August 15, 2016
According to the Kabbalah, the three most intense weeks of the year started on July 24th, and came to a grand finale last Saturday – on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. As my friend the Kabbalist put it, “It’s like for three weeks there’s no ozone layer…. Sunlight is good, but you can get burned if you aren’t careful.”
my weekend. jesus h.
I didn’t want to overstay my tourist visa. The easiest way to do that is to duck out to Kuala Lumpur – we’ll call KL – for a weekend.
I planned to take it easy in KL. Clear my head, maybe meditate or catch up on sleep and watch a stupid British TV series called “Peep Show”. It’s funny. Strong recommendation.
The woman who I stayed with we’ll call SS. She picked me up at the airport. She’s a beautiful 58-year-old Indian yogi, and occasional Uber driver. Her apartment is a clean, small, 2br on the 12th floor. My room was simple: a twin bed, a glass night table, a single shelf, white marble floors. Everything you need to sleep and meditate. When you look out the window, you see very tall lanky trees, and then skyscrapers the distance.
SS speaks slowly. Despite the age difference she makes you feel like you can honestly open up to her. She was married twice, but never had kids. She teaches Hatha yoga. This weekend she finished a writing workshop. She has 3 friendly cats – we’ll call W (white) B (black) and O (orange).
Saturday Morning SS dropped me off in Little India. I saw a Hindi temple, got a dosa for breakfast, ended up in an art gallery where they let me charge my phone and use the wifi. My friend, we’ll call YC, is going to KL today… I left a note for him in the gallery, and emailed him instructions where to find it.
The afternoon was hot. People gave me ambiguous directions, I got lost in multiple parking lots. Eventually I gave up, had a blueberry latte in air conditioning, and mooched more wifi. I thought about being alone; if I would end up twice married and childless after menopause, with 3 friendly cats like W,B,&O; and, whether or not that was such a bad fate.
Status post latte, I went to a city-forest. As good as central park, but not better. Saw a cathedral, bought a cheap yellow scarf at a market, then took a subway to a mall where I bought a ticket for a taxi
THIS IS WHERE THE DRAMA STARTS.
The taxi driver, we’ll call TD, took me to a Chinese temple (why I needed the scarf). It was 4:30pm. I got out of the taxi, and asked TD to wait while I check that I had everything. Sure enough, my wallet was gone. I could have sworn I looked at it when I got into the taxi, to make sure I still had SS’s card with her address.
We checked the car. Nothing. I asked if we could drive back to the mall, to the counter where I bought my taxi ticket. That was the only other place it could be. We went back. I told TD I could pay him when I got my wallet, and I was so so sorry.
At the mall, TD decided to go to the taxi counter with me. No wallet. Then to the mall’s lost and found. Nothing. The mall security. Nothing. The auxiliary police. Nothing. TD did all the talking. He was the same age as SS. At this point, he had decided I was his responsibility. I felt incredibly helpless, and also grateful, plus guilty that I had no way to adequately thank him. By the time the auxiliary police said “No wallet” I started to tear up. I realized I was completely alone in a foreign city with no money or ID. I just happened to be very lucky.
TD drove me to the police station to file a report. My first ever Malaysian police report. I had SS’s phone number, so we called her to explain. TD waited until I was finished, then took me to SS’s house. by then it was 6:15pm
On the drive home, I found out his name is actually Mr. Selapan. He has 4 children, the oldest is a doctor and is getting married this fall. He offered to take me to the airport in the morning. I thanked him profusely.
SS lent me money to pay Mr. Selapan. I remembered I had packed a spare debit card in my bag. I was so relieved I hugged SS. I canceled my other card. She drove me into town so I could get cash. Meanwhile, she got a bottle of wine, asked if I would have dinner with her at home. I thanked her profusely too. We had wine on the balcony. After dinner, we watched the Daily Show, then a British talk show, then I went to bed.
SS was up before me in the morning. Coffee was ready. She told me that when I called her from the police station, she drew a not-tarot-but-something-like-it (we’ll call it NTBSLI) card for guidance. It was the Gratitude card, and she decided it meant I was a grateful person. (So true!) We hugged goodbye, Mr. Selapan picked me up. We talked about family and palm trees on the way to the airport.
