Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Christmas celebration is over, and it's been a great one. I love getting to be around my family and old friends. However, I'm not super-excited about jumping back into things on rotation in Nashville. I look forward to learning more and being exposed to more, and of course this residency circus promises to be an adventure. But overall, I get that creeping, overwhelming sense of the monkey on your back. Those of you in school, especially with me the past few years know exactly what I'm talking about. It's that feeling that you should be doing more. Studying more, learning more, getting more done. Ugh. It's the worst. It handicaps you from being able to exist completely in your present situation because you're stressing about the future.

About a month ago, I had been reading through Psalms and trying to get a hold of God's Sovereignty through the writings of David. And peace came easy. Then I let go of it at some point. And started depending on my own strength (which we all know leads to disaster).

Now I start the slow trek back up that hill. And just in time, because I can't afford to enter 2007 with a deceived perception. I want to live fully the adventures God has coming my way. I want to abide in the peace He freely offers with just the knowledge of Who He is.

Sidebar: Congrats to Ben Doc and his new fiance on their recent engagement. And last but certainly not least, Congrats to my girl Britt and Caleb on their more recent engagement!

Friday, December 22, 2006

"I'll be home for Christmas" today. I'm going to brave the headache that is I-40 and truck it back to cozy, little Huntingdon. I need to see my fam. Being up in Nashville without school and only the residency stress to keep me company has been a bit of a downer. I need rejuvenation. I need to be reminded of all the amazing family God has blessed me with and what I mean to them. And more importantly, how I can learn to become more like them.

I hope each of you has safe travels and a blessed Christmas. The exciting thing is that this is where it all starts for those who believe in Jesus. This is the celebration of the beginning of His story. It still baffles me that He came "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8).

Monday, December 18, 2006

L.A., take it back!

We don't want it. Yeah, that's right. Your weather. You can keep it. It's nice and all to be 70 year-round with a nice breeze, but just let us experience it when we visit. Don't be trekking it over here to Tennessee. We like our Christmas cold-ness. So go back. What's the point of me getting a new coat for Christmas if I have to wait until I move next June to a colder climate to wear it? I've given up all hope for snow, but seriously. I want it to be chilly. I miss the natural rosiness of everyone's cheeks and nose. It's cute.

We're not trying to be California over here. We like that we experience both winter and summer. But now we're just getting a year long summer-autumn. I would at least like it to drop below 50 at some point before Christmas day. Maybe?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

From the Facebook group "The Wit and Wisdom of Jada Butler"...

I couldn't resist. These are a treat...

Did ya'll know everyone's got tonsils? Sick! Get it, tonsils!"--Submitted by Matt Owens

"Prussia? You're just making up countries now." --Submitted by Daniel Freeman

"There is no such person as President William McKinnely! Ya'll are makin stuff up...oh and he was an SAE too...yeah I bet. Ya'll are really makin stuff up now!"--Submitted by Jacob O'Brien

"I am lost as the day is dawn."--submitted by Meghan Deakins

"Sick, Mowens, are you afraid of getting melanoma or something?" (In response to Matt ordering a well done hamburger)--Submitted by Matt Owens

"Yeah I like Japanese food...its American."--Submitted by Meghan Deakins

"My hands don't stink...they smell like the world."--Submitted by Kyle McCann

"I could beat her up with sticks and cans"--Submitted by Meghan Deakins

"I hate water... it tastes like liquid air!"

"Jesus wasn't white; He spoke Arabian!" - submitted by Jacob O'Brien

My personal fave..."It's cold as Methuselah in here."

Please don't get the wrong impression. She's a smart girl. She definitely made better grades in the chemistry department at Union than I did. She just doesn't always think before she speaks. And that makes her way fun to be least for the laughs. No, seriously, we love her. You would too, after you stopped laughing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What about your friends?

Anybody hearing the old TLC song? Come on, you know it.

I always go on and on about my family and how much I love them. And I do. They're great, and I'm overwhelmingly blessed to have them. But I also have a bombin' group of amazing individuals that I get to call "friends".

I love how hard times brings them into the spotlight or sifts them up like gold-diggers panning for gold in the stream. I know, what a dumb analogy, but you get it. Just this week I've gotten to speak to so many of my friends who are miles and oceans away. This is not an exhaustive list, but to name a few:

  • My girl Reagan up in Philly. I draw so much strength from a fellow loud sista' who loves life and sees everything as an adventure and a learning experience
  • Donna, my airport driver who's picked me up more than once now and listened to me whine through tears. Plus, she always laughs at my jokes. You gotta keep those close.
  • Nat, a consistent communicator, always willing to lend an ear and a word of encouragement
  • Britt, my girl that I get to talk with the lisp with and laugh about life and love with
  • My roommate Katie, who listens and supports and shares about her life and lets me share about mine
  • My friend Jenn down in Texas, who loves me unconditionally and makes me believe I'm a minister to her
  • TB, my med school friend, always willing to share a meal or hang out...and did I mention the bomb at some flag football?
  • Cesar, an old friend from high school, who I've recently gotten back into contact with in the last month
  • Tim Yzzy, up in Washington state, catching up about life and surprisingly encouraged me with a convo he had with a friend recently
  • last but certainly not least, the tried-and-true buddy across the ocean, Mr. Casey Stafford. finally got to talk to him on the phone today. It was exactly the encouragement I needed. That's my dog, right there.

I can't wait to see and speak with more over the holidays. I'm thankful that God has chosen to bless me with friends. They make life so much more enjoyable, and sometimes it takes them to make it bearable. The unconditional love of Christ has been much easier to accept and understand through the friendships He has given me.

Praise the Lord for friends!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

After driving back to Nashville from home today, I went to Kairos, the Bible study for young people held at Brentwood Baptist on Tuesday nights. I love hearing from Brother Mike Glenn, and I usually enjoy the music, and I needed some restoration and refreshment. And it was dead-on, as usual. On my trip back, I was able to speak with Katie Rae, the woman that discipled me at Union. We hadn't talked on the phone for an extended amount of time in months, so this was also needed and therapeutic. She shared some great Truth (as she usually does) about practicing the presence of God, and it was exactly what I needed to be reminded of.

Tonight he spoke about the Christmas story and made the point that God never complained that Jesus was born in a stable. He just used what was there as a place to get started. Not to diminish His Sovereignty in the orchestration of the event, but He didn't set them up in a four-star hotel. And the Bible never mentions an innkeeper. God can do whatever He wants with what He chooses to use. That was his challenge. He just wants to get started. Same thing with Abraham. Abe wasn't bringing anything to the table, and God (obviously) knew that. But that's where He wanted to get things started.

So the same applies to us. Nothing DEPENDS on us. He just wants to get started. And we need to bring what scraps we have to offer for the process. That's our celebration of the Christmas story. We need to join in what He's already started, and let Him get started on and in us.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Anaheim and residency madness

I've had a blast so far in Cali. I had fun with Will Saturday, meeting his friends and seeing LA. Then I got to hear John McArthur preach Sunday morning. It was really neat. He's a great teacher and a thorough Biblical scholar. He referenced his statements throughout the message with exact Scripture passages. Very impressive.

Best part: when he came on stage to preach, the 70-person choir was still standing, so he made a motion with his hand for them to sit, and they did. Then he said, "Wow, I didn't know I could do that. That's about all I can command around here. Me and Benny Hen." How funny is that? I busted up laughing. I couldn't believe he dropped that from the pulpit. It was nice to hear a little humor from one of today's greats.

Then I came to Anaheim via Will's gracious travel service (he drove me all the way down here). I was immediately thrown into the ASHP chaos once I found the correct hotel. (I got him to drop me off at the wrong one by mistake.)

I had a blast with my roomies and all the old friends and pharmacy contacts I've made throughout the years. I met and spoke with different programs around the country to see where I might like to end up next year. The showcase is so helpful. I was able to narrow down my 24 interests to about 5 good programs that I'll be applying to. I'm not going to list them on here since they might be subject to change, but if you're interested, email me and I'll fill you in. I'm excited. And just to give some hints, I'm not going to end up in TN. I'm not even applying to any programs here. So come visit me wherever I go!

