Friday, October 22, 2010

Moments to Savor, Savory Moments

Yesterday was mostly spent on anatomy. After some preliminary morning errands, I settled down to some alone time in front of the computer with the practice exams from previous years. Then a classmate and I headed over to school, where we went to each of the small group rooms with white boards completely covered in anatomy review diagrams, pictures, lists, tidbits, and various other "high-yield" points (I never really heard the term "high-yield" much until medical school). I walked from room to room, staring at white boards, hoping that there is truly such a thing as learning by osmosis.

So this post really isn't meant to be about anatomy, but I suppose that's the subject hanging in everyone's mind this past week. Anyway, to wrap up that part of the story, I ended up taking the exam last night, even though we have until 11:59PM on Sunday.

What really impressed me yesterday was going over to my classmate's apartment, which is right above the N-Metro train tracks to the side of our student dormitory apartment complex. I haven't been in any other apartment aside from my own, and when I mentioned that point, my classmate remarked that it's been true for her as well. Gone are the excited, adrenaline-charged college days when we'd run from dorm to dorm, room to room, checking out what other people's living conditions are like. When we'd order cheesy sticks in the dead of the night, and hover around a friend's desk or bunk, dipping the greasy cheesebread concoction into ranch or marinara sauce, watching a movie perhaps, or just striking up a "deep conversation," trying all the while not to leave oil stains on our host's blankets or school supplies. There were more of those days in college, than in grad school, I'd say. I remember when there was a total blackout at the Clark Kerr campus at UC Berkeley, where my dorm was located. The darkness had instilled some sort of adventurous electricity in the atmosphere, and students ran around the courtyard with flashlights or open cell phones, jovially joking with one another, the unanticipated darkness a reprieve from one's normal sense of composure. My friend and I sprawled out on the concrete courtyard of the campus, near a trickling fountain, and saw stars in the sky. I think it was the first time, and perhaps only, time I noticed them while I was in Berkeley. It was rarely dark enough, and not to blame modern technology, I rarely had the mood or inclination to look up at the sky.

Fast forward six years, and here I am in medical school, on a sunny but chilly autumn day. My friend's apartment is painted a vivid red, while mine is a lavender blue. I like both colors. She dashes around, taking butternut squash out of the refrigerator (butternut squash! Have I ever even tasted butternut squash?), fresh salsa from the nearby Wednesday farmer's market, Turkish yogurt that she uses in lieu of sour cream, and lovely, fresh, green kale. Not sure how to apply myself, I stand around flipping through Gray's Anatomy, reading a bit aloud about the nervous system. "The sympathetic chain...," I begin reading, "oh, and the prevertebral plexus..."

My classmate hands me a block of cheese and a grater. That's a better use of my time, for now.

What resulted from her efforts was a kale and butternut squash quesadilla! I felt like I should have taken a picture of it. It's rare that I get to experience a home-cooked meal these days, other than the stuff I scrounge up myself. Wash it down with a glass of apple cider, and I was all set to take the midterm.

On another note, I finished "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith yesterday, after I took the test. It's a lovely book. Many tweens and teens apparently read this, but it's still a classic nonetheless, and though I didn't actually read it myself while I was tween or teen, I definitely found myself savoring the book even now. What motivated me to read the book in the first place was visiting Brooklyn three times in the past month. Williamsburg - now a premier hipster enclave - is no longer the poverty-ridden tenement-housing locale that Francie Nolan grew up in. It has gentrified significantly. Yet the brownstones, the feeling of being near Manhattan, being Manhattan's closest neighbor, yet being apart from it all, has not changed. Francie would look across the river, the bridge, and wonder what lay across from her native Brooklyn. She grew up in abject poverty, the product of parents who married too young and were uneducated. She adored her father, who was a dashingly handsome singing waiter, but also the neighborhood drunk. Her mother raised her on a page of Shakespeare and a page of the Holy Bible every day, insisting on her children's education, and she succeeded despite the odds. Francie grew up loving books, loving the library, loving to write, but when she wrote about unpleasant (real) things, one of her teachers scolded her. She burned up much of her writing, promised to give up her writing if God would only insure that her mother stayed well through an illness. But she eventually comes back to it, and at the end, she skips the typical high school education due to having to work and support her family, and finally attends the University of Michigan at Ann-Arbor.

I found the book to be a satisfying read. Now onwards to "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery. Did I mention how wonderful the New York Public Library is?


  1. Aww, I miss being in the kitchen. I hope that quesadilla was delicious :)

  2. You're so right, we never spend time in each other's dorms like we used to... It makes me a little bit sad, knowing those days are over!