Saturday, July 08, 2006

Guate - Seattle

I have survived and returned from my week and a half long scouting trip in Guatemala. I was so busy on my trip that I didn't have time to even check my email while I was in Guate. On this trip I saw more of the country than I have on any other. I went and saw Guatemala City, Zacapa, Rio Dulce, Lake Izabel, Antigua, and a couple towns around Lake Atitlan.

Rio Dulce was amazing. Bryan Buchanan and the Jungle Medic Missions was incredible. What I've been doing with my life really pales in comparison to all the time, care, effort, and resources he puts into his work. Organizing teams to go out to rural villages and providing medical and dental care, providing 24 hour emergency care for those in and around his village, in addition to helping the local bomberos (firefighters) is a feat I don't think I have enough energy for. He and his wife Riechelle are amazing people and I feel truly blessed to have met them.

The river is incredibly scenic and I'm certainly glad I got to see it. While we didn't see any manatees on the cruise through the jungle, I was completely awestruck by the beauty and mystery surrounding the area. I certainly felt like I was living a National Geographic/Discovery Channel/PBS Nature/Nova program. It's an experience I will never forget.

Clinic in Guatemala City at David's church was great. They were very organized and extremely helpful, especially all those who translated for us! We also got to see the feeding program Samuel organizes which provides many children their only real meal of the day. Everyone was so welcoming and appreciative! Roberto, David, Samuel, and everyone at the Central Christiano Cultural Guatemala are extremely giving and caring people doing more good than I feel I could.

Clinic around Lake Atitlan was quite interesting. Not only was I the runner/pharmacist/organizer for my team, I interacted with the UCLA pediatric team that was there as well. So I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off for a couple days. But it was fun and we did a lot of good. On our first day there we got caught in a torrential downpour and took refuge in the church/make-shift clinic until the water died down so that we could pass. Unfortunately, along the steep, long, winding road down to the lake, we got caught in a mini-river that formed from the runoff. Our van got stuck and we had to cross the muddy waters on foot, leaving 86 year old Esperanza in the van.

After a couple hours (which passed by incredibly quickly), bystanders helped our guys get the van out of the rocks, mud, and water. It was an exhausting experience but one that I will never forget. Everyone was so helpful and kind it reinforces my love of Guatemala.

Clinic the next day was not nearly as exciting, but we had a good run and saw about 200 patients at the end of the trip. After our half day clinic we headed over to Santiago de Atitlan to visit the Hospitalito and drop off some supplies there, as well as seeing if we could send some medical teams there in the fall.

The journey back to Guate was rather peaceful and Don, Terry, and I had a great time chatting and laughing in the back of the van. Why we had the three team leaders in the backseat boggles the mind. We're nuts when we're together.

Antigua was lovely as usual...alas, it was raining, so it wasn't as nice as we hoped it would be, but we had a good time and I got to make my requisite stop at Cafe Sky for some coffee and conversation. If ever you're in Antigua, please help out Camino Seguro and stay at Hotel Lazlo Fuertes, which is a part of the hospitality service they have set up. The rooms run about $40 a night and are clean, safe, and quite nice.

Aside from Guate, life in Seattle has been a bit depressing, to say the least.

My friend, Cora Shimasaki succumbed to her battle with lung cancer on June 14, 2006, twelve days before her 38th birthday. So for the 2nd half of the month of June, I was at the girls' house everyday, occasionally spending the night.

Her funeral and wake was on June 25th and we had a grand celebration in her honor.

I started school on the 19th, and my classes have been pretty good so far. Physiology isn't bad, but having a test every 2 weeks is really irritating. Human Sexuality is quite interesting, so I think I've got a pretty good combo of classes going -- one I don't really care for but have to take, and another that's fun and interesting.

I've been working occasionally, but nowhere near what I used to. The HNA 5 year reunion planning is well underway and I need to send out the Evite on the 12th.

Planning for the Fall ENT surgical mission has begun and I've got to organize, recruit, and meet everyone. We've got about 4 meetings set up through the summer and I still need to find a dentist to work at the Fundacion Pediatrica Guatemalteca's clinic.

