Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Highlight Reel

We leave TODAY!  This will be the last post on this blog ever.  It's a little surreal to say that!  I've been in the process of turning this blog into a coffee table book (that's actually on my 30 Before 30 list).  That book is going to be gargantuan!  So many great stories, so many memories...this is the stuff we will tell our grandchildren about.  So to sign off in style, I thought I would leave you guys with a "highlight reel".  These are the things that I will remember forever about our Caribbean Med School experience.  If I wrote a blog about the experience (which in most cases I did) there is a link to it in the description if you want to hop over to the post and read it.  So grab a cup of coffee or a pina colada, kick back, and jog down Caribbean memory lane with me.  Hope you guys enjoy!

"The Reveal"
Probably one of the most profound moments in this journey was when Jonathan revealed his MERP acceptance.  He had had an interview with Ross but hadn't heard anything yet.  It was Memorial Day weekend and his parents were visiting us in Houston.  The 4 of us had gone to see a movie and then we came home and chatted in the living room for a while.  *Side note: Jonathan had made a deal with his dad that if he got accepted, Charlie would shave his mustache off.  No big deal right?  Wrong.  He'd had a mustache FOREVER...even Bernice had never seen him without one!*  We were wrapping up our conversation and getting ready to go to bed and Jonathan says "Um...before we do that.  Dads...I have something for you."  And he places a single blade razor on the coffee table.  We all stared at it confused, then the realization happened, and then I flung myself at him screaming!!  He got accepted!!!  And Charlie marched right back to the bathroom and shaved the 'stache right off.  He looked so weird!  But he's kept it shaved ever since.  Such a cool reminder of how awesome that moment was...

Trying to move 5 years of stuff out of a 3 year old house and either into storage, sold in a garage sale, donated, into the trash, or into suitcases was QUITE the task.  It's a miracle we got that done in less than 8 weeks!  I will never forget the day our movers were coming.  We had stayed up until 3:00 AM the night before trying desperately to clearly separate the stuff that was going and what was staying.  We just began throwing crap on the floor of our giant master bathroom so we could shut the door and tell them that everything in the bathroom was staying.  After a long morning of moving, we literally took a nap in the pile of crap on our bathroom floor because we had no furniture left!  Our water had been accidentally cut off, the city had temporarily cut off the power to do maintenance, and a crazy woman showed up to buy our patio furniture.  Circus afro time!!

"The Trek West, Some Family Beach Time, and Some Bad News"
There's quite a bit I could write here, so I'm just going to keep it short and sweet and let you navigate to the full story if you want more details.  We went on two back to back family vacations.  First with my family in Gulf Shores Alabama for some nice relaxing beach time, then a road trip west with the Womacks for some mountain air.  Both were JUST what we all needed!  Unfortunately once it was all over we got the terrifying news that Bernice had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor that needed immediate surgery.  She went into an 8 hour surgery to remove 8 of her organs that had been compromised by the tumor and Jonathan and I had to say goodbye to her while she was still in the hospital to catch our plane to The Bahamas for MERP.  It was difficult to say the least.  She underwent chemotherapy and and a long a trying recovery and we couldn't be there.  At times that was excruciating   But we are SO thankful that today she is happy and healthy and cancer free!  

"Treasure Hunting"
One of the highlights of living in The Bahamas was the beaches.  Spectacular!  I don't miss much about living in Freeport, but I *do* miss the beaches.  Jonathan and his buddy Matt would go literally every Saturday to snorkel as a study break.  They would bring up starfish, conch, sea biscuits, sand dollars, etc.  It was their stress relief!  Matt's wife Michelle and I would sun bathe on beach loungers and chat.  Sometimes she and I would walk up the beach to the most perfect spot to find beach glass.  She and I both went home with bags and bags of awesome sea glass.  On weekends after the minis we rented a car just the 4 of us and trekked all over the island   We saw just about everything there was to see and enjoyed the freedom of our own transportation.  The simplicity of those weekends and that easy friendship with them is something I will always cherish...

