Thursday, March 15, 2007

Home on the range

The CaRMS dust has settled, and the oracle has spoken our fate: Calgary! Urban Family Medicine! A huge surprise for everyone, I know. But it's now official - as of July 1, I will be a Family Medicine Resident: a doctor, and now almost a Family doctor.

We're very happy. Up until the weekend before my CaRMS rank order had to be submitted, I was certain that I would rank Lethbridge at the top of my list. There seemed to be a lot of plusses: home-call, better preceptor ratios, shorter commute, cheaper houses... But driving home on a Sunday night, I realized that in my heart I was already planning the move back to Calgary at the end of the two years. I was driving streets that I knew by heart - streets that comfort me, that I've known since I was a kid. If I was already missing Calgary, before even having left, then why leave? This is my home - this is my family's home, and it's actually sort of a wonderful realization that I have a home: a corner of the world that I know and love, that for all it's quirks and flaws I sympathize with... this city is a part of me. My girl's grandparents, and aunts and uncles and cousins are all here. Very few people in our culture are blessed with such a sense of family, such wonderful support - a real sense of the gens.

So we're ecstatic to be staying in our lovely little house. Near our Fish Creek, Edworthy, Big Hill Springs, Bowness, and Brown-Lowry parks; near Kananaskis; near Fair's Fair and the Uptown; near Chianti's and Moughal Mahal; near the Center street bridge; near Peter's and Greco's; near T&T and Dragon City; near Chinook Center (yikes!) and 17th avenue on a summer night; near the Stampede and the Round-up Center; near the beavers at North Glenmore; near Heritage Park and the Zoo. And I think, more than ever before, I've recognized how precious a sense of home is.

After this, I don't think there'll be any moves for the Larsens. Sure we'll travel and see all those places we'd like to (including, oh please, the Mayan Riviera again), but this is where we'll be. The Larsens are officially at home!
Oh, also I got my laptop fixed. 600 bucks, all warranty, 2 weeks before it expired! Huzzah!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Peeping with the Fishes...

This Saturday, we headed downtown for the Chinese New Year festivities. We ate a late lunch (delicious, unexpected Dim Sum!) at the Regency Palace Restaurant upstairs in the Dragon City Mall.

For those of you that don't know the place, they have a big koi pond at the entrance to the restaurant. You have to cross a small bridge to actually get in to the dining room. This pond is filled with BIG koi. Beside the pond they have a food dispenser for these massive fish - likely part of the reason these sea monsters are as big as they are. After finishing my fantastic lunch I was feeding the fish with Freyja, and no sooner had I finished thinking "these are the grossest, wierdest, flappiest-mouthed fish I've ever seen" than *whack!* Freyja had wound up for a food drop to the neglected koi in the back, and as she released, suddenly I was blind. For a moment I thought "this is not happening, this is not happening..." until through the blurry orange and white shapes I saw a thin black shape resembling my glasses...

So I reached into the nasty, slimy pond, giant, slimy shapes bumping my arm in their bloated feeding frenzy and retrieved my grimed eyewear from the scummy layer at the bottom of a foot and a half of koi juice. Not a pleasant feeling, I can assure you. Followed by 10 minutes of obsessive scrubbing in the washroom under a motion-sensor hot water tap. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Inflamed my imagination...

Ask my wife: if there is a book, especially a big one with nice pictures, that has the words "ancient" and "mysteries" anywhere near the cover, I can't leave it alone. It's become more and more of an interest for me of late, reading about ancient civilizations, especially enigmatic ones. Because I know that incredible things have happened on this planet that our civilization will never know about because we can't see beyond our own city lights... Cities rising like shattered ribs from the desert, ancient buildings built on the foundations of ancient buildings built on the foundations of even more ancient buildings. And what did they think, those builders? They were the same as me - my brothers, my sisters, looking up at the same stars at night.
Lately, my imagination has been lit aflame by the ruins at Angkor. I'm reading about what we know of the ancient Khmer, the builders of these awesome temples. Angkor Thom, pictured above, is part of a temple city that includes the largest known religious structure on the planet, Angkor Wat, pictured below. The Khmer built them between the 8th and 13th centuries to honor their God-Kings; in fact each temple was meant to literally be a Mount Meru - grossly analogous to a Mount Zion for the Khmer. We don't know very much about the ancient Khmer themselves, because almost nothing of their writings have remained - instead, we have temples filled with pictures and sculptures.

This is all interesting, but what really gets me wondering, is what would it have been like to live in Angkor in the 12th century? There were people like us there then - not kings, not slaves, but people who just lived here: healers, soldiers, farmers. What would it have been like, then, living in the jungle, no electricity, no plumbing, but the fires of these temples blazing in the night, and the taste of warm spiced fish in our bellies, and the sound of songs and chanting and dancing rippling across the lake? What would it have been like to have been in love in that place: the heat and humidity of the jungle, the sounds of night birds and beasts, bats filling the sky, the stars flaming above the eternal fire of the temple-palaces? Would I have sat for a moment on the cool stone and stared at the towers of heaven? Stone hallways, stone doors, cool rush mats to sleep on... Would I have watched for the light from the door of my house, walking home, at night, through the lantern-strung, moon-reflecting universe of flooded rice fields?