I had weird dreams on the plane. First, a toddler was sick and I nursed him back to health. Next, I was being wrapped in a golden fluffy cocoon. I decided to hide in my room and watch Peep Show season 4 that evening. My housemates invited me out for dinner, but I was in for the night, asleep by 9.
Anyway, that’s everything, Two more weeks in Bangkok. Here’s hoping for some calm.
- YC found the note.
- SS reviewed me on AirBnb: “Rosalyn is a great guest; despite her losing her wallet, she kept a calm composure and ‘went with the flow’. It could have been worse as she put it! I was happy to host Roz.”
- According to the Kabbalah, the anniversary of the fall of the Temple will also be the birthday of the messiah. I don’t take things like that literally… let’s just interpret it to mean that destruction and renewal tend to happen at the same time.
August 7, 2016
One week down at the Thai Red Cross. I said I wouldn’t dwell too much on work – and I won’t – but for the curious, inquisitive, or career-focused readers out there:
I really like it.
I have a few projects with their PrEP programs – a pill that prevents HIV. I get to write a lot, come up with questions, and play with data to find the answers (maybe). That means I get to learn a new statistical software too. Who wouldn’t love that? The coworkers are sweet, my boss is supportive, I have a lot of autonomy, the office itself is a refrigerator. I bought a sweater yesterday.
Everyone else is Thai. For this pathological chatter, the language barrier is an advantage. I get a lot more done during the day. This month, I’ll also see a bunch of the gay health clinics. Here are photos from this Friday’s field trip:
SO. Enough about work….
This week, in spite of having a “life” (i.e. a structured activity, that isn’t just for my ‘highest level of amusement’ – which is what my dad calls anything fun), I was preoccupied with minutia about things in New York. A monday email became a week long conversation about logistics. I was latched onto my Facebook feed wherever I found wifi. My mind wandered to New York/America/Home(?) when I meditated, like a moth to the flame.
*Yes. Still doing that daily meditation thing – hello from day 15/100/ 15% transformation.*
And it occurred to me this morning: I wasn’t attached to the east coast, or work. I was stuck on the people back home. As wonderful as alone time is – as addictive as self-reflection can be, wrote the blogger– eventually some kind of gravity pulls you back to community, whether you want it or not. I don’t have one here.
By the end of the week I was too restless to read or write anymore.
Book update – Almost finished Revolutionary Road. Jesus. I almost cried when I read Part 2 on the train. If you ever want a novel full of perfect character development, that breaks your heart over and over, this is the novel for you! Wish it was longer.
On Saturday, I went online and mapped out an art gallery crawl. This involved looking up galleries, plotting them on a map, making a route, then hitting the road. I saw 2 small galleries, a university show, and an art exhibit called “Business Humour” about comedy in the fanciest mall I’ve ever seen. The first recorded joke in Thailand was published in 1865! By sunset I ended up at an opening on the opposite side of town. Read: free food and open bar. Not a terrible place to be stuck during the evening monsoon.
So, darling reader, here are the summary stats:
- 25% of work complete (1week/4weeks)
- 15% of enlightenment obtained (15days /100days)
- 50% of my time in Asia complete (3 weeks/6 weeks)
- 30% of yoga pass used
- 26% of subway pass used.
- 54.2 % of Sunday complete
Results are preliminary. Data collection ongoing. Further analysis forthcoming.
Comments/emails/distractions welcome, as usual.
July 31, 2016
Last week I wrote to my friend Liz, Hanoi is a small dose of Eat Pray Love…
I had a lot of alone time, a lot of free time, saw friends who I think bring out the best in me. I rode as many motorbikes as my heart desired. I saw my friends’ babies, which made me think a lot about family. I cried when I watched Michelle Obama’s DNC speech. A hurricane came and went.
Now I’m back in Bangkok. If Hanoi was Eat Pray Love, this is Lost in Translation. I am Scar Jo, pre-Bill Murray. I’m sorry to say, this blog is will probably take a turn for the dull. (If you stop reading, I understand). I’m picking out routines, haunts, schedules. Bangkok sounds exotic. It definitely can be, if you let it. Then again, so can anywhere. I’m not up for adventure right now. I’m excited to do yoga regularly and read books and write an overly descriptive blog entry now and then.
