Finally finished and feeling free

The semester is finally over, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the long-awaited break! As they always do in school, the weeks between Thanksgiving and the semester close flew by with non-stop culminating projects, research proposal deadlines, and final exams. We have spent many a recent day in our favorite local study cafe, Colectivo, and drinking too much coffee!

Over Thanksgiving break, we stayed around in Milwaukee and hosted a small Friendsgiving gathering at our apartment. It coincidentally turned out that everyone who attended was from California and couldn’t afford to go back home for so short a time. We had a great time, and I happily succeeded in making my first spatchcocked turkey along with some sticky rice stuffing and a pumpkin magic cake for dessert!

On Black Friday, we went to see a movie in the theater for the first time since La La Land. “Wonder” was definitely a tear-jerker (x5), and I highly recommend seeing it if you haven’t already! That weekend one of my classmates also invited us over to her home in Brookfield for a delicious dinner. We met her husband and children and giant German Shepherd, and the night really felt like “real life” in contrast to all the school-oriented tasks and activities that normally occupies our time.

In early December, Jonny had a medical volunteering event at a Hmong New Year celebration in Milwaukee (apparently Hmong Americans are the largest Asian ethnic group in the state of Wisconsin), and I decided to tag along to check it out. Good decision on my part, because the organization was very generous with the food vouchers for the medical student volunteers, and we ended up taking home a plethora of Hmong food for dinner…and lunch and dinner the next day too.

Since our last update back in early November, we’ve started attending a neighborhood community group through our church. Our group has a good mix of members in different life stages, and it’s great that one of Jonny’s classmates and his wife attend the group as well. We meet every Thursday night to discuss the previous Sunday’s sermon and bible passage, and once a month we have a potluck/fellowship night.

In other news, it’s really cold here and the snow has finally decided to stick around! It’s quite surreal seeing everything covered in snow, but so far it hasn’t been too much trouble (underground/covered parking will do that for you). It also make Christmas lights and decorations WAAY more beautiful, so that’s a plus!

While we are definitely glad to be settling in well here, we are excited for our time back in California to see all of our beloved friends and family!

 

 

 

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Madison and Beef Bourguignon

To celebrate the completion of another block of exams, Michelle and I decided to spend our Saturday exploring Madison, the state capitol of Wisconsin. We began the day by exploring Dane County’s original Madison Farmer’s Market on the Square. The market was quite extensive, surrounding the entire capitol building in the middle of downtown Madison. Though it was raining lightly, the market was bustling and filled with vendors selling everything from pizza-flavored baked cheese to kohlrabi as it was the second to last farmer’s market for the season. We stocked up on vegetables and bread for the week and then proceeded to a local coffee shop, Ancora, to treat ourselves to a mocha.

Next, we joined a tour of the state capitol building to learn more about the history of our new home state.  The tour guide explained that the state is commonly referred to as the “badger state” because Wisconsin ore miners used to dig temporary underground shelters for themselves, similar to badgers. Thus, there seems to be statues of badgers everywhere in Wisconsin (including the doorframe of every main hall in the capitol). She also pointed out unique aspects of the architecture such as the fossils embedded in the rock walls and floors of the building.

After the state capitol, we hightailed it to the local Asian bakery to load up on Asian pastries that we have dearly missed since moving to the Wauwatosa. We may have gone a bit overboard, but we were so excited to see the comforting sight of taro, bbq pork, and red bean buns. Then, it was time for lunch. Since we couldn’t settle on a single lunch spot (we really get a kick our of sampling all of the local foods we can when we visit a new city), we chose to go to two locations: Paul’s Pel’meni and Ian’s Pizza.  At Paul’s we had our first pel’meni, a Russian dumpling filled with potatoes or meat (and subsequently doused in yellow curry sauce, cilantro, and sour cream), and were impressed by the flavor. Apparently pel’meni was a common, portable, and easily-prepared food item for travelers to carry during long winter journey’s in Russia and Siberia. At Ian’s Pizza, we got a “smoked brisket and tots” pizza, which was also delicious. Technically the Mac n’ Cheese pizza gets all the hype at Ian’s, but we just couldn’t see ourselves finishing an entire slice…

In order to walk off the huge amount of calories we just ingested, we chose to wander through the University of Wisconsin Madison’s campus. The campus was beautiful and vibrant with school pride as a Badgers football game was ongoing, reminding us of the fervor of Berkeley’s campus. We were impressed by both the beauty of the campus with docks that led into Lake Mendota, as well as their on-campus diary manufacturing plant, Babcock Hall. We ended up strolling about 2 miles to visit Henry Vilas Zoo, a free zoo in Madison with awesome animals like flamingos, a polar bear, and a real live badger! We ended the day with a lovely Laotian dinner and boba with our new friends Matthew and Sharon.

