Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

The snow is falling outside on this, the last day of 2008. For whatever reasons, despite this being like any other day, its distinction as the last day of a year gives it special significance. It causes us to pause and be reflective of our achievements, our successes and failures.

We all no doubt have much to ponder. I hope you have some fun pondering tonight and that the new year, 2009, be another year of great personal growth.

Thanks for reading the blog and I hope to have more exciting stories to chronicle in 2009 about my journey.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Take It Easy

Abe Lincoln was a very wise man. A man with great foresight who helped reshape our nation. During this Christmas and holiday season, perhaps a little reminder from good ol' Abe would do us all some good.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Keeping Things In Perspective

There are many times when things that should not bother us, end up becoming big issues. Here is a video clip of Louis CK doing an appearance on the Conan O'brien show. Really puts things into perspective! Enjoy the rest of your wonderful Christmas weekend!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!!!

The many faces of Hovig would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

and wait for the download - you won't be disappointed. Many thanks to my friend NK for making this one happen. You have too much time on your hands NK.

And on a side note, my very first Christmas eve EVER without family has been uneventful. I am going to sleep in order not to think about where I would rather be in Fresno.


Merry Christmas Eve

I hope and pray you all have a wonderful day as we celebrate with anticipation the birth and revelation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Did You Know: PSA from NBC

This "Did You Know" has been brought to you by the cast of The Office on NBC - it is about wedding invitations. What, with all my friends getting married, I figured I would provide some assistance on the matter. And on a side note, thanks guys, for all waiting until I was in medical school and ABSOLUTELY CAN'T make it to weddings - you all rock and I'm so glad you chose this time. Anyway, in tribute to all of you, here is some "Did You Know" info on wedding invitations.

Now You Know!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Special Post: HI ROOM 15!!!

HELLO Room 15!!!

How are my favorite 3rd graders EVER doing?

I know the weather in Fresno is getting kind of cold but it is actually snowing here in New York City. I have no doubt that Asia will now raise her hand to tell the whole class a story about some time she was in the snow. Go ahead, Asia - I can wait for you to finish :)

I miss every single one of you! In case you didn't know, I can't sub for Mrs. A any more because I'm in New York continuing my own education. I'm in my third year of medical school. Without shouting out the answer, who knows why people go to medical school? What are they trying to become? 50 points for whichever group gets the right answer.

Have any of you been to New York City before? There are LOTS of cool things to see - if you go further down and to December 7, you can see some of my pictures from around town - New York really decorates the whole town for Christmas time! My favorite story is how I got to see the HUGE Christmas tree get lit up at Rockefeller Center. It was so beautiful and there were so many people. Sorry my pictures are not very clear - my cell phone camera isn't the greatest.

Keep studying hard! I want to hear from Mrs. A that you all are getting the best grades possible because I KNOW that each and every one of you can do it!

Have a VERY fun vacation and a wonderful Holiday Season!!!!
Miss you guys!
Mr. A

PS: Next time you see Mrs. Perez, I want you all to go up to her and say that Mr. A says "Hi Senora Perrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrez!!" 50 points to every group that does this!

NY Sites: More Christmas in the City

Time to share more sites and sounds of Christmas in the City!

1. Christmas Concert at St. Patrick
This was a truly divine concert that showcased some amazing talent. We heard the Long Island Choral Society, the Y Choral Society (a group of heavenly sounding young children and young adults), and the St. Patrick Choir. It was a great and festive way to hear some awesome Christmas music in a great venue for music - St. Patrick's Cathedral! We heard some very traditional and spiritual music as well as getting to sing along with some well-known classics. And at the end, they turned off all the lights and everyone in the Cathedral lit a candle as we sang Silent Night. It was a truly spiritual and moving concert that left us all in great spirits. And as a little Christmas gift for Dianne, an avid reader of this blog, there is a picture of the evening's program - JOY!

2. Gingerb
read House Making
One of my friends invited me to attend a Gingerbread House Making Party. There was some crazy talent there! I'm including pictures of what I considered to be the top 2 structures. The clear winner is the picture on the right - a gingerbread house of the Louvre in Paris. In fairness, the Louvre was a group project!

3. Snowing!
I love the snow - it is so calming and purifying. Fresh fallen snow just gives you a feeling of renewal and rejuvenation that is unparalleled by any other natural weather occurrence. Of course, with the snow comes the cold and I'm still using my yellow jacket from California that is fine for California winters, but not so much for NY winters where the HIGH on some days is in the teens (and I've been warned that it will get even colder than that!) But for the moment, I'm enjoying watching the white falling from the sky and covering all the concrete and blacktop that is this city!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


"You just can't fix stupid."

When I was a teacher, I was good at it. Actually, I was REALLY AWESOME! But, I also had a slightly different style - one that was much more straight forward and less PC. My students appreciated it and it allowed me to be more "real". Therefore, I always used to tell my students: "I'm not going to lie to you: there IS such thing as a stupid question."

To prove my point, here are some real examples, heard in my classroom when I was a teacher and from some of my patients now that I play doctor during the day. Lord knows we will keep trying to bring the light of intelligence to the world, one student and one patient at at time. But, I must agree with Andrea - sometimes, you just gotta throw your hands in the air and just shake your head. Enjoy!

Example 1:
Teacher says: Put everything away now.
Student asks: Mr. A, when can we put our stuff away?

Example 2:
Teacher says: You may not talk right now because you should be listening.
Student asks: Maaaaaaaan, why can't we talk??!!??

Example 3 (no, really, this happened):
Patient asks: You mean, being overweight is not healthy?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Former Scholar Awarded in Maryland


One of my best (and favorite) Scholars when I taught 8th grade in Baltimore City Public Schools has been awarded a "Pride Maryland Public Schools Award" by the State of Maryland for her work over the summer. Her name is Indigo McMillian and the once young little middle schooler is now a wonderful young lady and a Junior now! And believe me when I say that this time next year we will be hearing about what top-notch University she decides to attend, no doubt on a full scholarship!

Congratulations Indigo! Continue to make your family and all of us proud and "show your brilliance!"

Below is the description of the award Indigo (and some of her friends from her high school) received, as posted on the Maryland Public Schools website!

Indigo Mcmillian

Christin Morris

LaKeisha Johnson

The Baltimore Talent Development High School

Baltimore City Public Schools

Nominated by Marcie Taylor-Thoma, MSDE

- Indigo Mcmillian, Christin Morris, and LaKeisha Johnson participated in the “O” Ambassadors Program, a joint project of Oprah’s Angel Network and Free the Children, by traveling to India to take part in a three-week international volunteer program. During their international education journey the girls learned about the culture of India, helped to build a school in a rural town there, and taught games to children. These students are making a tangible difference in the lives of their peers in the developing world, by working to find solutions to global challenges through active learning.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

NYC Sites: Christmas In New York City

New York City knows how to celebrate holidays. One of the great, perhaps unintended, consequences of the commercialization of Christmas when you live in the consumer capital of the USA (and world) is that stores go ALL OUT to decorate. As a result, everywhere you go in the city is decked out with Christmas stuff. There is Radio City Music Hall, with its big tree of lights caddy corner to 6th avenue and across the street from some giant red Christmas balls adorning the front of another office.

There is the giant Christmas tree in the MetLife building that is attached to Grand Central Terminal. If you are IN Grand Central there is a really cool light display all day long in the grand waiting gallery. There is also a giant Christmas Tree shaped light fixture that scales the front of the Macy's building, made famous for the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

And of course, perhaps most famous, is the giant Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Plaza. This tree is HUGE. I visited the sight the day before the actual "lighting" of the tree - it was gorgeous (and not crowded, so I was able to get really close to it!) Apparently, Britney Spears would be performing on the NBC Today show the next morning, so I saw her, also, doing a sound check for the cameras that were getting all set-up for the grand festivities to follow the next day.

The story that follows is a TRUE story that is perhaps one of my best EVER!! This is the story of how I saw the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, despite being told that the area was full and there was "not a chance" of seeing it lit.

