It was a beautiful morning, and I had found myself a seat next to a 7th floor hospital window to peer out of. The city looked small, with only a few rooftops carving into the horizon. The intense, yet hypnotizing turquoise hue of the Mediterranean was playing with my senses. The voices and clatter in the crowded room seemed to fade as I started to imagine stories and serendipities for the minuscule people. I gazed and wondered... What's that down there? Oh look, up there! a plane! I wonder where they're going... And there she was. Way down there, tiny, and making an easy, yet elegant stride of what any other woman would make a complete mess of, holding more scholar paraphernalia than one would care to describe. She caught my eye, her charming gray outfit contrasting against the yellow tiles as she made her way through the plaza. I wonder where she's going... She holds her phone to her ear and disappears into the crowd... Is my phone ringing?
- Venturing into the BEIRUT SYNAGOGUE, November 2008.
-Inside the BEIRUT SYNAGOGUE, November 2008.
Beirut synagogue awaits restoration Hussein Dakroub • Associated Press • November 22, 2008 • From Lansing State Journal
One of Lebanon's sole remaining synagogues was set to get a restoration that has the rare blessing of all the factions in the divided country - even that of the anti- Israeli Hezbollah. But the global financial crisis has scuttled the effort for now, leaving the Magen Abraham padlocked, badly damaged and rife with weeds. The synagogue, like the country's once-thriving Jewish community, fell prey to the savage 1975-90 civil war. Once the fighting ended, the few dozen Jews who remained could not maintain the proud old structure. A $1 million project set to begin in November had been organized by the Lebanese Jewish community to restore the two-story ramshackle building, which is now surrounded by the gleaming new skyscrapers of Beirut's downtown building boom. But potential overseas Jewish donors who were to provide the bulk of the funds said the reconstruction would have to wait because of the hard times brought on by the global financial crisis, said Isaac Arazi, leader of the country's tiny Jewish community. "I'll wait for two or three months. If no money is forthcoming, I'll launch a fundraising campaign in America and Europe for the rebuilding project," he told The Associated Press. The building's need is acute. Garbage, empty bottles, broken glass and shattered roof bricks are scattered on the synagogue's floor. Wide cracks cover the walls and stairways leading to the second floor. But the Stars of David inscribed on walls have been left untouched, as have the Hebrew writings, even though Muslim militiamen had apparently used some of the building's rooms as offices during the sectarian fighting. The 65-year-old Arazi pointed out that as many as 22,000 Jews lived in Lebanon in the mid-1960s. The number dropped to 15,000 at the outbreak of the civil war in 1975 and by its end, a mere 100 were left. During the conflict in which 150,000 people out of a population of 4 million were killed, Beirut's main Jewish neighborhood, Wadi Abou Jmil, fell under the control of Muslim militias battling their Christian counterparts. Jews did not take part in the fighting. But the violence forced many to emigrate. The trickle turned into a flood when the community became a target of Muslim militants two years after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and occupied parts of the country and briefly Beirut. Eleven Jews were kidnapped and apparently killed during the hostage-taking spree of the 1980s that targeted foreigners and Lebanese alike in Beirut. The bodies of only four were recovered, bearing the marks of torture. Muslims displaced from other parts of the country gradually moved into the shattered old streets of the neighborhood that had once been filled with Jewish shops, until much of the area was razed in the rebuilding projects of the 1990s. Liza Srour is the last Jew living in the old neighborhood, in a small flat in one of the few old buildings remaining. "We had Christian, Sunni, Shiite and Druse neighbors with whom we had an excellent relationship," she said. There was rare consensus among Lebanon's fractious factions that the synagogue should be restored, although none has offered up any cash. Lebanon's Western- backed government, which includes Hezbollah's representatives, said it welcomed the restoration of the synagogue because it is a place of worship. Even Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Muslim group which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and has fought the Jewish state for decades, backs restoration. "We respect divine religions, including the Jewish religion," said Hussein Rahhal, Hezbollah's media chief. "The problem is with Israel's occupation (of Arab lands), not with the Jews."
