Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Straight away the two girls had clicked. Their friendship was instantaneous. Missy was dark and often mistaken to be Latina, Italian or Greek. In fact she was none of them. Her father was Scottish and mother Japanese. Her dark waist-long hair always attracted compliments wherever she went. She had other siblings who were much older than her, in fact much older than Jill too, so Missy spent much of her time alone. Her parents were still out in California yet Missy had chosen to attend university on the east coast after the college of her choice offered her a scholarship to study psychology. Already in her third year she was thinking of moving back home for graduate school, just because she'd be closer to Jill. Her family resided about 85 miles east of San Diego on the outskirts of Borrego Springs. Jill was relocating to Avondale right outside of Phoenix. She planned to check out the programs offered at University of California at La Jolla and California State at San Marcos campus. Her course advisor had informed her that UC had a Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology whereas the latter had an MA in Psychology course.
Jill had majored in Architecture and taken a minor in Photography during her undergraduate years at UMass and was ready to commence a Master's Program in Photography. She had contemplated colleges in Arizona but proved unsuccessful in finding a suitable course. Unknown to Missy was the fact that she had received an acceptance letter from La Jolla earlier in the week, so both girls might end up attending the same school. Missy would be thrilled. Jill was eight years her senior and equally dark in complexion. On occasion they had been assumed to be siblings. They differed in that Jill kept her hair so short that it barely touched her shoulders. It was usually pinned back like in the style of the fifties. It suited her. Both girls were about five feet and six inches tall, muscular and lovers of the outdoors. The older girl was of Jewish ancestry. She was named Jael but mostly her family called her that now. She remembered the first day at a new school when she'd gone home in tears, announcing to grandpa that she wanted to be called Jill. The kids had teased her because of her name. Her grandfather had cradled her in his arms and laughed a long time. Then he had told her this story: There was a cruel leader who ruled his people mercilessly for a long time. One day his soldiers were caught off guard and attacked but he managed to escape. He ran into Jael's tent begging for safety. She took him in while her husband was still at war. That night she waited for him to sleep and then killed him. She was very brave and saved her people from further trouble by that cruel general . Grandpa had been kind but she had asked everyone to call her Jill anyway. In a moment of introspection she decided that she would revert to using her Hebrew name.
The Heskels, her father's parents, had emigrated from Iraq around 1950 and settled in Israel for a few years. She recalled many of her grandfather's stories. They had been part of the rescue en masse of thousands of Iraqi Jews by the Israeli government. It had been a perilous time. They had come to America a decade later in the wake of some shift in Israel's economy, settling in Southern California. Anyway, she spoke Arabic and Hebrew fluently as a result of spending her summers studying at language institutes all through high school. Regardless she considered herself to be a second generation American. Well she was. She made a mental note to call grandpa before she left this weekend. She missed him. They had been very close. These days she hardly had time to visit him, especially since she'd lived between Massachusetts, New York and Maryland these past few years. Disengaging from her thoughts she glanced across at the clock.
It was agreed that Missy would come and help her. She had relented partly because Missy would not make the dinner date on Saturday. She had stuff to do at school. Before long her cell phone rang again- Missy was outside and Jill buzzed her in. Wow, you're all set girl, Missy declared cheerfully. Pretty much I guess, Jill responded. Okay, so what do you need me to do?, the younger girl questioned as she took off her outer coat. They spent the next few hours taping boxes, labeling them and positioning them by the door. At exactly six thirty the phone rang. This time it was the shipper. He parked the moving van as close to the building as he could then he and the girls set about loading the cartons into the van. It was a small van with a trailer behind. Definitely not what she'd expected, but what to do? It took them an hour to empty her apartment. Jill paid a small deposit after which Mr. Jameson departed, promising her safe delivery of her belongings in ten days. Tired, she allowed Missy to order Chinese shrimps & broccoli with the sweet iced tea she enjoyed. The take-out place was only down the road so the food arrived in less than twenty minutes. After eating they settled down to watch some movies on her laptop. The house was empty and their voices echoed. She asked Missy to spend the night and she gladly agreed. It would be collapsed and folded boxes for beds tonight. Tomorrow Jill would move to the small hotel downtown where she would remain until her travel on Sunday night.
Before they turned in for the night, Jill called Jack to give him an update. They chatted briefly before bidding each other good night. By the time she finished, Missy was long asleep and her gentle breathing resounded in the unusually quiet apartment. The temperature was expected to drop and Jill placed another blanket over her friend. She decided to sleep with her warm dressing gown on, then pulled part of the blanket over herself too. With that, her head touched the pillow and next she knew it was morning.
Another alarm... 6.15 am... oh man, nooooooooooooooooooo! She had pressed the snooze button earlier instead of the off button. Today was not starting well. Again she leapt from her bed half-startled by the ringing and cut off the phone alarm of her Nokia. This black and silver camera phone with blue tooth technology had been a gift to herself when she was leaving Liberia back in December 2005. It cost her all of $350. She loved it. Climbing back unto the rumpled sheets, her eyes closed yet again. Immediately, or so it seemed, there was a beep and this time the cell phone lay under her pillow. She reached for it noticing the text message from her sister. Time now was 7.10 am. Oh my... I was supposed to leave at six-thirty for my early morning appointment. No, this was not good. Without sitting up she dialed the number to the experimental group and left a voice mail. She knew that the staff would not be in the clinic at that time. They would get her message in the next two hours: Hi Sophia, this is Miriam. I spoke with you yesterday to reschedule but I just woke up and don't feel so good. I'm so sorry to be canceling again but I shall call you later to reschedule again. I am so sorry and please let Cindy know.Thank you. Her body let out a huge sigh. Eyes heavy, voice gruff and body weak, she paused; seated on the edge of the beautiful wooden bed gazing at the lovely feminine dresser in front of her, with its triple mirrors and tiny drawers and white-cushioned stool beneath. It reminded her of the Victorian-style decor that was very fashionable at one time in the U.K. The last thing she remembered was opening her email and finding two messages from the love of her life. Alas he had not forgotten her. She had started to read the first email when the text message had woken her the third time. Had she dreamt that?
