Sunday, December 5, 2010

Adventures in Switzerland

As I started to read through the blogs of my friends today, I realized it's been a while since I posted last (over a month now). During that time, alot has happened. Let me see if I can give a recap:

1. Dealt with culture shock (still sort of working on it). Yes, it happens. Even in a beautiful place like Switzerland. Yes, it is a developed country, but it's still not home. I still have to speak a foreign language when I go out to the store, use public transportation, etc. I still don't understand everything people say, and can't fully express myself. It's getting better as I my language skills expand, but still challenging. I still don't have my family near-by, nor my friends (though I have made new ones here).  

2. Took a trip to Athens, Rome, London, and Paris with my parents. This came at a wonderful time. I was getting a little burned out on my french language study, and really needed a break. In addition, it was wonderful to spend time with my parents for about three weeks (including the time they were here in Neuchatel before and after traveling). We really enjoyed getting to see so many historical sites. It was the first time my mom had been in Europe, and the first time my dad had been in Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain.  I served as their "tour guide" despite it being the first time for me to go to two of the cities. Having traveled much more than they, it was a little easier for me to use the Metro lines, find tours, etc. In return for me "services", they financed the trip. (Couldn't have gone had they not)

3. Celebrated Thanksgiving, my brother's 33rd birthday, and my parents 38th wedding anniversary all on the same day. We were able to Skype with my siblings and niece and nephews this day, after a full day of traveling from Rome to London (in which it took 4 hours to get from Gatwick to our hotel in Islington...long story). It was wonderful to see and talk with family. Joel (my brother) was a little sad that  he missed out on a birthday party his sons and in-laws had without him-complete with food and games, but then again thankful because they let him sleep. (It was a 3:30 am party-apparently Logan got up to use the bathroom, which was next to Eli's crib, so of course Grammy had to get up to help Logan, and then they all needed a snack, and if you have a snack, you need to play games, and lasted until Kristi came and told them to all go back to bed.)

4. Returned this week on Tuesday from our travels, arriving here in Neuchatel with a sore throat. Went to school on wednesday, feeling like I was hit by a brick. Spent some time with my parents wednesday afternoon (but mostly slept the afternoon away in their hotel room). Thursday I took them to the train station for their return trip to Zurich. I made it to school the three days I was here this last week-trying to catch up with the lessons I missed while on vacation. Today, Sunday, I have stayed at home rather than attending church. Both for additional rest, as well as limiting spreading germs to all those at church. (Though the most infectious part of the cold is passed.) I read some of a book of a collection of writings of St. Augustine I bought while on vacation. I recommend you pick up some of his writings at your local bookstore.

Above all, I should write of God's faithfulness to me through all of this-providing for me exactly what I needed when I needed it. 
-For a close friend here to help me through frustrations as they come, who can relate to the cultural differences and frustrations with the French language. (They don't pronounce half the letters, and then pronounce every single one in ophthalmologist. Go figure)
-For wisdom to speak when needed and remain silent when appropriate. Holding your tongue is harder than one might think.
-For a supportive family, who loves me more than I can comprehend.
-For supportive friends around the world-some home in the US, and some in Cameroon and Ukraine. Though it's been hard not being able to talk with friends in the US as much as I would like, I know they are still there for me and praying for me regularly. Skype has been a wonderful tool to stay connected with friends and family. 
-For an answer to prayer regarding the trunks I had left at my parents-a container will be going from Boone, NC to Pioneer Christian Hospital. Rather than my parents dragging the trunks here, and me having to take 6 trunks to Congo, we were able to send the trunks via USPS to Boone (for a very reasonable price), to be put on the container. Also, I was able to purchase a bike to put on the container so I would have a faster form of transportation once I arrive. Such a blessing!!!!
-For the ability to have this time to spend learning French. I know being able to speak French more fluently will help me greatly when I get to Congo. I will still have to learn Lingala, the local tribal language, but for most of the rest of life, I will need to know french. I believe having a better mastery of French will lesson a little of the culture shock once I arrive in Congo-at least I can speak one language. 
-Last, but not least-for receiving a student visa to stay here in Switzerland for 3 more months for further language study!! I am also thankful both Samaritan's Purse and Joe Harvey at Pioneer Christian Hospital are so supportive of me staying longer to continue my language studies. As I have been reading of other friends who have left for their posts, with 2 weeks to 2 months of language study, my gratitude increases tremendously. At our orientation, one thing most of the previous post-residents mentioned was best for cultural integration, to lesson culture shock, and better ministry with the people we were serving was to be able to speak the language. It is so wonderful to have the opportunity to immerse myself deeper in this complex language. 

