Pardon our manners – we left in such a hurry that we didn’t even get to say bye! We’ve been travelling for about 11 days now and we’re spending Christmas in Lisbon where we arrived this evening and spent some time wandering the streets in the dark looking for something – anything – to eat. What we didn’t know was that Christmas Eve supper is one of the most sacred meals of the year and even McDonald’s shuts down so that everyone can go home to eat with their families. We finally stumbled upon a very odd restaurant/bar where, unable to speak any Portuguese, we accidentally ordered a plate of assorted cold cuts and pickles with potato salad. Looking with envy over at someone (who clearly was more able to navigate the menu) else’s thick, juicy burger on a tall brioche bun with fresh-cut fries and a Coke, and also thinking about the amazing Christmas meals that the Siu and Reesor-McDowell families will be sitting down to today and tomorrow (sans us), I couldn’t help but smile. Because even though I was sitting in a strange bar in a foreign city eating bologna on Christmas Eve, I was sitting next to Allan – and it felt like home. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Please believe me when I tell you that I really want to write something coherent and insightful in this space but I’ve reached deep into the recesses of my brain and come up completely empty. Admittedly, this is not a huge surprise, but I know this time that my creative thought is being crowded out by all the words that I’m seeing on printed pages and reading in textbooks. I’m frantically studying and writing essays in a mad dash to this term’s finish line, that is, this Thursday, when Allan and I leave for a Christmas vacation in Europe (don’t worry, I’m not expecting your pity). This isn’t to say that we’re not still enjoying the run-up to Christmas – we made a big batch of molasses crinkle cookies that have been reminding us of the scents and spices of the holidays, and this past weekend we took a long walk through Regent St., Leicester Square and Covent Garden to see the spectacular London Christmas lights. Hope the Christmas season so far has been bright for you as well.
Two things to know about the picture above. First, HJHS stands for Highland Junior High School; second, the handwriting you see is my mom’s. Incredibly, this calculator is the one I acquired at the start of Grade 7(!), making it something of a relic (this was back in the days before “Internet” was a household word). I grabbed it from my basement just before I ran out the door at 3:30 a.m. the morning we hopped a plane to London, having an inkling that I might need it.
It took me a good two weeks to get back into the groove of being a student again. In some ways, I don’t feel like I ever left school. Thirteen years of public education, four years of undergrad, four years of med school, two years (and counting) of residency and a year-in-progress of grad school does put me, after all, in Grade 24. The self-directed learning and inevitable encroachment of studying on my evenings and weekends are very familiar to me. What I haven’t experienced for a long time are the crazy perks of being able to head out the door wearing jeans, running shoes and no make-up ; being at home many mornings and afternoons since I have less than three hours of class per day; having lots of flexible time for independent study (mostly at home, in my pyjamas) and generally being accountable to no one but myself if I don’t show up to class. Sometimes I feel guilty, like I’m too old to be allowed to have this lifestyle. Sometimes I feel I’m too old, period, possibly confirmed during orientation week when I overheard a young woman behind me say breathlessly to her equally unseasoned seatmate, “I’m so glad I found you, I thought everyone here would be, like, 30.”
The upshot about being a student when you’re, like, 30, is that you probably earned your tuition money yourself and as such you’re pretty hell-bent on making sure you extract as much value from every last penny of your fees as possible. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve averaged one to two hours per night trying to sort out and select my courses for the coming term, and only partly because I’m trying to put together a schedule that will maximize our travelling opportunities (hello three-or-more day weekends! Sadly, I don’t think this will materialize.).
Instead, what I’m really trying to do is think carefully about what I want to learn, what I need to learn, what I want to do, and the skills I need to do it. With Allan and me together paying an exorbitant amount in tuition (think two mid-range cars), we’ve decided to really nerd it out this year and maximize our educational opportunities. That means staying on top of the classes we’re enrolled in, auditing extra classes that we’re not, taking advantage of all the math/library/computing/research/essay-writing sessions being offered at our schools and attending additional lectures on topics of interest like global health, development, conflict, human rights, etc.
In general, I’ve decided to try and take more quantitative courses than qualitative ones to come away with some concrete skills, even though the classes might make me want to tear my hair out and/or cry. Which brings me back to my calculator, which was a good call to bring with me, as I will need it for courses with such terrifying titles as “measuring performance,” “cost-effectiveness analysis,” “statistical methods,” and “analytical models.” Wish me luck! And if I’m bald the next time you see me, you’ll know why.
Hey! I wrote something over here!
Happy December! The temperature has dropped significantly here in the past few days but there has also been sunshine and blue skies, lucky us.
Just a quick post this morning as its 5 a.m. and Allan and I are on our way out the door to catch the train to Paris. Activity on the blog front has been quiet this week as Allan and I are feeling the pre-Christmas crunch – less than two weeks until we go on break(!) and we have a few papers/quizzes/presentations to get through first. I was in an unproductive funk two nights ago, brooding over a to-do list that doesn’t seem to want to budge. Allan had the good sense to stay out of my way, going to the library and leaving me to sulk in the flat. He then made
pizza mushroom, pancetta and onion pizza topped with fresh mozzarella and aged cheddar on a homemade crust. It was just what I needed.
I think I’ll keep him.