So yesterday, I woke up at 1:45 a.m. to get ready, pack my stuff, and leave for LA from Anaheim. My friend Sara and I were on our way to meet other UT friends outside CBS studios to get in line for "The Price is Right". We were told we needed to be there by around 4 in order to secure a spot in the audience. Ugh. I had two hours sleep. But we got on the show. It was an all-day process of getting in-line, waiting, being told to come back, then more waiting. Then they started taping. My friend Paula had made these great neon green shirts with glitter on them for us to wear. There was eight of us, total. We kept hoping they would call anyone from our group, but it never happened. We still had fun, though. With such little sleep, we were delirious the entire day. But it was worth it to see Bob Barker way up close before he retires. He's so nice; the whole set crew is. And the stage is sooo much smaller than it looks on TV. Very sneaky, the TV people.

Now I'm hanging with Will in LA. It's a really neat city. We're eating sushi with my pharm school friends and previous roomies tonight. Then I head back on Sunday evening. I have a busy month of applying, writing, working, volunteering, and wrapping to get back to. Ugh.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Catching Up

Okay, so I've been meaning to blog for over a week now, and I haven't been able to sit still long enough to get something banged out. And I don't really have time now, but I'm practicing discipline. There are so many cool things that have been going on and that I've been learning. I wish I had time to tell them all, but I don't...maybe later.

Part of my hectic-ness has been due to my trip today. I leave for Anaheim, CA for this beastly pharmacy conference which involves hospital pharmacists, residency programs, and residency applicants from all over the country. Enter me. I have emailed about 24 programs that caught my eye initially. I've been able to narrow it down some since then, and this conference where I'll get to meet people and ask questions will help do that even further. My goal is to pare down to only 5 to which I would like to apply. Friends from my class and from our faculty will be there, and I'm also excited about spending time with them. It should be fun.

Before and after the conference, I'm hanging out with my gracious friend Will, who will be driving me all over California, from what I understand. J/k, but he is going out of his way to haul me to my hotel then pick me up later in the week. Since he lives in LA, we don't get to hang out much, as you can imagine. So it should be lots of fun to hang out with a friend, see LA, and see HIS version of LA. Plus, did I mention the kid worked for Clint Eastwood's company? How cool is that?

On life in general, God has been teaching me so much lately, and it's been so sweet. After Hungary, I had been asking for more faith in His Sovereignty in order for me to stop stressing about stuff and start truly TRUSTING that everything would work out...even if we got some bruises along the way. And I can't tell the small miracles I've seen since then. It's so wierd why we don't just ask for this stuff in the first place! How many times in His Word does He tell us to do that? Humans, ugh. I just finished a great month at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and met some nice people. I was with Paula, a girl from my class, and once again, made a closer friendship with a classmate, which has happened now on almost every rotation. God so provides.

I better be going, but I'll update cuz I'm taking my computer with me. Please pray for discernment, wisdom, humility, and that God will orchestrate my desires in order to lead me down the path that brings Him the most glory. My ultimate desire hasn't changed. I want people to know Jesus. They need Him, and He deserves their worship. So pray that God will make clear what residency will best grow me and equip me to be a better pharmacist and a better minister.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Had a bombin' weekend. It's not even over all the way. It started on Friday when I met up with Jada and Payten for supper at Carabba's. Place is money if you don't already know. We had fun catching up, cutting up, and carrying on. We then moved the party to my apartment. It may seem odd because the three of us are so different, but we've totally moved into that stage of sisterhood where we have a blast together. We understand each other, and the friendships are thick because you know the good, the bad, the ugly, and you've had years of life together to accept each other in spite of it.

Here's what the "Butler girls" hanging out might consist of: We're ripping on Jada because she'll make silly comments, or she has a tendency to say things that throw you off like, "I didn't know you had to pay for electricity. I figured if you bought the bulb, the electricity came for free." or one of my personal faves: "It's cold as Methuselah in here." The list goes on. Ask her friends. But we love her: she's high drama, high fashion, and very family-oriented. Payten will be the one dishing the dry, sarcastic jokes and coming out with some random bouts of energy. Just challenge her to a screaming contest. My whole building hates me now. I'm usually the one sharing stories and neurotic analyses of various situations and issues. They're nice enough to listen in pretend amusement until we all come to the conclusion that I'm crazy. Then we move on.

Once we met back up at my apt, Payten decided she needed ice cream and Jada wanted a coke. So we make the late-nite trip to the nearby Kroger, already in a sub-state of delirium. And keep in mind, once Jada gets going and cutting up, she doesn't care who's around or what she's saying or how loud she's saying it. That brought some fun stares. Our trip was complete when I made mention of a beastly muffler someone had tried to gee up a lowrider with. It was no more than 5 inches from the ground. All it took was me saying it looked like the car had hemorrhoids before Jada did all but fall on the pavement in laughter. That drove me to the Lauren-Webb-cackle, and the three of us were out of control. Fun times.

We watched a movie, went to bed, then got up way too early to meet Meemaw and Jasper for breakfast at Shoney's. I can't even remember the last time I went to Shoney's. But it was good. Payten was going to the Boro today to visit friends, and Jada and I went to the TN-Vandy game with the extra tickets that Meemaw and Uncle Jasper had. It was such a good game. I had so much fun. TN finally showed up, and it was so satisfying to witness firsthand. I did kinda pity some of the nice Vandy fans near me, though. TN fans ARE rough. Maybe not any worse than the rest of the SEC, but man, they get rowdy.

And yes, this post is in orange in honor of my boys. They showed out today.

So that's my fun weekend. Not too much to mention post- those events. I hope yours was good. What did you do?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rachel Ray

Everyone tells me I look like her or remind them of her, so I decided to establish her skills as well. Well, maybe not HER skills, but through fun experimentation, I'm hoping to end up with some of my own. Katie was out of town tonight so it was the perfect time to take over the kitchen and concoct something interesting. For some reason, I always tend to get creative when it comes to cooking. I don't do it often enough to have habits. So I just wing it...every time. Sometimes it works out; others are not so great. I've got at least a few years before I'm cooking for anybody besides myself, so I can afford a few mistakes.

As for tonight...two out of three ain't bad. That's all I'm saying.

Friday, November 10, 2006


That's how I felt tonight after hearing words and music from
  • Jimmy Needham
  • at Lascassas Baptist Church. His style is extremely unique: acoustic guitar, young white boy, and a funky, almost motown-ish feel. And his voice, the kid's voice was astounding. He's only a senior at Texas A & M, but he owned his voice like a seasoned artist would. Lots of jazzy scaling and soulful improvs.

    But the most valuable thing this guy has to offer is his passion for Truth and sharing it. His set lasted about an hour and a half, but he only sang about 5 songs. He shared so much with gut-honesty about the need to spread the Gospel. That phrase gets played out but when he kept bringing Scripture that magnified the ULTIMATE, ETERNAL purpose of GOD'S GLORY through the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. What are we doing? What do we spend our days, our hours, our minutes thinking and talking about? The Bible's very clear about our lives on earth being but a vapor, a VAPOR! If you divided up our "investments" of time and energy into two categories: TEMPORAL and ETERNAL, how much would we be "worth"?

    He even spoke specifics about miracles Jesus is currently doing in parts of Asia, because the people BELIEVE. It's not that He ever stopped working in that way; it's that we stopped expectantly and faithfully asking Him to. I was just ashamed when Jimmy was telling the story, because I knew no weak prayer of mine at this point in my Walk would ever be used to perform "Only Jesus Could" calibur miracles. Over there, even the nonbelievers know that He's the only God able to do such things, and they accept it. It doesn't even occur to me to ask for it in the beginning.

    Then he spoke about India. And ever since I heard Andrew Osenga speak of it at a concert of his in June, it's kinda been pulling at my heart. Plus, my buddy Stephen Billings took a mission team there this summer, and I was praying for that trip and the people there. So I can't tell if God is giving me a glimpse of His future for me or if India is just the new China in terms of unreached people in the spotlight. If you have a minute and want to work on the discipline of prayer, I would really appreciate your help in discerning this. But no hurry, I have a peace and an understanding that He will show me where He wants me just in time to get me there.

    In the meantime, He is so faithful to sustain me and even give me favor in my current situation. Unlike my Monday, I'm loving this rotation. Paula, my classmate that I'm paired with this month, is a great coworker. We always have a good time; she's upbeat, pleasant, smart, and she surprisingly laughs at many of my jokes. That's always a plus. And Dr. Wright is great. She's very intelligent, great at her job, direct about what she expects, and has a good sense of humor as well. Great qualities to find in a preceptor.

    Since I've been back from Europe, I haven't been as stressed. I think it's some of the American that rubbed off of me. And I like being without it. I'm not saying I'm not thankful to live in this country. BELIEVE ME. I am. But there are negatives. And being driven by goals of accruing money and saving time is something I can live healthier without.

