Tuesday, December 01, 2009
1. I love living in this neighborhood. It's quaint, I feel safe, I think the hills present a good challenge when running and the foliage is beautiful in the fall. I've become a fan of the little shops at the intersection and in particular love studying in the 61C cafe and Carnegie library. Both have a lot of windows, so I feel like I'm appreciating the sunshine even though I'm just a pale bookworm of a med student (bye bye Sicilian tan).
2. I love my housemates (also known from Halloween as fall, spring, and winter- guess what season I was?) and my med school squirrel hill neighbors! I love our house which has gotten more filled with furniture and is a lot homier than it started. Don't ask about our living room art that came from a dumpster...
1. I enjoy this 2nd year material a lot more, I can almost always understand in what's going on in medical tv shows and books now! Dreading boards, but starting to study for that so I don't freak out.
2. My classmates are wonderful as always. I grown closer to a lot of them, even though I worried about drifting apart during my summer abroad. We do fun things like go applepicking, go to ballets, celebrate post exam, random adventures that are mostly documented in all my facebook photo albums. I'm really grateful to be surrounded by so many talented people, being inspired constantly is a good thing.
Life in general:
1. I think I still maintain my old friendships well (mainly MIT and CHS), and if things haven't picked up from when I left Italy I'm working on it again! I went to my high school 5 year reunion this thanksgiving it was actually a great experience where I reconnected with a lot of old girlfriends from chs, middle school, I guess I wasn't as much as a nerd as I thought.
2. I'm trying to keep myself enlightened beyond the medical school bubble. I should try to keep up with world news (thanks to all the magazines my mom has ordered for me) and read books before bed.
3. These lists always turn into kind of new years resolutions things... but I'm trying to keep up with running and dancing (oh dancing! the opportunities are too few) and maintaining a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. Especially as we are learning about nutrition right now...
In summary, I'm looking forward to the next few years of medical school. Who knows what they'll bring, where I'll be in 2 years...
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I spent a lovely 1.5 weeks in mainland Italy with my family touring dusty over-touristed Rome, quaint artistic Florence (or Firenze), and my personal favorite sunny, romantic Venice. After getting home, I lounged around for 1.5 days trying to spend as much time with family and friends, before jetting back to Pittsburgh so I could move all my belongings into a house (below) I'm currently sharing with my 3 closest med school friends!
The townhouse is in a perfect location, right at the junction of 2 busy streets lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. The local branch of the town library is a mere 3 minute walk from our door (I love public libraries). Our house is set up really nice and we can't wait to have a house-warming (all in good time). We've collected furniture from random sources and in the end our kitchen, living room area looks homey :). I'm excited to share the next 3 years of my life with these friends and in this new part of Pittsburgh! More pictures to come, I'm currently in the middle of our Cardiology block (quite a good segway from my summer cardiology learnings!)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The main town of Stromboli is at the bottom tip of the island in the above pic, we stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast. Everything is painted white, with vibrant gardens and very charming, kinda funny since its surrounded by black volcanic rock and black sand beaches.
It was a harrowing trip, with choppy seas threatening to prevent us from getting to the distant island, and windy weather at the top of the volcano causing our tour troup to be canceled, but in the end we decided to trek up to the highest point you can without a tour, the Sciara del Fuoco ("Stream of fire"), a big horseshoe-shaped depression generated in the last 13,000 years by several collapses on a side of the volcanic cone. We started hiking around 6pm and made it there within 90 minutes despite the winding, rocky path which snaked around the edge of the island.
A very tasty dinner after all that hiking, I was dying of thirst!
As the sunset on the ocean, we started to see glimpses of the glowing red magma. They really werent kidding when they said that it was continously active. Every 10-15 minutes or so we would see something like the above picture, I was so delighted we could appreciate it from the bottom of the volcano but also was jealous of those that stayed on the viewing platform much closer to the top. As night fell, those travelers strapped on their head lights (we got one too) and were making their way down the mountain like little fireflies. We sat at the restaurant for a long time just admiring the volcano and wanting to stay for the next explosion.. and the next and the next.. til we realized we should probably hike our way home. Because the island is so small, isolated, and energy concious, there were no street lights, but we and all the inhabitants were walking about with our flashlights and the quiet town. It was magical to appreciate the night sky filled with stars (little to no light pollution) and realize we were right next to an active volcano. wow, what a memorable experience!