SPEAKING OF BOOKS: I finished Maitland’s How to be Alone – too meta? I know. It was sweet, written by a women who lives in isolation in Scotland. The beginning was a bit defensive. She belabored her point that there was nothing wrong with enjoying solitude, giving examples of geniuses and creatives and spiritual leaders who thrived on alone time. Okay okay, we get it! But it moved into more helpful reflections eventually; how solitude is a celebration of one’s existence; how, in the end, it enriches relationships with other people. Worth the read. I gave my copy to my friend Tra – a loner who I love to spend time with.
Next Up: Revolutionary Road. So far, really good. Better than the movie. Then again, I have an unexplainable soft spot for 1940’s and 1950’s American writing. (I will always love you James T. Farrell).
By the way: I tried a sensory deprivation chamber (Maitland suggestion). No distractions. I listened to my pulse, and I think I fell asleep. Reader, if you ever have the chance, please try it. I also signed up for 100 days of a meditation podcast. Today is day eight. I am 8% transformed!
Here is a the coffee shop where I hang out.
If you put me in Antarctica, I probably could still find the right coffee shop, and maybe even a used bookstore. (The one in Bangkok I like is called Dasa)
On that note, lovely reader, thank you for reading. Let me know if you want to Skype sometime. Solitude has its merits, but so does video-chatting.
July 23, 2016
The plane tilted over a rice field. Just before the wheels hit the runway – that moment when you see actual humans wearing conical hats, rather than the abstract topography that deserves a David Attenborough voiceover (I love you, David) – all my inner organs constricted into a rubbery ball. The wheels hit Earth at about 8:26am.
I’m back in Hanoi.I have never wanted to physically hug a city before. Imagine seeing someone you were in love with once, after years of separation. It feels like that.
Some friends are still here – shout outs to Thu (thank you for dinner last night), John (thank you for a roof/conversation/bed), Annie (thank you for today), Michelle (welcome back too!), Giang, Hong Van, Kem (I can’t wait to see you all), Nhung (and you), and Tra (and you too!).
[No/Every]thing has changed. I’m staying in Truc Bach on the third floor of a house. If I only swallow rice, tofu, sautéed greens, and coffee for the rest of the week, that’s just fine. Yesterday I walked around a lake, hung out at a cafe, read a book, got my hair washed, bought another book…
- BOOK REVIEW INTERLUDE:
- Just finished: Kevin Brockmeier’s “A Brief History of the Dead”. Awesome. The story bounces back and forth between a pseudo-afterlife, and the last human alive in post-apocalyptic Antarctica. Sounds too good to be true, right? Actually, this is one of those life-affirming books, that shines a light on the random moments that become the most memorable ones. Brockmeier does it again. Five stars.
- Current Book: Sara Maitland’s “How to be Alone” (Seemed appropriate). So far so good. More to follow.
Also, Still v. jet lagged. Here are some epiphanies I had between 3:30 am. and 5:00 am today.
- I want to try a sensory deprivation chamber. (Reader, have you ever?)
- There is a cool Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery I found online. Maybe I can sponsor a nun (Reader, thoughts?)
- The cure for fear is knowledge
- “Home” is an emotion
- Solitude + poor adjustment to new time zones = creativity?
The rest of the week I will be in Hanoi. I plan to ride as many motorcycles as possible. Lovely reader, please email me your address if you want a postcard.
July 21, 2016
I’m blogging again.
For those who met me after medical school: I used to have a blog. See below, if you’re curious about my internal/internet monologue during those years.
For those who lost touch with me after medical school: I moved to Queens, and delivered babies for two years – 600 New Yorkers who I expect will all graduate college by 2037, and be as remarkable, kind, and charming as they were the day I met them.
There was no blogging then, for better or worse.
After six hundred births, I switched to Preventive Medicine — a field nobody has heard of and everyone needs. The problem with prevention is that if you do a good job nothing happens.
Two days ago I landed in Bangkok, where I’ll work with the Thai Red Cross’s HIV prevention programming this summer…
And, I’ll be blogging again! Hooray!
I don’t plan to write much about work. This blog is what it has always been: a personal journal, written to be shared with you, beautiful reader. It’s old fashioned, but I hope you like it.
May 24, 2013
With exactly one week until graduation, and one month until my next life-chapter, I’ve decided to write this manifesto for my final Plotzk entry. I dedicate it to all the giants whose shoulders I’ve stood on throughout medical school. Reader, please count yourself among them.