The following day I (Jonny) spent the greater portion of an afternoon cooking Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. It had been a few weeks since we had cooked anything out of the norm, and we were inspired by the movie Julie and Julia. Boeuf Bourguignon (or beef burgundy) was originally a peasant dish that is now a staple of haute cuisine. It’s a beef-based stew that is braised in burgundy wine for hours and served with a generous side of sautéed mushrooms and pearl onions over butter egg noodles. Our efforts were rewarded when we shared this meal (along with a homemade pumpkin pie that Michelle baked in the toaster oven because the real oven was occupied all day with the stew) with our friends JP, Misaye, Suhas, and Francis!

Fall Break

I am pleased to announce that we are more than halfway done with our first semester in our respective PA/medical school programs! Getting back into the routine of attending class, studying, and taking tests has definitely been a challenge, but we are finally hitting our stride and finding efficient and effective ways to approach the material being thrown at us. We’ve even started study marathons at local cafes on the weekends again (throwback to college…)!

Over the past month, we have also been intentionally trying to enjoy the fall season in Wisconsin and take advantage of the nice weather while it is still here. Recently, we helped out at a small Harvest Festival at our church (hosting a game where children had to eat donuts off of a string) and went apple picking at The Elegant Farmer with some friends from MCW (the chicken pot pie and the “apple pie baked in a paper bag” were both delicious)! We sampled over nine varieties of apples while we tromped through the orchard with our basket, and Jonny even climbed a tree or two to snag the specific apples that I wanted.

Later that week, I made some of the apples into an apple crisp which we brought over to our friends’ apartment when they had us over for a cider and cheese night! We had a lovely night of conversation, great food, and Mexican poker with JP and Misaye.

Also, last weekend we were blessed to host our first non-family visitor in Milwaukee! Mimia was in Chicago for a conference and graciously agreed to take the train up to Milwaukee on Friday evening to hang out with us. We went out for perch fish fry and lobster at St. Paul Fish Company in Milwaukee Public Market followed by fried cheese curds and custard for dessert at Gilles Frozen Custard. Unfortunately it was raining on Saturday morning, so Mimia and I hung out/studied at Colectivo Coffee while Jonny went to volunteer at a health fair. On the 1.5 hour drive back down to the Chicago airport, we stopped at Portillo’s for a lunch of Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian Beef Sandwiches. It was there that we also unfortunately found out that Mimia’s flight had been cancelled due to an approaching thunderstorm. Since we were en route to Chicago, we decided to head into town anyway for an evening of unexpected downpour and dining choices before heading back to Milwaukee. Though it was a long weekend with lots of driving, it was great to catch up and fellowship with an old friend, and it definitely reminded us of the loving and supportive community that we have back at home.

This past weekend was Marquette’s Fall Break, and I was grateful to have an extra two days off to decompress a bit. We decided to drive up to Door County for a speedy 24-hour getaway, and it was amazing. The fall colors were truly incredible (I took so many pictures of trees, it’s kind of ridiculous), and we enjoyed two lovely hikes in the state parks along the Lake Michigan coast. On Friday afternoon, we explored the Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park, and on Saturday morning we hiked the Black Trail in Whitefish Dunes State Park/Cave Point County Park.

We also enjoyed a delicious meal at the famed and historic Door County Fish Boil at Old Post Office Restaurant. A fish boil is an old tradition dating back to the 1800s when Scandinavian immigrants fed their entire logging/fishing community with potatoes, onions, and locally caught fish boiled in large kettle of water and salt. Our experience at the fish boil was a historical demonstration as much as it was a meal, and the food was simple and delicious from the local Lake Michigan whitefish to the handmade cherry pie. To our surprise, we were seated at the same table with two strangers that ended up being Class of 2009 Berkeley grads randomly visiting Wisconsin from the Bay Area. What a small world.

We definitely did not have enough time to explore all the things in Door County, but we did have the chance to stroll around town, explore the local Farmer’s Market in Sturgeon Bay (we sampled the best caramel corn ever), and a visit a small-scale working Dairy farm (where we saw cows being milked and petted baby cows and miniature ponies).

