Square One. Looks familiar.

This picture felt appropriate

We are back to the point where blog entries start getting irregular, then scarce then finally disappearing into an abyss of pointless posts and writer’s block. This is Not Good.

On the other hand, I’ve definitely been living it up for my Easter holiday. So much that my body still hasn’t realized that school is back in session and no, it can’t sleep in until 10 o’clock.

Things I have been up to
What a retired teen Jamaican gets up to in her spare time.

Reading excessive amounts of Neil Gaiman
Seriously, I finished his short story collection Smoke and Mirrors over the span of two days. And it only took me so long because my pesky textbooks kept getting in the way. No one inspires me to write like Gaiman does, and he always makes it looks so easy.

Not very much studying (but still more than normal)
I managed to catch up on quite a bit of Neuroscience (the 9 credit course on the human central nervous system that is half of the reason medical students are borderline suicidal this semester). All in preparation for a group study session that left me feeling that I hadn’t studied nearly enough yet. Why am I doing this again?

Going to Margaritaville
Don’t be fooled by all the laughing tourist pictures of people splashing around in the water and swapping bad jokes over great beer (Red Stripe represent). It’s way better than all of that. Moonlighting as Club Ville, Margaritaville is an upscale bar/restaurant with ridiculously overpriced food and a fantastically free water park that is more fun than you can possibly imagine. The slide is amazing. They even have life jackets for the swimming impaired, and the water isn’t very deep.

Long walks along the touristy Hip Strip for no reason whatsoever
Aside from the vicarious people watching opportunities the Hip Strip affords, it really is quite pretty to look at. Gorgeous vistas, inspiring sunsets and the $45M park make sure the Hip Strip is at least 97% of the reason Mobay is the tourist capital of Jamaica. And then the hordes of rural buses descend on the strip for the holidays and you appreciate the beauty even more (because they’re ruining it).

Wishing I was young again
The work was easier, the teachers were nicer and the holidays were longer. High school students and lower grades have this entire week off – it’s the end of a term. It’s horribly unfair for them to be mocking me from the comfort of their homes as I trudge to the bus at 7:30 every morning. Meanies.

Otherwise I’ve been eating far too little bun and cheese, visiting relatives (which is the heart and soul of Jamaican holidays), learning to drive (finally), and poking at dismembered brains (see study session above).

School meanwhile has escalated into full 9 hour days from 8-5, which means I’ll have far less time for blog writing. Unfortunately (and I can hear the collective groans of my devoted readership), I’ll be cutting posts down to once a week, on Tuesdays. It’ll be a distillation, like rum. Even better, like vodka. Yes. My blog will be vodka. Enjoy responsibly.

Pax.

Advertisements

{29} Exams, what exams?

Exams are around the corner, and my Facebook feed is buzzing with frustrated status updates and calls to religion. The academic world is stressed and it’s not just the students. Lecturers are cramming in last minute tutorials, tutors are trying to get the thickest of skulls to understand the most complicated concepts.

And me? I’m blogging in class one week before my first exam.

Pictured here: model student.

Exams should come labeled like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’m talking FDA mandated black box style warnings here because, frankly, life-threatening side effects are likely to result from the misuse of this drug.

A good healthy dose of panic is all well and good, but in the long run all it guarantees you is hypertensive heart failure. And possibly tin foil hats.

I’m guilty of the same things as everyone else (wittily expounded on here in this article from Cracked) but I like to think that as a professional procrastinator stress won’t kick my butt (too badly).

In the past I’ve done nothing differently when exams got closer. I’d been looking at past questions and reviewing my notes from the year started. And those exams didn’t ask you to remember much anyway.

Medical school is an entirely different kettle of fish. I do nothing for the first half of the semester and then suddenly wake up a month before the exams to a wonderland of gargantuan titles, obscure diseases and complex pharmacology. Joy.

Like this girl. Except with less LSD.

But I’m still not stressing (much). I have to completely rearrange my schedule, rethink my study strategies (invent study strategies, more like) and really really try not to fail this.

It’s a working progress and we’ll see the results in about two months. Crossing my fingers.

Pax.

P.S. I owe Project 52 and entry from last week! I’m behind on everything but I’ll get to it soon.

{25} I must be insane

Whoever heard of someone reading for a medical degree and doing a cartload of extra-curriculars? That don’t give you extra credit.