    Simplicity has been a somewhat lofty goal of mine for a while. But now it seems closer. And I can even see it. Some of the things Jimmy said tonight gave me a glimpse of what it looks like. And it centers on Christ...and fellowship with Him. Which requires time...set aside for Him. So that's the new goal. Genuine time spent in His Word and in prayer, not the five minutes after my morning shower or the 3 before I fall asleep. I'll be honest. I'm scared as I type this. Because then it's documented. Maybe you could pray for that too.

    Oh yeah, little pop quiz: What's after "Be still and know that I am God"? The rest of the verse is the key and one of the points Jimmy made tonight.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Speaking of bombin' pics...

    Please if you have some time, check out Reema's pics from Africa. They're amazing. Her blog is linked on the left here. It's called "Reems in Botswana". Some of her shots look professional and some surreal. So neat. See them for yourself.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Yay, got a few pics up...

    And I mean, not too many. I have them arranged as slideshows on my myspace. Check them at . Trust me, I have tons more, but these are some good ones...

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Yeah, so, uh, being back isn't as glamorous as I remember it. lol. Don't misunderstand me: I'm very thankful to be back in the US, to get to be near my family and friends, and to get to sleep in my bed (which may be named a world wonder, because it's definitely one of the best places on earth). However, today back at my rotation at the pediatric hospital at Vanderbilt, reality hit me...and I think it left a bruise.

    I think it will be a great month. I know I'll learn a ton. But I'm already dragging. I have to be there at 7, which means getting up around 5. Geesh. My eyelids start getting heavy anytime I sit down...which is most of the day since rounds are done around a table instead of in patient rooms, then I have to prepare my patients (sitting at a computer), then we conference with my precepter (sitting down). The Lecia Webb-syndrome kicks in, and I'm out in 2.5. I say that because Lecia also has a tendency to get droopy-eyed as soon as she sits. I'm trying to wean myself from the caffeine I lived off of in Europe. In fact, I'm currently suffering a withdrawal headache as I type. I must push through.

    This weekend was great. It was suchhhhhh a blessing to see my family. I didn't get enough time with them, though. I could have spent weeks there. I was so sad I cried on the way home. lol. I am more and more convinced every year of my life that I have the best family on earth. I love them...all...even the tough ones. I'm so proud of them. I know them, the good and the bad, and can still say they're some of the best people I've ever met. That's the real deal. And there's a ton of people like that in my family. I'm so blessed. I'm not bragging...I'm just expressing gratitude for what God placed in my life. Besides, their coolness doesn't make me cool by association. I wish it did. Then I'd be the coolest kid in Carroll County...even though I don't live in Carroll County anymore. Maybe I'm tired. I think I should stop now.

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    I'm back

    I think I'm supposed to say, "and better than ever" after that. Hopefully that's the case. We'll see. I feel a little overwhelmed by the transition before me. I am so comforted and excited to be home and around what was "normal" a month ago, but I'm not the same person now. And I'm glad. I feel older, more seasoned...which is hilarious, I know it was only a month. But I've seen and experienced so much. America is so limited in its perspective sometimes. I know I have been.

    Funny after travelling ALL day yesterday (from Budapest to Amsterdam to Detroit then to Nashville), Payten picked me up at the airport. I called Katie, my roomie, to make sure she was there to let me in when I got home. I had left her a myspace message a couple of days earlier to let her know when I'd be home. Well, turns out that Katie is Birmingham for a job interview and is not returning until Sunday. AND she hadn't checked her myspace in a week or so. I'm tired, I'm frustrated- not at Katie, just with the situation, and I just want my bed. There's not room for extra people in Payten's dorm room, and there was so much I needed to do at my apt. So I called a locksmith, and I was able to finally get in. Ugh. The drama never ends. Nothing's simple. I think part of it is my fault because I prayed for safe and simple travel home, but left out the getting into my house part. lol.

    I was only able to sleep about 5 hours last night. I woke up at 7 ready to take on the world. I don't know if it's my circadian rhythm or my excitement to see my fam that's got me off-kilter. Maybe a little conglomeration of both.

    I promise to write more about my post-trip observations once they've had time to consolidate. Right now I just want to hug a lot of people whose faces haven't blessed me in over a month.

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    Vienna 2

    A few notable things about Vienna:

    1. It´s been honkin´ cold since we´ve been here...definitely the coldest we´ve been this whole month. Crazy brisk winds.

    2. When the bus stops, get your butt on it! Throw ´bows if you have to. After the bus taking off before Lan actually stepped on it in Lithuania, we were used to rude drivers...HOWEVER, when homeboy shut the doors on Lan and Jackie right behind me, I bout flipped. They just banged on the door, and he let them on. Good for him he didn´t drive off. lol. You know I woulda given him an earful of English he didn´t wanna hear.

    3. Everything shuts down about 6...all the shops. Capitalism has not made its way over here yet. Unless it´s a pub, tea or coffee house, or some souvenir shops, it´s closed about dark. Craziness. Where´s a homie supposed to find some fruit?

    4. The people are very diverse here...all colors and sizes. It´s kinda nice, but it makes it hard to get a feel for what Austrian culture might look like.

    5. Everybody´s about some Mozart here...they claim him. They even sell these amazing special chocolates named after him. The chocolate is combined with hazelnut cream and marzipan, which is like a super-condensed sugar (kinda tastes like amaretto flavoring, I really like it).

    6. The Hapsburg dynasty is way more interesting than I ever thought it could be. We´ve now toured Schonbrunn Palace as well as the Hofburg, the summer and winter homes of the family, and they lived large to say the least. It´s just crazy the elaborate detail that went into everything from architecture to plates. Interesting people.

    There will be much more observations about Europeans in general to come once I´ve arrived at home and had time for consolidation of all my new experiences. We leave for Budapest by train tomorrow afternoon, then one night at good ole Hotel Ibis, then headed to TN! I can´t wait. Not that I haven´t enjoyed my time here, but I just miss home. Thank you all so much for reading, replying, texting, emailing, and commenting.

    Nat- I can´t wait to see pics of the Kleenex box.

    Will- thanks for the proofreading, I´m gonna blame the humongous hurry I´m always in to bang these posts out since I´m usually paying for the time.

    Lecia- my most faithful person-who-misses-me-and-lets-me-know-it, I have gotten your texts and have been so excited to receive them. I haven´t texted back because it costs me 0.50 per outgoing text. I love you, and I can´t wait to see you this weekend! Tell Dad I love him!

    Mom and Lee, I miss you guys, you have to see Prague someday, and can we have spaghetti Friday night when I get home?

    Everyone, Happy Halloween! Austrians just started celebrating it three years ago, so not much trick-or-treating going on. Oh well, trust me, it hasn´t stopped us from eating candy. lol.

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Vienna 1

    This blog´s gonna be hard to pull off since the keyboard I´m working with ain´t English...or angol as they say in Hungarian.

    Backtracking a little, last Friday night, Lan and I were just taking it easy, chilling in Budapest, taking in all the sights we hadn´t seen. Since the beginning, Lan has wanted to get her hair cut while she was here. Every time we passed a salon, she would say, "Oh, we´ll do it later. No big deal." Well, the more we saw places, the more I wanted to get mine cut too. She went so far as to get a picture out of a magazine in order to make it easier for the stylist to understand, just in case there was a language barrier.

    So as we´re strolling leisurely down Raday Street, a famous little nook with bombin´ restaurants and cute little shops, we drop in on a salon. We have no idea whether you have to make an appointment, so we just sit around until someone approaches us. Surprise...they knew we were American and the girl who spoke English finally came over to ask if she could help us. Lan was nervous about getting up to bat without the pic, so I volunteered to go ahead. And the woman totally understood. She had great English, and I had no problem trusting her. And it turned out okay. All the nasty, dead ends I was tired of seeing are now gone and my hair´s a little shorter. Lan has an appointment with the lady next week.

    Saturday night Lan´s friend Jackie arrived at our hotel, and she was so excited to see her best friend. It was so neat that the two of us have gotten to spend time in Europe with our best friends our last two weekends. We all got settled in and packed for Vienna, which we arrived in today.

