Tuesday, June 15, 2010

End of a journey

I promise to finish writing about Greece next week but first I need to write about the most significant event in my life this year, probably in five years: today I passed the RD exam-- I am at last a Registered Dietitian. This is HUGE for me-- let me explain.

In 2002 I was going into my Senior year of college, waiting to hear if I had been accepted into the theater major at UCLA. What I really loved was not so much the acting, but musical theater. I went to see that year's musical and realized that even if I was accepted into the major, I would never be as strong of a singer as the students in the play-- they had studied intensively since they were freshmen, and while I have a perfectly nice voice I do not have that big capacity to "belt" necessary for musical theater. I was unhappy in LA, homesick for Seattle and not excited about the additional year it would take me to finish my already 5 years of undergrad to do the theater major-- I didn't want to audition for a living and the pressure of being judged on my looks was already pushing me toward disordered eating. I was getting pretty interested in nutrition and natural health at that time and I remember one of my acting teachers saying to the class-- if there is ANYTHING you can see yourself happy doing besides acting you should do it because this business is too hard. Before the results were posted for major admissions, I walked into the theater department office and told them I wanted to withdraw from consideration-- it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I finished undergrad as a Philosophy major, a major I had chosen merely because it was not impacted so I could increase the likelihood of transfer admission to UCLA. I spent a miserable year taking confusing and sometimes crazy upper division Philosophy classes and then the day after my last final we packed up and moved to Seattle.

I had to wait a year to reestablish residency to start taking prerequisites-- the only year of my life I have not been in school since I started kindergarten. I started taking prerequisite science courses, one at a time at night while working full time. It took me nearly three years to finish all of them and start graduate school full time. I can not tell you how many times I had meltdowns from the stress of studying chemistry in every spare second-- at least once a quarter I completely lost it.

The first two quarters at Bastyr nearly killed me-- not coming from a science background the intensity of having a full-time load of almost all science courses was a lot to deal with. The last quarter at Bastyr and the internship application process wounded my spirit (as I wrote about extensively) so deeply it took months to heal. The internship had it's own challenges, including having to move away from my husband for several months.

I had only one last hurdle, the RD exam. This is the national exam that proves to the American Dietetic Association dietitians are ready to practice-- without this exam no prospective employers would even talk to me.

After I passed the test I cried all the way home-- it is such an unbelievable relief, I almost can't comprehend it-- I don't ever have to take any exams ever again. I am DONE with formal school for the rest of my LIFE (if I want it to be anyway).

I am overwhelmed, and grateful and happy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Greece: Mykonos

Sorry I'm not telling this story as fast as I planned-- I am studying for the RD exam and it is taking over my life! Until I take it I'm going to have a hard time getting a job (it actually probably isn't going to be that easy even after I take it) so I've made it a high priority.

Anyway, Mykonos. This ended up being the nicest hotel in some ways, of our entire trip. It was right on the beach, had free internet (important for keeping my mom and Marc updated that we made it and were still alive) and it had breakfast included in the price of the room-- this turned out to be very helpful, especially since the breakfast was amazing! They had pretty much anything you could ever want-- fantastic thick greek yogurt, fruit, eggs, sausages, bacon, many kinds of bread and pastries, coffee tea etc. Food was pretty expensive on Mykonos so we usually tried to eat a big breakfast to make it as long as we could on that-- I had yogurt and fruit, sometimes an egg, a couple bites of something bread, and a lot of coffee both mornings.

As I mentioned our hotel was a ways out of town. Fortunately there was a bus that stopped right outside the hotel to take us into town. Mykonos is famous for it's narrow, white-washed streets, fancy stores and pretty harbor. It wasn't very busy-- between the volcano drama and the national strikes due to the Greek economy crashing a lot of people stayed away, plus it was still the off season-- it gets really busy in July and August apparently.

We spent a ridiculous amount of time looking for a pharmacy to get more contact solution (since the Athens airport confiscated it) and sunscreen, because there was no way we could bring enough given the airline liquid restrictions. When we finally did find one it was closed because of strikes-- apparently they all take turns being open for a couple hours at a time so we had to wander to find the one that was open, and kept getting lost because all those narrow alleys look the same. We got kind of sunburned while we were looking for a place to buy sunscreen (which was ASTRONOMICALLY expensive-- a regular sized bottle cost about 14 Euros which works out to almost $20!)