There is wonder too be found in all times and all places. But the last few days, my mind imagines that world, and being there with my love...

Angkor on Wikipedia.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Reading the auspices

My Fortune Cookie told me:
Your wounds are strangely shaped.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

Amen to that.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Post-call Haze

This morning I finished my second-to-last call-shift of all medical school. That's right: I worked 25 hours solid, beyond the point where studies have shown I shouldn't legally be driving anymore, taking care of some of Calgary's sickest patients. From whence does this ancient and venerable practice spring? From the shores of Styx, my friend.

It's actually OK - I shouldn't complain, seeing as the senior Residents on the service routinely put in between 26 and 28 hour shifts despite the fact that Alberta's residency contract that says that our max is 24 hours.

The call shift actually isn't all that bad. You enter a strange night-time world that few see. I can't describe how I start to feel after about 7PM, and everyone else has gone home. Maybe it could get addicting - you start to feel like the last defender of a fortress... Throughout the hospital there are skeleton crews just like yours carrying out their own well defined jobs. I get to see patients in the ER at 2 in the morning because that's when they're suffering, and that's when they need us. In the caverns beneath the hospital (you didn't know about them?) there is a tiny room with a hospital bed, a lock on the door and a private attached washroom (luxury of luxuries in a giant public hospital) to which I can retreat and sleep exhausted in womb-like subterannean darkness before my trilling pager summons me to action again. It's a strange world, but one that I admit I enjoy seeing every once in a while.

And I don't mind it all that much because you always get your "post-call day" off. So for me, my girls don't know that I'm not home after about 7PM: to them, daddy just worked a long day the day before, and then got to stay home in his jammies to play with them all of the next. I trade a night, and some sleep, for a day home with my family. Which for me is a pretty fair trade.

And I get to be there when the things that I got into medicine to be there for happen. Last night a friend of mine passed-away. Someone for whom death appeared unexpected, unbidden, at a young age, for no reason anyone could see. It just happened. Sometimes I think of death on my unit like waves lapping the shore: sometimes the swell comes far,far up the beach, with no warning, and erases a name in the sand - utterly unpredictable. I was there to say whatever ridiculous words came to me. Words are never what count - it's the being there. And I was able to be there, with the people who had loved him, and just be a human being there, standing in awe at the way we can feel when things happen so utterly beyond our understanding. But stand as a living, breathing human, in the fire of memory and life. And speak a prayer for my brother crossing the ocean. As always, it's not my suffering to tell. But I witnessed it, and bear witness of the same.

In the dark hours before dawn. In the fortress on the beach.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

CaRMS in the Can

For all intents and purposes, my CaRMS application is complete. What's CaRMS, you might ask? The Canadian Residency Matching Service: a non-profit body that organizes the appointment of all Canadian medical school graduates to residency positions across the country. When you graduate from med school in Canada, though technically a physician, you must complete post-grad training in the specialty of your choice (Family Medicine - the classical "GP" is considered a specialty in Canada) - a residency. And the years keep rolling by...

After a somewhat technically complicated process that generates your electronic application, med students across the country hit the road for two weeks in January/February to interview at various programs. I interviewed for Family Medicine residencies in Calgary, Lethbridge/Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Saskatoon. 5 flights, one Holiday Inn, and 4 name tags later (relatively painless compared to what some of my colleagues go through) I'm done interviewing and my applications to the programs are in the can. The programs: two great, one far, and one ugly. All that's left now is for me to rank the 4 in order of my preference, and wait for the programs to rank me. And on one magical day in March an unknowable computer in Ontario, without parts or passions, will combine those two lists and assign me a residency position based on a complex mathematical algorithm. This, of course, fills me with warmth and a sense of well-being concerning my place in the inscrutable universe.

Not that that last step of ranking is anything near to an easy task. Where will our family end up for the next two years? Thankfully we seem to be choosing between two great possibilities. Still, this makes things almost worse, since choosing one means closing the door on the other. Ah, well - life is just so. We haven't really hit many of these crossroads in the past, or at least our path through them has seemed fairly obvious. So now we complain bitterly that we have to make a choice.

The point is, my efforts are at an end. And medical school has a ghostly 9 weeks lingering on...

And for some reason, this weekend I'm feeling a little like the gentleman at the bottom of the CaRMS website illustration, not those well-groomed, intent people near the top.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Returning to blogging...

I've decided to come back to blogging. Back in the dawn of the blogosphere (or mid-morning at the least) I wrote quite a bit in my blog. Later, I recieved a journal, which was much more to my liking, and in the time since, I've become an excellent journaler, but a decidedly non-blogger. Recently, however, I've felt that blogging might be a nice way to keep in contact with people - participate in a community with people I know, or don't yet know. Anyone who knew my old blog knew also that long, long entries were more the norm than the exception. No longer! I now have my lovely journals to chronicle my days - the blog need be no chronicle! I also don't want my blog to be something that takes up time that I could be writing in my aforementioned journals. I'd like it to be something accessible, dynamic, a tendril outstretched to the wider world. Someone, someday will read my diaries. I'd like my blog to be for living people now.

Already too esoteric? Absolutely! ;) No new spots it seems for this leopard.