August 31, 2015 § 2 Comments
Bodø summer has come and gone (we got almost a full two weeks of blue skies and 20+ degrees!) and we have only five more days until we are back in Budapest. The two weeks since my last post have been absolutely dominated by work. I had my first two days off from work on the 18th and 19th – thanks to a bike accident that put me out of commission for a few days and a sweet boyfriend who was kind enough to cover both shifts in the restaurant on our days off from hjemmetjenesten. I spent those days sitting out in the sun and losing myself in Carlos Ruiz Záfon’s The Shadow of the Wind.
On Friday the 21st we celebrated my 28th (!!!) birthday. We both had to work in the evening, so we decided to celebrate before. Skjalg stayed up late and then woke up early to make me an amazing cheesecake and whole breakfast spread, which we enjoyed together with his mom. After that it was off to the gym and then down to the docks to get shrimp for lunch. One of my favorite things to do in the summer in Norway is get fresh shrimp and sit out in the sun with some wine and music.
At work, I was surprised with a brownie (which I ate before taking the picture…) and a blown-up glove wishing me happy birthday. I hadn’t told anyone about it, so it was a really sweet little start to the shift.
This summer has been exactly what we wanted it to be and we’re looking so forward to heading back to Budapest, exhausted and victorious. At the beginning of the summer we’d set a number of goals for ourselves (which we usually do, though we don’t always reach them…) and this time, we exceeded all of them! We’re in a much better place financially, thanks to an insane amount of work and generosity of Skjalg’s family. We’ve been as active as ever and have been really good about spending time outdoors when the weather is nice. Lastly, we’ve been challenged and gained a lot of experience.
Only five more shifts and registration (which is coming up on Wednesday) to go!
August 17, 2014 § 4 Comments
Only 5 more shifts left of nursing practice and I can’t wait for it to be over. I have learned a lot, but in the end, there is so little that we are qualified to do – especially with such limited Hungarian. Most of the time, I feel like we are just in the way.
Our night shift went well – at least for the first 6 hours. Instead of doing it in Neurology, we were transferred to Gastroenterology. We’d never met any of the nurses there, but once they got over the surprise that there were three of us, they were pretty nice. We started by changing some beds, checking the soap and tissue dispensers in the department and checking that the emergency bag was up-to-date. Poor Miklós, we are pretty much completely handicapped without him. Checking the medications was fine, but when it came to checking different tools and gadgets that weren’t labeled with a name, we were helpless. I know this all doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s part of my plan. I wanted to bore you before telling you what made the whole night worth it: we got to practice drawing each other’s blood! I know nurses do it all the time, but it was still so exciting for me. We learned which areas to check for veins, how to identify a good vein, veins to avoid and the techniques for inserting/withdrawing the needle.
Around midnight, we got a call saying that a new patient would be arriving: a four-year-old boy with stomach pain and vomiting. We were allowed to check him in, something that made us feel accomplished. Miklós had to take the history, so Jun and I took his head and chest measurements, weight, height and blood pressure. Once he was shown to his room, I was tasked with taking his temperature. He’d been a little grumpy when he first arrived and had escalated to near impossible by the time we got to his room. Every time I tried to bring the thermometer to his ear, he became hysterical, tossing his head back and forth so that I couldn’t get near him. When I did manage to get close, he screamed and hit my hand. His mom was trying to calm him down the best she could, but there wasn’t much that could be done. With the language/culture barrier, I didn’t feel comfortable forcefully grabbing his head and holding it still while I took the measurement. Had it been a situation where I could have spoken English, I would have handled the situation differently. I would have explained what I was going to do, maybe let him try doing it on me, and if none of that had worked, calmly explained to the mom that I was going to need to hold his head down. Eventually the nurse came in and told us that we should just try to do it later – thankfully!
After the thermometer incident, the night quickly transitioned to a game of “who can keep their eyelids open the longest”. At 1, one of the nurses asked us if we were curious about the patients in the department. The one I remember most was a boy, not even 10 years old, suffering from a brain tumor. She told us that his brother had died of the same condition last year and that he didn’t have more than a couple of months to live himself. It made me so sad to think that such a young boy was given such little time on this earth. In addition to the tumor, he’d had a right atrial infarction (heart attack in his right atria) and stomach pain. Later on, the other nurse walked us through how to hook up the oxygen in case his condition worsened over the night. When I asked why he was in Gastroenterology and not Oncology, the nurse answered that even she didn’t really understand the reason, but that it had something to do with statistics/bureaucratic nonsense concerning his nationality (non-Hungarian).
