Date Night

January 31, 2013 § 5 Comments

The countdown to second semester has begun and we’re doing our best to enjoy the free time while we have it – especially because there won’t be any for a long time once school starts up again next week.

Yesterday Skjalg and I headed out for a walk in the Buda Hills, with a goal of reaching the top of Gillert hill. We didn’t make it that far, mainly because it was too slippery for my California-trained legs. At one point, Skjalg brought up that he takes being “born on skis” for granted. I felt a little jealous then, but at the same time I was thankful that I have a competent snow-covered-path-conquerer by my side.

Castle view

Skjalg view

After our walk, Skjalg suggested that we continue our “date” with a movie at the VIP theater at Arena Plaza. For about 80 nok ($15) you have access to unlimited refreshments in the VIP “lounge” and get to sit in large, cushy recliners, similar to these.

The refreshment area was packed with a group of young Hungarian men that formed an almost unbroken ring of snack-seekers: traveling from their seats to the counter and then to their seats to drop off the newly acquired snacks – hardly stopping before heading back to the counter again. As three of them ordered, three more turned up behind them – it was like fighting through a pack of wolves to get through them. We were shy with our order at first, ordering only 2 drinks and 2 small cartons of popcorn. The tables of the Hungarians boys around us were completely filled with drinks, nachos and other snacks. Two sitting next to us each had 4 drinks, 3 portions of nachos and a plate with cookies in front of them. When Skjalg returned for a second round of drinks and a single carton of popcorn to bring into the theater, the server quizzically asked “only one?”. I guess mild-gluttony is expected there….

Skjalg VIP


We ended up seeing Denzel Washington’s new movie “Flight”. It was more drama than action so I didn’t quite enjoy it as much. Luckily, the sheer amazingness of everything else made up for it.

The semester is fast approaching and we are holding on to each precious moment as tightly as we can. While there may be some movie nights in the coming months, we won’t have that same “I don’t HAVE to do anything right now” feeling that we have now.

Schedule for Second Semester

January 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

Sooooo not looking forward to this! Last semester we only had one day where we had to be at school by 8 a.m. –  definitely spoiled. Now we’re looking at about 30 hours of actual lesson time a week, which goes up to about 40 hours if you count time between classes. While I’d enjoy feeling sorry for myself I have to admit that our schedule is actually one of the best ones. One group has 3 days where they have classes from 8 in the morning until 8:30 in the evening. When do they expect us to study? Or sleep? Time to work on those efficiency skills…

Schedule 2nd semester

Here is Skjalg’s schedule. They are pretty similar, considering the fact that we are in different groups. It’s nice that we will get to see each other during the day. Quality time will be hard to come by once classes start..

Skjalg's 2nd semester schedule


My Family’s First Visit to Budapest

January 28, 2013 § 5 Comments

I’ve had an amazing week with my family, even though the time flew by too quickly. My mom and I had a couple days together before the arrival of my Aunt Aida from England. Two days after her arrival, Christian joined us from Pécs. Poor Skjalg had 3 exams last week – all of which he passed! – so he wasn’t able to join us until Friday.

We spent our time catching up, drinking red wine and visiting amazing restaurants. It felt so foreign to me to have so much free time. I still have a week left of break before school starts again, but I will be filling the time with more productive tasks. Once the new semester starts next Monday, I can’t imagine there will be time for much else.

Here’s a little bit of what the past week looked like:

guest roomAll set-up and ready for my mom’s first night in Budapest

New York Cafe building Sunday morning breakfast at New York Café

new york cafeNew York Cafe 2New York Cafe 3The beautiful New York Café

my mama 2Dinner with my beautiful mama at La Cucina on Vaci utca

gerbaud mamaCoffee break at Café Gerbaud

mama tapasAmazing tapas dinner at Pata Negra at Kalvin ter

mom and aidaVisiting the Central Market

fruit veggie stall central market Meat case My mama

For Sale 2Lunch at For Sale – located across the street from the Central Market

Mama and Aida

Aida's Side saladThe portions at For Sale were beyond huge. We split 1 order of soup between the three of us and Aida ordered a main course. When it arrived, we were shocked to see the size of her “side” salad. Definitely a spot for sharing!

For Sale ceilingThere are thousands of notes from previous guests pinned to the walls and ceilings

our noteOur addition to the notes

For SaleSuch a cozy little spot

winter stopIt was a cold winter day, so we tried to spend as much time indoors as possible

Vaci utcaWe braved the cold and walked down Vaci utca, from the Central Market to Vörösmarty Square

palaceAfter a round of shopping on Vaci Utca, we walked along the Danube promenade, on our way to see the parliament building

palace and chain bridgeBuda Palace and the Chain Bridge

Basilica street viewWalking up to St. Stephen’s Basilica

Inside basilicaInside the basilica for the first time. It felt so wrong to take a picture with all the people praying in there, even though the guard said it was ok. This picture doesn’t do it justice.

S and CDropping Christian off at the train station before his trip back to Pécs


First Semester: Check!!

