December 31, 2012


Well, we made it!

And it is gorgeous here.

Our flights were uneventful, except for the fact that American Airlines decided not to let us take our second suitcases on. So we had to shuffle four suitcases down to two in the O'Hare ticketing gate, during the holidays. You can imagine how well that went.

We only forgot to repack a couple of necessary items, but we are getting those down here thanks to some very friendly people! Plus we made a quick trip to Walmart in Miami. But, we got our luggage, so that's all that mattered.

We arrived into Dominica around 2 p.m. (They are an hour ahead of Indiana during the winter months as they don't observe daylight savings.) It was a quick trip through customs, then an hour long taxi ride to Portsmouth. Keep in mind, it was probably about 20 miles, but the roads are small and winding. It was a beautiful ride as it was through the hills and around the coastline.

From there, they take you to Jenner Hall, or the Barn, and get some briefings, student ID, get fed and then get luggage. We were also able to make a call home. Landlords then come and pick you up to take you to your apartment. Lucky for us, our apartment, Comfort Zone, is right next to the Barn!

We even got our barrels that night. Alexis Taxi is definitely the way to go. They even delivered them up three flights of stairs for us. Definitely worth it.

Beyond all of the initial unpacking, we've been taking tours, getting Matt's computer set up and attending various check-ins and such. We both have agreed we are happier here than Freeport. It's much more of a community, the locals are nicer, it's prettier and cleaner. It's also much more of a community here with a campus environment. Everything is within walking distance, so we aren't needing to rely on Tyrone. 

It also has been great to see some familiar faces from Freeport. That has helped Matt and I feel at home more than anything. It's also nice to know we can settle here for a bit. We aren't only going to be here for four months, so that is nice too. 

We are definitely getting our exercise, and our blistered feet are proof. Everywhere you go, there are hills and stairs and more. But with this kind of scenery, it's not a big deal.

We also finally went to visit the beach. The black sand is very cool! Your mind tells you it's mud, but it feels like sand. The beaches definitely aren't Bahama beaches, but they are gorgeous in their own way. This is the beach that is right behind our apartment and campus.

There is so much more to share with you all! But this post is getting long enough already. I'll be sure and post pictures/video of our apartment, and share details with you of our new life here.

Thank you all again for your support, love and prayers. We both feel their calming assurance over us!


December 18, 2012

Dominica - An Introduction

Since we are getting ready to move to our new home for 16 months, I thought I would share some information for you about Dominica so you can get familiar with where we're going to be. I know I had never heard of Dominica before this adventure, so I'm assuming many of you haven't either. And if you have, maybe you can enlighten me.

So here's a look at what I've found through my research!

First of all, it's not the Dominican Republic. I was guilty of that, too.

It's pronounced Dom-in-eek-a. 

Location is fairly important to know. It's about an hour and a half flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The island is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide.


The capitol of Dominica is Roseau. It is on the south end of the island. We will be living in Portsmouth, which is on the north end of the island. There are two airports on the island, but we will be flying into Melville Hall Airport. Apparently the ride from the airport to Portsmouth can get a little rough. So here's hoping we don't get carsick!


English is spoken there. But there is British English, African, French and Carib (native Dominican Indian) influence.

They use Eastern Caribbean currency - or EC. 

Dominica is known as the "Nature Island" because its untouched landscape. Tropical rain forests cover two thirds of the island. 

There are even eight volcanoes in the mountainous country.

There are natural waterfalls, hot springs, boiling lakes and more.

Diving is a popular pastime, as it is one of the top ten diving locations in the world. Hiking is also popular, with many trails available to explore. There are opportunities to see sea turtles and go whale watching. 

And they have black sand beaches!

71,000 people live in the country - 4,000 live in Portsmouth. There is one major 'highway' in the country connecting Portsmouth to Roseau. It takes about an hour to drive between the two cities.

It is very warm and humid in Dominica. Rainy season is from July-November and dry season is December-June. When it rains several days in a row, the water will turn brown. Apparently it is still safe to drink, but I don't think we'll be taking chances on that one. Dominica is also in the hurricane path. So we will be paying close attention to that during hurricane season.

Our apartment, Comfort Zone, will be very close to campus and to Picard Beach!

