Sunday, July 29, 2012

Swimming with the fishies.

One big thing that has happened to me in my time in St. Kitts is that I have fallen in love with the ocean. My only two experiences with salt water before coming here were Florida when I was thirteen and Hawaii when I was seventeen. When we went to Cancun when I was eighteen, I don't think I went in the water once other than a jet ski excursion where the coral was brown and the fish were scarce (a dead reef, all too common these days). But none of those experiences inspired me in the way that living down here has.

When my family was here I was happy to show them my favorite restaurants, beaches, and where I go to school. But I couldn't share with them part of what makes this place so special to me, and that's what lies under the ocean surface. My mom and my aunt went snorkeling with me once but my mom got so sick we had to turn back, and it doesn't really compare to scuba diving, anyway. That's something special that I get to share with my husband when he visits, because we both love it so much and have so much fascination and curiosity about salt water life.

Diving with the research project has expanded my knowledge of reef species and in a way has helped me to feel more connected with the ocean. Like being able to identify and name the fish that I see is a form of communication, or something. It's hard to explain.

"De salt life" is definitely a part of me now. I'll miss it terribly when I have to leave. Of course we have coastal waters in the U.S. where I could dive, but nothing even remotely approaching the beauty and diversity of the reefs here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

American privilege.

It's time to get all philosophical on you, bitches!

Basically I've had this kicking around in the back of my brain for awhile now, ruminating on it and trying to decide if it's a can of worms I want to open or not. I've decided that after a chance encounter today, it's time.

Right now in the skeptical/atheist movement there's a huge to-do about feminism, male privilege and sexual harassment. I've yet to toss my hat into that ring aside from a few comments on blog posts here and there because it's not really my fight. There are other, more informed people who can make better points than I can, and also I haven't found anyone embroiled in the whole mess yet who I agree with to the extent that I could throw my weight behind them. Right now I'm firmly in the corner with all the other people going, "Let's have a beer while they fight it out, shall we?"

An issue that's much closer to my heart and relevant to where I'm at right now is socioeconomic privilege, racial tensions and the American worldview. What led me to finally addressing this was earlier today when I stopped by my mechanic, Gordon's Automotive Service, to have a wheel tax inspection done so I can renew my vehicle registration. Mr. Gordon and I chatted for a bit, making jokes about how I never come around anymore. I told him to stop fixing my car so well and he'd see me more often. Mr. Gordon is the sweetest old man on the planet and I adore him.

Later, after one of his mechanics completed the inspection, they were ringing me up to pay and the mechanic who worked on my car asked me how I liked living in St. Kitts so far. I told him, "I love it here." And I honestly do. He and Mr. Gordon laughed and shook their heads. It's a reaction I've gotten before when I have expressed to Kittitians how much I truly enjoy living in this country. Either they don't believe me and think I'm lying because I'm afraid to insult them, or they think I'm nuts. Regardless, it always upsets me because I know it has a great deal to do with the fact that many students are loudly and unabashedly vocal about how much they hate living here.

I told them my reasons why I love it here: I grew up in Indiana, a land-locked state, where I didn't see the ocean for the first time until I was fourteen years old. My state is completely flat and before coming to live here I had only ever seen mountains on a vacation to Hawaii when I was seventeen. Because I know it's temporary, not a single day goes by that I take for granted the view of clouds obscuring the top of Mt. Liamigua, or being able to throw on a swimsuit and go snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea any time I wish. I love the view of the Atlantic from my apartment and the sound of coqui frogs at night. I really, truly do have great love for this country.

I think a huge part of the tension and divide between students and locals is the inability of some students to recognize their own privilege. Americans can have such an ethnocentric and myopic worldview that it blinds them to realizing when they're talking down to someone or saying something completely offensive. Or, in the case that I blogged about a few weeks ago, acting as a guest on a student visa being given permission to study in a foreign country and then blatantly and deliberately breaking the laws of that country that they don't consider important. Or how sometimes, when students talk about "the locals", it's said in a tone that suggests that they are aliens or a foreign species.

This is what bothers me. This is what I see happening on a daily basis and feel powerless to do anything about and simultaneously want to run up to people and apologize for being a white American because my countrymen make me look so ignorant by association. Which then makes me furious with myself, because one of the most common complaints among minorities when attending events or joining groups where they are underrepresented is that they are often made to feel like the "token X" who speaks for all members of that minority. So how dare I do the same thing with my own ethnicity?

It is frustrating, and there are no easy answers. But the sooner we recognize that no, not everyone starts out on equal footing, and that privilege exists and recognizing it is the first step to overcoming your own biases, the better.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Filler post.

Not much has been going on. We're three weeks out from finals, so crunch time has begun. I'm actually studying some already, which is weird for me, since usually I procrastinate until right up until the week beforehand (which is not good, don't do that).

Last Sunday my friend Laura and I decided that we both were in sore need of a girl's day at the spa, so we booked facials and pedicures at the Emerald Mist at the Marriott. Oh my god. So much awesome. One of the most thorough facials I've ever had, and the products they used smelled amazing. We had our treatments and then laid around in the steam room and sauna for awhile, and then got lunch. They gave us these little complimentary containers of sugar/salt scrub that smells incredible and I'm going to try and recreate once I get my hands on the supplies. I also bought a few bath bombs, which I plan on using after finals to relax. Bottle of wine + hot bath + movie playing on my laptop, sounds like a plan.

The spa also had this incredible iced tea that had a very mild mint flavor, but not peppermint (which I can only tolerate so much of due to the strong medicinal, menthol flavor). Instead it was black tea and spearmint, and I drank two cups before asking about which brand they used. I went out and bought two boxes of Bigelow "Plantation Mint" and have already gone through an entire pitcher of iced tea since yesterday. It's sweetly minty and very refreshing on hot days here. I am completely addicted.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Still breathing.

