Welcome to Grenada

April 1, 2006

For current, updated information about attending SGU, review of SGU textbooks, and access to more SGU resources, please visit the Welcome to Grenada site.

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Welcome to Grenada.

First off, you probably do not know how lucky you are. The surprise for each new student is how beautiful Grenada is and how anyone could keep their sanity studying in any other place. What follows is a guide to your classes and a glimpse into what your life is going to be like in Grenada. A small disclaimer: I am a white American male twenty-something who had never left the US before coming to Grenada. It is very possible that certain aspects of Grenadian life specific to women are undereported. I apologize. Now let us get started.

ARRIVING

It is GrenEHda, not GrenAHda. Pronouncing it correctly is a big deal. Grenada was described to me as a third world country before I came and this will not be your experience. Your time on campus will be indistinguishable from any university in the US; your dorm life will be no different than your undergraduate experience. Everyone uses the bus or drives a car. You will have your Subway, your TCBY Treats, movie theaters, malls, grocery stores, hardware stores, school supplies, bars and clubs. You probably will not be able to find the laundry detergent you like or fresh milk, but these are small things. Anyone who says you will be “roughing it” is lying to you.

***That being said, a few people each year have a hard time adjusting. Some have dietary concerns (it is not hard to be a vegetarian; it is hard to be a vegan). Some get very homesick or cannot adjust to Grenada’s culture. The pace here is very slow. ***

The very first mistake people make when traveling to Grenada is NOT taking a layover. Often times the airlines will overbook a connecting flight from Puerto Rico to Grenada and ask that passengers volunteer to take a later flight, often the next day. TAKE IT! You will be put up in a hotel, given miles for a flight in the future, and have a chance to enjoy another island carefree.

Many students have questions about how much their luggage can weigh. American Airlines (in my experience) will tell you to bring no more than two pieces of luggage weighing 50 lbs. each and one carry-on weighing no more than 40 lbs. The problem is that your connecting flight to Grenada may only allow ONE 50 lb. piece of checked luggage and will charge you an arm and a leg to bring the other, or flatly refuse. Call ahead and make absolutely certain with an airline official that your luggage will make it to Grenada, and then get that persons’ phone number.

You will likely spend your first night in Grenada without your entire luggage. This is not a big deal. The airline will give you a number to call and you will have your luggage within a day or two. Try to come to the island early so you can take full advantage of Orientation week. It is nice to have that time for settling in, to speak nothing of all of the trips around the island that are provided.

Grenada’s weather has two settings: downpour and blindingly sunny, so come to the island wearing a rain jacket over a bathing suit. Grenada is likely hotter than you are used to. During those first few days, you will break a sweat from standing, lose weight, and drink water like breathing air. You will see students going to class wearing jeans and long sleeved shirts and wonder what is wrong with them. Just know that your body is getting used to the island; it takes about a month.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

It’s amazing how a few photographs taken by students can add some perspective to the place. Go to Flickr and search for SGU. It says something that the students love the school enough to put all of this together themselves. My favortite albums are shot by Josh and Felix.

PHONE SECTION

No one gets a landline and you should not bring a cordless phone with you. So that means you are buying a cell phone. Since you are now going to travel from the mainland to Grenada and St. Vincent’s (and possibly Prague) you probably want a phone that can work in all areas. For this, you need to buy a Quad-Band GSM phone. There are two main companies that offer GSM service in the USA. AT&T and Cingular are now merged into one company, and the second company is T-Mobile. So here’s what you do:

1) buy a Quad-Band GSM phone from one of these companies
2) make sure that it is a pay-as-you-go phone with a SIM card
3) go to this website and pay for your phone to be unlocked

I’ll explain all of that:

There are four major broadcasting systems used throughout the world. So a Quad-Band phone means that you’ll never have to buy a new phone for travel. The SIM card is a chip that contains your phone number and your contacts. Put another way, it does not matter from what phone you call: if you put your SIM card in any phone the person you are calling will see that it is you. So if you buy a SIM Quad-Band phone at home, you will have a SIM card with your home’s area code. When you come to Grenada, you will buy another SIM card with a Grenadian number. At this point, you can simply switch the SIM cards while you’re one the islands and then switch them back when you return home. Taping them into your passport is a nice way to keep track of them when not in use.

The reason you have to “unlock” your phone is so that your T-Mobile phone (for example) will operate with a Digicel SIM card from Grenada (for example). Pay-as-you-go means that if you want to talk for ten minutes, you buy ten minutes. If you talk over that, the phone simply cuts off (after a warning of course). This means that you cannot possibly suffer overage charges and you don’t get roped into a contract. And why do you have to pay to unlock your phone? Because T-mobile doesn’t want you to buy there phone and then use it with an AT&T SIM card. T-mobile wants your money. Typically, these companies will unlock your phone for free if you’ve owned it for three months, but if you’re reading this now that’s a bit of late notice. So pay to have it unlocked from a separate code vendor and you should be set.