There is a IGA grocery store that is about a five minute walk from our apartment as well. From what I've learned, they have most of the same food items at the States, however it's not always guaranteed to be in stock. 

Electricity is prepaid. We will buy the electricity from the IGA in advance. We then take the receipt back home, and enter our receipt number onto the meter in the apartment. We will be able to track how much electricity we use. It's not as expensive as it was in Freeport, so that's good news, but it is still more expensive than it is in the States.

So that's a look at Dominica! I know once we get there, I will have so much more to share. 


December 13, 2012


I know, I know. I've been slacking on the blog.

I can't promise it will get better any time soon. But I'll try. Just trying to soak up all of our time at home while we still can!

This past week we got to go to Indy for a few days. I got to spend some much needed time in the office and see all of my coworkers! It was the perfect time to go as we got to enjoy the holiday party while we were in town. Always a good time. It's certainly refreshing to be back in a familiar place surrounded by such great people. And as always, just as sad to say goodbye again.

Our time was limited, but we packed in as much as could. Every night we had something going on, and I think the bags under my eyes by the end proved it. For example, Friday night we got back to the hotel around midnight (I have to mention how strange it was to stay in a hotel in Indy, when we've had a home there for eight years.). We were up before 7 a.m. to meet Katie and Kelly for a delicious breakfast at Patachou. We left there to run a quick errand, then met Sheila, Chris and Landon downtown at the Children's Museum. We were there just over an hour then headed back up to the northside to meet Erin, Mom Medjeski and D$ (Dylan's alter ego) at McAlister's. Then it was the three hour drive back up north. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see all of our friends. But maybe a Facetime session is in order.

Landon was excited to have a picture with Buzz and Woody at the Museum. 
So yes, I finally got to go to McAlisters! We even got two gallons of sweet tea to bring back home with us to enjoy before we go. And we got a super sweet travel survival kit from Mom Medjeski! Matt got to enjoy his favorite Indy meal, the Heartstopper  from Chatham Tap, too. So it was a successful trip for him as well! Just exhausting!

But, we got all of the stuff for our Visa packets finished and mailed. That's a huge relief. Now we're just hoping we did everything correctly. Fingers crossed!

Beyond that, we're finishing our Christmas shopping and getting the few last minute things on our Dominica shopping list. And hoping we can then fit all those things in our suitcases since our barrels are officially on a boat to Dominica! Woot!

We had our first snowfall! It didn't stick around too long, but we're hoping we can get another in before we leave. 

I'm still avoiding looking at the calendar. It's surreal to think we'll be leaving for 16 months soon. I know it's a great opportunity and all the positives that come with it, but it is still extremely intimidating. And then there's the whole fear (phobia is a better word) of flying. I firmly believe that if flying wasn't so traumatic for me, I wouldn't be as intimidated as I am.

But on a lighter note, Indiana has been spoiling us with some beautiful skies, so I thought I'd leave you with a taste of the beauty we've been seeing! This is one of the reasons why I love being home.


December 2, 2012


Our barrels are all packed! Woo!

It's a little weird to have them packed. That means Dominica is that much closer. I'm not near as nervous about Dominica as I was Freeport, and I think that's because I know what to expect a little more now. But it is still rather intimidating to be leaving for 16 months.

For some who don't know, I thought I would explain the barrel shipping process. Not that I'm nowhere near an expert, as I'm just learning this myself.

We didn't have to ship anything to the Bahamas, as we didn't have many luggage restrictions, and it was only four months. But going to Dominica, we can only take two suitcases, one that is 50 lbs. and one that is 20 lbs. Then we can have a carry-on and a personal item.

So that means we need to ship quite a few things. A barrel is the most recommended method. We got our barrels from a couple of different places, but they can be bought at shipping supply stores. We got one from my dad's work, and the other from a family friend. One barrel is 75 gallons and one is 30 gallons.

Once the barrels are packed, we take them to Conway Trucking, who then transports them to Tropical Shipping in Miami. From there, they are loaded onto an ocean freighter and transported to Dominica. It takes about two days to get to Miami, and then one week to get to Dominica. I've arranged for the taxi service in Dominica to pick up the barrels. They will pick them up and pay the customs fees for us. Then, once we arrive, the taxi service will have them delivered to our apartment, and we will need to reimburse them for the customs tax in order to get our belongings. There is also a $30 service fee per barrel. Totally worth it in my opinion!

