Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 in review...

I think I just blew your minds.

That's right. It's Rachel. Nearly a full year since my last update. I am sure many of you thought you would never hear from this blog again. But I am back with a vengeance.

So, given that it has been 348 days since I last blogged, I figure the best thing to do is to look at my new years resolutions list from last January and see what I have accomplished.

1. Passing my genetic counselling board exams - both the Canadian and the American exams and actually sticking to my study schedule for the above mentioned board exams

Mission accomplished! I started studying for these exams in January 2009 and wrote the American exam in September and the Canadian in November. Some of you may be shaking your heads as to why a person needs to study for 8 months for an exam. Unfortunately, when I was in university, I found that the only study-method that truly worked for me was a super time intensive method of making cue card quizzes. At the end of it all, I had 427 5x7 full of genetic concepts and 200 cue cards, each representing a different genetic disease that I went through many, many times. Excessive? Probably. But I passed, so I am happy with the way I studied. I should never have to write another exam again!

2. Run a 10 km.

HAHAHAHAHA. Fail. Seriously. Studying took up so much time in 2009 that I stopped going to the gym in April and haven't been back.

3. Become more aware of "world issues" - lofty goal: yes. But I would like to be at least somewhat informed regarding some of the major international strife.

Again. Failure. I think the problem with this is that I don't even know where to go to get good information. I don't know what to believe, so I don't try. Maybe I still need to work on this.

4. Have an article that I have written approved for publication.

Well...almost. I am just waiting on my co-author to write a paragraph and then we are sending it off to the a journal. I am hoping that it will be sent in the first week of January, so I almost made this goal. I did, however, present another poster, so that is one more thing for the old CV.

5. Become competent at keeping in touch with friends who aren't in Montreal (so...the majority of my friends :P).

Hmmm...yes and no. I am making an effort to randomly cold call some friends, but this is a hard thing to find the time for. When I do have a free hour and decide to sit down and call someone, there is no guarantee that they are home and/or available to talk. I am going to keep trying with this.

So, really. The only thing off my list I truly accomplished in 2009 was passing my exams. But that was really the final chapter in my education as a genetic counsellor. I am a CGC (certified genetic counsellor) and a CCGC (Canadian certified genetic counsellor) and that was what my 2009 was all about.

But 2009 didn't only involve studying. We went a lot of places and had a lot of great visitors. Stay tuned...a second blog post may actually be out before the end of 2009!

"Its why I am - unlikely to agree. Why I am - climbin out of my money tree. Why I am - still here dancin with the GrooGrux King" - DMB

Monday, January 05, 2009

A new year with new experiences...

So, I have decided to take a page from Chelle's book and copy her post regarding the many things she did for the first time in 2008 and outline my goals for 2009.

Yes, I am one of the those people who make new year's resolutions. I love a list, and what better to list than things I hope to accomplish in the next year! These would include:
I think I can handle six goals in the next year. We'll see.

And what about 2008? Well, overall it was a strange year. I did a lot of great things, but I fear that living long distance from Jeff seemed to trump the good times of 2008. Thank goodness that is over with. Here is a list of fabulous things I did for the first time last year:
That is my 2008 in review. I hope that I manage even more firsts in 2009! I also hope that you, my friendly reader, have a marvelous year.

You should leave a comment and let me know one of your firsts from 2008 and one of your goals for 2009. C'mon - don't be lazy :)

"To change the world, start with one step. However small, the first step is hardest of all." - DMB

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The long weekend of firsts...

Overall, I found that this was a strange summer for me - I was away from the lake and from my husband. I was lucky enough to spend both May and August long weekends in Saskatchewan at the cabin, and Jeff was here for July long. Not bad, all things considered.

But September long was going to be different. I was going to be alone and in the city (cringe). My friend Danna was kind enough to invite me (or, I may have invited myself) to her cottage at Lake Kashwakamak for the weekend. We were accompanied by her awesome co-worker Sherri, as well as her dad (who is also pretty swell).

I had a fabulous time. As many of you are aware, my cabin is located in a townsite, so it is different than the typical lake experience. Lake Kashwakamak reminded me of Lac La Ronge. This was more like Jeff's lake experience: boating, relaxing, more boating, etc.

I didn't do a lot of water sports growing up so I am not a pro-star at them. It took me ten tries to get up on the wakeboard. You should feel bad for the people in the boat who were waiting their turn. I finally figured it out though (on day 3) and enjoyed myself until I face-planted into the lake. Felt great.