After work on Wednesday, I arrived home around 7pm. The tree gets lit around 9pm and I was debating whether I would actually go to see it. I figured it would be full and I wouldn't be able to see, but around 730pm I decided to go for it. The tree lights up at 855pm. God must have wanted me to make it because I caught my train immediately and the Express was waiting for me a few stops later! I got to 5th Ave and 53rd St around 815pm. I needed to be at 50th Street, but the Police had blocked off the area because it was full. They were telling people to just come back the next day to see the tree. Being a stubborn individual, I was not deterred. I waited by the barricade because I noticed that people with ID badges for the buildings nearby were being let through. As God would have it, a big group showed up and I basically just entered through with them. Come to find out, they were heading to the building directly next to the Plaza - the one across from St. Patrick's Cathedral with a big dude holding the world in front. I entered into the building with them, also! They went to the 5th Floor, to a brokerage firm that was having a Tree Lighting Holiday Party!! They had enough food and drink to feed a small state like Delaware. And best of all - they had an unobstructed, front row seat, full on view of the tree!!

POINT OF STORY: I got to see the tree lighting for the first time in my life - with front row seats, good food, a glass of wine, and lots of merry people who weren't freezing or all up on you (like the people outside at ground level were!) And it was dazzling. Indeed, the tree itself is just a big tree with lots of lights - not a big deal. But being there for the moment it lights up sent goose bumps up and down my body.

A must see (at least once in your life) when visiting New York City. And an amazing way to start the Christmas season!

Friday, December 5, 2008


"Ladies and Gentlemen, we do apologize for the delay. Upon leaving Miami airport we were informed that the St. Martin airport was out of jet fuel, therefore we had to return to Miami to add enough jet fuel for this return trip to the States. We do appreciate your patience."

"Only in St. Martin" became a familiar refrain whilst living on that beautiful rock. But alas, today's post is not about flying, but indeed about something I am thankful for, especially after experiencing two years of "Only in St. Martin's". Today's post is about energy and I recognize the moment I publish this post, something will happen. After all, not even America is perfect when it comes to keeping the electricity on - there are blips. But a BLIP is much different (and more acceptable) than a big friggin' smudge that never goes away!

There is a country song that says "No shoes, no shirt, no problem" - in reference, actually, to life on an island. That said, I finished my time on the island in April. Since April, I have lived in the comfort of America again. And since that time, I have never once approached a light switch with trepidation that it would flip up but cause no lights to turn on. I no longer poop in the restroom with fear that I will have to put a sign on the door that warns Nareg (my roommate on the island) not to enter the bathroom because, "Surprise!! The water is out...AGAIN!" And yes, it stopped being a "surprise!" to us around the 1,329th time water was cut.

See, when you visit the island as a tourist, you stay in the comfort of some resort that has generators and water tanks that clean the water and ensure that you never once experience an outage of water or power. For the rest of us yeomen who actually have to live on the island longer than a week, we are exposed to the lack of infrastructure planning that has resulted in an explosion of new high rise buildings without adequate build-up in water and electricity resources. The result: our last few semesters we experienced almost DAILY power outages and water stoppages. Indeed, some days were a double whammy: no lights, no water. What can you do? Smile, say no problem, and just keep trying to study with whatever power is left in your laptop battery.

Therefore, this Holiday season, I give much thanks to a power grid in the US that, while not flawless, provides bountiful electricity. And I give thanks for bountiful safe water resources, regardless of whatever it tastes like. I may no longer live by the ocean, but nothing beats knowing that a nice hot shower awaits you after a long, hard day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What Do You Do, Exactly??

I get asked this question all the time: "Hovig, what exactly is it that you do in your 'rotations'?"

An excellent question for an outside observer. Here is the quick answer: as a medical student, a whole lot and a whole lotta nothing all at the same time. Sure, I see patients all day, interview them, get their story on paper, check all their vitals and do a physical exam, give shots if needed, then report all this to the Doctor. In this sense, I do quite a bit throughout the day.

But in reality, I don't do anything - everything I do is determined by the Doctor. I don't make any decisions - just carry them out! In this sense, my brain isn't all that tired by the end of the day because I don't really have to come up with the correct diagnosis, proper treatment regimen and worry if I got it all right.

Of course, what we actually do as students can still be quite taxing. And for a GREAT and hilarious run down with lots of specifics, I suggest you check out my friend Nareg's posting on the subject by clicking here. It pretty much captures what we "do" during the day. The only difference between him and me: I don't drink coffee - at all. The man goes through jugs of it. I don't touch it. Other than that, I have all the same books (since I'm in Family Medicine right now and he is actually in Internal Medicine, he told me the books I should get before I do Internal, hence, we have the same books!) Enjoy the read!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Incredible amounts to be thankful for - more than is ever possible to state here without forgetting things. Therefore, permit me a blanket statement: Thank you Lord for all the wonderful blessing in my life - my family, friends, health, schooling opportunities, and ability to connect with those in need.

I hope you all have a very wonderful Thanksgiving day, whether spent with family, friends or "other" - may you have a blessed day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Did You Know!

It has been a while since the Did You Know segment has made an appearance on my blog and some of you have complained about this. I apologize - chalk it up to being distracted by so many other things in New York! :)

Today's Did You Know is actually a very simple one, but so extremely important. I am currently doing my Family Medicine rotation and have found that the majority (not all, but majority) of patient cases revolve around diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, general aches and pains, run of the mill colds/fevers, and stomach aches.

Therefore, DID YOU KNOW that if you lose just 10% of your current weight (if you are overweight, which I definitely am and many Americans seem to be as well) you can significantly reduce your risk of hypertension and all the terrible risks associated with that (most significantly, a heart attack!) So, I'm issuing a weight loss challenge to all of us. I need to lose about 40 pounds (especially because my insurance, I just found out, upped the price of my insurance by 25% because I'm considered high risk due to my weight!!!!!). I know that there are others of us who read the blog who need to lose weight, so let's all support each other. We will be each other's cheer leaders and motivation.

As a first step, I am now officially signed up at my new gym here in NYC, I got a great deal on some starter trainer packages, and I'm ready to return to a healthy weight. Just remember - it is not just about the weight NUMBER - this is a lifestyle decision to eat and live healthier. God calls upon us to take care of our bodies - it is our temple and a gift from Him. So, here goes!


NY Sites - The NY Public Library

Most of my free time I spend exploring this absolutely amazing city. It is so exciting and full of energy that I just can't justify spending time at home when I could be outside walking around. You never know when you are going to find something super cool in a nook or cranny of the city!

Therefore, I'm starting a new segment in my blog entitled "NY Sites" where I will chronicle some of the cool places I have had the honor of visiting.

The first site to be chronicled is the NY Public Library located in midtown, near Times Square and Bryant Park. This library is IMMENSE. The actual historic building, from what I could tell, seems to mostly hold exhibits and an absolutely GRAND reading room (see the pic - I couldn't even capture the rows and rows of tables to study at!) The majority of the stacks are located in a separate building located across the street. As you walk up the stairs to the main entrance, the sheer size of the building grabs your attention. NY takes its library seriously! There is an exhibit about the history of the building that I perused and found interesting, but not interesting enough to devote precious brain space away from remembering what blood pressure number is considered borderline versus hypertensive versus hecka serious (obviously not the scientific term).

Every corner of the library is grand and displays the grandeur for which NY is often known. It truly is a great place to spend an hour in if you are just perusing, or the whole day in if you are actually studying. And the best part is that there isn't a deafening silence in the place - there is some mild and quiet noise to keep your eardrums fascinated even as your eyes take in the statues and paintings and enormity of the place. Definitely a must see!

UPDATE: One of my very good friends here in NYC from med school shared this extra tidbit of library trivia in the comments section: The names of the marble lions that guard the entrance-way are Patience (south) and Fortitude (north). They were named by Mayor LaGuardia during the Great Depression, signifying virtues he believed New Yorkers would need in order to weather the economic storm of the time. Thank you to my friend for sharing this!