Emmy was watching over and directing.
Getting it locked up. I was supervising.
So, what type of stuff did we bring? Here's a short list.

Quick Dry Towels
Mildew Resistant Shower Liner
Pots and Pans
Kitchen Utensils
Snap-tight Tupperware
Hand Sanitizer
Bug Sprays
Bug Spray for Linens
Bug Spray with Deet
Thermal/Blackout Curtain
Collapsible Mixing Bowls, Colander, Measuring Cups
Reusable Sandwich Bags
Taco Seasoning
Gatorade Mix
Wrinkle Releaser 
Lots of Clothing/Swimwear
Water Resistant Backpacks
Gustbuster Umbrellas
Rain Boots
Make Up
Laundry Detergent to do in the Sink
Clothes Line and Clothes Pins
Comfy Shoes and Hiking Shoes
Adhesive Hooks
Mosquito Net
Battery Operated Lantern
Flash Lights
Random School/Office Supplies
Random Supply of Medicines/Topical Creams
Mattress Pad
Lightweight Comforter
Bed Bug Encasement for the Pillows and Mattress
Insulated Grocery Bag
Mini Crock Pot
Mini George Foreman
Oversized Beach Towels
Various organizational supplies

Some of this stuff they will have in Dominica, but some not. Regardless, it's typically  cheaper to bring than to buy there. Plus, if you use a certain brand, they recommend bring that.

And yes, we fit nearly everything in the two barrels - with Dad as the tetris master. The rest we should be able to get into our suitcases. For our electronics, (computers, iPads, phones, etc.) they recommend putting that in our personal item bag to bring with us. Electronics can carry a huge customs tax. Plus, even if we put it on our suitcases, the suitcases don't always arrive on time as it is dependent on the weight for the plane if the suitcases make it on or not. With that being said, my sponsor also recommended packing a set of linens in the carry-on too. Great idea!

So, that's the science behind packing our barrels. A big thanks to the creator of space bags for making it much easier to get everything in them.

Now we just hope nothing breaks or explodes. I don't really want all of my belongings smelling like mouthwash and covered in baby powder.


November 29, 2012

Tips for Passing MERP

I've taken over this blog here once again, but now as an official a medical student!! I would like to thank our family and friends for supporting us these past few months. Your encouragement and support has truly made us feel blessed.

I thought I would write a post about how I was able to survive MERP (and, no, surprisingly enough, I didn't get by on my charm and extraordinarily good looks).

So here is Matt’s MERP survival list!!
  • Go to class. Some people liked to just stay at home and media site which is fine, but going to class you are able to hear the questions from students, you are able to hear the little tips the professors will give before/after lecture and the big thing is, it gets you out of your house. But find what works for you.
  • Study! Seems obvious, right? But you need to start studying from day one.  Everyone has their own study style. Find what works for you and stick with it. You can't study the same way you did in undergrad. You need to understand the material, not just memorize a bunch of facts, take an exam and forget them. Everything builds on each other.  If you aren't getting something, then change how you study it. Just don’t let yourself get behind.
  • Don’t let your classmates psyche you out. Everyone has different learning styles but be confident in yourself and your abilities. Just because something worked for one, doesn't mean it will work for you.
  • Find a good study group. I don’t know what I would have done without my group!! PBL #2!!! If you are in a group and you feel you aren't being productive, go somewhere else. A good study group is key to success (in my opinion anyway!).
  • Do QUESTIONS!!!! Honestly this is how I learned the material. Every Sunday I would meet up with my group, and we would just go over questions. We used old quizzes, BRS (physio) and Pretest (physio). We would also ask each other questions we came up with. Make sure, however, you aren't just memorizing questions but understanding the concepts!!
  • Challenge yourself! Keep trying to relate everything together or come up with possible real world scenarios. For example, if we came across a question in BRS that didn't really pertain to the material we had learned, we would change it so it would.
  • Take the quizzes seriously. Yes they are collectively only 7% of your grade BUT they are a good indicator of your knowledge of the material and they are good practice for the mini. So if you bomb a quiz don’t sweat it, BUT go over what you missed and understand why you did.
  • Ask questions!! If you are too embarrassed to ask the faculty, then ask one of the junior faculty. Go to office hours, go to anatomy lab, send them emails, ask in class - what ever you have to do just make sure you understand!
  • Get a schedule and stick to it. Set times for breaks, dinner or SLEEP. It’s easy to get burned out quickly if you don’t.
  • Every day spend a few hours away from your notes: go workout, watch a movie or SLEEP!! On Saturdays, my friend Jon and I would spend a few hours snorkeling. Just to get away and to get a break in our 12-15 hours of studying.  The biggest thing to get over is that it’s ok to not be studying every waking moment. But, balance is key. You didn't come here to socialize. You came here to go to medical school. 
  • Most importantly…enjoy it! A positive attitude will go a long way.
Well I hope this helps. Just remember everyone is going to be different. Just because someone studies a certain way, doesn't mean you are studying wrong. If you begin to feel overwhelmed (which you will) just take a step back take a breath and tackle one thing at a time. If you don’t do well on the first exam or quiz, its not the end of the world, just go back and figure out what you can do differently.

