Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh Canada!

With Ans on the other side of the world, I have to find ways of amusing myself that does not involve video games. This past weekend, I visited our Neighbor to the North. Every year or so, one of my college friends invites a bunch of people to her lake house in Ontario, Canada. Actually, "lake house" is a misnomer as it really is an entire island stocked with everything you would need to "rough it" comfortably. There's very little tech on the island, except for a satellite dish for TV that never really gets watched so you have the luxury of being cut off from the fast lane and are free to spend that time stuffing your face and getting drunk. That said, here is a list of things that are quintessential to an Island Visit:

  • Chop wood- This is usually one of the first things I do on the island. I don't know what it is about swinging an axe and splitting a log in twain that is so freakin' satisfying, but it's addictive. We had a mini-Lumberjack Games this weekend that included events like: "Throw An Axe into a Log" and "Split that Log" a "Name that Tune" kind of game where you wagered how many strokes it would take for you to "Split that Log." I could have done this all weekend. It's about getting in touch with my inner woodsman. And making numerous bad 'log' and 'wood' puns.
  • Fire- This naturally goes with the woodchopping. This trip I spent a lot of time making fire and taking pictures of fire while it rained one afternoon. I'm a bit of a pyro, I guess. I suppose I didn't get to burn enough things when I was younger. Plus I love toasted marshmallows. Fire also adds new dimensions to the adolescent puns as 'hot' and 'burning' are added to the repertoire.
  • Strategy Board Games That Last Forever-Risk and Monopoly is for wussies. We play games I had never heard of before, like Aquire and Settlers of Catan. These are not games for the feeble-minded and weak-willed. We played a rousing game of Settlers during a storm this weekend, which I kicked ass in by the way. For those who don't know, the game revolves around exploration, development and managing resources like wood, ore, and sheep. Thus, there were many opportunities for "who's got wood?," "give me your dirty ores," and various sheep/shit jokes.
  • Water Sports- I'm talking about lake activities, not getting pissed on. Being on an island with all sorts of boats gives us the chance to sail or kayak around. They also have a speedboat that can be used to go water skiing, or in my case, pull your groin and make you inhale water while being dragged at 30 miles an hour. One day I will stand up, I fucking swear.
  • Jump off a big rock- Usually I'll kayak to Rock Island which is this giant boulder in the middle of the lake. There's a spot that's about 20 feet or so from the water's surface where you can take a running jump off of. I have jumped about 10 times over the course of 3 or 4 visits, but every time it scares the bejesus out of me. I didn't do it this time because of a bum ankle, but I'm sure the next time I try, I will be perched at the top, peering down, and crying.
  • Girls on Trampolines- when I'm too much of a wuss to go to the rock, I can always hang out on the floating trampoline near the shore. It's a great place to sun or play dumb games like King of the Mountain and Diving Frisbee catch. Plus, girls on trampolines!
  • Outdoor shower- just something about being naked outside is cool. Unless it's really cold. You know, shrinkage.
  • Ankle Biters- Canadian mosquitoes are huge. I swear they have antlers. Not a good thing, but a part of the experience. Also a drawback to being naked outside.
  • Stuffing of the Face- Next time I will do some calculations. (Weight before trip - weight after trip) / days on island = YOU ARE FAT
  • Cheese Curd- It's cheese that I have only seen in southern Ontario. It is good and it squeaks when you eat it.
  • Cheesy bread egg in a hole- Invented by Ans and I during our last trip. Cheesy bread is another heavenly concoction that is essentially a round pastry with melted cheddar. The only way to make this better is to cut a whole in the middle and fry and egg in it. Freakin' brilliant.
  • Getting drunk off some new cocktail- I don't even remember what we came up with in previous trips, but this year we had Grown-Up Sodas and Grown-Up Chocolate Milk.
  • Seven Hour Drive of MA and NY- Sometimes it's good, sometimes its bad. Ans and I got into our first fight on the way up to Canada last trip. This time, I saw two cows get freaky on the side of the road. Nice.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hash, God and Geckos

Last Saturday I participated in my first "Hash." It's a running/ walking trail marked with flour, that changes every week. The trail usually cuts through the jungle, passing by beautiful or unusual landmarks (like a hidden temple) and ends at a picturesque place where a bonfire and plenty of beer await. Last weekend was my first Hash, and I have been told it was a bit rough. It was a moonlight Hash, which is supposed to celebrate the full moon. This particular Hash meant starting at dusk in Kagman, plowing through the jungle in the dark for 3 hours and finally winding up and around cow pastures and beach roads to finally end atop a cliff. The Hash was a bit much. I was immediately filthy and sweaty, which was fine. It was the no-flash-light, stumbling through the woods completely blind, clueless to where I was going and falling into the water that kind of got to me. It just seemed stupid. I could picture something disastrous happening out in the jungle- slipping into a ravine, breaking a leg, being attacked by a three headed puma guarding her cubs, or a snake.

