Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Conquering the World!


I said I would put up a food post here so that it would serve some purpose other than my own bitching and complaining. Well, here it is! A tiramisu ice cream cake that I made for my friend's birthday potluck that we hosted.

I adapted the recipe from Baked Bree, but decided instead to just freeze the filling/frosting. Plus strawberries were on sale, so I thought I'd a little decoration on the top :)


The other day, I had a long talk with my friend (well, we were supposed to be "studying" statistics, but honestly, how can you study that THAT without falling asleep?), and from it, I realized certain things about myself...

In my former post, I had written about the sacrifices one must make for medical school, many of which I felt I could relate to. And going back to SoCal for Spring Break certainly did not help - it was a taste of what I felt like I could have had if I had somehow managed to stay in the state I had known all my life. But, when I think about it, did I really give Philly a fair chance? Ever since I came here, I have been critical - the weather, the food, the culture. Everything I experienced here seemed to pale in comparison to California. I have to admit that, no matter how I get around it, I truly do feel like nothing ever comes close to the West Coast. But really, is that the right mentality to have? Philly has its own charm, and I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I didn't have my fun times here. Besides, it wasn't like I was too fond of San Diego when I first relocated 4 years ago...

So I decided to turn over a new leaf and try to change my outlook on life. Back in Cali, I lived in a bubble where my entire community was my comfort zone and everything was done for me. But that was actually, in a sense, a curse. I can't afford to live in my bubble - I'm going to be a doctor! And one day, it's going to be up to me to take that first step forward into the open and reach out to the unwilling patient, or tell a man or woman that he/she has stage 4 cancer and will probably die, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable that may be. It's going to be up to ME to take that first step out of my comfort zone, and no one else is going to prod me or take the fall for me.

But baby steps first. Tomorrow, I will conquer the world. Today...well, yesterday I decided to push the limits of my comfort zone and go out with DENTAL STUDENTS - from another school! Temple Dental, to be exact. It was definitely a good decision - being with my fellow classmates is great, but at some point, you do want to get away from the kidney, or that evil Professor who lectures everyday but can't seem to teach for crap, or the chances of getting into the residency you want (which seem even more bleak after you talk about it with the very people who will become your future competitors). No, that's not fair, I love my classmates, many of which have become my closest friends here in the past year, but sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air. And that's what I got, sitting in a random Korean restaurant, drinking beer, listening to K-Pop songs, and watching my scrawny friends eat their way through a mountain of double-fried chicken wings.

It was nice. Plus, I think the alcohol helped.

So begins my new resolution. I'm going to really try to push my boundaries, develop a more extroverted, carefree, carpe diem outlook on life. And no more reminiscing on the past, dwelling on regrets or doubting myself for my past decisions. All I've got to do is look forward and really truly believe in myself.

Once I get to it, I'll post a food recipe here too, so that it'll seem less emo/self-centered.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shepherd's Purse and Tofu Stew

Last summer, I had taken a picture of this stew that my mom made with Shepherd's Purse or ji tsai - a native vegetable of Shanghai, where she grew up. It's a recipe I always fall back on, partly because it's cheap and easy to make, and partly because it's my form of comfort food - stuff that I grew up on. The funny thing is that this picture got accepted on Foodgawker, while my very first photo of it did not. I suppose one thing I did change was something I read off another blog a while back. When you have a stew-like object that consists of a medly of protrusions that make the surface of the dish convoluted, it's better to try to use light to reflect off of it. Usually, you want to avoid reflections, but if you notice, this time I really tried to incorporate that in the photo. It's not a pretty dish, I have to admit (what with the tofu all chunky), so if I had simply rid myself of the reflecting light, I would definitely not been able to portray the pure delicious-ness of it as well. 

Unfortunately, you can only find the frozen variety of Shepherd's Purse here in the U.S. but for things like stew or stirfry, that doesn't downgrade the taste too much. Last year, when I visited Shanghai before medical school, I got to see and taste fresh ji tsai for the first time...it was amazing! Usually, Shanghai people use this vegetable for humbler dishes like this tofu stew or stirfried with rice cakes - but even then, you can taste a distinct difference just by adding the locally grown variety into your diet. 
<-- Here is what it is supposed to look like. I actually thought it was a weed when I first saw it. At some point, I'll put up a picture of the frozen package label, too. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sugar Cookies!!

This running business is really starting to get crazy. I literally cannot stop eating...all the time! Yesterday, I couldn't wait for dinner and ended up eating myself sick at around 3 in the afternoon (on top of lunch and breakfast). And I mean pretty darn sick. And then, what do you know, by the time I was ready to go to bed, I was starving again. I actually woke up at 6:30am this morning out of hunger!