Next to be chronicled: Stay tuned to see some paintings from Van Gogh that are on display at the Museum of Modern Art in NY. This includes my favorite, the Starry Night!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Kindness of New Yorkers

New Yorkers get a pretty hard rap from just about everyone else in the country. Sure, there are those who are gruff and difficult to deal with. And yes, some times there are occurrences that would be shrugged off elsewhere, especially California, that turn into full-blown shouting matches here in NYC. And YES, there are moments when people mow you down as you pass them.

But hear me out: the SUBWAY, of all places, has displayed some of the outright kindness and generosity of New Yorkers. One example happened to me. A few years ago, I came up with the bright idea to use the subway to get to the airport...despite having two big bags, a roller carry-on, a back pack and a smaller carry-on. YES I KNOW - DUMB! I realized just how dumb when I got to the first staircase and looked with horror at all the steps rising above me. But, every single time, a perfect stranger would pick up one of the big bags and just take it up the steps. They would not look back for a thank you (which would be the understatement of the moment). They would just do it, almost intuitively, knowing that this city is a hard place for all of us to live in, so doing their little part to make it just a little nicer. It was like God sent an angel down at the moment to help me.

There are other examples:
1. Last week, an elderly gentleman was struggling to get up the stairs because the elevator was broken. Two young men who some might have considered trouble by what they were wearing, stood on either side of him and short of lifting him up, basically lifted him up and to the street.

2. Two weeks ago, a young man who was leaving the train at the same exit as me, noticed an elderly lady digging for her metro pass. She couldn't find it the whole time we were climbing the stairs. So, when we got to the turnstyle, the young man just offered to swipe his own card for the lady. She said she wouldn't accept unless he took the $2 fare. He refused, swiped his card and said it was too late, then started walking away. She yelled thank you after him, he smiled, waved his hand, and that was it.

3. Directions - this one is a pretty constant observation. If you ever look confused at a station, especially bigger ones that cater to tourists regularly, count on a local noticing you from a mile away, coming over and offering help/directions/whatever you need to be on your way. It will blow your mind because it is so unexpected. And for those of us who shy away from asking for help or directions, it is again a Godsend.

I'm sure during the rest of my time in NYC, I will see many more examples of the kindness of New Yorkers. I look forward to sharing them with you all as they happen. In the meantime, remember that Thanksgiving is fast approaching, so stock your fridge now and get the best and biggest Turkeys!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Week 1 of Family Medicine: Done

Well, the first week of my Family Medicine rotation is now complete. I am fortunate to be at a Spanish speaking practice, therefore I'm definitely learning a lot of terms used by patients to describe their pains and troubles - skills that will definitely come in handy when I return to California to start a practice myself!

Some highlights:
1. Most family practice visits are due to things like hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia / high cholesterol, general aches and pains, and physicals / well visits.

2. The Doctor is a SUPER nice dude. He graduated from the medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico and is extremely kind and helpful. But the man WORKS us. We are there from 10am until 6 or even 730pm! Quite a long day for a student - because we are expected to go home and study!

3. The cool thing about Family Practice is that there are pediatric patients as well. And I am discovering that nothing makes me happier than a child who smiles at you when you engage them in discussion and work to make their visit as pleasant as possible. Every time a Peds case comes in, I try to snag that folder so I can work with them.

4. Middle aged women love my smile...and do NOT shy away from letting me know. Well, middle aged AND older patients...but females only. I have gotten complimented at least once each day I have been there. It does help the ego.

5. Running a solo practice is difficult - the Doctor was telling us that he barely makes ends meat after expenses. It is safer to enter an established group, like Kaiser, where all expenses are taken care of. HOWEVER, although riskier, opening up your own practice can be more lucrative and more rewarding in some ways. So, he was explaining to us you have to decide - more risk with the potential for more reward or stability with shift work.

On the whole, I am just excited to finally be seeing patients. I am a bit disappointed in how little team work exists in our profession. I know some of you who read this are Ross Med School students - and I love you, but some of your colleagues are just plain rude, unprofessional, and unpleasant to be around. In fact, they are downright nasty and intolerable. But that's ok, because every interaction teaches me something and helps me become a better and stronger person and doctor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes We Can


  • be a nation that dreams big and gives the opportunity to all to accomplish those dreams.
  • be a nation that can look into the face of every child and truly say "Yes, you can do whatever you put your mind to!"
  • be proud that a white boy from California had the amazing opportunity to serve beautiful children in Baltimore City and help them dream big...because we learned on Tuesday night that the "DREAM BIG" ideas he always espoused in his classroom can come true.
  • VOTE FOR CHANGE and a new direction.
  • demand from our nation's leaders that they do better without fear of being killed as in other nations.
  • be so excited that we live in the greatest nation in the world. In every way, America is such an awesome place - we are all so blessed and regardless of our political leanings, we should wake up every morning with such thanks in our heart to the Lord for allowing us to be born and/or live in America.
I have had trouble trying to figure out how to truly capture such an historic moment in our nation's history as this. I know many of you who read this are thinking politically and disagree with me - but please, if you can for a moment, switch your view and picture the hundreds of students who used to stare back at me. Some had already lost hope at the age of 13. Others had in their minds already that the color of their skin (all my students were African-American) would absolutely prevent them from achieving great things - or any thing of significance. And while I can't and won't make excuses for some of the behavior I used to see, I know in my heart of hearts that at least one of my students remembered me on Tuesday night and remembered what I always used to say - that "as a black lady or gentleman, you can't just be good, you have to be the best...And you can't just dream small dreams, you have to shoot for the moon!"

While the nation celebrates a national historical day, I celebrate small victories for when I was a teacher in a classroom with amazing kids who now can see somebody like them - who isn't just good, but he is the best. He didn't just dream small dreams, but he shot for the moon and made it.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quick Updates

1. I will be hopefully moving into my apartment tomorrow (Sunday). Latest is Monday. They are replacing the carpeting in my bedroom and finishing redoing the sheet rock and paint on the walls. The place is awesome. And it is only about five blocks away from the hospital or the train or, most importantly, a Target!

2. I love the subways in NYC. I can get anywhere, anytime without worrying. I love it. Granted, on weekends and late nights, all bets are off about how long it will take to get to a destination. But during the week, the MTA has got your covered. Now if there was only an efficient train to get your from Brooklyn to Queens. As it stands, you must go through Manhattan because all trains are basically oriented to get people into the city.

3. I love going to St. Vartan Cathedral in Manhattan. It is a bit sad that there are not many parishioners, since most Armenians no longer live in the area. But alas, the Church stands as a beautiful testament to our faith as Armenians and our struggle to make the Church relevant to our daily lives.

4. I have been able to see SOOOO many old friends! From Fresno, from my days teaching in Baltimore City, and from med school in St. Martin. I also plan on seeing some of my friends who found me on Facebook that I went to school with back in 2nd grade in NYC. Amazing!

5. I found out about two weeks ago that the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing had denied my application for a credential because my letter of recommendation was from an Assistant Principal instead of HR, stating that I had worked competently for two years. Apparently, the letter must be from HR. I told the Commission that they would be waiting for around 2.8 years before they ever got a call returned from BCPSS. Well, alas, it sure doesn't matter anymore at this point, as I continue my studies - but it was sure looking critical a few weeks ago before I found out my exam results!

6. I finished my first week of a two week rotation in Radiology. My schedule in a typical day went like this:
6am: Wake up and get ready
7am: Leave the house and take subway
815am: Arrive to hospital
815-845am: Eat breakfast in cafeteria
9am: Check in for rotation and find a Doctor willing to accept students, but not already filled with 10 or more of them.
1030 or 1130am: Doctor says "that's enough for today, have a great day!" and dismisses

In other words, most days my commute time took longer than the actual teaching time. I'm learning quite quickly that the current system of teaching and education of Doctors in America is quite flawed and lacking in substance. No wonder that although we are one of the three true "professions" in society, meaning we should be allowed to self-govern, other segments of society (like politicians) are demanding more and more oversight. And why shouldn't they - in a field that absolutely demands sharing of resources and teaching younger Docs, we see minimal, if any, quality teaching. Sad.

