Today, I consider the Takeaway: 5 Things I Learned this Summer

1. “I’m not psychotic, it’s the side effects of my medications” takes on new meaning inside a psychiatric ward.
Although the summer months were filled with food, family, friends, and general fun frenzy, my main goal in July was the completion of my nursing practice, a required summer clinical rotation to expose us to patient care.  The speciality and location were up to us, as long as it took place in a teaching hospital, and I was fortunate to find a spot in a psychiatry department in Frankfurt. I hoped to get a better feel for the field of psychiatry, as well as glimpse what the health care system in Germany is like.

I learned the names of medications and how to take a psychiatric history, but what I will remember most are the interactions I had with patients, one of whom said the above quote to me. I didn’t know whether to believe her at that stage of her treatment because she seemed so … normal, and yet, the psychiatrists said otherwise. Discussions with the doctors and nurses gave me new appreciation for the subtlety of diagnosing and treating psychiatric diseases.  Sometimes, the patients were clearly and acutely ill; more often, their mental illness was made manifest by social dysfunction. I’m interested in exploring other branches of medicine, but psychiatry is such a rich field that I can’t wait to be part of in some professional capacity.

(Arkie recently pointed me to this article about the stigma of mental illness)

2. No Internet = no problem
Well, that’s not exactly true, since I did have some limited Internet and it was a bit of a problem. Still, since my apartment in Frankfurt didn’t include wifi (something I hadn’t considered asking about first, lesson 2b), Gail and I made due with a computer internet USB stick that had us frugally counting megabytes. I checked my email “only” twice a day and didn’t video chat with anyone for the entirety of my stay. Having gotten so used to Google hangouts/Skype/FaceTime over the past year, it was nice to realize that they weren’t the sine qua non of my long-distance relationships. By the end of the five weeks, we weren’t itching for the Internet at all!

I think I’ve lapsed, but at least I know it can be done?!

3. Watch your wallet!
I was pick pocketed for the first (hopefully last!) time this summer. Very luckily, I ended up getting everything back because I noticed the theft right after it happened (strange circumstances). In that initial moment of shock and panic, the loss felt like such a violation. Since then, I’ve been more attentive!

4. Fan mail exposes the illusion of separateness
Simon van Booy is one of my absolute favorite contemporary writers, as the -arkies and other friends can tell you. His literary style is ideal for poetry lovers who prefer prose, with incisive metaphors and characters that make me stop in awe of life formulated with such insight.

His novel The Illusion of Separateness was one of my most anticipated reads of the summer, and in preparation, I reread his previous novel (that deserves a whole blog post. Note to self) and a collection of his short stories. I’m a fan, ok?!?!
illusion-of-separateness1

In June, I e-mailed SvB about how much I appreciated one of his characters in particular, generally fulfilling all stereotypes of zealous fan mail. Less than a week later, HE WROTE BACK!! It was short, but personalized and kind, and definitely a highlight of my summer.

I’d say that the primary lesson from this was to read SvB’s works. 🙂
Secondly — even more so than countless cold emails or statistics about the rise of social media — I realized how powerfully connected we are these days. Whom to reach out to next…?

5. Sometimes, there’s no going back
I visited Hong Kong for the first time this summer, the place where my mother was raised. She hadn’t been back since she emigrated 40 years ago; her HK was the one before the massive boom in Asia, prior to the Handover of HK to China from Britain for that matter. Even as she cited those changes as reasons for staying away, it was hard for me to understand why she wouldn’t want to return to her former home. Now, I’m not sure we really saw her home anyway, or if that’s even possible anymore. The HK I got to know was a packed modern city with impressive skyscrapers packed like tetris shapes, bustling with people constantly on their electronic devices. It’s hard to imagine that almost none of that was present when she lived there. It was unsettling to put myself in her position: my hometown still looks pretty much like it did when I was growing up; Budapest, like much of Europe, has me accustomed to ubiquitous centuries-old buildings and structures, even if they house modern operations. The past is inherent and recognizable in my environments. However, her apartment building no longer exists; we went to her school and university, but they look totally different now, too.

The places I have left might not see such drastic change in the coming decades (or maybe they will, who knows?!), but if/when I do go back, maybe all I can hope to recognize is a memory.

My mom instantly recognized the hibiscus near the HKU campus, but not those newly erected high-rises in the background.

My mom instantly recognized the hibiscus near the HKU campus, but not those newly erected high-rises in the background.

Today, I share highlights from Munich!

(Remember those times I promised photos? Yep, me too. Most of these were taken by Gail. For chronological orientation, please see this post.)

Our train left from Keleti, Budapest's Eastern train station. We arrived more than an hour early (I'm seeing a pattern), rail novices that we were.

Our train left from Keleti, Budapest’s Eastern train station. We arrived more than an hour early (sense a pattern?), rail novices that we were.

I boarded  with the help of this handy foldout lift. Thanks to ÖBB, the Austrian rail company!

I boarded with the help of this handy foldout lift. Thanks to ÖBB, the Austrian rail company!

After a 6-hour ride, we arrived at the Munich train station, pictured here. Thus began our 3 day, 2 night stay, with 1 hotel move. We arrived on a Friday evening, and were quite tired.

After a 6-hour ride, we arrived at the Munich train station, pictured here. Thus began our 3-day stay!

Fußball makes its first appearance with this ad featuring Schweinsteiger.

Fußball makes its first appearance with this ad featuring Schweinsteiger.

The city hall on Marienplatz is a main attraction. My impressions were a bit blighted by the overcast weather, but it was still an impressive sight.

The city hall on Marienplatz is a main attraction. My impressions were a bit blighted by the overcast weather.

There were still splashes of color to be found!

There were still splashes of color to be found!

