we had for first aid equipment. Using vodka as an antiseptic, bandaids as butterfly bandages, and gauze with masking tape we managed to wrap it up. The most frustrating part to me is that I have to suspend the jogging program I just started until my toe is doing better. And I was so excited to start a workout routine!

Tomorrow Piotr's brother, Tom, and his friend, Rebeca, are coming to visit for about a week. I'm looking forward to having them, but my toe has slowed me down on the cleaning front today. I have my work cut out or me for the rest of the evening!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Things I'd rather be doing

Things I'd rather be doing instead of studying for my Histology exam:
  • Planning, shopping for, and building a Window Farm
  • Prepping and painting the hallway
  • Menu planning and grocery shopping
  • Cleaning the house
  • Brushing the cats
  • Taking a hike
  • Getting the house ready for guests
  • Baking
  • Dishes
  • Laundry
  • Knitting (I have multiple projects going on, so finishing some and starting others)
  • Crocheting (again, multiple projects)
  • Felting (goes back to the crafting projects)
  • Blogging about above craft projects
  • Blogging in general
  • Watching hours of downloaded television and movies while doing the crafting listed above
  • Organizing the kitchen, basement, garage, etc.
  • Cleaning out the refrigerator
  • Making lists (of things I'd rather be doing...)
This list is clearly not exhaustive, but looking back over it I see some pretty desperate procrastination strategies. I must resist and push forward. There is only a couple more weeks to go before I am done with year 1 and I am determined to kick this exam's ass. Ok, back to the books.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A night at the theatre

Piotr and I joined his mother and her friend for the premier of "Mały Książę" or "The Little Prince" performed at the Musical Theatre in Gdynia, Poland. The show is completely original, save the story, with new music, amazing costumes, great choreography and an integration of video. While the performance was dance based, small bits of speech and sound speckled the story giving it life. Overall, an amazing performance.

As we were leaving though two thoughts occurred to me: one, that theatre has come a long way since the last time I was in a show (nearly 10 years now); and two, that this was one of only (one) handful of theatre performances I've seen in the last 5 years. This amazed me! I was so involved in theatre in school and college, toyed with becoming a theatre major or minor, and traveled for a semester in Europe with a school group strictly focusing on theatre and literature. And I've seen less than a show a year in the last five years!

I have to thank my crew from the Portland Spirit, for without them I would have seen even less! Marianna Thielen in Sartre's No Exit was the first show I saw back in Portland and proved to be hauntingly memorable. Jacqueline Shoda-Iwasaki's opera performance at Portland State in Mozart’s "Cosi fan Tutte" was amazing. And the puppet-master, Shae Uisna, showed us a little of what she could do in Portland State's "Haroun & the Sea of Stories." Now that I think about it, I suppose the Spirit's Cinnamon Bear cruises were a form of theatre, which is probably why I enjoyed working them so much.

(I hope I'm not forgetting any performances I've seen. If anyone remembers another show I've seen, please let me know. I have a genetically inherited memory for things like this that sometimes needs reminding. )

Thank you to those who have performed, who continue to perform, and to those who have encouraged me to get out of the house and into the audience. My hat is off to you. While school takes me in a wholly different direction, albeit a good one, sometimes I long just to be back in the theatre.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reminding me of home...

Just when you are super home-sick (read that Portland-sick), something badass like this comes past your window.
The bikes in front were Dutch style holding a complete drum line.
The view up the street. They took over the whole road and sidewalk.
These guys had a few seats left if anyone wanted to join.
This guy was far enough away from the front that you couldn't hear the drums anymore. So he brought his own sound system.
Those are ambulance bikes. Check it out, they're wearing medic suits and even bike bags with supplies.
Yes, that is an ape riding next to what could be the Polish equivalent to Little Miss Muffet.

And just like that I feel a little bit better about living here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some things are the same in any culture.

Just like back home, the people you work with can make or break your day. Monday was such a great day at the hospital with a really great group of nurses. Tuesday, not so much. One nurse, Ania, worked both days and thank God she was there because the rest of the group of nurses must have graduated from the Bitch School of Nursing. They bossed people around, seemed rougher with the patients, and were mean to each other. It really changed the atmosphere of the unit.