Some students make use of internet phones as well. There are several programs that allow you to make phone calls over the internet for pennies a minute to anywhere in the world. Skype, Netphone, and PCPhone are popular programs and only require a headset with microphone.

MONEY

For the next few years you will be using Eastern Caribbean currency, or ECs. The conversion rate is easy.

$100 = 260 EC. (exact ratio is 1/2.67, but we will keep the math easy and lose the pennies)
100 EC = $40.
Ex.
I have $25 in my pocket. 25 x 2 = 50. 25 x 0.6 = 15. 50 + 15 = 65 EC
A three ring binder is 35 EC. 35 x 4 = 150. 150 / 10 = $15 (binders ARE this expensive)

There are banks on the island and no need to ever use them. You can pull EC from your US account at any ATM on the island with a VISA/MasterCard debit card (sorry American Express and Discover). Some credit card companies charge a higher rate for foreign conversions, so check yours. The ATM charge is $1.50 and the conversion rate is standard. If you have a refund check coming to you, I suggest having the school send it home and having family/friends deposit it. You will need to leave deposit slips back home. Do not forget to leave deposit slips back home. However, if you want to pay for things by check, you will have to open an account with a local bank or have traveler’s checks at the ready.

How much EC will you spend a day?

Depends. EC is pretty, looks like Monopoly money and you will spend it as such. Breakfast of eggs and toast is 7 EC, lunch is around 15 EC, and dinner can be up to 20 EC. That comes to 42 EC/$17 a day, eating out every meal. It sounds expensive but few people can pull off three meals a day. Most have one full meal and fill the rest with coffee and snacks. You will find your own happy middle. Remember that if you cook and buy your own groceries, you will save quite a bit.

If you drink anything other than water, you are in for a shock. Name brands like Coke, Starbucks and Arizona drinks cost three to four times what they do in the states. That being said, some people still manage to spend a great deal of money on water. Bottled water is sold everywhere on the island and is more expensive than beer. Some students buy a bottle every day. Others (and I recommend doing this) buy one bottle and refill it at dinking fountains on campus. All of the water on campus is filtered; this is not the case elsewhere on the island. I for one have had the same bottle for a month now and may have saved as much as one million dollars. Cigarettes are no more expensive than you are used to, but you should quit anyway.

WHAT WILL EACH DAY BE LIKE?

I get up every morning around 7am and check the class schedule. Typically only two courses are taught a day with each getting two hours of lecture time. On some days you will have Anatomy lab that can begin at 8 or 9am and lasts for three hours, or you have Histology lab at 8 or 10am that lasts for two hours. Lectures begin at 1pm each day and last till 5pm. You do not need to bring much to campus. I usually put my laptop, water bottle, two three ring binders and two textbooks into my backpack and grab the bus.

Eating on campus is not hard though students do complain about the selection. At the top of the hill (you will know it well) there are vendors selling fresh fruits and the Patels selling homemade Indian food. Halfway down campus is the Student’s Center which has two restaurants (Glover’s and Pearl’s) along with a convenience store. At the base of campus is the Sugar Shack. You will not go hungry.

Time before and after lecture is often spent in the library. The library has wireless internet and so should your computer (the “Computing at SGU” section of the SGU website does a good job of preparing you). During peak hours it can be difficult to get a strong connection (bringing an Ethernet cable is a bad move, as many of the plugs on campus work sporadically). The wireless network extends throughout campus into the lecture halls (you can follow lectures online or check email during breaks), across to the bus stop and down to the Student Area (where the gym and restaurants are located). Some students are able to get a connection in their rooms as well. If you live off campus in Grand Anse dorms there is a study room with a wireless connection. High-speed internet is available in off-campus apartments through a contract with Cable & Wireless.

SCHOOL CULTURE

During your first two weeks here you have carte blanche to introduce yourself to as many people as you wish. Your class will probably go out each night that first week and I recommend you go each time. The first week does not contain difficult material and you will not have another chance like it. After this grace period the classes pick up a bit, people fall into routines and your opportunities to meet every member of your class will start to drop off.

SGU operates by four-month-long terms. This tricks you into thinking that each term is a year long and that people in second, third and fourth term are somehow separated from you. This is of course nonsense. The uppertermers will have advice for you on every class and most of it should be ignored. Instead, find a good DES tutor, give yourself a few weeks, and then start making judgments on how to handle your course load. Everyone should go to the Department of Educational Services (DES) office and take a look at all of their handouts on studying, test-taking strategies, and review sessions. It is a goldmine of helpful information.