That sort of shit would happen to me, and I'd be pissed. I was fine, scratched up bruised, tired and hungry, but I was still pissed. By the time we reached "Religion," the after Hash soiree, I was not in the mood to do anything but dress my wounds and shower. All they could offer was a water bottle and a turkey burger. It did the trick. Religion is a frat party, hosted by the brain trust of Saipan. All of the "FNGs" (the "new guys") are brought up to the front of the crowd, asked questions and told to chug a beer out of a BED PAN. Oh, sorry, let me clairfy, it is the "Sacred Vessel." My bad. It's a bunch of hoorah and silly, rude jokes. It was a good way to end the night and I'm glad I stayed.

I got home that night and showered twice. I borrowed shoes and I feel terrible returning them, but they were designated as "Hash shoes" before I wore them. They are stiff, filthy and I'm afraid to touch them.

This weekend I was thinking about Hashing again, even though I spent most of the week completely distraught over my first experience. I know so many people from the Hash now, and it was a great social networking experience. Tonight, I unfortunately cannot participate because I have agreed to do church and dinner with my landlords. I was raised Catholic, but haven't to church in...oh, a little while, so it should be interesting. Last night, I also had dinner with two priests and my landlords. I think I'm getting all my God in, in one weekend. It's all good.

I'm pretty tired, and I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll get to hike around, be outside and get to bed early. I didn't sleep much last night because I was startled out of my skin by Heiney (the gecko) who has either become MONSTROUS (bigger than my hand) or who's mum has come out to play. We scared the shit out of each other and I shooed Heiney out of my room. I haven't seen him yet (and now I probably will), but I'm hoping that he stays out of sight. He was cute when small, but he's just a bit too big and too quick for my liking now. He can eat bugs and still hide. I'd be good with that.

So, all is well in the CNMI. I'm already craving a Northeast fall, but I'm happy to be here and I'm having fun- as long as the geckos stay away.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Week One

I have a gecko. He's small and newt-like. He lives behind my shower head at the moment. Everyone else on island has a resident gecko, and now I do, too. I hope to watch him grow (not too much larger) and I think I'll name him Charlie, or Timothy. Maybe Heinrich. My gecko could be female, but the way he was checking me out in the shower makes me think otherwise, plus, how many chicks would hide in the shower to introduce themselves to another lady?

I've been in Saipan for over a week now. I arrived late last Thursday night. My flight here was actually, not bad at all. Every flight went smoothly; 4 hours to Houston, 8 hours to Honolulu, 8 hours to Guam; and 40 minutes to Saipan. The only hitch in my giddy-up was when after many, many hours of traveling we had an unexpectedly long layover in Guam. Why? The plane just never showed up. Who knows what happened to the plane, but it wasn't there and so we waited until the last flight from Saipan arrived; they cleaned it up real nice for us; the pilot had a smoke; they dished out some "Hawaii Chips," and we eventually made it to Saipan. It was a nice and easy introduction to how things work around here.

Upon my arrival, another MPH student from my school picked me up. I've always loved airport pickups because it's always a time of smiles and relief. Whether you're going home or taking off, it's always good to be there. When I arrived the large security guard, with whom the other student was speaking with, gave me a great big, sweaty hug and said, "Welcome!"

I started work on Friday, but was treated to the buffet lunch at the Hyatt, and then a BBQ celebrating Bastille day (yes, it is random) that night. The following day started with a swim in an outdoor Olympic pool full of salt water. Later that day I went on a long walk along Beach Path with the new Pediatric doc here, who arrived just before me, but is friends with the people that are running the project I'm working on; so, we know each other already and have spent a lot of time together. That night I participated in a Hash. The CNMI Hash is supposed to be one of the best, and for being my first Hash it certainly left an impression on me. For those who aren't sure what I'm talking about, I will explain more later.