7. To end on a happy note, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! My first Halloween in NYC (as an adult) went by with tons of fun. We saw a parade of various costumes, some very creative, and just had a jolly time together enjoying NYC.

8. One more thing: I love the subways in NYC!!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm in the News!!!

Check it out!!

To see the website where this story was posted, simply go to:

I knew my day of fame would come! lol.

PS: I did already vote, actually, but absentee ballot since I wouldn't be in California for the actual election date. But don't let this news story happen to you!

Monday, October 27, 2008

It Is Official

Today was my first day - Orientation Day. I received my ID badge, a quick orientation about what to expect and a "have fun!" That is all. I woke up at 530am, left the house at 6:51am and arrived to the Orientation site by 8am. Then, I waited. The appointment was at 9am. The lady showed up around 9:15am. We were done by 10:15am.

And remember: Have Fun!

Tomorrow is my first day at my actual hospital site: St. John's in Queens. This is my radiology rotation and will finish next week (2 week rotation).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Seeing Old Friends Anew

This week in NYC has been pretty hectic and chaotic. I have been searching for apartments - but everyone works, so I spend the majority of my day just exploring Manhattan or doing nothing, then after 7pm, I fit in several apartment viewings really quick before heading home on the subway. Come to find out, the subway is basically built to get people from the boroughs into Manhattan - therefore, a subway ride from Brooklyn to Queens and vice versa can take upwards of two hours because you must basically do a U through Manhattan - there are no direct subway routes north/south from Brooklyn to Queens. Great.

I'll post more about the apartment hunt another time - I'm still exhausted from it - suffice it to say, apartment hunting in NYC is NOT like the amazing fortunes of Sex and the City. Turns out real life, yet again, is NOT like the TV. Oh well.

Today I wanted to post about seeing old friends again. Just before I came to NYC, I saw the awesome folks at the City of Santa Fe Springs Aquatic Center, where I worked one summer back in 2002. These guys are AMAZING people and we spent what turned into almost three hours that I was there just laughing and laughing and laughing.

Then, Carla took me to San Diego where I saw a whole crew of wonderful friends from ACYO and we spent a wonderful day together.

And of course, now I'm in NYC, where all my friends from med school are basically already doing their clinicals. I get to start on Monday. But point is, we are all back together again like we were on the island - and it is great to be helping and supporting one another again in this very vast city where one can easily get lost without a trace.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Coming to NYC...NOW!!!!

Things have been moving extremely fast, even for me, since I found out I passed my exam this past Wednesday. My school has been extremely accommodating and efficient in helping me find the right placements for my rotations and making sure I can get back on track sooner rather than later.

That said, I'M COMING TO NEEWWWWWW YOORRRRRRKKKKK!!!!!!!!! (Add Sinatra refrain here.) My school was able to schedule me into my clinical rotations starting next Monday, October 27th. Here is my schedule for the next year:
  • 10/27/08 - 11/7/08: Radiology (Elective)
  • 11/10/08 - 12/19/08: OB/GYN (Core)
  • 12/22/08 - 3/13/09: Internal Medicine (Core)
  • 3/16/09 - 6/5/09: General Surgery (Core)
  • 6/8/09 - 7/17/09: Psychiatry (Core)
As you can see, we have not been able to schedule the Pediatrics core rotation yet, but we are going to keep working on that - we have until July of 2009 to figure it out :) As you can also see, my Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and any other major holiday between now and Labor Day next year will be spent in a hospital working. That's OK, patients especially need love during Christmas time!

So, I haven't yet exactly said when I'm leaving for New York. Here is the bombshell: I leave tomorrow, Monday, October 20. Like I said, things are moving extremely fast! :) Here is my flight itinerary and schedule:

Monday, October 20, 2008:
United Airlines Flight 6676
Depart FAT (Fresno) at 7:22 am
Arrive DEN (Denver) at 10:37 am

United Airlines Flight 750
Depart DEN at 12:20pm
Arrive EWR (Newark) at 6:09 pm

Can't wait to see you all in NYC. And I HOPE I can see you all in Fresno before my departure. I will miss you all very much, but remember - the distance (and flights) to NYC are super easy and cheap to negotiate - make it happen!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Virgin America Airlines - Lovin' It Major!


October 8, 2008
Virgin America Flight 793


Depart: On Time

Arrive: ~20m early

Load: Only 40 passengers

In a word, WOW. The whole experience was superb. There was never a time where I was even slightly disappointed with something aboard my flights. Terminal 6 at LAX, where Virgin currently has its operations set up, is almost like a skeleton of a terminal – apparently United and and Continental have really abandoned ship in this terminal and don’t really operate out of all the gates from where they once did. But the contrast between the hip, cool, and interesting check-in counters for Virgin and the boring, gray, sterile ones for Continental were quite stark! But I’m jumping ahead.

I checked in for my flight online the night before. I was debating whether I should upgrade to First, but the option was never explicitly offered to me. Turns out it is only offered if you choose “Change Seats”, otherwise the system just checks you in without trying to upsell you. When I got to the airport, I went to the check-in area for Virgin, which is also tres chic! Flowers are set-up around their cool white check-in tables and screens, giving the whole feel of a great boutique hotel! But here is where the more important magic happened: I was just standing there, looking at the monitor to find my flight and gate, when one of the agents noticed this, came around the counter all the way to me, and said “Welcome to Virgin America, sir, may I help you with something?” What, huh, where am I?!?! I’m used to having to stand in line and beg for attention from an AAgent (not a typo) who scowls at questions. That’s right, the airline I love to fly and have miles with and even a credit card for, come to find out, doesn’t really treat me like they value me. With this one fairly minor and easy gesture, my whole experience was colored positive. I felt the rest of my trip on this airline would probably be equally welcoming and helpful – and I was not disappointed.

I got to my gate, which as I was mentioning before, is in a fairly decrepit and abandoned Terminal 6. I asked the gate agent if Virgin was going to be taking over the whole terminal – she said no, that they were going to be moving to Terminal 3 and taking over that whole terminal. They were going to deck out the whole terminal with Virgin style, including their cool check-in counters, mood lighting, and that whole W Hotel lobby feel. Great! That should be much cooler than the dead atmosphere at Terminal 6…where there isn’t even a McDonald’s to grab a quick bite to eat!

Check-in started about 25 minutes before the flight was to depart and the first thing you notice when you approach the flight is the purple mood lighting in the plane. With the white leather seats in First class, the black leather seats in Coach, and the purple see through dividers between classes, the whole plane has that W Hotel lobby feel. Very cool. I had made sure my row was empty save for me and got comfortable. Regarding seat pitch (basically the distance between your knees and the seat in front of you) – not the greatest. If the person in front of you reclines, space will be pretty tight. I was comfortable and my knees had some breathing space, so the pitch was average, but it can get tight if you are much taller than I am (5’11”).

Then, the Captain came on the PA: not from the flight deck, but standing in front of the plane, waving, and telling us to please not call him Captain or Sir; John (I think his name was John) was enough. He had a British accent and was hilarious – told several jokes and just set the tone for the flight – as professional, fun, and funny. I noticed the pilots don’t wear the traditional white shirt with black tie uniform. They actually wear the same uniform as the male flight attendants – black pants and black shirt, unbuttoned at the top. But the pilots differentiate by having a wings pin and chevrons on their collar showing whether they are a captain or first officer. I’m OK with this – if they are more comfortable flying the plane, then things will run smoother, right?

