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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Got Marmite!!

DSC04508About fifteen years ago I was introduced to Marmite, a pungent-tasting spread that can be had with just about anything from cheese, vegetables, to peanut butter on butter toast. It’ll spice up anything you can throw at it! The first time I tried it I was in Cyprus as a guest at a friend’s place. Breakfast was cereals and milk, fried eggs, grilled toast, and there was this funny looking little jar with a funky yellow cap. “This is marmite, the mom said, it’s a bit strong, but it goes well with peanut butter and toast!” I’ve always liked strong tastes so I took her advice. The chemistry was amazing, and It’s been a love story ever since! I came back to Lebanon and slowly forgot all about Marmite until it came up in a microbiology class a couple years ago; I was astonished and fascinated to learn that Marmite was actually a yeast extract and a by-product of beer brewing. Flash forward 2 years, one of my expatriated friends, B., who's living in London flew in for a 2-week vacation. Wouldn’t you know it, I – and a couple of my friends who got infatuated with the idea of Marmite before even tasting it – were begging him to get us a couple of jars 10 days before his flight. It was a thing of mystery for them. I had built it up so much!

I got an email from B. describing the reactions of the people around him back in London. A couple fought over it for a while as he stood and laughed, listening to their eloquence in describing their love/hate of Marmite.

-Girlfriend: “Is that Marmite in your hand?”

-B.: “Yes why?”

-Girlfriend: “and you do know it tastes like sticky shit right?”

-Boyfriend: “Oh no no don’t listen to her! I think it’s great!!”

-Girlfriend: “Oh my God it’s shit! It’s a complete waste of toast!” […]

-B.: Laughing.

Marmite1So there’s no question about it. Marmite is definitely something you either love or hate. And during our little degustation session at a local eat-in, the reactions to the pungent taste and dodgy smell made that all too apparent. Some hated me for raising their expectations so much (yes, they took it personally haha), others were more pleased… And then we realized that the company had a website, we visited and its love or hate turned out to be a worldwide dispute. Strong feelings either way:

Found under the “Squeeze Me” section: “Eat Marmite? You don't just want to eat it, you want to bathe in it, wallow in it like a hippo in mud, slather yourself from head to toe and wrap yourself in bread and butter... And you know what? That's fine. Just fine. Completely normal in fact...”

Found under the “Squash Me” section:Eat Marmite? You'd rather rip the wings off live chickens. You'd rather be stripped naked in public. You'd rather swallow rat's tails and snail shells... Enough already! We get the picture. And yes, you're in the right place...”

So the next time you’re in London, Cyprus or wherever, or have someone flying in from there, make sure you ask for a jar of that little mixture of heaven and hell. You owe it to yourself to try it, and decide if you have the guts and taste buds for it. And who knows, maybe we’ll be importing it soon. Just make sure you research the recipes, their website is hilarious.

Just be careful with the dosage, it’s some strong sticky shit you’re dealing with!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Overheard at the AUB cafeteria:
-Guy: "Hii! Kifik? Ca va?
-Girl (Huge Smile): "Salut toi! I'm good, enta?"

I'm confused !

Monday, March 23, 2009

Now Two Different Persons...

I remember the hype right before the Christmas break last December. I remember how I felt, on our last day of classes before our 14-day (or so) break. (Needless to say that a 14-day break in Med School is nothing short of a trip to heaven).
I felt light. Relieved. Granted, It was not my first time looking forward to a long awaited, much needed break, and yet, the feeling was unique in a way that I cannot put to words. December 24, 2008, we went out for lunch, a bunch of close friends/select classmates, meeting with expatriated childhood friends who had just flown in from respective countries, and the atmosphere was just fantastic. I felt light. relieved. I felt different, and silently baffled at how good it felt to feel different, and how long it had been since my last similar moment. A glass of wine helped. Later on it took a bunch of my friends, who noticed the difference, a few minutes to describe to me how they saw me from the outside. They said I was a different person when I was taken out of the academic atmosphere. The atmosphere of constant stress, constant information binging, and constant evaluation and scrutiny. Apparently there are more smiles, pleasantness, jokes, and less worrying. That made me a different person. So what's unique about that? Everyone is different under stress right? The problem is, this was the perception that I had of my personality, and it was supposed to be the case no matter what the context. My affect in this atmosphere was supposed to be unchanged no matter what. I made sure of it, and was complimented on it by many friends. I am now different. Apparently I cannot maintain my laid back character anymore. Things get to me more easily now.
When did I change? How and when did I change so much? And could I have changed so much without even noticing? Not the slightest clue! I don't know... It's hard to sum up, and hard to pinpoint exactly when or how this change occurred. That's Med School for you. I guess the last 2 years of my life have gone by in a flash. And a flash may even be too long... that's how fast, yes. I can't help but carry this thought further back into the dark alleyways of my memory and try to remember the last 'checkpoint' in my life that feels genuinely distant in time. I can't find one. I could wind up all of the 26, soon to be 27 years of my life in a heartbeat, and It's a frightening feeling.
So here I am, on another one of my late-night musings, typing away with a Gastro-Enterology book obstructing my reach, thinking that oddly enough, it is now Monday morning, rather than Sunday night, rather than Saturday afternoon... Where did my weekend go? Might as well have been last Monday, the one before that or the one before... Same difference... Yes, here I am, Monday, March 23, 2009, at 1:35 AM, with a lost track of time, anticipating (for a change) the change that I'm about to exhibit "tomorrow": Friends have flown in, exams will have let off for a little while (Upcoming exam in exactly 6 hours and 25 minutes).
I wonder what's in store this time...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