    But not before drama...we had purchased a pack of subway tickets and were on our way to the train station via the metro. We had to change lines, and Lan had read that one ticket was good for 30 minutes even if there´s a transfer. So we didn´t think much of it. When we get off at the train station, there are "controllers" there checking tickets. It´s not like in the US where there´s a physical barrier to get to the metro. They just let you go and fine you if they catch you. Luck of the draw, I guess you could say. So we´re coming up the escalator, hand a guy our tickets, and he pulls us aside. The guy pretends he´s speaking English as he explains that these are no good for the transfer, and sure enough, it´s written on the back of the ticket. Great. I tried to explain to him that we thought they WERE good for transfer, and I´m pretty sure he either didn´t understand what I was saying or didn´t care. I´m probably gonna go with the latter. So homeboy fined us each about 12 dollars. I was livid. And we´re not even convinced he didn´t keep it. Ugh. But we finally got on our train.

    Where I had to sit by a European that either doesn´t own deodorant or doesn´t find it necessary to shower every day. It kills me. I will never understand. I cannot believe that people enjoy that smell or don´t notice it. No way that´s possible.

    But we made it to Vienna. As usual in a new city (just like in Prague), we have a hard time making it to our lodging. We had directions from the place from an email, and I tried my best to follow them as I knew how. And basically we´re about 8 miles and 30 minutes away from all that is Vienna. BUT we are on top of this hill beside a castle of a hotel with a beautiful view of the city. This is Lan´s and my second hostel experience, and it´s worked out okay. Our main requirements were no mixed quarters, shower and toilet en suite, and decent price. We got all that here.

    We´ve done limited traipsing around the city center. This place is beautiful. St. Stephen´s Cathedral stopped us dead in our tracks. It´s amazing at night; we can´t wait to see it tomorrow. More to come...

    Saturday, October 28, 2006

    "Being hard-headed doesn't mean being hard-hearted"

    Wise words of Lan's as we were talking over sushi tonight. We took the day slowly, getting up when we wanted, went to the mall to catch a movie, then ate sushi at a place near the cinema. Oh yeah, I didn't mention that yesterday, we wore out Buda by checking out St. Mathias church, Fisherman's Bastion, the Buda Castle, and the Labyrinth underneath the castle. We did some mad souvenir shopping as well. Got a lot done.

    So back to today. I was reading this morning in Ephesians 3, and I was really convicted about how Paul spoke with such conviction, faith, and humility, and with such purpose. Lan and I have had many great opportunities to discuss my faith, the Bible, and the doctrine by which I believe. So after reading this morning, I was really convicted that she hasn't seen what it's all about since she's seen me be impatient, unforgiving, easily frustrated, and judgmental. I knew there would be a time later on for me to discuss this so I waited. Sushi seemed like the right atmosphere. I started by asking her if she knew other people closely who were professing Christians. When she didn't come up with any immediate examples, I kinda felt bad. If I was it, I knew it wasn't good. As I started explaining myself, I started tearing up! In the middle of the mall where were eating! This made her uncomfortable, but we suffered through it. I was glad to get it off my heart about there's so much to this Christian life when it's done right and that my life's not the best example to look at. She was surprised that it went that deep and that I was so hard on myself. This coming after last night, where I had a horrible night, being frustrated at every turn, and ready to snap...long story, not worth launching into. Long story short, we had a great talk about my faith story, my call to missions, and other general life truths. I know it was ordained. Thanks for all who are praying for me.
    Last Leg

    I'm on mine...of this trip, anyway.

    I'm convinced that Lecia, my loving and faithful stepmom, is the only person that reads these updates based on response. I think maybe Donna and Leela, and Casey...maybe that's it. It's funny how "out of sight, out of mind" really applies more than you would think. My friend Nat and I always talk/complain/laugh about how we're the friends that keep in touch with our friends and if we stopped calling, we would have no friendships left. This trip has kinda nailed that home. lol. I don't know why it surprised me, but being here is not that far when it comes to the internet. I've checked email, myspace, and blogs almost every day by some means or another. And even texted on my cell. That's all. Just wanted to share observations.


    Szeged was gorgeous...a beautiful credit to Hungary. The city has around 160,000 people and many of them are university students from around the world. It seems like many of the universities in Hungary have students from all over...mainly Iran, Germany, and even some from the US. We were greeted at the train station by Leela, a pharmacist who had traveled to Memphis and is currently expecting her second child in February. She was gracious to show us the city center...a cute little courtyard lined with shops, banks, and confectionaries...a favorite of mine and Lan's. She showed us Dom Square, this huge, open courtyard with a catchedral at one end and the other three sides are lined with classrooms. Great pictures to come. She then took us outside the city to her mother's pharmacy, where we were given a tour and a chance to set down with refreshments. Her mother was extremely hospitable and mentioned that she enjoyed our presentation at Siofok. They even asked for a copy of the file! We had another good discussion about the current state of pharmacy and healthcare in the country and the government. Leela's mother seemed interested in the clinical aspect being added in order for private pharmacists in Hungary to secure their niche with the patient. The problem is that the government wants to "liberalize" over-the-counter products and allow them to be offered in places like Walmart or gas stations. They are currently only available from a pharmacist. It's safer this way and allows the pharmacist to play a role in the process. If people just go around guessing without knowing the potential effects (interactions with disease states or current medications), the costs may actually be greater on the later end (such as emergency room bills). It's what the pharmacists in Hungary are working hard against currently.

    Our hotel was super-nice, the Novotel in Szeged. It was walking distance from the city center and the university. The following day we toured the university and sat in on a lecture being given in English on Rheumatology. It was a great review for Lan and me, and we were able to talk with the students who were from Iran and Egypt. We had actually seen two of them at the amazing dessert shop we stopped in the day before. They were really interested in the role pharmacists get to play in healthcare here in the US. Many of the students here wish their education was less chemistry-based and more clinically-based. We are very fortunate.

    We then toured a pediatric hospital with a clinical pharmacy named George. He took us to the NICU, and I almost lost my breath when I saw a premie that was about the size of my palm hooked up to about a million tubes. I don't know if I could do that job...taking care of such a small, fragile existence. I guess we'll see next month...I'm doing pediatrics at Vandy.

    George was super-nice, and he ended up inviting us to this "ball" for the first year med and pharmacy students. lol. Lan and I were all wierded out because all these kids (about 18 or so) were decked the heck out in gowns and suits. And there we were in pants and sweaters...hilarious. I tried to at least dress up my makeup, but you know, there's only so much you can do. But we had fun. George, much like everyone else we meet, was surprised and disappointed when he found out he was hosting the only two girls in pharmacy school that didn't drink. Evidently our predecessors from last year set the bar high. lol. After him having a few, he dragged me out on the dance floor and I pretended to know some swing moves as we twisted and shouted to a couple of songs. I didn't wait too long to rescue Lan standing there alone with my purse (Lan refuses to dance...always).

    One of the bouncers was some award-winning cage/street fighter that spent some time in Sacramento or San Francisco, one of those places. I tried to get my pic taken with him, but he refused...I think because he was working. He was nice, though. After talking to George about various things, we realize that we'd seen the kid before! During our karaoke escapade at the Kongress in Siofok, he had been on stage with us, singing over Lan's shoulder during our rendition of Red, Red, Wine! How crazy is that? We always say that the pharmacy world is small, but we had no idea it went worldwide!

    The next day was laid-back, and we were able to enjoy a last day of walking around, eating a nice lunch with Leela on the River Tisza, and then heading for the train station.

    Yesterday we booked our train tickets and a hostel for Vienna. Lan's best friend Jackie arrives here in about an hour, and we're all going together tomorrow to return to Budapest on Wednesday. I'm excited about Vienna, but I'm more excited to see my fam next weekend! I'm sad that I won't be watching Huntingdon play in the playoffs, but maybe next year we'll have a team.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Bombs over Baghdad?

    Or Budapest? Just kidding...nothing that severe. Lan and I said bye to Casey when he took us to the bus station. I was sad not to get to say goodbye to all the people we met from LCC, but time did not allow. And I even teared up when the bus was rolling out! lol. Lan and I had such a good time. I was glad she got to meet Casey. And I was way excited to get to see Casey and his life there.

    We had no problems getting into Vilnius, finding the right bus, and making it to the airport. We had no problems getting back to Budapest at all. On our drive into the city, we saw a sea of flashing lights down one of the roads and realized that's where all these cops racing past us were ending up.