After this the safety video played on the individual video screens – they call their entertainment system “RED” and it is a touch-screen amazement. But again, I’m jumping ahead. The safety video was clear, CONCISE, and funny! It is a series of animations and you can see it online at YouTube. They throw in some good jokes and are just generally entertaining with it. Example: “For the .00001% of you that have never seen a seat belt, let us demonstrate for you…”

We took off and on the screen next to me I displayed the map to see our progress throughout the flight. On my seat, I explored the video system, which is available immediately. You can watch movies, premium TV shows (these options are for purchase), or watch free TV (like CNN, Bravo, USA, MTV, etc) and listen to free music from an extensive library. You can pick and choose songs from their library and make your own playlist to listen to. All very cool. The screen is touch screen, which can be cool, but also nobody was sitting in front or behind me, or else I think the touching would get kind of annoying because a light touch won’t do the trick. I didn’t purchase any movies because our flight was only two and a half hours, but I watched lots of Law and Order, listened to music, and even ordered Pringles and soda (soda is free) from the screen – which a flight attendant brought out within one minute!

The bathrooms are in the back and located in between them is a water bar – grab as much bottled water as you want during the flight for free! Cool feature. But if you don’t want to get up from your seat, again, just place your order right on the screen and the flight attendant will bring you water directly to your seat.

We landed at Sea/Tac Airport in Seattle about 35 minutes early, waited about 10-15 minutes for our gate, and then were thanked in person for flying with Virgin as we got off the plane. I was sold!

October 15, 2008
Virgin America Flight 792


Depart: ~5m early

Arrive: ~25m early

Load: ~50% full

My return trip was no less exciting. This time I checked in at the Virgin America counters at the airport. I was offered the upsell to First Class when I chose “Change Seats” option. It would have cost $100 for the flight to LAX, so I declined it. However, on the next page when you are looking at the flight seats available, the option to upgrade to first class is still made available, which I think is a great idea. For example, if after you see if the whole coach area is full on the seating chart, you may decide that first class seat looks good after all! I stuck with my coach seat since my row was again empty.

Virgin America’s gate at Sea-Tac Airport is in the new terminal where all the check-in counters are uniform to the airport’s standards, so no cool white counter, like at LAX. However, Virgin still has added its unique flare by putting its signature flower arrangements up. We started boarding about 35 minutes before flight departure and would have left about 20 minutes early, except we had to wait for two passengers, who arrived at the legal minimum time. So, we left about 5 minutes early. Still OK as we ultimately arrived early again! I noticed on their website that all their flights to and from Seattle have been arriving anywhere from 10-30 minutes early, pretty consistently. I guess Virgin is adding padding time to their schedule in case of a disruption – but if this is something happening so consistently, I think a more accurate arrival time should be told to passengers so we can tell our family when to pick us up!

Everything else about the flight was marvelous. I do have to say, though, that on this flight in Coach, one of the two male flight attendants was pretty lazy. While the older FA smiled the whole time, kept coming through the cabin to offer any assistance, and was generally pleasant, the other younger dude did nothing that I could observe. In fact, at one point, he was kind of falling asleep in the back chair! I’m about 98% sure that this is not OK, especially to the other guy who was working his butt off! Perhaps he was just sick or something – hope he feels better!

OVERALL: my experience on Virgin was top-notch. If their prices stay competitive or are even a bit higher than a competitor, I would still choose them on routes they fly over all others. They have figured out how to make the flight experience enjoyable and have a truly differentiated product compared to the other choices

Seattle Wrap Up

The things I did in Seattle - LOVED IT!

• Space Needle
• Monorail
• Westlake Shopping Center
• Downtown Walking Around
• Macy’s
• Westin
• Pike Center - fish throwing and scary looking monkfish faces that move!
• Dinner with Laura – Chicken Quesadillas

• Troll in Fremont
• Theo Chocolate Tour - DELICIOUS!
• The Canal in Fremont
• Golden Gardens Beach (with amazing Mountain Views)
• Lots of Stairs through forest back up to bus from Beach
• Dinner – Homemade Pesto Pasta with salad and delicious dessert

• Olympic Sculpture Park
• Walk along water seeing all the piers
• Anthony’s Fish Bar - Fish ‘n Chips at the Pier

• Snoqualmie Falls in North Bend – Hard hike
• Lunch at Tweed’s – bunch of Tweedy Birds hanging around perimeter
• Twin Falls – another long/hard hike!
• Kerry Park – amazing city skyline view at dusk
• El Diablo Coffee Shop for AMAZING hot chocolate
• St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for Compline (evening Vespers) followed by amazing pipe organ concert

• The Kingfish CafĂ© – delicious soul food
• Underground Tour at Pioneer’s Square
• Alaska Aqueduct
• Admiral’s ViewPoint – great view of Downtown Seattle Skyline
• Alki Beach – great view of Puget Sound
• That’s Amore Italian Restaurant – great view out back bay windows...and amazing food!

• Pacific Science Center
• The Edgewater Hotel - WOW WOW WOW - Loved it!!!!
• Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
• Anthony’s Bell Street Diner

• Edgewater Hotel – sat on my deck the whole morning enjoying the Puget Sound and great city skyline views to my left.
• On the flight home, got great shots of the mountains!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Passed...

the USMLE!!!!!

Got the exam results this morning. Whilst overlooking the beautiful Puget Sound, with calm beautiful glassy water, calmed from an evening without boat traffic and calm winds.

I suppose this means the next phase of the fun gets to start. Stay tuned! And thanks to all again for the support throughout the process.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Things That Make You Go...WOW!

I am not easily moved. I am an easy laugher, but I'm not easily moved. Today, however, I have been moved emotionally a couple times. I'm not sure if I should post this chronologically from first experience to now or if I should just describe what I'm seeing right now. I think I'll try the latter to capture all the vividness of the experience as it happens.

I am at the Edgewater Hotel at the waterfront of Seattle. To my left is the city skyline in all its glory. The ferry just departed its pier to shuttle folks to the island across the Puget Sound...which I'm currently sitting over on my deck in the hotel. (Pictures later). The water is gently rolling across in a somewhat calm and constant way. On my iTunes I am playing a song called Waltz of the Titans by Duke Levine - it has a very contemporary and cool slow jazzy beat to it - very Seattle Coffeehouse like, fitting for the occasion. And obviously, I'm at quite possibly one of the most beautiful - and yes, moving - places in the world. If I look a bit to the right of the city skyline I see beautiful Mt. Rainier covered in snow, with one half of its snow covered peak shining brightly due to God coloring it a gorgeous deep crimson from the sun. Which brings me over to the far right of my view - as I slowly move my eyes over the relaxing water, I have to start squinting as the sun has come pretty far down as it prepares for its setting into the Puget Sound, behind some other gorgeous rolling hills. The ferries from earlier are now crossing the bright shadow in the water the sun is casting. I am heated all over my body by this amazing sun that makes me forget how nippy Seattle can be - I am reminded as I type, however, that it is still kind of cold outside as my fingers protest having to do strenuous work whilst in this temperature.

And as I wait for a sunset, I am at peace. I am fully relaxed. I am taking deep breaths and enjoying this immense beauty that God has blessed me to see. A seagull actually just landed on my porch and is looking at me funny - wondering why I'm in his territory. But he seems to accept the fact and is just amused by my funny appearance, no doubt. But even this seagull is looking out at the sun and the beautiful Puget Sound and marveling in its full glory. He actually now just flew down, spreading his wings wide and diving into the water - hope he caught something yummy!

It is hard to capture the essence of the beauty I am witnessing in this blog. And even though a picture is worth a thousand words, even it won't be able to capture the holistic experience - the smells, the sounds, the feel of the heat, the movement of the water - the picture will capture one aspect and only one moment in time. But this feeling will no doubt last forever as a wonderful memory.

And with that, it is time to devote my full attention to the sunset that is fast approaching. It too will be a moving experience. Added to the moving experience of the exhibit of Christian art and history at the Seattle Art Museum. Added to the feeling overall of my week in Seattle of relaxation, fun, and wonder.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Seattle is Bipolar

Seattle is like Edison High School - two entities within the confines of one place.