On n'est jamais trop grand pour chuchoter "Maman"

... Les trois petits cochons
Reconnaissent la saison
Où les fleurs poussent sur le gazon
Alors ils sortent de la maison
En chantant une chanson
Qui dit: "Nous t'aimons"
A la Maman de la fille et des deux garçons.

Ils lui offrent des bisous
Qui s'en vont partout partout
Pour qu'elle n'oublie pas surtout...

...Qu'on n'est jamais trop grand
pour chuchoter "Maman".

From sister to mother...

Happy Mother's day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rien Ne S'arrête.

Here it is March 20, a long way from March 20, 2008...

And as I struggle to relive those carefree days, I sit and wonder, when did I stop having time? The one thing we are sure to have, the one thing we take for granted. I lost it. I lost Time. I lost the absolute concept of it.

Medical students are so consumed by their lifestyle and their studies, they forget that unfortunately the world is still evolving. Until it hits you. Until you get that phone call that your friend died, or that A. needs to go to the hospital because his cancer metastasized. What do you do next? How do you explain to your teacher that you couldn't study, or that you cannot attend said lecture or exam because A. could only see his physician at that particular time. How do you manage? How many times will you curse that garbage truck you're stuck behind because it is stealing precious minutes of your once insignificant time. Minutes you started counting and regretting once it was too late, once you realized they were gone.

Rien ne s'arrête
D'autres vies continuent
D'autres parler sans taire
Pour ceux qui se sont tus
Rien ne s'arrête

--Patricia Kaas, Rien Ne S'arrête.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A reminder of what is perhaps an ongoing childhood...

I came across this song and it sent me back 20 years... To our old house, our old Lebanon... A childhood well-lived, and it's all coming back...
Aznavour is just amazing.


Je n'aurais jamais cru qu'on se rencontrerait
Le hasard est curieux, il provoque les choses
Et le destin pressé un instant prend la pause
Non je n'ai rien oublié

Je souris malgré moi, rien qu'à te regarder
Si les mois, les années marquent souvent les êtres
Toi, tu n'as pas changé, la coiffure peut-être
Non je n'ai rien oublié

Marié, moi ? allons donc, je n'en ai nulle envie
J'aime ma liberté, et puis, de toi à moi
Je n'ai pas rencontré la femme de ma vie
Mais allons prendre un verre, et parle-moi de toi

Qu'as-tu fait de tes jours ? es-tu riche et comblée ?
Tu vis seule à Paris? mais alors ce mariage ?
Entre nous, tes parents ont dû crever de rage
Non je n'ai rien oublié

Qui m'aurait dit qu'un jour sans l'avoir provoqué
Le destin tout à coup nous mettrait face à face
Je croyais que tout meurt avec le temps qui passe
Non je n'ai rien oublié

Je ne sais trop que dire, ni par où commencer
Les souvenirs foisonnent, envahissent ma tête
Et le passé revient du fond de sa défaite
Non je n'ai rien oublié, rien oublié

A l'age où je portais mon amour pour toute arme
Ton père ayant pour toi bien d'autres ambitions
A brisé notre amour et fait jaillir nos larmes
Pour un mari choisi sur sa situation

J'ai voulu te revoir mais tu étais cloîtrée
Je t'ai écrit cent fois, mais toujours sans réponse
Cela m'a pris longtemps avant que je renonce
Non je n'ai rien oublié

L'heure court et déjà le café va fermer
Viens je te raccompagne à travers les rues mortes
Comme au temps des baisers qu'on volait sous ta porte
Non je n'ai rien oublié

Chaque saison était notre saison d'aimer
Et nous ne redoutions ni l'hiver ni l'automne
C'est toujours le printemps quand nos vingt ans résonnent
Non je n'ai rien oublié, rien oublié

Cela m'a fait du bien de sentir ta présence
Je me sens différent, comme un peu plus léger
On a souvent besoin d'un bain d'adolescence
C'est doux de revenir aux sources du passé

Je voudrais, si tu veux, sans vouloir te forcer
Te revoir à nouveau, enfin... si c'est possible
Si tu en as envie, si tu es disponible
Si tu n'as rien oublié
Comme moi qui n'ai rien oublié

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I spoke too soon...

