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!