Tuesday, October 14, 2014

And the award for least consistent blogger goes to....

We made it to the top of Mt. Scenery! (and off the Rock) 
So its been a very very very long time since my last update but I was never very good at remembering to keep a journal and this is pretty much the same thing so i'm not surprised. I find that when I put it off for awhile that its hard to know where to start writing again.... I guess i'll just jump right in..... The overall summary of my last couple years is that I finished Saba in one piece! I finished my 5 semesters this past April/May and came home to study for Step 1 which I wrote in July. I got my results sometime in August (I PASSED!!!) and have recently been scheduled to start clinical rotations in December.

My last semesters on Saba were pretty intense, lots of studying but also lots of fun (apparently not much time for blogging). I ended up staying on island for most of the breaks but I went to Mexico for the second christmas holiday and I went home between second and third semester. Overall I had an amazing experience on Saba and although the school was definitely tough, I met some incredible people and got to live a totally different lifestyle than I would have anywhere else.
Potluck for Chinese New Year! 

One of the things that I like to do at the end of any experience are the highlights and lowlights. I think the highlights of Saba definitely have to include meeting all the incredible people (students, faculty, and locals), scuba diving (I almost got in 50 dives), hiking, the feeling after finishing a block of exams, no cell phones, hitching everywhere, and constant potlucks (every holiday, birthday, and sometimes just because we felt like it!)! I celebrated a lot more holidays than I ever would have otherwise because of the amazing diversity of cultures and religions that made up the students and faculty of Saba. The lowlights have to include grocery day wednesdays (no bananas), saying goodbye to friends in the upper semesters as they finished on the island (bittersweet), and of course block exams. I think the highlights win and that is definitely how I feel after finishing on Saba. I think every experience is what you make of it and memories of the tough experiences fade with time (block exams i'm looking at you!) but the good ones last for a lot longer.

Love my class! Rainbow day just for the fun of it! 
Our last day in class! I couldn't believe it was over! 
Looking back I definitely miss how simple things were and how few distractions there were. I lived without a cell phone for two years and actually loved it! I miss the diving and I miss the sun (especially as its starting to get rainy in Vancouver) but overall I am ready for my next adventure.

White Coat Ceremony, first week on Saba!
We did it! My class graduating from Basic Sciences! 
Heres a great video that some Sabans made, gives you a feel for the locals :)


Running the race for kids urban obstacle course with my siblin
Other than studying and writing the big paper, I've just been really enjoying spending some time with my family and enjoying Vancouver (it was a gorgeous summer!). I got to go out to Toronto and stayed with some of my Saba family and have been up to Whistler and Kelowna a few times. I competed in my first charity race which was the Boys and Girls Club Race for Kids. I teamed up with my siblings and competed in the urban obstacle course including slinging rubber chickens, three-legged races, and throwing cheesies at my sister, it was tons of fun and we raised lots of money!

Its for the kids! My sister being a
good sport!
Checking out the falls and
playing tourist in Toronto
I got to catch up with my friend Josh who, with his mom, is doing really cool things and working hard to increase knowledge about CP and having some fun while they're at it. Check him and his mom out at http://teamjoshua.ca Go Team Josh!

Catching up with my buddy Josh from
Team Josh, check them out!
He and his mom are doing some pretty
cool things!
Go team josh!
I don't get to start until December 15th so i've got some time to fill, I'm going to try my hand at cold water diving starting with a drysuit course this thursday, hopefully it keeps me nice and warm! Im also planning a very long road trip to try and circumvent some of the rougher road conditions as I head east. I'll be starting in Georgia, my brother in law thinks I should rebrand my blog Georgia in Georgia... it'll be a little weird but i'm sure I'm not the first person named Georgia to relocate there.

Meeting the new additions at my friends house!
My mom gave my kitty a haircut, she loves it
but i'm not sure how I feel about it! 

Whistler view
Peak to Peak gondola view in Whistler
Green lake at Whistler thanksgiving weekend, the snow
is starting to fall on the peaks! (Armchair glacier pictured)

Until the next time.... 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Time Flies and Adventures Begin...

Sunset at the Cottage
I have often mentioned how quickly time can travel on this island and this last month has been no exception. I have successfully completed my first semester at Saba University School of Medicine and in January of 2013 I will be entering second semester. I'm not going to lie, the last month of medical school has been a lot of work and sadly we have lost a few of our classmates with whom we have grown really attached. On this island we become a really tight knit community and it is really hard to say goodbye to even one person. The frustrating part is that some have just missed passing one course by a small margin and will be stuck repeating just that course and it makes me really admire their dedication. They will become part of the January class and will graduate with that class instead of ours.  As much as there is loss there is celebration also because many of my classmates have faced an incredible challenge and achieved a huge success! Personally i'm not sure I have ever felt such a great sense of relief as when I found out all of my final grades! In reality this is just a beginning but for many of us it is a reinforcement that we are meant to be here and that with enough work that we can do it!