A few prayer requests:
-patience-in many areas
-the opportunity to work with a physician here to better my medical french (possible opportunity, but I must ask yet)
-heal from my cold-it's really affected my breathing-making it more challenging to climb the hill to get home
-for a friend at home who lost her baby at 27 weeks of pregnancy due to a rare complication of pregnancy, along with her husband and two children
-for the financial support to continue paying the minimum payments on student loans, without having to go into forbearance. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Une cadeau formidable-A Great Gift

Some of you are aware of a small snafu with the USPS. See, my mom sent me this wonderful package a few weeks ago. It contained a few things I requested from home (a few of which were selected by my dad for me), as well as materials for a project I wanted to complete while here. The materials for the project were quite dear to me, had special meaning, and were rather irreplaceable. So when the package arrived 1 week after being shipped, naturally I was quite excited for it. Except this is what it contained:
      In case you can't tell, it's a set of wheels for a toy motorcycle. (Or perhaps a model). Regardless, it is not my package. Yes, you can see my name on it with my address here written in my mother's handwriting, along with the customs label she put on it. However, those labels were somehow removed from my package, and placed on this poor sap from Italy's package. I was quite disappointed. And yes, there were tears. My mom placed a report with the USPS of a possible stolen package. After all, the two labels you see here were on different sides of the box. The likelihood of the labels coming loose and magically finding themselves on this package are slim to none. 
      So I prayed. And prayed. And hoped against hope that my package might actually make it to me or back to my parents. In the meantime, my mom and I came up with a backup plan for the project materials. Not quite as originally intended, but would still be special. She sent the package two days ago. Yesterday, I received this in the mail:

It's the package! The original package sent 4 weeks ago! The one we thought was stolen! Everything it originally contained was still inside. As you can see, the address label is in my mother's handwriting. She put an extra address label inside the box when she sent it. I'm not sure why she did, and I remember thinking it a bit different when she told me about it just after she sent the package. So all I can figure out is that the USPS opened the box looking for some sort of identifying information, found the address label, and sent it to me. I will never know for sure. But I am sure thankful to have the box and it's contents. I'm thankful to see how God provides in such trivial matters such as this. If He can care enough to help a small box get to me in Switzerland, how much more for bigger things in life? For people, for their health, for you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

A tale of two worlds

 "What would prompt a young woman such as yourself to leave the US and a lucrative career as a physician to work in Africa for little to no money, with people you have never met, for people who you do not know?"   
    Each week there have been new students in my french class. This last week, a 22 yr old from New York state joined my class. Originally here to start a masters at the University, she learned upon arrival that her courses would be in both french and english, thus she has joined us for a few months. She joined us for lunch last week, and on thursday, joined Kathryn (another American) and I on a trip to Morat, a nearby city. On our return, I walked with her back to her hotel room in order to pick up my backpack I had left there. The time allowed us to have a very interesting conversation. 
      As we walked, she asked me the above question. See, to her, the idea was quite foreign. She comes from a first generation American-Russian Jewish family. Her father's world view, in her words, is to "bend over backwards for family, do anything, spare nothing, but for those not related to you, they are on their own." She acknowledged her father's way is not necessarily the best, and found my plans intriguing. 
      I explained to her my reasons: being called by God at a young age to be a doctor and a missionary, Jesus command to help the poor and needy, my love for others because Christ first loved me. I'm not the most eloquent or evangelistic person in the world, but it was wonderful to be able to share this with her. I hope there may be more conversations down the road, all with the same philosophy-duty and obligation gain us little, but love-to quote a popular song-THAT's what it's ALL about.

1 Corinthians 13:3 If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First day of school

The Concept

“Spring Arbor University is a community of learners distinguished by our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts, total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning and critical participation in the contemporary world.”
When I went to Spring Arbor University for college, the idea of being a lifelong learner was an idea often pressed upon us. I never thought I would ever stop learning, I just thought at some point I would stop formal schooling. But c'est la vie. I am now entering my twenty-fifth year of schooling (counting residency and my masters). I do like to learn. But I HATE feeling like I don't know anything, which is how I feel right now. Two year olds know more French than I do. I can barely ask "What is it?" (Qu'est-ce que c'est?, pronounced "kay-es kuh say" yeah, they left out a whole bunch of consonants). How will I know enough in three months to get by in Congo? The Wycliffe ladies who are here take 14 mos total of language study! Be praying I learn quickly.  And so, I should go do homework-devoir
Au revoir!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


My luggage-there is still another suitcase not in the picture.

For all of you wanting to know, I made it safely to Switzerland. Unfortunately, I currently feel 30+ hrs post-call, with that wonderful queasy stomach feel one gets when overtired and awake far too long. Sleep on the plane was difficult at best, but I did get in a few hours. I am blessed to have one piece of luggage not make it through to Zurich. It will be sent to Neuchatel via train or post. I say I am blessed because I do not know how I would have made it through the airport with one additional piece of luggage. I would have needed a second cart, which would have been impossible to make it onto the elevators needed to get to the train. 
Having literally thrown my luggage onto the train just before it left the station, it took a few minutes to really take 
a look around as the train pulled out of the station. My first realization was not the scenery (which wasn’t spectacular at first due to industrial appearing buildings), but that I was sitting in first class on a second class ticket. My prayers have been answered, however, and my ticket was just checked and nothing mentioned about sitting in the wrong class. Whew. I did not want to move my luggage. Now I can enjoy the scenery. 

