Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Life With Students


The experiences I have with students really enrich my life. A week ago, the Student Government sent out a notice stating there was a little known essay contest for students’ work. Since there had not been any submissions for the last few semesters, the pot has been building. A student that I had not seen or heard from for three years called me the night before the due date at 7:00 pm. She had just read her e-mail and wanted to know if I would read her essay and make corrections. She said it was a stand alone piece from her thesis. I agreed as I imagined what a 120,00 Huf award would mean to any student’s life. At 8:00 pm, she e-mailed the essay, which turned out to be 8 pages long. It took me over an hour to make corrections. I made a clean copy and sent her the corrected version as well as the clean one. She yet had to have it printed out and obtain my signature on it the next day. Just as she promised, she arrived at my office door and I signed it and wished her the best of luck with the entry. She ran off to submit it. Later that evening, I received an e-mail ‘Thank you’ card as well as two e-mails expressing how appreciative she was for my taking the time to assist her. Then the sad e-mail arrived the next afternoon. When I arrived home from school the next day, I found an e-mail from this student. “I should have read the fine print. This contest is only open to Hungarian citizens. I should have known I would not be eligible. I never seem to be able to get ahead.” She is from Slovakia. She did however, thank me for taking my time regardless and it helped her focus her writing for the rest of her thesis. She has not seen her advisor yet this semester. In regard to student thesis writing, this Friday could not come soon enough. March 31st was the magic day this semester as this is the day that the Masters students have to turn in their thesis. I had three advisees this semester and although they all worked diligently, they kept me busy. I had met with each of them at least ten times in person, in addition to phone calls and e-mail exchanged. What they all say is that the reason they requested me is because they knew I would give them the time they needed. Most students complain that they never see their advisor the entire semester, though we are supposed to sign a sheet stating we have met with them at least three times. Tomorrow, they will turn in their finished products, but the defense is still a few months away yet. Feeling like a proud, but nervous parent, it is my belief that each of them has done an exceptional piece of work, but it is yet to be read by another professor with a different point of view. On a different note, but yet still loosing connected with writing, there are other items to share. Normally, I never write about our bed and breakfast guests, so this is the exception to the rule. In the early part of this semester, a Fulbright Scholar from the U.S. came to Hungary with her husband in tow. They chose to stay with us as B and B guests. Although we had some sense that Dr. Elizabeth Furlong was extraordinary since she was awarded a Fulbright, we really had no idea just how so extraordinary they would be in our lives. Beth and Bob are from Omaha, Nebraska. Both of them have credentials that could fill a volume. Bob is a microbiologist with an incredible number of distinctions to his credit. In our many discussions, Beth had been talking about pumping out journal articles for professional publications. Her goal is full professorship before she retires. She teaches in the Nursing Faculty. I had shared with her that since I am not on the ‘publish or perish’ track at the university being a foreigner, it has been easy to be lax in not seeking out publication opportunities. The other piece of this was that there is little chance of my getting to read what is in the current literature since the university databases have expired and English resources are minimal elsewhere. As I shared some of the things that I do with my students, Beth made it a point to tell me I needed to publish this information. Then she took it upon herself to get resources for me through her own university. Thanks to her, I am submitting an article on “Educational Culture Shock” to a journal. Another benefit that came about was that they referred us to some friends who were coming to Budapest. Betsy and Bob, also from Nebraska came to stay as B and B guests. Normally, this would not be something worth mentioning since we have a number of referrals. However, Bob is a Lutheran minister who has a great deal of experience in non-profits. The four of them were staying here and while we were sipping Hungarian wines, I had shared with them my idea of Educators Across Borders. I also explained how I was bamboozled by two attorneys in New Jersey and swindled out of $150.00 for a non-existent non-profit that they were supposedly setting up. Both Beth and minister Bob blurted out a name of a mutual friend who is an attorney that they said would be more than willing to assist. This may get the green light yet.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No Travel Blues - The Cocoon Breaks


No travel blues

For the month of February, I did not have any desire to travel. That is, knowing when Spring Break was from the university, I had no thoughts about saying to Ron, “Where are we going?” There was a travel weariness surrounding my aura and I could not get a grasp of why it was there, how to shake it, or even if I did want to come from under it. I knew there was something wrong for sure when I booked B and B guests for the exact week of my vacation from school in April.

