Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's Christmas Time in the City!

As I was walking back from lunch today I saw multiple buildings covered in red bows, holiday lights and lots of Christmas trees in lobbies. At night when I leave work I immediately walk outside and see lights covering the trees (white lights as colored are less sophisticated and wouldn't work here in DC). Then there's the general glow from the city lights that mingles in with these holiday lights. It's really rather breathtaking to see. As I walked to my Spanish class a few weeks ago I saw all the monuments light up. I've been told they are amazing to see at night and it really was something to behold. Now, they have holiday wreaths and bows on them as well. They look great. Ice skating rinks are being made in various different areas and I can't wait to go on the one that's located on the National Mall. It'll be a blast. Every major office building has a Christmas tree that is wonderfully and stylishly decorated, nothing is extravagent. Today I saw the White House decorated with tree lights, wreaths and bows. It looked even better than it does on tv. Now, the only thing left... the National Tree Lighting Ceremony. It should be great.

Anyway, as I was walking back with my coat, scarf and hat I was reminded of the song, "It's Christmas time in the City." For the first time in my life I'm in a major international city where Christmas is evident. I see the lights, hear the music and now truly understand what that means. There's nothing wrong with rural and suburbia christmas, it's great but there really is a special sparkle in the air and an almost magical feel to the city right now. I'm definitely enjoying it. So the question is... anyone want to go iceskating with me on the mall? (You know you want to). :)


This past week Thanksgiving was celebrated all over the United States. People travelled from near and far to partake of turkey, gravy, potatoes, yams, cranberries, pumpkin pie and so much more. I, too, spent it with family: my sister and her family down in sunny North Carolina and my dad a few miles further north in lovely Virginia. I had a nice time with both of them. I laughed and played with her kids (3 under the age of nine, they definitely wear you out), talked with her and her husband, Jim, and learned about a new Thanksgiving food called simply "the pink stuff." (I'm not a big fan of it lets just say ;). I also helped them pack up their house. Yep, that's right folks, they're moving back to the land of corn... Illinois. As they will be heading out Friday I did my sisterly duty and helped fill boxes, watch the kids, clean dishes and other moving activities. I know Tammy, my sister, appreciated it and I'm glad to help. After all, giving is what this time of the year is all about.

Then my brother-in-law took me up to visit my dad. He lives in Virginia Beach with his girlfriend of five years (I think?). It was nice seeing them again and just being in their company. We talked and ate and had a nice time. We even went down to the boardwalk and saw a Christmas lights show. It's done in the sand right along the ocean so it's pretty cool to see the water reflect the light. Sadly, though, my pictures didn't turn out because it was too bumpy. Oh well. I'll remember the twinkle lights.

All in all it was a nice Thanksgiving filled with good food and family fun. Hopefully you all had a nice time, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chipotle Christian Chat

Recently I have met a wonderful girl named Lata who is from Nepal. I met her at church, as she is one of the other few young single girls. She is also only here in DC for a year and works as civil engineer for an architecture company. She has only been in the states for two years and most of that time was spent in California where she attended school. Lately she has been picking me up for church and various other activities, such as a young adults dinner. From the moment I first started talking with her a few months ago I could tell that she was going to be someone that I could really talk to and share with. Today I was not disappointed.

We decided to go out to lunch today after church and went to a mexican restaurant called Chipotle in Silver Spring. Basically right before she had initially dropped me off after church we were talking about making decisions and how hard it can be trying to figure out the road God is wanting us to take. She had stated she had a really trying week before, as had I, and asked if we could just talk. I agreed, as I had no other plans, and boy was I glad that I accepted.

We talked for over three hours! We ate lunch, walked around the downtown area, and got a little lost both going and coming back. It didn't matter. For the first time since moving out here I was able to physically talk one on one with someone who understands. She is a very strong Christian, and a free one at that. Her story of faith is amazing and just listening to her talk and share really challenged and encouraged me. I knew I had met a kindred spirit.

We talked about barriers, walls, insecurities, how our faith has changed and what we were currently dealing with. I was able to open up to her in a way I have with few other people (for those of you who really know me this is a remarkable thing indeed). The really great thing is she gets me. That's something I'd been lacking out here. I have some friends out here but they're not Christians or are not free Christians. Therefore, they don't understand parts of me or what I'm even talking about. The conversations are usually superficial or only a little more. They are lacking in the deep real quality because to have those thoughts and feelings you have to have a deep, passionate relationship in Christ. Only then can you have conversations that truly knock your socks off, like I had today.

So cherish those who challenge you. Be thankful for their encouragement, understanding, and love. Most importantly, be on the lookout for those of like mind, for you never know when and how they'll appear. I'm looking forward to our next Chipotle Christian Chat.

The State of the World

This last week I attended the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference here in Washington D.C. This conference is the largest assembly for public health workers held every year. People from all over the states, and sometimes countries, come to attend the scientific seminars, poster sessions and expo. It's a great place to gather information, meet up with alumni, network and learn. This was my first time going and only went because I was reimbursed due to my fellowship. I got lots of information, tons of free stuff from the expo and learned loads. However, I came away with a profound sense of despair.

Why, you may, ask did I get this feeling? Why did I at one point think why did I go into the field of public health? What would make me question whether anything we do really makes a difference? Well, it's what I learned from the various sessions that gave me these thoughts.

I heard from people who worked in HIV/AIDS clinics, from people who worked with vulnerable populations and heard how the environment is causing the resurgance of vector and infectious diseases. I heard from experts how global warming is causing more than an increase in temperatures and how it takes more than medical supplies to truly help communities. I heard presidential bashing regarding public health, the environment and allocation of resources. Diabetes, obesity and lack of physical exercise were all discussed and analyzed. I attended sessions regarding women's health, and in particular reproductive health, and heard all about the history of abortion from a pro-choice lawyer. No matter what session I attended or who I talked to there was an underlying theme, no matter how subtle or insignificant it seemed... failure.