In addition to my not insubstantial class load (classes 8-12 every morning; evening tutorials from 4 to 8, 3 times a week; lab exercises; study time; rescheduled classes), I’ve seen it fit to take up:

Dance club presidency
Directorial position in Rotaract Club
I had initially offered to be secretary of the Writer’s Club, but had to withdraw when I realized I was completely off my rocker.
Secretarial positions both in class and for the faculty’s outreach club (though to be honest I was appointed in these roles)

This is, of course, in addition to my regular dance classes outside of school. And I’ve volunteered for yet another production for my aunt’s church just because I love and dearly missed the choreographer. (Wonderful woman. Yells a lot. Throws shoes.)

I’ve already forfeited eating time to get more work in, but I’m not sure I can give up the sleeping so easily. While it may be considered attractive to be stick-thin, bags under your eyes are never fashionable. (She says at 1a.m. instead of sleeping).

I dance.
I write.
I study.
I . . . die a slow death from sheer exhaustion.

My epitaph will read:

She tried.

{16} 11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About School in Jamaica

Thanks to Freshly Pressed and Rachel Shae’s post about school in Korea, I now have a topic for discussion in Project 52 today.

Disclaimer:
I find it nothing short of hilarious that the school conditions in South Korea could be so shocking, especially since
that’s exactly how I grew up in Jamaica. So I’d like to throw this one to the winds as my own two cents. Fellow yaadies, have a laugh.

11. An Overview
Our schooling system closely follows the British, so we have primary school (grades 1 through 6), high school (grades 6 through 12/13 or forms 1 through 5/6) and then tertiary education which can be either college or university. Before primary school you’ve got kindergarten/prep school. Oh, and prep schools are a fancy way of saying ‘private primary schools’.

10. Transportation
Students take public transportation. As early as infant school (somewhere between kindergarten and grade one), kids are going home by themselves. Some kids get picked up by parents or a hired driver, most kids take a bus or taxi home. School buses? Nah, those are for under-age drinking and other illicit activities (like statutory rape).

Schoolgirl don't ... inna de school bus

09. Lunch
Apparently kids in the States really do get stuff like chicken fillet, hamburgers and pizza for lunch. (Split second research findings courtesy of the US grad & undergrad students sitting right next to me). At my primary school – and I think this is true for most if not all primary schools in Jamaica – we got rice and peas and chicken. Standard fare whether you’re dining at home, a restaurant or a homeless shelter (the only difference is the price).

08. Extras
We don’t study any foreign languages in primary school. I know that prep schools (i.e. private schools) will offer Spanish as a foreign language, but in primary schools the teachers had their hands full trying to teach native English speakers how to speak English. Extra classes were practically mandatory once you got to Grade Six in order for you to get into a good high school. Co-curricular activities were also limited to things like dance, drama and speech, with primary school groups performing in the annual Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Festival Competition. This was a Big Deal. When you were in JCDC, you got out of class, you got out of exams and you got trips to Kingston. It was awesome.

07. Punishment
Corporal punishment wasn’t just spanking or slapping. I’m talking full on whacks with inch thick leather straps when we misbehaved, back-talked or when we were just plain stupid. Didn’t recite your times-tables with the rest of the class? Here’s three licks with the belt. As a form of discipline, I have to say that belt was single-handedly responsible for making sure we all toed the line. There are many arguments against beating kids, but I find most of them stupid. Kids don’t listen to reason or logic, or bribery tactics or threats. If you tell Timmy not to stick his hand in the fire and he goes ahead and burns his fingers, he’ll never do it again. Know why? It hurt. If you tell Timmy not to play in class and Timmy starts a game of tag, Timmy won’t do it again. Know why? Because he won’t be able to sit down for a week, that’s why.

Yeah, it's like that.

06. School Days
Primary school used to start at 8:30 and end at 3:30. This was not a big deal. We would get a break in the morning and then an hour of lunch. There was a lot of stuff to learn, and the teachers spent most of this time drilling important lessons into our heads that we subsequently forgot the next summer. (In fact, most primary school kids (in Grade 5 or 6) know way more about things like Geography and General Knowledge than their high school counter parts. This is because the Grade Six Achievement Test (a placement exam for high school) is focused on cramming as much information as possible into your pre-teen’s head.)