Danna was so much more graceful than I.

We all managed to get up on skis. This only took me four attempts. Not bad...only everyone else got up the first time. I am so skilled.

Danna is awesome, again.
Don't mock my awesome skills :P

Sherri just looks so darn happy.

We also did some tubing: singles and doubles. Who bailed on the doubles tubing? This guy!

I also did a few more things for the first time during this trip. I drove a boat (forgot to put it in neutral when I was done), I rope swung into the lake (bruised my palm. seriously) and I cliff jumped into the lake.

The cliff jumping was an adventure. You see, I have this fear of "low heights". I am not necessarily freaked out by being in a plane, but put me on a ladder or, well, a cliff, and I am not a happy girl. So on day 2, myself and Mike (a friend of Danna's) decided we were going to give it a shot.

There goes Mike.

And wait for it...

Wait for it...

Ya, no. I climbed down. I couldn't do it.

The next day, we go back out there and this time Sherri, Mike, Graham (Danna's friend Andrea's boyfriend) and I climbed the cliff.

Sherri jumps...

Graham jumps....

Both boys jump...



and eventually...

I finally did it! It only took me around 30 minutes to get up the nerve to do it. And what motivated me, you ask? Well, the song "Crash" by Dave Matthews Band was playing from the boat. Ya, that's right. I would do anything if you add a little Dave.

So overall, it was a fantastic weekend. We had great food (a turkey one night and a roast the other!) and an honorable mention goes to Andrea for making the best s'mores I have ever had; she is a s'mores pro-star.

I can't wait to go again next year :)

"You wear nothing, but you wear it so well" - DMB

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mini post regarding mini blog...

Hey guys. What's up? You may be wondering "Rachel, where are your blog posts about Europe". Or you may not be wondering that. You may have totally forgotten that I went there or that I promised to write about it. And now I have reminded you. Damn.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for you, this is not a blog post about Europe. This is a post about my "mini blog". Yes, I have succumbed to the dark side...Twitter.

Half of my readers already know what Twitter is and are already subscribed to me. The other half probably don't want anything to do with this new-ish nerdy internet tool. What it is ? It is mini updates about what is going on in my life at any given moment - in 140 characters or less.

"Why do I really want to know what you are doing at any given moment in the day", you ask. Well, I do some pretty awesome stuff. And my life is thrilling. Or not. But I find that it helps me be connected to those who are far away from me.

You can update from your computer or cell phone. That means that any craziness I come across on the streets of Montreal, you can read about in real time and not three months later when I finally get around to blogging about it.

So are you interested? I bet you are! Go to for more information and if you are interested in "following" me, search for Rachel Vanneste. We can be twitter friends!

I, however, cannot condone the use of the term "tweet". Yes, that is what it is called when you send an update. I refuse to tweet. Period.

"If I follow along, does it mean I belong?" - Blue man group with Dave Matthews

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

EMPAG awesomeness...

Prior to my trip to Barcelona this spring, I had previously visited this city in March 2000. It was strange and fun to come back to the city. There were a number of times where I would suddenly come upon a street and a memory from when I was 19 years old would come rushing back.

So having visited the city before, I didn't feel the need to be a hard core tourist. I felt that I could enjoy the conference, go visit some of my favourite sites and, most importantly, gorge on sangria and tapas. Glorious.

So the main reason that I went to Spain was to go to the European Meeting of Psychosocial Aspects of Genetics, which was apart of the European Society of Human Genetics Conference. It was a pretty decent conference and it was really interesting to see how the genetics services in other countries compare to those Canada/US. The main reason that I went to this conference was to present my poster for my Masters project.

Yes, I totally matched it on purpose. I planned my outfit weeks in advance. I am a planner.

There was also a congress party that was organized by the conference. It was fun - the food was great and the drinks were free-poured. It isn't easy getting up for 8:30 am talks after a night of half-cup malibus the night before.

"Hey" you say. "Who is that blond girl?" Well, that is Meghan and she is a GC out of Halifax. We arranged to be roommates via email before having met each other. Luckily, we got along quite well (which is thankful considering our twin beds were pushed together every night that we returned to our hotel room). We got along fabulously and had similar senses of humor, as illustrated in the pic below.

Yes, we are doing the shopping cart and yes, we are looking at our cans. Honestly, I do not believe that the photo was choreographed. I would like to think that she is (almost) as dorky as I am!

