Saturday, October 30, 2010

Impatiently waiting

I graduated August 14th, accepted a job offer a week later, passed my certification exam early September and passed my state jurisprudence exam shortly thereafter.  So why is it almost November and I'm still not working?  Waiting for my license to go through.

I had heard and read in several places that the licensure process in TX can be a beat down and tedious, but I figured it wouldn't be too bad for me.  After all, I'm a new grad, there isn't that much that needs to be checked and verified.  Boy was I wrong.  They require all sorts of forms from various people.  And there is only one board that gives out licensure for all physicians, PAs, acupuncturists, acudetox specialists (no clue...), and surgical assistants.  Therefore, they have had all my (seemingly dozens of) forms for almost 2 weeks and I've heard nothing from them - meaning the person assigned to me hasn't even completed their "initial review."  Keep in mind, I paid an extra $100 to get a temporary license in an attempt to speed up the process.

I was scheduled to start orientation on Oct 25th, but since my license hasn't been approved yet, that got pushed back by 2 weeks til Nov 8th.  If it isn't through by the end of this week, it will get pushed back by another 2 weeks.  Luckily my manager seems pretty sympathetic to my case, so I guess my job is safe.

We can make it by without my paycheck for now, but it would be nice to have my income.  What is really being delayed at this point besides my job is our house hunt.  We can't get approved for a mortgage before I start, so each time my start date gets moved back, our house hunting gets delayed.  Also, with Christmas coming up, it would be nice to have a dual income.

Finally, my sanity is suffering.  My wonderful husband has been pulling in a lot of overtime to help make up for my lack of income but that means that I'm home alone a lot more than if he was working a normal 40-hour work week.  Yes, I have the pup, but after our long morning walks she spends most of the day asleep.  In order to keep myself from going crazy, I've been reading a lot of books and trying out new recipes.  I have enjoyed finally having time to read for pleasure and cook up a storm, but I'm ready for a change.

Sorry for the rant, its just been pent up for a while.

Here's hoping I hear some good news this week!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Europe - Final Take: London

After a fantastic time in the beautiful city of Vienna, Corey and I headed to the airport to catch a flight to London.  That was easily the craziest travel day yet.  We had to take the metro to one station where we would grab the train to the airport.  Our train was late so one came in before that - we weren't very sure if that was the train we should be on or not.  We luckily waited and got on the correct one. 

After a pretty long trip, we arrived at the airport.  We stood in an extremely long line to check in, then went through a set a doors where they only checked our boarding passes (no ID or anything).  There was lots of duty free shopping so we browsed a bit and decided that perhaps we still had another line to go through.  Yep, we sure did!  We lined up with the rest of the non-EU passport holders.  After what seemed like an eternity and several groups of people just jumping in front of the line we made it to the front.  Our passports were stamped and we were sent along.  Still no security checkpoint - hmm, perhaps they don't make you scan your bags in Europe?  We walked to our gate only to find out what we had been missing.  You go through security at your gate!  But you can't go through until the flight before leaves - uh it was crazy.  We were unlucky to be on the flight with a large group of high-school kids.  After battling people who again don't know what a line means, we boarded our flight (which lacked assigned seats, hence the cattle herd attempting to board) and settled in.  Of course, every pocket of turbulence hit elicited squeals and screams from several high school girls.  We finally landed and made our way through Gatwick.  Getting into the city was another story, but I think you get the idea of how long our day had been thus far.

We arrived to our flat to find it was the best place we had stayed so far.  It was a 1st floor apartment with a large bed, couch, table, separate full kitchen and rather large bathroom as far as European bathrooms seem to go.

After a very early morning and a long day of traveling, we decided to get settled, stock our kitchen with food and relax.  The sightseeing could wait til the next day. 

We decided on doing a double-decker bus tour to see as much of the sights as possible, given our relatively short amount of time in London.  Of course, after beautiful weather throughout our trip, it was cold, gloomy and drizzly that day.  We sat atop the bus for awhile taking in the sights like Trafalgar square, Big Ben & Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, London Eye, and so much more.  It was nice because we could see some things and get history/commentary on these places. 

The Texas Embassy - a restaurant where the actual embassy once stood      

Freezing but having fun atop our bus!