Feeling extremely disoriented plus a little unsteady, she made her way into the living room to turn on her laptop computer. At the same time her mind registered hunger and she wondered... was it a stress hunger, or a physical hunger, or an emotional hunger? She gave it no further thought and walked into the cramped kitchen to fix a bowl of oatmeal while her system was booting... cinammon spice mixed with regular flavour. Done, she retrieved it from the microwave and then popped it into the freezer for a rapid cool down. By this time she was already checking her email... no new messages. Then she searched for his IM... nothing. Her heart began racing wildly and her mind became giddy with despair... almost twenty-four hours with not a word? Was he alright? Was he safe? Was he in the sick bay? Perhaps he was too weak or maybe had no access to a computer or even a telephone. She would not worry, she thought. She would not dwell on that now. Besides the clock was ticking and time was moving. She was still tired from such a restless night. Now her tummy was really complaining... she would have her oatmeal then snooze on the couch for a bit before getting up to prepare for work. It was time she got herself another job. The monotonous routine at Lardy's Upholstery was more than she could bear after a mere three months there. She'd call Mark on the weekend and ask if the position at the solicitor's firm was still available. This was a prestigious group run by Kline & Crawford. Apart from the longer hours she might be required to put in there, it would be a welcome challenge. This thought uplifted her spirits and she settled down to eat.
A mother's pride when people she meets on the train ask her to thank her son for serving the country;
A mother's wisdom as she explains how in a new town, if they don't welcome you then you reach out to them;
A mother's love as she takes two days off work and spends two cold days aboard AMTRAK to see her only son;
A mother's joy and contentment when she finds him safe and well;
A mother's peace as he tucks her into bed for the night after a long day.
A mother, indeed she is a treasure.
Handsome as a gentleman ought to be
Intellectual, articulate, bright as day
A soldier in a land so far away
Deployed overseas more than a year
He longed for a family to call his own
Ever the romantic he loved to write
Words so enchanting, what a delight
Cyber dating had been their turf
This virtual world bonded them closer
Passionate and ardent he made it clear
He'd be back for her hand at the end of the year
Tall he was with brown eyes so deep
Rugged and broad yet tender beneath
Accomplished gifted well-traveled too
Life-long dreams were now coming true
How he did cherish this dear girl
Keeping her in every thought and prayer
She had such big bright dancing eyes
A smile so radiant it mesmerized
Amazing how fate caused them to meet
The destiny of one dependent on another
They fit together like a hand in a glove
Fondness & adoration emanating from love.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I got mad this morning and I don't know why. I mean, I know what I was mad about but I don't know why I allowed myself to get mad. I wasn't crazy mad, like mental or insane... just angry mad, like furious and provoked. If I think about it though, when one is angry mad, one sometimes looks crazy mad. In my culture the expression mad woman is not unpopular and paints the image of an angry woman acting crazy. Well, this episode propelled me to do some self-analysis and understand the matter better. I asked myself to consider my feelings and then articulate them. I felt ruffled, edgy and like the other person was being bossy. Physiologically my heart rate must have increased, my voice got louder and squeaky, my words stumbled over each other as they rushed out of my mouth in a bid to keep pace with my racing thoughts. All the while my spirit remained somewhat aloof and questioned my rationale. My spirit knew I was being unreasonable and pleaded silently for me to let it go. My head argued that I had good reason to be upset and continued its rationalization process. Still, I did not feel good.
What is anger anyway? Is it wrong to get angry? Why do I feel guilty every time I get mad?
|1.||a strong feeling of displeasure; hostility; triggered by feeling wronged.|
|2.||pain (feeling sore) British.|
|3.|| grief; trouble Obsolete.|
|2.||fury; anger; |
|4.||intense excitement or enthusiasm|
At that moment I experienced a strong feeling of injustice and emotions arose from my feeling insulted. Of course the insult I perceived was not intended at all by the perpetrator. Immediately coming to mind were the words of Paul, the apostle. I felt validated as I recalled them from memory... even though I want to do right I always seem to do wrong. For I do not understand my own actions (I am baffled, bewildered). I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe (which my moral instinct condemns) - Romans 7v15. Read the passage from Romans 7v13 to 25. This is exactly how I felt earlier this morning.
But there is hope. I certainly have a hope. Firstly because my hope is in Christ Jesus who came for the sick. The well don't need a doctor but the unwell. Secondly, my hope, faith & trust are in Him in whom I live, move & have my being Acts 17v28a. Then I take courage in the wisdom and experiences of Paul. He who seems to me to be such a powerful man of God was formerly a murderer. He was in the dark being ignorant of his actions until the day he woke up. That day he met with Jesus and his life took a u-turn. All his zeal was now for Jesus rather than against him. In spite of it all, the apostle admits that he struggles still with doing the right thing. Like him, I (my spirit) know the right thing to do in most situations yet I (my flesh) do it not.
Jesus answered them,
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3v17.
