Two years ago…

August 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

…we celebrated our first national holiday in Budapest! It was our third day living here and everything we did felt like an adventure. We made sure to see all of the events that happened that day: the air and water show, the food festival, Hungarian dancing and fireworks. It was an amazing induction into Hungarian culture and the beauty of Budapest. I documented nearly every second of that day in my blog post: Saint Stephen’s Day – Celebrating the Foundation of the Hungarian State. Worth a visit to relive those moments. Last year we were in Budapest, but instead of joining the crowds, we got take-out from a nearby restaurant and watched the fireworks from our kitchen island with some glasses of champagne.

Had we moved here this year, we would not have had anywhere near the same experience. The weather is poor, gloomy and wet. Miklós told me that they won’t do the fireworks if the weather is bad. Several years ago, there was a thunderstorm and people still flooded the bridges and streets encircling the Danube to watch the fireworks show. He said that a tree branch fell somewhere and ended up killing two people, and since then, they have decided to only carry out the show if the weather is good.

It’s my day off from work and I feel like my skull is shrinking. My sleeping pattern is so poor with this work schedule and I’m definitely feeling the consequences. My plan for today was to start off by going to the gym and then study the rest of the day, since the quiz for our Exercise Physiology class is due early Thursday morning. I haven’t been enjoying the class as much as I thought I would. The lectures aren’t very stimulating and my interest in the topic can only fuel my motivation so much. After talking a little bit to Skjalg, I decided to drop the class and instead give myself a break from studying until school starts up again in a couple of weeks. If I feel the urge to study, I can always watch a Dr. Najeeb video. Otherwise, I’d rather fill my time with some leisure reading. My brother Christian recommend a book called Not Entirely a Benign Procedure and I am really interested in it. He said it is a book of diary entries of a medical student during her four years of medical school in the US and that the author is very talented and witty. Skjalg told me that I have to finish one of the other 15 books I’m “reading” before I start a new one, but I’m going to sneak this one in anyway…

Work on Monday was terrible. We were there for 9 hours and all we did was make four beds and register three patients, so a total of 40 minutes of work. When we were in Neurology, they were good about letting us go if there wasn’t anything to do (though, it felt like there was more to do when we were there). The head nurse of the Gastroenterology department is oddly strict. We had a rush of patients between 9 and 11, and after that, there was nothing to do. There were four patients in the department, three nurses, three nurse interns and the three of us, and still, she said we weren’t allowed to leave until four. So, for the last three hours, we stood there, watching the nurses sit on their phones or quiz each other on dosages of medications. For one hour, I counted the paper butterflies on the walls according to their color scheme. We couldn’t help but get angry about it. It’s not that we were lazy and wanted to go home, just that we wanted to do something. Cleaning, organizing, any mundane task possible! As the hours ticked on without a task, I got frustrated at the thought of seconds of my life slipping away for no reason. I’m generally good at finding a reason to make any situation “worth it” but this was ridiculous.

We’d decided that, on Tuesday morning, we would talk to the head nurse of the hospital, the one organizing our practice. Another day like Monday would have driven us insane. (We wanted to do anything – anything! – other than just stand there. We’d change every bed in the hospital if we could.) I was alone when she emerged from her office that morning and approached me to say hello. When she asked how things were going I explained, in my best easy-to-understand English, “Yesterday, it was very slow. We only changed 4 beds and registered 3 patients. It was not very nice to only stand there.” She nodded in understanding, smiled and told me that we should probably take a half-day. She seems to care a lot about our experience here and has been really good about planning things for us to see and do, at least during the first two weeks.