I felt it was too soon to celebrate. Too soon to speak, revel and bask. Almost 4 months and she went behind my back. She could not take it any longer and she went behind my back. I understand.
I had gotten her to stop and I was ecstatic. What a shame.

Now starting over from day one.

I feel gutted...

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Hypocrisy is your religion, falsehood is your life..." - Gibran Khalil Gibran

A contribution from a friend of mine. It goes something like this...

"an excerpt from Gibran Khalil Gibran's eternal and ever-applicable words:

...What is it that you seek, My
Countrymen? What ask you from
Life, who does not any longer
Count you among her children?

Your souls are freezing in the
Clutches of the priests and
Sorcerers, and your bodies
Tremble between the paws of the
Despots and the shedders of Blood

Hypocrisy is your religion, and
Falsehood is your life, and
Nothingness is your ending; why,
Then, are you living? Is not
Death the sole comfort of the

Life is a resolution that
Accompanies youth, and a diligence
That follows maturity, and a
Wisdom that pursues senility; but
You, My Countrymen, were born old
And weak. And your skins withered
And your heads shrank, whereupon
You became as children, running
Into the mire and casting stones
Upon each other.

Knowledge is a light, enriching
The warmth of life, and all may
Partake who seek it out; but you,
My Countrymen, seek out darkness
And flee the light, awaiting the
Coming of water from the rock,
And your nation's misery is your
Crime...I do not forgive you
Your sins, for you know what you
Are doing...

Gibran's words are revived with the coming of the 2009 elections, the results of which will bring back the same tyrants, maybe in different proportions.. what does it matter anyway? They are all the same. And Lebanon will remain a shining example of a country with divine gifts and a potential unequaled by any other country, struggling to be even called a country..
we have no one to blame except OURSELVES. "

Thanks N.

Pediatrics... Uh-Oh!

I've been wanting to write this for a while now but it's just been a hectic couple of weeks what with the classes, both skipped and attended, the exams, both near misses and lucky escapes.
So here's another foray into the earliest clinical experiences and their impact on a confused med student shopping for a marginally successful career.

I've always struggled to understand kids. I'm only consoled by the mutuality of this feeling when it comes to my younger brother and sister, my younger cousins etc... There's always been animosity and for a reason. I don't seem to get them. Trouble inexorably ensued!! For me, as far as kids are concerned, no one could have said it better than the late Bernie Mac: "...Oh shit come help me babysit these m*****f******s..."! I know that to the baby lovers and kid huggers among you I'm gonna sound like a Neanderthal but I'm banking on an outside chance of a few of you feeling about the same way that I do; so I'm out on a limb I guess...

10:15 am - Visit # 1 - The Regular Checkup for the Obnoxious Fat Boy
Phase 1 - 5 year-old kid walks in with his mom. A 2-minute dialogue between the physician and the kid's mom about diet, playtime habits, and vaccines follows.
Phase 2 - Physician invites kid and mom into exam room.
Phase 3 - Kid enters battle mode and seems to latch on to his mother's leg in a grip worthy of the most intractable centipede dead-locks!
Phase 4 - Kid is now on the exam table - don't ask how that happened - screaming his little butt off while physician desperately tries to hear something in between the groans and moans with the stethoscope, as the kid gasps for breath.
Phase 5 - Physical complete. Physician calls for the nurse with the vaccines (I named her the Shoot'em'up lady).
Phase 6 - Shoot'em'up lady comes in, tray in hand, with 2 shots worth of vaccines. "One in each arm please", says physician.
Phase 7 - All hell breaks loose as Shoot'em'up lady pricks the kid once and another time. Me watching, worried that the little demon's gonna fidget one time too many and break the needle off in his flesh with dire consequences. Shoot'em'up lady's job? Not for the faint hearted!
Phase 8 - Shoot'em'up lady in the sweetest of voices: "there all done! That was not that bad now was it?" Me in the corner, trying not to puke.
Phase 9 - Physician declares the session over, gives the kid a lollipop. On to the next one!

