Sunday, May 4, 2014

Japan Day 4: Toba and back to Tokyo

The next morning we headed out of the huge Kyoto train station toward our next destination: Toba. We had a little trouble finding which train to take but finally found our way. Unfortunately, it was not on the JR line (for which we had passes) so we had to fork over a bit more cash than we would have liked. But we were happy we figured it out in time to catch the next train. We grabbed a few donuts from MisterDonut (Mistu donu as they call it --makes me laugh to say it for some reason) and hopped the train for a couple hour ride to the seaside town where the cultured pearl was "born."

Kyoto station
Abe had been wanting to visit the Mikimoto pearl farm where the cultured pearl was first developed. This was an important stop for him as his great grandfather Matthew Cowley had visited the farm on a trip to Japan over 50 years ago. It was a great opportunity to get to walk where Abe's hero walked.

And I being a lover of pearls, was excited to see how they are made and maybe find a souvenir or two.

Mikimoto and Abraham

My first (and only?) time seeing the ocean in Japan
There is a small fee to enter the grounds which is on a small island in the bay. The museum is surrounded by beautiful grounds to explore.

I didn't know abalones could make pearls, too!
 There is a museum that shows the history of the cultured pearl. I have to say I knew next to nothing about how pearls are made and it was fascinating to see. It took Mr. Mikimoto years and years and years of hard work, determination, and financial investment before he was able to produce a cultured pearl. It took even longer to develop the beautiful round pearls we expect today. It was actually pretty inspirational to see his hardwork and determination pay off despite so many roadblocks.

We were also interested to learn that fresh water oysters from the Mississippi river are used in the pearl making process! Evidently, for each pearl a small bead is made from the shell of these oysters (from our home!), surgically placed into a special part of the oyster which allows it to form the pearl over the top of the bead, and then the oysters are taken to the ocean to grow for years before finally being retrieved. Evidently very few oysters survive the surgery and the environmental hazards of being an oyster, and even fewer make pearls that are even worth selling. I felt a little less upset with how expensive pearls are now knowing how difficult they remain to harvest, despite the technology.

We stopped for lunch in their little cafe. We were pretty hungry by then. I think we had some tempura, soba noodles, an I honestly don't remember what I am eating in this picture.

They do demonstrations with women divers collecting the oysters. They do it the same way they have been doing it since the beginning. The day was cold enough I was very happy for my jacket and the water was chilly (~50 degrees F). I can't imagine doing this every day on the hour, and without a wetsuit. Brrr!

They get dropped off by the boat

Diving in!

Diving down

Got one!
I had really hoped to find a pearl necklace or at least some earrings to take home as a souvenir from our trip. Mine were stolen last fall when our house was burglarized so I thought it would be the perfect time to replace them. It was fun to look in their store at all of the beautiful jewelry and creations made of pearls. Unfortunately, the pearls there were quite expensive so we'll have to keep looking.

We left late afternoon to catch another couple hour train ride back to Tokyo. When we finally arrived at the station in Shinjuku, we were starving again. We walked around the busy streets until we decided upon an almost midnight ramen stop. I was so excited to finally get to try this staple of Japanese food made like it was supposed to be made, instead of from the hard brick packages I associate it with at home.

A match made in heaven! I was not disappointed. With my limited ramen experience, I learned you can choose either salt, soy, or miso broth (some of my favorite flavors). I chose the miso and Abe tried the soy. I enjoyed both.

The Japanese in the shop were able to finish their steaming hot bowls in minutes. It took us quite a bit longer. I have a lot more practicing to do before I become an expert ramen slurper like the natives, a task I will happily work on. I find I have been craving ramen since that night almost a month ago. 

After filling our bellies with warm soup, we made our final (subway) train ride back to our Shinjuku stop and walked past the curry house, CoCoCurry. I think we were remembering our hunger from a long day of traveling and also feeling like our time in Japan was ticking down with so much more food to try, so we stopped for a even later dinner of Hayashi rice. Abe was the one that mostly partook but I was happy to help him out.

By then we were tired. And still wearing the same clothes. Poor Abe wouldn't receive his bag until we were back in our apartment in Tokyo and I had mispacked for our small trip to Kyoto. It was a bit of a relief to know we would be staying in the same place for the rest of our trip and hopefully be able to wear some fresh clothes soon!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Job Update

Transitions can be hard. I tend to feel grateful when each is over, like I've somehow crossed a huge barrier that I wont have to do again, at least not for such a long time that essentially it feels wont happen again.