My German patient was still there and was very happy to see me, especially since right when I walked in a senile old woman had been trying to talk to him in German from across the room and was screaming "Hail Hitler!" and laughing! He asked, "Can you please explain to me what is going on here?" I shared that the older lady was a little bit crazy and just having some fun. Awkward!

I ended up leaving an hour early. The nurses had drawn straws to see who would get to go home early, the catch being that the nurse had to change the diaper and clean the shit off the bedridden patient. Ania "won" and since I was following her around, I helped her clean up the old man. She said that we both deserved to leave and that she didn't want to leave me with the mean ladies. Fair enough!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Back in the business

In order to complete the first year of classes I am required to participate in a 4-week nursing training internship at the hospital of my choice. I have already started accumulating hours by working in the Cardiac Surgery unit of the school's hospital. While there is a little bit of drama in the English Division about me working there--all the other students were told to go somewhere else, and I have a feeling it's because they don't speak (or try to speak) Polish--I must admit I am loving it. Thanks to Piotr and his family, I am very comfortable around the Polish language. Even if I don't understand everything someone says, I'm pretty good with context. Last night, I really got to put my Polish to the test.

Last night, an hour before my shift ended, we received a post-op patient, a German tourist who spoke English but not a word of Polish. The nurses, none of whom speak English nor German, were delighted that I was there and could get the patient situated. He was a nice older man but a little confused about everything going on around him. While I attended to other patients, the nurses summoned me repeatedly to help interpret. "She is going to take some blood now and connect your fluids." "Would you like to eat some dinner?" It also worked the other way though too: "Pan nie wie gdzie jest jego komuraka." (Sir does not know where is his cell phone.)

Yesterday, I also successfully drew blood for the first time all by myself. Actually, I successfully did it 5 times. I have had such a mental block when it comes to drawing blood and sticking people with needles and I was so relieved to see that I could actually do it. Most of the things I am doing in the hospital are such little things, but it feels so good to be back in a medical setting. School is great and all, but learning in a classroom can only take you so far. I feel like, despite the language barrier, I have learned so much in the few hours I've worked.

Today I have Polish class and another 4 hour shift.
Off I go!

Monday, May 10, 2010

They do things a bit different here.

I'll start with the bigger news because it's just too cool. I did well enough on the last (and all the previous) anatomy exam that my average for the year was 80.7%. I am exceptionally happy with my performance in the class and how I improved on each exam especially when I step back and remember that this is a medical school course. But that's not even the best part: for students who achieve an average of over 80% on all exams there is no final exam! Ok, we do have a formality of an oral exam, but after talking to the professor this sounds like it will merely be a conversation about anatomy over tea.

I'm sorry that I am tooting my own horn here, but I am excited at how the year has gone. And it is almost gone. Last weekend we had our last exam in histology before the final at the end of June. As it turns out, this is my only final exam and I have over a month to prepare for it. I haven't done as well as I'd like to in histology, but I feel like this is my chance to make up for that.

Since I am effectively done with classes for the year, Piotr and I get to focus on the apartment again. Well, he'll get to focus more after his work project is semi-wrapped up this week. Sunday, we spent half the day working on the kitchen and general cleaning/clearing of the rest of the place. Our kitchen has never looked so good! We still have a bit more to do such as installing a tile back-splash behind and to the side of the sink, putting up some matching shelves, installing a hood/vent for the stove, and so on. Regardless of how much more we have to do, it feels wonderful to have a silverware drawer!

As you can see in the photos, we get wonderful morning light in the kitchen, even if the sun is starting to rise closer and closer to 4am. We still have an ugly sticker-covered refrigerator, but it works so we'll keep it. Before we can do much else in this room, a much needed trip to the hardware store is in order. Oh, one more note about the kitchen cabinets: don't be fooled by how they look now, we had to do some serious work to get those in. The cabinet under the sink is covering a series of unmovable water & waste water pipes and had to have pieces cut to accommodate said pipes. Then building/installing the cabinet around the pipes was probably more than a two man job, but we managed. I love my kitchen!

On another subject, I have wanted to mention this on here but, as you may have noticed, have not been posting frequently. Medical school tends to get in the way of that sometimes. We have experienced a fair share of holidays in the past month or so here in Poland and let me tell you, Poland takes its holidays seriously. On labor day, for example, it is illegal to have any employees working for you. Every big shop in town is closed and the only shops that *might* be open are the little corner mom-and-pop shops and they have to be run exclusively by mom & pop. We found out the hard way that there are no food stores open on Easter or the Monday after. We have adapted to the European way of life where you shop daily for your meals, so closing a shop for a day or two can really throw things off!

