Friday, January 30, 2015

2015: The start of something new

Time to travel

Here it is, the belated New Year post! In the past month, I've been taking it easy on a laid back radiology elective, focusing on getting back in shape (kickboxing! cardio boot camp! raquetball!), eating right, and analyzing every aspect of the residency interview process with my classmates. It's nearly time to get back to real life (and a busy ICU rotation) next month, so I thought I'd close out by looking forward to the rest of 2015.

2015 is shaping up to be the most important year of my life. On May 15, 2015, I finally graduate from med school the same time--the same day actually--my sister graduates from college. Yes, it's been a logistical nightmare.

For me, it marks the end of 8 long years of being a student, first a pre-med and then a med student, and finally becoming a doctor. While I still have much to learn in residency, it'll be nice to finally graduate with that MD behind my name. Maybe I will eat my words come July 1, but I'm ready to start the career I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life--not to mention have an income (not counting part time or summer jobs) for the first time in my life!  For my parents, it marks the end of paying for our education and supporting us through school. And for my sister and I, it marks the beginning of a new adventure as we are preparing to relocate to San Francisco together! 

More than just graduating med school, I've got some exciting events planned for the end of the school year. First off is a backpacking trip throughout Southeast Asia with some of my med school friends. 

Koh Phi Phi Island in Thailand, where they filmed The Beach with Leo DiCaprio

I've wanted to do a backpacking trip throughout SE Asia forever because there's lots to see, a good mix of natural beauty and bustling cities, it's super affordable (we're booking nice hotels for $30/person a night) and because it's one of the few regions it's ok to schlep it and backpack as a young person. E finally agreed to go with me during our month off in April, so we are leaving soon after Match Day and I'll get to spend my birthday week in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Beijing! After visiting some family in Beijing, I'll meet back up with my friends (our friend R will also be joining us) in Angor Wat, Cambodia, Chiang Mai (northern Thailand), Bangkok, and Phuket before returning home to Maryland. 


After graduation and a string of weddings, I'll be heading off for Scandinavia with my family on one last family vacation, a cruise of Northern Europe. We've been to Europe and many cruises in the past but never to the Baltics before. We'll spend a few days in Copenhagen before sailing off to cover Russia, Finland, and Sweden on a cruise in the Baltic Sea. In mid-June, I'll return to the states for good as I have to pack up my life and move across the country! To where exactly? Up in the air at this point. SF most likely. Everything is hinging on where I match!  

But I need to pass the time somehow before March 20, right? So here are some pics from our annual NYE party last month--bring on 2015!

 Caught selfie-ing
My parents spend weeks preparing for their annual NYE party
 Gleeful dad and his famous Szechuan cold noodles

 Mom's famous bao zi

 "Squirrel fish"
 My dad's homemade duck
The most wonderful plate of the year

The remaining NYE gang 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

End of 2014

First snowfall of the year

After returning from my grand tour of the West Coast (10 interviews in 3 weeks), I spent the rest of winter break blissfully doing nothing at home in Maryland. I always say "this might be my last Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year at home" as I never know when I'll have to work weekends or holidays (thankfully never when you're a med student), but this actually might be my last holiday at home since I'm moving next year! So I was perfectly content to kick up my feet, watch Netflix, walk Charlie, hang out with the family, and indulge in holiday treats.

 Yup, this happened. Family portraits!

The best part: Charlie was included!

On Christmas Eve, our family went over to a friend's place that I basically consider my extended family. My immediate family is my entire family in the states (everyone else is in Beijing) so our family friends feel like surrogate family. Chinese people have dumplings on pretty much every holiday, so Christmas eve dinner was dumplings and bruschetta, my contribution. Dessert was oreo truffles. 
 Xmas themed Oreo truffles
 Xmas themed Charlie, sad he couldn't eat with us
New appetizer - grape and goat cheese crostini
Kid's table, though not for much longer!!