    Yesterday was a national holiday marking the 50th anniversary of the revolution Hungarians effected from the Communistic occupation of the Soviets. Laypeople faught long and hard to get them out of their city and won for almost two weeks before the army came back hard and resolutely. The Hungarians are a very passionate and patriotic people. They wanted to celebrate their heroes that gave their lives 50 years ago. However, if you know anything about the current political climate here, you know that the prime minister has been caught on tape admitting that he and his party lied about the economy to get re-elected. People are still furious, but there's no Constitutional allowance that can force him out of office. Parliament's all his party people, the Socialists, so they're not getting him out either. He knows the people hate him, so in order to protect himself, he police-barricaded the formal ceremony commemorating the holiday from the public. Only he and the other international offices who came to visit were allowed at the ceremony. So the protesters got mad...threw things, yelled things, set up their own barricades. And the police threw tear gas and shot people with rubber bullets.

    Lan and I returned around 6:30 p.m. or so. We saw the reports on BBC and figured we could just head to the outskirts to shop and eat and stuff. So we get on the subway...and the stop we chose to get off was shut down. We were confused, but we just decided the next stop would work. Well, evidently the party wasn't over. We walk up the steps to see all these people just standing around with Hungarian flags. There are people of all ages and none of them seem extreme, so we just kinda warily walk towards the street. Then we hear, "BANG, BANG, BANG!" And Lan even said she heard some women screaming, so we immediately grabbed hands and RAN down the steps back to the subway. Being from Huntingdon, TN, I knew what guns sounded like, and that was them. It may have been only rubber bullets, but we weren't staying around to find out. So we headed on down to the next stop and had no problems. The stop that was shut down was evidently the middle of the crossfire, and reports said the conflict went on late into the night. Thankfully, our hotel is not super-central, so we were not in any danger. But what an experience! We almost wanted to take pictures, but I valued my life too much to be conspicuous.

    So that's the closest near-death experience we've had since we've been here. And it was only rubber bullets. lol. Today we caught a train to Szeged, a beautiful little city in southern Hungary. The last pharmacy school is here, and we get to tour it tomorrow. But Szeged is beautiful! It's one of the neatest, cutest towns I've seen in Hungary. The government has put money back into reconstruction and the city just makes you happy seeing all the beautiful colors and architecture. The university is beautiful as well. We only walked into one of the main courtyards, but looking around, I could so live somewhere like this. You can walk anywhere and the city center has everything you could possibly need. The little square being sprinkled with little cafes and dessert shops. We walked in one today, and I thought just looking around would give me diabetes.

    More news on Szeged to come. Thanks for reading!

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Loving some Lithuania

    I'm not sure where I left off, but the important part is that Friday Lan and I left Budapest on a plane, stopped in Prague, then headed to Vilnius, where Casey met us at the airport. I met a nice guy on the plane who gave us a little LT history before we actually arrived, and he taught me how to greet properly, "Labas". We were the last ones to get through customs and were slightly slowed when the man asked me if I had health insurance. I looked at him like, "why the heck do you need to know, what is supposed to happen to me?" lol. But thankfully I had gotten an ISIC (international student card) before I left, which includes travel health insurance. Lan happened to carry her card, so we were set. Then homeboy wants to know why we're visiting. I figured the "nunya" that I wanted to throw at him might not be appropriate. So after telling him that I was here to visit a friend and that Lan was here to visit MY friend, we made it through.

    Casey and I both tried to hide from each other as the distance between us shortened, but I saw him and he saw me, and I bout ran over the lady in front of me so I could give him a hug. He actually greeted us both with a rose, which he informed us was a typical Lithuanian custom. We got a taxi and headed to the hostel Casey had reserved for the night. We had a blast catching up, cutting up, and then letting Casey and Lan get to know each other and share laughs about me. lol. I'm used to it. I think I actually helped them with material.

    The next day we checked out Vilnius before we headed to Klaipeda on a bus. Vilnius was neat and much different than the capitol of Hungary. Casey, of course, gave us cultural stats, historical facts, and the best tour available before we had to book it to the station. We all slept most of the trip and finally arrived at our destination around 4:30 in the afternoon. It was a short trip to Casey's flat from the bus station. His apartment is very cool. I was impressed to see how modern his place looks. Once we got our stuff settled, we headed to meet some peeps. Our first stop was the dorms. I was so pumped about meeting Vlad, one of Casey's students. After hearing so much about the kid and how cool he was, I felt like I knew him already...which was actually the phenomenon with most of the people I got to put faces with here. Vlad and Nan, a girl student from Thailand, were both cool and exactly as I had expected. We didn't stay long, but just ran through to say hi.

    After that, we headed to the Soks' (pronounced Soaks) apartment to go to dinner together. Pisey (pronounced Pee-say, he's Cambodian) and Rebecca had just returned from the LCC spiritual life retreat. Once again, it was like meeting acquaintances that I already knew. lol. They said the same. We all headed to eat supper at this Mediterranean restaurant, Sinbado Oaze, where they had hookahs, the big bong-looking lamp-type things with a rope that you smoked flavored water through. lol. Very strange. We didn't take part but watched in amusement. I had hummus for the first time and was pleasantly surprised that I liked it. There was quite a communication breakdown between the waitress and our table because not only did we never receive the extra pitas we requested, but they never even brought Pisey's food! When we asked her about it, she asked if we were sure we hadn't received we had it hiding under the table or something...right. But the food was the bomb despite the annoyance of the intermittent belly-dancer. lol. Fun times in the LT.

    We headed back to their apt. to watch movies, share stories, and drink "Mint Juleps", this bombin' green chocolate shake that Casey named that Rebecca makes. It was a good night, then we headed home.

    Casey's flat is freezing because the city hasn't decided to turn on everyone's heat yet, so Lan and I were both bundled under our own blanket on Casey's bed while he slept on his couch. And I must say, Casey's definitely given some of the Hungarian men a run for their money on the chivalry category this weekend. What a great host.

    For the first time in a month, I got to go to church today! We went with Casey to his church where they speak Lithuanian but provide translation for those who speak English or Russian. I got to meet so many of his coworkers and friends here. We met the Soks again for lunch and then headed to the Curonian Spit, where the Baltic Sea touches Lithuania. With Klaipeda being the only port in Lithuania, there were a million cranes along the water. We rode the ferry across praying not to get bombed by gull-dung and then walked to the side of the sea. The harbor's on one side, the sea's on the other.

    The beach was beautiful. Cold, but so peaceful. I loved it.

    This afternoon we headed to a couple's home name the Hoelterhoffs. I loved Kim. She's from Chicago and so full of personality. They have three beautiful children, and I got to have the youngest one sleep on me for at least the majority of my time there. Pics to come. There were many of the ex-pats there, all of us preparing food and getting ready to watch LOST. It was so much fun. These people are great. I can definitely sense a community there.

    We left that house with Andrew Stave, husband of Kim, Casey's boss. They also have a beautiful child, Yieva, which translates Eve in English. We talked to them forever about healthcare, pharmacy, cultural differences, and accents. lol. Kim said mine was thick and funny...which cracked me up when thinking of my family and how much worse theirs is than mine. But the Soks and the Staves are both from Oregon, so they can't say "bag" or "beg" any different, but other than that, I guess we're the oddballs. lol.

    I'm so glad I got to see Casey's life here. I can see where I or most of our friends could learn to love it here. Except for the Soviet influence and the occasional skinhead, Klaipeda's cute and cozy. It's also been great to see Casey and catch up. I'm sad to leave tomorrow, but I'm getting ready to wrap things up. I miss my fam, and I feel like there's so much work with residency research and CV preparation that I need to get on top of when I get back. But I still plan on soaking up all I can for the rest of my trip. Only about 10 days left. I know there are still adventures to come.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Prague 2 until now

    The symphony was nice, but the concert hall was nicer. It was the Rudolfinum if you want to look it up online. We did a little more shopping...there is always time for shopping. And actually, at the concert, there were two couples behind us with strong northern accents. We asked them where they were from, and sure enough, NY was their home! lol. They guessed I was from the south only because I used "y'all", but they said I didn't sound very Southern. Sometimes I take that as a compliment. lol. But I'm ALWAYS proud of my southern heritage...actually more now than ever.

    The next morning we just prepared to head back to Budapest by train. We, once again, were wayyyy close to the smoking section of the train and tried to preserve our lives by covering our mouth to breathe. One kid got on and rolled his own. I thought my lungs were on fire. I've never been so affected by second-hand nastiness in my life. But great story.

    We arrived in Budapest around 7 pm, and Dr. Samu was waiting to take us to our home-away-from-home, Hotel Ibis. We ate at this amazing Chinese restaurant called Buda cafe. lol. It almost changed my life. I'm telling you, the food here is amazing. Even though we're walking all over, there has definitely been no weight loss to date. lol. I don't foresee any in the near future. The next morning we went to G Management office, where Dr. Samu works, to plan our travel to Lithuania. After much debate and emailing, we settled on a ticket to see Casey tomorrow! It was a little more expensive than we were hoping for, but for me, it's definitely worth it to see a homie in HIS home.