***I am aware of the irony that, as an uppertermer, I am writing this letter of advice.***

ISLAND CULTURE

English is the language spoken in Grenada. In the school guide, they describe it as a “slightly lilting Caribbean accent”. I disagree. Those Grenadians that work with the university, or in another position that requires constant exposure to tourists and students, are easy to understand. Those that have very little exposure to foreigners can be near unintelligible, but once you have an idea for what someone is trying to say, everything seems much clearer. It is not unlike listening to lyrics from a difficult song after you have already read them in the CD jacket.

If you have a healthy sense of humor, the stressful things about Grenada can be hilarious. First off, if you go to a restaurant and read the menu, do not kid yourself and think that what is on the menu is available. The menu is instead a list of things that were once available and may be available in the future. This is due either to a lack of ingredients, the staff is too busy to make your order, or the staff does not care to make your order. So order something else with a smile.

Second, if you order a drink at a US bar and it takes more than a few moments, it is often because the place is very busy and the bar is understaffed. If you order a drink in a Grenadian bar on a dead night when you are the only customer, it will take even longer. This is not because the bartender is trying to piss you off or ruin your whole day as some dramatics will say, it is instead because the island is a slow place and you need to get used to it. That Grenadian bartender could turn to you and ask, “What’s your hurry anyway?” Try to remember that there is no hurry and life will be a lot easier on you.

SPORTS

SGU has a healthy intramural sports program. Basketball and Football (soccer to some) are the major sports (bring cleats and guards, balls are provided). Hockey is also big (played on the basketball courts, sticks and nets provided). Rounding out the selection we have Ultimate Frisbee, Dance Classes, Yoga, and Dodgeball. I have yet to see a single person play tennis (I have not even seen courts) or cricket.

WET AND DRY SEASON

The wet season is very wet and runs from August to December. It can rain for days on end. If you bring an umbrella, make sure it is the type that opens to form a complete sphere around you, because the rain falls sideways. Honestly, go to a camping store and get a waterproof cover for your backpack, a light waterproof jacket and a shamie. You will be the envy of everyone. Another thing to consider is the mosquitoes. The breeding ground for mosquitoes is standing water, and there will be a lot of it. Invest in a mesh tent for your bed and screens for your windows (only applicable if living off campus). Want to know a fun trick? Instead of a mesh net, get a standing oscillating fan. If you go to sleep with it by your head, the mosquitos get sucked into the back of it and murdered. You get to wake up the next morning with a pile of them on the ground. Good times.

There is little rain in the dry season which runs from January till June. It is the best time to be on the island and enjoy everything that it has to offer. Go to the beach, learn to kite surf, bring your surf board, or rent a jet ski. Head to the capital and learn how to haggle in the market. Most of all, remember to get a tan so that people believe you when you say that you go to school on a tropical island.

GENERAL ADVICE

1. If you are buying a computer for school, make sure that it is light, portable and has a long-lasting battery.
2. Do not get a car your first term. You first term will be spent in campus housing and the bus schedule is more than adequate. A car is a luxury.
3. Sometimes the buses can get crowded. I suggest you say goodbye to personal space.
4. About a month into the term, Prof. Goodmurphy of the Anatomy Dept. will give a note-taking lecture that is invaluable and will change the way you and your class study. Do not miss it.
5. I have yet to use a single battery.
6. You can talk to prospective and current SGU students at ValueMD.com. Most posts receive a prompt reply.
7. If you get onto a Reggae bus and want to get out at your stop, tap the metal ceiling.

WHAT TO BRING

***This is not meant to be comprehensive by any means, but instead a few things that really would have helped me. ***

Binders are expensive on the island and worth the space in your luggage to bring a few. Anatomy gives you a binder so you should only need to bring three of your own. Multicolored highlighters are invaluable when reading biochemistry and hard to find on the island. I wish I had brought more. I also wish I had brought dry erase markers. Do not bring floppy disks and blank CDs, hardly anyone uses them. Instead BRING A FLASH DRIVE. Students share all of their files and useful programs with each other via flash drives or iPods. With exception to the iPod Mini and iPod Shuffle, iPods are actually much better than flash drives. They can play music, store 20+ Gigabytes of information in any form, and are far and away worth your investment.
As for your course books, the school supplies you with them the first week you are here. They are stored at the base of campus and are heavy. I would recommend picking them up in an empty piece of wheeled-luggage. Opinion varies in the upper terms as to which textbooks are useful and which never left their shrink wrap. Take advantage of your Footsteps Buddy and try to figure out which books will be most helpful for you. That said, there are some books that most people wish they had. Check the First-termer section.


First term classes

April 1, 2006

For current, updated information about attending SGU, review of SGU textbooks, and access to more SGU resources, please visit the Welcome to Grenada site.