05. Uniforms
Of course we had to wear uniforms. I don’t see the big deal about sending kids to school in clothes they picked out themselves, or parents having to buy new clothes every so often because their kid feels inferior to someone whose parents can actually afford them. We wore uniforms straight through high school into Community College. No make-up, no jewellery, no outlandish hairstyles, no colour in the hair. Of course we found ways to cheat the system; lots of girls ended up being sent home with skirts an inch above their knees, coloured contacts and nail polish (yes, even the natural one).

It's nothing like that.

04. Teachers and students stayed in the same class.
The way classes were structured meant that one teacher had control over one class. Grades were streamed (according to your academic performance from the previous year), with a teacher in charge of each stream. The students would turnover every year, but the teacher stayed the same. That one teacher was responsible for teaching us Language, Science, Math, Social Studies and the elusive art of discipline. Some teachers failed spectacularly, but it’s no wonder why primary school teachers are a rare species these days.

03. Janitors, what janitors?
Back in my day, we called ’em ancillary staff workers. It wasn’t their job to keep classrooms clean, it was ours. It was always our mess, and we could and did get very messy. What else do you come to school for if not to learn how to keep your house clean?

We raise our girls right.

02. Vacations and holidays
Midterms were the best things ever in primary school, but by high school the term had taken on sinister meaning. Midterms were holidays in the (you guessed it) middle of the term. By high school, the teachers started pairing these blessed events with hideous exams. We got Christmas and New Year’s in December/January, and the summer holiday was generally two months. Month-long summer classes were optional, but most kids ended up going anyway because their parents didn’t have anything better to do with them.

01. Graduation Ball
At the end of your five years of high school you were rewarded with a long and generally boring valedictory service as well as a long but remarkably less boring Ball. Here we use Ball in the loosest definition of the term, to mean ‘dancehall rave’. Guys and gals would dress up and fork over a couple thousand dollars to eat, drink and dagger well into the morning, all chaperoned by responsible teachers. Of course.

Actual footage of an actual high school ball. Probably.

Bonus:
A lot of public high schools were single-sex. In fact, most state-owned schools (including primary schools) started out as a single-sex and quite a few of them continued that way. This led to the formation of brother/sister schools, and needless to say quite a bit of Flowers in the Attic action.

Welcome to Jamrock. ♣

Mornings After

That's pretty close to what I'm seeing right now.

Last night I slept over with my university boarding friends so we could have our first all night drink-up to celebrate surviving our first year of medical school. Complete with Mortal Combat badassery, inebriated displays of affection and lots and lots of crawling (and falling, come to think of it), it was a night well spent. I have also found the one drink I can stand to imbibe over and over and over – can anyone say Stinger?

I’m not posting about last night’s drunken revelry, though. Today’s post is about this morning, and how waking up to the sound of waves crashing on a beach and the sight of a beauty-infused dawn has got to be the best feeling in the world. My boyfriend and best friends are still sound asleep, but I thought this was to pretty to pass up posting about. I can hear bird cries, see the horizon stretch for lazy miles, watch the early morning workers – fishermen and joggers – already up and about. If the security guard wasn’t so impossible to deal with, I’d be over at the beach right now, sinking my toes into the first fresh waves. But life can’t be perfect, right? And sometimes all we’re required to do is look but not touch.

Year of the Hatchling

It appears my nocturnal habits need revising if all I can think of to do with this bout of insomnia is to write not one, but two blog updates. Caffeine, you are a cruel mistress.

Since I’m up, I may as well catalogue the fun bits of school year 2010/2011 o/c The Year I Didn’t Die (Surprisingly). My jokes seem to sour with the lateness of the hour. As does my rhyming. I wonder how hilarious this will be when I read it in the morning (which it is by the way – almost three. Goddamit, coffee). If I had to name it properly, I think I would call this the Year I Stepped Out of my Comfort Zone. Hatchling was a word I’d thought up some weeks ago. As in “Hatchling: A Robyn Spreads Her Wings”. I’m copyrighting that. . . as soon as I figure out how. 2010/2011: Year of the Hatchling. I like it. Has a ring. By the by, typing like this is going to give me Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (median nerve compression, median nerve carries A and C fibres, CTS results in parasthesis and pain up to your elbow /geekery).

What I Learnt in the Year of the Hatchling…

1. I learnt to survive in a school where I had to make all new friends, networks, relationships. I had to get to know the teachers, and let them get to know me. I had to establish a persona I wanted to maintain. As it turned out, that last was secondary to all the other roles I had to assume; I was so focused on being myself that somewhere along the way that persona established itself.