Normally, I have notes plastered everywhere reminding me of when an upcoming week off is, so we can black out the dates. I just took it as a sign that I had no desire to fly off somewhere.

Then with all of the problems surrounding the computers and the anxiety worrying about what was lost, what was saved, how much time it would take me to resolve the problems, not to mention restoring all of the software, I was at a breaking point. My only escape is to plan a trip. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that Ron was consumed with his trip to the States. Sure, his 80 year old sister is getting remarried after over 25 years of widowhood, but still, there is life before and after that three weeks. I had not chosen not to go with him. Three weeks with family, his, mine, or a stranger’s is more than I can handle. The last time he was back there for two weeks and came home and said it was too long, but he has memory loss over this comment, so it serves him right to live it again as a refresher course.

However, I decided I needed to get away during the break. After all, I had no idea where my next trip would be thereafter, since he was not making any suggestions for the summer. Last year, we did three trips. This year, nothing was even spoken about.

With all of this in mind, it seemed fair that I should take off for some time over my break, so I looked at the two places where I knew the city, language was not a barrier, and I had a reasonable idea of what I would want to do and see. If I were going for just a few days, I did not want to struggle with languages, maps, and other things that can take too much of your precious time when you are trying to relax. This narrowed it down to two cities: London and Amsterdam. Then looking at lodging narrowed it even further to Amsterdam. One night in London, even at a budget place was two nights in Amsterdam. I love Amsterdam and have been there nine times in the past. I know the city; I love the city.

When looking for cheap flights, I was shocked at the cost of the taxes, though the fares were reasonable. The taxes for some flights were almost double what the airfare was. As crazy as that is, I did find Wizz Air the most reasonable, yet still not a bargain. They are now charging for using your credit card to book the ticket, but if you call them versus using the Internet, they charge you more for using an agent.

Here was a breakdown of the fees:

From BUD to AMS 6990.00 HUF

Passenger Service Charge 2420.00

Security Tax 930.00

Insurance and Facility Charge 1310.00

Fuel Surcharge 3050.00

From AMS to BUD 3490.00

Passenger Service Charge 3340.00

Security Tax 3150.00

Insurance and Facility Charge 1870.00

Fuel Surcharge 2910.00

Credit Card fee 1590.00

Subtotal for Airport taxes and fees 19070.00

Subtotal for fees (credit card) 1590.00

Subtotal for fares 10480.00

Total 31140.00 Huf

This seemed to put some bounce in my step once again. My flight out is on the 7th of April and I return on the 11th. Not a great deal of time, but since I know the city, I can target where and what I want to see and do and not feel cheated.

It felt good to have plans and now the addiction was not going to be satiated as easily as the last month. I told Ron, I wanted to return to Edinburgh either with him or without him, so I am planning that trip too. We also have wanted to go to Riga, Latvia and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Those are on the search list also. Using budget airlines, I have found 22 different combinations of getting from here to Edinburgh by flying from here to various cities and then changing planes or carriers. There are so many options, it was necessary to make an Excel spreadsheet to do all of the rates. Then the complication comes of what month. I am finished with school on the 18th of May and he does not leave for the States until June 12th, so there is some travel leeway there. He returns on the 5th of July, so we still have almost all of July and all of August until September 5th to plan around. Oh, the work that is going to be involved, but I love it! I feel Spring in the air once again and my mood is brightening as the days are getting longer.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

On the Verge of a Breakdown


My main computer crashed yesterday. I have tried everything to save it and was able to boot up by using the Windows CD, but now nothing. I cannot believe anyone could have as many computer problems as I do. I am waiting to use the laptop until it is partitioned, so I am stuck using the old computer that sometimes does or sometimes does not get the WiFi connection correctly.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St Patricks Day


