Last Friday morning, I took my OB/Gyn NBME Shelf Exam that most US med students (and us AUC students) take at the end of the rotation. It was the conclusion of an amazing 6 weeks, catching babies, scrubbing in for c-sections, and following new mothers. OB/Gyn has definitely been one of the more memorable and interesting rotations I’ve done, and the things I learned in this rotation will definitely help me in my future practice, because unless you go into urology, you’re going to always have lots of female patients.
After the test, I regretfully had to turn down an invitation by some of my classmates to go out to lunch for an end-of-the-rotation celebration, even though I wanted to. I’m usually not one to turn down invites like this, especially from friends, but I was in a hurry to go on a bigger mission, a 1300-mile long road trip up to Long Island over the weekend, to start my Endocrinology elective rotation in Long Island the following Monday morning.
Irene and I love road trips and it’s been a while since we went on one. In the past, we’ve driven to places like New Orleans, the Great Smokey Mountains, and to Mexico, from our home state of Georgia. Road tripping is the best way to see the country, because you experience the changes in climate, landscape, people, and culture as you drive along to your destination. We love stopping at very local off-the-beat places, and it’s only convenient to do so by car. Irene, being so supportive, decided to drive up with me to Long Island, keeping me company, and helping me drive through the more difficult parts of the trip, like through New York City. She’s much better than I am as a driver, and can easily handle things like aggressive traffic. Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, and a city of relentless drivers where roads don’t always have lines, was a piece of cake for her when we drove through it in 2008. After the weekend of driving up to Long Island, she will fly back to Miami to finish her coursework at Barry University.
Departing our home in Miami, we arrived in our home state of Georgia after 8 hours of driving. We stayed the night at Irene’s sister’s house in Savannah, Georgia. With its great oak trees, historic colonial architecture, and age-old Southern hospitality, Savannah is one of my favorite cities, and a place we wouldn’t mind settling in in the future. Irene’s sister and her boyfriend treated us to a breakfast of smothered crab and grits, a local southern specialty. It was great to catch up with family.
The next day, while we were driving through South Carolina, we started seeing billboards for this rest stop called “South of the Border” about 100 miles up the road, at the border with North Carolina. As we approached closer, 50 miles, 30 miles, then 20 miles, eventually all the billboards were advertising (or shall I say shouting?) the mini golf course, petting zoo, Sombrero-shaped observatory tower, “Mexican” restaurants, and tacky souvenir shops at South of the Border selling Mexican jumping beans. We just had to stop and join in on the fun! A tacky roadside tourist trap deserves a tacky photo!
That night, after 10 hours of total driving and a stop at South of the Border, we finally arrived in Alexandria, Virginia, where we met up with our friends Jenn and Brent. They were so hospitable to welcome us to stay at their place. The last time we saw them was at our wedding. We really enjoyed our time catching up with them, talking about everything from Carl Sagan to Street Fighter.
On Sunday morning, we continued our journey and crossed the river into Washington, DC. Irene and I were so excited to be together on this trip, and decided with the little time we were in our nation’s capital, we were going to see as much sights as we can. We visited the Jefferson Memorial, MLK Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, Washington Monument, White House, and walked through the Mammal, Deep Sea, and Dinosaur exhibits at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We were surprised at how little people and traffic there were during this time, especially since it was election time. With the lack of long lines at museums or monuments, we got to see what we wanted pretty easily.
Five hours of driving later, we finally reached Long Island where Hurricane Sandy had just swept through the week before. After ducking a few fallen tree branches, we arrived at our basement studio rental, greeted by the landlord holding a flashlight. The storm had left the entire neighborhood dark, cold, and without power. There were only a few houses running on generators, buzzing loudly into the night. Being in Miami for so long, we had forgotten what it was like to be cold. Here in New York, and without power, we were both freezing. After we checked in, Irene and I lit some candles in our cold, dark, basement studio. Although it was a little inconvenient not being able to recharge my phone or get online, it was also kind of fun too with all the candles around.
We decided to explore the area where I’ll be staying for the next 4 weeks. The area is definitely very suburban. There are lots of great Indian restaurants nearby, probably because of the large Indian population around this area. Irene and I were so happy when we discovered there was an H-Mart right across the street from our place. We strolled through the aisles looking at Korean products late into the night until they kicked us out of the store. We had a blast. You know you love someone when you can go do really normal things like this together and enjoy every moment of it.
On Monday Irene and I went to my orientation at Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC), about a 15 minute drive away on the highway from where I’m staying. It was so great seeing a lot of my classmates and colleagues from the island. NUMC is one of AUC’s main affiliated teaching hospitals and the school has invested a lot in the hospital, as well as its facilities. There’s a bunch of us AUCers doing rotations there, a lot more than in Miami. There are also several residents there from AUC. Everywhere I go, I run into familiar faces of friends, classmates, and colleagues I hadn’t seen ever since I left the island. I introduced Irene to many of them, and they were all really nice to her. It’s a giant AUC reunion there at NUMC.
On Irene’s last day in Long Island before taking a plane back to Miami to catch up on the rest of her coursework, we decided to go explore the Hamptons on the east side of Long Island. We had always heard about the Hamptons from popular culture, and from school (which thanks to microbiology, we’ll always associate with Lyme Disease). Although it’s on the same island, the Hamptons is actually pretty far from where we’re staying, about 1.5-2 hours away. While driving along the way on the highway, we noticed that many gas stations were closed, and at the ones that were open, there were lines of hundreds of cars lined up, waiting to get gas, essentially blocking off the roads and causing traffic to back up. It was from the gas shortage from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Surely, there’s got to be a gas station open, we thought, especially in those little towns away from the highway that nobody knows about. Right? We decided to find out. After we drove quite a while into the countryside, we got off at a random exit, and drove further into the country. We arrived at this little village called East Moriche. To our amazement, at the one sole gas station in this rural seaside haven, was a line of more than 50 cars lining up, waiting for a gas tanker to refill the gas station’s supply. We were stunned. Even in the most rural place, the gas shortage still exist. With my gas tank a little over half a tank, we started worrying. To prevent ourselves from running out of gas and to conserve enough for the rest of the week for my commute to the hospital, we decided to drive no further than where we were. That day, we never made it to the Hamptons as we had originally planned, but we got to explore the seashore area close to East Moriche, and tried lobster mac-n-cheese at this awesome local hole-in-the-wall seafood joint, and get a local taste of New England. We didn’t have to go very far to explore somewhere new. It was already everywhere we went.
Lesson of the Day:
A 1300-mile car trip when you’re pressed for time can sound like a real chore. But with a companion and some chips for the road, it’s amazing how enjoyable it can actually be. Irene and I felt that we saw so much during our trip up to New York. We left Miami in t-shirts and arrived in New York in winter jackets, and we saw friends, family, and visited beautiful and wacky places alike…. all within just a weekend. Make every trip an opportunity to explore the world, even if the trip is just a means to an end. This way, the drive is never a chore.