On Friday, we expected to do our practice in Gastroenterology. We had been told that we would be doing the remaining shifts there instead of Neurology (apparently so that Jun and I could experience more of the hospital). When I showed up Friday morning, I tried my best to communicate why I was there, but communication proved impossible. I ended up sitting and waiting for Jun and Miklós, since I didn’t want to just help myself to the changing room and start fiddling around with the soap boxes. Before the boys showed up, the head nurse arrived. After cordial greetings, I explained that I wasn’t able to tell the nurses that I would be working there that day. I was careful to use English appropriate for the situation and yet she still needed 3 minutes alone to understand what I’d said. She then told me that we would instead be going to Pulmonology for the day, since there were residents there that spoke English (whom we never ended up meeting).
Our stint in Pulmonology was the slowest yet. We were introduced to all the cases and then took the temperatures of a few of the patients. After that? Nothing! I didn’t want to totally waste my time, so I decided to harass Miklós with questions about Hungarian. He will be finishing his practice on Thursday, which leaves Jun and I to fend for ourselves for two days. Two days without a translator! In anticipation of this, I tried to think of some questions/statements that we could have translated beforehand. I carry around a little book for notes, some Hungarian terms/words and some diagnoses that we are told about so that I can look them up at home.
These are examples of words I noted down before I started the practice:
Here are some of the questions that Miklós translated:
After the question-translating and a little lesson on how to conjugate verbs in different tenses, we moved on to Hungarian vowels. Miklós had been stressing the importance of them and how they were each their own letter and not variations on the original vowels. I told him about similar vowels in Norwegian – æ ø å – but that didn’t seem to matter…
I was having a hard time with them – there are 14! – so I made up a little game: Miklós would say a word in Hungarian that started with a vowel and I had to guess which vowel it was. From the results, you can see where my weaknesses lie.
So that was Friday! Exciting stuff…
Now, it’s late Sunday night and I’m trying to trick my body into falling asleep before midnight so that I don’t only get 5 hours of sleep. By tricking it, I mean getting into bed before 21:00. I’m looking forward to this being done so that my sleep cycle becomes more regular…right now it’s a bit manic. Can you spot the nights before work and the nights before a day off? I feel like a sloth-robot hybrid!
July 13, 2014 § 2 Comments
It’s been almost a month since we passed our last exam and accomplished one of the toughest milestones of this chapter in our lives. We are now third year students and are ready to move deeper into medicine now that we have two years worth of pre-clinical knowledge behind us.
The time since then has gone by both really slowly and really quickly at the same time. I was almost completely burned out after our anatomy final on the 5th of June and that meant that every single day that followed was a struggle. I lacked almost all motivation and struggled greatly to absorb even the simplest of details. Still, I kept pushing forward, one foot in front of the other. I was nowhere near as effective as I usually am, but I had no choice but to continue. In those 48 hours before our exam, we were all going a little crazy. The apartment was a mess, we were eating almost nothing but take-out and were doing our best to keep the nearby shop out-of-stock of energy drinks. As we got closer to the exam, the only thing I could do to study was re-write the almost 100 chemical reactions we needed to know, over, and over, and over again.
The exam was split into two parts. The first contained about 15 or so open questions worth something like 27 points. In order to pass that portion, we needed a minimum of 14. After that, we had a 10 minute break – enough time to go to the bathroom and gather ourselves. Then it was back in for the second and third sections, which were combined to form a total of 70 multiple-choice questions. I was feeling so hopeless about the exam that I had pretty much already accepted that I was going to fail (a feeling that is all-too familiar to me). Skjalg had advised me to just go with my gut and not second-guess myself. I have a tendency to speed through multiple-choice questions and answer purely on instinct, barely even reading the whole question. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. For the last few written exams, I’ve been forcing myself to stay longer and end up going through my exam even 3 or 4 times before handing it in. This time, I was just going to fly through it and only change an answer if I was 100% sure.
