Tuesday, November 15, 2011

There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Holiday

From coast to coast, our dreams of medical school have finally come to fruition...
  I remember as a teenager sitting at the dining room table with my friend Ashlee and planning out how we were going to travel the states together after high school graduation. We were going to travel in a van, sleeping in the make shift room in the back of it and visit each major city for a day or so. We had the whole year planned out...I still don't know where we thought we would get a van or the money to pay for gas, but I know that after high school I thought those dreams were long forgotten. That is, until I met Phillip.
  I can attest that I never imagined that this year would have ever worked out as easily as it has. When we sat down and started planning all this, I felt like I was in back at that dining room table in 8th grade again. I assure you it has only been by God's good grace that we've made it this far.
  Our journey from California led us from the hot desert sun through the awe struck beauty of the canyon until it collided with the hail from the mountain tops of Colorado. We spent two weeks at Parkview Hospital and let me just say, I don't think I've ever crammed more into two weeks of my life.
  Phillip worked on a hospitalist rotation. I spent my time with two GI doctors and found I was very passionate about gastrointestinal diseases. During my rotation I picked up several tips of places to go in Colorado and of course Phillip and I did not pass on any of them! That weekend we drove to Denver and spent the night in the historic Brown Palace Hotel which very much reminded me of our stay at the Hotel Hershey. I loved the antiqued elegance of the architecture. We spent time downtown at the 16th street mall and went bowling at Lucky Strike, which I've now learned is just a fancy bar that also has a bowling alley on one end and apparently celebrities like to frequent. (I think they just started that rumor so they could charge you more, and trust me by the time you get done paying you will at least feel you have a celebrity's bill!)
  From Denver we traveled to Estes Park and entered the Rocky Mountain National Park. We embarked down the trail of the Old Fall River Road which is a one-way, uphill, 11 mile gravel road that winds deep into the peaks of the park to a total elevation of 11,796 feet above sea level. The beauty and wonder of this rugged mountainous road was one of the most relaxing encounters I've ever experienced while feeling this close to nature. The valleys are indescribable in their beauty and their peacefulness exudes from trickle of the streams through the light breeze that makes the wildflowers come alive. I even said to Phillip that I hoped heaven was just like this! After bringing ourselves to leave behind the mesmerizing valleys and the excitement of seeing the numerous herds of elk, we drove back to Colorado Springs and visited the Garden of the Gods which properly named, sits just below Pike's peak and is truly one of the greatest displays of all that is the wonder of God's creation. From there we drove to the top of Pike's peak providing for 14,115 feet of the most breathtaking views (it was literally that cold) that stretch as far as Kansas and New Mexico!!
Colorado was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences I've ever known and to top it off I actually loved the hospital, the staff I worked with, and most importantly I learned a tremendous amount!
  Among leaving the new found charm and enchantment of Colorado, my sadness was relieved only by the comforts of knowing the car was destined for the glory and goodness of the deep South! (there's no place like home!) We spent the weekend catching up with my family and occupying the attention of the sweetest lil darlin in the whole wide world! (that's my "Southern-ness" coming back in) We begrudgingly headed back to Fort Worth that Sunday evening where we met our new landlords for the month and found out we would be sleeping on the floors of an empty and unfurnished apartment. Phillip took the living room and made the pantry his closet. (He was nice enough to let me keep the walk-in closet in the bedroom...I'm not spoiled at all) While in Texas, we not only worked 60+hour work weeks but somehow also managed to find the time to check out Six Flags and several of the downtown sports bars all while still making the commute back home for Liddy's baptism! Our last weekend in Texas/Louisiana was a very special occasion. Phillip was able to experience his very first Zwolle Tamale Fiesta!!! (something I've been awaiting for the last two years!) We took Liddy to the parade and stuffed ourselves with tamales until we didn't even want to watch the mud races any longer. It was an extremely hot and dreadfully humid weekend...just the way us Southerners like it! I know by the end of it, Phillip was ready for some beach time, so we packed up the car once again and headed towards the Gulf!
  Before arriving in Florida, we were informed there had been a mistake and our student housing and we were going to be homeless unless we forked out the cash and sprung for a ridiculously awesome vacation rental right on the beach. Well let's see, that took about all of about a day to decide what we had to do. After a few phone calls and a slightly steep price, Phillip confirmed our two week stay at Sunset Beach on Treasure Island. (seriously, I couldn't have made that one up if I would've wanted to!) Our door looked out onto the bay where we would sit on the dock and watch the dolphins swim up and chase the jumping fish.  Most evenings were spent walking across the street to the beach and enjoying the local bars and restaurants. We were very sad to leave that place, but it was on once again to the next location.
