Into the Fray

September 17, 2005

Well, I’m pretty happy so far. Of the 50+ people on the old mailing list, 20+ have responded. This is the twentieth email I have written to the group so I figure I have broken even. Unbeknownst to you there has been a silent competition here: the most interesting/funniest response from the group wins a prize. Nikol is in the lead with her email threatening my life. Good showing, Nikol.

Oh, and you should all feel that your time spent writing back to me was worth it. NOT ONE of the people that failed to respond is getting this email. They will instead receive the following message:

“Thank you for reading about my adventures over the past few months. If you would like to continue receiving updates, please follow the instructions in the last email you received from me detailing your obligation to tell me a bit about your life. My most recent missive was on Sept. 17th, and I will be happy to forward it to you once I have received your submission. Thank you, and have a great day! topher.”

Just to clear up some things from the last email, Sherin (share-een, not sharon) is Persian like I am Irish: not really. So to those who asked if she wears covering and has to be subservient (hilarious by the way) the answer is yes. Of course I could just be full of blarney. I am learning new things from her every day. For instance, I was shocked when she told me that “farcy” is a real language. I always thought it was a pun for gibberish. I think we’re both a little right.

Coconut bras and grass skirts luauMy roommates Terrell and Kelly have been better about their classes than I, and so as a treat went to the Luau party. This was after an afternoon spent in Island Arts and Crafts. They grabbed coconuts from the beach and ripped up palm fronds to make bras and grass skirts. The highlight was watching Kelly pitch his coconut into the air and the frothy explosion of curdled milk that followed, covering our parking lot. It was hands down the worst smell of my time in Grenada, a mixture of pus and hell-vomit. It was the type of smell that penetrates things. Shudder.

This weekend marks the end of the first month that my roommates and I have been on the Navy Seals workout. I made sure that my “before” picture had me frowning, slouched, and pasty white in poor lighting so that my “after” picture would be more dramatic. The only dramatic thing in the picture is how dirty our walls got in a month without a maid.

Before she left this weekend for Barbados, Sherin asked me to take her out on the moped. Of course it was a disaster. The moped groaned under the extra weight (she’s a big girl) so I had to get used to staying in each gear longer than I like. The moped, instead of having both up- and down-shifting handled by a toe peddle, splits the job of shifting between a toe and heel peddle. I could not reach the heel peddle easily with Sherin’s leg under mine, so my shifting was typically graceful. All in all, the trip was lurch-tastic.

The paragraph about school: midterms start on the 26th with Immunology. We’ve had 15 hours of lecture for immuno. I am 15 lectures behind. I am 4 lectures behind in Neuro and 3 behind in Physio. For those keeping score, those 22 hours of instruction that I have to complete in the coming week are ON TOP OF the 14 hours of new instruction. That’s 5 hours of lecture a day without taking into account that I need about 3 study hours for every lecture hour to take full notes and memorize the material. Watch as I descend into the seventh circle of Red Bull.

So this will probably be the last email I write until a half hour before my midterm. I’ll talk to you then, topher.

1) Farcy is the language spoken by Persians. It’s a real language. Not a joke at all.
2) Blarney is something relating to my Irish heritage. Honestly, I was just faking it with this one.
3) In Dante’s Inferno, he details the seven circles of Hell, with the seventh being reserved for those worst sinners.
4) Red Bull is a drink that they serve on the seventh level.


Scars will heal

September 10, 2005

Well I’ll begin by saying that I haven’t wrecked the bike; the bike has not been kind in turn. My helmet still does not fit my head. I have to tuck my ears in to put it on and even then I have this whole “snowman” look about me. The snap on visor likes to snap off in traffic. The exhaust pipe has burned a circle into my calf, branding me an idiot. Two people on campus have come up to me to show off their own calf scars. So there is a club of idiots. I have to take my helmet everywhere, and it has begun to double as a purse. A very manly purse.

We’ve lost electricity in our apartment a few times with the last episode almost 48 hours long save for a five hour intermission of light. I had to drink all the beer in the fridge and eat all the chips in a hurry before they melted. I found this funnier than my roomates. None of them has a flashlight, so while I walk around with my headlamp Kelly is navigating by the flash of his camera, Sam is using his cell phone, and Winston is stalking us in the dark pretending to be a ninja.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but we have a few mosquitos in our place. Not very smart, the mosquito. Our fans are on constantly, and one day I left for school and forgot to turn mine off. I came home to a pile of mangled legs and wings at the base of my desk, testament to the event horizon that is five inces behind the fan. I haven’t turned it off since. I’m not going to lie to you: it makes me feel smart.

I feel obliged to have one paragraph devoted to my classes since some readers wonder if I even go to school down here. Physiology is incredibly interesting and has yielded more information so far that I feel I can use clinically. I understand why the heart wooshes and warbles in different ways when things go wrong in different places. I’ve learned that the kidneys are the brains behind the circulatory system, that the heart is a dumb pump, and lessons should always come in threes. Neurology is giving me hysterical blindness, a condition I should be able to explain soon enough. The upside is that I can now explain why I still feel like the room is spinning once I’ve actually stopped running in a circle pulling out my hair.