One face of Seattle is the serene, amazing, untouched beauty that God has created here. The mountains with sharp peaks and snow blanketing the tops. The lakes and creeks and waterfalls and inlets that display soothing (but pretty cold) movements of water. The greenery - oh the amazing lush greenery - that is everywhere and can soothe the nerves and relax the spirits. Indeed, this face of Seattle says come to me because I will relax you and help you reconnect with the beauty that could have been the Garden of Eden before the downfall of humankind due to our sinful nature.

In a word, this face of Seattle is gorgeous!

But, there is another face - a more ominous and powerful face. A face that tries to cover the natural beauty with big buildings that lack character. A face that tries to turn Seattle into "Everywhere USA" with sterile looking corporate buildings that sell the same things here, in Portland, in LA, in Billings, in Denver, in Chicago, in Baltimore and in New York City. There is a city here, nestled between beautiful mountains and waters, that is the exact same as it is everywhere else, due to corporate identity that usurps the importance of unique character that can be associated with each city.

Luckily, as strong and deep-pocketed as this face of Seattle is, there are pockets of individuality that are maintained. The Pike Street Market seems to still be authentic and unique to Seattle and its people. There are museums that also display amazing local talent. There are people who say hello as they pass you on the street, are happy to help with directions when you even seem lost, and are always willing to give a lending hand to a friend or stranger.

Yes, Seattle is bipolar. But luckily, the good face seems to be keeping the dangerous face in check and maintaining its beauty. And for that, I absolutely love Seattle!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Seeing Seattle from the Top!

I'm in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, enjoying the amazing weather (well, a bit cold) and the kindness of the people (they really are very nice). I arrived on time on an AWESOME flight (more on Virgin America Airlines in a future post - suffice it to say now that it is an AWESOME AWESOME AMAZING FANTASTIC FABULOUS AIRLINE!!) And I was greeted at a beautiful airport by my amazing friend from Teach for America Baltimore, Greta. She was an awesome teacher, great person with an easy and infectious laugh, and a really kind person (she opened up her home for me to stay, after all!) Super excited to see her and explore her town!

DAY 1: I explored Downtown, both by bus and on foot. Greta, in her excellent planning, had secured bus day passes for me so I had the most convenient way to travel through Downtown Seattle. The buses are totally efficient and unlike Los Angeles, the bus drivers are very kind and answer questions without a huffy puffy fit. Stop 1 was the Space Needle. I rode the Seattle Monorail (which only tourists use - it kind of is a tourist trap but I figured as a tourist, you have to ride it at least once down its 1 mile path to the Space Needle). At the Space Needle, I had the pleasure of capturing some amazing views from the top and capturing the amazing scale of the thing from the bottom.

I then went to Pike Place Market where they sell anything and everything, including BEAUTIFUL flower arrangements for very cheap and they have a fish market, too. It was a blast to watch them throw the fish back to be prepared or to play with the audience by then throwing a fake one back right into the people. It was just a lot of fun to see a great open air market (luckily covered, though, to protect from the rain that started) where people were all relaxing and browsing the thousands of items for sale.

We ended the day back at Greta's house, where another friend from Teach for America Baltimore who is also now in Seattle met up for dinner. We had a great dinner then great conversation and it was just wonderful to see old friends and relax in this really cool city!

UPDATE: I have added some pictures to some of my recent posts below - feel free to check them out!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Authentic UCLA Undergrad Experience

Back in 2000 I made the decision to respectfully decline my admission to UCLA in order to choose Whittier College. And while I will always value the amazing relationships I created, the awesome professors, and the experience of being on a small, community-focused campus, I have confided in some that I didn't feel fully prepared for Medical School. Our Science Department at Whittier, while fantastic and filled with top-notch professors, was small and thus missing in many of the classes that other, larger universities (like, oh I don't know, UCLA maybe) offer. As a result, many of my medical school classes, which were review for my friends from bigger universities, were brand new concepts for me - which made it just slightly more difficult to synthesize all the information into cohesive ideas in my head.

Can't live with regrets. But, last night, courtesy of an awesome person named Keith Teague, I had a little taste of what being a UCLA undergrad entails. Call it "A Day in the Life..." Everyday, thousands of UCLA undergrads start their day, most I found out, no earlier than 10am. Every night, those same undergrads live life to the fullest in the community that is Westwood. What follows are their stories (insert Law and Order gavel sound):

Well, now I have been thinking and since this is a family blog...and some of the family that reads it includes the mother of Keith, let me preface this by saying I hope I don't get Keith into trouble by pointing out some of the scandalous things we did. Sorry Keith, but the truth must be told:

He picked me up at 630pm, we went to the UCLA library to do some reading, he gave me a tour of the campus, I saw his immacuately clean apartment with excellent furnishings, and then we had a very nice dinner, sans alcohol, before going to the opera to catch an evening showing of Torreador. After the show, we met up with some of his friends who have a nightly homework club before going to bed around 11pm.

Thanks for an awesome time at UCLA!!!!

My Getty Center Experience

Let me preface this post by saying this: sometimes really REALLY funny things happen to good people. In my case, I finally figured out the whole bus system and how to get to the Getty Center from Garineh's apartment. I walked just over 1.5 miles from her apartment to the bus stop near UCLA Center, where I took the Metro Rapid Bus # 761. It is an awesome Red bus with that accordion looking thing in the middle and an extension on the back so more passengers fit. It only makes stops every few miles, so it has the feel of an Express bus. And they are all brand new and have TVs in the bus that also show Google Maps so you know when your stop is approaching. So, I was excited - I was looking for the Getty Center / Sepulveda Blvd stop. We got there - and there was the Getty entrance in all its glory - it was an "Angel singing 'aaahhhhhhh' softly" moment as the light shone down on the sign - Getty Center. I took a picture, which I'll upload later. I walked in, started going toward the trams, and was stopped by the gentleman - he was kind, but he pointed out, almost feeling sorry for me, that the Getty Center is CLOSED ON MONDAYS.

Humbug. HUMBUG, I SAY!

So, after all that careful planning, counting of change for the bus, camera preparing, and self primping, I dejectedly walked back to the opposite bus stop, plopped down, and waited for the Big Red Bus to take me back home.

I will say this about the buses: They all ran on time! And they were clean, bright, and airy. In a word, the whole experience was very CONVENIENT! I would take the public transportation again here in LA through nice areas...and I'll check to make sure the places I want to visit are open first.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Life in LA

Well, I have visited my aunt's in Thousand Oaks over the last week and loved it. The area around their house, on top of a hill, is so peaceful and a perfect place to kick back, read a book, and do a lot of chillin'. But yesterday, I met up with my friend Garineh and Tammy and now I'm in ONE of the hearts of Los Angeles, very near to UCLA, ready to explore the city.

Yesterday, our goal was to go to Church for Divine Liturgy. Unfortunately, SOMEBODY (no need to mention names), was slightly late. This SOMEBODY arrived at 1130am at my aunt's house instead of 930am :) But all is well that ends well and we ended up attending just the picnic - where they served a delicious lulu kebab dinner (or chicken, but I chose the lulu). After the picnic, we headed to the Santa Monica Pier, which was GORGEOUS. We went on the Ferris Wheel and had some gorgeous views of the ocean and the surrounding community of Santa Monica. Very fun indeed!

Now I have the whole day to myself, because Gar has an "on call" day where she has to work 30 hours STRAIGHT at the hospital (she is in her first year of Residency, known as the "intern year". She LOVES her job (and I have no doubt that she is amazing at it!) So, my plans for today are to actually use public transportation in Los Angeles for the first time in my life! I looked it up, and since I'm staying in a big area of LA, it turns out it is very easy to take the buses. I am still deciding if I should visit the Getty Center or head back to Santa Monica and just relax on the beach or visit the Promenade. I'm definitely leaning toward the Getty for its beautiful views and sites of the LA basin around it.

Pictures and stories to come after my adventures!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Malls are a Beautiful Thing

When I lived in St. Maarten, my roommate had some cologne from Burberry that smelled exactly like Mall. That's right, good ol' American Mall - the indoor extravaganza of shops of all kinds, people of all backgrounds, and the gears of the American economy. And so, when I was in a particularly bad/sad mood due to an occurrence that could only happen on the Rock, I would go into his room and smell that cologne, close my eyes, and imagine myself in a good old American mall, enjoying being back in civilized society again.