Happy St. Patrick’s Day Well not here it is not. They do not celebrate it and for the most part, do not even know about it. Sure there are some bars and pubs that are going to profit by the crazy ex-pats who feel a need for a Guinness, but not this one. If they were offering some corned beef, they would find me waiting for a table, but I have yet to see this advertised. Corned beef is something that you cannot even explain to a Hungarian who has not had it in the States. They are clueless. When we were in Ireland, the Irish that we spoke with told us that Americans were a strange lot for thinking that Irish considered corned beef and cabbage a staple of their cuisine. All of them, with upturned noses, said that this was food for the extreme poor and pig chow. They also laugh at the commercialization of the holiday in the States. However, they do have to admit that our endearment of the holiday has helped their tourism business a great deal. Do not laugh at us while we are lining your pockets with the gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Student Interviews


On Tuesday and Thursday, I met with every one of my Language Practice second semester students for a mini-interview to discuss their progress in the class. There are 32 of them, so it made for long days. I started after teaching my classes for the day. I would have split it up over Wednesday also, but it was a holiday; March 15th is the anniversary of the unsuccessful revolution of 1848. It always impresses me what I learn from these times with students, though it may be short. Each one comes in like a timid mouse, but walks out with a straight back and an air of confidence, regardless of the conference contents. All of them mention that they have never had an interview with an instructor before, unless they were really in trouble. Interviews for an entire class have never happened in their educational careers. The majority commented that this was impressive; an instructor took the time and cared enough to do this. My primary goal has never been to impress them, but to give a heads up to those that need to improve and to praise those who are doing well. As each one sat across from me, I noticed facial features I had not become aware of when they are one large group. I was able to learn what their other major happens to be and what they hope to do with their degrees when they finish. I learned who wanted to study abroad and who never wanted to leave Hungary. I heard about personal problems and fears about university life. Some have studied or have even lived a portion of their young lives in the States and we discuss their impressions. One student with an outpouring of tears shared with me that her mother is terminally ill and only has days to live. She confided that she most likely will not be able to complete the semester as her father is in a psychiatric facility. She carries the family burdens of making arrangements. I had to stay strong to be supportive, but inside I was crying for her. From each of them, I saw a fire of motivation that is not always apparent in the classroom. For some it is a burning ember, while for others it is a roaring blaze. After Tuesday’s conferences, I was mentally exhausted and thought Wednesday’s day off would be a chance to recharge, but I was wrong. All three of my Masters Thesis advisees sent me reams to read and correct. I hate getting behind and they have to turn in the final thesis on March 30th, so I spent Wednesday reading 60 pages of work. Thursday was the same as Tuesday. Teach two classes and then have interviews until late in the afternoon. I had to sit in my office for an hour after the last student left, just to regain enough energy to take the bus home. It was as if my mind had been scraped to the core and then the purification process started. After it was all over, I felt renewed and richer for having the experience.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mr Magnetic...