One great thing about me is that I do have good insight, i.e. self awareness, so I do know my weaknesses. Another great aspect to me is that I strive every blessed day to be a better person. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. In my case it is, if at first I don't succeed, try and try and try and try and try and try and try again.
Now I am calm. I can clearly see that I should have backed down. A friend made me to understand that a relationship is like a garden. It needs to be tended. As the weeds come up they must be removed lest they grow and choke the flowers and plants. Whether it be a relationship with neighbours, friends, spouses, or children, commitment is essential. On the other hand, the nature and type of relationship determines the extent to which one is committed. Romans 12v18 admonishes, if possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. With that conviction, I am off to make peace with the perpetrator... that was a Freudian slip, I meant with the person [this ain't gonna be easy]. But before I go, finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4v8.
For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he: Proverbs 23:7a.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Have a laugh.
Did you read my last post titled SEA?
Well, did you notice the WashingtonWatch.com quote?
I just re-read it and caught this... referring to the current Guam bill which "Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to make specified payments to: (1) living Guam residents who were killed...". Hmmm, living residents who were killed? Hee hee hee... I had a good laugh. Not quite like the laugh I had earlier watching Lilly's video of the woman who had a fit at the airport because she missed her flight, but a good laugh all the same :)
Well, overlooking this little quirk in that sentence somehow reminds me of how I tend to overlook the little things in life sometimes. As much as I say, don't be overly engrossed in your own little world that you tune out the world around you, permit me to balance this by saying also, learn to see the small details in life too. Notice the way the sun rises in the morning, feel the coolness of the breeze on a cold day, smell the coffee as you walk by the cafes on the block, hear the waves as you stroll along the sea shore; see the smile in your husband's eyes when he holds you, enjoy the excitement in your children's voices as they share a favourite story... I could go on and on and on. I was preoccupied with penning that segment that I missed it... a great opportunity to have laughed. Laughter is known to be excellent medicine. It is a gift. Some people choose not to laugh - their expression permanently appearing stern and austere - but there are those that are physically (medically) unable to laugh- patients with cataplexy, scleroderma, Moebius syndrome, etc. The point is, and my sister says it best so let me borrow her words, "Yes - we should give THANKS for each blessing rendered, especially the gift of life!"
Looking forward to her smile - The News-Herald News : Breaking news coverage for Northern Ohio
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I confess that before today I had not. I don't think that I have ever even heard of the Mariana islands in spite of some knowledge of the South Pacific and South East Asia. This surprises me because I have had good friends from this region. This is the area south of China, east of India and north of Australia. It consists of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam & the Malaysian Peninsula on mainland Asia and the eastern/southeastern volcanic isles of Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines & Singapore. Then there are the Christmas and Cocos Islands ruled by Australia and Taiwan which is sometimes counted. Everyone must have heard of the West Indies; well, this region was the East Indies. They certainly have a diverse and rich culture.
Do you know of the Chamorro (or Chamoru) people? Again, I had not until today.
Well, the common factor in the answer to these questions is Guam. I challenge you to look up this island's history- you might find it interesting but if not, at least you'd have learned something. I did. I was stimulated by a meeting I watched on C-Span that talked about the HR 44 and recognizing residents of Guam. Another fact that I just learned is that C-SPAN, a channel which airs continuous programs on government proceedings, stands for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network. Anyway, pardon the digression... I have read that the U.S. captured Guam in 1898 while the Spanish were still in occupation, a situation that had existed since the sixteen hundreds. Many decades would pass before the three-year Japanese invasion, after which the colony would be restored as an American territory. However, it remains an unincorporated territory even now. So what is H.R. 44? It is the Guam WWII Loyalty Recognition Act. The bill was introduced earlier this year and has been referred to the legislative committee which I guess is what I was watching, with Del Madeleine Bordallo and others speaking at length. Here is a quote from WashingtonWatch.com:
Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act - Recognizes the suffering and the loyalty of the people of Guam during the Japanese occupation of Guam in World War II.
Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to make specified payments to: (1) living Guam residents who were killed, injured, interned, or subjected to forced labor or marches resulting from, or incident to, such occupation and subsequent liberation; and (2) survivors of compensable residents who died in war or survivors of compensable injured residents (such payments to be made after payments have been made to surviving Guam residents).
Well, this was quite fascinating to me and as they say, learning is lifelong. It is easy to get engrossed in one's own little world, to the point of becoming ignorant of other important happenings around the nation or the world at large. I usually stay up to date by watching the news, but in recent years I find the news incredibly dismal. All I seem to catch nowadays is ... today there was a plane crash, house fire, car accident, or gunshot and the victims were... Nevertheless, I will endeavor to keep informed of current affairs from henceforth. By the way, SEA refers to South East Asia!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Joel says that the enemy ruined the vine and the fig tree. He stripped them bare and threw them out, laying them to waste. Lament oh people of God for this is how the enemy treats God's children. He who comes but to steal, kill and destroy. Lament & mourn... feel the pain of loss, the loss of a loved one and imagine God's pain at the loss of His beloved children whom He fearfully and wonderfully made. The loss of His children who choose to turn away from their creator and live a life outside of Him.
With the vine and fig tree ruined, the priests mourn the loss of wine and fruit that should have been produced. So also the Lord mourns the loss of our productivity. Any one who does not bear fruit is greatly lacking and shall be pruned or cut down. He is the vine and we are the branches [John 12v5-6]. Our purpose in life is to bear good fruit. Know ye the fruit of the Holy Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control. By your fruit shall you be known, both here on earth (as others emulate your character and lifestyle) as well as in heaven (by God who sees all and His angels who continue to rejoice over all sinners who repent unto salvation).