So things got kind of crazy after midsemester break. I had two more exams, which I did okay but not great on (although one apparently failed a lot of people, so I'm happy to have passed).

Today I had my sheep anesthesia lab. Luckily it went much, much more smoothly than the canine lab. We were more familiar with the anesthesia record and what needed monitoring and how often we had to make notations in the record, which made a huge difference in how stressed we felt during the lab. Our patient also never stopped breathing, so that was another major plus. I got to do the endotracheal tube this time, which was pretty cool. I also got to perform a median artery stick to collect a blood gas analysis sample. I'd never done an artery stick before, but it was actually not that difficult. Took a little more palpating before I felt comfortable that I was in the right location (veins you can occlude and make them stand up so huge that it's basically like poking a water balloon), but I was able to get a good sample on the first stick.

I think a lot of it had to do with the calming presence of Dr. Warren. He's this old beach hippie who has such a mellow and easy-going nature, and he'll laugh when he sees you doing something wrong and then walk you through why you got it wrong and how to fix it. It felt more like having a mentor present than a judge, jury and executioner. I have heard that one sure-fire way to piss him off, though, is to leave your Doppler on while you're fishing for a pulse. The static drives him nuts.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sometimes I just don't even...

So we have a security report website where all of the reports made to Ross security are visible to students. Frequently it's just minor car accidents and "not feeling safe" incidents. The latter frequently confuse or frustrate me, because I feel like these people must've lived very sheltered lives back in the U.S. to find those particular situations "unsafe."

For instance, students frequently call security to report cars parked and idling outside their apartments. Not their houses, no, their apartment complexes. As if they are the only person who lives in that building or something, and the car couldn't possibly be waiting to pick someone else up. Inevitably these turn out to be taxis or friends of someone who had, wait for it, called for a ride.

But today's incident report just blew my mind...

A student who resides at Half-moon Bay reported that she saw two men with fishing rods and buckets. She stated that they seem suspicious because the sea is not close by and they were heading towards houses.
Okay, first of all, you need to know something about St. Kitts - a lot of people walk places, or hitchhike. It's fairly common to see someone walking along the side of the road with their hand out to try to wave down a ride, and a random motorist will stop and pick them up and then drop them off as close to where they're going as the driver was heading. I live in Half Moon Bay, and I frequently see people being dropped off at the end of the roundabout for the turn into my area who walk home from there. Or construction workers who are building a new villa just down the street getting dropped off and walking to work. So I wouldn't think it odd AT ALL to see a pair of fishing buddies who had been dropped off walking home with their poles and gear.

Where is this person even from that they find this threatening or suspicious? Furthermore, what must security think of us when some hysterical white girl calls to report a couple of guys walking home with fishing poles over their shoulders? I swear, man, people sometimes.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 30: Self portrait.

The last post of my 30 day photo challenge. It began with a self portrait, and ends with one.

Most people wear a lab coat to collect data. Not me.
Walking out of my apartment this morning in a swimsuit and flip flops to go collect data at one of our AR sites. I love doing reef research in the Caribbean.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 29: Daily routine.

I may be a teeny bit neurotic about smelling nice.
I'm what my 11th grade physiology teacher called a "super smeller". I pick up scents most people don't smell, and smell them sooner (farther away from the source) than most people. I'm also really, really picky about what scents I'll wear. Choosing a new perfume usually involves several days of a narrowing down process and then going into the store at least twice to spray on a bit of the "winner" and see how much I like it after several hours of wear.

I bought the Noir Tease in Puerto Rico because I needed a cheap perfume to wear around the island to cover up the smell of sweat that you inevitably pick up living here if you spend any time outdoors, and I liked this one well enough. And I'm not wasting $100/ounce Flowerbomb on flop sweat funk.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 28: Something new.

This is Franklin. I bought him at a craft market from a local lady who makes animals out of coconut shells.
Franklin is a bobblehead tortoise. He always tells me that I will pass exams. He's also a constant source of amusement for my cats, who sometimes thwack his head against my nightstand to wake me up in the morning to feed them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 27: Something old.

I didn't bring much with me down to the island that wasn't fairly new or brand new. I figure that these earrings, which I've had since I was about 16 or 17 years old, are probably the oldest thing I have down here. They've faded quite a bit over the last twelve or so years, they used to be bright emerald green, but I still like them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day 26: Animal.

Dis is my Mama Cat. I wub her very much and I give her belly kisses all the times. In fact, I am typing this one handed because she's decided now is a good time to groom my fingers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Day 25: In your bag.

I'd be willing to bet that most people don't carry around needle drivers, forceps, suture and a skin incision practice model in their backpack.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My research!

Dr. Grigg, my PI, took a video at one of our AR dive sites and posted it on YouTube. I guess this means I've been a little overly cautious about how much detail to divulge about the project, but I just didn't want to say anything that might upset her.

Anyway, take a look! There's not much to see, unfortunately, in terms of cool fish. Loads of immature grunts and a single sharpnose puffer at the 43 second mark.

Day 23: Black and white.

Vamp fangs and makeup for Halloween.
I absolutely love playing with makeup. I watch tutorials on YouTube all the time, for everything from creating a standard smokey eye, to fairy makeup, to mermaid scales to zombie wounds. When I get back in the US and some spare time (haha! right) I'm going to order some flesh tone liquid latex and start practicing with it to create special effects makeup.

I already do a fairly good zombie bite wound and vampire bite with crazy glue, but it has no staying power and peels off if you sweat even a little bit. The cool thing is creating the bruising and inflammation around the wound. Going through vet school and now knowing the various pigments and how much yellow or green should be present at what stage has definitely helped!