How to Survive the Holidays When You’re Far from Home

I spent last Christmas with my landlord.

We had moved into her apartment building when my husband got accepted to medical school in Grenada—and since we couldn’t afford plane tickets home for the holiday, we decided to spend it on the island.

We were prepared to have a lonely Christmas. All of our friends traveled back to America, and we were literally the only people in our apartment complex. No big deal, I thought. Between studying abroad, mission trips, and summers spent with relatives, I had plenty of experience being far from home.

But this time? I wasn’t sure I could make it. Sure, I had spent other holidays without immediate family—tearing up turkey legs with college roommates or unwrapping presents with in-laws—but at least those bore some resemblance to the festivities I celebrated with my own parents and siblings. This time, I faced a completely different culture and had almost nothing to keep me grounded.

Everything on the island felt like the opposite of Christmas: the weather was still hot and steamy, stores weren’t coated in lights and tinsel, and the blaring holiday music was filtered through Caribbean beats and instruments… oh, and forget about finding hot peppermint mochas or snowmen. How was I supposed to celebrate Christmas here when nothing about it felt familiar?

If you're traveling or living abroad, celebrating major holidays can be tough. Read about how to get through it here. [Read more…]

Caribbean Hospitals: An American Perspective

I didn’t intend to write another island-themed post after last week, and normally this kind of topic doesn’t fall within the Grad Girl realm of solving postgrad problems… but health issues are postgrad problems, right? Read on anyway. You’ll enjoy it.

I kicked off Grenadian Thanksgiving weekend with my usual Saturday workout, followed by epic face-stuffing to observe the holiday. When I woke up the following Sunday, though, my abdominals were crying out in pain. Just the food and the workout, right?, I thought. I carried on with my normal routine, assuming the tightness in my stomach would subside.

An hour passed. Then two. And nothing changed. In fact, I felt worse—like, laying-down-in-a-fetal-position worse. My husband, the medical student, squished my stomach here and there to examine me, and hypothesized that I could have a gallbladder problem based on where the pain hurt most. He haphazardly put a diaper bag together for our one-year-old while I attempted to put on shorts and stifle nausea, and we drove to the hospital downtown.

When you're used to American medical care, Caribbean hospitals look a little (or a lot) different. Read about my hospital visit here. [Read more…]