These are my last-ditch efforts to finish up studying for my virology exam on Monday (that's after tomorrow!) And one would think, after my 7 years experience taking exams, that I would know that studying with "Survivor Man" sounds in the background courtesy of my favorite Discovery Channel is just about as feasible as threading a needle on a bus on the perfectly paved roads of our beloved Beirut! I need a break. Here's a great idea! I'll go stretch my legs on a long late afternoon walk to the kitchen and check out what the fridge has in store for tonight... A few apples, an old steak, and not much to drink... owell. On my way back "home" it's getting dark, and I hear faint voices and squeals in the living room. Intrigued, curious, but all too wary and suspicious, I slither up to the door as silently as I can, crack it open (no, it's not squeaky you Hollywood freaks) and spot my mom (who is a teacher) with her 15 year-old private pupil. I could hear the poor little thing squeak and whine, his tiny brain clearly overwhelmed with more french words and metaphors than anyone could possibly and humanly handle. The air is filled with a thick, white fog making visibility a dodgy matter. Oh no wait it's just cigarette smoke... I thought I had smelled something. Just some second hand smoke and cancer to go with your education my son!! enjoy... I make my way back home with difficulty, after all, it got dark after the long minutes of vivid and adventurous exploration...
85 students in our class. That's 85 doctors to be released into the "general circulation" in 2 years time. 85 healers, who will be trusted with people's lives and well-being. Patients beware!
Our society has become overcrowded with physicians. It is my firm belief that the system, and access to a medical education, and, more importantly, to the coveted Doctorate of Medicine, has been commercialized and secretively downgraded to a level that compromises the very essence of medicine. How do I know this? I don't, so call it a conspiracy theory if you want to. But if we look carefully at recent trends and attitudes, the kinds of medical students that currently populate our classrooms, as well as the quality of health care that we obtain as patients, observe as students, and, eventually, will provide as physicians, an image so vivid is painted of the shortcomings of our system that one would need to be blind to overlook it. Here's what I'm thinking about.
The Quintessence of the Medical Profession in Jeopardy: Medical Doctor vs. Healer
We're a smart bunch (smart is debatable, and will be discussed later but let's call it smart for now). There are more overachieving students per square meter in a med school lecture hall than in any other lecture hall out there. Oh, do I sound too affirmative? If I do, at least allow me this: there are more overachievers per square meter in my class than in any other class I've ever been in or even heard of. The steps taken by the system in selecting the precious few that will be given a chance to graduate as doctors are many, and there is no denying that everyone, or almost everyone that is in this class deserves to be here. Right?
Well... I'm not so sure... I think here lies the problem; here, we need to stop for a few seconds and file a few definitions. What are the selection criteria? Exactly how does one define an overachiever? According to 1 definition or the other, or still the other (be careful which one you choose!), is this person truly fit for a career in medicine?
What is my point? Very simple. There is a vast vast difference between: (1) someone who is smart enough to go through high school, undergrad, and 4 years of medical school and pass with very high, if not the highest, grades, and (2) someone who is simply fit, overall (grades, compassion, personality what have you), for a career in medicine. Allow me to say that to bridge this gap with the assumption that everyone in a medical school classroom has probably been selected by people who knew what they were doing, and therefore that this student will probably make an excellent healer, would be making a serious mistake, one that would undermine the meaning and prestige ascribed to the medical profession. It is this sad, sad mistake that our society is making at this time. But Who Cares What People Think?? Oh how I wish it were that simple! It is the sad reality that our trusted, self-proclaimed world-class (remember?) administrative process does NOT make the aforementioned distinction. Allow me to elaborate. Simply put, ours is a system in which the most adamant of bookworms thrive, because ever since my sophomore year, the exams we've been given have been relentlessly trying to test how many times each student has gone through the material in the ridiculously short time that they've been given to prepare, and therefore how many senseless insignificant details a student can cram in his or her mind during the final minutes before entering the exam room. This applies to every single course we have taken. I mean I would completely understand this in anatomy, neuroanatomy, and histology, to name a few but they have even made it work in the logical realms of statistics, biophysics, and physiology.