After she left, the boys showed up and we headed towards the department. The head nurse of Gastroenterology, endearingly referred to as Big Red by us, raced up behind us, pressing on our heels and goading us to walk faster in Hungarian. At the entrance of the department, the head nurse of the hospital was waiting. The conversation that ensued was one that I really, really wish I had been able to understand. I picked up some words, but Miklós had to fill in the rest once we were alone and settled. Big Red had been told by the head nurse of the hospital that there was no point to keep us standing around, doing nothing, for hours on end and that we should be sent home if there is absolutely nothing for us to do. She was then criticized for something that didn’t have anything to do with us: there was only one patient staying in the department, only two schedule to come in for the entire day and she had three nurses working. Miklós said that she was told that the nurses shouldn’t be “in Hawaii” – a term for lounging around in Hungarian – and that she had to send someone home (which she never did).

After their little talk, Big Red ignored us for the rest of the day. She complained to the other nurses for a while and then disappeared to the back. We, of course, care about making a good impression and are doing our best to be respectful, but it had just reached a point where we needed to stand up for ourselves. Jun and I, as English students, are paying $350 for this practice. If there is nothing for us to do in one department, we will gladly go to another or honestly anywhere where we can do/learn something. But if they are just going to have us stand around and doing nothing for hours, well, then they are also making us pay with our time in addition to our money. Big Red is honestly the only person who has made that an issue and for what reason, we’ll probably never know.

The shift on Tuesday ended up being a little better. Some doctors stopped by for lactose intolerance testing and we were allowed by one of the nurses to complete the test. For the test, they are asked to swallow a solution containing lactose and then the hydrogen content of their breath is measured every 30 minutes for 3 hours. People who are intolerant of lactose (like me!) lack the enzyme that breaks down the sugar in the intestine. As a result, the lactose continues until it reaches the gut flora (bacteria) which do have the enzyme. When they break it down, they produce hydrogen and sometimes methane, which appear in the subjects breath. For people who are not lactose intolerant, we would expect their breath values to be 0, whereas those who are, can have really any value other than 0. So, every thirty minutes, we had them breathe into a plastic bag attached to a large syringe. When the bag was inflated, we opened the syringe, filled it with the air from the bag, and then closed it again. We then attached the syringe to a H2 reader, injected the air into it and waited for the result. The results were interesting: one patient had 0, 5, 0, 9, 0, 5, 0, whereas the other had 0, 0, 0, 0, 11, 38, 54.

A more advanced version of the one we used. Credit: USF Health's website.

A more advanced version of the one we used. Credit: USF Health’s website.

At 11:00, the department entry was empty again and there were only two patients checked-in. The three of us and the three nurse interns sat in the waiting area, watching the nurses sit in the nursing station on their phones and chatting. Big Red had been marching back and forth in the hall on the phone, loudly remarking various things to the nurses. Miklós told me earlier that she some of the things she says are pretty rude. One of her phone calls was more intense and I asked Miklós to translate it. He said that she had been informed that they would be closing the department since there were only two patients and that the patients would be moved up to hematology until Thursday. She didn’t want to close the department, so she was calling around trying to find another patient to put in the department so that they wouldn’t have to close. With so little to do that they are being told to close the department and you’d think she’d let us go, right? Nope. She told us we couldn’t leave until 1:00 – exactly a half-shift. I’m sure there are more logical reasons for keeping the department open – i.e. making sure the nurses get paid – but when it came to keeping us, especially after her conversation with the head nurse, I just didn’t understand. At 12:45, she told us to go and change and then didn’t return our goodbyes when we left. I have such fond memories of the first two weeks that it is unfortunate that it may end on a more sour note. There are still three days, but two of those leave Jun and I without a translator! Tomorrow we’re planning on asking the head nurse of the hospital if there is another department we can visit. We’ll see how that goes…

On a lighter note, I tried overnight chia oats for the first time! Oats, chia seeds, banana protein powder, coconut flakes, light coconut milk and some splenda overnight in the fridge and then topped with some berries in the morning. Will be a quick and refreshing treat to have in the mornings once school starts.

ChiaOats2 ChiaOats1


Budapest is Beautiful

March 9, 2014 § 6 Comments

The sun is giving us quite a show today. Even after a such a rainy Friday, there is hardly any evidence of it left.