10:35 am - Visit # 2 - The Regular Checkup for the Demonic little girl
Same as above. Please replace "5-year old" with "4-year old", "mom" with "dad", "his, he, him..." with "her, she, her...", and "all hell breaks loose" with "My eardrums burst" and that's about it, all the rest is essentially unchanged.

10:50 am - Visit # 3 - The Regular Checkup for the Sweetest Thing that Has Ever Existed (now that's a change of pace!)
A 2 month-old baby girl with the face of an angel. Brought in by her mom and grandmother. Onto the exam table after the formalities of phases 1 and 2, she lay silent, her fists clenched and her tiny arms and legs twitching from time to time. Her big grey eyes desperately looking for something to focus on apart from the bright overhead light. The physician examined her, looked at me and said suggestively: "she has a very faint murmur you should hear." Even her guardians were nice and joked around, and actually acknowledged my presence, something no other parent/guardian managed to pull off, the physician's failure to introduce me as his apprentice notwithstanding, talk about professionalism! Would it be too much of an effort to say this is R., He's going to be learning with us today, please don't be freaked out by his curious eyes... but I digress... So here I was, awestruck, in front of a silent pediatrics patient, until, you guessed it, Shoot'em'up lady came in and screwed everything up with one little prick.

11:05 am - Visit # 4 - The Regular Checkup for the 2 Girls From Hell
This one was a bit funny, I have to admit. The older of the two went first. After a typical phase 1, phase 2, and phase 3, came a rather peculiar phase 4:
-Physician: "Let's see what's in your ears now all right?"
-Little girl, tears in her eyes, pouts and answers: "no. there's nothing there I checked!" I cracked a smile.
After going through phases 1 through 8, with the ruckus and the rivers of tears I had now adapted to, she looked at her sister (now in phase 4, the worst) who was screaming so hard that I was afraid her eyes were going to pop out. And then, in a condescending tone, one that flaunted her newly acquired wisdom to her sister, she quipped: "khalas! ma 3am ya3mellik shi! lesh 3am tebke??" translation: "Stop crying! what's the problem they're not doing anything to you!" I couldn't help but laugh, look at the Dad and say "oh, now she's wise!". The dad nodded, threw a fake smile my way and went on to talk to the doctor.

That visit ended at around 11:45. Another short uneventful visit (uneventful only meaning not any more eventful than the other visits, because you may imagine that there is no such thing as an uneventful visit to the pediatrician's!) and it was time for me to head out. And as I was getting ready to do so, the attending, having noticed my expressions of boredom and anguish, smiled and said: "It's a lot of repetition, this specialty." So I smiled back and said nothing. What could I say? "Yeah Doc it was nice watching you play and toss your stethoscope up and down while the nurse did all the real work" ? hehe no, I don't think so.

For me, it was an interesting experience, to be honest. Sure, for the most part all I could do is think about the best ways to shut the kids up, and these included hammers, fists, screaming in anger, but also, I have to admit that a nice strawberry lollipop and a reassuring kiss on the forehead went a long way sometimes. So what am I saying here? Hold on... I'm not so sure anymore! I mean when I started concocting this thing you're reading I imagined it ending very differently. Somewhere along the lines of "Kill the bastards", or "Fucking kids!" or... you get the drift... But as it turns out, I am just realizing now, as I'm typing, maybe I don't hate the little buggers as much as I used to... Maybe I did think that the little wise-ass girl was funny and cute, or that the helpless silent baby girl was just to die for... I must be growing up. Go figure. Well some of my closest friends would say: "it's about time"...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I got her to stop...

On a long afternoon drive home, she looks at me, tells me to grab her purse and take out her 2 packs of Lights as she pulls the car over to the side of the road right next to a garbage receptacle. "Throw them out" she said. I looked over in disbelief, wondering speechlessly if it could have been so. Could it have been? that after 30 odd years of smoking, she had finally decided it was time? Time to finally listen to me? Time to be sensible? It appears as if my tantrums, my rants, the wicked looks I gave her whenever she lit one up, the fights, the ruined lunches and dinners, my desperate pleas urging her to consider the consequences of the worst case scenario, had finally paid off. It took a few years of fighting, but she had opened her eyes, and she could see...
3 months now. Going strong. Fingers still crossed.

Tell That To The Patient!

Presenting Le et La Colleague on their glorious day off.

What do two model medical students do when it's sunny out?
-They ditch med school and head to Faraya!

Is this perfect or what?

I thought it came together perfectly!

Sunday, March 1, 2009