I’ve been told it’s best to start where you are. Me: I’m on Eastern Parkway, between Franklin and Classon Avenues, in apartment 3G, in my bed. I am single again. I still play piano. I love plants, poetry, writing, interior decorating; I’m learning how to enjoy TV shows. I just expectantly bought a new pair of sneakers that should support my pronating ankles the next time I try to run. (These are all activities in solitude – odd for this apparent extrovert). I care very much about my relationships, even if lately it’s been difficult to find time to give them the attention I think they deserve.
I moved to New York six years ago in order to change. I wanted to make new friendships, and do meaningful work. I stayed to cultivate those friendships; to expand the latitude of that work. The friendships coagulated into a community of people from my job, medical school, childhood, college, and also my neighbors in Prospect Heights. My work demanded I learn to appreciate the wholeness of the human body, as well as what happens when that wholeness is threatened.
I meditated a lot. I was a hypochondriac for a little while. I became slightly desensitized to blood, vomit, excrement, and physical deformities. I swallowed more coffee than I did water, milk, and orange juice combined. I walked (wobbled, marched, hiked) through as many shoes as I could afford. Then I went to Vietnam, where I learned to be a less stingy. I indulgently tried to write down everything I could here. Maybe I believed keeping that record solidified the reality of my stories.
And here we are.
Now what? I want be a good doctor, for starters. I’d like to do good research in the process, possibly get involved with global health again if the opportunity presents itself. I’ve decided to keep blogging, in order to also solidify the reality of my residency experience. I want a community of colleagues inside the hospital. I want a home that feels like home in Queens. In both places I want to spend my time as an expression of my truest self.
The next four years will be devoted to cultivating the art of process. I still believe everything I accomplish will be the cumulative sum of several small steps, which usually feel like nothing at the time. Switchbacks up a mountain. And, with any luck I will also deepen my compassion through my work; hopefully I’ll allow the joys and tragedies of my patients to make their imprints.
So, it seems I’m on the same trajectory as before. But, like a tree that has yet to bear fruit, I have obvious growing to do. You, lovely reader, have been my nourishment and my witness. Thank you so so much. Please stay tuned.
March 17, 2013
Radiology came and went. I passed. Reader, if you ever have a chest x-ray let me know.
As for what’s coming up…. I MATCHED! I’m kind of thrilled. I’ll be spending the next 4 years living in Astoria (hopefully) and working at North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital. Here’s what it looks like:
I know. It’s gorgeous, and I’m bragging a little. I don’t need a perfect lighting design to get through residency…. but…. it doesn’t hurt.
Don’t worry. In my free time I will keep blogging. You can look forward to stories about celebrity sightings, a record of the coffee stains on my white coat, and I’ll keep a boys-vs.-girls score of the babies I deliver . So stay tuned.
Between now and then, there are few things to attend to. First, I start Emergency Medicine Monday, followed by “Surgery bootcamp” in April, and finally a psych elective. Then it’s off to Australia to see YC. Then Graduation (!). Then I move to Queens. I want to take a nap…
Finally, I’ve gotten back into filmmaking lately… here’s what I did:
First, a promo video I made for my beloved Henry Luce Scholars program:
And for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, my friend and I made this last Tuesday:
We’re hoping it goes viral. Keep an eye out for episode two coming soon🙂
February 22, 2013
Who knew Monday’s outing with mum and the finale of Downton Abbey would be little blips compared to what Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday had planned for me?
On Monday night (home from a perfect Delawarean teatime) I buckled down to study CT scans, barium swallows, sonography, and even what an X ray of an egg looks like.
On Tuesday my mind was a swirl of shades of gray. I felt uneasy all morning. Doom was on the horizon. I knew it. The quiz was at 4 pm. By noon I was a nervous wreck. All I could think about was a nightmare I’d had – which isn’t worth getting into, but it was awful. At 2 pm I got a call from Mom during a lecture. Grandmom had passed away. Suddenly I felt better – as if an enormous tension was released. (weird response, I know). I left lecture, told my professor what had happened, and was allowed postpone the quiz to Wednesday morning.