This photo doesn't quite capture the awesomeness that is a hundreds of geneticists (researchers, MDs), grad students, genetic counsellors and other famous people dancing to the best Spanish Cover band singing songs from the 80s. I have never quite seen people rock out like they did there. It was too awesome to describe. So I won't.

So that was the conference. Three cheers for learning! I will follow-up with another post detailing the fantastic-ness of Barcelona in general.

"Hani Hani, come and dance for me, underneath the moonlight. Hani Hani come and dance for me"- DMB

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Por favor, hable inglés..

It has been a long time since I didn't understand the language of the city/country I was visiting. I almost forgot what it was like to not understand anything that is going on around you (and it made me empathize with Jeff a bit :P ).

I went to Barcelona, Spain for five days. It was my second visit to the city and I quite liked it - the city is nice, the food is good and the people are very helpful (and understanding). Thank goodness for that. Within ten minutes of entering the country, I ran into trouble with the language.

I am on the train from Marseille to Barcelona. I, being the planner that I am, bought my train ticket in Canada before I left to ensure that I had a way to the conference. I got the ticket on sale, which was awesome. Go me, the bargain shopper.

When we cross the France-Spain border, someone comes around and checks our tickets. I whip mine out, expecting no problem; however, instead I hear:

"blah blah blah (in Spanish)".

"Perdón" I reply - having no idea what the man is saying to me.

"Ticket. You need euro-rail pass for ticket".

It is at this point that I start to panic. I do not have a euro-rail pass - this is the ticket that Travel Cuts sold me. They told me they had a sale on. I try to explain to the train man that I don't have a pass, this was all that was sold to me, please don't kick me off the train. At this point, some nice man starts acting as a translator and the end result is me paying 22 euros. Oh well, paying money was better than getting kicked off the train.

So, that was my first few minutes in Spain. My first morning in Spain, I also ran into trouble with the language. You see, in Europe, they don't have what I consider normal coffee. And I, being lactose intolerance, am not going to have a "café con leche". So I walk to a coffee shop at 9:30 am and look at the menu trying to find the closest thing to a regular coffee. I see café Colombian and café Brasilian. To me, these seemed like brewed coffees so I went for it. I order a café Brasil.

I watch the woman make me a coffee and then I start to panic. Oh. My. God. Did she just put liquor in the coffee? It is 9:30 am! What did I just order? Can I run away? She comes to me with the coffee and tries to charge me 4 euro for it and I knew the café Brasil was only 1,50 euros. I say "no. café Brasil". Apparently this second attempt at saying Brasil was better than the first because she understands me and makes me the coffee. Unfortunately, it is not a normal coffee but is the strongest cup of espresso I have ever had. I went with it.

So good times with the language, and Spanish being a language that I can somewhat get by in because it is so closely related to French. I am sure you can only imagine how well I did when I was in Japan a few years ago.

" But sometimes this thick confusion grows until I cannot bear it at all" - DMB

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vive la France...

Oh France, it has been awhile. This is my third time visiting this country and it holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first international destination that I visited at the tender age of 16 - it was my first taste of international travelling independence. I returned at the age of 19 when I backpacked around Western Europe with my friend Cole.

Now, at 27, I have returned and found that much is the same.

There is dog shit everywhere. I know that this is a stereotype of French cities, but with good reason. It is quite gross how people don't pick up after their dogs. I had a near-miss with my suitcase - how gross would that have been.

Everyone smokes. I had forgotten how many people smoke here. Even in Quebec where there are quite a few more smokers in comparison to the rest of Canada, it still doesn't compare to this. Luckily, they recently went smoke free in many public places. Awesome.

Cars park on the sidewalk. I had forgotten about this and it brings me joy when I see it. I think it is hilarious. It defeats the purpose of a sidewalk as pedestrians have to walk on the road.

Boobs. They love their naked ladies here. Boobs cover posters, billboards and tv shoes - they are everywhere. And it is normal. We, in North America, are extremely prudish in comparison to our European counterparts.

So, my first two days in Europe weren't too bad. It was nice to start in a country where I at least speak the language. I will write a blog post about the city of Marseille when I get back. In the meantime, I will do small little posts about the type of trouble I manage to get into while here; which, after 3 days, is more than you would think.

" But, Belle, je ne comprends pas francais, so you'll have to speak to me some other way. " - Jack Johnson

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