Alright, enough jabbering. Have a great day and enjoy the beautiful weather outside!


Monday, May 29, 2006

And I'm back...and leaving again

So it's been awhile since I posted, but what's new about that?

My trip to Honduras was fan-freakin'-tastic (excluding the missed flight bit). We did nineteen surgeries and they all went really well. Hospital San Francisco was a great place to work. The facilities were great (we had A/C in the OR! -- such a luxury), the people we helped were amazing, and the hospital staff was extremely helpful and a joy to work with. Especially Dr. Raul Schneider and his wife Raquel, both of whom made this trip all the better for we knew our patients would be in extremely capable hands.

Monsenor Muldoon and his staff were quite entertaining and extremely hospitable. This was the cheapest medical mission I've gone on thus far. We didn't have to pay for housing or food until the last day of the trip. Plus Monse took me out to a little village about half an hour away from Juticalpa where I watched Confirmation and First Communion. It was great. A totally different Catholic experience. It's interesting to see how much work the Deacons do in the rural areas where they're lucky if a priest is able to be there twice a month, let alone once a month. Monse and I talked sports, politics, and religion...Interesting discussions were had, and I got to know more about Honduras and the State of Juticalpa than I would have had I not spent so much time talking with him.

The orthopedic surgical team I went with was amazing. There was only one person I didn't know on the trip and we ended up quite close. I love these doctors and nurses. They are amazing people who do so many good things. They expend so many of their own resources (medical equipment, time, money, expertise) for those in so much need that it warms my heart, as cheesy and cliched as it may sound. It's trips like these that renew my interest in the medical field.

There's an ENT trip scheduled for the first two weeks of October, which I'm definitely going on. It will probably be the last trip I make for the next 4-5 years, so I'm not taking any classes fall quarter of this year. It'll slow the whole Nurse Practitioner process up a little bit, but I'm not worried. I wanna get in as many trips as possible before my mind, body, and soul are taken away by schooling.

Hong Kong and China were great. It was wonderful to see my family in Hong Kong again, especially since I hadn't been back in about ten years. My grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary went well. Six out of six children and 7 of 15 grandchildren were there to celebrate it with them, along with some close family friends. My mom, sister, brother, and I went and visited many of the touristy sights/areas and did some shopping while there. We ate a TON of good food...I'd almost forgotten what real, good Cantonese food tastes like.

The differences in Hong Kong were quite interesting. The neighborhood my grandparents live in has always been a good, pretty affluent area, but apparently it's gotten even more affluent. Ferraris, BMWs, Benzes, Jags, even a Diablo parked everywhere, not to mention the influx of white people living in the area, let alone my grandparents building. AND they even have a freakin' STARBUCKS about 2 blocks away. So strange. Globalization is an amazing yet frightening thing.

The Hong Kong I knew and loved as a kid is still there, but now there's an even shinier, taller, consumer driven facade over it. I loved it then and I still love it now, but the fast-paced, money money money lifestyle is not for me.

----- month later -----

Rural Southwestern China was interesting, but not that fantabulous. Definitely not somewhere I'd break out my Rand McNally for. I do believe that I would have enjoyed the 7 day tour more if I knew how to speak Mandarin, but alas, I only have Cantonese under my belt. And while this allows me to understand bits and Mandarin is worse than my Spanish. Southwestern China had some really oily food (not so good for many people's GI tracts), beautiful scenery, (me being a nerdy pseudo-history buff) quite interesting stories to tell, and interesting cultures. I'm glad I went on the trip, but if someone asked me where to go in China I would say...stay to the East, my friend.

This also probably comes from the fact that I live in the Pacific Northwest where I am surrounded by snow-capped mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans, and trees. The kind of nature that Hong Kong tourists are not readily surrounded by.

Since I've been back I've been working, watching movies, and watching my siblings recover from various ailments. 1) My brother got cut from a ceramic pot while helping my uncle clean his pond. Ten stitches in his left thumb and 20 on top of his left forearm. 2) My sister got her canines pulled and they are some of the biggest teeth I have seen.