My company at the cottage
As the semester finished and the holiday started the majority of my classmates headed home on planes destined for cities all over north america (and a few outside of there too) to spend the holidays with their families. While it is hard for me to remain on Saba for the holidays I know that I am not alone, there are currently 5 of us who will not be heading home for Christmas. Two of those are travelling throughout the Caribbean and both have family coming to visit them for a vacation. While I know I am missing Christmas at home this gives me a great opportunity to get to know the island better and do some diving which just happens to be one of my favourite hobbies.

I can't move to my new apartment until January 1st so currently I am staying a my friends gorgeous cottage! The cottage is just up the hill from Windwardside and it has the most stunning view over the ocean and the most beautiful sunsets!

Ok and ready to descend!
So far I have been on holidays for just under a week and have already spend three full days diving. I have been going with a company called Sea Saba and have been really impressed! They offer us students a really great deal on a package of 10 dives which never expire so you can buy a package and dive as often as you like or spread them out over your stay on Saba. They also offer really great deals on the courses so that its affordable for the students to get in the water.

The first day I went diving was sunday and I hadn't been diving in a very long time so I sat out the first deeper dive and then went for the second dive. It didn't take me long to remember why I love it so much. You drop into the ocean and then you are just engulfed in this big blue ocean, you can't really see the bottom yet but you get excited because you never know what you are going to find. As you descend you can start to make out the shapes and colours of the reef but can't really see the details. The closer you get the more defined everything gets and suddenly you can make out all the life. There is something for everyone on a dive, some people like the fish, some people like the coral and some people really like looking closely and finding the little things like nudibranchs, shrimp, and baby fish.

One of my favourite shots: At the 3rd Encounter (Pinnacle),
A GIANT Green Moray Eel and Nurse Shark all in one frame
Since that dive I have definitely hit some of the highlights of my diving experiences like doing a night dive which was the most insane experience I have ever had! There were sharks everywhere, they were using our lights to hunt with and some of them literally swam inches underneath me. I had one particular "buddy" who was about 6' long and hung around with me for most of the dive. Often getting in the way of me seeing anything other than him, it was a pretty wicked experience. If you covered your light during the dive and moved around the water with your hand it glowed with bio-luminescent plankton so I spent most of the dive alternating between having my light on and sitting in pitch black playing with the plankton. We also saw an octopus which was wicked, it almost seemed to glow green and there were lobster out and about everywhere!

Coral banded shrimp on the pinnacle, because my flash
worked in the crevice the colours are true rather than
washed out like many others!
Another of my favourite experiences so far was diving the pinnacle which is what Saba is known for. We dove the "3rd Encounter" dive site which peaks at about 30 meters of water (which is pretty much recreational limit) and is known for its larger sea life. On this dive because it is so deep you really spend a long time dropping into the blue with no signs of the reef visible but we were surrounded by schools of fish so we had plenty to look at. You drop onto a platform and then swim out over the edge of the platform to reach the pinnacle which is rising out of the depth and all around the pinnacle are all sorts of corals and gorgeous sponges. At the pinnacle itself we saw a couple of eels, a really cool coral banded shrimp and lots of fish. I took pictures but because I don't have a good enough flash on my camera my pictures just get washed out but in reality the entire pinnacle is bursting with colour. Then after we spent our 5 minutes at the pinnacle itself we headed back onto the platform where we were met by the most gigantic green moray eel I have ever seen as well as two nurse sharks and a couple of caribbean reef sharks. Before I came to Saba I had never had the fortune of seeing a shark while diving (I have done 35 dives prior to coming here) and from the moment I got in the water on Saba while snorkelling I have seen a ton! Mostly nurse sharks but also a couple reef sharks.

Overall it has been an amazing vacation and I cannot wait to go hiking and spend some more time under the water. I am also excited because me staying here gives me a chance to be one of the first people to greet the new students and show them the Saba I have come to love!

Latte I made with my Christmas Present!
Plus I also want to say thank you to my amazing Dad for the best Christmas presents a med student could ask for... My espresso machine and a gift certificate to buy non school books over the holidays! And my Mom and Nanny for giving me the chance to do all this awesome diving! You guys have given me to best presents and the best holiday I could have asked for! Thank you!