With our tour bus tickets we got tickets for a sight-seeing river cruise as well.  We decided to do that the next day and shortly after setting off from the dock, we were frozen.  It was even more blustery than the day before.  We met a very nice gentleman from Australia and spoke in detail with him about this travels.  After only 1/2 of the tour, we disembarked and found a Starbucks to warm our cold bones.  We did some walking, including walking over the Tower Bridge and saw some of the city on our own.  For lunch that day we ate at the Sherlock Holmes Pub Restaurant.  Yes, I know, its so touristy and kitschy but I grew up listening to the old Sherlock Holmes radio shows on tape, so I was uber excited!  And, wouldn't you know, we met a couple from Coppell (one of the places we're looking to buy a house).  We ate lunch with them and had some great conversation.  I made sure to look at all the memorabilia much to Corey's chagrin. 

Our Thames River boat

Tower Bridge - much prettier than the London Bridge


That afternoon we were lucky to meet up with another college friend, Christian.  He took us to Buckingham Palace and we walked several places including ritzy neighborhoods and Sloane Street - a big shopping area with Harrods as the centerpiece.  We decided on Chinatown for dinner and it was a great choice!  After wandering the streets with lanterns strewn above we decided on one of the many restaurants.  As part of the meal we got crispy aromatic duck - all I can say is yummmm.  And yummm again!  It was so good!  While in Chinatown, Christian introduced us to Gerald, the gnome - its a little gnome he carries around with him and takes pictures of - its pretty cute. We did a little more walking after dinner, including seeing Piccadilly Circus at night (its considered the Times Square of Europe). 

Rainy night in Chinatown

The boys at dinner

The next day was definitely what I was looking forward to the most.  We had reservations for afternoon tea!  That morning we did some walking including seeing St. Paul's cathedral and Westminster Abbey.  Unfortunately we didn't go into either because it would have been more than $15 per person, per church - just too much money if you ask me.  After our morning jaunt, we headed back to the flat to prepare for tea.  We arrived to our cozy hotel near Hyde Park and sat in a sofa and armchair for our champagne tea service.  Highly recommended!  It was fantastic - started off with a glass of champagne followed by lots of great pastries, sandwiches and delicious tea.  Corey had a latte (sacrilegious, I'm sure) and loved the scones with clotted cream.

Our scrumptious tea setup

After tea we decided to do some shopping in Harrods.  Okay, so it wasn't really shopping, it was more like browsing,  because we couldn't afford anything except for the souvenirs.  This store is amazing!  I could have spent multiple days wandering around, no joke.  They were even selling puppies on the 5th floor!  Aah, it makes me smile just thinking back on it.  Anyhow, we were pretty limited on our time there because we had other big plans for the night.  Christian, Corey and I were headed off to a show!  We were able to snag 1/2 price tickets that morning for We Will Rock You, a musical based on the songs by Queen.  I wasn't too sure how much I'd like it, but it was great!  Definitely not your Phantom of the Opera, but great nonetheless.  I mean, seeing Bohemian Rhapsody and We are the Champions performed live by people with fantastic voices - how could it not be great?

GIANT Freddie Mercury statue outside the theater

Gerald, Corey and I anxiously awaiting the start of the show

Unfortunately, after the show we said goodbye to Christian and headed back to our flat.  We had an early train to the airport the next morning in order to catch our flight back to Zurich where we could get our flight back to Toronto and then home. 

We both absolutely LOVED London.  I'd consider it a cleaner, older and prettier NYC.  Corey loved that he could understand what everyone was saying.  There was just so much to see and do that you could never get bored there.  We also loved the place we stayed and will definitely stay there again.

I can honestly say this is the first vacation I've ever taken where I was not ready to come home.  Yes, I missed by pup and sleeping in my own bed, but I loved every minute we spent in Europe, even the times spent trying to get un-lost.  It was just so great being immersed in a culture, country and language totally different than ours.  The history, food, architecture and weather were all great as well.  We will be back to Europe as soon as we can reasonably afford it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Europe - Take 3: Vienna

After our whirlwind 2-day tour of Munich we boarded a train to Vienna.  Well actually we boarded a train headed somewhere else, then changed trains at some little town in Germany and got on our way to Vienna.  It was funny because the guy who checked our tickets on the train attempted to explain to us in German what station we had to "alight" and change trains.  After his entire spiel I sheepishly told him "nein deustche." He smiled and in extremely broken english repeated his speech.  We thanked him profusely (although we already knew everything he told us).