 

End of the First Block of Exams

While it’s only been a month since our last post, it feels like so much time has passed. School has ramped up into full gear, but Michelle and I have still fortunately been able to explore more of Milwaukee in our bits of free time. We’ve hosted Michelle’s family when they visited from the Bay Area, gone on the 7 bridges hike, and ate at a pretzel Milwaukee style.

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Photos by Joshua Tsui

 

Additionally, we saw hundreds of people at Bradford beach, sampled a mystery chili (combined from 20+ entries in a chili competition), fed some goats at a petting zoo, met R2D2, and witnessed a lumberjack competition.

 

 

Prior to starting medical school, I had often heard learning in medical school being described as “drinking from a fire hose”.  While I took this description to heart, I didn’t fully comprehend it’s meaning until I began my studies. Between the numerous clinical correlations in biochemistry and cadaver dissections in anatomy, I’ll admit that there had been moments when I felt inadequate. Thankfully, Michelle was always there to encourage me and support me in whatever way she could. I successfully finished my first block of medical school exams this past Friday and am grateful when I think about the privilege I have of studying to become a physician.

 

 

This past weekend, we were able to go on a retreat with CMDA at Lake Mills. An alumnus of CDMA was kind of enough to let our group use their lakeside cabin for a weekend of fellowship and relaxation. During this retreat, we were reminded that our God is faithful as we wrote down our hopes for the year on a lantern and cast it off over the lake.

 

Michelle and I also received a lovely care package from our close friends at home (shout out YAGs at CLC), reminding us of how much we are loved and missed by our community back at home.

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YAG love

 

Befores and Afters

It’s been three weeks since we arrived in Wisconsin and I can now confidently say that we are “all settled in” to our new home. It was a lot of fun (and work!) to set up our new apartment, and we are very happy with how it all turned out in the end. We have a sizable kitchen and dining room, a spacious living room, a master bedroom with two sinks (yay!), and a second bedroom that we converted into our study…and home gym!

Jonny has wanted a home gym for a long time now, and we agreed that if we found a good priced 2 bedroom apartment in Wisconsin, we would try to make his dream come true (it is also his quarter century birthday present!). We figured that it was a good investment for our health and efficiency, as we probably won’t feel up to going to our school gyms that often in the cold, snowy winter weather.

This past week was also Jonny’s first week of medical school at MCW. It was packed full of class lectures, anatomy labs, introductions, and free club lunches but he made it through alive! He’s glad to be back in the swing of things, learning material he finds interesting and relevant, but it’s definitely a stressful challenge as well. We’ve accumulated some extra reference textbooks and mounted some whiteboards in our office in efforts to make our home very comfortable for the long hours of studying to come for both of us.

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Walking to school!

On Monday, we attended the first gathering of MCW’s Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) and met some new friends and fellow believers. It was a little weird for me at first, as I was the only one there who does not attend MCW, but I was welcomed warmly to the group. It’s also nice that most of the members attend Meadowbrook, the neighborhood church that we have been checking out.

This weekend we also visited the Wauwatosa Farmer’s Market, hosted a very enjoyable spaghetti and meatballs dinner party for some of Jonny’s classmates, attended Meadowbrook’s annual church picnic, and played some tennis at the local park. I’m trying to enjoy my last days of freedom before my PA program starts, but as much as I enjoy watching the many episodes of “The Great British Bake Off” (I’m currently halfway through season 2), I’m looking forward to having some structure back in my days. My orientation is on Friday and classes start next Monday!

 

First week challenges and celebrations

Tomorrow, a week will have passed since we moved into our new apartment in Wauwatosa, and it’s finally starting to feel like a home (rather than a huge cluttered mess)! I cannot count the number of trips we have made to stores and strangers’ houses to accumulate the conglomeration of new and used furniture/appliances that now furnish our apartment.

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Our first meal in the apartment. Hooray for Chick-fil-A being open late!

Definitely the most challenging process of the week was installing the washer and dryer set that we purchased off Craigslist from a nice man in Greenfield. You’d think it’s a fairly simple ordeal, but our experience included Jonny getting soaked by a leaking water hose, a mild electrocution (everyone is okay), multiple trips to Home Depot, and hours spent trying to attach the two sides of a disagreeable dryer vent hose.