    After we nailed down travel plans, we decided to head across the Danube and see Buda, since so far we've only explored Pest. Buda has the hills, so we worked pretty hard on Tuesday. We only saw the Citadella and the pretty buildings at night. We made sure to stay over there until it got dark so we could walk across the bridge at night to see Parliament and the Castle lit up so pretty. OH! And once again, the food, we ate at a restaurant that has the Guiness World Record for the largest menu. lol. It's crazy! I took a pic, so you can see it later.

    The next morning, wayyyyy early, we headed out on a train to Pesc, the city with the newest pharmacy school. It's a very neat city, and we were greeted at the train station and shown around by Timur, one of the Hungarian pharmacists who visited Memphis this year! Lan and I enjoyed the city, but we were very tired...fell asleep in the car. I love the architecture here. In Pecs, there is a mix of old world and Turkish features. The town is one of the larger ones in Hungary. It also boasts Europe's oldest pharmacy, which we visited to see the museum there.

    We met Gabor Takacs, a pharmacist/researcher, at the university and he has been our main host. He took us out with a group of his friends and fellow colleagues, and Lan and I learned a ton more about the situation of healthcare in this country. There is a vast chasm between what the people want and what the government wants here. The doctors struggle to make enough money for survival. The pharmacists aren't in a much better position. Clinical pharmacy is almost unheard of. For many, pharmacy is a family business and the pharmacies are owned and passed down through family members. The hospitals are near-broke because healthcare is socialized, which means everyone has the same insurance and it's government-regulated. So they decide how much they'll pay for a certain med or procedure, then that's it. The patient can't pay, so the medical groups bear the burden. It provides absolutely no foundation for progress. It's very sad. Our peers and colleagues see it for the truth, and they're caught in a tough place since there's no way around the Socialist "dictators" in power. The minister of health is absurd, and the pharmacists and doctors are involved in protests regularly to show their disgust for the present circumstances. "Democracy" is only a theory here. It makes me angry but thankful.

    We've met many nice people here as well, Gabor's girlfriend Edit, his friend Ferenc, Chubby, Attila, and more. We leave this afternoon to return to Budapest. Then we head to Lithuania tomorrow!

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Prague 1

    Lan and I had a heck of a time trying to get here on the train. We started a very sleep-deprived day when our train left Budapest at 6:50 a.m. We found our seats and realized that we had a whole cabin to ourselves and were able to sleep for the first 3 hours. Then we kept stopping and more and more people got on. When people joined our cabin, all of a sudden it was full. THEN after frequent interruptions from different country and train officials stamping passports and checking tickets, one man told me and Lan to leave the cabin and give our seats to an older couple. This was the most inconvenient thing that could have possibly happened. We had paid to have a seat reserved, so I was perplexed as to why they needed mine. There were people just sitting and standing in the aisle, so when Lan and I were trying to get out, we had the older couple in our way because they had decided to come on ahead into the cabin, then all the people in the aisle to get by. All this with bags coming from all sides. Impossible. We finally got settled in the next car and made the rest of the trip ok.

    We got a hotel room, a subway pass, and headed out. We were trying to figure out how to buy a ticket for the tram, so I asked the man next to me if he spoke English. Homeboy was from Ohio, and his dad lives in Kingsport! CRAZY how small this world is. After getting on and off the tram, we got lost trying to find our hotel. This wouldn't have been as big of a problem if Lan and weren't carrying about 50 lbs. each. Our shoulders are still killing. We took it easy once we found it and just headed to the Old Town Square, which is beautiful.

    Saturday, we headed to the Lesser Town, checked out St. Nicholas's Cathedral and walked up in the tower. St. Nick's has got to be one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It literally brought me to tears, but it wasn't the beauty itself. I sat before the main altar, noticing the incredible ornate-ness of the designs and thought about how much time and effort went into its constructions versus how much time and effort we or they put into our walk with Christ. I have to think the chasm between the two is large. Very sad. I spoke with Lan about the competing themes within churches. Is God glorified by majestic architecture, design, dress, and music? Or does it distract us from Him? Did the Purists have it right? Should we focus on NOTHING external and simply dwell on Him in our minds and hearts? I'm torn.

    We then traveled to Petrin Hill, which houses a large replica of the Eiffel Tower from which you can get an incredible view of the city. So we did. By the way, I took about 4 rolls of pictures yesterday from every possible angle. I just kept thinking of how proud my father would be of me. I am so my father's daughter. On our way down, we took a not-so-beaten path and walked down an almost vertical hill. Adventures...

    We always take time to souvenir shop when we see something interesting, and we've heard all kinds of people speaking variations of English here. Many, many tourists.

    Today, we got up to get to the Prague Castle and St. Vitus's Cathedral. It was awesome. And of course, we took the tower up at the Cathedral, which was 287 stairs! Let me just tell you that Lan and are honkin' kickin it. We walked up the tower at St. Nick's, the Eiffel Tower, and now the 287 steps at St. Vitus's. I'm not sure my legs are going to fit into my jeans anymore. lol. We're at least power kickers now. lol.

    One more day to see it all here. We're going to a symphony/dance performance tonight, and we're way excited. Talk to you back in Budapest.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Forgot one thing...

    We also ate pizza and hung out with another of the dean's residents Rudolfo while we were in Debrecen. I realized I had mistakenly left him out of my account. He's actually an M.D. who loves research. Very cool group of people.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006


    This week's journey led us to the second largest city in Hungary, a city which also boasts a university attended by over 20,000 students. Our reason for visiting is that one of the four pharmacy schools in Hungary is part of this university. The city has about 200,000 citizens compared to the 2 million of Budapest. We traveled there by train, and after about a 2.5 hour ride, we were greeted at the train station by Aniko, one of the pharmacy students we met at Siofok, and her friend Brigitte. They took us to Tessco, their equivalent of Walmart to purchase breakfast foods. It was neat. They have many shops outside of the actual store part.

    We were to meet Gabor, our main host, at the "hostel" for international students. Gabor was one of our new friends from Siofok. We really enjoyed spending time with him there and were eagerly anticipating visiting him in Debrecen. He has a unique history: born in Hungary, ended up working for a nobel prize winner in hormone receptor research at Tulane University for 15 years before the scientist moved his lab to Miami, where Gabor followed. Now Gabor has been working part-time at Debrecen University AND in Miami, doing research and teaching.

    The international "dorms" were very nice. We each had our own room with a tv, microwave, and little fridge! We even got to do laundry in the basement for free. This was a treat you would have to be us to truly appreciate.

    We were hosted by various students and residents during our stay. The first night we went to dinner with Gabor, Miklos (another friend we met in Siofok who is a scientist in biopharmaceutics/pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics, we were basically surrounded by really smart people), and Gabor's two residents Melinda and Marian. We tried authentic Hungarian goulash, which was to me a bit like a beef stew with carrots and potatoes and of course, paprika, which is a staple among Hungarians. We enjoyed great conversation about our futures, the profession, boys in the US and in Hungary, and many other fun topics.

    In the dorms we met a nice guy named Max from Germany who's in med school there. We hunted him down when we noticed him on the way to the laundry room so he would teach us how to use the machines. We also met a girl who's room abutted mine originally from Iran but had moved from San Diego to start med school. Many of the students were from other countries: Iran, Israel, Sweden, US, Germany, etc.

    The next day we met the dean of the pharmacy school and two of his residents, Bela and Gergő. It took us two days to be able to almost-correctly pronounce the latter's name. They showed us around by taking us down-town to the main square. We visited an old church where Calvin preached. The story was very neat, and the interior of the church was stark white, representing the initiation of the purist movement. Definitely things that interested me. We climbed a tower in the church that overlooked the city. It was beautiful and tiring. We also visited a museum that housed three huge, marvelous paintings about Christ. Munkácsy is the guy's name. The paintings were each the size of a large wall and just breath-taking. You could sit for hours and ponder the depth of each portrayal: one of Christ before Pilate, one of Christ before the people, and then one of Him on the cross.

    That night we had pizza and were surprised to find that Hungarians like ketchup on theirs. lol. We then drive all over Debrecen to find someplace doing karaoke to no avail. After a fun night of jokes and laughs, we headed home.