  We spent that weekend in Orlando where I was able to enjoy the excitement of Universal Studios just as I did when I was seven years old and my parents took me for the first time. The only difference: this time Harry Potter was there!!!! I'm not sure if I was more excited about living out all my HP fantasies or getting to ride through "The Cat in the Hat" on a couch? It's quite possible that both were just as equally amusing to me as the Halloween Horror Night was thrilling for Phillip. Yes, we spent Friday night being chased by men in masks with chain saws and repeatedly putting ourselves through the most wicked terror of pure frightfulness. It was amazing! I didn't think it was possible, but I actually enjoyed every minute! I'm just hoping Phillip was as impressed with my enjoyment. After settling in to our new apartments for the month, we worked a long week- Phillip on Oncology service and me in the ICU- and ended it at an interview in Miami.
  That week, I got some of the most awful news...Mark called after taking Oscar to the vet and reported to me that he was very ill and that the doctor was not very hopeful for his recovery. After several long discussions and many tearful phone calls, Phillip decided to fly me back to Louisiana to say my final farewells to my best friend for the last ten years. I spent that Halloween weekend with my family, sleeping on the floor cuddled up with my puppy every night as I watched him grow increasingly weaker. I will miss him terribly and although it was unexpected and a very swift decline, I know he was happy spending his last days with my family in Louisiana.
  Since arriving in Florida, we've been on four interviews in four weeks- I think the season is among us! We even received instructions on filling out our rank list this week. We have also found time to go diving and manatee "searching" in Crystal River. Much to my disappointment, no manatees were to be found. Last weekend we went hiking on Honeymoon Island where we interrupted several armadillos and I playfully adorned the place with the nickname "Armadillo Island". While at the beach there, we came upon an elevated walkway and below, lurking in the cool shade from the hot sun stretched a giant Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake! He stared at the tourists as we all began to line up for photos. From that moment, our eyes did not often wander far from our feet! We also became very keen at spotting osprey in the treetops. We even watched one fly overhead with a fish fighting its clenching grasp. The most amazing sight of the entire hike was the pair of bald eagles we spotted nesting on the edge of the island.  They were such powerful creatures to observe!
  This week Phillip met me out front of the hospital where he routinely picks me up after work, with a very excited tone. I was surprised to find that after all our time of searching for the elusive manatee, he had spotted one in the bay- right outside my house! We rushed back and quickly ran to the edge of the lawn and as I patiently waited, I could see the shadow of a slow moving creature swimming ever so gracefully toward us. We watched from my windows as he took his time making his way back down the murky waters raising his head for air every few minutes. After watching for some time, we decided to round out the day with a walk through the park near Phillip's house, where earlier in the day he spotted a wild alligator in the lake. We cautiously circled the lake that Sunday as we listened to the Saints play the Cardinals over Phillip's satellite radio broadcast on his phone. As we were getting ready to turn back and head to the car, we heard a voice from the bridge say, "Excuse me, sir, but could you tell me if that's a gator over there?" It was a young girl who had been talking on her cell phone as she sat and watched the waters. Sure enough as we watched, from underneath the swampy plant life sitting atop the water, slowly rose an alligator to the surface. We sat and watched him bake in the sun until Phillip's phone died, at which point we sprinted to the car only to find that the game had gone into overtime. (Luckily the Saints pulled it out!) It was the best way to end our last weekend in Florida-watching two indigenous species in their natural habitats.
  I will miss the swimsuits, tanning lotion, tank tops and beach towels of Florida, but our destiny awaits us in Pennsylvania next week. We have scheduled to sit for the second half (and last for medical school) of our Step 2 board exams next Monday. If successful, the only thing that sits between us and graduation is a few rotations and a long flight to Africa!! (More to come on our holiday and Africa plans from Phillip soon!)


Things I've lost so far on this journey:
my interview suit (left it twice- retrieved it once from a hotel and replaced it at 10pm the night before an interview the second time)
electric toothbrush charger
box of medicines

Things we are continuously praying for:
1. our families/friends and their patience and understanding
   during this process and during our absence
2. the health of our loved ones
3. that God will help us to keep our eyes open and hearts
    ready for His word to speak to us at all times
4. that we may be receptive to God's word when we hear it
5. that we may spread our love of Christ to all those whom
    we are brought to care for
6. that we may never "bury our talents in the ground" and
    hide from the risk of failure, but instead grow in the love
    of Christ and duplicate what we have so graciously
    been given..."For to everyone who has, more will be
    given and he will grow rich; but from the one who
    has not, even what he has will be taken away."
            Matthew 25:29