Yesterday is gone... gone forever, and tomorrow might never come. So live life to the fullest today. Rejoice for this is the day that the Lord has made. Today is a gift from God and that is why it is called The Present. Turn to God before it is too late, while He can still be found.
Song: The past is past our mending now, the future's yet to be [KCP School Song]
NB. I wrote this segment in 2007 and yet the pain of her loss remains fresh in my heart. She was like my sister. We grew up together and stayed in touch all the while I was away at Boarding school. Then we lost touch when I came to America for college. After about fourteen years we reconnected again when we met up in an Accra hotel room in September 2004. Then I spent a few days with her in October on my way back from leave. We spoke several times after that but I never saw her again. A raw wound still in the process of healing. A year and half has gone by since her death and it still feels unreal. Here's a poem I wrote soon after I heard the news. It is a rough cut (i.e.unedited).
Though life threw us apart, like our heartbeat she was there
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I wonder how you all spent your week? I propose that we should all be thankful that we made it through the week. Some blogs that I follow spoke of incidents that their authors experienced recently. This really reminds me that anything can happen at anytime. Sickness & death certainly come to mind. Consider how many people (known or unknown to you) fell sick or passed away in the past seven days around the world... how many sad diagnoses might have been received, how many accidents, how many surgical complications... I thank God that we survived the week and pray that He continues to watch over our going out and our coming in [Psalm 121v8]. So how did I spend my week? I helped my husband clear a portion of our property- cutting down trees, pulling down vines and digging up roots, raking leaves, etc. It is not something I am used to, yet it was fun. Of course I'd do a little bit then have to take a break before continuing. If you could only see the small patch I am talking about, some of you farmers and outdoors people might let out a loud laugh. In my defense, I must say that the last place I lived was an apartment complex so the premises were maintained by the management. Well, I wish you all a pleasant week ahead and hope that you remember to be thankful for even the smallest things in life!
Please settle down quickly everyone. Dr. Tariq was ready to hand out what he called an assessment test, the purpose of which was two-fold. It would provide the staff with a good idea of each individual's current medical knowledge while alerting the students themselves to how much preparation they would need in order for them to ace the board exams when the time came. I became slightly nervous and from the looks of others I wasn't the only one. I'm not sure I'm ready for this, remarked Lori. Me too, responded Eleni. We each received a test booklet and a pencil and were permitted to begin immediately. After this would be lunchtime. Opening my test I shut out every other thought, said a silent prayer and filled my name. Then I started reading the questions and was no longer aware of anything or anyone else in the class. An hour and fifteen minutes later I walked down to the front and turned in my answer sheet. Many people had already left for lunch, but many were still seated and shading in answer choices. I returned to my seat to collect my things and exited the hall. Once outside the building I made a call to a friend. I suddenly felt so lonely. After gathering myself together I walked towards the canteen on the premises. I had overheard someone pointing it out to another student so why not I check it out.
On getting there I found a small but typical American college dining room. The kids there looked so young, maybe in their late teens. A fleeting memory of my freshman year at Boston University. At seventeen it had been my first time in America. Oh how the world turns. I opted for the salad bar and desert. After paying for the meal I found a seat away from the various groups of noisy students. Eating in silence allowed my mind to wander in and out of past experiences. Emerging from this afternoon reverie I returned my tray to the rack and left. Even though twenty minutes remained I headed straight back to class and laid my head upon my desk for a cat-nap. Not that I was tired, but I didn't want anyone coming to strike up conversation with me. Eventually class resumed and by four o'clock we were let out for the day. I waited a few minutes before my ride came. The Kenyan lady I lived with had agreed to drop me off in the mornings and pick me up in the evenings, until I learned the route. I didn't mind at all because I loved to walk anyway. I didn't enjoy the cold though, and I had such a fear of falling in the snow. Within a week I was walking to and from school by myself. It took a good thirty-five minutes each way, but with so much studying going on I welcomed the mandatory exercise which always did wonders in clearing my head.
Time flew and the course progressed. We had some pleasant lecturers, some friendly ones and some who seemed to me to be aloof. Tests came at the end of each individual subject and I worked hard to keep up. I missed home a lot. Many of us did. I made myself focus on my reason for being here and thought that the harder I worked then the sooner I'd be out and on my way to a Family Practice residency. There was no social outlet for me so it was a monotonous routine- home to class and back to the house every day. One day in a week we would get the day off school and this meant a lazy day for me. I would get out of bed whenever I wanted, take time to have breakfast and then head to class for self-study. It was on one of our days off that Asha asked if we wanted to form a study group. Back in medical school I had discovered that group study sessions always helped me learn and retain the information better. I was definitely in. Our study group came to include Inga, Lori, Eleni and also a couple of others in the class, three of whom were second generation Americans of Indian heritage. These three were still in medical school... bright young ambitious minds. One lady was Russian, two guys were Haitian and one guy was British but of Pakistani ancestry. An amalgam of alien physicians trying to carve out a niche for themselves in America's medical world.