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Your first term classes:

ANATOMY
You are given a binder that contains, in order, every lecture for the term. This is useful for both following lecture and adding your own notes in the margin. You are given an Anatomy Atlas by Netter that contains oil paintings of every structure in the body with labels. You also receive Essential Clinical Anatomy by Moore which is the closest thing you will have to a text book. How helpful people found these texts is based more on individual learning styles than the actual content of the book. There are two books which nearly everyone found helpful that the campus bookstore does not always carry:

The Color Atlas of Anatomy by Rohen (ISBN# 0683304925)
An invaluable companion to the lab portion of your class, this book contains pictures of perfectly dissected cadavers to help in your ability to identify structures both in lab and on exams. This is best used in conjunction with your Netter Atlas.

Gross Anatomy by Chung (ISBN# 0683307274)
Part of the Board Review Series (BRS) collection, this book covers the material stressed on the USMLE Step 1, offers tables and clinical explanations that can save you hours in the library, and has hundreds of clinical questions that help you to prepare for your exams.

BIOCHEMISTRY
To date, the biochemistry department gives lecture handouts to the class two to three days before each specific lecture. These handouts reflect the stress and focus that each professor will give to the material. To fill in any gaps and round out your understanding, two textbooks are given. Lipincott’s Illustrated Biochemistry is an excellent textbook that closely follows the scope of the class. The other text, Mark’s Basic Medical Biochemistry, aims to tie everything that you will earn into clinical vignettes with patients like Al Martini the alcoholic.
You will kick yourself if you do not also purchase the Biochemistry BRS book (ISBN# 0683304917). It is written by, get this, Dr. Mark’s wife: Dr. Mark. She goes through her husband’s text, pulls the pertinent illustrations, and puts all of the information into a bare-bones linear style that makes learning the material laughably simple. Because of this, you could make the case that you do not need the full Marks text if you are going to buy the BRS book. Once again, the school bookstore does not always carry this title, so I suggest bringing it to the island.

HISTOLOGY
The Histology faculty has the best companion of all of your classes. It is so comprehensive as to be considered its own textbook. You will also have access to a free program called HistoTime. HistoTime consists of short histology lessons followed by hundreds of slides to help you recognize each specific tissue type. This program along with the companion is all that you need to do well in the course and walk away with an understanding of histology. That said, some students found the two textbooks required for the class (Color Atlas of Histology by Gartner and Basic Histology by Junqueira) to be helpful.

EMBRYOLOGY
The embryology course is changing faculty so I cannot guarantee that anything I am about to type is accurate. Embryology operates from a single textbook and a course companion. Some students complain that the course companion is hard to follow and is poorly written. While this is not altogether untrue, it is more accurate to say that Embryology is a difficult course of study in the first place and there are few things that could make it easy to follow and understand. One text that does a fair job of making the course manageable is the Embryology BRS book (ISBN #0683302728). Once again, the school bookstore may not carry this title, and I would suggest bringing it with you to the island.


BSCE 1

April 1, 2006

This test is given a day or two after your last exam of 2nd term. It tests your retention up to that point with questions that are both external to the university (USMLE type) and internal (you’ve probably seen these questions on previous tests). It’s a 200 question brute over 4 hours. Everyone feels like blowing this test off because a) failing it doesn’t stop you from doing anything and b) passing it doesn’t help you do anything.

I disagree. Your score on this exam ranks you against your class. You’ll get a letter in the mail telling you your rank, your Z score, the mean and a breakdown of how you did in every section on external and internal questions. If you’re serious about doing well on the USMLE, I don’t know why you wouldn’t take advantage of this test. Normally you have to pay Kaplan to tell you your weaknesses; the school is offering it for free. The school maintains that your rank is kept in house and does not make it onto your transcript. I haven’t graduated yet so can’t verify this. Students maintain that part of the decision-making when it comes to your hospital placement in 3rd and 4th year has to do with your rank, everything else being equal.

Moral of the story: doing well can’t possibly hurt you, and doing poorly can’t possibly help you. I for one was open to the possibilities, so tried to do my best. The best way you could possibly prepare (for the BSCE or USMLE) is to teach it. If you pulled a B or better in Anatomy, Biochem, Histo or Embryo then tutor the class. It takes two hours out of your week every week and it’s a great review that your classmates aren’t getting. And don’t let fourth term scare you too much: my roommate and I team-taught Physio and Neuro and it was fine. We even had fun doing it.

So good luck and enjoy your summer.


The path of least resistnace to the New Year

January 2, 2006

Happy New Year everyone. It’s been a while since I last wrote and I blame Sherin. Everyone knows that a surefire way to come up with a story is to do something stupid and document the consequence. For example: class elections rap, bartending at sandblast, going euro in prague with tight pants, Carnivale, Moped, Moped (I feel like it needs to be in here twice), library guerilla wars, Dodgeball and Thanksgiving. Everyone also knows that sensible girlfriends worth keeping tend to stop us from achieving our true potential for idiocy. So I don’t write as much. Now Sherin is complaining that I don’t write enough. This is so much fun.

