In May we made our move from Houston to Midland (in West Texas) for my Physician Assistant Program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The PA field, while rapidly growing, is also a very competitive field, so I was grateful to be accepted into the TTUHSC Master’s Program. We immediately jumped into a 16-credit Summer semester, and it was a whirlwind of graduate-level pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, and clinical laboratory studies.
I submitted an application to the Office of Global Health to join the medical team in Jinotega, Nicaragua, and I found myself fortunate to have been selected, but also to be the first PA student to attend a Global Health trip with TTUHSC. The following months included numerous meetings, conference calls, modules, and presentations to educate us, build cultural competency, and to provide us with realistic expectations. (more…)
Our journey along the backside of Mount Haleakala started early Wednesday morning in hopes that we would make it to the ‘Ohe’o Gulch and Pipiwai Trail before the crowds. Traveling up the backside of Mount Haleakala also allowed us to avoid traffic, as a great number of people forego this beautiful drive due to rental restrictions. The backside of Mount Haleakala is known to host particularly sharp, curvy, unpaved roads with high cliffsides overlooking the coast. While it can be considerably dangerous, particularly during heavy rainfall, I cannot imagine traveling to Maui and missing out on the beautiful views of the upcountry fields or the volcanic cliffsides. (more…)
For our third day in Maui we decided to drive the famed Hana Highway (aka Route 36/306). This winding, 52 mile (84 km) drive proved to be an arduous, but rewarding trip. It runs from Kahului to Hana; the daring travelers can continue on past Hana and explore the backside of Mount Haleakala (as we had). Well known to travelers, the “Road to Hana” made National Geographic’s “Drives of a Lifetime” list and topped Travel + Leisure’s list of “America’s Most Scenic Roads.” Writer, Jerry Camarilla Dunn Jr. explains, “the drive is a cliff hanger that strains many a driver’s equanimity.” One might ask, what is the reward? “The modern world seems distant,” says Dunn, “everyday cares fade into a papaya-colored sunset, and tensions simply blow away in the trade wind.” I concur with that statement wholeheartedly. In fact, every worrisome or nagging thought became a fleeting moment on the Road to Hana. (more…)
For our last day in Costa Rica, we visited Manuel Antonio National Park. Elba, Nilla, and Mario spent the day relaxing on the beach, while Andrea, Alan, and I hiked some of the trails. What was unique about this National Park was the natural exposure to wildlife. There were capuchin monkeys running around a few feet away from us. The locals call them the “white-faced monkeys,” and they are also known for their thievery. In one of the pictures Alan was wearing a baseball cap and got a little too close. Being 6 ft 3 in., he scared the poor primate, who nervously glared as his ball cap. You can see the capuchin monkey’s reaction to his unexpected proximity. Close by, there were also monitor lizards, iguanas, and macaws. We could hear howler monkeys in the distance, and somewhere way up in the canopy there was a sloth or two. (more…)
In Miramar we found the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. We started our day with a bit of adrenaline as we headed to Adventure Park Ziplining Tour in Puntarenas. This was the longest zipline tour in Costa Rica, with a total of twenty-five zipline cables over eleven waterfalls. Fortunately, we had some great guides – they often encouraged us to let go of our riding saddles while we were ziplining and also demonstrated some stunts. After riding a few basic zipline cables, I decided to try some stunts myself, including a flip off of the platform. The view from the canopy was breathtaking.
We drove to a remote part of Costa Rica near Alajuela. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you where it is or how we got there. I only know that we passed strawberry fields as we traveled up through the mountains on a tiny road (that was currently being built). A platform for a road hadn’t even been established yet, and there were pebbles that were being laid for traction for the tires. There were several times we had to get out and heave our van forward to move it uphill. Mario’s friend, Antoine, was building a farmhouse out in the jungla (jungle). Essentially, “La Virgen Del Socorro” translates to “untouched relief” referring to the area’s untouched wilderness.