    We did our presentation again for the students there, and I think it went well. I'm not sure how interesting it was to them, but they were at least attentive. We got to see our friend Peter, one of our hosts at Siofok, again and he of course, took us for dessert. lol.

    Our last night was one of fun and friends. We went to a small pub and talked and laughed until it was time to venture to the disco. lol. It was a very new experience for me. The club was on campus, so there were students everywhere. The place was huge. And of course, bumping with some techno true European style. They did play one bombin' Puffy song that I had to break it out to, but other than that, not much dancing. We didn't stay long because were exhausted and had much to do before we left today.

    We said our goodbyes today, and Lan and I were genuinely sad to leave all the new friends we had made. We had good talks and laughs and of course, food. We all exchanged emails, so I hope we can keep in touch.

    Lan and I are headed for Prague tomorrow. The flight options to Lithuania were out of our range for this weekend. I think we are going to try for next weekend. Please pray that we make it there. I really want to visit Casey. We'll see.

    Not to make little of it, but I wanted to say that God has answered prayer while I've been here. I was able to have some neat conversations that really challenged me in my walk, which I had been desperate for since I haven't been able to attend church while I'm here. So thank all of you that prayed for me as well.

    Thanks for reading. I miss all my friends and fam back in the US of A. Peace.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Gyogyszereszek Jubileumi Kongresszusa

    The fifteenth annual Hungarian Pharmacy Congressional conference started on Thursday. And we were driven in from Budapest just in time. We were greeted by and have been since hosted by a young pharmacist named Peter. He knows English incredibly well and has gone to great lengths to show us a good time. It started with him driving us around in his bombin' BMW that actually showed TV shows on the screen when it can pick up a signal. We took a ferry across Lake Balaton (the second largest lake in Europe) to a church way up on a hill (pictures to come later). Peter took us to two different places to make sure we had some adequate desserts, which Lan and I had no problem with. Later Thursday night, we met back at the conference center to greet Dr. L.B. Brown, one of our professors who has a long-standing relationship with the pharmacy association as well as with the Hungarian minister of health. We went along with a few other invited guests to a boat tour for dinner. We met two other professors from Debrecen, another pharmacy school in the country. We all sat together during dinner and the live entertainment, which included an older gentleman singing rock music. So much fun.

    Friday was our big day. We got up in time to take in the exhibition, which is a lot of vendors selling their wares to the pharmacists who visit...much like TPA or APhA on a little bit smaller scale. Then we had lunch at the VIP table in the dining room. And let me add that we haven't been allowed to pour our own drink, open our own door, or pay for anything since we've been here. The Hungarian men are amazing at chivalry. But be careful with your dispensation of smiles. Sidebar: on our drive to Siofok from Budapest, I met eyes with a gentleman beside us at a stoplight probably of 45 years of age, and you know the story-he smiled, I smiled back, and then much to my surprise, homie's hanging his business card out the window. I about died! lol. I turned away and made Lan confirm that it was actually happening. Stopped in traffic is evidently no obstacle to love.

    Okay, so back to the boatride, if you can imagine having your professors, bosses, whoever, around you, asking you questions about your future plans, hobbies, interests, what have you. Picture this on top of them drilling me and Lan as to why we don't drink and already planning our demise. lol. Evidently we were quite a let-down in this area from the students of the past. lol. Hungarians don't play when it comes to drinking. They all do...and they do it well. We still get it offered every meal, every day, never fails.

    Ok, back to Friday...we are following a pharmacist from Germany and preceeding L. B., which is extremely intimidating. We remembered to speak slowly so that the interpreter could catch what we were saying. I think it went well. Everyone was very complimentary, no big bobbles or flops. I felt great about it.

    Then we decided to walk back to our hotel instead of getting a driver. We needed exercise and there hadn't been that many turns. After getting directions and promising Peter we wouldn't, we got lost. We walked around for an hour and a half before giving up, returning to the conference, and then getting a ride back to our hotel. Hilarious.

    Friday night was the BEST!!! After dinner, there was entertainment of an old rocker and a group of dancers. We walked in late, took our VIP seats, and enjoyed the show. At one point, the man stuck the mic in my face to sing, only to realize I didn't speak the language. Then he made fun of me the rest of the show. Typical. After that show, we went upstairs to enjoy the singing of Hungary's Megastar winner, much like our American Idol. She was awesome. She even sang some Aretha. THEN the fun really started. Hungarians love to we did. L.B. didn't hesitate, and I didn't either. Lan, however, refused to join us on the floor. We danced up a sweat until the karaoke started. L.B. kicked it off with some Elvis. SOOOOO much fun. Then I went to check out his English collection, and sure enough, there it FUGEES. So without hesitation, the dj let me go next and I sang Killing Me Softly with all my heart and with about 10 people singing behind me. L. B. was impressed with my ghetto-ness and of course, asked where I grew up. lol. Typical. Lan and I left around 12-something and got ragged by all of our elders who ended up closing the place around 3:30. These people are fun.

    Today we did the tourist-y trek to a fortress and watched a medieval re-enactment with horses, swords, and colorful flags. The men would compete and win a flower, and I had no idea what they were doing with it when a guy on a horse dipped down and handed it to me. I was extremely embarassed. I was handed one more, then Lan, and another girl with us received one as well.

    Tonight was another big dinner party, chance to dance, pressured to drink, questions about our future, and so much catering to us. It's been an amazing experience. Lan and I still can't believe how hospitable everyone is. Now we're tired. We head back to Budapest tomorrow.

    Thanks for reading. Sorry it's so long. Too much fun to try to sum up.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Budapest 2

    Some notable cultural occurrences...
    • Everybody smokes. It's everywhere. It's crazy. Everybody's lighting up...except on the subway. Then I would have to die.
    • Too much PDA...wayyyy outta control. I've seen enough people kissing each other for a lifetime. I don't mind that it happens. I just don't need to see it or have it happen inches from me.
    • You have to pay for ketchup at Burger King.
    • Americans are truly ethnocentric and uneducated.

    My point with the last statement is that the pharmacy students must master two foreign languages before they graduate. At almost every place we've been, the people that work there can speak English or at least the words that are relevant to their trade, and the signs are usually translated at the bottom. We don't work to learn even one other language...partly because we haven't had to. Secondly, because we haven't tried or seen the need.

    My last exciting news: we're headed to Palanga, Lithuania next weekend to visit Casey! I'm so pumped. I can't wait to see LCC. Our friends at the pharmacy association/travel agency are going to help us plan travel. SOOOOOO excited.

    And one more thing, we found out about two days before we left that we were expected to make a presentation about pharmacy in the US. I just figured it was something we could get together once we arrived. We found out later that we will be speaking at a national pharmacy meeting in front of 50 people. Today we are told by another university official that it will probably be more like 400 people. Nice. We've been slaving away at a powerpoint presentation, and we plan to give it on Friday. We're on the program! Also on the program is one of our professors from UT, Dr. L.B. Brown. It'll be neat to see him here. Plus, he's a great speaker and incredibly professional. We leave for that meeting tomorrow and will return on Sunday. Please pray for us to speak slowly enough for the interpreter to translate efficiently.

    I've loved the comments. Please drop one if you have time. It's hard not getting to talk real-time with anyone. I miss yáll!

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    Budapest 1

    Lan and I spent all of yesterday walking around town and found a mall that blew our minds. The place was beastly. I immediately thought of Leela and Donna, my girls in pharmacy school, and Jada and Payten, and how much they would all love the place. And the prices are reasonable. We asked around for the internet for days before someone actually pointed us to the place.

    The language is impossible. I've never heard anything like it. It's not Latin-based, so good luck on trying to draw similarities.

    Our preceptor's great. Antal Samu works for the private pharmacist association as well as a travel agency. It's really cool how nice and accomodating these people have been to us.

    Our hotel's nice. There's not many specific differences I can think of to note right now. The outlets, of course, but I came equipped with an adapter and a converter. We used the metro for the first time yesterday and were suprised to find that it wasn't free. It's not like the US where there's an actual barrier to get on it. Needless to say, we laughed when we realized we had been ignorantly cheating the system.

    And if you want water here, you have to ask for water with "no gas". All of it's sparkling. It's something to help digestion or something.

    We'll be traveling to different parts of Hungary, and I'm excited to see more of the actual historic culture. Budapest seems like such a hodgepodge. We see all types and all nationalities everywhere. It's very cool, though.

    And don't worry about jet lag. I stayed up once I got here, and then slept 12 hours last night. lol. It's 3:22 p.m. here now. I think we're 7 hours ahead.

    I miss you all!

