Monday, March 25, 2013

Of pandemics and rice balls.

 The other day, Smitten immigrant wrote about how while they are in the middle of a transition, of a waiting period, her and her beloved have been busy playing their recently acquired game Pandemic. I immediately asked where she got her copy of the game. You see, Epidemiology fascinates me. I still want to go back to school and study it in depth (the main drawback is that such a master is worth 12000 EUR). In the motivation letter required during the admission process for medical school, back in 1999, I remember already writing that I wanted to be an Epidemiologist. In High-School, I was very impressed by the Hong-Kong avian flu cases of 1997.

"This was the first time a highly-pathogenic-H5N1-avian influenza-A virus transmission directly from birds to humans had been found to cause respiratory illness. During this outbreak, 18 people were hospitalized and six of them died. To control the outbreak, authorities culled about 1.5 million chickens to remove the source of the virus"*

Then I saw the movie Outbreak, and I knew I wanted to work in Public Health. At the OIE or the  CDC, preferably. I am still working on that dream. A while ago, I saw people play the game Pandemic on a documentary (I think it was Forks over Knives, which you should totally watch, in case you haven't) and I became obsessed with it. The boy was planning on surprising me at Christmas with it... except it was out of stock, never replenished by the supplier and in the end the order was cancelled. So when Smitten Immigrant invited us to play with them and also revealed her secrets as to where to find the game we had to go. We probably played the game 5 times at their place, and 2 more times yesterday. It was lots of fun.  Moreover as they are preparing for a big move, they are busy trying to get rid of the unessential, and they kindly gave us "The manga cookbook". Which means, that yesterday we fulfilled our long standing dream of eating rice-balls, just like our favorite Japanese cartoon characters. (Thanks!)

What was your weekend like? I hope you had lots of fun, regardless of the cold temperatures!

 *Avian Influenza A Virus Infections of Humans. CDC factsheets.
** Last image source.


  1. I'm not sure if you meant that it costs 12000 EUR to get it or if that's what you get paid once you have it and start working in that field. But if it is the first, I'm thinking I really should have looked into going to Europe to study! My Masters cost me over $40,000 and you don't even want to know how much my BA was... I should just move to NL now and not just think about visiting! lol

    1. A 1 year master costs 12,000 EUR (Actually 13,000 EUR, as I verified yesterday). Once you start working in that field, if you manage (because there are not that many positions, and I am guessing, like in all fields, quite an excess of highly qualified candidates argh), you probably make something around 2500-3000 EUR, more with experience.
      There is another master, the one I would *prefer* specifically aimed at Veterinary Epidemiology, but as they consider medical and veterinary medicine studies as already at master level (5-6 years uni), that master is: EUR 27,525.

      But you have a point education in Europe is much cheaper than in America (including Mexico). In the end it played a role in me deciding to study here. In Mexico, there are public universities but those are very very hard to get into and the people from the specific state in which the university is get priority, so you need very high grades and even then it is a matter of luck / connections as there are just not enough places for everyone. Then there are the private universities which are crazy expensive (maybe comparable to the US).
      Over here (Europe) there is no loan system, for now at least, studies are still subsidized (which is in my opinion how it should stay, but they are studying a way to implement a loan system, that in certain cases, you don't have to pay back (if you finish on time and you get a job straight away).
      So normally, for bachelor degrees (first 3 years at uni) and your first master (the following 2 years) you pay something like 1500-1700 EUR per year. That would be, say 3400 EUR for a master (not the 13,000 or almost 30,000 that apply to me because they consider I already am at master level). So yes, education is accesible here... which is another of the great perks of Europe. Of course you have to take into account the cost of living too... I was able to get for the first 5 years a scholarship that covered the tuition and monthly expenses because Switzerland stimulates the "Swiss from abroad" to come back to Switzerland. I was very very lucky.

  2. Nice!
    We spent it reading the news about the bailout (sigh) and playing with Luka and Zoe.Una de cal y una de arena...

    1. I am thinking a lot about you these days. The other day they had some relatively good news and I was relieved for you.
      I hope Luka and Zoe are also both doing well.

  3. Oh, how great that you used the cookbook immediately :) I hope it was tasty.

    Also, it was a lot of fun playing Pandemic with you. Board Game meets really are the best.

    1. It was tasty! Specially with the added soy sauce / sambal.
      It was lots of fun! We should do it again, this time we host (and I promise Mexican food! ) I'll email you.
      Board games are fun (Scrabble is traditional on my father's side of the family, pretty much everyone is good with words so the battles would be epic).

  4. That cookbook sounds so cool! Please share more recipes from it :)

    I've just returned from a long weekend in London, which my husband planned in celebration of my birthday. We stuffed our faces with tons of good food (Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, *everything* that Borough Market had to offer), shopped in Spitalfields and Brick Lane, took in a few art galleries, and strolled along the Thames. It was wonderful and the snow only added to the delight.

    Now, glad to be back and catching up with my bloggy friends!

    1. As soon as I make more recipes I'll share! It is definitely interesting and super cute, full of drawings too.

      Sounds like you had a great, relaxing trip :) And snowy London (when you are not stuck / have to get anywhere) has its charm. It made me think of being amidst a novel set in the 1800s or some magical universe.

      Hope you are well.

  5. Rice balls!! It sounds so comforting and cute at the same time.

    I'll go out on a limb and say I am NOT fascinated by epidemics in the same way you are. I am fascinated in a terror-filled-can't-look-away type of way.

    1. Rice balls are just so cute. And it was a great recipe to start because we had some leftover rice from the day before, so it was the best way to use it up.

      I am fascinated with Epidemiology because it *really* shows how we are all one, all connected, if something happens here, it will have repercussions all around the globe, and sometimes not only in one place. To be able to analyze the data and predict outcomes, to act in time is just awesome.
      And it really helps understand how everything works: for instance Ebola was not a "new " disease, it was common and not lethal among small primates. Then we started industrializing, taking down the forest and the animals were forced to flee away of their natural ecosystem and it started spreading. And so forth...


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