Mr. Magnetic is at it again. When I last left off on this technological saga, I was trying to get the laptop WiFi to find my Internet connection and could not. I had set the laptop aside to wait for Adam, my student to come over to fix both of them. However, having a new toy and not playing with it is misery. I had to remove a number of junk programs that come preloaded on new computers, many of which are not even accessible from Hungary. AT&T? Duh! I am busy using Add/Remove Programs and deleting this and that, but then I look at my properties on the C: drive. I still have 6 GB used up. I do not understand how this could be when all that is left is XP and a couple of other programs that are less than 1 MB each. One of the main reasons for the laptop is to write and edit photos while traveling. Last night, I decided to put some of my photography editing programs on the laptop as well as my clean up program. However, I am still annoyed that my computer real estate has squatters on it. In my superior computer wisdom, I decide that the fragments of the deleted programs are still taking up disk space, so I use XP to do a disk clean up. It is half way through and the computer shuts itself off. Trying not to get hysterical, I wait. Nothing happens. I turn it on again manually. A SEVERE ERROR has occurred. This is every computer person’s nightmare message. I had to reformat the hard drive. NOOOO!!! I did it. Now all of the nasty little programs that I spent 45 minutes deleting are sitting pretty once again covering my screen, but this time I could swear there are little smirking faces in the icons. It could be my imagination. All of the photography programs went up is a poof of cyber smoke. Now I am skittish about the computer, so I run to the desktop and instant message Blaise. He offers to go with me to the computer store in the morning before his first class. The problem is, he writes in his reply is that you bought the computer on Wednesday and tomorrow is Monday. You only had a 3 day in store guarantee. I feel the scream starting in the pit of my stomach, working up my diaphragm, and approaching my throat. It never escaped my lips, though. Past history has proven that primal screams have no effect on my mood and Ron is now oblivious to them. There was no point, so I sat and fumed in silence instead. Monday morning, off I go to meet Blaise at the computer store, laptop in tow. The salesman who sold it to me was there and asked Blaise when I had bought it. The salesman rubbed his chin, but let me squeak by since technically, they are open a ½ day on Saturday, so that counts as a business day to make three. He went off to get a technician. Fortunately, he spoke English and we were able to communicate. He explained that his thinking is that I tried compressing the files, but since the computer was new and there really were not any files used yet to compress, this caused the error. He said there should not be another problem, but if there is, I would have to take it to Toshiba. HP is the only one who authorizes them for repairs. Feeling a bit more confident, I thanked Blaise and went home again. Then I thought about this some more. I decided that since the hard drive is 100 GB, it would be smart to partition the drive, so a crash in the future will not hurt as much. Can I divide the partition? No way would I even attempt it. My old computer guy who partitioned the hard drive for me on the desktop is coming over next week to do it for me. In the meanwhile, I cannot put any programs on it, so it sits in its case waiting to be used.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Only in My Dreams