If you've been been following me long enough, you'll remember we do an "annual photoshoot" every year around Thanksgiving (20122013). This year, Thanksgiving felt like Christmas (we got our first snow of the year! Highly unusual) and we kept saying Christmas felt more like Thanksgiving, so we shifted our photoshoot back to winter break. 

Snow in Maryland on Thanksgiving...what?!

A month later, a Christmas themed photoshoot

 "Yes we can"

I barely had time to blink before winter break was coming to a close and we had to prepare for the family's penultimate event of the year, our New Year's party. Coming up next!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

San Francisco

Sunshine in SF, if only for a second

My last weekend on the west coast was spent in the South Bay cities of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. A surprising amount of my friends from high school live there, and it was a great chance to catch up and reconnect with some friends (some engaged and married!) I haven't seen for years. I stayed with my friend R, who visited me in LA over the summer, who tried hard to sell me on living in South Bay. There's more sunshine, it's much warmer than the city which is overrun by clouds and fog, there's more space--and after seeing the cute downtowns of PA and Menlo Park, I couldn't help but agree (a little). 

On Sunday, after binging on dim sum in Mountain View, we took a day trip to SF for hiking. One thing I love about the West Coast is just how active people are, and how they make being active a priority. Almost all options for plans include hiking, running, or taking a fitness class (I took my first kickboxing class in Palo Alto!) instead of just eating or drinking out, which is what I usually revert to on the East Coast. And in Cali, it's possible because there's so much dramatic, natural beauty so close to all the major cities. 

I told R I wanted some great views of the Golden Gate bridge and great photo ops. Land's End trail on the city's western edge perfectly fulfilled those requests (R knows me well) and even had a little surprise for me at the end.

Sutro Baths

Mile Rock Labyrinth

Attempting a Patagonia Ad

Mile Rock Beach

On our way back, I spotted a group of people standing at the end of the trail. That guy looks familiar, I thought, before squinting to make out my roommate's fiance. Then it dawned on me that my ROOMMATE would be in the group too. I screamed her name and we ran to each other in slow mo and jumped into each other's arms, like out of a Nicolas Sparks movie ;) 

It was total coincidence bumping into her...I knew she was visiting SF for a few days overlapping with me, but honestly forgot because we hadn't planned to meet up since she was staying in Berkeley and I in Palo Alto. Needless to say, it was fate that brought us to the SAME trail in a totally foreign city. After the initial surprise and excitement, we went to grab bubble tea nearby with some of her college buddies. 

Roomies (C is second from the left) reunited in SF!

After one interview in South Bay, I took the Cal Train up to the city for my last 3 interviews in SF. I was gracious enough to stay at a family friend's house in the Marina district. After 2 weeks of being a nomad and sleeping in various friend's couches and Airbnb's, I was so thankful I had my own room with my own bed and surrogate parents (the father was my dad's best friend growing up in Beijing) to look after me. 

Fillmore Street, one of SF's famous sloping streets
 On top of a hill

By the time I was finished interviewing every day, I didn't have a lot of time to explore since it rained nearly every day I was there and grew dark by 4 pm. I met up with a few other friends who lived in the city and explored some of SF's famous food scene. Highlights include Mission Chinese (I went twice for their twice cooked pork with rice dish I ate on my west coast tour) and Bi-Rite creamery. 

Even though I didn't get to explore as much of SF as I wanted, I'll likely be back soon! I'm fully intending to rank my SF programs top of my list. The way the Match works is that you are likely to get within your top 3 choices, especially in the field I'm going into (Internal Medicine), and my top three choices are all in SF. At some point during this long residency and interview application process, I realized that prestige of the program was not so much important to me as quality of life. I didn't want to kill myself and sacrifice another three years of my life for an always loftier goal that is just out of reach (the most prestigious med school, residency, fellowship, etc). I want to have the chance to explore a new city, and SF is arguably the coolest city in the country right now. So many of my friends already live there and my sister will be moving there too, so I would already have a built in network of people. I've wanted to leave Maryland for a long time now and now's my chance. Counting down the days until the Match (Mar 20)...SF here I come!