"Oh My God I Passed..."
So MERP was and probably still is, even after 4 semesters here in Dominica, the hardest thing Jonathan has ever had to accomplish.  MERP is, for all intents and purposes, a "weed out" course.  Kind of a "Can you hack it in med school?" kind of thing except the process of passing that program was WAY more difficult than what he has done since.  That's a good thing...it's meant that he has stayed at the top of his class here at Ross and felt confident the whole way through.  He was so drained after his final in MERP that he came home and took a nap.  When the grades finally posted, he made me check it for him.  He was terrified.  If you don't pass MERP, you don't go to med school and even one baad score on a test could do you in.  It was that life altering of a score.  So I pulled it up, checked his score, walked into the bedroom where he was laying face down on the mattress trying not to have a nervous breakdown, and I said "Dude...you freakin' passed!"  The emotional charge in that room after that is like nothing I've ever experienced before.  It was the full spectrum of emotions from BOTH of us in a matter of a few minutes.  The rest of that night he kept saying "Oh my God...I passed..." in disbelief.  Followed shortly by "I'm officially a med student now!!".  

"Is That The Ocean *Right There*??"
Moving into our first apartment in Dominica (our second time to rent an apartment sight unseen) was a trip.  We arrived in Picard around 9:00 PM so it was pitch black on the island.  I did not have my bearings.  Our landlord took us up to our apartment when we got there and showed us around.  It was TINY!  But we stepped out on the back porch and I heard the waves rolling in.  I said "Is that the ocean *right there*??"  Clifford said yes.  We went to bed fairly quickly after stopping by Matt and Michelle's place (which was two doors down) and putting some of our things away.  But we were too charged to sleep so we woke up at 4:30 and sat out on our back porch to watch the sunrise and see the Caribbean sea from our house.  The quietness of that first morning was so peaceful and serene.  The perfect way to start this crazy journey...

"The Most Perfect Dominican Apartment"
After a few months of living in our first apartment, we began feeling like the walls were closing in around us.  It was so small that I think if you eliminated the itty bitty kitchen, it was probably about the size of my college dorm room.  We decided to start the search for a different apartment and turned up with nothing.  Everything was either the same size, not as nice, or WAY more expensive than where we were.  Then a sweet friend said, "Hey, y'all should go see Lance and Crystine's place.  They're moving out soon and it's such a cool apartment!".  So we contacted Lance and he gave us a tour of the cutest little treehouse apartment there ever was.  A 2 bedroom, 1 office, HUGE kitchen and bathroom, quiet little cottage on Banana Trail that was CHEAPER than our current little 350 sq. ft. apartment.  What?!?  So we signed on the dotted line almost immediately and broke our lease at our first apartment and became the proud new tenants of The Treehouse in March 2013...

"My Favorite Hike"
I'm not much of an outdoorsy type person, but I have stepped out of my comfort zone a little here in Dominica.  Jenn Noorlander convinced me that the Aba Wavine hike was "totally doable" and so I took the bait and went.  It was one of the most physically challenging things I think I've ever done, but I did it and it was incredible!  Aba Wavine has been my favorite adventure on this island so far I think.  So gorgeous, untouched, and breathtaking...

"Weddings and Babies and Trunk Shows, Oh My!"
One of the coolest things that happened in this span of time is that I was asked to be a bridesmaid in my friend Marivy's wedding.  I was so honored!  But I had to decline because we just couldn't afford to get me back for the ceremony.  And then...her amazing now-husband offered to help pay my way home so I could be there.  Incredible!  And I was SO blessed to be able to share in their perfect day.  It was beautiful!  And on that same trip home I got to spend time with my "niece" Emma (she was getting so big already even though she was only 5 months old at the time!), I got to meet my friend Angie's little boy Cayden who was only a teeny tiny 6 week old, I got to squeal over the news that my friend Rachel was expecting and due in October, and on the day before I was leaving to go back to Dominica my sister gave birth to my niece Carolyn.  Sometime in that trip Bernice, Nicole, and I held an ADKOF Trunk Show which was the most successful one we've ever done.  The month of March last year was pretty amazing...