There is a huge amount of construction going on in the streets surrounding our complex right now, so it’s usually pretty difficult to get in and out. People have said that because there are such long, snowy winters in Wisconsin, all construction gets condensed into the few short summer months of the year. On more than one occasion, I have literally driven laps around the neighborhood trying to find an accessible way into our parking garage!

This week, Jonny also started his orientation at MCW. He’s been making lots of new friends and sitting through all sorts of fun presentations, panels, and preparation activities. Each evening, there has also been optional community building outings, and on Tuesday night we went to the Wisconsin State Fair with some of Jonny’s medical school classmates! We watched some pig racing, stopped to let competition cows cross the road, enjoyed eating the enormous and iconic Wisconsin State Fair cream puffs, and searched unsuccessfully for hurricane potatoes.

While Jonny has been at orientation, I have been making trips all over town in order to stock our kitchen with food and necessities, but mostly food. In addition to the much-needed Costco and Trader Joe’s (the sweetest cashier at TJs gifted me a “welcome to the neighborhood bouquet!), I visited two Asian grocery stores in the area. The first was appropriately named “Asian International Market” and was a small store that carried mostly Vietnamese groceries but also included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai specialty ingredients. The second store was slightly larger, and I found myself comforted by the familiar smells in the air and sound of Chinese music as I browsed the aisles.

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Our first home-cooked dinner in the apartment! …obviously nothing much has changed.

Today we also celebrated Jonny’s “White Coat Ceremony” and his official beginning as a student doctor and medical student. His family arrived last night for the occasion, and so far it seems that they like Milwaukee much more than they thought they would!

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Moving yet again!

Today we cancelled our extended stay hotel reservation… because we are moving into our new apartment tomorrow!

By God’s provision, we actually signed the lease for our beautiful 2 bedroom apartment three days ago on August 2nd, our second day of being in Wisconsin. It was a painfully stressful day with logistic complications, typos, endless phone calls, and electronic signing of the lease in the Costco food court, but praise the Lord we got the place!

We will be living in a very safe neighborhood near “The Village“, a lively area of town with restaurants, stores, and plenty of cafes. Jonny and I will both have fairly short commutes to school, and the church we are interested in checking out is also very close.

For the past few days, we’ve been keeping ourselves plenty busy accumulating stuff for our new home. We’ve visited Costco 3 times in the past 3 days, and yesterday, we drove almost 2 hours to make an IKEA run (the closest store is in Schaumburg, IL). We meant to only decide on the furniture we wanted and then have it delivered, but we ended up piling everything successfully into the back of our compact SUV. It was quite a puzzle to accomplish. We also used our newly acquired craigslist/letGo skills (from our summer of selling our stuff) to purchase some affordable and great quality desk chairs and dining chairs, and a Dyson vacuum!

 

When we were transferring our desk chairs into the building to clear up space in the car, we had to explain ourselves to the very confused hotel front desk person and make sure she understood that we were not stealing their property. You’d be surprised how much stuff can fit into an extended stay hotel room. We probably have about 2.5 car loads now.

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There’s more than it looks like there is…

We will be picking up a U-haul tomorrow at 7:30am and should be moving done by the afternoon. It’s rushed, but it’s exciting, and we’ve never moved any other way!

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Happy husband with his hard-earned bowl of ramen

First Day in Wisconsin

It’s the end of a very full day, and we feel productive yet pooped. Today, we visited 8 apartments (plus 1 yesterday) from 8:30am to 6:00pm. Since we aren’t too familiar with the area, it was quite disorienting, but I’m pretty sure that we drove at least 5 laps around Wauwatosa, circling the neighborhoods around the MCW. Fortunately, there were definitely a few reasonably priced apartments we liked and could see ourselves living in for the next 4 years! We will post updates when they happen!

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Visiting the 7th apartment of the day

We didn’t get a chance to eat lunch until just after 3pm due to the stacked appointments, so we treated ourselves and went to Applebees (yes, it’s exactly the same as California) followed by a bit of mattress shopping. We also explored a few local grocery stores in the area to get an idea of where to shop. I learned that Pick n’ Save is a Safeway equivalent, Outpost Market is kind of like Sprouts, and Metcalfe’s is another local market.