Sunday, started with the most amazing brunch I have ever had in my ENTIRE life. It again, was at the Hyatt, and we spent three hours there. It was beautiful; gluttonous and a perfect Sunday meal. That afternoon I tried to actually grocery shop here, which is more challenging than one would think. Everything is super expensive; there's a 50% off expired dairy section; the grocery store produce comes in once a week in a package, and the cereal could very well be stale and expired like many other carb products on the shelves. However, I came out $70 later with some shampoo, pasta, sauce, yogurt, cereal, peanut butter, and bread.

That evening, I went to see Batman! AWESOME! I'll leave it to Deuce to write more about Batman, but I have to say it was probably the best Batman I've ever seen.

So, my week has flown by as I've been at the hospital going through medical records all day long ("all day" here meaning show up at 8; start work around 8:30; lunch at 11:30 until about 1:30; and then 3 more hours of work. I'm home before five.) and then either going to the gym, to dinner, to the beach or to a market afterwards to pass the few hours I have before I head to bed. Nights here are quiet, and mornings are cool, so, I try to do a lot outside between 5:45am and 7am.

It's all good, no complaints. Lots of busy work, and little time to catch up with everyone. Saipan is beautiful, friendly, buggy and hot. There are tons of stray dogs and cars. Everyone smiles, and EVERYONE says, "hello." I'm liking it here, but can't wait for Deuce to come out and for us to head home to autumn weather!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Look kids, Big Ben…Parliament.

Most people would assume that at 3 in the morning, Boston traffic would be relatively simple to navigate. Most people, however, don’t realize that while most of the 1.5million residents of the Boston area sleep, the Traffic Troll and his minions are busy closing ramps and randomly throwing detour signs throughout. You see, the Traffic Troll’s job is to keep the drivers of the city on their toes at all times, thus spreading warm, tingly feelings like a gonorrhea outbreak.

Ans left this morning on a jet plane to the magical land of Saipan, and being the dutiful (or doody-full, depending on the day) partner, I woke up in the middle of the night to take her to the airport. The airport is a 20 minute ride, so I figured I’d be able to kiss my sweetheart goodbye and be back in bed in about an hour.

Ans is going to be in Saipan for six weeks, and apparently the Traffic Troll wanted her to have a proper send-off, so he arranged to take us on a 45 minute scenic tour of the city by closing off every normal route to the airport and replacing it with poorly labeled detours. We did get to see the Big Dig, the Zakem Bridge, the lovely town of Everett, the Public Garden, Boston Common, Rowes Wharf, and the TDNorth Boston Garden. So Ans got to see all those things before she left, cementing them in her mind’s eye, so if she ever misses Boston, she can close her eyes and imagine The Departed. So she’s got that going for her.

I, on the other hand, am now left to my own devices to find ways to fill my time. So I’m writing in the blog again. Lucky you.

Friday, July 11, 2008


In 5 days I'm leaving for Saipan. I'm ridiculously excited about this and have been drafting list after list of things I need, errands to run, clothes to pack, books to read, etc. Since December, I have been researching the CNMI to figure out geographical, socio-economic and cultural aspects of the island. From what I've read and heard, visiting Saipan is like visiting Hawaii in 1990. That's excellent. Even though my only trip to Hawaii was in 2005, I'm thinking that in 1990 they still had running water, indoor plumbing and no snakes. That was one of my favorite things about Hawaii; I could freely hike, swim, and run with no fear of running into either a skinny pencil sized reptile or a gigantic-swallow-you-whole one. I'm a lot more adventurous when I know there are no limbless creatures waiting in the tree tops or in tall grass to startle the bejesus out of me or to better yet, eat me alive.

When I booked my flight I knew I was going to have to fly through Guam. Oh, Guam, you tiny little military base of an island. Your historical significance astounds me, and I'm intrigued by your remote-island characteristics; however, I swear that if I encounter a snake while in your airport I will quickly become a psychotic ape shit mess of four letter words, flailing limbs and panic attacks- in public- and will condemn your existence to the deepest, darkest and hottest places of hell. I'm not kidding. I know this sounds insane. But, I think I can honestly say that this may be the only situation I could find myself in where I have no ability to rationally react. NONE.

I have always been PETRIFIED of snakes. It is a legitimate phobia. The fact that I feared them as a child does not justify my unimaginable fear of them today; however, the fact that one fell on my head when I was coming home from school totally justifies my complete paranoia and utter inability to cope in snake-meet-Ans situations. I'd rather see a shark in the ocean. That would suck, don't get me wrong, but when I loose control of all bodily functions in that situation, I'm in the water, and you bet your ass that everyone else is also freaking the fuck out. I wouldn't be alone.