The DaVinci Code wasn't very good. Hanks and Tautou had little to no chemistry and some of the writing and dialogue was really hokey. I liked the special effects, locations, and supporting cast -- in particular Sir Ian McKellan; and Paul Bettany did quite a good job as freaky albino Silas. Other than that...Hanks is too old for the role, Tautou wasn't a good fit, and well, the book wasn't very well written, so I couldn't have expected a little more from the movie, right? Also, they changed a few things which I did not think needed to be changed.

X3: The Last Stand also wasn't very good. The writing and dialogue was forced and cheesy, editing was choppy, story wasn't played out well, Brett Ratner was not a good choice for director, characters were winy and not focused, and well...Sir Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart were the gems in the damn thing. It was too in your face and could have been 10 times better than what it is.

I'm really hoping that Superman is good because Bryan Singer and his writing team who worked on the previous two XMen movies put it together. At least he has an eye for subtlety and nuance when it comes to telling a story and telling it well. Not to mention the fact that he gets good performances out of his actors.

Go see Akeelah and the Bee. Yes, it's a Starbucks Entertainment production, but the movie is quite good and everyone does a great job. Heartwarming feel good story about an inner city girl rising above.

Luck Number Slevin was quite entertaining. A good mix of action and story...and more action. Cast did a good job and I would definitely recommend seeing it.

Thank You for Smoking was quite the satire. Funny, shocking at times, and total relevant to today's society. Go see it if you want some socio-political satire in your life.

In other news, I have signed up for summer quarter 2006. This is to help me on my way to applying to the APNI program at Seattle U. And here I thought that I was done with school forever...alas, not the case. But I'm excited, and each medical mission I go on only reinforces my plans for the future.

Tuesday, May 30th I'm heading out to Guatemala on a scouting trip for the Fall ENT jornada. I'll be going to Guatemala City, Zacapa, Rio Dulce, Antigua, and other areas around Lake Atitlan that were hit badly by hurricane Stan and the ensuing flooding and mudslides. We'll be checking out sites to send medical teams in the fall while the surgeons take care of the ENT cases in the city. A rough estimate of how many patients we'll see on this scouting trip is 1,000. It's going to be fantastic. I'm so excited. I return on June 8th, and school starts on June 19th, so I'll have about a week to enjoy my last days of a non-academic lifestyle.

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Get out there and grill something. It's an American tradition. (You might also want to remember those who served our country in the process).

Say hi to the cousins!


Sunday, March 05, 2006


<-- Unhappy face. That was for the Seahawks, but applies much more to me now.

Last night was prolly one of the most stress filled days of mylife. EVER.

Why? Well, it's because I'M the BIGGEST RETARD in the ENTIRE WORLD.

Let's just say that I'm supposed to be in JUTICALPA, HONDURAS right now.

So last night I went out with some friends to Jillian's, thinking my flight was TONIGHT. Hanging out, having a good time, and then justwhen we get our pool table, I get a call from my aunt at 11:45pm.

"Where are you?"

"At Jillian's, hanging out with my friends, where are you?"

"................I'm at the airport."

"Wait, our flight's TONIGHT?!"


"I'm going home right now and I'm going to try to be there."

"I hope you can make it."

Cut to me racing over to the pool table and frantically saying:


"What? Why? What's going on?!"

"My flight is TONIGHT."

"OH MY GOD!!!"

Running around like chickens with our heads cut off.

I race home, driving like a speed demon, run into the house to try and pack and's too late. My flight's at 12:30am andit's already 12am. It's not gonna happen.

So...I'm feeling like the dumbest person in the ENTIRE world.

I'm flying out tonight (like I had originally thought) at the sametime, same airline.

I get picked up from the airport by Karmen who'll take me in a taxi to the bus station, get me on a bus to Juticalpa from Tegucigalpa, and 3 - 3 1/2 hours later I should be in Juticalpa still feeling like the biggest dumbass ever.