"Let the Grill Nights Commence"
One of our favorite things to do here in Dominica was to break out our big grill (built for us by a welder at a junkyard in Portsmouth out of rebar and a 55 gallon steel barrel) and have people over for Grill Nights.  They became quite popular and we would have upwards of 20-30 mouths to feed including kids.  The kids would play outside until the sun went down and then they would all pile on our big bed and play video games and watch movies and shows while the adults ate and talked.  Everyone brought their own stuff to grill and things to share.  We did this every Friday night for 5-6 months.  Then things got a little crazy and my work schedule had me exhausted and Jonathan's studying was super intense for 3rd semester and they fell by the wayside.  But Grill Nights will always be a highlight of our stay here in Dominica.  And they were the catalyst to a pretty sweet friendship with the Stricklands which we will ALWAYS hold near and dear to our hearts from now on!

"The Henry's"
The Henry's are a sweet family in Portsmouth that I had the honor to develop a relationship with.  They became kind of my "pet project" and Elise and I have spent many an hour doing our part to help their sweet family out.  Junie, the mom of the bunch, asked Elise and I to attend her mother's memorial service several months ago which was such an intense honor and an experience I will never forget.  One of the things that has made a mark on me about them is the fact that they have taken the charity that we gave them and MADE something for themselves.  They used our help as a stepping stone to not only bring themselves out of hopeless poverty, but to begin helping others in their community.  For a while I worried that we had helped them to the point of dependence...and then when Elise and I left, then what?  But my heart soars to know that they are no longer down and out.  And they will be JUST fine when I leave.  That family taught me about humility, gracious giving, and perseverance.  Getting to take part in their family has been something that has changed me forever.  Sharing in honoring of Junie's mother at her passing was probably one of the most memorable things I did here.  But I sure will miss Junie's sweet shy smile, Shernia's willingness to help and getting to see her grow into such a beautiful young lady.  I will miss Johnson and Joelle being such gentlemen, I will miss Calvin's silliness and his feigned attempts to avoid getting scooped up by me into bear hugs, and I will miss Stacy's precious little kisses and her sassiness.  Man that family has made a lasting mark on me and they are already sorely missed...

This ministry has blessed me beyond words.  I am SO excited about the future of this organization.  It started strong and has continued to hang on over the years, but I'm encouraged by what's happening with it this coming semester.  God has richly blessed this ministry and He has big big plans for it.  I've already seen Him work miracles through the work being done there!  The link to the post I wrote about a year ago concerning this ministry explains in detail what blesses my heart about it.  Suffice to say, for now, that I am a changed woman because of my involvement with these kids and this ministry.  Love and Light!

"Friends That Are Now Our Family"
One of the many perks of this journey has been the friends we have made.  Being thrown into the situation we've all been thrown into together means that friendships are also put in a pressure cooker.  Sometimes that means figuring out really quickly that you want nothing to do with someone.  But more times than not, it means you connect with people who change your life and will be a part of it for many years to come.  Our friends that have become family are my favorite souvenir that we're bringing back from Dominica!

In the interest of time and the fact that I'm literally about to finish packing my bags and catch my taxi to the airport for the last time in Dominica, I'll leave it there.  Words can't express how grateful I am for this experience, how proud I am of Jonathan and what he's accomplished, and how anxious I am about starting this new chapter in our lives.  Don't forget to go follow us on Thinking Positive so you can keep tabs on our IVF attempt and all things Womack for the next few years before residency and maybe beyond.  We are leaving this island better than when we came.  Though it was a tough decision to make to do this, we wouldn't change it for the world.  Cheers to the next chapter y'all!!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog!!

    If you like, come back and visit mine:

    Pablo from Argentina


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