27 June 2011

Learning language

The following is slightly modified from a recent graduate admissions essay. (The first paragraph, alone, was posted in December). It may be a cop-out to post something I've already written - and, quite differently from everything else I write here - this one is highly edited and revised. With help.
This, however, is the manifest - and I wanted to explain what the connections are, for me, between the disparate interests. It's like writing poetry - once I've written a poem about something, describing that (event, feeling, person) in other words and sentences falls short. It isn't exactly, not quite, what I mean. Hence the quoting-of-self that happens. Inevitably. This, I imagine, must happen to all writers. So, rather than expound upon what's already been written:


It starts when I enter the room. How many words can my patient speak without needing
air? Is she leaning forward to breathe? Are her fingers clubbed? My stethoscope hangs without weight. My hand is on her shoulder now. My eyes close. “Breathe,” I say. “Relax.” And I am listening to the inside of her body. It’s telling me things my patient knows but lacks vocabulary to describe. It is my privilege to explicate this poem.
            I was born speaking two languages, and, as a bilingual child, French and English were imprinted in entwined synapses. I do not always know which language I am speaking. If I read a book in English that takes place in France, I “remember” the dialogue in French. I transpose. In this way, I have learned that translations are only approximations. I connect most with those who speak both my languages because that allows me to use the most precise word possible.
            I speak two languages. From my early years in school, I was drawn to science because of its inherent beauty and creativity. I decided to pursue biology the first time I looked into a dish of pond water under a microscope and discovered an entire invisible world. I spent late hours in the lab, peering at 400x magnifications of cells I had stained green for mitochondria and red for nuclei in a 12-hour painstaking process. I would forget to count and simply stare.
Cacao field, Mvangan

22 June 2011

Getting it right

*(I’m studying for boards (at writing) /just took boards (at posting) = Step2 CK)*

I hate the questions I get right – cancer, terrible diseases, medications, hard side effects to deal with, long-term complications – that I know, for sure, because of anecdotes


I know how you died.
I know how you might die, I know why your life is and will be difficult.

There are the simple ones – the amoxicillin prescriptions we wrote for kids with ear infections, the reassurance, reassurance, reassurance of parents.

The patients who came in with the side effects to medications that I’d read about – EUREKA! moments – your cough, the nagging cough, and you started lisinopril at the same time.
I know the answer to the puzzle.
I win.
Un des lions indomptables, Ebolowa