January 18, 2013 § 6 Comments

On Wednesday I had my last exam, in medical biophysics. I can’t recall a time that I have ever been so nervous and scared. For 3 nights before the exam, I was up until 3 or 4 a.m and then on the night before the exam, I only slept from 20:30-23:30. With so little quality sleep, so much Red Bull coursing through my system, and so much pressure riding on that last exam, I was feeling completely disconnected from my body. All I could think was that I never ever wanted to be in that position again and that the next time around, I would do it better.

I walked to school that morning, something I feel like I will do more of in the future. I did the same thing before my chemistry exam two weeks ago and it really cleared my head and calmed my nerves. I’ve been inspired to choose walking over public transportation after coming across an article describing journalist Paul Salopek’s new project Out of Eden – A Walk through Time. For the next 7 years, he will be retracing the steps our ancient ancestors traveled as they migrated across the world. I felt most inspired when watching a clip from an interview on the project’s home page, in which he explained his passion for this project:

The reason why I am doing this, the reason why I am excited by it, is that it is going to press the boundaries of communicating in a world where there is just too much information and not enough meaning. So I am going to swim upstream against the flow of information and try to slow people down, to have them absorb stories at a human pace – at about 3 miles an hour.

After watching that video, I began to consider the flow of information in my life. I am in a chapter that is characterized by an overwhelming amount of information and takes place in a country that challenges me every day, with every trip I make outside of my apartment. I am constantly running on max. It doesn’t help that I spend my days speeding between home, school and the library/café. I have acquired such tunnel vision that I can’t remember witnessing the seasons change. I remember summer, since that is when we moved here, and winter, since I am looking through the window at the snow, but nothing about fall. So it is understandable why his comment about “absorbing stories at a human pace” really struck a chord with me.

Anyway, back to the exam. We were called by groups into different rooms in the Basic Medical Science building. It seemed that it was done alphabetically because all the members of my group (the one I share all my semester classes with) were called into the same room. Those of us who were exempt from the written portion were asked to sit in the front row. The written exam was passed out to the other students and the tension in the front row began to increase exponentially. Martha, a friend and fellow group member, and I exchanged a couple glances during this time. We were both teetering on the edge of panic and were dreading what was ahead of us. Once the written exams were distributed, we were asked by the proctor to choose a yellow card with our lab topic and a pink card with our theory topics. Neither of us moved when he first asked. We just sat there staring at the cards, as if hoping that time would stop or even miraculously fast-forward so that we would find ourselves at the other end. I took a deep breath and reached forward to select my cards. “Right now you are determining whether you pass or fail,” I told myself. No pressure there, right?

When I reviewed my topics, I experienced a clash of relief and panic. They weren’t the topics that I really wanted, the ones I was really passionate about, but they were topics I could do. These are my topics and what I was expected to explain:


I felt (and honestly still feel) that my exam went horribly. I had used whatever energy I had to fill out 5 pages of notes after receiving my topics, that I wasn’t prepared for the extra questions she asked me. At one point she asked me what would happen if I were to disappear, and I just sat there staring at her before letting out a nervous laugh. (She had wanted me to relay the relation e=mcˆ2 to her.) When I was finished, she looked at my midterm scores (a 5 and a 4) and said, “Ok…you have, good midterm results, and good lab book, it is….a 3. But very weak, you must work harder.” I was so exhausted, embarrassed and just relieved that I just thanked her profusely and apologized (for what, I don’t really know…it’s a reflex).

The worst part of the exam is really that you have to do it in front of other students. We were sitting in a small classroom and I had my exam as other students were sitting there writing their notes for their topics. I don’t know why it makes me so nervous, they are in the same situation, but I can’t help getting that “stage-fright” feeling every time.

After leaving the room, I expected to feel a wash of relief at the realization that I was done, but it never came. Skjalg still has some exams and I really only know two other people who are done, so it doesn’t really feel real yet.

Yesterday was my first day of “freedom”. Skjalg had his anatomy exam and since I knew I would be a nervous wreck during that time, I met with Charlotte for coffee and a study planning session. It began to snow quite heavily and made for a really cozy ambiance in the window-walled café.

Mustard Smiley Faces

A victorious Skjalg joined us soon afterward. He stayed only for an espresso, eager to get home and get some rest. I came home later to a perfectly cleaned apartment (Skjalg, you are amazing 😉 ) and we headed out for trip to IKEA.

Tomorrow night my mom will be arriving from California and I can’t express just how happy and excited I am to see her. It’s been over a year since I last saw my family – the biggest downside of living abroad. With no more exams to burden me, I look forward to enjoying this quality time with my mama. A huge added bonus is the simultaneous visit of my amazing Aunt Aida from England! When I was younger my family all lived in the same area and I really took for granted the family dinners, birthdays and holidays. I feel so lucky to get a little of this family feeling in the midst of all this school chaos.

I love you, but it’s 3 a.m.