But they keep coming...I remember feeling so much angst over moving from each stage to the next--agonizing over making the right decision, worrying I wouldn't know what to do, hoping it will "work out." It has been no different leaving BYU and coming to Iowa for dental school, applying for residency, accepting an intern position, applying for residency again, and now as I finish...finding a job!

This transition has been one of the most emotional and certainly a roller coaster ride for me. Things certainly haven't turned out how I expected. But, I am happy to say within the past few weeks I finally made a decision about where I will be for the next few years, at least while Abe finishes his residency.

Knowing we would have to "bide our time" here while Abe completes three more years of residency gave me a bit of anxiety. In some ways, I have lamented the big wide world of possibilities: How does one choose (I'm talking about for the long term once Abe is done) a place to make one's life when one doesn't know anything about the seemingly endless possibilities. But I am also currently  living the reality of being in a very limited market with few options and trying to make them work (something I swore I would never do!).

So, knowing we would be "stuck here," I assumed I would likely take a position at the University. And then I thought that it would be the VA. I felt the opportunity to continue to grow as a clinician with a strong opportunity for mentorship would be invaluable. Not to mention the convenience factor of proximity. Unfortunately, I found out later in the process than I would have liked that these options weren't going to work out for me after all. I found myself scrambling to find a job with only a handful of months left in my residency (these things take time!).

* * *

I started looking at private practice opportunities in the area. Since I did not expect to end up in private practice in the immediate future, it was extremely scary to consider. I felt very uneducated and inexperienced in this sector of the market. Simple questions like what kind of pay can I consider, what hours are standard, what kind of financial information do I need to know? on top of what is private practice even like? left me feeling very confused and worried I would make a mistake. I am grateful for the people who assisted me and answered my questions along the way to help me make a hopefully at least partially-educated decision.

I was very grateful an opportunity in Northeast Iowa was presented to me by a chance meeting with a previous contact from dental school. It was not a practice I would have normally considered due to my lack of familiarity with the area. But, after meeting with them multiple times, I felt a real camaraderie with the doctors in the practice and was excited about the mentorship opportunities it would afford. It also offered a varied scope of practice, a seemingly successful business model, and a beautiful practice that I felt was run very closely in the way I had envisioned my future practice. Unfortunately, this opportunity was a little farther away than I could stomach commuting most days and would require me to live away from Abe for at least a number of days per month. I was very sad to say no to this great group of doctors and a wonderful practice in a adorable Iowa town, but it felt like the right thing to do at this time.

In the meantime, I had previously asked a member of the local practice if they were looking for an associate and was told no. When I contacted him again, I was told they had not thought much about the opportunity but would discuss it and get back to me. When I heard back, I found out they had unfortunately offered the position to another and were waiting to hear back from him but were glad to hear I was interested in case he turned down the position. I started fasting and praying this opportunity would become available as it was what we saw as the "ideal" option being here in town.

My other opportunity at this point was a practice in Southeast Iowa. While it was smaller than the other practice I had looked at, I was impressed with the practice. I could tell the patients were very happy with the doctor and he has built a great reputation for his practice over the years. His staff were kind and friendly and the office was up to date and anxious for another doctor to help out with the patient load. On top of it all, the commute was much more doable, the hours accommodating, and the compensation good enough to make the commute less harrowing. And I would get to live at home with my husband every day (weather permitting).

I battled over whether I should take the position or wait to hear back from the local practice. I had waited months to find out if the other doc was going to take the position or not. I finally decided I couldn't wait any more and that I was happy with the other offer, so I signed the offer letter. It was a very difficult decision and disappointing to give up on that opportunity as Abe and I would have both loved the opportunity to stay in the area. But, as I said before, I think things work out for a reason and the other doctor ended up accepting the position at the local practice a few weeks ago. Thank goodness I wasn't holding my breath!

* * *

There has been a lot of angst, worry, disappointment in the process, but I am excited for the future! My senioritis has certainly kicked in now that I have a vision of what things will be like in just a few short months. I am excited to start taking on my own patients and really showing them who I am as a clinician. And I am very excited to join my great new team and start serving the patients of Southeast Iowa.

I am hoping to savor my commute as quiet time for reflection, phone conversations with family members, books on tape, and hopefully audio board study prep (two birds with one stone!) and really savor my time at home living with my husband.

Until my next transition in three years...finding our forever home. Unfortunately, I think that will be upon us sooner than I'd like.

 P.S. I'm open to suggestions for books on tape, etc as I will need many!