I am an avid dreamer and not all of it is when I am sleeping. My creative mind never seems to stop running and this does have a tendency to disrupt my rest patterns. Often, though I have very intense and colorful dreams and remember them long enough to share them with Ron. He is always impressed, claiming he never remembers a dream. Last night, I had a great dream that would make a fantastic short story. I would write it up as one, but perhaps I have read it somewhere before and it lodged in my subconscious. Plagiarism is such a nasty word. It was almost like watching a movie; I was not part of the scene like I usually am, but rather a spectator or a specter. The scene opens with a young man, senior in high school, biding his time through his last year waiting for the college applications to bear fruit with an acceptance letter. He is only visible from the back, so I am not privy to his facial features. His chestnut wavy hair just hits the collar of his pull-over shirt. His father enters the room, a big man. His face seems to be out of the scene too. I did not think to adjust the screen to fit him in. He approaches his son who is seated at the desk and wordlessly hands him a thick wad of paper. I am guessing that with the hesitation in the son’s reaching for the bundle that there was a questioning look towards his father. Father states that this was just delivered for him. As the young man takes the object in his father’s hand, I can see that it is an airline folder, one of the envelopes that they put your airline ticket in at the airport. It is thicker though and holds more than this just one ticket. Other papers are hanging out. Young man holds it without movement, so he must be staring at it perplexed. He does not start opening until a minute or so has passed. Since I his face is not visible to me, I assume there is a look of confusion and wonder, but not expectation and excitement. Finally, he opens this travel wallet and takes out a letter. I read it over his shoulder. Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have won a trip to France. Enclosed please find your airline ticket, transfers, and hotel reservation. All of your expenses are paid in advance. Have a wonderful time. Father is still quietly standing by the young man waiting to share some details of this mystery, to be fed some morsel of information. Young man with an incredulous tone enlightens his father as to what he has received. He is certain it is all a scam and starts to toss it in the trash bin by the side of his desk. Father lurches forward to stop this hasty action, as he questions the reaction. Young man assures his father that he has not entered any contests, let alone one where the prize was a trip to France, a place he has not thought of touring. Besides, the letter did not have any letterhead or signature to identify who the sender was. It was all a mystery, but had the stench of illegitimate. He did not have patience to deal with this nonsense. His nerves were frayed waiting for college acceptance letters, not slimy plots to make a fool of his intelligence. Sitting in the trash, the contents of the envelope fell in disarray surrounded by other discarded tidbits. The plane ticket seemed genuine to me as I stared into the trash, wanting to retrieve it for myself. Time has no meaning in a dream, but without realizing I was dreaming, it did not seem strange to me that shortly after this sequence of events, father reappears and goes through the same scenario all over again. If this is another Ground Hog Day, it is more like a nightmare than a dream. Again, the young man opens what was handed to him. Everything is the same, except the country has changed. It is no longer France. The letter starts as before, but continues on to say Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have won a trip. Enclosed please find your airline ticket, transfers, and hotel reservation. All of your expenses are paid in advance. Have a wonderful time. Since you did not take advantage of your last winnings, we thought perhaps you would rather go to … I missed the country when the young man crumbled the letter faster than I could read it over his shoulder. He was incredulous that someone would torture him with such a ruse, yet he never speculated who would do such a thing or why. Of course, these thoughts are running through my mind and I wand to solve the puzzle. No, thanks! I do not want to buy a vowel. Again, this set of tickets and vouchers find their way to the waste can. I am only a helpless observer and cannot be of any assistance in this manner. Another period of time passes, but neither I nor the young man have left our posts. We are still in the same positions as before. There is no telling how much time has passes. Has it been hours, days, or months? There are no indicators. Yet again, father enters the room with something in his hands. Once more he hands the young man a sheaf of paper with the same information that this has just been delivered for him. The young man lets out a vocalized sigh of desperation when he sees yet another airline folder. The tension is visibly building in his shoulders leading me to imagine the contorted looks on his face. As he slips the now expected letter from the packet to read, he unwillingly emits a chuckle. I have to bend farther and read faster before this letter is crumpled and tossed. Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have won a trip. Enclosed please find your airline ticket, transfers, and hotel reservation. All of your expenses are paid in advance. Our records show that the tickets and vouchers for the last two trips have not yet been redeemed. Since your satisfaction is important to us, we are changing your prize and sending you to England. Have a wonderful time. With a bear-like roar of exacerbation, the young man tore the documents in two, and then continued on to shred the pieces until there was only confetti left to sprinkle into the trash. Father stood by looking in horror with a pained expression on his face. Yes, finally, his face was visible, but the emotion was evident, the features were not distinguishable otherwise. Shouting the order to just toss any further deliveries at his father, the father left the room. The young man’s shoulders were heaving up and down, but if he were crying, he was doing it silently. I was not privy to the emotive behaviors otherwise. With a slight shift in scene, barely perceptible, and out of the young man’s hearing, but within mine, I could hear father talking. From what I could overhear, it must have been mother to whom he was speaking. After I heard his words, I woke up from the dream startled and confused. With grave annoyance, father told mother “I don’t know what country this kid wants to visit, but we obviously are not going to get rid of him. I guess we had better resign ourselves to paying for his college tuition.”