We finally made it to Vienna, navigated their public transport, wheeled our suitcases over some cobblestone streets and found our flat.  This was the first city of 2 where we were staying in vacation rentals rather than hotels, and weren't too sure what to expect.  But the place was great!

After settling in, we walked across the street to get some groceries.  The grocery store was awesome!  It was set up in a circle where you walk around the outer portion and inside the center of the circle was the deli, cheese, and bakery sections.  Corey loved it because they had several beers on sale for less than 1 euro.

That evening we went downtown and saw the Graben (a large pedestrian area - the center of the touristy area) lit up.  It was very beautiful and the weather was great so we sat with some gelato and did some people watching.  We got hopelessly lost trying to go back to our flat late in the evening.  After some wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth we collected ourselves and figured out the way back.  Okay, perhaps that was a bit dramatic, but it was pretty dramatic at the time.  Turns out we took the tram too far - ah well, that was my fault.

Graben at night

Statue we found on the Graben - its Pinocchio!

The next day was definitely the highlight of our time in Vienna.  We visited the Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence for the Hapsburg family.  Words cannot describe the beauty and detail throughout the entire grounds.  We started off in the Privy Gardens which were really pretty.  We then did a tour of the state apartments.  I was awe-struck by the opulence and grandeur throughout.  Gold detailing all over the place, crystal chandeliers, beautiful tapestries...ah.  The only downside was that it was extremely crowded in all the rooms so we kinda hurried through.

Overlooking the Privy Gardens with the palace in the back

We then decided to visit the zoo they had on the grounds.  It is one of the best zoos I've ever visited, and I've been to many.  We ate lunch with views of the giraffes and cheetahs - pretty cool if you ask me.  Our favorite animals included the orangutans, cheetahs, penguins, seals and the elephants.  There was a 5-week old elephant who was sooo cute!  After several hours at the zoo we hiked up a hill to see an overlook called the Gloriette.  It provided amazing views of the entire palace grounds as well as the city of Vienna in the distance.

He was cute

The Gloriette

Views from the roof of the Gloriette - Palace & Vienna beyond

We were exhausted and our feet were sore when we finally got back to the flat.  After a nap, I decided my feet hurt too bad to walk anywhere for dinner.  At the grocery store the day before we had picked up some things to make eggs for breakfast, so I made brinner!

The next day we spent exploring the city.  We visited two beautiful churches, the Stephansdom and St. Peter's Church.  St. Peter's was so ornate!  It made me wonder how much was spent on the construction and decor.  It also contained the skeletons of some Christian matyrs all dressed in fancy garb - kinda creepy if you ask me.

St. Peter's Church

Notice all the gold!

Almost looks like a box seat in the theater
We did lots more exploring and some shopping before ending up at the American Bar.  Its well known, not for the drinks, but for the architecture.  Its a teeny-tiny bar with only 3 or 4 small tables and one bar with 5 or so stools.  The ceiling was this beautiful marble, the walls were mirrored with dark wood panelling.  The drinks were pretty good too!  Corey ordered a Czech beer and the bartender brought out Budweiser - what?  The couple sitting across from us said what we were thinking - "I thought Budweiser was an American beer."  Well, apparently the Czech have one too - and according to Corey, its better than the American.  We struck up conversation with the couple who it turns out was from New Zealand and on a very extended holiday.

Our last evening in Vienna we had dinner a place touting to serve authentic Viennese and Hungarian dishes which we found well-reviewed online.  It was amazing!!  Probably the best meal I ate on our entire trip.  I just wish we had eaten there earlier so we could have gone back and tried more!

We had tons of fun in Vienna and found the city to be beautiful.  It was pretty crowded with tourists, but the locals were very friendly.  I would definitely recommend the city to our family and friends.  If were were to go back to Austria I would probably spend a couple more days in Vienna but also try to get out to the countryside and the city of Salsburg.  We were tired and sore after all the walking but were looking forward to our next and final destination, London.