Finally, don't let the pass rate intimidate you. Just study hard and stay focused and worry about yourself. If you have any questions still please feel free to email me matthewswells04[at]gmail[dot]com. Be strong, be confident, have faith in yourself and enjoy the crazy ride!!


November 27, 2012


We're HOME!! Yes - we've been home for a little while now, but we've been so busy, this poor little blog has been the last thing on my mind.

Our flights were just fine. Everything was on time - even a little early. And thank goodness for medicating before flights, too, as there were no panic attacks. Just some amusement for the people in the Miami Airport when I passed out on the floor waiting on our flight to Detroit.

We had quite the welcoming crew. Sheila, Chris and my favorite little man, Landon, were there with my parents. We walked out of baggage claim to have Landon running right at me. It was the perfect homecoming.

From there, we stopped to get some lunch. We had great customer service and great food. Again, a great homecoming. The waitress felt my deprivation of Dt. Coke and brought me an entire pitcher to enjoy. What a lady.

No, I didn't drink the entire thing. But it was delicious.

And then we got to see our Emmy dog! She made a beeline for us when Matt's parents brought her over. And she snuggled right between us that first night we were home. She's doing pretty well. Her leg has gotten bigger, but she's still fairly active and has her appetite - all good signs.

We've been lucky enough to get a lake cottage to stay in while we're home. It's a cozy, sweet home that is just perfect for us three while we're here. 

So we've spent this last week doing a lot of shopping, enjoying family, and relaxing. And then more shopping and preparing for Dominica. I think I've been to Target at least three times already. And each time has been wonderful. 

We plan to have a barrel packing party this weekend. You all are welcome to join. It's sure to be a good time.

Our barrels will be stocked full of kitchen supplies, rain gear, mosquito spray, snap-tight tupperware and more. And toiletries to last us near 16 months. We found some good things like quick-dry towels, collapsible kitchen supplies, mildew resistant shower liner, etc. One thing Freeport has taught us, is what can be valuable when living on an island.

So the next week or so is filled with last minute shopping, packing and finishing up all of the required information for our visas. 

I feel like we're on a wild goose chase. I just keep repeating, it will get done, it will get done.

Thanks for all of the prayers and support for our trip home. We are very thankful to be here during the holiday season to spend the most wonderful time of the year with all of our loved ones. 


November 17, 2012

Matt Passed!

Matt passed MERP!

So we are officially off to Dominica in December. Couldn't be more proud of him. Lesson learned that no matter how many doors are shut, to keep on trying and it'll happen if you want it to. Matt's had his fair share of obstacles, but in the end, hard work, determination and blessings from God have made it possible. It's funny to think how we were put here in the exact right time, providing us with great friends, Matt's had a great group to study with and I made some wonderful, lifelong friends, too. Never doubt His timing. Medical school here we come!

We are wrapping up our last day in Freeport! The car we rented with the Womack's has paid off already after just one day of running errands. Tomorrow morning we'll head to the airport around 5:30 a.m. and then we're off. We should land in Miami around 8:30 a.m. and then Detroit around 2:15 p.m. Prayers for a safe, uneventful flight are appreciated, as my anxiety has already kicked in high gear! Any recommendations on how to get over this fear are appreciated!