For dinner, we had some surprisingly good Chinese food for dinner at Meiji in Waukesha, where we are currently staying. The prices are definitely a bit on the higher end, but it was so comforting to eat things that were so familiar! Special thanks to Josh and Emily for treating us to our first dinner in Wisconsin. =]

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Next came a Target run for laundry detergent which unexpectedly led to a rush to spend $50 on household supplies in the 5 minutes before the store closed because we saw a coupon for $15 off. Heck, we needed all the stuff for our new apartment anyway!

We concluded the day with a grocery shopping trip at 10pm to Woodman’s Market, a Costco-sized grocery store that is open 24/7 for some reason. We picked up some food so that we wouldn’t have to eat out every meal of every day until we got settled in (Jonny gravitated toward the Chobani and Lean Cuisine).

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A whole entire aisle devoted to Greek yogurt!

The End of the Road to Milwaukee: Day 12

Today was our last day on the road, and tonight we finally arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

This morning we did a speed tour of Louisville (pronounced “Loo-a-vul”) because we were anxious to get on the road. First, we visited Cherokee Park, one of 18 parks in Louisville designed by Frank Law Olmsted, the “father of American landscape architecture”. It was a huge and beautiful park but we unfortunately didn’t have time to explore the numerous hiking trails there.

We also stopped at Waterfront Park, where we enjoyed the views of the Ohio River (the border between Kentucky and Indiana) on a pleasant bench swing. On the way, we took a small detour to snap a picture in front of the house that Thomas Edison lived in while he was working in Louisville. 

Next we went downtown to see the “world’s largest baseball bat” outside of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. The bat is 120 feet tall, weighs 68,000 pounds, and is an exact scale replica of Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger bat! Across the street, we browsed through Arteatables, a candy shop selling Bourbon truffles made with the brands of Bourbon distilled in Kentucky.

For lunch, we really wanted to try hot chicken, but alas, all the hot chicken restaurants are closed on Mondays! Nevertheless, we got to enjoy some Kentucky fried chicken (chicken that was fried in Kentucky, not KFC), hot honey, and spoonbread (a soft cornbread dish) at The Eagle with our friends Jen and Michael and their baby daughter! It was so enjoyable and encouraging to talk to them about marriage, life in the Midwest, and developing new community.

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And then we were off for Wisconsin, our final leg of the road trip. We breezed through Indiana, but we couldn’t help stopping for dinner in the suburbs of Chicago for some much-missed sushi and Korean soft tofu soup. By the way, if you are ever driving around near Chicago, bring plenty of small bills and change because there are toll booths everywhere! I think we paid a total of $10 in tolls at 5 different booths.

When we got to Milwaukee, we immediately went to our first apartment viewing and have plenty more lined up for the next few days.

All thanks to God for our safe travels during the past 12 days. Please pray for us as we search for our new home and start our new school programs!

We will continue using this blog to document our life in Wisconsin, so follow if you’d like!

 

 

Road to Milwaukee: Day 11

This morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast with Ally at Cafe Eclectic in Memphis. Ally and her roommates generously housed us last night at their home, and it was great to catch up with our good friend over a meal of Nutella stuffed french toast, biscuits with chicken and gravy, and a “sunny tater” hash. 

The next stop of the day was Nashville, Tennessee. We wanted to try the famous “hot chicken” at Hattie B’s, but the line was so long (even at 1:45pm) and we had so little time in Nashville, that we decided to skip it. Mistake??? We headed to Lower Broadway (a “renowned entertainment district for country music”) for lunch instead, and we ended up at Honky Tonk Central for a chicken sandwich, chili, and live country music. The venue had three floors and each level has its own artists performing from 11am to 3am daily!

After lunch, we went to the Nashville Farmer’s Market, a covered market that opens late into the afternoon. When we tried to buy a peach to snack on, we were informed that the stand had just closed its register for the day. The very nice lady running the stand told us to enjoy the peach on her, and it was even more delicious after that encounter.

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With our remaining hours in Nashville, we went to the extravagant Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, one of the largest hotels in the world, to look around. The Gaylord Opryland is truly a sight to behold, with sprawling gardens, numerous waterfalls, a river hosting boat tours, skywalks, and four massive atriums housing it all. The whole place felt sort of like a mix between a mall and a small city. 

We still had a three hour drive to Louisville, Kentucky and on the way finished the Serial podcast, season 2! Though not quite as compelling as season 1, we both were intrigued by the behind-the-scenes explanations of everything that happened in relation to Bowe Bergdahl.

Tomorrow is our last day on the road, and we are so excited to finally arrive at our final destination!