Since Thanksgiving, life at school meant life in the library. Around this time I started to get very sick with constant sinus problems. I figured it was just the stress of studying and little sunlight. One day late in, I saw a friend of mine spraying his desk with Lysol and wiping it down. He told me this:

“Before Immuno, a few of us came in early to cram and we saw the cleaning ladies. From the same bucket of water they cleaned the bathroom floor, toilet and urinal. They then dropped rags into the bucket and wiped down every desk in the library. No wonder everyone has been getting so sick.”

Thank you Grenadian cleaning lady; it was great taking my exams sick.

As I got healthy I was able to spend more time learning from Sherin. For instance, when Sherin remarks that it is cool out tonight that means I’m cold because Sherin is now wearing my jacket. When Sherin realizes that she hasn’t been given a fork I realize that I have no fork. Sherin does not want dessert, she wants my dessert. These lessons culminated when the roomates took the girlfriends out to dinner. Sherin was sitting with her back exposed when it began to rain. At this point I prempted and demanded that we trade spaces. The table began to give me a ribbing for being so chivalrous. I’d like to set the record straight: I was just avoiding the situation where I look like an ass for letting her get wet BEFORE I have to trade places. So much of dating is finding the path of least resistance.

 

The next day was spent walking the capital in search of crap to buy. I came out the big winner with a baby-blue GRENADA baseball cap. Which I wore proudly. On an impulse move, we packed up, bought groceries and headed for LaSagesse. We took the roof off of Sherin’s Jeep and let the wind blow through our hair. I felt left out.

LaSagesse is a breath-taking beach that we had to ourselves. All the boys suffer from ADD, so when the football and paddle tennis got old it was time to leave. I had so much fun driving up and down the hills and turns to get there that Sherin insisted on driving back. I almost made it the whole way without saying something about her driving. Not the path of least resistance.

With Sherin away in New York I am trying to keep busy back home. Popop (grandfather) has taken me to a few basketball games. Home Team played a team named Chicago State(?) whose two top scorers are under 5’6″, none of which makes any sense. Uncle Laurence is letting me see patients with him. Every day he asks me some simple question in front of a patient that I completely fumble. Oh, if the students I tutor could see me now. And by the way, you have carpel tunnel syndrome. It’s the ADHD of neurology.

I find myself looking up to my brother, Calvin, these days. He’s been dating his girlfriend for over a year now while I’m not half that. He was brave enough to bring her to Christmas dinner at Gagi and Popop’s. The ride over was a coaching session to stay close to Calvin, relatives in clusters are trouble, and watch out for Aunt Katy. Are you reading this, Sherin? Watch out for Aunt Katy.

In other holiday news: I’m sure everyone will believe me when I say that a good portion of Christmas’ Eve dinner was spent looking up the etymology of “kilter” as in “off kilter”. Nobody knows where it comes from, incidentely. We ended up discussing the true height of Hugh Jackman, Sting, and The Governator: 6’3″, 6′ and 5’10” (but he wears lifts).

Well, I think that about does it. I head back to GND in a few days which leaves me precious little time to do something stupid. I know you’re all pulling for me.

Happy New Year everyone, topher.

Addendum: I’m kidding, Aunt Katy.



Conch. Balls. Path. Thanksgiving

November 25, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. I’m sitting in a stranger’s kitchen right now minding Sherin’s second turkey of the day. Granted, my turkey was supposed to be in the oven two hours earlier and I have yet to taste it or get reviews, but I’m going to walk into this one with my charateristic confidence: Everyone who claims that cooking a Thanksgiving turkey is some dificult task that requires a day of slaving away is a liar.

Let’s get caught up on the last month.

In Neuro, I’ve learned a little about sleep, arousal, emotions, EEGs and others. Drug Addiction was the most boring lecture of the bunch which hardly seems fair. Please, just once, I would like someone like Anthony Keidis (Red Hot Chili Peppers) to come and give a guest lecture. That’s not too much too ask for all this money.

In Physiology, we’ve gone over the intestines and kidneys. It seems inappropriate to talk about mass movements and micturition reflexes with such a regal accent. It makes everyone feel dirty as they head to the bathrooms. In droves.

The schedule of first term classes is finally starting to crack people. I opened the doors of an elevator to discover someone sitting on a chair with highlighter in mouth, pen in hand and notes on lap. I also found (by complete accident) a student studying underneath the stairwell. We have given these people appropriate nicknames.