Rainy night

Rainy Friday night on the way home from the library

I gave myself the morning to sleep in. At least that was my original plan. At 7:00, my eyes opened, my brain jumped into action and I lost all hope of a long, lazy morning in bed. After weighing all my options, I decided that I would start by going for a walk. I sat down to have some tea and ended up staying there until 9:00 working on a project for school. I’m a bit neurotic when it comes to starting my day. If I haven’t gotten my day started by noon, I get antsy. I wasn’t going to let this get the best of me today!

As I was tying my shoes, Skjalg came out and told me he was proud of me. When I asked him why, he said, “I know you. You think the whole day is gone and yet you’re still going.”. It’s strange to have someone know you so well 🙂 So, studying was pushed until later and I enjoyed a beautiful Budapest morning instead.


I stopped in at Culinaris, a specialty, import food market, for some Saturday morning goodies. I picked out some fresh rye bread, a perfectly ripe avocado, black rice and vanilla bean tea. Simple, yet satisfying.

Culinaris GoodiesAs I was passing through the area surrounding parliament, I noticed a series of busts displayed along the length of the building. I’ve seen them before, but never given them much thought. Today, I decided to take a closer look. I picked one, snapped a photo and then planned to look up the man behind the bust.

Dr. Elek Woynárovich was a hydrobiologist who worked in the World Food and Agriculture Organization’s fisheries branch. He was a Zoology professor and head of the department at Lajos Kossuth University and went on to be the vice-rector president. In 1968, he started his work as an international hydrobiologist. He directed the development of fish farming in Nepal for 6 years and then went to Venezuela for 3 and a half years, where he helped established the framework of fish farming. He retired in 1977 but then went on to work as an expert in the FAO – Madagascar, Iran, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Zambia. He also worked in Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.

Talk about traveling! Must have been so interesting to work in so many different countries.

Later in the evening, Skjalg and I headed out for another walk. Then it was home to relax and get a little studying in. What did Skjalg do when we got home? He sutured the couch! Our apartment came with this giant leather couch, which is perfect except for two tears. We cover them both up with blankets, but Skjalg apparently felt like that wasn’t enough.

Night walkpark dusk


Biochemistry: Check!

June 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

If I wasn’t still so utterly exhausted, I think I would be in a state of shock. Yesterday’s biochemistry semi-final was horrible! At one point I thought to myself, “You deserve to fail because you have no idea what you are doing“.


The exam was divided into two parts. The first included 10 structures (out of a possible 200 total structures), 1 calculation and 14 open questions. The second part consisted of 40 multiple choice questions. In order to pass, we needed 13 points from the first part and 21 from the second. What did I get? 13 and 24! Safe to say that I scraped by there…

The room was heavy with emotion when they released the results. Many of the students were taking this exam again for the second or third time and therefore had a little more riding on it this round. Some people screamed out of happiness, others were hugging, some were crying and some escaped defeated.

Afterwards, Skjalg and I went to an apartment showing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we wanted. It was spacious and located on a beautiful street near the Basilica, but it would have required too much work to make it feel like a home. Plus, it was filthy. I couldn’t believe that they would show the apartment in that condition. The first thing we saw when we walked in the dusty front door was a toilet. They were replacing it with a new one and had left the old one immediately next to the front door. To make matters worse, the spot where the toilet had been was just a huge hole in the wall, surrounded by debris and broken tiles. Luckily, it’s a renters market down here. When we told him that we were interested in having a place from August, he told us that that would be fine as long as we paid a deposit beforehand. I’ve never come across an agent who is willing to lose two months rent like that! I’m bummed that it didn’t work out, but we still have plenty of time to find a new place.

Once we were done with the showing, we met up with Jannie to check out the flooding Danube. It’s been rising steadily over the past several days and newspapers are saying that it will the be highest flood wave of all time. I snapped some shots of the river, which was much less menacing in person than it’s being made out to be in the papers. It probably didn’t help that there were tons of people sitting out along the banks enjoying the sun. It’s hard to imagine what it looked like before the flood.