One might say my wish has come true. I'm currently sitting at the Thousand Oaks, OAKS Mall - it is a GORGEOUS mall, absolutely stunning and beautiful. They really have done an awesome job over the years of keeping it updated, fashionable, and chic. Why am I here? Because they have internet, something missing at my aunt's house. So, I sit here, checking my email and writing a quick blog entry. I do love this mall - lots of memories here. My aunts and I used to do laps here when I was younger. I LOVED coming to the mall - it meant getting to play in the Brookstone - and what kid doesn't like playing at Brookstone? It also occasionally meant a cookie or some sort of nice, sugary, absolutely unhealthy treat - outside the confines of my mother's disapproving gaze. It was (and is, since it is offering me free internet at the moment) heaven on earth.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Did Sinatra Sing About Los Angeles?

I got to thinking this morning that Sinatra has songs about Chicago, New York and San Francisco. But, he doesn't really have a song about Los Angeles that I can remember. Since I'm going to Los Angeles in a few hours, I thought it would be nice to quote Sinatra. But alas, I don't have any songs about LA by Sinatra readily available in my head. Am I forgetting something? Fill me in!

I was so exhausted yesterday afternoon after a difficult day subbing at Tioga middle school that after an early dinner, my eyes closed and I have been asleep since 6pm last night (it is now 6am, I woke up at 530am). I figure I should get as much shut eye as possible before clinicals begin and I'm awake for DAYS. But I digress. Point is, I still haven't packed for LA - so I better get to doing that. The other point is that I will be at my aunt's house in Thousand Oaks - aka, no internet readily available. I will try to make it to a library or some place that offers internet, but no promises. Of course, I will have my cell phone if anybody must reach me in dire straits.

As is my custom, below you will find my Travel Itinerary, also for my Seattle Trip:

Fresno to Simi Valley: Tuesday, 9/30/08 on AMTRAK
Depart Fresno at 9:50 am on Amtrak “San Joaquin” Train 702
Arrive Bakersfield at 11:58 am

Depart Bakersfield at 12:05 pm on Amtrak “Bus” 5902
Arrive Simi Valley at 3:10 pm

LAX to Seattle: Wednesday, 10/8/08 on Virgin America Airlines
Depart LAX at 5:00 pm on Flight 793
Arrive SEA (Seattle) at 7:50 pm

Seattle to LAX: Wednesday, 10/15/08 on Virgin America Airlines
Depart SEA at 3:35pm on Flight 792
Arrive LAX at 6:20pm

Saturday, September 27, 2008

House Cleaning..and Stuff

This happened last time I took the USMLE, also. For weeks I woke up at 630am and was unable to go back to sleep. In fact, I didn't just wake up gradually - it was a full on, heart thumping, WAKE UP!!!! moment...for weeks. And like last time, I had the goal that after the exam, I would do some house cleaning - some rearranging and overall interior designing, if you will.

So, as I currently stare at the mounds of mess that is our home, I am doing the same thing as last time. Wondering what the heck I was thinking in the first place and gradually losing hope that I am even going to lift a finger to start the project.

And one more thing: I have basically lost all respect for the People's Church Administration. They are all wonderful people, but we have called them for YEARS - since moving into this house - to find a solution to the noise problem. Don't get me wrong, we NEVER complain about the kids and their noise during the school hours - that is something we expect and would not even dare mention, and frankly, find it as a joyful noise. But it is the noise of a leaf blower that started at 7:36 am on a Saturday or the noise of the Maintenance staff loudly talking, laughing, and even using profanity at 6:38 am on a Sunday or the sound of them closing up the shop at midnight that has gone on too long and not been rectified despite repeated efforts on our parts. Any time we call them, the office staff says, very VERY nicely, by the way, that they will not start the noise before 8am. While not ideal on a Saturday, it is a wonderful compromise that we are willing to accept. But yet, the leaf blower is going as we speak - currently at 7:45am.

Life in Fresno continues...

Friday, September 26, 2008

With Kids Like These...

As I type, a group of about 35 very nice kids - I mean truly kind and nice - are taking a quiz. I'm subbing at Tenaya Middle School today and these kids are absolutely amazing. I don't mean academically, although they all strike me as hard-working, also, but I especially mean inter-personally. They are just so kind! You can have conversations with them and there is no mistrust of the teacher - so you can talk with them in a professional instead of adversarial way! And you can talk about their future in college and how academics pays off and get into deep discussions about future plans. It is so rewarding that I told one class that if I had kids like this, I might have stayed in teaching longer.

I know some of you are going to read that last sentence above and try to mischaracterize the wonderful and awesome children I had in Baltimore. Please don't do that. That is not my intention at all - and I'm not selling out on the mission of providing an excellent education to EVERY child in our Nation. They deserve it and as a society we must strive to make this happen. I'm just saying that the job is challenging. Teachers who purposefully step into difficult and challenging school environments with high-needs kids, like I did for two years, do it knowing that they have accepted a much more difficult challenge that is taxing on the soul. And if I had the choice, I would walk right into the lion's den again.

All I'm saying is that it is also nice to see what schools and teaching could be like from the other perspective, of working in a school with a much easier student population.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Judgment Day Has Arrived

11:34 pm: Man, am I glad this day has finally arrived...and passed! I feel confident, I feel happy, and most of all, I feel SUPER EXCITED about putting USMLE Step 1 behind me and being able to start my third year of medical school. It is going to be much more real now - I have been looking forward to this year since day one of medical school. Why? Because third year means I get to be in a hospital. It means I get to learn hands-on instead of only from reading books and listening to lectures. It means I get to work side by side with consummate professionals, all with one goal - save a life, help improve a life, guide a person to health. What could be better?!?!

I want to sincerely thank all of you who have been sending your prayers and well wishes! My success is due to support and love and encouragement - so THANK YOU! In the meantime, while I wait for scores to arrive, I am busy planning a pretty exciting couple of weeks to relax, rejuvenate, see people I haven't seen in many many months and pump myself up for what is to come. Here is a sneak peek of my upcoming schedule:

September 29 - October 7: Los Angeles
--Visit will include trip to Thousand Oaks and Pasadena
October 8 - October 15: Seattle
--Visit will include being an utterly giddy tourist in a foreign land and checking out the sites with my friends from Teach for America who now live in the area!
October 15 - October 19: Los Angeles
--Visit will include trip to Whittier and attending Whittier College's Alumni Weekend

If I'm coming to your area, please get in touch with me - I would LOVE to see you!

5:30 pm:
I'm done!!!! I'm back at home now, feeling quite confident. In fact, I feel downright giddy and excited. There were many more questions this time where I felt like I knew what was going on - that was because I obviously had more time to study the last two months, but also because, due to the luck of the draw, I was given lots more questions that were straight forward this time around. Here is one example for those of you who know:

"In what organ is Angiotensin 1 converted to Angiotensin 2?"

Yes, I'm not exaggerating. That was a question this time. I didn't have ANY questions like that last time (by the way, the answer is the lung). This is what I would unequivocally call a "God-send question"!!!

So now, the waiting game begins. USMLE people officially state that we get results "within six weeks" - they tend to under-promise and over-deliver so we are all happy in the end when we get results within around 3-5 weeks. I feel happier and more confident this time around - and I look forward to starting clinicals pretty soon. That being said, PLEASE continue to send good thoughts and prayers!! I will continue to need them!

7:55 am:
Elvis has left the building. I'm heading out - time to make this ish happen! If you happen to stumble upon this blog right now, PLEASE say a little prayer for me!

7:15 am: I woke up about 30 minutes ago without the help of the alarm clock. My heartbeat was a bit fast and I felt pumped - something that never (NEEVVVVER) happens at 6:45 in the morning. I took care of some personal business (ahem), reviewed a couple more odds and ends and am now about to hop in the shower. I feel different this time as I get ready to jump into the hot seat again to retake the USMLE. I KNOW I'm not going to miss it by 3 points this time - I KNOW I'm going to PASS it this time by many points.

