Archive for January, 2009

Post-on-demand, or Unusual airmail.

I have just received an email from fellow-blogger-ex-classmate Ninx, in which she urged me to update the blog. She’s right…. so this post is on-demand.

Truth is I’ve been studying (trying to, at least), so I didn’t feel it was appropriate to procrastinate on the blog… Yeah, I know, who am I kidding? Anyway, since I’ve been a bit out of unusual happenings lately, I’ll dust out an old anecdote I had planned to write about and then always ended up forgetting.

It is at least once a year since I finished high-school in Swaziland, and returned home for university, that I review this decision and wonder whether I should have continued my studies abroad, whether I should have chosen a different career, whether I… well, I basically question everything. I spend close to 24hs (all in one go) hooked up to the internet, researching academic opportunities in other universities- universities that seem, at least through the screen, a lot more appealing that the institution where I am currently doing my studies in medicine. I go through all the so-famous stages of grief in one single day (and in random order). My mood swings drastically; I tell myself I should drop uni and apply somewhere else, I get frustrated, disappointed, angry, hopeless… I start looking into student loans, visa requirements, academic credit, housing, campus facilities, student associations, and in some opportunities I even signed up for a different career at the public uni… ehm… Eish, now that I write it all down, I realize I must have a couple of loose screws in my head. I keep doing this year after year, sometimes more than once a year.

And why haven’t I dropped out of uni yet? Why haven’t I taken a plane to Europe and applied to one of those beautiful “choose-your-own-adventure” courses if I am so frustrated? Out of an impulse, I would say it’s because I’ve always chickened out (which is partially true), but the main reason is because every time I set my mind to dropping everything and taking new roads that will direct me somewhere else in this pursuit of happiness, I realize that I actually love the job of a medic, and that I can’t picture myself doing something different. I don’t love medicine as a science, but I am eternally fascinated by the human and social aspect of the practice of medicine.

Sometimes the fascination gets clouded by what seem to me to be non-transcendental matters (which inevitably accompany the academic demands of our university curricula). Luckily, I always get a reminder that I, indeed, like what I’m doing.

There was this one time, at the beginning of last year, when I had another “crisis” and luckily I had the chance to share with Euri my vocational doubts (it wouldn’t be the last time, believe me). We discussed about how we could contribute to society from different fields and how I had maybe rushed my decision to study medicine. We reminisced our days in Africa and wondered if we were ever to go back, if we should go back…

He gave me some words of advice, and following a long-standing tradition, recommended a book for me to read. He told me I should read “The Poisonwood Bible”. The name instantly rang a bell. Someone had actually told me to get that book already, and only a couple of weeks before this. I couldn’t remember exactly who, but it seemed to me like it had been Jason, another ex-classmate from Waterford Kamhlaba. Euri gave me a short summary of the story, and I promised I would look for it.

If you know me well, you could guess what happened. Indeed, I completely forgot about the book and it went straight to the list of “books I’d love to read but I’m too lazy/busy to do so right now”.

Thing is, I moved on and continued studying medicine, trying to get the best out of uni and searching for the rest on my own (a task that has proven to be much harder than I expected- but it’s probably because, truth be told, I’m lazy). I had a relatively good start, this new year had a novel experience for me, since I began hospital practices and got to be in contact with people on a day-to-day basis.

One day I finished my lessons at the hospital earlier, and went home for lunch. As I was in the toilet, I heard the bell ring and I heard my mom and dad a bit agitated.

After five minutes (yes, I like to take my time in the toilet, thank you), my dad knocked on the door and told me that a strange-looking package had arrived for me. Tha package had no senders address but my address was written in a handwriting I somehow seemed to know from somewhere.

I speeded things up and went to the kitchen, where with all eyes staring at my hands I carefully opened the package (OK, I admit it, I wore gloves!). There was a letter, which said: “Thank you for your order. Should you have any questions or complaints please contact us at …….” (Yes, I was stupid enough to lose the paper and now I don’t know the email address). Finally, it was signed: “The beverly hills book club”.

I went back to the envelope and unpacked the second part of the parcel. It was a pinkish, soft-cover, thick book with yellowish pages.

Mystery book- The Poisonwood Bible

I would say I was shocked, but truth is I was extremely excited!! These are the kind of unusual events that give me enough smiling material for at least a month! In fact, this particular one still makes me smile when I think about it.