On Saturday, we had lunch at the Hofbräuhaus, first founded as royal brewery, and now a major tourist attraction for typical Bavarian food.

On Saturday, we had lunch at the Hofbräuhaus, first founded as royal brewery, and now a major tourist attraction for traditional Bavarian food. The halls were packed with guests merrily singing, eating, and drinking along to live music. We seated ourselves and had to wait quite a while for our food. I don’t think most people mind, since the drinks flow continuously and pretzel baskets circulate.

One of the sights we visited that afternoon was the Frauenkirche.

One of the sights we visited that afternoon was the Frauenkirche.

The next day, we went to visit the Old & New Pinakotheks, two art museums (1 euro admission on Sundays!) spanning several centuries of paintings. Check out this old-school thought bubble :)

The next day, we went to visit the Old & New Pinakotheks, two art museums (€1 admission on Sundays!) spanning several centuries of paintings. Check out this old-school speech bubble 🙂

Less than €200 for a full lederhosen outfit? What a bargain!

Less than €200 for a full lederhosen outfit? What a bargain!

Mainly about Frankfurt am Main

The city of Frankfurt is a lot of things: the “gateway to Europe” with its bustling airport, an economic center of the E.U. home to the European Central Bank, the melting pot of Germany with its immigrants comprising ca. 40% of the population. Despite this, Germans and tour books agree that it’s not quite the place for sightseeing. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a great city for all the previously mentioned reasons, but when the guide recommends the English movie theater as a top attraction, it’s time to forego the usual ways of getting to know a famous city.

This weekend, Gail and I had time to do just that. We took the bus and tram downtown from my little “gem of a neighborhood” (says the guide) called Höchst, which is on the outskirts of the city. On Saturday morning, we went to the flea market that opens weekly from 10am-2pm along the Main River. It is a VAST affair: several blocks are taped off so that cars cannot pass, and vendors upon vendors set up stations selling anything and everything imaginable. Houseware, clothing, books, toys, luggage, bikes, jewelry, artwork … …. you name it, it was probably there in some form or another. Given the prices and variety of things there, I don’t know why anyone living in the area would choose to go to a mall first!

We stayed until closing time, and then headed to the old part of the city to see these landmarks:
(not many pictures taken, none uploaded due to the internet limitations, but they’ll come eventually!)

(photo from Wikipedia) Much of the city was destroyed during WWII, and has thus been rebuilt.

(photo from Wikipedia) Much of the city was destroyed during WWII, and has thus been rebuilt.

It must be noted that Gail and I stopped at a Starbucks, which has — *drumroll please* — free wi fi!

However, the highlight of the weekend was a visit from Anne and her 10-month old son! I’ve known her since she spent a year living with my family in NJ when I was 9 and she was 18. We’ve grown up together, when I think of it that way. I hadn’t met her son before, and he proved to be a good-tempered, active, and babbling baby. The next day, we met her husband Martin downtown for a typical Hessisch meal (Hessen is the state in which Frankfurt is located) at a restaurant called (what else?) “Germania” in the Sachsenhausen district.

On the menu: Grüne Soße mit 4/2 Eier & Apfelwein, literally, “green sauce with 4 half eggs” and apple wine

Verdict: worth a try at least once, probably not more

Verdict: worth a try at least once, probably not more

Then, we retraced the previous day’s path across the river via the Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge) and along the river banks to the old town. This time, we had a history professor in-tow, i.e. Martin, which was great! We went inside Saint Bartholomew’s Cathedral. This is where kings of the Holy Roman Empire were elected in the Middle Ages, which just happens to be Martin’s specialization. His enthusiasm was fun to witness in addition to being informative. He even stopped to explain some Latin grave memorials to me, which had texted wrapped around the frame of the facade in faded Gothic lettering. I was so impressed at his deciphering skills because the engravers abbrev generously and use lines sparingly when writing letters. For example, the word “anima” looked something like this:
a | | | | | | a.
The meaning is then derived from a combination of the “rungs” and context. \|/ O \|/!!

Then, with the baby’s nap time over, we stopped for a refreshing iced coffee on the river bank before the three of them had to jet off to catch a train back home, proving that jogging with a stroller is very possible!

So, that was our exploration of Frankfurt for the weekend! I’ve got until the end of the month to get to know the place better. Any recommendations are welcome! Hope you are all well and enjoying the mid-summertime 🙂

Today, a Brief update from Germany!

It’s been a nonstop, hectic 9 (only 9!) days since I left BP for Frankfurt. As Jarkie noted in a previous post, I was without Internet for a while. — Nothing like total disconnection to make me realize my dependence on e-mail and search engines. My Internet is still very limited here, since setting up temporary access has proven quite the challenge, but it’s nice in a way not to be interrupted by the regular pings and beeps of iThings. As I type this (offline, to be posted later), I’m looking out from the 15th floor of my apartment building to this view of the outer city limits and parts of downtown.

Room with a view!

Room with a view!

Tomorrow is my first day of nursing practice in a nearby hospital’s psychiatry department. One of my school’s requirements is a 4-week hospital stint learning about basic clinical care. I’m looking forward to hands-on learning and meeting new people, though I’m trying to keep my expectations low, given that, at this stage of my training, this applies to me in the hospital hierarchy:
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Take care for now! 🙂

All aboard!

Phoster by Gail

Phoster by Gail

Part I of my summer – chillaxing and getting to know Budapest as a tourist – is over! At this point, school seems like a distant memory.

On Wednesday, my mom and aunt joined Gail and me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel and just be with all of them.

Tomorrow morning, the four of us are taking a train to Munich for the weekend, and then it’s on to Part II of the summer – summer nursing practice in Frankfurt. I haven’t been to Germany in a decade, despite the close ties I maintain with a few people there. Can’t wait to update you from Deutschland. Bis dann, meine Lieben 🙂

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