That is all for now, though I will be trying to write more now that I have the time!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

227 days ago...

I found this note in my iphone from 227 days ago: September 19, 2009.

Snafu at airport led to having my flight switched from united to Alaska for the first leg. What a difference! United charges you for everything now where Alaska has free Starbucks coffee, Jones soda, Tazo tea, NW beers(Widmer) and wines! (though no beer offered on my morning flight)

Getting my flights squared away took almost an hour--I'm SO glad we got there early. I was lucky to have great people helping me on both sides of the desk (Piotr and my parents were with me). However, by the time I finally got my tickets and bags checked in there was no time for breakfast before security. I barely had time for goodbyes! I settled for a microwaved breakfast burrito while my folks an Piotr had a lot more options.

But I made my first flight, ate, and had a coffee (thanks to mom & Piotr who went for coffee while dad and I waited at the ticket desk!!). Bags are checked through to Gdansk, I have boarding passes for all flights and it looks like enough time between flights to make them all.

Only thing to minorly worry about now is entering the EU without a visa and only a one way ticket--I apparently stand a chance of deportation! Let's hope the school paperwork is enough to convince the Germans to let me in!
 As you know, I made it okay and the Germans didn't deport me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Polish Disaster

Today starts a week of mourning as the President of Poland, along with many other high ranking officials, was killed today in a plane crash in Russia. This is big. Nowhere in history has a political catastrophe like this happened. Every Polish flag in Gdańsk has a black ribbon adorning it and many buildings, including ours, have posted black ribbons and flags on their sides. The country is in shock. The thing is that it's not just the president who was killed, it was most of his party too. To compare for a moment, a comparable situation in the US would be if (a couple years ago) Air Force One went down with the entire Bush family, every chief of staff and cabinet member, and the heads of all the military forces went down on their way to a 9-11 commemoration ceremony. I never liked Bush or any of his party, but think of what turmoil that would have caused. 

As a foreigner, I'm not sure how to feel. I'm numb. This is just too big to comprehend. When Piotr told me this morning over the phone, I felt like I needed to call my family. It didn't happen on Polish soil, there's no reason why I wouldn't be okay, but I still felt like I needed to call. Unfortunately, they're on some deserted island at the moment without phone service so I couldn't call but the urge was still there. I guess it still is. We called Piotr's mom instead, waking her up, and told her the news.

I was having a hard enough time focusing today and trying to get things done, and with something like this happening it pretty much cancels out the day. It makes the everyday things seem unimportant. I wish I had some insightful tidbit to add here at the end, but like most of the rest of the country, I'm at a loss for words.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Getting back to it.

 It's been so long since I have written anything I'm a little overwhelmed at where to start.

We have moved into the apartment in Wrzeszcz--good luck saying that--and I love it. It's been a little rough living in an unfinished apartment, but everyday it's getting better and better. We had the kitchen floor installed, built the Ikea kitchen furniture and finally got the sink installed. We just bought a washing machine but we have to wait until after the holiday to get it hooked up.

Oh, all our stuff arrived from America too. That's another story though.

Today we built Piotr's record shelf from Ikea and he's started bringing up boxes of his most precious ones and unpacking them. He just unpacked the boxes of 78s and (thank God) none of them were broken. I must admit that the room looks a lot better with the wall of records starting to take shape. Another piece of furniture we built is my desk which means I have a make-shift area to study in--very important.

Yes, things are going well. School is going well too. I just received a notice that I am exempt from the last embryology exam because of my performance on the first exam and on the in-class quizzes. There are only 3 of us who received this exemption. :) That means I have more time to study anatomy and histology as I am determined to be in the top 10 for each of those subjects. It has been a little bit of a struggle balancing home renovations, unpacking, and studying, but I'm managing.

One of the things about the unpacking process that has surprised me the most is that is makes me friend-sick. I won't say homesick, because this is my home now, but friend-sick because I miss my family and friends. Piotr and I have some really cool things and quite a few of them have come from our family & friends or from trips or adventures we've taken with some of you. Just know that with every box we open, we are thinking of you.