The main reason is… I still don’t know who sent it to me! First thing I did was ask Euri if he had sent it, to which he said no. It made sense, the little circle on the cover that reads “Oprah’s book club” is really not Euri’s style. I still had another chance at finding the mystery sender… someone else had mentioned the book to me. Was it Jason? Next step was asking him. It could be him, since he was in the US doing his bachellor’s degree.

He also said no.

Next thing I did was ask absolutely everyone I know or anyone I ran into if they had sent me a book by post. Yeah, everyone looked at me a bit clueless… Why would I send you a book? In fact, why would I send you a book anonymously?

I was very curious about finding out who had sent me the book. I couldn’t help being amused by the fact that someone had sent me a book that two other people had recommended to me before, without me ever mentioning the book again. In fact, I myself would have forgotten about the book had it not forced itself into my life!

I figured I could write an email to the “Beverly Hills Book Club”, but by the time I came up with the brilliant plan, the letter had disappeared (I probably threw it away convinced that someone would sooner or later take credit for sending the book).

A couple of months passed and I still didn’t know who had orchestrated this surprise. Finally, I remembered I had once signed into a penpal webpage and I had posted my address in that page. Maybe an unusually kind mystery penpal had accessed my info and sent me a book for no particular reason?? And how weird was that someone who didn’t know me had sent me a book that two friends told me I should read? But the question that was really tearing me apart was: how would I ever find out who this person was?

Indeed, I never did. Time passed and I got used to not knowing. The book now rests on my bookshelf, surrounded by diverse, yet somehow related, literature- what I call the “books I’ve started and hope to finish someday”.

Books I've started and hope to finish reading one day.


Sleep tight, don’t let the common cold bite!

Some interesting reading here!

Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold.

Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB.
Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.

BACKGROUND: Sleep quality is thought to be an important predictor of immunity and, in turn, susceptibility to the common cold. This article examines whether sleep duration and efficiency in the weeks preceding viral exposure are associated with cold susceptibility. METHODS: A total of 153 healthy men and women (age range, 21-55 years) volunteered to participate in the study. For 14 consecutive days, they reported their sleep duration and sleep efficiency (percentage of time in bed actually asleep) for the previous night and whether they felt rested. Average scores for each sleep variable were calculated over the 14-day baseline. Subsequently, participants were quarantined, administered nasal drops containing a rhinovirus, and monitored for the development of a clinical cold (infection in the presence of objective signs of illness) on the day before and for 5 days after exposure. RESULTS: There was a graded association with average sleep duration: participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were 2.94 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-7.30) more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep. The association with sleep efficiency was also graded: participants with less than 92% efficiency were 5.50 times (95% CI, 2.08-14.48) more likely to develop a cold than those with 98% or more efficiency. These relationships could not be explained by differences in prechallenge virus-specific antibody titers, demographics, season of the year, body mass, socioeconomic status, psychological variables, or health practices. The percentage of days feeling rested was not associated with colds. CONCLUSION: Poorer sleep efficiency and shorter sleep duration in the weeks preceding exposure to a rhinovirus were associated with lower resistance to illness.

Turning 24, and hoping to see a lot more!

So today is my birthday. I had a very nice day. and enjoyed a little meeting with the usual good friends, and some old friends I hadn’t seen in way too long. It was beautiful.

Also, Ninx, guest writer some months ago, sent me a “Green ecard” and dedicated her super long blog post on her life in Delhi for the last 6 months to me, which was a real honour. And for anyone interested, I will post a shorter version of it this week. But if you can’t wait, check her adventures here. Thank you Ninx, you really made my day!

Before I forget, I wanted to say HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY LINKIE! From a previous post you know we share birthdates (I still have a lot to write about this guy, but for now I’ll just say that). So Linkie, this post and the video that comes with it is for you… and for Linkie’s tree-hugginig love (a very dear friend of mine. I know she’ll like this video too!).

The video you’ll see next is titled “Wake up, freak out- then get a grip”. It was written by Leo Murray and it is brilliant. It has an important -a bit worrying, yet hopeful- message. It is very easy to understand and I wish they had taught me like this in school! I believe videos/films have such a powerful role on awareness… (so all you cinema students around the world, help the world please!) At least for those who have trouble concentrating on the reading (like me). Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Oh, and if you want to give me a birthday present, PLEASE sign the petition to release Mario Masuku in Swaziland (updates on Masuku here).

Best things in life are free (or should be)