Would you like to hear a description? There are houses, trees, cows, buildings, electricity lines, hills, cars, busses, etc. Sounds like the US, eh? Ha ha. They all do have a Swiss/European flair to them (well, maybe just the man made things.)  Perhaps a picture would do better justice.
View from the train
View from my window
I've now met Hermine (pronounced er-meen), the woman I will be living with for the next three months. She is quite nice, has a wonderful flat with a great view of the lake. Tomorrow I will take a walk to explore things a bit more, and share a few pictures of my surroundings. From what I understand, there is another woman here taking French courses that just arrived today, as well as several others who have been here for a few months. One is leaving tomorrow. Apparently there are quite a few who come here for language training with Wycliffe Bible Institute. 

Oh, I almost forgot the best part-there was a box of Swiss chocolate waiting for me on my bedstand on my arrival. Fantastic! Tres Magnifique!

Leaving on a Jet plane

I knew leaving my family would be difficult, but I did not imagine just how difficult that would be. Add that to the stress of packing and trying to spend time with them the last week before leaving, and you’ve got an emotional overload in the making. I’m thankful to all my friends and family who have  been praying for me during this time. I really needed the prayers, and could still use them. 
For those fellow PRP fellows, packing and saying good bye are the hardest things to do. I was trying to finish up the last of my packing Thursday night when I hit a wall. A brick wall, head on, full force. I could no longer function. As I lay on the floor sobbing, my mom came and prayed with me. She, my dad and my sister helped me to complete my packing before heading to bed for a few brief hours. In total (for my final destination of Congo) I have 6 trunks (possibly 7 by the time a few things get rearranged), two duffles, a suitcase, a carry on suitcase, a backpack, and my camera. However, I only have two of the trunks with me currently. How the rest get to Congo is yet to be determined but there are several ideas, contingent on a few things. They will get there. The other pieces of luggage contain mostly things for Switzerland-its difficult to pack for three seasons. (late summer, fall, and winter).  

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Ah, the eve of my 30th birthday. Such a momentous event. Good-bye roaring twenties. At times I will miss you, but I enjoy the growing wisdom and life progress that age has brought me. After all, 15 years ago I thought I'd never be a doctor-that time seemed so far off. And now, I'm a Family Medicine doctor (hopefully soon board certified!). Ten years ago I thought getting into medical school would be quite a feat, was worried about taking the MCAT and passing my Genetics course with Dr. Buratovich. Five years ago I was in medical school getting ready for fourth year medical school, interviews and my two month elective in Eldoret, Kenya.

What will I be doing five years from now? I do not know. I do know my tentative plans for the next few years. (Tentative because God can change them at any time). I will be leaving to study French at a language school in Switzerland in early September (classes start on the 6th), and returning in mid-december. I'll then leave for Republic of Congo in January, hopefully with a week or so stop in Cameroon to see some friends on the way. I'll be in Congo for two years (hopefully home once or twice in there). After that-its all in the air. Perhaps I'll come here and work for a while. Perhaps I'll find a missionary sending organization and stay in Africa. I'm just going to take it one step at a time.

Goodbyes (belated posting)

June has been a month full of good-byes, and July and August will have more.  I said good bye to my furniture and many other belongings on June 2, when the movers came and took it all to the storage unit. I said good bye to my house  and neighbors on June 16th, when I closed on my house. I said another set of goodbyes this last friday at work, then more at graduation. Due to this an some other things going on, June has been an exhausting month. This summer there are so many more things to do, friends and family to visit, and good byes to be said. I have a list of projects to get done this summer...if I get even half of them done, I'll be glad.

There are also some hello's-greeting the new owners of my house, meeting a man in my neighborhood who works as a peacemaker and has been to Congo before. Hello to vacation and no pager, no inbox to check, no notes to write. Hello to summer, to my parents pool, and to spending time with my family.

So HELLO summer!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lists and Lists of Lists

Two months to graduation from residency. Three months until Family Medicine Board Exams. Four months until family vacation. Five months until traveling to say goodbyes. Six months until leaving for French courses. Seven to eight months until arriving in Congo.

In the meantime there are a few things to be done...

Close on the house. -Praise God it sold in 6 weeks for the ASKING price. Amazing!
Move. Somewhere. Not sure exactly where yet, but one of several certain places.
Determine if I can work this summer. (Finding medical malpractice coverage for only 1-2 mos is a challenge)

Pack for four situations:
Winter (French courses may be in a winter climate)

Sort through belongings-divide between selling, donating, giving, and trashing.
Watch Psych supervision session videos so I can graduate.
Read, read, read. My Bible, innumerable books...too many to read.
Finish some projects-scrapbooks, photo albums, etc

All this in due time.
For now, my bed is calling.