I'm pumped, I'm excited, I'm ready to make this happen today.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Why I Teach for America..."

Back in 2004, after graduating, I spent the summer in New York City, teaching high school Biology during summer school and learning all the tricks of the trade in order to enter the classroom in Baltimore City in the fall as a proud Teach for America teacher. At the end of our training institute, there was a powerful pump-up rally; there, a few new TFA Corps Members did a presentation where they read entries from their personal journals they had kept during the weeks of our training. And at the end of several journal entries, when the presentation was coming to an end, each person ended their last reading with the words, "and that is why I Teach for America..."

Emphasis was placed either on the word "I" or "Teach" by each person and the dramatic endings were followed by sustained applause as we were all so pumped to enter our own classrooms.

Well, what follows in this entry is a "Why I Teach for America..." moment. Enjoy!

Today, while subbing at Edison High School, from where I graduated in 2000, I had the opportunity to return to a Bio class for which I subbed on Tuesday as well. Third period came along and all was going well all day - the kids were beautiful and dedicated (for the most part) to learning. I explained the project to 3rd period and started passing out the handouts. My style as a sub is akin to being a stand-up comedian - we get our business taken care of, but we also spend a lot of time laughing! I tell jokes and I'm willing to put my pride aside to let the kids laugh, both at me and at funny things about my life.

So imagine how touched I was today when one of the kids in 3rd period, let's name her Elizabeth, announced in between laughs to the class, that when she came in to class on Tuesday (the other day I subbed for her class), she was having a SUPER lousy day. She said she was extremely pissed off and was just waiting for me to say something to her, anything, so she could be justified in letting me HAVE it. But then, she said, I was so funny and fun and lively and happy, that in her bouts of laughter she totally and completely forgot about what she had been mad about from earlier in the day. She said I helped her feel totally better about her day and that she appreciated me very much for that.


Friday, September 12, 2008

On the Subject of Quality Teachers

Every education study and article on reform mentions that one of the key ingredients in student success is having a top-notch, quality educator leading the class.

My heart broke today, listening to a promising young student-teacher describe how disillusioned she is with teaching, the "system" and all the pressures she feels to focus solely on test scores at the expense of any sort of rich learning experience for the kids. I listened to her while student's in the last period class for which I subbed and for which she is the student-teacher, worked; and it broke my heart that somebody who had dedicated years to becoming a teacher was suddenly seeking to be anything but.

We spoke at length and I did my best to offer her suggestions for schools where she would feel happier - like Charter or Private schools who may have less challenging students. But even as I offered those suggestions, I looked over my freshman charges and felt blessed - they were all quietly working, most were struggling trying to read a fairly sophisticated story, but were at least trying, especially when I walked around and did my best to cheer them on to achieve great things. These were not advanced academic or GATE kids - they were basic level Freshman in a basic level English class. And, as is often the case with my thinking, I just felt they were figuratively SCREAMING for help and for a teacher to challenge them and push them and do their best to interest them in something, anything!

And then I got hit with a one-two-punch:
1. this student-teacher said that she enjoys creating and implementing curriculum and learning experiences, but doesn't really care for working with the kids. (My response: excuse me?!?!)
2. she offered very little to no encouragement to the kids as they worked. She was not acting like their cheerleader, something these kids absolutely need!

And so, I had an epiphany - not every person should be a teacher. We encourage anyone who expresses interest in becoming a teacher to pursue it and we have such a shortage of great teachers that we go too far and accept anybody into the profession. But I must advocate that we stop this practice. To be an effective teacher, you have to have "it" - that indescribable something that allows you to connect with students, explain difficult concepts in understandable ways, put aside your own pride and be a cheerleader who employs every possible effective tool at his/her disposal to ensure kid success! Education schools can teach you techniques to effectively apply the "it", but if you don't have the "it" in the first place, "it" is not something that schools can teach you! You should NOT be a teacher! Please find a different profession because our kids deserve better.

In other news: my first two periods were Seniors - about 45 to a class. Again, not the AP or Honors class, but regular level. And yet, when pushed, they performed. When challenged, they achieved. When told to strive for something higher, they rose. I told each of the two classes (the High School I was at has block schedules, so 2 classes of hour and half each) that they were definitely at the top of the list of students I have met who impress me and make me want to keep working in the field. They didn't let excuses about life get in the way of them continuing to work hard and step up to the challenges and excel.

And kudos to their regular teacher, who invigorates them and piques their interest (the teacher I was subbing for today, whom I have not met). The articles he left today for us to work on were very interesting and relevant to their lives - and it showed in increased student interest, attendance, and general happiness. I pray they will continue to make life choices that guide them toward further and greater successes!

Today, indeed, was a great day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Guess the Grade - Answer Now Posted!

Hello folks! Time for a bloggeractive moment.
Today, I was teaching the following:

3 + (-2) = ?

Guess the grade I was teaching and earn a cookie (from your own cookie jar).

UPDATE: The blog has been buzzing with anticipation to find out the answer to the above question. The grade, as it turns out, was 7th and 8th grade. In the defense of the children, it was a "remedial math" class and about 80% of them were able to answer the questions on the worksheets with only some difficulty. Quite interesting to me was that multiplication of integers with positive and negative values seemed a bit easier for most than the adding of integers. Perhaps because with the multiplying, they had their multiplication chart for numbers 1 through 12. Most distressing, however, was when students had difficulty spewing out the answer to 3x5 or other simple multiplication problems without the use of their charts.

We must do better!

Monday, September 8, 2008

And Another Reason Elementary School is Winning Me Over

Reason #3,538 why elementary age kids are slowly but surely winning my heart and turning me into a convert: they go "did you say c-r-a-p right now? That is not very nice!"

Yes, I told the class today that soda was "a bunch of crap that you shouldn't drink." The message against soda was lost because after the word "crap" my miniature charges became wide eyed and open-jawed in amazement that a teacher would have the audacity to, GASP, cuss!!! I apologized and said since I usually teach middle/high school that I missed the memo not to use that word. Little Cerina told me it is ok, but "don't do it again!"

On a side note, I have learned that early third grade curriculum includes:
  • Types of sentences. (this would be a statement, therefore ending in a period.)
  • Syllables (did you know the VCCV rule helps you determine where to split up a word to figure out how many syllables it has? Try this word: Camped
  • Rounding numbers: 3,538 reasons converted to the nearest ten?
  • Simple Addition. If 4+3=7 then 3+4=7

This all begs the question: at what point are we losing these beautiful, curious, academically courageous, inter-personally gracious, absolutely awesomely adorable kids to street life and anti-school culture? It makes me want to have the ability to take a class of kids and work with them from first grade through sixth grade (I'll leave kindergarten to souls braver than I). I want to make sure we build such a strong interpersonal relationship that I can then follow them from middle school through high school and all the way to college to ensure they make it onward and upward without hiccups.

That being said, I must make absolutely clear that these last several days in elementary schools, I have had the honor and absolute pleasure of observing and learning from some of the most amazing educators I have ever met. The faculty at Slater Elementary School, at least in the sphere of 2nd and 3rd grade teachers whom I have met, is unarguably stellar. The kids adore them and with good reason; they really are top notch. So, the problem is not the teachers.

In my opinion, all that leaves is the corruptive brand of American poverty that places higher value on materialism (nice possessions now) as opposed to the long-term value of learning. Give me my fish now as opposed to teach me how to fish so I can forever enjoy the fruits of my own labor.

I don't know about you, but I want our kids back.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Jon Stewart is Awesome!

Regardless of your political stances, I think this clip by Jon Stewart is very telling about our politicians in America. Well, I suppose I can't say "regardless of political stance" because this clip specifically showcases Republican flip-flopping.

Does this brand of flip-flopping by politicians and bias Fox News reporters really get past Americans? Ummmm, YA!