I forgot to mention that the other day, our club (I am the social chair of our Asian American Medical Students club) had a great outing to Washington DC to check out the annual Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. It was so beautiful...although I wish I could have enjoyed it more. The day before, I had taken my Physiology exam, run 13 miles in the rain, gone clubbing a few hours later in ridiculously inhumane heels (it got so bad that one of my friends had to piggy-back me home), pulled an all-nighter, and caught the 6am bus ride out. And then...non-stop walking from 9am to pretty much dinner time. All I can say is that my bed felt pretty darn good that night. But the one biggest highlight I can remember is that...we got to stand 10 feet away from PRESIDENT OBAMA! Woohoo!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Medical Profession

Recently, my friend posted a really interesting note up on Facebook that really epitomized a lot of the feelings I have experienced throughout my first year in medical school. It wasn't that the note said anything new - this is old stuff, stuff I have kept barely hidden in my mind as early as maybe even my first month here at Jefferson.

This year has been literally a cascade of knowledge, knowledge that I can barely even find room to stuff in my head. Like one of my friends once told me "Medical school is like trying to drink water out of a fire hose". And yet, ironically, if you asked me what was the most valuable thing I have learned these past 8 months, it is this:

ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR MOM. Because no matter how irritating or naggy or ditsy she may appear, how little she may seem to understand, she is ALWAYS right in the end.

The first thing my mom was right about (and even I admit it) is my temper. And my stubbornness. I guess those two traits often go hand in hand with each other. Which then sort of led to the second thing she was right about. And that is this:

Medical school is not something to take lightly.

My mom studied medicine herself back when she lived in China. She never actually became a doctor (she would have had to stay in school a lot longer for that), but she did start off with the same classes and lessons that I am learning now. I guess I never really thought about that because my mom always seems so silly and domestic most of the time - not until I started telling her some of the notes I'd taken in class, and instead of smiling blankly, she would actually relate them back to me word by word in Chinese. I've gained a lot of respect in her for that. How can you not, when your own mother jumps from talking about the neighbor's new dog to the Mandarin version of the Psoas Sign as a diagnosis of Appendicits? Anyway, I digress.
When I first told my parents that I wanted to become a doctor, they laughed.  It was a little annoying to say the least. Then again, looking back, I think I would have laughed at myself too. I was so ignorant of the doctor's profession; what really drew me to it was the fact that I realized in undergrad that I COULD do it. I had the grades, the resume, the extracurriculars. And back in San Diego, if you weren't pre-med, you had to be some other kind of pre-health, or if not that, at least 50% of your friends were. And then, there was my stubbornness and temper.
Over time, as I became more and more serious, my parents started to worry. My dad was okay with it, of course, but my mom continuously warned me about becoming a doctor. She would often suggest other fields, fields that had less schooling and less competition. And that really hurt me. The way I saw it, it seemed like she didn't have any faith in me, as if she didn't think I had the brains or the willpower to make it into medical school. And that drove me all the more to succeed.

So finally, I did make it. Don't get me wrong - even if I did initially become a pre-med for the wrong reasons, I did find myself falling in love with it the more I explored it. The human body is fascinating, and it is unfathomable to think that we have to ability to take such a wonderful creation of God and...fix it. Tweak it around. Not to mention that you really feel like a good guy when your patients come back fully recovered and tell you how much you've helped them.
But I think one thing that many many entering medical students don't realize is that there are also many downfalls to the medical profession as well - and this was what my mom had been trying to hint at instead.  You have to really look at your priorities, set them straight. While your friends make cash, get started with their lives, rock out their 20s, you'll be stuck indoors studying for the Boards or running around the hospital floor on Red Bull and way too little sleep. While your friends start inviting each other to their house-warming parties or baby showers, you'll be turning them down because you have to do rotations for the next God knows how many years. And while your friends start getting married, you'll be cursing yourself for leaving yet another perfectly good relationship because you had freaking relocate AGAIN for residency - just when you thought all this long-distance nonsense ended with undergrad.

I'm being cynical. Things usually don't turn out so badly, I'm just looking at the glass half-empty. But these are just a few of the many issues that you really have to consider when you enter medical school. And what about beyond that? Malpractice? High divorce rates? Even the little things - showing up late to your daughter's piano recital because you couldn't get out of surgery, canceling on your significant other's anniversary to address an emergency call, staying in debt for the next 15 years of your life while people give you dirty looks because they think you are rolling around in dough.

But looking back, I still don't regret becoming a doctor. I still love the science, and nothing beats the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you know you've made someone's life better. I think it is partly why I love running so much - because it really pushes my body to the limit, the very body I am learning so much about in all of my classes. And that is nothing compared to being able to actually put all these theories to practice in a few years. This whole thing has been a part of me for so long that without it, I would not even be close to the person I am today.