My grandmother and I were close. I think she was psychic, at least concerning my love life. (When YC came to visit I made sure he met her. Poor YC didn’t realize I was actually introducing him to my fortune teller…) Anyway, everyone grieves differently. I found comfort on the internet. Here’s the facebook post I wrote Tuesday night:
My grandmom (Lillian) passed away today. She was 97, and died in her sleep in her own home. I usually think of her as an old woman – more adult than I could ever be. Lately, though, I’ve imagined the Lillians I never met: a little sister, a teenager living in the depression, a girl scout at camp, a newlywed wife, a kindergarten teacher, a mom raising 4 children in West Philly during the 60’s, a mother-in-law to my father before he was a father, a widow after decades of marriage… and all the other Lillians who are packaged and preserved in family stories and photos. I like to think that, if she were my age, we would have been close friends. Then I remember that we WERE close friends. Anyway, Lillian, I’m really going to miss you.
Wednesday morning I answered 25 questions about how to look at the body. Then I took a subway to a bus to a train to a car to my home in Delaware. Alan (my brother) flew in from Saint Louis that afternoon. Dad got home in the evening. We ordered pizza, and ate dinner together as a family, which hadn’t happened since 2011.
Thursday morning we piled into the Plotzker car to drive to Philadelphia for the funeral. We arrived at the funeral home by 10. My aunts and uncles were there. A few cousins came, and family friends. The service started at 11; it was 20 minutes of sweet nostalgia – resurrecting my grandparents’ marriage, comparing Grandmom to the sabbath bride, praising the success of her children who are her ultimate legacy. After the service, a caravan of us drove to the cemetery. I put a shovel of dirt on her casket alongside my mother’s pile of dirt. She’s buried next to my granddad, Morton. It was bittersweet to see them together again.
We went back to her house. I helped set up the food. People trickled in and out to offer condolences. It almost felt like Thanksgiving. Eventually I reverted to my childhood tendency of snooping around the second floor while the adults ate and talked in the living room. I found a shoebox of photos on Grandmom’s desk. The pictures were disordered. They spanned 1905 to 2000. Here’s one of her when she was 25 – about a year before she got married.
(Apparently, it was my grandfather’s favorite photo of her. She was cute, huh?)
The sun started to set. I had to go back to New York. Dad drove me to 30th street station, and I boarded the bus at 6. Last night I tried to watch a tutorial on the liver when I got home, but inevitably ended up watching an old episode of Downton Abbey – the one where a Turkish diplomat seduces lady Mary and then dies in her bed.
As for Freedom, which I haven’t mentioned yet…. My roommates and I invented a holiday called Freedom Day. It’s today. On Freedom Day you can free yourself from whatever you want. We’d scheduled a party to celebrate. Initially it seemed wrong to have a party so close to my grandmother’s death. But, I decided seeing friends would be good for me, and also an opportunity for me to celebrate her life by telling my friends her stories. Once someone told me that telling stories about the deceased sets them free. I like to think that’s true.
February 19, 2013
February 17, 2013
It’s been 48 hours of radiology straight. ish. I reviewed the chest, and part of the abdomen. Also, my room is tidier than it’s been in a while. Coincidence?
I’m taking a brief study break to go to Delaware to have tea with my mother. We are celebrating 1) Valentines Day and 2) the season finale of Downton Abbey. Keep in mind, this is not some peasantry affair; no Starbucks or that nonsense. We’ll be in a proper tea room. There will be tea sandwiches, followed by scones and cream, and then a multi-tered tray of little pastries, all underscored with a pot of tea for each of us. I hope they have Russian Caravan . The first time we went to tea I was ten. It was at the Hotel DuPont, and I think I wore a dress with ruffles (probably half against my will). I put 10 teaspoons of sugar into my cup, and then fell asleep at the table. Since then, Mom and I have gotten older, the tea less sweetened for me each year, I’ve managed to stay awake every time, and I’m old enough to not wear ruffles if I don’t want to. A few years ago our favorite place closed, so now we have to drive 30 minutes to Glasgow, Delaware for the next best tea room in the state. Worth it.
Between now and teatime I’ll ride a subway to a bus, then a train, and then watching more tutorials about abdominal radiology tonight. It’s been over 2 years since I’ve had a proper medical school quiz (or a proper teatime). By Tuesday Downton Abbey will be finished for the season, I’ll have taken my quiz, and maybe my thirst for tea will finally be quenched.
Next stop: Wilmington.