They kept leading our boat into the entrance of caves. Somewhat interesting, but motion sickness go the better of me by the second cave. and can I just say I love my camera? (Canon powershots are the best! thanks mom and dad!)
Friday, July 17, 2009
With so many people out on the streets and basically trailing, following, the huge float of Santa Rosalia, we had to shuffle about and run to escape being trapped ina huge confusing, chaotic crowd. Here we met up with the float again the big intersection of the city which is surrounded by 4 fountains!
We then made our way slowly to the waterfront, where the parade would end and where the fireworks would be launched. While waiting for the fireworks, we were able to experience the local Palermitan speciality "sfincioni" an interesting bread heavy pizza with light sweet sauce on top. You should defintely check out Xiao's posting about the local delicacies of Sicily, some are yak-tastic, a great read!
Xiao, Dan, Francesca, and Giuseppe with the Sficioni! Yum, greasy goodness!And the fireworks, oh the fireworks! They were gorgeous, shot right in front of us (probably some of the closest fireworks I've ever viewed in my life) and above and beyond awesome. They lasted 30 minutes and we ohhed and ahhed endlessly, what a perfect perfect end to the night!
One of his works, a bit abstract, but you can maybe tell its a meter of some sort?
Also, to supplment our knowledge of cardiac pathology, Xiao and I got to watch 3 open heart surgeries on my birthday! The surgeon was super nice and very good at teaching. I basically got to see all the surgeries (double bypass, aortic valve replacement, and subaortic stenosis removal) with my face a foot away from the heart! The procedures were really fascinating (I was standing in the OR for about 7 hours and the time FLEW) and I was incredibly impressed with the agility and meticulousness of the surgeons.I never knew much abou the bypass procedure until we observed it then looked up stuff on wikipedia. But its incredible! The surgeon basically reroutes the major arteries of the heart (while a crazy pumping device substitutes in for the heart) using other nearby arteries (see above pic) or an vein from your leg. The surgeon was basically stitching together two ends of hollow spaghetti, it was that ridiculous and detailed.
The last procedure we saw was even more complex (see above pic)! Xiao got to scrub in and hold the beating heart in her hand which was pretty awesome, I stayed behind the lines and was happy to observe. The surgeon had to cut away the grossly overcalcified existingn aortic valve and then set things up to lower a biological valve into the original space. They had to set up a ring of threads (over 40 different threads going in!) and then hooked each individual thread through the valve and slid it down into the ring. It took over 2 hours and was pretty neat engineering if you ask me! I think the builder/engineer in me would love doing this stuff for a living, but the long hours and intense focus would be a bit much, but who knows!
We have also been super spoiled to get mini lectures from many of the hospitals doctors, including a few lectures on cardiac pathology from the chief of cardiology and the chief of pathology! They really take care of us here and really want us to learn! In addition, we were treated with twice a week Italian lessons... til we became lazy and tapered off- right before verb conjugations hehe. Unfortunately, my mom has informed me I am responsible for communicating for my entire family when they arrive in Rome in a week, uh oh...
Saturday, July 11, 2009
We saw two short operas. One was called "Cavalleria Rusticana" and the other "Pagliacci". Both centered on themes of adultery and intense drama (wiki does a good job explaining what's going on, but even then the story lines are a bit complex). The story lines can get a bit confusing, so we printed out the synopses beforehand because we knew we could not understand the Italian!
I really enjoyed the second one, Pagliacci, which centered on a love triangle among clowns...I know, defitely a surprise hit with us. The costumes, dancers, and singers were all great. But the long drawn out singing and emotional scenes left us a bit confused and bored, I'm not sure I can appreciate another opera any time soon. But I'm glad my first opera experience was in Italy! The theater was nice, I enjoyed the night time air, not too many mosquitos.