But now, more than ever, I've come to take all this as a grain of salt. I really dislike it when people find out I am going to be a doctor and judge me for it - how they think that I am going to be a super-rich snob who owns Ferraris and drinks champagne everyday. Or when parents come up to my Mom and Dad and ask them how they convinced their daughter to choose the medical profession. Seriously. Medical school is not like some SAT, where if you throw enough money and classes into it, you'll get a high score in the end. And it is nothing like the fairy-tale happy ending full of dollar bills and rainbows that everyone imagines it to be. If you really wanted it for the reputation or financial benefits, there are many jobs out there that give you much more bang for your buck. You have to really really want to be a doctor to do it - and in some cases that may not even be enough.

The medical profession is awesome, but really think twice before you decide to go there. And, please, if you ever do, go for yourself - NOT for your parents, NOT for your family name, and NOT for the promise of money,  because all of those are just dumb. And for people who aren't in the medical field, please don't judge us or think of us as snobs. A doctor has to sacrifice a lot to get where he is, and a lot of people don't get that.

And now...I need to study :P

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chickpea Pancakes

So I have officially decided to start updating my blog again. At least that's what I'm going to aim for. Things are a little easier in my schedule now, partly because I somewhat have this medical school business down (somewhat) and partly because we are in Physiology and Microanatomy, supposedly the easiest block in the 1st year curriculum.

I guess one of the biggest updates I can write about here is that I've signed up to run the San Francisco FULL marathon this summer! It's going to be extremely long and painful - more painful than I can even imagine now. I've been training for the past 3-4 months, and I'm only up to 13 miles so far...halfway there!  My biggest concern now is just watching out for my knees. During my last half marathon, I got a case of runner's knee and ignored it - big mistake. It got to the point where I literally couldn't walk anymore before I got it checked out in China. If it comes back now...I really don't know what I'll do.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Time in a Bottle

It's been a while since I've updated this blog, and that in itself really makes me sad. But I haven't abandoned it yet...there's still money in my account, so I've got to pick it up again at some point. Just not now...not when I'm still struggling to keep up with medical school. 

This spring break, I went back to Southern California for the first time in almost a year. I'd been waiting for this trip for so long that I was afraid it would end up a disappointment - you know the way that things do when you build your expectations up too high. But no - it was everything I wanted and if there was anything I had to complain about, it was the fact that there was just too little time.

Time - if spring break were an essay, that would be the central theme to it. It was like rewinding time back to the old days of undergrad. Things just seemed so much simpler back then, so much more clear-cut and stable and SAFE. So many things seemed to work out so well - friends, roommates, relationships, my future, and of course, my morals. I never really appreciated all the familiar faces and lasting friendships I made back then, surrounded by people who I felt knew and loved me down to my very core. And these people were so close, often an hour's drive or even literally just a living-room away.

Coming back wasn't completely the same, of course. For one thing, I went back to Irvine, which is NOT exactly the same as San Diego, where I had spent the past 4 years. In fact, I have never lived more than a weekend in Irvine in my entire life. Yet, at the same time, entering Irvine was like coming home again. I knew this place, these people, these roads, like the back of my hand. I had never been to the UCI Student Center, but sitting in the comfy armchair with my homework splayed out across my lap, listening to the Korean Christian Fellowship (it HAD to be Korean, of course) while a baby shrieked in the background - it was all so familiar, so RIGHT. I would watch UCI students walking from their UTC during lunch break, students I had never met before, but at the same time, I knew them so well - the familiar conglomeration of Asian students with a sprinkling of other ethnicities, in their blue and yellow UC sweatshirts and flip flops, sipping their boba drinks (boba, NOT bubble tea, and NOT PMT). Even just running along the suburban roads in what would already count as t-shirt weather, roads that I had never before run on but which my feet traveled so confidently, felt so good, so...familiar.

And most of all, there were the people. All the people I've missed so much this past year, the people I've thought about while working in an unfamiliar city along an unfamiliar coast. Staying up late baking pastries, wasting the morning with talks on life and dreams and goals, riding hours in the car while palm trees and riviera-style houses flew by and reminiscing over old times...these were all things I couldn't remember doing for the longest time.

At one point during my trip, I asked my best friend if he thought we could stay best friends. Obviously, we both knew that probably wasn't going to happen, what with all of life's uncertainties ahead of us. But it's okay, because that's how humans are. We aren't static people; we are always changing and growing and developing. What matters is that we allowed bonds to develop between us and the ones we love, and no amount of distance or time will ever completely destroy that bond. It may weaken it, but the fact that it is there, should be enough. And, in the end, it will all be okay.

And that is what I have to keep reminding myself. I don't like change, I've come to realize. Things were so much simpler when my world was the SoCal bubble, and I felt like I knew the world. Turns out, I was just an arrogant, ignorant, oblivious girl. But at least I was happier back then. And going back this time made me realize more than ever how much I've missed that bubble I once called reality.

Of course, realistically speaking, I have to let that go, and accept change whether I want to or not. But, at least I have those memories. And at least, in my mind, I can store my time in a bottle and every once in a while, travel back to those peaceful car rides past the swaying palm trees and stucco houses once again.


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