9 Things I Learned from the Hospital

While the rest of Austin was in the throws of South by Southwest, I had the pleasure experiencing America’s health care in action instead. Insanely, I caught pneumonia and ended up in the hospital for a couple (six) days. I’m well on my way to better thanks to some powerful antibiotics, but here’s what I learned during my sick-vacation:

1. Hospital Food: Better but Not Gourmet – You “order” your meals from a menu from Head Chef who comes by in the morning, which makes it seem fancy. There are specials like Alaskan Salmon and Chicken Fajitas, but fruit still comes from a can and desserts still barely edible. It’ salt-less and sugar-free, but meal time is a major highlight of your day: 7:30am, 12pm and 5pm on the dot.

2. Hospital Show Set False Expectations – Why aren’t there tons of doctors in lab coats running around like on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘ER’? I probably saw a total of three doctors the whole time, and rarely more than once a day.

3. Jeremy Wade is a Badass – You’ll watch an insane amount of television in the hospital. hat River Monsters is my new favorite show, and the host is my new idol. With that said, Animal Planet is still mostly a channel for cat ladies and should be avoided.

4. Make Friends with the Nurses – I quickly learned that if you have a good nurse, you’ll be much happier for it! I’m chatty and made friends with Nurse Angie, who went out of her way to get me “upgraded” to a nicer room. It was a quiet flat-screen TV, wood floors, a couch and table, not to mention a much better bathroom situation (upgraded features). Also, there are different levels of hospital rooms?

5. Bring Your Own Extension Cord I was grateful to have all my toys to stave off the cabin fever (laptop, iPad, etc.), but there was a serious shortage of outlets close to the bed. Am I supposed to unplug the IV machine to charge my phone?

6. Let Your Mom Take Care of You – As cheesy as it sounds, your mom is still the best doctor. There’s seriously nothing like her cooking to make you feel like new again, and I was so glad to have her around to take care of me.

7. Austin Needs More Hospitals – According to the nurses there’s a major shortage of hospital beds in Central Texas, and that most area hospitals are at capacity at any given time. Not shocking, I know.

8. How to Avoid Waiting in the ER – Everyone knows ERs are horrible, but my doctor sent me to the Heart Hospital of Austin, which is apparently not just for hearts. This is an open secret in Austin, so the ER’s usually empty and I did not have to wait around for care. Highly recommended!

9. Hospitals are Full of Old People – No, I mean really old. Maybe it was a heart hospital thing, but I was told by one of the nurses that I was the only one my floor under 50. Walking around, though, most seemed over 75 at least.

5 Maine Urban Revitalization Success Stories

Lewiston, Maine.If you live in the Northeastern United States, chances are you’ve spent some time in Maine at some point or another. The sloganeers call it “Vacationland,” and for many of us who are “from away,” that’s all it is. Beyond Ogunquit, Bar Harbor and Kennebunkport, however, the story of contemporary Maine today is more complex.

Media reports focus on an aging population, economic stagnation and a brain drain; Maine is still recovering from the decline of the once all-mighty paper and pulp industry here, and the state’s riverbanks are dotted with old mill towns in varying states of health.

Upon closer inspection, though, you learn than like most places, Maine is not monolithic. While there are undoubtedly many places hurting, here are five Maine spots that are reinventing themselves for the 21st century:

Lewiston-Auburn

Located on the Androscoggin River, Lewiston and its neighbor Auburn had developed into bustling twin textile towns in the model of Lowell, Massachusetts, by the mid-1800s. The inevitable decline set in by 1970s as the regional paper and textile industries dried up, and it was in Lewiston where I saw prime downtown office space advertised for $3 per square foot. However, population and economic decline was stymied by an unexpected influx of Somali and Bantu immigrants to the area that began in earnest in 2001. Depending on whom you ask, it is estimated that at least 5,000 Somalis and Bantus have settled in Lewiston-Auburn. The stream of new arrivals into this community has been without controversy and tension, but from what I can tell the immigration is cited as a primary factor behind the sustained economic rebound enjoyed by the greater Lewiston-Auburn area over the course of the past decade. Notably, the Sun Journal has credited the new arrivals with revitalizing downtown by opening shops and business in previously shuttered storefronts.

Millinocket & East Millinocket

East Millinocket, Maine.

The quintessential Maine mill town and its smaller twin sister located an hour north of Bangor along the Penobscot River. The Millinocket pulp and paper mill was once the largest in the world, employing thousands to print paper goods like phone books and newspapers – propelling a boom hat lasted into the 1970s. Production and hiring slowed down dramatically and, for the first time, local high school graduates could no longer be assured a well-paying job at one of the local mills. After the Millinocket mill closed its doors in 2009 and East Millinocket followed suit in early 2011, area unemployment soared to 22%. The population had dropped by over half – t0 less than 5,000. However, good news came to the area in November 2011. After a push from Augusta and Governor Paul LePage, it was announced that the The Great Northern Paper Co. in East Millinocket mill would re-open under new ownership at greatly reduced capacity. Even though far fewer will be offered jobs than in the past (and those that are hired will be forced to accept dramatically lower pay), this has a created a wave of optimism throughout this corner of Maine.

