doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Tag: Manhattan

Remembering how I got here, with gratitude

Living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you encounter a lot of wealthy people. The zip code 10065, just blocks south of where Weill Cornell Medical College is located, made number 15 on Forbes’ “America’s Most Expensive Zip Codes 2015” with a median sale price of $4.4 million. As a broke medical student though, this is not a life that I’m directly exposed to. Not usually. But recently, I was invited to dinner at a private social club. I was to meet the person who funded my summer research, including my trip to Uganda.

Having grown up writing thank you notes for even the smallest of gifts, I was excited to say “thank you” in person for making this life changing experience possible. But when I found out where we were meeting, I was also nervous. Former club members apparently included people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Pearl Buck, and Margaret Mead. What in the world did I have to wear to a place like that? Of course my fretting was for naught; everyone’s attire there was classy but not fancy, just like mine. Phew.

The food at the club was excellent, but much more meaningful was the company. At the dinner I was reminded of two things. First, how important it is to support and mentor a younger generation. That support might be financial, emotional, or otherwise. And second, how significant the experience is for  both parties.

The person who provided my scholarship was thrilled to hear about my trip and my experience. And I was thrilled to share it. The money provided was a drop in the bucket to her, but meant all the world to me. I couldn’t have gone without it. I hope my gratitude came across during that short time.

I’ve had so much help to get here, and it continues to pour in. I’m grateful for all those gifts, great and small. And I fully intend to pay them back someday by paying them forward.

Learning to Live Without a Car

Knowing that cell phone service is less than certain amid skyscrapers, not to mention the threat of my battery dying, I thought buying maps would be prudent. These Streetwise maps, which are laminated, got great reviews on One covers Manhattan, one covers the multitude of transit options (NYC subway, Long Island Railroad, etc.), and the other exclusively covers the Manhattan subway.

In 2003, just after graduating from college, I bought my first car. I’ve owned one ever since. My car hasn’t been my only means of transportation though – while working at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I commuted on the El (short for “elevated train”), and have often taken the train into the city rather than fight traffic and pay $30 to park. But taking the train or bus to work is different than taking the train or bus to buy groceries, which is what I will be doing while living in Manhattan. The thought is a little nerve-wracking – that there will be no trunk, no back seat, to haul stuff in. No immediate wheels. No straight shot to where I’m headed. Add to that the complexity of the New York City transit system, and it’s overwhelming. I remind myself that I survived taking the bus everywhere (and not having a car) for five months when I lived in Chile during college, and that was in a foreign country where I had to speak a foreign language. So I can certainly do it in New York. Because as foreign as NYC might seem at times, I’m still on home soil. And soon enough, NYC will come to be my home too.

I’m especially excited about the foldable subway map.