The rest of us are trying to find ways to relax. Sherin and I tried unsuccessfully for five weeks to go to dinner for our second formal date. The food was great, the waiter was drunk, and Sherin kept talking about Ryan Corabi. Ryan is one my closest friends from JCU and may be the funniest. Ryan taught me the guitar, I taught him how to read. I thought it would be a good idea to have Sherin email Ryan to get a better idea of who I was in college. Unfortunately, Ryan was a little too funny. So funny that Sherin started calling her friends so that she could READ OVER THE PHONE his entire email. “When can I meet Ryan?” “Can Ryan come to Grenada?” “Am I Ryan’s type?” It never ends.

And another thing, Sherin (she reads these). YOU CANNOT HAVE MY HAT.

Dodgeball. Last term we got together a group of eight guys to form Team Conch and Balls. We were one of the few teams to make uniforms depicting an injury to the brachial plexus. We lost last term to the team that eventually won and began training on that day for this term. Now for some reason I don’t own white tshirts and GND doesn’t have any either. Instead, they have oversized V-necks which make quite the show of my chest hair. I’m not ashamed. I’ve been told I looked like an angel. We spent one full night coming up with tshirt designs and logos. Our team mascot was “decorticate posturing” with boxer shorts. We had groupies, flags, and redbull. We were unstoppable. We ended up losing to a team of cheaters. I know I know, everyone says that. But team Conch and Balls takes things seriously, had video footage, and showed it to the judges. Day late, dollar short, all that. Like the good sports that we were, my teammates grabbed the flags and circled the courts with moral-victory laps.

Getting outside gets harder and harder in the rainy season. The rains started at night, every night, for hours before gaining strength and taking over the day. I’m not saying I would have gone anyway, but I’m sure it made it hard for a lot of stdents to get to class. It also drove animals indoors and we now have a mice problem. My roomate Kelly was born in Kenya and spent most of his youth throughout Africa and Australia. This is how I learned about the New Zealand mouse trap. It is brillaint and cheap. You take a bottle, cover it’s neck in margarine and its body in a sock, stuff cheese into the opening and set it over a counter ledge above a bucket of water. Mouse goes for cheese, slips, drowns. I was so excited for this until we realized the next morning that our mouse was, in fact, MacGuyver. We’re still working out the kinks.

In exciting news, I’M DOING RESEARCH! I’ll be working on two projects over Christmas break that should be ready for submission in February. I won’t bore you with the details unless you ask me, in person, to bore you.

My class is filled with a bunch of overachievers that are admittedly late-blooming. But that’s neither here nor there. A friend of mine, Jeremy, is working now to create a group of students for our upcoming Patholgy class (in March) that will be responisble for preparing the material and presenting it to the rest of the group. Everyone in the class has to join a group of 10-15 people and your grade does depend upon your groups performance. Jeremy has decided to recruit the best talent and purge anyone with the slightest weakness. We all applaud Jeremy for the throat-cutting, but it got ridiculous the other day. Someone suggested that this girl, Jean, should be considered for the group. Now everyone already in the group gets a veto; one veto and you’re out of consideration without debate. Somebody expressed concerns with Jean’s ability to handle stress, so Jeremy decided to investigate. Last week during sunset, Jeremy left in the middle of conversation to stand OVER Jean, look down at her, and ask innocently, “So, Jean, are you panicking out about this exam yet? No? That’s surprising. Lot of material. Lot. Of. Material. Well good luck.” She was very unnerved and Jeremy had his answer: Jean out.

Well I have to pull the turkey out and carve it with no idea how to carve it. Hope everyone back home is having a memorable holiday. Enjoy the silly pictres.

topher.

Addendum:
Thanksgiving went off without a hitch, Sherin entertained and fed an impossible 30+ people, and no one has gotten sick. Congratulations Sherin.

If you google my name, you get nothing. If you google my sister Kimberly, you get an outline of an athletic superstar. Congratulations Kimmy.


Lost Bruises and Masks

November 4, 2005

Sheirn has a bruise. It’s on her knee. No no, you have to look at it. I’m giving you this update because I get this update, every day, look at the bruise. I have no way to explain the general fascination that women have with their bruises or their need to turn each one into its own story, though I can say that EVERY SINGLE ONE of them has at one point asked me to look at their proud bruise.

I just finished the first season of LOST on DVD. I am now one of those annoying people that tries to push a favorite show on everyone else. GO WATCH LOST!

My bike is still out of commission. The only person in Grenada that knows how to change a rear tire works in the capital. Can’t exactly get a busted bike to the capital, so in the meantime I’ve been filling it up with air and riding the leak. This ended upbruptly when the innertube popped out at the gas station and I had to have a Reggae bus crew help me force it back in with a pen and a wrench. It’s times like those that help me justify paying that guy in the capital to take a trip out to Lance Aux Epines.