    Friday, September 29, 2006

    Just kidding...

    Bet you thought I was flying to Hungary today. Well, I did too. However, Northwest airlines had other plans for me.

    I showed up at the airport by 3:00, stressed and unsure if I would make it in time. I got up to the counter, and one of my bags was 7 lbs. over the limit. So I moved some stuff over to the other bag, and then they were under the limit. Now the other bag was beastly, and I was having a hard time getting it up on the scale again. Seeing no one ready to help, I just gave one big heave-ho and dropped that bad boy in the scale. I heard a ding and then saw the number read "0.0" ! I broke the scale! I didn't get in trouble. No one even noticed until they started throwing other people's bags up there.

    Made it through security and check-in in about 20 minutes. When I got to the terminal, they were telling us that the flight hadn't left memphis yet and would be delayed secondary mechanical problems. Yeah, so we finally left Nashville at 6:22 p.m. and arrived at Memphis at 7:15. My Amsterdam flight was supposed to leave at 7:25 p.m.

    So as I'm running down the terminals, a lady tells me it's no use, they already shut the door.

    After a long afternoon of anger and typical Lauren-Webb-angry sarcasm on the phone with NW employees and whoever else will listen.

    Moral of story: Airlines are inefficient. They're all broke, and the junky part is, you don't have an option. Flying is a necessity. They're one of the few occupations that has no accountability or quality control. What do you think would happen if I just gave people the wrong pills? Righttttt.

    Tonight I'm staying with fun and close friends Donna and Leela in Memphis. I'm glad. They're fun pharmacy girls, and they always make me feel good. We're trying this whole thing again tomorrow. I forewent the hotel option and got some food vouchers instead.

    So I'll let you know if I ever make it over there. And I promise to try to keep these shorter in the future.
    Ok, people, this is it...

    I just finished putting my face on, Payten's on her way, and I'm bout to turn on my computer for the month.

    I'm so excited. I can't wait for the adventures that lie ahead of me. Please keep me in your prayers and pray specifically that God will reveal Himself in new ways and give me a fresh passion for Him while I'm in a new place.

    Current request: Lan's flight to Newark from Knoxville is an hour behind...which means she may miss her flight to London and the one to Budapest. Please pray that something works out in order for her to get to Budapest on Saturday, the scheduled arrival. We're not freaking out, but the only other flights out of Newark leave on Sunday. I want her to be there with me for the sightseeing on Sunday. Thank you for praying. I know God will work it all out.

    I wish I could see everyone before I leave, but know that I love you and I'll miss you!

    Thursday, September 28, 2006


    I've sat around tonight thinking about tomorrow and the fact that I'm leaving for Europe. And that's crazy to me. I'm excited but kinda sad about not being around my family or friends for a month...even though I hope to get to see Casey, one of my best friends who lives in Lithuania during the school year. That will be a blessing.

    Lan, the student I'm traveling with, is a really nice girl, and I expect that we'll have fun together.

    I have no idea exactly where I'll be during the month or what I'll be doing, and that's kinda fun.

    I love all my family and friends. May God continue to bless you and keep you while I'm away.

    Some verses to live on: Matt. 6:33, Phil. 4:19, Zeph. 3:17.

    By special request: Natty-tat, whatup, playa fly? Here's to you, girl!

    Monday, September 25, 2006


    Nanny called today, and the doctor doesn't think it's cancer. She was in much better spirits, and she goes to get it all checked out on Wednesday. Please continue to keep her, our family, and her caregivers in your prayers. Thank you.

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    I cried today...

    more than I have as far back as I can remember. There was something strangely freeing about the release that came with weeping. There have been some things happen lately that concerned me about the health of my Nanny. I am not okay with the concept of ever losing her. So when my dad told me an update today, I lost the middle of the Civic Center...during Heritage Day in my hometown. I finally made it outside to hug Daron, my sis, goodbye. I was sad I didn't get to see her more before I leave for Hungary. She had soccer practice. Poor thing, she caught me at the wrong time because once we embraced, I couldn't let her go. lol. I just sat there...crying on her. Daron, having one of the most tender hearts of anyone I know, cried with me, of course. Now everyone in the fam was sufficiently upset because I couldn't hold it together.

    It gets better...

    I proceed to Nanny's house to visit her, crying all the way. I tried to get it together long enough to make it through the door, but once I hit her bedroom, the tears returned. Then, of course, SHE cried. I'm like a disease. But it was the sweetest visit. We talked about life, death, pain, Heaven. She's a strong Christian, and she looks forward to the day she gets to be with her Savior. I was so comforted to hear that she (and she may be the only one of my family) is okay with all the traveling that I do and that I will do as a missionary in the future. She said, "Lauren, I'm already prayed up about that." lol. I love it.

    We went through old memories: of her life and of mine. She talked lovingly about the early days of her and Granddaddy's relationship. lol. They wrote letters to each other, passed through Grandaddy's sister, because they didn't go to school together. Precious.

    I then walked down to Granddaddy's shop to talk to him. That talk was just as sweet. We shared tears and memories as well. The whole afternoon was so rich, so valuable, so priceless. I just wanted to breathe it in and hold it inside...forever. It was like a moment you know will be a memory so you try to somehow capture it. You don't want to miss a single part when you're running back over it in your head.

    I tried to see it from each of their perspectives: Nanny's more worried about Granddaddy, the kids, and the grandkids than herself. She's prepared for whatever news the doctors might bring. Granddaddy's concerned and supportive and wants us all to be involved. But everyone is mindful that God is sovereign, that He will provide for our needs, and that He will be our Rock whatever winds may come. There's just nothing else worth clinging to in times of trial. Sometimes sadness is sweeter than joy just because you get to be held more tightly by His Hand, you get to be healed deeper, you submit so much more willingly because you have no will to fight. I may not be okay with the inevitables of life, but just knowing the heart of the One Who holds it (Col. 1:17, Ps. 139:16) sustains me.

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    7 Days and Counting...

    I leave a week from today to head to Hungary. I'm super-excited and a little nervous about forgetting stuff, getting lost, not knowing what's going on, etc. I know it'll be a great experience regardless of what adventures may lie before me.

    Here's what I need: travel tips! Give me all you got. Leave me a comment with any words of wisdom you may have to offer about traveling...especially if it involves traveling in Europe.

    Get ready...on your mark...get set...GO!

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    Walking in Memphis...

    A trip to Memphis is always a refreshment to me. It's such a comfortable and familiar place. I don't miss the driving or the constant awareness that keeps you from leaving anything valuable in sight from the outside of your car, but overall, it's a place dear to my heart.

    Friday I was able to distract a couple of my girlfriends from their therapeutics studying to go to dinner. LOVE some Central BBQ. Nothing like the half order of chicken nachos. It just might change your life. Donna and Leela are GREAT company, whether in Nashville or Memphis. We enjoy talking about life as a single pharmacy girl trying to have some fun along the way. I think the pinnacle of the night was when Leela made the comment, "What's up with these guys of high calibur intelligence dating MORONS?" That definitely got the full dose of the Lauren-Webb-guffaw. Priceless. Are guys scared of smart girls? Who knows? Our point was that we don't have a problem serving or supporting or anything as long as there's some insurance of self-preservation. Our fear is not submission; it's lack of appreciation. lol. Definitely something I've been praying about for a while now.

    Saturday I got to eat lunch with some of my old Fusion group. My once-freshman girls are growing up on me. We chatted about boys, eyeshadow, and their lives post-GBC meltdown. I miss those girls.

    Later that afternoon, I met some of my old favorite people at MPC (or Memphis Pizza Cafe for those of you NOT familiar with the best place to eat in Shelby County) in Germantown, then went to Zach's to watch the vols hand the game over to Florida. Ugh.

    I stayed with Matt and Meg on Sat. night. I loved their house. Very cute. Meg and I stayed up and chatted for a while. It's so neat how deeply God uses her to encourage me. All she has to do is share with me what she sees as God's potential in my life, and I'll believe it. That's the type of friends that I have there. When I can't lay hold of hope of God's plan for me, my friends are carrying it for me.

    My life seems like such an adventure right now...and it is. And I feel excited about it most of the time. It's just those fleeting instances where I see my friends happy and settled around me, and I wonder if I'm missing something. I think for a second that I would be willing to give up my adventure to join in someone else's. Then God's faithfulness shines through, reminding me that the coolest part is that someday, maybe tomorrow, maybe in 5 years, His adventure for me will be to join in someone else's. And then I'm excited to live mine in the meantime to the fullest.