We wandered in and out of shops, mostly just looking (I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on the very first day!) but Megs bought a pair of sandals and we bought a little jar of honey at an amazing honey store where they had probably 8 or 9 different types of honey which we got to taste and the man in told us all about the different healing qualities of each one.

In the evening, back at the hotel we read at the beach, had a good dinner with wine and we sat there so long the waiter brought us free ouzo (we came to find that most restaurants will eventually bring you a free something at the end of the meal). I don't usually like hard liquor but I actually quite liked ouzo-- Megs liked it too even though she hates licorice and to me it tastes exactly like licorice.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Greece, Day 1: the longest day ever

Sleeping at Heathrow

Passed out at the beach in Mykonos

On May 5th we were packed and ready, nervous because just days earlier flights from Seattle to Iceland (we were flying Iceland air) were canceled and a Greek strike was looming. Our flight was at 4pm and I was so keyed up that morning I took a drop in Bikram yoga class to calm my brain (and also to limber up before hours and hours of sitting on a plane). It was exactly what i needed-- I can never do much more than focus on yoga when I'm there.

I drove to pick up Megan in Wallingford and then picked up Marc at work, since he was coincidentally going to Montana for work that same day. Marc dropped Megs and I off at the terminal and since we were hours early, we had lunch at Seatac (did you know there is an Anthony's restaurant at Seatac?) The salad I had contained some kind of crunchy noodles most of which I picked off, but still caused me to cough for a couple hours afterward, making the later discovery of gluten eating abilities in Europe that much more strange.

Our first flight was 7 hours from Seattle to Iceland. We both took Homeopathic sleep aids which I combined with a half a dramamine in an attempt to sleep on the flight. Between the loud talking on the flight and the fact that it was only 4pm-10pm at home meant that despite my attempts I did not sleep more than an hour or so on the flight.

We had a quick 50 minute layover in Iceland (the airport looks like an Ikea!) where we got our passports stamped in and out of the country and went through security again -- I was selected for a random search of my person (not my bag just my body) which was hilarious because I was wearing leggings and a fitted t-shirt-- not sure where I could have been hiding something in that outfit but a nice security lady patted me down anyway and then we boarded another plane, this one a 3 hour flight, to London. I did manage to sleep another couple hours on the London leg of the flight as we arrived around 1am Seattle time. It was noon London time and our next flight, to Athens was not until 10pm. I had booked a late flight in case we wanted to actually try and go do something in London, but the lines at Customs were long, the tube takes an hour from the airport into downtown London and we were scared we'd miss our flight, so instead we spent 10 hours in Terminal one at Heathrow, which is one of the smallest and most boring. In a sleepy daze we paced up and down the length of the terminal. We went to the pharmacy 3 or 4 times for various reasons, ate two greasy meals (traditional English breakfast and then some kind of salad I've forgotten now later on). We found an empty corner and sort of slept awhile on hard benches, though every time I fell asleep another announcement over the intercom of flights coming and going woke me up.

We were so lucky we had booked the 10pm flight-- no flights were landing in Greece that day because of a strike-- ours the only flight to take off for Athens because we arrived at 4am-- technically the next day and after the end of the strike.

The flight to Athens was also loud and it was once again difficult to sleep. We arrived in Athens at 4am with another 5 hours to kill before our final flight to Mykonos. On the 4th trip through security that day they confiscated Megan's contact solution because even though it had a TSA approved symbol on it, apparently it was more than 100mL. The woman in charge of putting items through the scanner also yelled at us because apparently she likes to put things in the bin for you. Crazy how every airport and every security checker seems to make their own rules.

I had Greek yogurt with honey from a food cart in the airport-- the girl put almost more honey than yogurt on it but I decided at 4am it could be dessert or breakfast and I was much too tired to care so it didn't matter. There are lots of stores and things in the Athens airport as well as free email access. However, once you get past security there is absolutely nothing to do. It was much too loud, busy and chaotic for sleeping so we spent four hours sitting dazed, too tired to read, but unable to sleep either.

Finally we boarded our 30 minute flight to Mykonos, grabbed a cab and found our lovely hotel which was outside of town on the beach. We were very grateful for showers and then crashed at the beach (I completely passed out for about two hours). We spent a very leisurely day at the beach, ate a good dinner and then slept 11 hours that night. Finally, we had arrived and were ready to begin our vacation!