Fun Picture: Later in the week, Xiao led us in our attempt to make white sangria. We had it all prepped on Tuesday and enjoyed it for our weekly hump day celebration. It was pretty good, potent, and the fruit was yummy. Salute!
I tried a few granules of salt, couldn't really tell if they were anything special, but.. you guessed it.. very salty...
We slept in Sunday, lazed about and then Xiao and I revisted the nearby beach, Mondello which I really enjoy.
That monday, we had some plans to hit up nightlife and dinner, Sicilian style. Our wonderful coworker LeTizia took us out to a nice bar a few towns away, near the ocean (oh the freedom you have with a car!). The crew!
We enjoyed aperitivo (appetizers and drinks before dinner, only starts around 8pm!). I had my first "bellini", which is apparently very Italian. It was like fizzy peach juice, not bad.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
To another great year!
Fun fact: Dans bday was on the 28th and mine as on the 29th. Dan went to meet up with his family over the weekend, so when he got back we all celebrated our birthdays together. For his bday, we got him a baller purple shirt (FASHION UPDATE: Sicily is head over heels about the color purple, we see people wearing this everywhere, sometimes pairing purple pants with purple shirts all in the same outfit), and for fun we all dressed in purple to go out! We ate at this quaint Osteria and then hit up some gelato at our favorite joint.
Another random picture. Fresh fruit is abundant in Sicily, in fact we buy our veggies and fruits almost everyday from fruit stands! I have enjoyed mini pears, apricots, and most of all fresh figs which I think are such a novelty! Here is what one looks like, kinda weird, but really yummy, you eat it skin and all.
Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily (we have seen A LOT of sicily, but the south we had yet to explore, perfecto!) is known for its amazing Valley of the Temples, one of the most memorable sights of the ancient world. This area used to be called Akragas when established in 6 B.C. and in time it grew to become one of the most prosperous cities in Magna Graecia.
Agrigento was a heavily warred over city by the Romans, Byzantines and more, but the temples were gorgeous and very impressive. You see a whole succession of mamoth ruins, all strung a long a path; I like to imagine what it would have been like to see them when they were just built and what they were used for. There are 4 or 5 major temples and ruins and many many more small ones we did not have a chance to see.
A mix of old and new, you can see the modern city in the background, a haphazard development of apartment buildings that has "seriously dimmed the glory of Agrigento, but much is left to fill us with wonder" - LP
Tempio della Concordia
Xiao jokes that my yellow shirt made me blend in too much with the columns of stone, hehe.
LP, a somewhat good but often times inaccurate guide that has often led us astray, suggested that we pursue a shopping adventure in the main city, to search for a monastery where "nuns bake heavenly pastries". It instructed us to ring the bell on the front of the monastry door (I hesistantly did this, and an adorable old woman's voice answered us in Italian), to request sweets ("Vorrie dolci!"), and then to "see how you go" (seriously, this was all the instruction we got?). Nevertheless, Xiao and I were intrigued and ready for an adventure, so we found our way to the secluded monastery, had the nun ring us in, watched as the monastery front door swung open, only to reveal a very dark lobby, with a single light... illuminating a smiling old nun. She asked if we wanted a kilo or half a kilo of sweets, which didnt come cheap, so we went with a quarter kilo. She then scurries off in the darkness, and 5 minutes later, presents us with a small package tied with ribbon. We thank her, and made our way to the nearest park, eager to see what heavenly goodies we got.
Xiao in front of the monastery, there really wasnt a soul in town or bustling anywhere.
Our dolci! I loved them, they again, reminded me of potent Indian sweets and were made with a lot of almond paste and pistacchios. Buono!
We spent the rest of the day milling aimlessly (who knew idleness was so intolerable?) about the small touristy town and lounging on the beach (we didnt last long in the scorching sun). We were really hoping to catch dinner in Cefalu before heading back, so we waited til 5pm (Italians generally dont eat til 8 or 9!). We were the only souls in the restaurant, which we picked because it had this gorgeous view and stretched right to the water! Xiao tried the local specialty, pasta con ricci, or sea urchin pasta and I had a nice vegetarian dish.