I bring this up because in my last few days before departure I have been dutifully checking up on the weather (it's the rainy season- awesome) and on the snake population of Saipan. I meekly asked a friend who was there last summer about the snake situation on the island and she assured me she didn't see any. But, to be honest, I'm scared shitless to ask anyone that is there now because of the slight chance that they may mention this! HOLY EFFING CRAP.

Please note, this was reported only ten days ago. Now, ok, from my desk 9,000 miles away, let's think rationally. The fact that there is A snake that MIGHT have gotten onto the island from Guam (*kisses*) and that it's making national news is a pretty good sign that there isn't a huge infestation and that things will be fine since there are three dogs and several people actively searching for this mother effer. My honest initial reaction, "That effing thing better not be in my apartment waiting for me to arrive!" I think I would throw up my intestines, explode inside out, wet myself and run away in the opposite direction barreling through walls, running into traffic and pretty much risk everything to get the hell away. I wouldn't even scream, I'd just pathetically whimper. The sad, pathetic truth is, when I do see snakes this is what I feel like I'm doing as I bolt away, and I'm sure my face contorts in all sorts of ways as I drool and moan hysterically. I shit you not, people, this is how I react to snakes. I become unhinged.

So, if y'all wouldn't mind just saying a little prayer or chanting or dancing a little snake-be-gone jig, I'd appreciate it. I'll let you know how my three hour layover in the world's most infested island goes. This is my own personal version of Fear Factor.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Most Polite

As I become older I think that parts of my personality that were so fundamental to who I was between the age of 10 and 21, have begun to change. I was voted "Most Polite" my senior year of high school. What a load of crap. It's the "she's nice, but not the funniest, smartest, cutest or most athletic, so we'll give her polite" award. That's fine. I took it. I have to mention that my brother was voted "Best from Behind." Ass. I'm the one who got the budunkadunk in the family.

Anyway, I digress. I think I was always perceived as kind and smart in school, and for many years it was because I was just too damn shy to show my real personality or share my true opinions. I broke out of that in late high school. Since, I've been trying to find a happy medium between telling it like it is without being irrational or subjective and keeping things to myself- appearing to be more shy and "nice." However, lately, and likely due to some recent stress and boredom with work and school, I've noticed that it's been harder to find this balance, and I've been more outwardly mean. Or at least I feel like I have been. Waking up in the morning and feeling like you're just not a nice person, is just not a nice feeling. It doesn't happen often and usually occurs after moments like the one I had last week. It had been a long, gruelingly slow day at work. I had gone to the gym and needed to pick up groceries before heading home. Disgusting, sweaty, hungry, tired and now overburdened by groceries spilling out of my bag as I had refused to use a paper or plastic bag from the store (sometimes Green is such a bitch), I exited into the humidity.

I live in a busy part of town and often there are people standing idly on the corner trying to get signatures for this or that. I could see this young guy with a clip board had spotted me as soon as I left the store. Usually, if I have time, I'll humor the people and hear at least what they are protesting or rallying for before I give them a smiling, "No, thank you," and walk by. This kid started talking to me before I was within earshot, and the fact that his lips were moving and he was pulling the pen out for me to sign some freaking petition as he could see me muling up the street with groceries shoved into every pocket and beyond - was I supposed to sign with my feet, good sir?- it really flippin irritated me. Still, I gave a superficial smile that I thought might have kindly read, "Please, leave me the hell alone or I will gladly shove my apples up your ass." He continued to murmur and when I got closer I heard something like, "Jalike dasum males?"

I smiled and shook my head as I got closer, assuming he asked if I could sign his clip bored, and no, I wasn't going to. He stopped in his tracks, and asked again as I approached, "Jalike dasum males?!"

I smiled and shook my head and was finally close enough to hear what he said as I passed and he shouted, "You don't like baby whales?!"

Who knows what people think of me when I sit on the T, when I go through the grocery store, run down the block, eat gum off the street. At that moment I couldn't have cared less, and it didn't seem like anyone cared either. Part of living in a city is becoming oblivious to most of what's going on around you, but at the same time hyper aware of your environment. The ebb and flow of actively ignoring, but taking note of situations is something you have to learn to master here. It makes me a bit sad. It's made me a bit cold. That kid made me want to wear the T-shirt my father designed for me for my UVM orientation, "Nuke the gay baby sperm whales."

One day, I'll be nice again.