Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano
Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

01 December 2006

Full Month Gone

November 30, 2006 8:32pm

Wow, last day of November! How can that be so?! Today while I was sitting at my desk in lab and waiting for one of my reactions to be finished, I thought I would update my blog since I hadn’t written in a while. Well, I wrote this long, thoughtful blog about what it’s like to actually be living in a foreign country versus just visiting, but – alas! – when I pushed “post,” the computer messed up and I lost my writing. Arrgh. So now it’s later in the day and I’m not so thoughtful… so, you’ll just have to get what you get ; )

Tonight Erin, Malin, and I went to a photo studio to get our basketball pictures taken; the three of us weren’t here when the rest of the team was photographed before the season started. The photos will probably me up on the website soon (, or at least the headshots, so take a look if you want.

This week I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the lab and, thankfully, my project is moving along rather nicely at this point. It’s a pretty neat experience to be able to do research in different countries because the similarity of methods and techniques translates across all languages. Science is science, right? Well, it really is. For instance, today I had to purify some PCR products and I used the same exact set of reagents and protocol as I did when in the Schrijver Lab at Stanford. Now this isn’t a huge surprise, but it sort of goes to show how given the same language (here, the language of “science”) people from all over the world really can work together in a tangible sense on the same exact projects. About half the lab is Swedish, a large chunk is German, there’s an Australian, and now I’m the second American. Everyone does speak English, but everyone also has the desire to pursue research that translates across all languages – we all want to hopefully make some headway in effective vaccine development, bacteria epidemiology, and other tiny steps towards someway, somehow improving the general well-being of humans. It makes me so happy to look around the floor I work on, the building, or even the campus, and to think that all these people are working to better the lives of people around the globe. It’s powerful stuff and genuinely a fun experience to be a part of!

My trip between the gym and lab or between my apartment and lab involves taking the T-bana for about ten minutes and then a bus for the other half of the trip. On the way home today on the bus, our driver didn’t stop at a station where a man was waiting for the bus. There was lots of traffic, another bus right there, and well – I don’t exactly know why he didn’t stop. The guy that was waiting for the bus got very upset. He rushed up to the moving bus, banged on the window, and demanded entrance. The bus-driver just kept saying nej, nej, nej, nej! We had a green light, but the man outside the bus walked to the front of the bus and just stood there holding his bus ticket in his hand. The light was green and he was standing in front of the bus! By now the bus driver and man were beyond upset, but the bus driver didn’t give in. Eventually the man stormed away and the bus continued on. This was the first time in my over a month of being here that I’ve seen any sort of outward display of anger. People here are generally very pleasant, perhaps a bit quiet and reserved compared to most Americans, but overall are very considerate. It honestly shocked me to see this display today and I think, as I looked around the inside of the bus, many passengers were a bit shocked or confused as well. At least it was a busy time of day, so another bus should have been very close behind for the man that missed our bus.

What else… oh, I know. I brought my biochemistry book over to here because, though I never could fit biochemistry into my schedule at Stanford due to practice and other necessary classes, I thought I might study the book myself throughout my time here. Today I was sitting in lab reading the book, when I felt compelled to explain to Aaron why I was just sitting there reading a biochem book. After all, it’s not particularly easy reading (at least not for me) and not something that most people would just start reading. Well, this conversation led into a great discussion between Aaron and I about developing the “personal side of medicine.” Biochem may be interesting and necessary to understanding how certain systems in our bodies work, but it is really how doctors treat the whole person that matters to the patient. So, Aaron suggested some stories written by physicians that I might like to read. For these suggestions, I am so thankful. I LOVE reading books by doctors. I love reading about their patients. I love reading about human interaction and how often it is the doctor that seems to receive even more therapy from the patient than the other way around. I love reading stories about death, dying, suffering, surviving, living, and thriving! This is the spectrum right… and we all, at some time will experience it all. That’s the human condition. And, I think it’s amazing how we all work together to pull people through it. One of the most influential classes I took at Stanford, taught by Larry Zaroff, taught about this personal, human side of medicine. So, I guess I may lay off the biochem a little bit and start reading more of these stories that I really want to be reading. I’m working on building an wish list of books I want to read and I’m excited to get started.

Think some Adam Sandler movie is coming on TV now and that means it’ll be a good time to knit too… so good night for now. Happy end to November! Happy start to December!!

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