2. I entered (and placed) in my first (and hopefully last) pageant. I placed second. This is a Big Deal. I have an aversion for public displays and pretty much fought the entire concept every step of the way. Why stick with it? “Wha nuh kill, fatten”. And it certainly fattened, er, strengthened my character. I’m still mildly amazed (and this isn’t narcissism, just a humble dumbfoundedness) at how beautiful I looked on coronation night. I was glowing (mostly because I never even expected to be in the top five, much less second). That experience taught me to seriously value myself, never underestimate or put myself down because sometimes (most times) other people see something great in you that you don’t.

3. I made friends, great friends. I always hear that college friends will be your friends for life and honestly, I’ve never put much stock in it. My best friend is still my best friend from high school, and I understand that relationships and people change, but that doesn’t mean I was closed off to making new ones. My strategy is simple: sit and wait. You’ll figure out soon enough who you want to be friends with, without jumping the gun too early. And it worked. The friends I have now, I can relate to (as we say so often here) “on a different level”, which is absolutely fabulous when it comes to sanity management and crisis aversion.

4. I fell in love. I can hear the snorts of derision and cynicism already. No wait, that’s my own mind. It seems like every girl goes away to university and “falls in love”. . . with a jerk. Not always but usually. Like there’s something intrinsic to the female psyche that makes us interpret all the noxious stimuli as being “perfect”. Well, I’m different. (Snorts, derisive or otherwise, are actually quite rude, you know). I’m well acquainted with the theory of personal fable, and the probability that at the end of the day, I’m not all that different from every other pathetic sap out there who’s desperate to be loved.

Being in love (or whatever it is my neuronal cells are telling me this is) has taught me acceptance. To accept myself as I see me, with my perceived flaws and graces (and there are graces). To accept that he sees me so much better than I see myself (not an insignificant feat – I’m blessed with more than my fair share of vanity). To accept him as he is, because who he is loves who I am, and why would I want that to be any different?

5. I proved to myself that I can do this. And that’s really all school has ever been about for me: a constant battle of wills between my brain and the prescribed curricula. I was pushed into the sciences “because I can do it”, pushed into medicine “because it would be such a waste of my talents to do Literature”. It was rather effortless pushing, because I love a constant mental challenge, but I still have bouts of yearning for a Literature degree. I still see myself becoming editor-in-chief of a publishing house. I still see myself writing. And yet here I am, biting my nails in anticipation of this semester’s grades, still awake at three in the morning studying for a Neuroscience final, wondering with no little curiousity what lies ahead for me in the next five years.

Because what I’ve learnt from this uphill struggle is that I am in possession of three inalienable instruments: inner strength, insatiable curiosity, and an amazing support group.

What else does a hatchling need to survive?

They Don’t Mess with my Homegirls (I got that Butter Knife and Vaseline)

Tonight I got the chance to exercise my inner sociopath when a jerk-face thought he could step all over one of my friends. While I may be a mild-mannered (dare I say, nerdy) med student, my alter-ego likes to spring forth on occasion with teeth and claws ready for the attack. It especially loves idiots who take liberties with people I am close to (there is no sincerer love than the love of food).

There are no sincerer idiots than those who lack insight. It is not so much what this particular idiot did as who he was. He was a push-over and subject to the whim of his friends, to the point of completely offending and disrespecting my homegirl. He was, to put it plainly, a dick-knocker (courtesy of The Bloggess).

After entertaining mildly vicious thoughts (hara kiri and castration came easily to mind – that butter knife & vaseline are another story), and cheering myself up for the imminent take-down we (the unofficial Legal Team) marched over to the asshat’s dormitory and confronted him. The phrase “all bark and no bite” springs readily to mind to describe the actual confrontation. I may have been all spitfire and pitchfork-toting venom before the actual face-off, but in confronting the douche my ill-intent crumpled like a wet paper bag in the face of his “don’t-kick-me” puppy dog look. Pity, how I loathe thee.

But we are taught to spare the rod. So all I did was tell him off good and proper for his abominable behaviour, made him apologize and generally looked as superior and intimidating as possible with all 5′ 4″ of me (actually quite intimidating and superior).

He was easy though; my claws need sharpening.