Augusta

Maine’s capital city hasn’t suffered as much as some of its peers, but with a nickname like “Disgusta,” it’s hard to exclude from this list. Augusta’s (pop. 19,146) mills were closed in the 1970s and 1980s, but an influx of state dollars has kept the place afloat. In fact, a concerted downtown revival effort has been underway since the 1990s, a process that has included the removal of the Edwards Dam from the Kennebec River in the 1999 and the construction of a waterfront.

Biddeford & Saco

Amtrak Station in Saco.

Located in York County near the New Hampshire border, Biddeford (pop. 21,277) and Saco (pop. 18,477) were among Maine’s first industrial boom towns. The twin towns began a long legacy of cotton production in 1825, when Saco Manufacturing opened the largest textile mill in the country. Over the next quarter century, Saco and Biddeford both expanded cotton production and diversified into other industries and, in the process, was transformed into a leading manufacturing center for New England and beyond – a position it held well into the next century. As the industrial boom began its decline, mills closed, storefronts emptied and both towns fell into decline. Today, however, a major revitalization is underway, as massive brick mill buildings are being converted into office, studio and commercial spaces throughout the area. Saco is in the midst of a green revolution, including a new $2.2 million Amtrak station powered largely by wind and geothermal energy. And while downtown Biddeford may still be a little scruffy, it hopes to profit from a recent influx of artists and students from the nearby University of New England.

Waterville

Waterville Opera House.

The Waterville area was settled in the 1700s, and industrial development began in earnest after 1820 when a dam was built enabling the construction of a grist mill, saw mill, and a carding and clothing mill. Strategically located on the Kennebec River, Waterville (pop. 15,605) was chosen as a transportation hub in the mid-1800s, as railroad after railroad was built to connect the growing city to the rest of Maine and beyond. Most factories had shut their doors by the late 1950s, and the last passenger train left Waterville in 1960 – soon to be replaced by I-95. With Colby College and MaineGeneral the largest area employers by the late 1980s, Waterville sought to reinvent itself as a cultural destination by investing in a downtown revitalization and funding cultural pursuits such as the Waterville Opera in the 1970s, instituting the Maine International Film Festival in 1998 and opening the Waterville Arts and Community Center in the 2000s.

Reflections on a Year in Travel

It’s been a busy year.

Looking back, I managed to pull off more travel than ever. This year I traveled to at least 8 countries, all but two for the first time:

Image

Summer Palace in January - Beijing.

January 2011

Seoul, South Korea

Beijing, China

Shanghai, China

March 2011

Seattle, Washington

Vancouver, British Columbia

June 2011

Bogotá, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Medellín, Colombia

September 2011

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Wilmington, Delaware

December 2011

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Córdoba, Argentina

Santiago, Chile

Panama City, Panama

Which of these stuck with me the most? It’s hard to say. What I do know is that it’s almost that time to move forward into a new year of new adventures.

Mi Buenos Aires Querido

Can’t help but enjoy one of my all-time favorite cheesy tango ballads as I get ready for my first time in Argentina.

Acaricia mi ensueño
el suave murmullo de tu suspirar.
Como rie la vida
si tus ojos negros me quieren mirar.
Y si es mio el amparo
de tu risa leve
que es como un cantar,
ella aquieta mi herida,
todo todo se olvida.

El día que me quieras
la rosa que engalana,
se vestirá de fiesta
con su mejor color.
Y al viento las campanas
dirán que ya eres mía,
y locas las fontanas
se contaran su amor.

La noche que me quieras
desde el azul del cielo,
las estrellas celosas
nos mirarán pasar.
Y un rayo misterioso
hara nido en tu pelo,
luciernaga curiosa que veras
que eres mi consuelo.

El día que me quieras
no habra más que armonía.
Será clara la aurora
y alegre el manantial.
Traerá quieta la brisa
rumor de melodía.
Y nos daran las fuentes
su canto de cristal.

El día que me quieras
endulzara sus cuerdas
el pajaro cantor.
Florecerá la vida
no existira el dolor

La noche que me quieras
desde el azul del cielo,
las estrellas celosas
nos mirarán pasar.
Y un rayo misterios
hará nido en tu pelo.
Luciernaga curiosa que veras
que eres mi consuelo.

Rio Grande Valley: Quirk & Circumstance

I just got back from a quick four-day trip to South Padre Island in South Texas. I had never been before and, as a native Texan, was slap happy to get some sand time with old friends. I was also happy to snap this puzzling/awesome picture outside of a Valero in Port Isabel:

I will be back in the Valley in a couple weeks for my brother’s wedding, and I have a feeling there will be a lot to explore in this very unique part of Texas!

On… Delays and Photographs

I have really been putting off getting this blog going. I’m a firm believer in incorporating pictures, and I my iPhoto has been out of commission. As soon as I get it together enough to make my way to the Genius Bar, we’ll be just a little bit closer to launch!

In the meantime, though, I’ll take a moment to complain about the weather. In short, there has been way too much snow during these past two weeks!

In & Out: Fall Musings

I’m home just long enough to do my laundry and re-pack. Some highlights of this past week include reconnecting with old friends, making new ones and getting the fall wardrobe assembled. Welcome to the team, plaid hoodie and black cardigan (amongst others). One of my goals for this fall is to get to a pumpkin patch.

Tomorrow it’s back to Boston for what will I’m sure prove to be another crazy week on the road!