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Cry'in Time in the City


I just hate it when I cannot solve a problem myself and have to depend on others. My student, Adam came over a couple of days ago and said the WiFi pen drive was not working and needed replacing. I am sure it was not a year old and would be under warranty still, but the invoice has been with the accountant for months. It is less aggravation to buy a new one than to track the accountant down. On Sunday, I went to one of the electronic stores and looked at laptops. Mine is over 5 years old and I was told that to upgrade it would be more than an new one. Since I love gadgets, no one had to twist my arm to get a new laptop. I did need to do more compartive shopping though and this required a Hungarian speaker. Bless Balazs, my TA offered to go with me on Tuesday after classes and my office hours. We went to two laptop stores and found much better configuations than the electronic store. I had specifications. I wanted 100 GB of hard disk space, 1 GB of Ram, a super video card, DVD/CD RW, at least 3 USB ports, and the list went on. We found my computer with a firewire for a digital video editor and it has a digital camera card reader built in. The brand was Tosiba, a name I knew and could trust. There were a couple of others, but they did not match up. The seller on this one was the screen. It has a super coated screen specifically for editing film either photos or video. I bought a new WiFi pen drive with a 5 year guarantee and a laser mouse. My cordless uses rechargeable batteries every other day and I have needed to reboot the computer to get it to work. Five years seems to be the limits of computer devices, so I will have to start budgeting again in four. On Wednesday, I told Balazs that I was going to buy the computer and he again offered to go with me; however, his father told him of yet another store where they were cheaper. We went there first. We were supposed to be able to get a good deal since Balazs' father knows the guy. Everything he showed us was at least $200.00 more and not as powerful. 80 GB HD or other goodies missing. We went back to the other store and I bought the laptop. Balazs came home with me and had a cup of tea and did not leave until 5:30, which was fine with me. I was too tired to play around with setting things up and saved it for today. When I got home today, I was haggard and had to take a nap. Then I loaded the CD software for the new pen drive. Then I realized I did not know how to configure the darn thing to read from my router. The pen drive is working, but the Internet is not. Okay, move on. I dimantle the thousand miles of wires in the back of the desktop to plug in the laser mouse. While down there, I did some dusting. It was like being a coalminer in grey fluffy coal and I worry about grey lung from the build up. Memo to self, vacuum more often down there. After loading the software for the mouse and rebooting, the mouse worked fine...but there are 10 button movements on the thing and not all of them are working. I seem to think it is still reading the software for the less educated mouse that lived here before, but if I uninstall the software and start from the beginning, my cordless keyboard will not work. Ugh! Then I put the battery in the new laptop and was told it had about 50% power left. I needed to let is run down completely before recharging it. I would not start at all, but I had to plug it in. The battery power was only 13%. It does have a built in WiFi card, but would not recognize my network and will not connect. I do not know how to configure this one either. I sent out an SOS and now am waiting patiently to be rescued once again. It is a tough lesson for someone independent to have to learn, but I must not have since it keeps coming to bite me in the butt.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Magnetic Personality


There is something about me and electronic equipment that I have never figured out. I think I have some electrical field around me that interferes with anything electrical through some mystic means. When I was a kid and I dare to date myself in this way, we had milk machines. Put in a quarter and out dropped a quart of milk. For two quarters, you were rewarded with a half gallon. One day, my mother, her friend Grace and I were on our way home and she stopped at the local milk machine giving me a quarter telling me to jump out of the car and get a quart. I put the money in just as usual, heard the machine roar into action and thunk, and out came the milk. As I was heading back to the car, I heard more rumbling. I did a double take of my stomach, but there was no activity there. Then I heard the familiar thunk again. A second quart of milk appeared. A bit confused, I went to fetch this little present that the machine provided and again started toward the car…but not for long. Thunk, rumble, rumble, thunk. The machine was spitting out quarts of milk faster than my dog could run when he knew it was bath time. My mother and Grace went from laughing to hysterical as the car was filling with wax cartons of cow juice. By the time the mechanical cow quit producing, we had 36 quarts of milk. What happened next is yet another story.

On Thursday, one of my students came over to work on my old computer. They added some new RAM for me and insisted that it was worth my while to reformat the thing. Since this was not my primary computer, I let them do their thing and went into the living room to grade papers. They could not get the CD reader to read the Windows XP disc to reload it. They knew that when I nailed the front door shut and put up other obstacles that I meant business when I said they could not leave until they were done. After four hours, they finally finished. They both looked like they had run a marathon, the sweat was pouring down their faces. I cleared the door and let them go after I was satisfied that the computer was working and the WiFi card was picking up the router successfully.

Friday, I spent most of the day putting programs on it that either Ron or I would use if the other were on the main computer. The performance was swift and I was thrilled with having it cleaned out. We also had a Fulbrighter and her husband stay with us this weekend, so it was helpful to have them use the alternate computer so I could get work done.

This morning, I booted up the spare at the little work station in the corner of the kitchen. I checked e-mails and set it to stand-by. Ron mentioned that the WiFi cartridge is sticking out of the front of the machine and someone is going to knock it off. I took it off and put it in the USB port in the back of the computer. The Internet did not work. I put it back where it was. The Internet did not work. I tested the connections, I fiddled with the movement of the card in the USB, I did all that was on my limited agenda for checking. Nothing! Now the cordless keyboard and mouse are not working either.