Halloween at the apartment was a big deal. We all took the Immuno final that morning and had afternoon off to go to the beach. Barring the ten minutes I get every day walking back and forth from the library, I haven’t gotten any sun or taken a day off in weeks. I’d be tanner if I was in STL. I had to laugh when we got to Grand Anse and a three hour rainfall began. Goodtimes. Time to make costumes. Kelly and Winston had traveled around the island pillaging dumpsters for cardboard the week before. Most of us had our ideas in cement for at least that long. Onto the pictures.

Halloween in Grenada

Kelly is the one dressed as cutlery, Winston is the one dressed as a carnival attraction, Sam is out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I’m eating spinach, Sherin went surfing too close to the reef and Lauren (Sam’s girlfriend) went as Ms. Patel, the Punjabi lady that has served me Indian Food everyday for almost a year. When we entered the party we owned the room. Good Halloween.

If we had gone trick-or-treating, this would have been my joke:
What do you call a car parked in the middle of the road? A Grenadian traffic jam.

You think I’m joking? This morning on the way to campus, there was a two-car traffic jam. One car was off and it’s driver was sitting outside while another driver pulled up beside him and started some business transaction. I had no idea what was going on until the paused driver continued past us with a drink and a smile. Sure enough out of this jerk’s trunk was a cooler and a sign: Lemonade 5EC. Ladies and gentlemen: the grendian lemonade stand.

The new staggered exam system means that Immuno finished on Monday, Parasit began on Tuesday and has its final in two weeks. The week after is Neuro, the week after is Physio. Two days later is the Basic Sciences Competency Exam, an in-house test determining how much of the first year I have retained and determines the class rank on my transcript. I am not a fan of this system as it encourages cramming. It also means I’m stuck in the library from now till Dec 11th. Not a lot of time to come up with funny stories. Oh well.

Almost a year, almost a year. topher.


Half and Half

October 14, 2005

Being a DES tutor is becoming more and more a full time responsibility. Kelly and I spend an hour’s worth of work before both anatomy and biochemistry review sessions to make sure that we have a solid presentation of the material for those who attend. We put on our show, answer any questions, and start prodding the students with the gaul to feel comfortable with the material. With preparation and execution, it comes to four hours every wednesday night and a cool 50EC.

Right after our exams finished, the first term’s began. This meant that any time in the library was not my time, but their time. This meant post-it notes on desks, mini-conversations walking past the door, and five or six one-last-questions a day. Somebody somehow got my cell phone number. After all of this bother Kelly and I were both very curious as to what impact we had. Did we help at all? Some students over the past week have come up to thank us for their A’s, others have come up to me to say that they almost failed. Seriously, they walk up and say, “Hi topher. About biochem, I almost failed.” Not awkward at all. So no, I don’t think we helped. I think the people that were going to get A’s got their A’s and the people that thought just showing up to a DES session would be enough got the rest. I have decided to lower my exposure and move to Sunday mornings at 10am. I can’t wait to tell you the stories about hungover responses to lipid synthesis.

My back tire blew out the other day and I have spent the last week trying to get it fixed. This has led to two amazing discoveries: there is a Grenadian yellow pages that might as well be a single sheet of paper saying “No, we don’t do that. You should ask somebody else.” and if I really want a good job done on my bike, I should go to the roundabout that splits Mont Toute, Lance Aux Epines and Grand Anse where, at the corner by the fruit ladies, there is a guy named Leon that hangs out there sometimes in the mornings, has a short black beard, and usually wears a grey sock on his head. Only in GND.

My friend Jarret is doing an amazing thing. He has started an organization called “Finding Smiles” whose goal is to entertain the orphans and sick children of Grenada. He has been meeting with the President of Grenada, the Health Director, the Dean of SGU, and exchanged letters with Patch Adams of the Gesundheit! Institute. This Saturday is SANDBLAST (some of you may remember it from last term) and Jarret has asked me to host a slackline demonstration from noon till three for the organization. “You know, just set it up, let the kids play on it, and try to have a few neat tricks to show them.” I’m scared for everyone involved. My neat trick will be neurotic safety and sustained unease.

Sherin is off in New York enjoying the rain and buying me a corncob pipe and a can of spinach. Once I shave my head and draw an anchor on each forearm the transformation will be complete. Look forward to the pictures from Halloween everybody!

Realized this morning that I’m not yet a year into this whole thing, topher.

Not funny Addendum:

The more and more that they teach us here, the more distressing the information becomes. We just finished up the endocrine system before midterms. Not only do I know people in my class with hyper- and hypo- thyroidism, but one of my classmates just discovered that his persistent sore throat was in fact thyroid cancer. He was flown back to the states, emergency surgery was performed, and during the tumor’s removal the nerve supplying half of his vocal chord was cut. Our class knows in uncomfortable detail all the problems that lie ahead for him. In Neurology, we’re learning about Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease. Some of my friends have parents with these diseases in the early stages; this cannot be easy for them. I wonder how many people in my class anticipated what knowing all of this was going to do to us.