Stay tuned for tales of a crazy flight, a freezing river cruise, Sherlock Holmes, crispy duck, a Rock-n-Roll musical and a little gnome named Gerald.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Europe - Take 2: Munich

From Zurich, we boarded a train headed for Munich.  The ride was filled with beautiful scenery of the Swiss then German countryside.  The plan was to spend our first day exploring around the city on our own, and our second day would be spent at Oktoberfest with friends.  Well those plans quickly changed when we were met on the platform by Oliver & his dad.  We put our bags in lockers at the train station and headed for the craziness that is Oktoberfest.  It was busy and crowded but so much fun.  We were lucky enough to be with friends who spoke German and English and their friends from Germany which made for fantastic entertainment and company.  They even taught us the most important phrase in the German language (at least for us) "Ein mass bier bitte" = one liter beer please.  We drank beer by the liter (I even had beer! It was mixed with lemonade, but it was still beer) and ate some delicious food.  After probably a few too many of those huge German beers, we headed off to find our hotel.  

Corey hoisting his "mass" - liter of beer

Friendly faces make for fun times!

The next day we headed out to meet up with Oliver and Claire again.  We decided on touring the city with Oliver as our guide (his father is from Munich).  We started at the Glockenspiel, headed to an outdoor market and then headed back to the Glockenspiel to see it "chime."  The market was filled with sights of fresh produce and beautiful flowers, the smells of freshly baked bread and coffee brewing and the sounds of people socializing and selling their goods.  I could've stayed there all day milling around.

The market

Waiting for the Glockenspiel to chime
Corey & I under the Glockenspiel

We then visited other sights such as two beautiful churches, the opera house, an expensive shopping street, and the Hofbrauhaus before heading to the English Gardens.  The English Gardens can be compared to Central Park, but its even larger.  We walked through the park along the lake and stopped for lunch at a biergarten on the lakeshore.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the weather couldn't have been better.  We sat at the shore eating our bratwurst, sauerkraut and potatoes while drinking beer before heading back to the main square.  After lunch we did a little window shopping and finished our day with gelato and coffee - we felt very European ;-)

Intricate detailing in a church

The door handles at the opera house - I want my own!

Lunch at the biergarten

English gardens
 That evening we were on our own so we made sure to see the city at night and get a bit of souvenir shopping done.  Dinner was my favorite cheap meal we had in our entire trip - we bought pizza slices, wine and beer from a little hole-in-the-wall and ate on the street watching the world go by.

Unfortunately our trip to Munich was only a short 2 days.  We had a great time, made that much better by Oliver & Claire - we got spoiled having a German speaker with us everywhere!  We've decided that we definitely want to return and see more of the historical sites that we didn't have time to visit.  And Corey would like to try more beer as well, I'm sure.

Early the next morning we boarded a train from Munich heading toward our third destination - Vienna, Austria.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Europe - Take 1: Zurich

As promised in my last post, here's the rundown of our trip to Europe. Up first - Zurich, Switzerland:

Lake Zurich
We were so excited to go that we got to the airport far too early and sat around for quite some time waiting for our flight to Toronto.  Once in Toronto we had more than a 5 hour layover - yes, it was brutal!  But finally, we boarded our plane headed across the pond, destination Zurich Flughafen (airport).  It was a red-eye and luckily, after dinner was served, I was able to get a decent amount of sleep.  Before we knew it, we were approaching the runway.  The Swiss countryside was easily visible out the window and it was absolutely beautiful - green rolling hills dotted with cute houses, crops and various livestock.  We picked up our luggage and left to find our way to the hotel, via the train system.  It was overwhelming, but we figured out how to get tickets, found the right train line and made our way to the right stop.  Finding the hotel from there was another story, but we made it.

Zurich Hauptbanhof - the main train station
During our 4 days in Zurich, we spent a lot of time walking around the city center which is split in half by the Limmat River.  We walked the Bahnhofstrasse which is an extremely expensive and well-known shopping street.  We couldn't afford anything except for H&M, but we didn't mind.  It made for good people watching!  We also walked the other side of the river which is considered the "old town" if you will.  We saw 2 beautiful churches - one with stained class window by Marc Chagall - absolutely amazing. We also spent time at the zoo, it wasn't the best but we still had an enjoyable afternoon.