On that note, I think it's time to go figure out what to make for dinner. We've started with the drinks, as you can see. (I unpacked the cocktail shaker and martini glasses this week!) We forgot that it's a holiday weekend and put off shopping until about 5pm on Saturday...when all the shops closed at 3pm. Crap. Time to get creative! Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Missing y'all

Unpacking has been an odd experience; joy at the familiarity of our things and sadness at being so far from friends.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Master Baker

I have outdone myself. I baked peanut butter cookies. That may not sound like much to you readers sitting in a nice cozy American kitchen with your measuring cups and utensils. Let me rephrase, I made peanut butter cookies with my only measuring device being a soup spoon. And, as I didn't even have all the correct ingredients, I had to improvise a little--I found baking powder in Polish shops but have yet to find the baking soda.

Using a long sleeve t-shirt tied around my waist as an apron, I bravely embarked on a culinary adventure that few would even dare to try. You see, with cooking , it's easy to throw out the measuring devices, but baking doesn't work that way. If cooking is art, baking is chemistry--which is probably why I love it. Regardless, I am so excited that my 2 dozen cookies turned out not only edible but delicious.

The cookies were in addition to a surprisingly delicious chicken & rice soup that I concocted without a definite recipe. It was good enough to go for seconds even though I was sated. I have missed cooking but I have also missed cooking for others. Believe me, having 2 dozen...uh, that is, a dozen and a half cookies lying around the kitchen when a nasty snow storm is blowing outside is not an easy temptation to resist. If someone else were here, well, then I would have someone to share them with. The same with the soup, I enjoyed it so much, I wish someone else could have had some too. Well, I will continue to cook during my break and I have company coming over on Friday. Piotr's cousin Ola and her husband Marek, my two Sopot saviors, are coming to dinner. The plan is to make my favorite Rachael Ray dish, but I have yet to see a jalapeño pepper in Poland which poses potential problems. I will keep searching for ingredients in the days to come.

In other news, it's snowing again--I guess that's why it's called winter break--and it's really coming down out there. The city and shops had just cleared the sidewalks to a point that you could easily walk and now we have at least a couple more centimeters out there. With how hard it's coming down, we could easily get a lot more too. So what to do when it's...what do you say? It's not pouring down snow. Snowing cats & dogs? Falling down snow? Falling hard snow?...really coming down? Besides cooking and baking, why you take pictures! So I included a few more for you. Enjoy.

P.S. It's fun to take photos in a new sweater!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday breakfast

I made it through first semester! On my first Sunday morning of my three week vacation I managed to sleep in until 10am. This is quite a feat as I usually can't sleep past 7am. To celebrate my sleeping-in-ness I am downstairs at Lounge Bar having breakfast Polish style--that means with a beer. It's a different atmosphere in the cafe today as CNN in English is playing and there is another table of Americans, Texans here to try to start Chick-Fillet. Wow, I haven't heard accents like that in quite a while.

This weekend I've been the Remote Mobile Command Center for our Portland-Poland move. Piotr is on the ground in Portland and working hard. It's hard to be so far away during the move, but I'm helping in every way I can. I'm making phone calls, lists, creating and editing customs lists, and giving as much encouragement as possible. I feel like it's not enough, but it's all I can do being so far away.

It's hard to write being bombarded with English! Larry King Live and the the Texans are distracting! Especially when the Texans are describing each and every food product that is going to be offered; waffle fries, sausage biscuits, chicken salad...I just had breakfast but this talk is making me hungry again.Oh jeez, I didn't realize that Chick-Fillet is a Christian organization and the God talk has started. I don't know how well that will go over in a (sometimes superficially) Catholic country.

Anyway, last week a bunch of us went bowling to celebrate a couple birthdays. Bowling in Poland was interesting. The place was much smaller than any bowling alley I've ever been to (to be expected), but the best part was the pin return. The How Things Work side of me was reeling. Instead of the loud expensive pin return machines we have in the states the pins are connected to strings. Yes, strings! It's brilliant. I know I can't really do it justice explaining it here, but it was a beautiful system. The pins could still fall as if they were not attached, but then they would get pulled up out of the back catching area to get reset. It means that the same 10 pins were used every time. Between one person's turns, all pins would be pulled up and then the missed ones would be reset. I tried to take pictures but it was almost impossible to catch on film. Regardless of how the whole system worked, we had a blast and it was a great success.

