Wednesday, July 27, 2011

my first week of medical school, by August blogger of the month Avi Kopstick

Holy! I cannot believe it has only been one week since I was sitting at home, staring mindlessly at my laptop screen at 10 PM, and thinking “Oh shoot! My flight leaves at 1 PM tomorrow, and I haven’t started packing yet!” Really, it already feels as if I have lived in Beer Sheva my whole life. And my classmates? I’ve practically known them all since forever…

Okay, maybe I exaggerate (just a bit). Admittedly, the reason I procrastinated from packing for so long was precisely because I was so nervous about leaving the familiarity of Toronto, Canada, and traveling to Israel, a land and culture as different from mine own as maple syrup is from hummus. And while I’ve been to Israel before, usually I only stayed near Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and took small day trips to other, pleasant parts of the country. My previous visits did little to prepare me for Beer Sheva. Bum bum bummmm.
(Don’t say it’s hot. I’m not going to say it’s hot. Everyone who blogs on the MSIH First Year Blog talks about how hot it is… I’ve got to be different. Don’t want to fall into the same cliché. Don’t say it’s hot… Don’t say it’s hot…) OH MY GOD IS IT HOT HERE! And though it’s ironic to say, when North America is in the throws of one of the worst heat waves during the past century – Toronto was actually 4 degrees hotter than Beer Sheva throughout most of the days I have been here (face!) – it’s not necessarily the temperature that makes the weather so unbearable. Rather, it’s the SUN! In Toronto and any city like it, you walk down the street, the trees are there protect you, the skyscrapers are there to protect you, the billboards are there to sell you useless products and harass your eyes with meaningless images, but also to protect you… Beer Sheva is very low-built and spread out. When I walk from my apartment to Soroka Hospital, it’s just me and the sun, surrounded by unnecessary amounts of tan. I’m like some crunchy little bug, and it’s like an evil and oppressive megajerkface pushing down on my whole body, saying, “How do you like that?! Not so cool now, huh?!” (…Hmmm I wonder if I’m still suffering from jetlag.)

The only thing that may have hinted towards what I would encounter in Beer Sheva: I was, coincidentally enough, reading Dune, by Frank Herbert, on the flight over.  The story takes place on a desert planet, where all local inhabitants wear protective suits, called stillsuits, that collect all escaping body moisture – sweat and urine for instance – for reabsorption – through the mouth for instance… Anyway, in the end of the book it says, “The stranger might think nothing could live or grow in the open here, that this was the true wasteland that had never been fertile and never would be… What it needed was reshaping to fit it to man’s needs… the free-moving human population… an ecological and geological force of almost unlimited potential.”

 The minute I passed the sign that said Welcome to Beer Sheva (or something like that… I don’t know. It was all in Hebrew), I immediately recalled this passage. Beer Sheva, specifically Ben Gurion University and Soroka hospital, clearly only exists due to the incredible efforts of the local population. How else could you come across such a beautiful oasis amidst such arid conditions, if not by the incredible will of these people?

Actually, speaking of incredible people, I just noticed this post is getting a bit long. (I’ll be here all of August – so don’t worry, you’ll be able to hear a lot from me if you want.) And I should probably talk a bit about MSIH, the only thing you’re actually interested in (as opposed to the weather, which while it makes great small talk…). Honestly, we haven’t been exposed to too much of the program yet. I mean it hasn’t even been a week since we arrived! So um, ya: no, Dad, I am not a doctor yet. But we have been introduced to many of the personnel on the MSIH team. For instance, our super friendly Israeli student liaisons, who have been so helpful in showing us around the city and finding apartments to check ou. I have already had many dealings with most of the administrative team, and they have been so kind and efficient in helping me with visa applications and loans and signing up to be the first blogger…
Truth is that it is only due to these individuals that I even thought to open this blog post the way I did. And for the most part, I wasn’t even joking... I wish I was and that things were harder! Then at least I would have some more riveting blog drama, and I wouldn’t have to talk about the weather so much… On the contrary, we are thriving. We are having a great time with each other. We’ve had brunch as a group. We went swimming as a group. We go apartment hunting as a group. Just the other day, when the director of the school met our class, he asked us to tell him one interesting thing about ourselves. I told him that as an undergrad, I acted in many university plays and even stage-managed a production of Of Mice and Men. Upon hearing this, my new friend Lauren turned to me and said,“What?! I never knew this about you!” So I said, “Ummm, ya we’ve only know each other for like four days…” “Oh ya.” Guess it already feels like much longer… awwwww

… Oh ya, and we do three hours of ulpun – intensive Hebrew study – per day.

Next week, emergency medicine! See you then.  - blogger of the month Avi Kopstick