And that's about it for now.

Your dumb friend,


Wednesday, March 01, 2006


John: How do you feel?
Charlie: I'm fine.
John: Fine? You know what "fine" stands for, don't you?
Charlie: Yeah, unfortunately.
John: "Freaked-out," "Insecure," "Neurotic" —
Charlie: And "Emotional".
John: See those columnns behind you?
Charlie: What about 'em?
John: That's where they used to string up thieves who felt "fine."


I need to start packing for Honduras.

I feel like I should be more excited about the trip, but I think I'm in an emotional rut, making it a tad bit difficult to do so.

Hopefully I'm getting out of it. It's prolly just one of those times...and I've been taking my live oral tyhpoid vaccine (good for 5 years), which is making me feel gross, so that doesn't help matters any.

I'm sure that once I get down there my emotional state will change for the better. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. =P


I've fallen in love all over again...

...with Nat King Cole.

I picked up The World of Nat King Cole awhile back and just started listening to it again. I'm a huge fan of pop standards, and well, he had an amazing voice. Listening to the smooth rich timber of his voice just makes me happy. Makes me smile. I can just see him smiling and laughing as he's singing, and that makes me smile in return. And that's something I've been needing.


My travels begin this Sunday.

So if you would like to see me in the month of March, your best bet is to be at Jillian's at 10pm on Saturday. Be there or be square...


Thursday, February 23, 2006

I can't believe it.

<-- Me and the girls. Cora, me, Sweetie, and Julie. Next time, Hawks.

Hello to all five of you who read this. It's been awhile, but is that any surprise? No, not really. January was busier than expected, but so far February has been a bit of a disappointment. At least, that's the way it seems. Not to mention the fact that the month's almost over.

So what've I been up to...doesn't seem like much to me, but it's prolly more than I think.

- Working about 5-6 hours a day, sometimes more.

- Sleeping (as much as I can, at least).

- Going to Swedish/the girls' house to visit and hang out with my cousin's roomie Cora (she has lung cancer, I think I posted about her before).

- Hanging out.

- Watched a couple movies (Annapolis - entertaining, James Franco is hot 6/10. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada - disappointed cuz it wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be 4/10).

- Late night snackage (Dick's - a Seattle tradition, Thirteen Coins - disappointing, and it's not cheap).

- Bowling/pool/arcade games.

- Driving around having some good late night talks.

- Hanging out with the fam.

- Helping organize the HNA c/o 2001 5 year reunion.

My sister has dumbfounded another doctor. That makes...5 and counting? She's going to Children's to see the director of the rheumatology department in May. I'm telling you, she's an alien. Extra tooth, extra tube from her kidney to her bladder, an adult sized bladder (remember, she's 9), mysterious pains in her legs and pelvis, and now her spinal column is twice the normal size (or something like that). She's an alien.

Travel Plans:

Juticalpa/Tegucigalpa, Honduras: March 5-12. Healing the Children Orthopedic Surgical Team. Records and Screening Coordinator and Administrative Assistant. Mmm...Doxycycline. Yay for antimalarials. I'll be at the bishop's house watching sports.

Hong Kong/lost in China: March 17-April 3. With the fam. Haven't been back since before change over so it should be fun and interesting. First week is Hong Kong with my mom, brother, and sister. The next week is lost in China (a.k.a. tours of various parts of China) with my aunt.

I should have email access so I'll try to stay in touch.

Current Recommendations:

Movies: I haven't watched a good movie since Brokeback Mountain in December. Go check it out, it's one of the best movies I've seen in awhile.

DVDs: The Best of Laughing with Samoans and Laughing with Samoans: Old School

Music: Sing A Longs and Lullabies For the Film Curious George - Jack Johnson

Books: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim - David Sedaris

<-- Look, it's 4 FOBs! More like, the only four people who dressed up for "Back to the Motherland." AND Mitch and I were the only ones who dressed from our own respective ethnic backgrounds! If you haven't already, say something (nice) about me on my Johari Window.

Peace out...