Afterwards, we were all in a bit of shock. The exam had felt impossible and there were all too many questions that I didn’t feel good about. Most of my answers were chosen out of pure instinct. I think there were only 15 or so that I knew I’d gotten correct. All of us were feeling pretty horrible, but we’ve learned to just go with it and wait until the results come out. Skjalg and I headed home, while Jannie and Andrea (a Canadian-Hungarian girl in our class) walked towards Kiraly. The entire way home, I was online on our school website constantly refreshing the exam results page to see if my grade had been uploaded. A little premature, yes, but you never know! We stopped in to grab a bite to eat at a nearby take-out place and while Skjalg was in line, the results were uploaded. I said his name three or four times, barely loud enough for even myself to hear, as I quadruple-checked the results. When he finally came over I said, “I passed! I got a 3!”. He didn’t really react that much and instead scrambled for his phone. Once he’d found out that he had passed, he let out a deep breath and the celebrating began!
There wasn’t too much in the way of celebrating that night. We had a bottle of champagne and some amazing Italian food from my favorite, Trattoria La Coppola. Then Jannie headed out for a night of fun, while Skjalg and I stayed in for a comfy date night on the couch – which was long, long overdo! I have no idea what we did in the days that followed. I was in such a zombie state, stressed with no reason to be and utterly exhausted. On the Friday after the exam, I started another juice fast to clear my body of the horrible things I did to it during exam period (too much caffeine and poor food choices). I did it for 10 days – nothing but 5 juices a day, no food, no coffee, no nothing! Needless to say, there wasn’t too much that happened during that time except for a few get-togethers with friends and lots and lots of sleeping. After the juice fast ended, I had one day and then I was off to Bodø!
I arrived in Bodø Tuesday night last week and since then have been filling my days with plenty of sleep and family time. We spent the first weekend at Skjalg’s family’s cabin in Halsa and will be heading back there next weekend. The first trip was with his grandparents and this next trip will be almost the whole gang – his grandparents plus his uncles, aunt and cousins. Skjalg’s sister left just today after a week in town. It’s too bad she won’t be able to be here for the trip to Halsa, but she will be coming to visit us in Budapest in September.
In addition to family time and sleeping, I’ve been going to the gym, helping paint the house and….taking a class!! I’ve had least 3 people tell me I’m crazy and that I should just take a break, but I miss the brain stimulation too much. I’m taking a course called Programmed Cell Death through Coursera. The site offers tons of courses within many different fields – for free! The courses are offered by many different universities all over the world, including Johns Hopkins, Standford and UCSD. The university offering my course is Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich – the same school that Skjalg’s grandfather attended for dentistry. It’s a small world!
Week 4 of the 6-week course starts tomorrow. There are 2 quizzes (each worth 30% of your grade) and a final exam (worth 40%). Each quiz allows 3 attempts and is worth a total of 25 points. I used all three attempts today trying to get a perfect score, but the best I got was 24.33/25. I guess I’ll just have to settle for 97% ;). The course itself is very interesting and goes quite deep into genetics and biochemistry. I’m hoping that it will come into good use when we start microbiology next semester. On the 24th, both Skjalg and I will be starting another course called Exercise Physiology. I’m really, really excited for that one!
I only have a couple more weeks here in Norway before I head back to Budapest for my nursing practice. I got a spot in the pediatrics department near school and am looking really forward to getting some practical experience. It will be really hard to be away from Skjalg for so long, especially because I’ll be spending my birthday alone down there, but we’ll handle it like champs – we’ve had enough practice with tough situations at this point!
August 18, 2013 § 2 Comments
Sandwiched between a rainy Friday and a cloudy, drizzly Sunday was a warm and beautiful summer Saturday. Stian and I started the morning with fresh juice (using his awesome juice maker) and watched an episode titled Is There a Creator? from the series Through the Wormhole (narrated by Morgan Freeman). Stian shares the same love for science and documentaries that I do and we take no hesitation in indulging each other.
When the afternoon rolled around, we decided to take a walk through Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen. There was a multicultural festival going on at Rådhusplassen, so we enjoyed walking through the crowd and experiencing the array of ecclectic food smells wafting through the air.