Spotted Moray

Smooth trunkfish hunting in the sand

Waves breaking at Wells Bay

Sunset at Wells Bay

C. Testing out the Famous Hot Sands at Hot Springs Dive Site

Check out the huge barrel sponge! They are
found all over the reef here!

Three Caribbean Spiny Lobsters

Batwing Crab

School of Tarpon just hanging out

Flamingo tongue

Barracuda buddy hanging out under the boat

Spot the stingray

Lettuce nudibranch


Yellowcheek Jawfish, these guys are gorgeous underwater

Sharptail Eel I discovered on one of our dives at a site

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lucky By Association...

This is apparently the week that boyfriends and girlfriends come to visit Saba. Many of my friends significant others have made the long trek down to this tiny island and have made many of my classmates very happy. You see it has come to the point in the semester where some people are starting to get very home sick and especially those who are trying to maintain a long distance relationship. We are over half way but we are still not quite on the home stretch. It also happens to coincide with when the weather starts to turn nasty at home and becomes nicer here.

Anyways, in our class (and im sure classes before ours), there has been a tradition born. When a significant other comes to visit they cook us a meal and I have to say I haven't eaten this well since I left home. This is how I am lucky by association. I may not have any one coming to visit but I have been very lucky to be invited to these amazing home cooked meals.

Seriously on friday we had homemade, everything from scratch, pizza from my friend S's boyfriend which was probably some of the absolute best pizza I have ever had! With a contribution of death by chocolate dessert from N, my roommate for next semester, it was delicious and will be requested again! Then on saturday my roommates boyfriend made us a full roast chicken dinner with roasted veggies, mashed potatoes, goat cheese and blueberry salad with homemade dressing, oh and delicious gravy! It was like sunday dinner at home and I think we all stuffed ourselves very full! These boys had some skills!

It was so wonderful to just sit back and enjoy the evening with someone else taking over your kitchen and being able to enjoy the company of some of these awesome people! This has to be one of the best weekends yet and I would like to send out a major thank you to all of the significant others who have come to have a vacation and yet have been so willing to cook us dinner. We appreciate you! (and hope you'll do it again next time you visit :) )

Monday, October 22, 2012

In retrospect (and Raphael)...

Living under a cloud during most of Raphael
Its seems so funny that its been only two months but so much has changed... I no longer feel completely out of my element on Saba and its even starting to feel a little bit like home. You no longer feel inconvenienced when the stores all close at 6 and don't open on sunday because it's just a part of life here and you forget that it's any different at home. Here restaurants have a limited amount of food so you have to let them know early that you are coming or you could be out of luck. You just forget that at one time this would have been an inconvenience. You get in to such a rhythm here between going warp speed for school and then running on caribbean time for everything else and in the end it all balances out.

The after afects of Raphael turned the world
orange it was amazing!
In fact I never really though about the changes until I started talking to some of the students who will be starting here in January 2013 and I started to remember how I felt when I was at that stage. Four months ago I was working at Starbucks and commuting in and out of Vancouver almost every day just trying to get everything done. I would spend the weekends that I wasn't working camping and trying to squeeze in every minute with my family and friends that I could before I left.  I remember switching in between feeling very excited and very very apprehensive since it was still a big unknown. You hear the rumours like Saba has a 50% drop out rate or they fail everyone. You don't really know what the living conditions will be like or what the island and locals will be like. Are they friendly? Is it safe? Will I be able to find all the "necessities" I am used to having access to? So many questions and no one really to ask (except for a few awesome upper semesters :) ).

Blood red sunset after Raphael
So if I could tell myself something four months ago to prepare myself for this journey it would probably be not to worry and just enjoy the journey. To appreciate every person here as part of your family and to help support them because they will be supporting you just as much. To expect it to be nothing like home but that it will turn into your home in no time. To appreciate the island for what it is because if you start hating the island you will go insane. Also to pack more socks and warm studying clothes, especially in hillside dorms (and class!) the AC works very well and I am always freezing.

Oh and to be careful with water usage.... we almost ran out until Tropical Storm Raphael refilled our cisterns for us. :) We lived through our first tropical storm with only a couple short power outages and lots of soaking med students!

Also an update! I found an awesome apartment for next semester and i'll be living with N. Its going to be awesome and I cant wait!!! Its in Windwardside so its closer to all the restaurants and big grocery stores and its just up the hill (about a 5 minute drive) from the Bottom so its still very close to school.