She remembers a time when she was asked, not so discretely, if she had a tampon to lend: -No, but I have a pad if you'd like... -A pad? No! they're too bothersome, you still use pads? how archaic! Flash Foward two years later, (today), she's shopping for her good ol' pads at her regular "hypermarket" (since in Lebanon a supermarket is barely up to par, and so you wonder what's in a name, and you then wander into the semantics of nightclubs, supernightclubs and supersupernightclubs but I digress...) And so she's in her hypermarket and she checks the tampons "collection" and to her surprise there's only one kind, in a somewhat sketchy cardboard box. What's the point you ask?
The great U.S. of A vs. the Hyper Lebanon societies:
On one side you have a society where girls are overpowered and so they will shout on the streets that they're pms-ing and that they use tampons and who needs a man anyways? On the other side you have a conservative society where girls are all virgins (or appear to be) and they're all too scared to use tampons whether because they're truly virgins and misconceive tampon usage or because they're just too scared/ashamed to reveal that they're not virgins to begin with... And so there's no market for Tampax, Playtex, Ohne Binde... But you can bet money on finding a whole two-three shelves for Always with wings, ultra, fresh, overnighting... BUT, still still you need to be extra careful when you buy your pads because God forbids a man sees you carrying them! And yes believe it, the first thought that will come to mind is: "she has her period, how disgusting!" And so we delve into a slightly off topic rant: Why is it that in Lebanon a woman who has her period is considered sick? "yiiiii sorry sakhneh, je peux pas nager!" (translation: "yiiiii sorry, I'm sick, I can't swim!") It's a regular physiological response, albeit annoying at times, but it's a sign of good health and fertility! Oh no she can't fulfill her wifely duties! she's sick... Long story short, as a med student, I prefer pads because tampons might cause toxic shock syndrome and tend to be less hygienic if not removed constantly. However, however, it seems like a futile and mostly personal issue to choose between pads and tampons, and women should have the option to favor one or the other, but to the day, this is not the case in Lebanon and this by itself is a reflection of a very complex, hypocritical society where women are still second class citizens.
Picture Taken: November 20, 2008 - 3:37 pm
Chill... very well written :)
Went by my high school today. I graduated from this school in 2001.
This bench was not there during my high school years. Someone's getting old...
And so it's med school: the politics, the lovestories, the friends, the teachers, the stress, the bookwormindia! she seems so entertained, it's a whole community! and yet, she remembers happier times, when she was able to attend to her own personal matters, when she thought life revolved around the things she was aiming to reach! It all seems lost now, with every passing day, her focus, her passions, her self fulfillment! She has to take into consideration the community, the gossip, the backstabbing, the rumors, the hypocrisy! And so she wishes it's new year's again to take that same resolution, to detach herself from that community...
So is med school everything I expected it would be? a sad, resounding NO... I remember a time, some 10 years ago, when this was everything I wanted, everything I ever dreamt of accomplishing in my senseless quasi hedonistic existence.
My journey In a nutshell: I wasted 2 years of my life "trying out" in the French system, to no avail. 3 years spent in undergrad, another year lost waiting for application periods, both for undergrad, and medical school admission. And now, almost two years into my medical curriculum. Yes, I've been going to classes and sitting for exams for 7 years. SEVEN YEARS, and I'm not done yet! "Wow, I heard people say, you must be pretty determined"... well, now, I would say: "one wonders, really". But why?
I wouldn't know where to start. So here are my jumbled and chaotic headlines and axes of thought: Do I begin with the ridiculous abuse that we're put through? with these unfathomable characters that professors and outsiders call our classmates?with the self-proclaimed world class, but the sometimes patently absurd administrative process in (my) medical school? the list goes on... Short questions with long, or no answers. so read on...
It was an after school ballet class. Nothing out of the ordinary. And then it struck her! There they were the ballerinas, with their imperfect bodies and their imperfect faces, sweating and smiling! They spoke to her with their shortcomings as if they were saying: "no the real world is not all plastic yet!" And so she felt content...