Well, it wouldn’t be honest to wrap things up without including Sherin. I met a beautiful girl at the beginning of this term through a mutual friend who at the time was trying to set her up with my roomate. Things didn’t pan out for the roomate. I’ll be honest: I’m a little smitten. She matches me sarcastic comment for comment so it goes without saying that we talk for hours. She’s persian. “Persian” is a fancy way of saying you’re from Iran. Flying with this girl is going to be an experiece.

Alright, so this last part is ransom to everyone that has been on this mailing list a while. When I went home this last break I felt myself in a bit of information debt. You know more about my life than I know about yours. So here’s the deal: I want AT LEAST two paragraphs from every one of you letting me know what is going on in your life, how is your work, how is your dog. I don’t care what you write, just write something. As I receive your responses, I will add your name to the mailing list once more. Deal? Good.

You have no idea how much I am looking forward to this, topher.

P.S. A paragraph consists of no fewer than three full sentences. “It’s fun.”, while grammatically complete, will not be counted towards the total of three sentences. If this were for a grade, try to get a B.

Event Horizon: that border between the distances where escape from the gravitational pull of a black hole becomes and ceases to become possible, even for light.

School is Hard, Moped Nation

September 2, 2005

So medical school is hard. I spend, on average, three hours on every 12 page Neuro lecture before I’m semi-happy with what I’ve retained. I would love to pretend that the reason it’s taking me so long is because the course is presented in a way that lacks narrative but its more likely that I’m dense. Neuro rules my life and I am lucky that Physio is still in first gear.

Speaking of gears, living off campus without a vehicle is no fun. The time it takes to travel back and forth for cooked meals, changes in books, and other sundry errands comes to 2-3 hours a day. Then consider that those errands happen an hour or two apart from each other and you have a day that is broken up into pieces that prevent any study-momentum. I need something.

My budget won’t allow me a controlling interest in a car among my roomates, so that leaves bicycle, motorcycle, and moped on the table. Last Friday I responded to an add and made a complete ass of myself. A vet student looking to unload a moped she has never ridden had to show me the clutch, kickstart, brakes and instructional panel on the gas tank tying all of these objects together. I decided to wheel it out and take it for a test drive. How hard could that be? I used the front brake the entire time not realizing there was one at my foot, because the front brake and the throttle are on the same handlebar I did an excellent job of lurching, and I almost killed a cow.

Dad, I know you are so proud of me.

Naturally I fell in love with the thing. There’s something about the speed that only a moped can deliver. She was asking $1400 and I was offering $830; it would be a while.


climbing flapperIn the meantime, MY HANGBOARD IS UP! I paid someone squatting in the abandoned hotel next to us $28 to build a frame for it and am happy to report that the skin is tearing off every one of my fingers in righteous flappers. My roomates really don’t know how to handle my excitement. Needless to say I have made all of them use it during our Navy Seals workout.

There is once again a beach by our house and I am swimming every day. It got a little hard doing laps from the buoy and back with my head above water, so I went and bought some Swedish goggles (the ones without any rubber that make you look like you have glass insect eyes). They pinch pretty bad and it hurts to blink. I toughed it out the first day for about a half hour and then suffered for the next two while everyone laughed at “the racoon”. Har har. What’s worse, now that I can see clear to the bottom I don’t want to swim at my beach anymore: it’s too dirty and I can see little bits of things going past my mouth.

So this brings us to the phone call I recieved from the vet student on Thursday asking me to haggle a bit for the moped. I will also mention that I had two of my friends make offers on the bike and then reatract them saying “it just wasn’t worth it”. I asked her to meet me halfway between our offers to each other, then I refused again. I had my arms crossed and everything.

Dad, I know you are so proud of me.

She eventually settled at $1000 throwing in two new helmets, a lock and a waterproof bag for it all. Let the countdown begin to my first crippling accident! At least now I can ride to a cleaner beach.

Avoiding potholes and maniacs, topher.

1) A hangboard is a climber’s pullup bar that hurts in creative ways
2) A flapper occurs when a callous along with the underlying skin is torn away, revealing red, glistening dermis.
3) I was called “the racoon” because I had twin bruise circles around my eyes


So it’s actually Friday afternoon and I bought the bike! The helmet does not fit my head. I rolled it down this girl’s driveway and (flashing back to my youth) taught myself how to work the thing in a parking lot. Every single scenario I could imagine I played out against imaginary pedestrians and reggae busses. It took about an hour before I could lean correctly, downshift quickly, and start from neutral on a hill. I probably wasn’t completely ready, but I went into traffic anyway. HI MOM!

learnerI have been somewhat responsible; I put two white “L”s on the side of the helmet to let every other motorist know that I have no idea what I am doing.

4) In Grenada, all student driver cars are called “learners” and have a big white “L” on them.