Let me tell you about Henri. Henri was born in Port-au-Prince and came here with his parents when he was seven years old. He went to college and studied computer sciences. After a brief computer career he decided to take out a loan and apply to medical school. His was a foreign medical school located in the U.K. By this I mean that it was not a British medical school. It was akin to all the American medical schools founded in the West Indies. After two years of basic sciences, a few weeks into our prep course, Henri received word that his school might be shut down for reasons yet unclear to him. It was a very anxious period and he just could not concentrate on anything. The implications were grave. If the school were shut down, what about all the money he had already spent? Then he would need to reapply to another medical school. He researched his options and found that no other medical school was willing to take him on for a host of different reasons. Primarily, if a school is shut down their reputation becomes questionable and consequently their standard and who is to say whether their students would be able to cope with the self-declared high standards of an institution that might consider taking them on? Obviously this was a risk no school wanted to take. No school except the one in Grenada. To Henri's joy, Grenada finally responded to his enquiry but he would have to repeat a semester which meant a whole semester of fees that was not in the original budget. A dilemma indeed. In fact, a crisis. What was the point of continuing with the prep course at this juncture with the future so uncertain?
Asha and I intervened in the only way we knew how... we prayed. We prayed with Henri and we prayed for him. The weeks rolled by, turning into months. Henri got more and more confused. At the last, with still no encouraging word from his school, Henri decided to withdraw from our program. We were all sad to see him go. His decision was to apply to nursing school. He did and got accepted. His two years of medical school gained him leverage and he was exempted from some essential courses. This meant that he would graduate within two years. This would enable him to earn a living and start repaying the enormous student loans while preparing for the medical Boards. This way he could continue with medical school rotations whenever his school's troubles were resolved. Eventually his school did sort out itself and by that time he was a certified nurse. The added advantage was that by attending an American University and then working as a nurse, he was exposed to the right people. He knew the doctors, hospital faculty and program directors. Needless to say, when the time came for him to apply for residency training, he'd be all set. As is said, Under every dark cloud is a silver lining. The bible puts it like this, Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning [Psalm 30v5]. With that told, Henri leaves my story. I last spoke with him about a year ago and pray that life continues to go well for him.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Four of us sat at the very front row. The fixed-slope seating design was pretty cool and I guess was so done to maximize one's line of vision no matter where one sat. It also offered easy access to each seat making it possible to enter and leave one's place with minimal disturbance to other students. During the first five minute break, some people began mingling. I suspected they had already met one another before today. I got out of my seat and folded the table- it was one of those old-fashioned desk-chair things. Well, it was sure better than not having enough seats for students; at home we were ever sharing chairs and desks. If you came late, you'd be left standing. Pushing thoughts of my country to the back of my mind, I headed for the toilet. The Russian girl who had been sitting to my left in the hall bumped into me on my way to the restroom. Hi, I'm Inga. I'm from the Ukraine. Her words were softly and carefully spoken, and although hesitant, her diction was clear. I'm Chike from Nigeria. See you back in class. The bathroom door opened as another student exited and I walked in.
Reentering the class a short time later, I found Inga engaged in conversation with the other two students sitting up front. Eleni was from Thebes, Greece originally and had attended the University of Athens Medical School. Athens was almost one hundred kilometers from her hometown. Its university, formally referred to as National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, is said to be the oldest in Greece, the Balkans and in fact the entire eastern Mediterranean. It was founded in 1837 and caters to over fifty thousand undergraduate students. Needless to say, this institution has undergone extensive advancement since those early days. Eleni graduated twelve years ago and came to America that same year. This meant that she never worked as a physician. She joined the New York City school system and had spent the last ten years teaching high school science. This was never meant to be a new career path and she had only stuck it out this long as a way to earn a living; a means of survival in this country where all people did was pay bills. Her husband had joined her three years after Eleni arrived in this country only to leave her five years later. Still separated from him, she remains involved in her two son's lives. Eleni was slightly stocky at five feet and five inches tall, with a cheerful average-looking face. She had that lovely Middle Eastern complexion and spoke English fluently. After all, she had gotten both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the University of Iowa long before she had considered medical school . Now at the age of fifty-two she was extremely experienced and well-read.
Lori was the other girl. Actually we were all women but permit me to use girl interchangeably. Lori was a caucasian American with Italian ancestry. She was slender, slightly taller than Eleni and had messy fair hair. At thirty-eight she had graduated from Ross University's medical school in the Dominican Republic five years ago. Her father was a prominent orthopedic surgeon in Upstate New York who had been in private practice for almost forty years. Her mother had a successful nursing career, working with her husband part time and for a Teaching hospital the rest of the time. Two unsuccessful attempts to pass the board exams had really discouraged Lori and she often wondered: For how long will my life be on hold? Paying for this course was a heavy financial burden and she sure hoped it would be worth it. Seated behind us was a conservatively dressed black woman whom Lori asked to join in the conversation. She was the same age as Eleni but her story was quite different. Asha finished medical school in 1980. Upon completion of specialist training in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the young doctor had gotten a good job with a big village hospital in Mombasa where she spent many years. Unhappy about leaving, Asha had made the difficult decision to relocate to America after getting married to a school teacher who lived in Brooklyn. All this occurred five years ago and she remembered how very hard the transition had been; adjusting to a rather different way of life had taken all of five years. Fortunately, all thanks to God, she was finally ready to move forward in her profession. She had failed the board exam and decided to enroll in this preparation course to increase her chances of passing the next time around. Her husband was forced to take out a loan to afford the tuition and this made Asha extremely sad. Still, she had to get through this and she believed that God had a purpose for her life.