Aker Brygge and the newly expanded/developed Tjuvholmen are so amazing to walk through on a sunny day. Stian and I moseyed through, stopping for some gelato and people watching, and even checked out the view from the tower elevator.
We returned to the apartment about 3 hours later and settled into the couch to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (Stian’s trying to convert me to juicing 😉 ). Afterwards we took a sunset walk through Akershus Festning – a medieval castle built to protect Oslo. To close out the perfect summer Saturday, Stian made an amazing steak dinner while I skyped with my mama and stepdad. Dinner was enjoyed with red wine and good conversation and followed by watching Oblivion (with Tom Cruise).
August 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Summer is flying by even faster than it was last time I posted. Today is my last day in Bodø before heading to Oslo, where I will be staying for a few days before heading back to Budapest. Then it is only 3 weeks until school starts up again!
We spent the past weekend at the cabin in Halsa. The weather was pretty bad up until Jannie arrived. There was a major bicycle race in Bodø that day, so all the roads were to be closed between 13:00-19:00. Since her plane was arriving at 14:30, I got a ride with Skjalg’s mom to the airport. As I was sitting and waiting, the skies began to open up and scattered rays entered the airport. I crossed my fingers that it would hold – this was Jannie’s first time in Norway and bad weather would dampen her first impression.
As soon as she arrived, we walked into downtown Bodø and stopped in at Vinmonopolet (government run and controlled liquor store – the only place to get wine and anything stronger that beer in Norway). Afterwards, we grabbed coffee and sat in the main square as we waited for Skjalg to get off from work. The bicycle race had just ended, so the square was busy and entertaining. Soon it was home to pack and then off to Skjalg’s dad’s thai restaurant for dinner – which was amazing as always. To close out the evening in Bodø, before starting the drive to Halsa, we had waffles and coffee up at Skjalg’s grandparents. The 3-hour drive landed us in Halsa at around midnight, so we enjoyed some red wine and then head to bed.
Our days in Halsa were unintentionally themed. Day 1 was Glacier Day, Day 2 – Fishing Day and Day 3 – Whale Day. Our luck with the weather was unbelieveable! I took about 600 pictures on the trip and tried as much as I could to narrow them down while still retaining the story feel. Ready for the longest blog post I’ve ever published? Hope you like pictures! Click on the pictures to view/scroll through larger versions.
Day 1 – Glacier Day
We started the day with an egg and bacon breakfast. Jannie slept in, so Skjalg and I enjoyed coffee and sheep watching on the balcony before heading to the store.
After breakfast, it was off to Svartisen! We dressed warm for the boat ride into the fjord – which takes about 30 minutes – and packed hiking bags for the trip. Since we’d arrived at night, it was Jannie’s first time really seeing the mountains and fjord – and what a way to see it all!
The walk up to the main path leading up to the glacier is about 2 km. It was lunchtime by the time we got to the beach near the fjord, so we stopped in for a small bite at the cabin restaurant overlooking the glacier. Skjalg and I shared a small plate of lefse (potato pancake with butter and sugar) and a waffle and Jannie had a waffle with freshly made strawberry jam.
The rest of the walk up to the glacier path was nice and calm. Jannie and Skjalg both drank water from the waterfalls – nothing like fresh glacier water!
Then began the hike up to the glacier! The hike is pretty much navigating across huge expanses of rock and large boulders. The rocks had such beautiful patterning and the view got better and better with each step.
Finally, the glacier reared its head over the rock maze. It has receeded quite a bit since Skjalg and I visited it for the first time in 2011. Still, it is Norway’s second largest glacier – about 260 sq. km. The part that we are able to walk up to is called Engabreen and is the lowest glacier point on the European mainland.
The sides were a bit dangerous, since there was a large gap between the ice and the rocks leading straight down under the glacier, but there was a sort of sand beach near the head of it, right above the waterfall. We managed to climb down there and were met with one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. The ice was a vibrant blue and the water was a cloudy turquoise with small pieces of ice floating in it. The cave leading into the glacier was pitch black – despite the glowing blue of the glacier. We took the opportunity to take some candid shots.
After about half an hour up at the glacier, we started back home. The trip back was spent in a sort of state of bliss. It was such an amazing experience.