Fraumunster Church
Marc Chagall stained glass windows
View of Zurich along the river

Found this guy wandering around the zoo

The highlight for Corey was finding a Fidelity International location and taking a picture.  We managed to get hopelessly lost on our way, but Corey persevered, calmed me down, and we finally found our way.

The highlight for me was the food - oh, the food!  We ate pastries, lots and lots of pastries.  Chocolate filled croissants, fruit filled doughnut-type things, custard filled pastries, cake...ugh, I'm getting hungry.  We ate chocolate, amazing creamy chocolate.  We also had dinner at a traditional swiss restaurant - it was heavy but delicious food.  But the best thing I ate in Switzerland was found at the Sprungli shop - its a very well known swiss chocolatier famous for their "luxembergerli."  They are macaroons: airy, crispy, delicate cookies with delicious creamy filling smushed between.  Ahh, heaven!  They are made with fresh cream so you have to eat them within 48 hours.  If that hadn't been the case, I would have bought far too many than are healthy.

It was interesting for both of us to experience being in a country where not everyone spoke our language.  Switzerland has 4 official languages, none of which are English.  In Zurich everything was in German and most everyone spoke German, while some spoke French or a combination of both.  People were generally accommodating to us, but at times we resorted to pointing at what we wanted.  

Overall, we enjoyed our time in Zurich.  Its a beautiful cosmopolitan city with a ton of history.  The food was great, the shops were cute and the weather was fantastic.  However, the city is expensive, out of control expensive.  For example, the Starbucks next to our hotel sold a grande latte for almost $7!  And that wasn't out of line with what other coffee shops were charging.  I think if we were ever to go back, we would have to wait til we are much wealthier ;-)

Our last day, we boarded a train headed for Munich:

Check back soon for the lowdown on Oktoberfest fun, the Glockenspiel, a biergarten, and so much more!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back to Blogging

So, as you can tell, I've taken a bit of a hiatus from posting. I had started the blog as a way to document my journey through PA school and keep people back home up to date. Since we've moved back and I've graduated, I figured I didn't have much to blog about. But then I realized, I have SO much to blog about - life is only getting busier and more exciting! So here's a quick run-down of what you've missed: I graduated, got my dream job, passed my certifying exam, went to Europe, went to AZ and CA, and now am waiting to start said dream job. Okay, now you're all caught up! Just kidding.

In August, I headed back to DC to take my final exam and participate in the White Coat Ceremony (our actual graduation). My parents, Corey's dad & stepmom and Corey were all able to be there, so I was a happy girl! It was a great weekend of celebrating and as always, ended far too soon.

The week prior to graduation, I had a second interview for a job in a pediatric ER in the area. The interview process took all day, included interviewing with a group of PAs and NPs, 3 separate ER physicians, the HR manager and a manager from the NICU. It lasted from 9am til 5pm and was exhausting! But I fell in love with the hospital and couldn't wait to hear back. So, after returning from the short trip to DC I waited anxiously for a call...and waited...and waited. Finally, 2 weeks after the interview I got the phone call I had been waiting for! They were extending me an offer with a great salary attached - I couldn't believe it! First job out of school and I land a position I could only dream of. I hung up with my future manager, did a little dance around the apartment and quickly got to calling people. It was just like the day I got the acceptance e-mail from GW's PA program. Pure, utter joy!

A week or so later, I took my certifying exam. It was a little crazy getting to the testing site as the area was being hit by the remnants of a tropical storm. My poor car made it through some pretty deep water, though and got me there safely. After 4 hours, I finished, went home and immediately started stressing out about whether or not I passed. Luckily, I only had to wait until the next morning to find out that, not only did I pass, I kicked that test's behind! It was such a relief and accomplishment at the same time. The next week I had to take one last test about the laws governing PAs in the state and easily passed that one.

Now that all the testing/school/job stuff was out of the way it was finally time for our long anticipated trip to Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the UK. Stay tuned...