This week has been one of the coldest of the winter with temperatures last night reaching a low of -26C (that's -15F). Sopot & Gdańsk are not used to weather like this, especially such a long spell of it. Since the temperature dropped below 0 in December, we haven't seen a day above 0 and it's almost February! The past two days though, have been so bright, beautiful, and sunny, just very very cold. As I've seen footage from Haiti and the horrible living conditions people are being subjected to, one thought that keeps crossing my mind is that at least they are living in a place where they can sleep outside. Being in a warm climate can be both a blessing and a curse--being able to live outside and not freeze, but heat also can make diseases more difficult to control. I am reminded of one of the larger quakes that hit Japan while I was there, in an area that was covered in snow so people couldn't live outside and rescue workers had to be dressed warm enough to avoid injuring themselves. Housing people and keeping them warm was one of the major relief issues.

Watching this footage though, also reinforces my drive to be a doctor. Disaster relief is something I want to do and have always wanted to do; running triage centers, building operating rooms, and working with what you have. While working at Emanuel, I volunteered for every disaster drill I could and was present for at least one mass casualty event. Even though I wasn't working in a medical capacity at the time, the sheer logistics of setting up these systems is fascinating and everyone's participation and input is essential. I also feel my time at the hospital  has allowed me to understand just how important all the support staff are.

Back to Poland, my school just completed another heart transplant with transportation help from the Polish Navy. It's either their 9th or 11th successful heart transplant (I can't remember which) and it makes me proud to be at this school. While the English department is still growing and developing, it has the base of the strongest medical school in Poland backing it up. I feel like the North American students are the ones committed to doing well and helping the school become a success. For example, a couple of us will be developing a medical chemistry textbook for the future first year students. In addition, this summer I will be approaching several departments about editing the English in their lecture slides and seeing if I can shadow some doctors and maybe get involved in some research. I'm excited at all the opportunities, the hard part is that because it's a new program I have to create or seek out these opportunities.As they happen though, I'll keep you updated!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another new address?

As we look at another potential move--this one only being a few kilometers--I am very excited but also aware of the things I will miss from this apartment. I will miss the giant bathroom with the claw foot bathtub, I will miss the people watching (though I'll probably be more efficient with my work!), but most of all I will miss being able to get half way dressed, stumble downstairs and get breakfast for 9 zl at Lounge Bar. That is where I am now, directly below my living room, enjoying coffee, breakfast, and free wifi (which is the wifi I use in the apartment anyway). I also love that the breakfast guy speaks English very well, his daughter comes and hangs out in the cafe while he works, and that the other patron here right now is having a large beer with his breakfast. (The picture is of my current building with the bar beneath my front windows.)

This past week wasn't the last week before break, but close to it. Thursday, we had our embryology midterm and results were posted Friday. Now, I have passed every exam so far, so I wasn't worried about this one, but you all know that I always want to do my best. I am proud to say that I got a 4 (out of 5). For the North Americans out there (and the rest of the world, for all I know), Poland uses a strange grading system of grades from 2 to 5. A 2 is under 60% and thus a fail, a 3 between 60-79%, a 4 corresponds to 80-89%, a 4+ from 90-95% and a 5 is 95% to 100%--or at least this is as much as I understand of it. So a 4 is a good grade, especially when the class average was 2.3.

Well, now that that exam is over, I have a few classes next week before my break. It's the end of the term and I am one of the very very few who do not have any more exams. Due to my previous studies, I have an exemption in Chemistry and have not had to participate in any of the classes or exams, although I did assist in teaching a couple seminars. Cell Bio final exam is next week, but I scored high enough on my weekly quizzes to gain an exemption from the final in that class as well. These are the only two classes that are ending at term, so while all my classmates are in the study zone for dead week, I have free time. Then, while they have two weeks of exam period, I have an extra two weeks off in addition to our regular one week semester end break.

