The Best of Buenos Aires (and some of Uruguay)

The Best of Buenos Aires (and some of Uruguay)

Hi again! In my last post I promised I’d devote a separate post to my post-Step 1 vacation to Buenos Aires. Months later, I’m finally getting around to it (lol sorry, clerkships have kept me busy!). I’ll spare you the day-by-day itinerary of our trip and just give you some of my favorite things about Buenos Aires and Uruguay.

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El Caminito, La Boca. This colorful area (“El Caminito”) in the neighborhood of La Boca was definitely a highlight of the trip. We walked through a large indoor market, bought art from street vendors, and ate lunch at a restaurant that we literally stumbled upon down a quiet alleyway.

Recoleta Cemetery. I was truly amazed by how grandiose and beautiful the mausoleums were at this cemetery. By following the crowds we were able to find Eva Perón’s grave.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Hands down the most beautiful bookstore I have ever been in. It was previously a theater.

Tango show. We naively thought we would dance tango while we were in Buenos Aires, but after seeing how intense the dance was we decided not to embarrass ourselves lol.

One of our best decisions was to take a side trip to Uruguay. We hopped on a ferry boat and about 2 hours later we were in the quaint waterfront town of Colonia del Sacramento. Colonia was calm, sleepy village–a big change from bustling Buenos Aires.

Montevideo. We rode a bus from Colonia to Montevideo, and stayed with the sweetest AirBnB host. He even took us out to dinner the night we arrived in Montevideo, and we chatted for hours about life and politics over wine and pasta. Montevideo, despite being a big city, had a much more relaxed vibe than Buenos Aires, and the people were extremely friendly. We even had a chance to relax by the small beach on the edge of the city.

Last but certainly not least: the food. I think it’s safe to say that we pretty much ate our way through Buenos Aires and Uruguay. We ate delicious hand-made pastas, soft and flaky medialunas (croissants), creamy gelato, and the most amazing sushi I’ve ever had. And of course, we ate the most tender, flavorful steaks and drank fantastic red wines. To make things even better–everything was ridiculously affordable thanks to the exchange rate being in our favor. God Bless Buenos Aires.

 

This vacation was a much-needed getaway after studying long and hard for Step 1 and was also a birthday treat to myself. I’m super happy I was able to make this trip, and despite spending a full day in travel time (each way), I’d gladly go back.

-S

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On being a patient as a medical student

On being a patient as a medical student

During my fall break last week, I (finally) got my torn meniscus repaired. Having surgery on my knee gave me an interesting opportunity that I haven’t had in a while–a chance to be a surgery patient.


I’ve had surgery before, but this time, as a medical student, it felt a little different. I understood a lot more of what was going on with my procedure and who was involved in my care. And of course I thought about everything that could possibly go wrong during surgery. Even though the meniscus repair was a pretty minor procedure and not very invasive, with any medical procedure there is always potential for something to go wrong. So naturally I found myself feeling a little anxious about all the possibilities for a bad outcome.

Getting surgery was a reminder of how overwhelming, stressful, and anxiety-provoking being a patient can be. As I sat basically naked under a hospital gown and blankets, doctors and nurses came in and out of my room to talk to me, started an IV, asked me questions, marked the site of surgery…. I verified my name and birthdate I don’t know how many times, and explained over and over to various people my idea of what was going on (arthroscopy of the right knee and repair of the lateral meniscus) to make sure everyone was on the same page.

It was a lot.

Post-op phone call with my sister (pretty sure I was half asleep)

I felt lucky to have my parents there with me pre-op, which helped me feel a little more relaxed (even though they may have been more nervous than I was). I also felt lucky that I had a general awareness of what role all the various nurses and doctors played in my care and a good understanding of the procedure itself.

But I realize not everyone has these comforts going into surgery. Some people may show up for their surgery completely alone (especially if it’s an emergency situation), and many may not have a solid understanding of the procedure. I can only imagine that in either or both of those cases a patient’s anxiety would markedly increase.

Being a patient while in medical school was particularly interesting because one day, pretty soon, I will be on the other side of things and be a doctor taking care of my own patients. I’m thankful I was able to have some moments of introspection and reflection about what it feels like to be a patient because I think it can be easy for physicians to just view patients as a constellation of disease processes, injuries, or symptoms instead of as a whole person with feelings and fears. In the future I want to always keep in mind how I felt as a patient: vulnerable, nervous, restless, unsure. I don’t want to lose sight of what that felt like, because I’m sure my future patients will have those very same emotions–and many more.

I thank God that my surgery went  well. The care and attention I received before and after my surgery was absolutely wonderful. (And I’m sure I received great care during the surgery as well because I’m recovering fabulously.) I couldn’t be more proud to be a student at an institution that really values patient care. (Sounds cliche but I really mean it.)

Recovery= rest, ice, compression, elevation, and Law & Order marathons

 

Now time to get back in the gym!

Life in Santiago Atitlán

Life in Santiago Atitlán

This post is long overdue, as I’m actually leaving Santiago Atitlán in a few hours to head back to Xela (Quetzaltenango). But I lived here for almost a month, and this little lake town definitely deserves its own post.

Santiago is nestled in an inlet between three volcanos on the southern part of the lake. It’s a decent-sized town, but feels a lot more quaint than some of the other lake towns because it is not as overrun with tourists and foreigners (like Panajachel and San Pedro).

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View of Santiago Atitlán from a boat

On market days (especially Fridays), the main street of the town and the area around its Central Park is bustling with vendors selling everything from socks to tiny fish to mangos to blenders. A lot of shops sell gorgeous huipiles (traditional tops worn by women) and fabric for cortes (traditional skirts). The huipil design native to Santiago is striped with birds embroidered along the neckline.

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Santiago Atitlán’s Parque Central
Monument in Parque Central of the 25 cent Quetzal coin. The coin features the profile of Concepción Ramírez, who was born in Santiago Atitlán.
A statue at the entrance of Parque Central depicting the traditional dress of Mayan women in Santiago Atitlán

As you walk away from the central park towards the dock, more of the shops sell souvenirs in addition to huipiles and cortes. The variety is outrageous; you can buy bags, shoes, beaded jewelry, embroidered tapestries, wooden carvings, tablecloths, blankets, hammocks, and so much more. I did my fair share of shopping in Santiago, and bought tons of souvenirs for friends and family (and plenty for myself).

Artist Diego Morán in his shop. I couldn’t resist buying one of his portraits.

One thing I love about Santiago is that you have a view of a volcano from almost anywhere in the city.

San Pedro volcano

As for where I’ve been living, I’ve been staying in a bakery. Yep, an actual bakery. There’s a room with a huge oven and racks of bread, and people from all over town come by to pick up bins of bread. They also make yummy pastries, cakes and donuts.

Our host family is extremely kind and welcoming. Our host mom was generous enough to send us off with some fresh banana bread, a couple of donuts or apple turnovers as we headed off to work. Also, she is an incredible cook.

Our host mom decorating a cake

We also have three “brothers” (the youngest of which loves to show off his latest Lego creations), a cranky pet parrot named Manolo, and two pet dogs.

Manolo, the most temperamental animal I’ve ever met

While Santiago is definitely a lot quieter than Xela was, I’ve really enjoyed living here over the past month, and I’ll definitely miss the town (and my host family) when I leave.

My host mom giving me a lesson on how to make tortillas

-S