Today we are off to finish up at running errands and take Vedant to the airport. I'm sure it will be a sad goodbye! Then we are off the Port to finish up some shopping.

Regardless, Matt and I are more than ready to be home and be surrounded with friends and family during the holiday season before we start our next journey December 28. We couldn't be more grateful to our friends and family for all the support, prayers and encouragement during this sometimes difficult, sometimes stressful, sometimes fun transition in our lives. In the end, it was definitely worth. Seeing the accomplishment in Matt's eyes when we saw his final score made it all worth it.


November 14, 2012

'Twas The Night Before Mini 3

'Twas the night before Mini 3 and all through Sunset,
Not a med prep student was stirring, not even an activated platelet.
The book bags were sprawled all over without care, 
covering a desk that used to be bare.
The students were passed out sweaty in bed, 
while visions of med school danced in their head.
And the lizards were still and the pigeons were moanin',
And I closed my eyes to increase melatonin.
When out near the pool there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the patio I flew like a myelinated axon,
Tore open the door without any slacks on.
The haze from the moon gave a dim light
made the yard look like it was covered in tellurite
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a guy on a dirt bike; man I need a beer.

I came back inside, went back to bed.

The power stayed on, no sweat on my head.
The dreams, of the material, oh they did come.
As I vigorously stimulated my GABAnergic system.

And that's all we got folks. I'm sure Mr. Moore is appalled at what we did to his brilliant poem.

But it's sort of like Christmas Eve here.

Except there are no presents. Or games. Or family. Or snow. Or any type of fun actually.

But the anticipation is just as high. In just 13 hours Matt starts Mini 3. Four hours after that, he'll be done with MERP and onto Dominica.

I will no longer be able to call him a med prep student. As he will officially be a medical student.

He's been studying all day for the past few days. Walking around the apartment talking to himself, sitting at the table, on the couch, standing in the kitchen. Just anything to keep moving and stay focused.

Again, he feels pretty good about the test. He's worked hard leading up to Mini 3 so that there isn't a substantial amount of pressure on him to pass. But he is still going to work hard and get the most out of MERP as he can, as it is good preparation for Dominica.

Yesterday at about 8:30 p.m., the power went off. It was one last reminder of the amenities here in Freeport, and how we take reliable power for granted in the States. It was only off for a couple hours, so Matt finished up his studying by flashlight and candles.

He's going to finish up studying early tonight, so he can relax and rest his mind. He's talking about watching Storage Wars this evening, as this was his routine before Mini 2, and it certainly worked in his favor then. I don't know that I would recommend this study habit for everyone, though.

So, be thinking of us over the day or so. Here's to 15 weeks of MERP. Now, time to go wrap presents. And by wrapping presents I mean making dinner. Nope, still not as fun as Christmas Eve.


November 11, 2012

Our Favorite Freeport Moments

We have exactly one week left in Freeport! This week will be filled with things like packing, running last minute errands and of course, Matt studing like crazy. While Freeport has had its fair share of ups and downs, it did serve as a tremendous learning and growing experience for us both. It wasn't exactly how either of us had anticipated spending our first few months as newlyweds, but it has prepared Matt and I for the next step in our journey as we are now preparing for Dominica.

Here's a look at some of the things we will remember about our time here in Freeport.

The gorgeous color of the water.
Favorite place on the island - Gold Rock Beach
Survived our first hurricane.
First seafood meal.
Beautiful roses from the husband.
Many weekends were spent here at Taino Beach.
Matt studying nearly every free minute.
Taino Beach Regatta
Learning to dislike cooking a little less.
Visiting the Freeport Inn where my mother stayed in 1975.
Sunday night grilling dinner with the Womack's
The wildfire!
Seeing all new types of wildlife.
And of course the Conch.
Flying on a turbo prop for the first time.
Getting used to new neighbors.
And of course, our famous lobster.
And the lobster hunters.
Crystal clear water
Gorgeous Taino Beach
Love Banana Bay.
Still love Banana Bay.
And some more love for Banana Bay.
First crab!
Gorgeous views
Awesome blue water.
White sand beaches.
And just have to put some more of Gold Rock Beach in here.

And I know this didn't happen in Freeport, but it's by the far the cutest thing I've ever seen. Or you that you will ever see either. And I got it while I was in Freeport. So it counts. My favorite!

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