Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Work Hard, Play Hard

September is here, fall is not. Summer continues here on Dominica as we enter the last semester of med school island life. The last semester. It is hard to believe. And yet, the amount of crazy work we've put in, the hours of emotional stress, relational strain, exhaustion, and odd loneliness definitely adds up to more than these 9 months in my book. 

We've celebrated 2 breaks from school since January. Literally. There are no nights, no weekends. At the end of April/beginning of May, we flew to St. Vincent with Steve and Jenny (another med school island couple) and sailed around the Grenadines, learning how to sail and navigate the breezy Caribbean waters. Seeing these raw wild places from the sea almost seemed more natural than living on the islands. The Grenadines have a similar vibe to Dominica but a different history that makes up their own complicated social and cultural fabric. 

Sailing is not for the faint of heart and much more complicated than those peacefully billowing white sails suggest from the horizon. Our instructor, Bob, and his wife Sueno, patiently taught us the intricacies of the boat and the ways of boatmen. Local boats, painted bright reds, yellows, greens, blues, pinks, and purples, pulled up along side when we moored and offered us fish that hadn't even been to shore yet. We swam with sea turtles and sting rays and finally dug our toes in the famous white sands of the Caribbean. (Dominica only has black sand). We slept in tiny, hard cabins under the boat a few feet from our boat companions, cooked like we were camping, and ate family style meals around the small boat table. We pulled lines in, let lines out, and felt the wind push us from wave to wave. We jumped off of the boat and swam each day, an act which Andy and I counted as our shower... leading to my hair being almost naturally dreadlocked with salt water by the end of the week. 

This peaceful struggle to sail preceded the hardest semester here. I wonder if the sailing experience somehow added to our ability to calmly push through, to adapt, and loll with the waves of the semester.

Our second break, at the end of August /beginning of September was also full of colorful beauty, enthusiastic activity, and exploration together. This time we ventured back to America for a dose of culture shock with friends and family. Our people in Chicago and Minnesota reminded us of the love and comfort of home. It was nerve-wracking to drive on an incredibly fast highway with so many cars. There were so many things, just things, everywhere. Customer service shocked our socks off. My mom surprised us in Minnesota and I dropped all of my things and cried at the airport when I saw her. We talked and shared meals and walks and drives with people that looked at us with familiarity. I loved seeing leaves that weren't shiny and wet and bigger than me... only because thats what feels like home to me. Chicago and MN? Neither of those places are home to Andy and I. But the people there are. 

And there is nothing quite like home.