As public health workers we work to heal the entire community. This healing can come in all kinds of forms and usually requires helping multiple levels within that community, such as educating and empowering women. Creating a better infrastructure that includes roads and clinics and increasing the availablity of anti-retroviral drugs are other examples. What I kept hearing throughout the conference was how much more we needed to do and how we are significantly lacking in resources and money. No matter what session I attended there was always this theme. "We can't fully treat the women with HIV/AIDS until we better empower them. They can't be empowered until their government recognizes the need for education and their rights as citizens." Another common phrase, "Due to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, we no longer have the necessary funds to provide the proper services and until they are willing to be humans regarding money we never will."

Therefore, although public health endeavors have been beneficial in the past and still are I couldn't help but get the impression that for every one thing we did that was good ten more things would need to be fixed before it could be put into effect. I felt like it was a vicious cycle and really wondered if it would really matter what we did. The earth is getting warmer, forests are being destroyed, water is becoming more scarce and millions are dying of diseases. Can anything be done to stop this? Is it even worth the time and effort?

Yes, it is. People need help and although we may not see anything beneficial in the current future we never know what may happen in the long term. I looked back at the past of public health and realized good things had occurred that had worldwide effects. Global vaccines such as the smallpox eradication, fluoridation in water and smoking bans have all been beneficial and all took awhile to fully work. So as C. Everet Koop stated, "Health care matters to all of us some of the time. Public health matter to some of us all the time." We shall never give up.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


All this week on the wonderful, lovely Washington Metropolitation Transit System I've felt like a lemming. People get in, they find seats, they stand when there are no seats, they get squashed, they get off at their stop, then stand in nice orderly lines to go up the escaltors where we all pass our SmarTrip cards over the exit gates and head up to the streets. It's a vicious cycle and it's one that I experience day after day. Usually, I've never really noticed it. Maybe it's because my line (the green/yellow line) is never as busy as the other two major ones (blue/orange and red). They are always packed. Maybe it's because I don't deal with transfering lines unless I absolutely have to. (I avoid this by getting off at a green line station and walking down four blocks to work). Perhaps it's due to the fact there's been train problems and red line construction occurring recently. All I know is that for some reason the last few days I've felt like a lemming when riding.

I get up, get ready for work, walk to the bus station and catch the same bus. Then I get off the bus, go up the stairs to the train station and get on the train. I then get on the train ride for a while (yes, I can actually tell you the exact order of stops and how many) and then get off. Stand in line for the escalators and then proceed out. Later that day I do it all again. Sounds great, right? Ha ha. I don't mind public transportation at all, in fact, I'm a very strong advocate of it, and am very excited that the buses run on clean natural gas (it's so much more environmentally friendly and better for the air). Yet, for some reason this week I've been a lemming.

Perhaps I've just noticed people's lack of common sense more when riding the subway. I mean if it's packed people then don't get on, the next one is only two minutes behind. Also, put your bag on the ground and hold onto it. This lets more people on and less people becoming irritated. Oh, and this one is my favorite. Use all eight cars instead of six. There's a reason the trains are eight cars long, it's so we can spread out. Instead, we'll just cram into the same six cars. Seriously, people use some common sense. Then again, we're all just lemmings.

So in the end there's really not much that can be done. I've just found it ironic all of a sudden and, yes, in a few short hours I will once again be a lemming. Anyone care to join?

50 Years from Now...

So I recently watched the movie, Transformers. It was really good and full of amazing special effects and excellent plot. Mixed in among the action and story was a great quote that I'm going to expound upon today: "Fifty years from now when you're looking back at your life don't you want to say you had the guts to get into the car." Now without seeing the movie many may be wondering how that fits into it. Well it's really cool where it comes up and how it further plays into the overall story, but I'm not here to discuss it in the movie setting, on the contrary, I want to discuss it in terms of life.

When I heard it I was immediately taken back and thought, "wow, that is really profound, especially coming from Hollywood." I mean how great is that quote. It made me think of risks and in particular taking risks regarding our life's paths. How often do we take a jump into unknown waters? How often to we have the guts to walk an unknown path and follow an unnamed destiny? Too often we live in regret, fear, and self-denial. We want to follow what seems practical, logical, and time-appropriate. Not knowing what my be in that car, not being willing to explore the unknown has caused us to become downtrodden, sad, and hopeless.

How many of us have ever wishfully thought of doing something different, of truly following our passions and hearts into that unknown? When was the last time you can say you got into that car, that you were willing to risk it all? It's not easy to say and rarely happens. Why? Why do we chose the road commonly traveled over the way less walked?

Well, I think it has a lot to do with fear. Like the characters in the movie they were scared to find out what was in store for them. We, too, have that same fear. We are scared that our lives, our future, my not be what we had always envisioned. It may be something that completely scares us or is beyond our comprehension. We may not understand how it will come to pass and so we flee from it because that's the easy thing to do. But, all it takes is one person. One person, who is willing to get into that car; one person who is willing to take that risk and walk blindly into the darkness, not knowing the way ahead, only that they have a purpose. Are you ready to be that person?

It's not easy to get to that point. It's not easy to live a life without regrets. We all have them in some aspect, but it's what we do with the path before us that matters. It's what you decide to do when a new, interesting, scary and unfathomable door opens before you. I, for one, want to know that I've made a difference in this world. I want to follow that open door wherever it leads and without any hindrances or fears. It won't be easy, if it was everyone would do it, but it's going to be an amazing ride.

What about you? What do you want to see fifty years from now?