Which brings me to back to the subject. We may be moving again. I say we, because Piotr will be here the first week of February to join me for good! And the day he arrives we are looking at and deciding on an apartment in Wrzeszcz, a urban neighborhood much closer to school and in the center of everything. We are pretty sure we are going to take it, but I've moved us enough times by myself that I won't budge until I have Piotr by my side. The location, for you Portlanders, would be the equivalent of living: in a huge apartment in the Pearl district; right on the streetcar line (if the street car went everywhere in the city); with MAX (train) access two blocks away; with a private courtyard park outside one side of the apartment; with a non-ghetto Lloyd Center across the street on the other side of the apartment with a huge international foods grocery store in its basement; with a private entrance, garage, and off street parking; a 25 minute walk, probably 7 minute bike ride, or a 10 minute tram ride away from school. In other words, it's a SWEET location. Then, to top it off, we'd get all that at a North Portland price. Parts of the apartment are rough, but that means that we can make it how we want it and it is more than large enough for any and all of you to come visit. You'll have your own room! (The picture is of the Manhattan mall across the street from the apartment building. )

I will post pictures once we have the keys and let you know our address then as well. The best part about this place is that it actually has a mailbox! Yes! But until Piotr gets here, and after I make it through this light week, I will have some free time to explore the city if it's not too cold. Email me if any of you'd like to schedule a phone/skype date the week of January 25th as I have an open schedule.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ottawa Photos

Here are a few photos from my holiday break.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Kind of Homecoming

2010-01-04 (Waiting in the Warsaw airport, I am unable to connect to the internet so will just write and post this later.)

It’s hard to come back. The holiday break was so wonderful with warm friends, family, and homes, delicious food, great wines, and don’t forget the vodka. I am so blessed to have my family in Ottawa. Each Christmas I have spent there just gets warmer and warmer. This year I particularly enjoyed getting to spend a lot of time with Piotr’s mother, Krystyna. We talked more in the past two weeks than in the 4+ years Piotr and I have been together and it was great.

The actual journey of returning hasn’t been easy exactly. It was snowing so much in Eastern Canada that most of the flights were at least a little delayed. When my first flight was further delayed out of Ottawa, I asked the gate agent if it would affect my connection. She assured me it would and booked me on the flight that was leaving in 10 minutes—which was actually leaving almost 2 hours after its original schedule. Regardless, I made it to Toronto though I’m unsure if my bags did.

The LOT flight from Toronto was delayed though they never fully admitted to that until we were on the aircraft. It was the first time I’ve seen a gauntlet of security for boarding a plane. About 15 uniformed and armed guards, one with a drug dog, watched and interviewed each passenger. The guard who pulled me over asked if I was aware of the laws about carrying currency, that one must declare if they are carrying over $10k Canadian. He asked me how much money I had on me. My honest answer: “I have 50 cents Canadian and 60 złoty. I actually have to hit an ATM in Poland so I can pay for a cab home from the airport.” I assume this heightened security was in response to the recent snafu in the states, but it was quite a show of force especially for Canadians. We were further delayed when one passenger didn’t pass the screening gauntlet and we had to wait while they searched and retrieved his already loaded baggage.

On the plane, I was lucky enough to get an aisle seat--an aisle seat without a functioning overhead light, a seat cushion that wasn’t attached and kept sliding around, but with a great view of the non-functioning video system. I managed to get a little reading in before they shut off the cabin lights and then relied on my ipod for entertainment which mostly consisted of classical music I could pretend to sleep to. Just like the flight over, the hot meal was quite good, but the cold part left much to be desired. Thankfully, at brunch earlier in the week, I stole a couple individual sized peanut butter packs which made breakfast much more enjoyable. We arrived only 90 minutes later than scheduled, and fortunately my connecting flight to Gdańsk is delayed as well.

When I did pull out my Anatomy book on the plane, I was surprised at my focus. For the two weeks in Canada, I couldn’t muster enough focus to read for more than 10 minutes at a time with negligible comprehension levels. Though as soon as I boarded the plane and opened up the book , the reality of school came back including the reality that I have class tomorrow that I’m entirely unprepared for and a colloquium next week for which I have been only passively studying. Before boarding I dreaded going back to an empty, cold, and lonely apartment. Now I realize that, just like a hamster creates a nest, this apartment will be my nest of intense studying until the end of the month. Pitor was right, this month will fly by. With the amount of work we both have to focus on, it will feel like the blink of an eye until we are together again. And with that in mind, I say Bring It On!

Updates: I am now back safe and cold in Sopot without my luggage. Thankfully I have some clothes here to wear to school tomorrow!