Saturday, January 20, 2007

Circle of Healers ...

Last week I had the honor of watching a project of mine over the past 10 months blossom in Southern California. About 40 miles outside San Diego, 60+ med students, residents and physician mentors gathered for the seventh annual National Circle of Healer's Conference/Retreat, sponsored by the American Medical Student Association. We had expert led (and volunteered!) workshops on narrative medicine, non-violent communication, communicative/therapeutic drumming and shamanistic journeying.

Initially, I was thrilled to have this opportunity to design a healthy weekend party with a $7000 budget for some of my dear friends (both present and future) and to invest myself around the creation of an intimate space and a vision (using communication to channel personal inspiration into the physician/patient encounter) ... to give authority to my seldom acknowledged hippie/granola side ...

Over the months, though, this project grew to strain me both logistically (attention to minutiae in coordinating something 9,000 miles away) and metaphysically (maintaining some non-attachment so that I didn't overwhelm the project with my own needs and expectations)

In the end, it was a bit of a blur (perhaps due to the jet-lag), but we got rave reviews from all of the mentors and participants (most of whom had spent around $500 each on airfare and program fees to be there that weekend) ... no one was hurt, we home-cooked all of our vegetarian meals, and it looks like we might have come in under budget ... unfortunately, as I consigned myself to the business of making sure things ran smoothly/promptly, I did not put myself in a very good position to properly appreciate the weekend ... but this is a small price to pay for it all.

The project wouldn't have been much without the help and support of my planning committee (Dave, Evan, Sonia, Sonya, Sahana, Amy, Marcy) and I guess the true testiment to the weekend was that while helping to make sure things did not go awful, awry or askew, they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves -- and for that I am very thankful

Continuing with my counter-intuitive winter pattern, I experienced my coldest night of the year in the hills around San Diego ... 15 degrees F ... the coldest temperature on record at the retreat site, with about half an inch of snow as icing on the frozen cake .... I should have expected it, especially when I met the camp site caretaker, who was actually named "Frosty" ... Fortunately, we had a glorious indoor fire pit and enough firewood and space heaters in the cabins to make sure that nobody really noticed ...

Some images from that weekend:

Hurricane Season in the Netherlands ...

Having survived Hurricane Cyril (dubbed by the Germans who recorded 123 mph winds ... we only saw 84mph winds in the Netherlands, but evidently enough to cause quite a few people to get blown into the canals in Amsterdam and halt transportation) -- amazingly, no reports of significant flooding despite most of the country (ironically, the most densly populated one in Europe) being below sea level -- I am settling into my homely new apartment in Nijmegen (pronounced : N'aye-may-hen). Despite the 30-40 minute commute to school (with bus transfers) I am quite happy with my situation here, and am enjoying a renewed focus on my studies, research and language skills (watching the likes of Ali G with Dutch subtitles ... hopefully after a few months of this I will be able to speak Nederlands like Borat!) -- imagine, finding discipline in the Netherlands!

Some pics of my spacious apartment's living room and kitchen

My brief backyard, and a nearby football pitch ... a very residential feel for a change !

Monday, January 01, 2007

Magic of the Middle East ...

The magic of the Middle East ... snow on palm trees (despite 5 days in Sweden, my first snow of the year was in Jerusalem), rainbows in the desert (Dead Sea) ... not a very conventional week in Israel ... meanwhile in Jordan, a snowstorm dumped a meter of snow on Petra (thus preventing my much anticipated and fantasized visit, and requiring the army to rescue via airlift 61 Greek tourists as there were no snow plows) ... an interesting, but by no means entirely satisfying, trip

Jerusalem is an amazing place ... too much history and culture ... From getting lost in several bibilically-famous sites of miracles and daringdo -- Temple Mount, Gethesemane, Via Dolorosa, Golgotha, etc -- to the current dynamics of the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian Quarters ... I can start to understand why it has been the most contested-over city in history

I loved Tel Aviv (probably should have gone to med school there instead of Cleveland), I hated the border crossings (that held a travel partner for 5 hours because he has a muslim name and has been to lebanon and syria) ... but the spas and hammams more than made up for all of the hassles and slight misfortunes

New perspectives were my Christmas/Hannukah/Eid gifts ... from getting a glimpse of life behind the West Bank walls in Palestine to hearing about the vehement administrative support for holocost deniers in elite, secular Jordanian schools, the area just grew more complex by the day ... on my last day I found myself in arabic markets shopping beneath the glow of Al-Jezzera replaying the inapproprately-timed execution of Saddam Hussein (accompanied by somewhat accusing stares as many Jordanians and Palestinians were very supportive of the former regime), as if to remind me of the part that I have to play in the entire drama -- and that it is impossible to be just a spectator anymore

I'm very thankful for my arabic-savvy host (Abi) and traveling partners (Abi & Ali) for the week, as well as the Fulbright expat group for more exposure and inclosure than I could have mustered on my own ... shukran!

I've posted 60+ of my favorite pictures from the week at my new photo site --
You don't need to sign-up for anything to view them, and it's much easier than uploading a dozen pictures to my blog ... so enjoy at your leisure !