My student returns to Budapest tomorrow and will be over to look at it. From now on I will wrap myself in lead before going near it again.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Free Cycle > Guinea Pig > Eye Surgery


Free Cycle > Guinea Pig > Eye Surgery

It is funny how things progress sometimes. I belong to a Free Cycle group. This is a yahoo group that is global and people give things away to others that they no longer want. Others can make requests of what they need. It is a wonderful group and I have recommended it a number of times. They site is . But lest I digress too much, one of the members posted a message that she was looking for volunteers with amblyopia or commonly known as lazy eye.

Well I have this condition, so I wrote her, but stated that I did not speak Hungarian. She wrote back and said she speaks English if I would consider testing for her research. I agreed and we set an appointment for today. I explained to her that I had surgery for this when I was about 14 years old and as a result, I had permanent double vision. I have lived with this for more years than I care to recall, but at the age of 23, I had a second surgery to try to correct the condition. It did not and so for the last *& years, I have learned to adapt. The greatest adaptation was the depth perception. It is difficult to judge when you are seeing two of everything. I learned that by tilting my head backward, I could correct the double vision and see singly, but when I became tired, this did not help either. Yes, I have been driving since I was 16 years old and have never had an accident due to my vision, an icy road once and once when the motor mount dropped out of the car, but those are different stories.

The Hungarian doctor is a young woman who happened to be very pregnant. She is part of the medical university that has an excellent reputation. There are people coming from all over Europe to study here and all the curriculum is in English. She did all of the usual eye exams, but kept saying she could not understand how I could have double vision from these surgeries. As I looked at her, I was thinking to myself that the last surgery was probably before she was even born, so in the dark ages anything was possible that is not conceivable today.

After the usual exams, she had me sit in front of a laptop with a special program on it. There was a large box on the screen and in the large box there were 12 little dark squares. She explained that as I had one eye covered, I would see four random squares highlighted with a white border for four seconds, and then I had to follow the movement of these four squares until they stopped after 12 seconds. At that time, each square would have a number in it and I had to tell her which of the 12 squares had been highlighted with a border originally. She would type the numbers into the computer. There were three speed levels for each eye. This sounded simple enough and actually reminded me of the game Pong. My brother had this game when it first came out and was an immediate champion. I was already in much older being seven and a half years older, so I did not play it that much or get close to amateur status.

The testing started and my left eye was covered with a pirate’s patch. The four squares lit up and the other eight stayed dark. Then they all became dark and started roaming about this large box on the screen. I was just getting cocky thinking this is a piece of cake, when they started building momentum. They as they hit the wall of the square or each other like little bumper cars, they would bounce all over the screen. Within minutes, I felt like I was a shepherd for a herd of cats. These spastic little things were all over the place. Twelve seconds felt like twelve minutes until they stopped and revealed their numbers. I called out four numbers. The doctor typed them in. I was amazed that I normally scored 75% most of the time with the right eye. The left eye was not so good.

Each progression was faster than the last. By the end it was like the little dudes, they could no longer be called squares, were at a rave party with really good drugs. They were flying all over the screen and bouncing off of each other like Christmas shoppers at the day after Thanksgiving sales. Vooooom, bang, shoosh off into a new direction. By the time the test ended, I was physically and emotionally depleted. My sense of competition was deflated, but I did my part for science. I made a contribution in my host country, so I felt good about that part of it.

The doctor then told me that she could perform out-patient surgery to correct my double vision. This would not correct my eyesight, but would undo the years of having to look at life with my head tilted backward. She explained that my Hungarian insurance would pay for it, it is done under a local anesthesia, and I would have vision again within an hour. I never thought I would see normally again. The last ophthalmologist I went to see in CA wanted $3,000 for his fee not counting the hospital costs and my insurance covered nothing. He even said there was no guarantee it would work. I am going for it. I have to wait for this doctor to give birth, but she said she thinks she will be performing surgery again by September. She is a researcher and professor at the medical university, so I think I am in good hands. My good deed turned into a blessing.

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