This is Chike. I met her in the ladies' room just now. What about you? Inga asked, turning from addressing the small group to face me, watching for a reaction. Not one to warm up easily to strangers, I summed up my life for them: I came from Nigeria. I graduated in 1998 and after a year each of internship and national service I worked for a mission hospital for two years, then a Non-Governmental Organization for another two years. My dream was to get into Family Medicine and start my career afresh in this country. That was indeed my life in a nutshell. You look so young, Inga commented before finally telling us a bit about herself. Thirty-four, I interjected. Inga had attended medical school in Moscow and worked for many years as a pediatrician- neonatologist to be precise. She struggled with the English language and always carried her Russian-English dictionary with her. She was happily married and lived in Missouri with her husband and college-aged son, both of whom she missed dearly. They had emigrated to the U.S. in 2000 and she had been etxremely fortunate to find work with a visiting nurse service. The team would go door-to-door to visit patients for follow-up care. Unable to borrow from a bank, her husband's friend and loaned them the money to pay for this course. Tuition alone was nine thousand dollars. Not to talk of the cost of housing, feeding & maintenance, transportation, etc. She dared not think about it further lest it trigger an anxiety attack.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
When a problem or an apparently insignificant matter arises, please nip it in the bud immediately and prayerfully because it might persist and deepen until something or someone gets consumed. Fight the enemy before he ruins everything. Whether your enemy is carelessness or impatience or outbursts of anger; it does not matter what the name of your enemy is, for the name of Jesus remains above any other name. Your enemy will bow out of your life whenever you call upon the name of Jesus consistently.
The enemy is strong. Your problems are strong. Beware and be vigilant. Put on the full armour of God for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities and wickedness in high places. However, fear not for the Lord is your strength, and with God all things are possible! So, with God you can defeat the problems in your life. . . yes you can defeat each and every last one of them. Someone said today, "God does not necessarily come when you want Him to come, but He will always come and He always comes in time."
Meditate on the song: Kum ba yah my Lord, kum ba yah... (also written kumbaya)
"What Happened to Merit?" I ask. Who is merit you may wonder? Well, here's her tale.
Merit is a gem. She demonstrates great ability in all that she sets her heart to do, and works hard to be the best. She pushes herself to the limit, each day raising the standard. Attempts to better the world earn her rewards as she touches lives & affects communities... leaving a mark wherever she goes. Knowing that nothing comes easy in life she strives to improve her mind by studying hard and her body through exercise. Over the years she gains wisdom and her spirituality grows as well. The words of Proverbs, the Thessalonians and Timothy remain in her conscious brain like a refrain; she meditates upon them by day and at night. Merit is worthy of praise and truly deserves the best in life. She frowns on laziness and idle hands. Know ye not the seven sins... sloth, greed, gluttony, pride, envy & lust? Think on these things for a moment. Ponder the verses below [2Timothy 2v15; 2Thessalonians 3v10; Proverbs 12v11 & 27;]. It used to be that Merit was a key player in the game of Success, but somehow we seem to have lost her. "What happened to Merit?" I ask again. I would welcome her back... back into our schools, back into our jobs, back into our society altogether. Merit is to be worthy of; to earn by service or performance; to deserve; to be rewarded for good hard work. Merit has also been called Honor; Virtue; Integrity; Dignity. Now here is my tale.
I. THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS
It was seven-thirty on a cold Saturday morning in January, the first day of lectures at the Center. It was a Catholic college compound and the building seemed antiquated. The auditorium, located on the basement floor, was sizeable and lacked windows. Two entrance-exit double doors were situated to the east and west of the hall. A young man stood on a simple platform before the class, projecting his voice with the use of an almost hidden microphone that was attached to one of the buttonholes on his beige plaid shirt. Smart trousers and a pair of brown Kenneth Cole loafers completed the outfit. Clearly he was a center employee. In a deep accented voice, he introduced himself as Dr. Tariq - Center Director. He explained the manner in which the course would be taught over the next thirty-two weeks. Then all were invited to sign in. Each student was given a packet and name tag while someone was announcing that there were donuts and coffee available on the table at the back of the room. We were in for a long haul- five months! Welcome to America!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
These days I feel wistful when I observe how unenchanting are the lives of children today. They seem bored, lonely, frightened, and their lives just do not compare with ours which was a real life adventure. Fond memories emerge from parts of my brain where they have been boxed up for all these years. Recollections of a fun childhood. That was the last time I ever road a bicycle...
That is up until now, virtually thirty years later, when I am relearning how to ride a bike. With my husband's patient instruction and lots of practice I am nearly ready to take on a hill. We could not find adult training wheels, but he no longer needs to hold the seat of the bike whilst I pedal. Instead he runs alongside me on the main road and I am yet to fall off. By myself I practise in the safety of the backyard. Today was exhilarating. The Georgia skies are so blue and the fluffy white clouds roll effortlessly by. My bare head absorbs the intense warmth of the sun as my feet push down hard on the pedals. Bump, bump, bump as I ride over tree roots that have penetrated the surface of the ground, and dodge overhanging branches laced with masses of pale green moss swinging about in the gentle wind.
I try not to crash into an old motorcycle parked on a concrete slab by the back door and maneuver around flowerpots, whose plants struggle to survive, without falling into holes dug for the planting of apples and transplanting of palms and pine. Speed picks up and, with barely an inch to spare, I miraculously make a sudden left turn that averts a collision with the steel barbed wire fence at the back of the property. Surprisingly the neighbour's dog remains in deep slumber, oblivious to my squeals. Yesterday he had barked whenever I rode too close to the back border that we share. Well, even a dog is permitted to enjoy a lazy hot summer day. Only that this is really just the start of spring.