Yearly flooding of the Danube

June 5, 2013 § 4 Comments

So, what happens when you’re locked up in your apartment for days at a time, looking at nothing but biochem notes and structures? You miss out on pertinent news – like the flood warning. For those of you that have been following the news, you might have heard/read about the flooding in Central Europe. It’s been really bad in Germany and Austria and has slowly been making its way to us. The Danube is the second largest river in the continent and runs through Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Ukraine and Moldova. Since Budapest is built right on the banks of the Danube and is almost completely flat, it is quite susceptible to flooding.

The peak of the flood is expected this weekend or Monday. I’m crossing my fingers that I will be able to get to my exam on Friday! Though I don’t think that will be a problem since we live about 1 km away from the river. But then I don’t know much about floods….Our school is located a little closer to the river than our apartment, hopefully that doesn’t present a problem.


Here are some pictures from The Budapest Times. These were taken either last night or early this morning, when the river was just beginning its rise over the bank. One website captioned a photo with “yearly flooding of the Danube” which I found amusing and therefore decided to use it as the title of this blog post. You can follow news of the flood on The Budapest Times website.

Danube-flood-picture-01-e1370364116513 Danube-flood-picture-02 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA photo-1

A bittersweet end

May 17, 2013 § 6 Comments

The last sessions of our classes have come and gone and I find myself in a mixed state of relief and stress. The skies of Budapest have graced us with yet another raging storm and I’m cuddled up in the office so that I can listen to the rolling thunder and rain trickling against the window. It’s the 17th of May, Norway’s Independence day (gratulerer med dagen!) and Skjalg is out celebrating with other Norwegian students at ANSA’s 17th of May celebration on Margit Island (though I don’t know how nice that is now that it’s pouring outside). Me and my boringness stayed home to study some anatomy.

Stian, my good friend from Norway, sent me an email and some pictures, asking how I would be celebrating the day. It got me thinking about where we were last year and what today would be like in a parallel universe. Then I realized, I have a blog post from this day last year! Praise the blogosphere for tangible memories 🙂 Here are some more pictures from that day:

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Now Stian’s pictures from today:

majorstuenOur old street in Majorstuen, right off of Bogstadveien.

DanielAnetteDarling Daniel and Anette!

I wrote him back saying that I had “big plans” and sent him this picture:


So boring, I know! But there is no time to rest just yet. Classes are over, but now it’s the tough part – exam period. For the next 4-6 weeks, we are going to be huddled in our apartments, if not at libraries or cafes, trying to cram in as much material as possible into our heads. My exams are as follows: Anatomy semi-final, Medical Biophysics final, Medical Biochemistry semi-final, Medical Communication final, and Chemotaxis (my elective course) final. We have 3 shots at each exam and if we still don’t make it after that, then we need to repeat the semester, which means falling behind a year. Hopefully I won’t need more than one pass at each exam…

To close out anatomy today, we had our midterm on the urogenital system. I was 100% sure it wasn’t going to go well for me, but I emerged with a 3 (somehow..). The exams varied greatly between classes: Skjalg had 10 multiple choice questions, another group had images they had to label, and for ours, we had 10 theoretical questions and a pin-test. I only managed half of the theoretical questions, but got 9 out of 10 on the pin-test (stupid round ligament). I hadn’t expected that there would be such a big theoretical part, so I had spent most of my time studying images in my anatomy atlas.

Now I get to spend time making up for my falling behind in anatomy! I want to finish with the urogenital by at least midday tomorrow so that I can begin reviewing for my exam. It’s on the 28th, so I have a little over a week, but I know that time is going to fly by before I know it. Ok, I’m off to bed with my embryology book!

Check out Charlotte’s newest post: Today, I recap the last week of school

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