These last few weeks there has been much talk about a classmate of ours that tried to cheat on an exam, was caught by no fewer than six people, and tried to pass it off as a misunderstanding. The people that turned in this student wrestled with the decision for days knowing full well that an expulsion from a medical program would brand this student forever with a scarlet C: something you wouldn’t wish on an enemy. They realized that any guilt or sympathy they felt paled in comparison to their obligation to future patients that might be harmed by the type of behavior that cheating forebodes. They did it knowing that they would have to face the accused one by one and restate their accusations. I couldn’t be more proud of my class for making that painful decision and I cannot imagine how heavy the mistake of your life must weigh on a person.


Post Midterm Post

October 6, 2005

Founder’s Library SGU

So I disappeared. Every day for the last 10 days has played out the same: awake and out of bed by 6:00, library and redbull on an empty stomach by 7:00, sitting in the same study room till midnight with a break for lunch and a break for dinner. Aderrall rationing into fourths and eigths of pills; people slowly moving their desks at home onto their desks in the library doing everything short of marking their space with urine; the low volume hum of too much information in too little heads; Dry Erase markers everywhere. Exam week is awesome.

And there was plenty going on in the background. At SGU there are three student factions: the Meds, the Vets, and the undergrads. The vets and Meds don’t mix geographically. They have their buildings and their horses, we have ours. The undergrads however compete for the same resources as we. Sometimes Darwin rears his head. Well, mostly it’s Freud.

The library has a limited number of study rooms with dry erase boards. Its 12, actually, and I know the room number for every one. They are a hot commodity and you must arrive early to secure them. Then you have to make it look like you have a study GROUP in there so you bring as many items as you can in your backpack and spread them out over every surface so no one will invade. The arrangment always looks hopelessly fake but must continue for appearence’s sake.

Now the buses don’t start running until 7am, so if you arrive before then you’ve got a good shot but the undergrads take the reggae buses in around 6am. Now they have class from 7-9, so that means that they are setting up shop and then walking away. The library has a policy against this: no squatting. So, if you show up and a room looks occupied but is without occupants you are completely within your rights to put their things in the hall and take over. In practice, this isn’t done. Everyone has been there: left there stuff to go to lunch, walked down to D-Store for some coffee, taken a smoke break. And everyone seems to respect the karma of I’ll leave yours if you leave mine.

Well not me, and not now.

If it looks like someone has left their things from the night before: in the hall. Undergrad has left for classes: in the hall. For lunch, for dinner, for anything: in the hall. I am very popular with the undergrads. Sherin has called me “heartless”.

Sure, there was turblence in the beginning. “Go complain to security” would roll off of my tongue. It became a mini movement as more and more Physio’s and Neuro’s were placing Physics and Bio’s outside. There were rules emerging as well. Bio’s did not attack Bio or Physio’s Physio. Everyone cow-tipped. A War of the Signs emerged proclaiming “Occupied DO NOT DISTURB”, “2 people inside on 10/02”, “Don’t even knock”. These were the rooms I targeted first, were the most satisfying. Eventually the field mellowed as people gave up the idea of squatting without presence and realized that everyone looks inside of an “Occupied!” room and leaves the “Join us if you’re quiet”s alone. It also could have been because exams were ending.

Anyway everyone learned a valuable lesson.

Another undercurrent was the theft of Kelly. In the beginning there was Terrel and his car: Yosemite Sam. No one else had wheels, so we all travelled with Terrel and were always together. Sam struck off on his own days later with his girlfriend Lauren. And then there were three. I followed suit with a moped and Sherin, proving once and for all that girls dig motorcycles. Kelly stayed true to Terrell by travelling, studying and eating never a few feet away. Then came Analisa; Kelly started to drift. The final blow came during exam week when I needed Kelly’s help to secure study rooms; a sort of rotating watch as one of us would eat while the other kept house. Now Terrel was alone. Kelly starting eating with me, studying with me, and taking the bus. Yosemite Sam alone remained. Exams are over, I’m helping Sherin with biochem, and Kelly has returned to a broken home. There is a lot of healing ahead.

Kelly is a boy. Probably wasn’t too clear from the story.

As for midterms, I did very well. Mom, I’ll send you an email in a little while with details. I promise. The email write-in contest is over with Nicol Averbuch the winner. I’m very happy with the responses. For those of you that had spouses write in, I’ve decided to count you both as a single person. Uncles, thank my aunts.

new favorite word: holosystolic

Thanks for reading everyone, and happy birthday Kimberly.

topher.


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.

Addendum:
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.