The bicycle on which I practise is one of my husband's. It has a light-weight aluminium front suspension with black handle bars, seat and tires. Finished in grey, there are short segments of a nice polished red colour that attach the frame to the wheels. The seat easily adjusts to accommodate my comfort level and the direct pull cantilever brakes (aka V-Brake) is a simple design that uses a single cable. This mechansim supposedly boosts the brakes' mechanical advantage. Suffice it to say that I have grown to love this bike. It is a durable mountain style bike and presumably great on rough terrain. I continue to ride in preparation for a bike trip to Stone Mountain that my husband talks about. The alloy rim of the back wheel is slightly, yet noticeably, bent out of shape and certainly affects every motion. Eventually this must be replaced. Not the bike, just the rim I mean.
Stone Mountain is a granite dome inselberg elevated over fifteen hundred feet to its summit. Nevermind the portion of granite extending for a few miles underground, this is said to be one of the largest exposed granite landscapes worldwide; comparable to the even larger Sierra-Nevada Mountain range. In actual fact similarity in colouring is responsible for much confusion. Contrary to popular belief, this rock is truly quartz monzonite and not granite. Approximately two hundred and sixty four miles away from Stone Mountain, Georgia, the sun gets unbearingly hotter and I am forced to stop riding. My parched throat sends me indoors for a quick drink. Returning, I gaze with endearment at the bike leaned up against the thin trunk of a small bare tree. The tree looks nude as it gracefully supports the bike gleaming in the sunlight whose rays play nicely upon the bright metal. Clearly visible is an inscription etched into the aluminum frame in bold black lettering- EDGE RUNNER.
I have been preparing a story for which I find it hard to choose a suitable title. It is based on a true story, my life story with respect to my ongoing struggles as a foreign-trained physician. Having lived and studied the world over, mostly thanks to my father's diplomatic career, I graduated from a Nigerian medical school in 1998. After this I stayed on for a year of internship and then a year of national service. Later I got a job with a mission hospital in my home state where I worked for a little over two years. This was one of the happiest, most peaceful, times of my life. My resignation came when I accepted an assignment in Liberia, another country in West Africa, where I would work with the United Nations Mission Medical Section. At the end of twenty months the desire to pursue specialist training in Family Practice waxed stronger. This led me to America where, only a decade earlier, I had attended college and developed a high esteem of both the U.S. educational and medical establishments. I had had excellent American professors while in the American medical school in Grenada. They left a wonderful impression on me and true to their word had set in me a strong foundation of medical knowledge.
I came to America to join a professional preparation course and take the required Board exams. It was tough. I eventually completed the first three exams and eagerly applied for residency training as directed. It is all done electronically nowadays so you never get to speak to, or meet, anyone. Instead, according to a friend's brother who happens to be a computer technology expert, applications are weeded out automatically by special software designed for just such a purpose. It reminds me of when I call a business and get an automated voice at the other end. Sometimes after taking me through a whole series of steps, my initial question remains unanswered as the voice abruptly says goodbye and ends the call. How maddening! That's how I feel about the electronic residency application system. After undergoing so much unexpected and unwarranted stress, my getting no interviews finally caused me to realize that things were not quite as they were made out to be. Frustration quickly set in. Then slowly came denial... anger... bargaining... depression and hopefully one day I shall reach the point of acceptance. Acceptance of a system that I believe is ineffectual and certainly leaves a lot to be desired. Of course with all the unwritten disclaimers and middle men, what is one to do? In case you are not in the medical field or specifically have never been privy to the experiences of an IMG as they love to label us- International Medical Graduate (or FMGs- Foreign Medical Graduates), I shall give you an idea of my frustration with the entire process. Some hospitals claim that they accept doctors for training regardless of their year of graduation, yet at the end of the day they always opt for recent graduates. Some say that they don't mind how many times a doctor had to sit the exams before passing them, yet of course it mattered. Many hospitals welcome you to call for an appointment or to schedule a visit of their facilities, however phone calls are not returned.
The truth is that its all about IM (or IMM). In my language this means To Know Someone, i.e. connections. For this reason they call us third world because to get jobs and positions one often needs to know someone important to get one into the system. A few prominent nice American doctors actually advised us that we need to get to know the right people in hospitals in order to get in. Sad but true. And who do I know? Unfortunately I am not the daughter of a program director, nor do I have any of them as relatives or family friends. One physician told us this story: An IMG of European origin came here and faced the same frustrations that many of us face. She was very outgoing (whether by nature or out of sheer desperation I will never know) and attended medical conferences in order to meet the big guys. Meet them she did. One day she called a particular hospital to follow up on her application. They couldn't find her application as it had been tossed out, oops- I mean sorted out, because of her low score. When she reminded the program director of her name and how she had met him at so-and-so place, the application was found and by June she was preparing to commence residency training at that hospital. This was said to be a true story.
Of course, I have been told of, and met, doctors who were accepted into training with lower scores than mine; failed each exam three or more times; graduated long before 1998; etc. While in the depression stage of mourning my disappointment in a system I once regarded highly, I arrived at the conclusion that my inability to secure a position is due to the fact that I have too many strikes against me. If I had only one issue, things might have turned out differently. But I don't. I have many. Permit me to mention them: I graduated in 1998 and they prefer graduation dates after 2005; my scores are above 81 but they prefer 91; I took the exams twice and although people have been accepted with three or four efforts, I am told one attempt is best; my surname sticks out like a sore thumb (i.e. last name or family name as some know it)... it screams A-L-I-E-N! If per chance you were wondering, the name on my blog is a recently acquired married name which might possibly eliminate the disadvantage of having such an ethnic name, should I be brave enough to apply again in future. Last year a doctor had actually suggested that I change my name just to increase my chances. Fancy that! I am proud of my heritage and fortunately I was already engaged at the time to a lovely man with a simple English name, otherwise I might have been tempted. It makes me wonder how many others have done just that; changed their names for just such reason- to secure a position of some sort. Human nature shall never cease to amaze me... how far one would go to accomplish a goal. In case you have not been counting, that was 4 strikes against me. The fifth is the fact that I needed a visa to enable me work here and many hospitals do not sponsor visas. Frankly the paperwork is all a bit of a hassle so I do understand why these hospitals opt not to bother. Nevertheless it affects me negatively because it means that to all these hospitals I am ineligible to apply. Well, the visa concern may no longer be a factor once I file for a change of status. This still leaves 3 unchangeable factors- my graduation year; my scores; number of attempts. Without further ado let me retell the story of Coming To America through the eyes of an IMG...