January 14, 2013 § 3 Comments

This is the response I got when trying to update Skjalg on the case of Aaron Schwartz’s suicide (founder of Reddit) and the hacker group Anonymous’ subsequent shut-down of the servers at MIT. I don’t normally spend the early hours of the morning searching for tales of tech tragedies online, but it popped up on my Facebook newsfeed – which I do check at various intervals throughout the day (unfortunately). Instead of playing games online, I’ve picked up a habit of helping to “map the retinal connectome” over at They are a lab over at MIT, so if you’ve tried checking out their site in the hours after this post was published, odds are the site is still down. Here’s a little info about the site from their Facebook page:


Eyewire is a game to map the 3D structure and connectivity of neurons from Seung Lab of Computational Neuroscience at MIT.


Inside the retina, tucked away at the back of the eye, lies an incredibly dense tangle of interconnected neurons. If we can map the many connections between these cells, we will be closer than ever to understanding how vision works. To achieve this, we need something more intelligent than even the most powerful supercomputer — you.

You can help discover things that machines can’t. Delve into the microscopic realm of the retina to glimpse the twists and turns of neurons hitherto unseen. You will be at the forefront of scientific exploration as you chart the entangled branches of those tree-like cells called neurons. Join us to explore the eye’s jungle

So, why are we up at 3 a.m.? Well, it’s finals season. I’ve been cramming for physics and Skjalg for anatomy. Yesterday at around 15:00 (and by yesterday I mean Saturday) I decided to start a log of my study time. In preparing for this exam I am pretty much just watching every video possible on yairmeiry’s youtube channel (see the Resources Galore page to the left). I was curious about how many actual minutes (with pausing, rewinding, note-taking, etc.) I use per actual minute of video. I love charts, lists, logs – anything to organize or assign a number value to something. Plus, after last week’s statistic exam, I’m a little bit more fluent in excel.
Click Image for Larger View

Click Image for Larger View

I noticed today that keeping the log actually made me actively more efficient. It kept me aware of and accountable for my time – and time for a med student is gold.

Ok, that’s it. Sorry for the nerdy post. That’s all I have to offer this far into exam season 😉

Snow’s here and we ain’t got no heat

January 10, 2013 § 2 Comments

Well, technically now we do. Our hot water heater went out on Tuesday night and a guy came to fix it yesterday morning. Everything was back to cozy when all of a sudden it went out again. It was too late for someone to come fix it, so he came back this morning. Apparently, the fuze has been blowing out once it reaches a maximum heat and he adjusted it so that it goes 2 degrees above the minimum. Yes, 2 degrees above the minimum. When the technician left he said that he hoped it would hold and that we should call if anything goes wrong again.

We’ve heard a lot of “horror” stories about how difficult it is dealing with apartment issues like this in Budapest, but we’ve been really lucky in our experiences so far. Everyone we’ve spoken to speaks a decent amount of English and are very polite and friendly. The best thing for us has been their response time. After our first call, we had a technician at our place within 1-2 hours and when we called this morning, he was here within the hour.

Hopefully we will be able to heat up this place with the heater set on such a low level. The snow is here and it seems like it might actually stay around this time. After living in Oslo for 3 years, it feels weird for there to be no snow yet.

In the meantime, we have been heating the apartment with tons of candles. It adds a little coziness to the study cave. In case you weren’t sick of the candle pictures, here’s some more! It’s pretty much all we look at all day…and this blog is documenting our experiences, so I guess it’s appropriate.

Candles 1 Candles 2 candles 3

Here’s a shot of the creepy, unfinished building across the way from us. In the 4/5 months that we have lived here, we haven’t seen any life over there. I can imagine that it will be quite beautiful when it is done, especially if they fill the courtyard with plants. Until then I will just continue to enjoy the post-apocalyptic feel I get gazing out the window on that side of the apartment.

creepy building snow


January 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

This past weekend we took a study break and went for a walk around Margit-sziget, or Margaret Island. It’s an island about 2.5 km (1.6 miles) long and located in the middle of the Danube river, which passes right through the middle of the city. We’ve heard a lot about it, it’s especially popular in the summer, but we have never actually been out there.


We didn’t expect to see anything more than a running track and maybe some outdoor pools, but there turned out to be a lot more to it. After about 20 minutes walking along the water, we climbed up to the running path and low and behold – a zoo! Not a huge one, but it had some deer, miniature horses and birds (white flamingos maybe?).

zoo deer zoo horses zoo birds

A little bit further down we came across these beautiful medieval ruins. I was curious about them and looked them up once I got home. The ruins are the remains of a 13th century Franciscan church and Dominican church and convent and a Premonstratensian church from the 12th century. The buildings were destroyed during the Ottoman wars in 16th century. There is something both eerie and beautiful about being in the presence of so much history. Nothing gives me a a greater awareness of the concept of time than that.


After passing through the ruins, we reached a little outdoor workout area. I snapped a couple shots of Skjalg testing out the machines.

skjalg park workout

The last surprise of the island was a small japanese garden with a thermal fish pond. It was a cold day and the heat from the pool created a thick mist over the pond.

duck mist

I only had my phone with me, so the shots aren’t the best quality. Now that I know how beautiful the island is, I will be sure to bring the camera along with my next time.

creepy statue
runningpath shadow sun

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