We got home and warmed up a little bit – it had gotten cold out on the water. For dinner we grilled pork chops and corn and then relaxed a little before taking out the boat for a midnight fishing trip.
Day 2 – Fishing Day
Woke up to another beautiful sunny day. It was a little chilly, but I found a comfy spot in the sun and enjoyed a cup of coffee and The Fountainhead for a couple of hours. We packed a picnic lunch and loaded fishing gear into the boat. It was perfect fishing conditions and the view was amazing. Jannie had never caught a fish before, so we made it our mission of the day. Within the first hour, she’d caught three – one of which was big enough to feed us for dinner. Mission: accomplished!
After 4 or so hours out on the sea, we found a perfect little picnic spot on a small island.
We fished until 9 or so and then headed home to gut, clean and bake the fish. We’d forgotten to go to the store before it closed at 6 and had to make dinner with what we had available. No cold fish, sour cream, potatoes and cucumber salad for us!
Day 3 – Whale Day/Return Home
Since we would be driving back to Bodø on Sunday, we’d planned to take an easy morning. Skjalg and I were enjoying coffee on the patio when I noticed something black pop up out of the water. Skjalg went to grab the binoculars and we were soon able to confirm that it was, not just one, but two whales! I ran to get Jannie since she had really been look forward to seeing a whale while we were there. The two whales played in the fjord for a couple hours, making for a perfect end to the trip. Dark clouds rolled in just as we were packing up the car and cleaning the cabin. Lucikly, we were able to catch some shots of the beautiful scenery on the way back.
For Jannie’s last night in Bodø, we had dinner at Pepe’s pizzeria and went to see The Heat at the local theater. Though short, the trip was a major success and absolutely unforgettable. I still can’t believe how lucky we got with the weather! I’m sad to say goodbye to Bodø and all the amazing memories we’ve made this summer, but we’ll be back next year for some more.
August 7, 2013 § 7 Comments
Summer is seemingly flying by and I feel the need to remind myself that it is, in fact, only a few days past the halfway point. Somehow that makes it an easier pill to swallow. My last exam was on the 28th of June and since we spent the remaining days of June moving, I consider July 1st as the first day of my summer vacation. Since classes resume on the 9th of September, that left me with 70 days of summer to call my own.
In the last weeks of the semester, I kept myself sane by daydreaming about all the amazing things I was going to do over the summer. I had so many plans, so many tasks, that I was just itching to get started on. When that free-time finally rolled around, none of it went to any of those things I’d ached to do. Instead, I’ve spent countless free hours sleeping, watching movies and TV series on Netflix and playing CandyCrush (an annoyingly addicting iPad game that I am embarrassed to admit I’ve played).
On the other hand, I’ve done many other things I hadn’t planned, but am very grateful to have done. Since we are staying up in Bodø, we have had the opportunity to spend quality time with Skjalg’s family. It’s very hard for me to be so far away from my family and the pain of distance is less in the company of Skjalg’s. I feel so welcome and included and feel so lucky to share in this aspect of Skjalg’s life. There have been many brunches and lunches, teas and dinners, a cabin trip, a mountain climb, midnight fishing excursions, movie nights, picnics and heavy yard work – family style. It’s been an amazing summer, but as a new semester approaches, I find a sort of restlessness creeping in. We’ve heard that the first two years of med school are the most difficult and that, of those two, the second is the major challenge.
I spent an hour or so this afternoon tracking down the physiology website and downloading old lectures and notes. Then I caught myself. It’s so like me to do this. When I was in the middle of exam period, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I could do with free time. Now that I have the free time, I am stressing about exam periods. I need to exist now, to allow myself to take it easy and to do so without feeling guilty about it. For the past 5 days I have been bed-ridden with the flu and this is my first day where I am finally feeling functional again – there is no need to tire myself out right away! Plus, tomorrow is a big day – Jannie is coming to visit from Sweden! She will be arriving in the afternoon and we will be leaving for the cabin in Halsa in the evening. The weekend will be spent talking, fishing, cooking and exploring. There is a time for relaxing and there is a time for cramming. Now is time for the former!
Speaking of living in the moment, here is a picture of one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. Skjalg and I saw in while riding our bikes home after a movie. The colors were unreal! The picture doesn’t do it justice.