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
- Do you rearrange your furniture periodically
- Do you always keep to your side of the bed
- Black coffee or white
- White wine or red
- Proper dining etiquette or lick your fingers
- Healthy meals or lots of butter
- Boiled eggs or fried
- Keep a gun in the home or not
- Always take an umbrella just in case
- Use credit cards or never owned one
- Allow pet dogs inside or keep them out
- Are you a slammer, breaker, yeller ... (slam doors, break things, yell when upset/mad)
- Keep things in or vent out
- Take things personally or let them go
- Have a smiley face or a serious look
- Joke a lot or way too stiff
- Old-fashioned or ultra-modern
- Comfortable clothes or Fashion-conscious
- Sweat pants every day or once a while
- Loud music or soft
For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he ~ Proverbs 23v7
Out of the corner of my eye I notice a police car parked in front of the store facing my window. The shop's banners flap noisily in the warm wind as a frail old black lady makes her way through its glass door. So thin is her body that she appears child-like. Sometime ago she had passed me on the pavement close to my building. Sounds of men speaking in a foreign tongue reach my ears, but are immediately drowned out by the droning of an airplane flying high overhead. Tuning out these external diversions I find myself comforted by familiar sounds within: the constant drip drip of the kitchen tap in steady tempo; the old Dell laptop humming to life from its position on the dining table, a lovely warm brown mahogany wood with a solid green wrought iron pedestal style base. Creaking of ancient stairs followed by the distant knocking on a door somewhere on the floor above. Pots and pans clang and clatter as someone goes about making breakfast. Sights and sounds of life. Senses awaken. It feels good to be alive. Good to be able to feel the pulse of nature every day.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Sometime ago I began writing daily devotionals.
Reading devotionals has always blessed my heart and so I
thought to encourage others with mine, perhaps on a weekly basis.
There might be some readers in need of encouragement today... may
the good Lord lift your troubles & cause His face to shine upon you always!
Num 6:24-26; Psalm 119:135
The Book Of Joel
Believers let us spread the gospel over all the earth. Share all that you know of God's love. Witness how God has touched and transformed your very own circumstances time and again. Start with your family by pouring out your testimony to your spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews ...
Hear ye the Word of God and let it be for you a warning; an encouragement; an answer to doubt; hope to the hopeless and faith unto those who despair. For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword [Hebrews 4v12]. The Word of God is truth. The Word of God gives life. Jesus is that Word [John 1v1-5]. He said "I am the way, the truth and the life." He came that we might have life everlasting. Many people don't know God, and many of us who do, do not know the half of Him. His name is Jehovah- Awesome Mighty Creator whom we can turn to as a Father and Friend. Let us come to know our God and tell others about Him that they too may come unto Him.
Meditate on the song: Immortal Invisible God Only Wise
Monday, February 9, 2009
She missed him so much and just could not wait to see him. Yes, she looked forward to their first real-time wow moment! How she imagined their planned meeting in Washington next week. He would be wearing faded khakis and one of his favourite hats tight over his head. Leaning against the back of a green Dodge Ram, this penpal-turned-friend would be waiting and watching for the Virginia coach to pull into the station.
Upon alighting, her huge eyes darted about in excited anticipation while she searched for a face to match the pictures whose images she had memorized over the past few months. Then someone waved so she turned in that direction. A sigh of relief escaped her lips and she started towards him. A cursory glance around revealed that he had parked next to an old hangar which seemed reminiscent of the early forties. Few people remained in the lot and she wondered about the history of this apparently small yet quaint town. Gosh, what might this place have looked like in the olden days? Perhaps an active station with soldiers milling about constantly...
Michele's eyes flickered slowly until she lay awake staring at the high ceiling of the ornate bedroom she loved so much. A little sadness threatened to settle with the realization that Joshua was not actually there. Tossing and turning for a few minutes, Michele knew there would be no more sleep and got up in slight irritation. Every night she would hug the pillow so tightly and see Josh's face behind her closed eyelids. She would even feel his touch as though he lay there too. This always led to a racing heart. Desire. Passion. Overwhelming and seemingly insatiable eagerness to meet the man she'd grown to adore ...
Carefully put together by God
All in His perfect image you see
That we may be happy and free
Sudden shock, jolts of lightening
Internal chaos within the brain
Slowly God restores the neurons
His peace bestowed thereupon
Then again, the same shock again
The brain had just begun to recover
Yarn unraveled back to nothing
Relive the hurt, memory unfleeting
Watch, wait, what will God do
At the last He sends a friend
Tired, no more strength to heal
Oh let me go where nobody knows.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Like a soothing balm upon aching limbs;
Like a free flowing river wash away tension and fear;
Like a warmth fill me up inside.
I feel God's love upon me so strong;
He has touched me in my loneliness
And revived me in my despair.
I am blessed to have Him as Father & Friend,
Blessed indeed for His love unconditional
He truly cares like none other can.