7 Things About Me (aka Chain Letters Still Exist)

Just before the holidays, the lovely Brigid from Live, Breathe, Huzzah! tagged me in the newest form of “chain letters” where you share 7 things about yourself and have others do the same. Thankfully, this form of chain letter is much more interesting and fun (at least from my point of view). So for the first time, I’m going to play too!

I was a pretty good violinist when I was younger. I started playing the violin in sixth grade (yes, I was a huge nerd) and made all of the state and regional orchestras I tried out for, including the Houston Youth Symphony for 3 years in a row. My family moved from Houston in 8th grade, or I know I would have stuck with HYS for longer. Surprisingly, I really didn’t practice much at all, so my mother had to significantly fudge my practice report card pretty often. Even so, I was good enough that in 7th grade, I decided I would try my hand at the viola as well. I think I’m still the only person who has played both the violin and viola in a single concert for the Houston Youth Symphony. I still have my concert violin (my parents purchased it for me as a high school graduation present) and every time I see it, I feel sad I can’t play well anymore. I quit playing the violin when I went to college, so I could focus more on voice performance, but I think quitting is my single biggest regret in life.

I’m pretty sure I have the most ridiculous “I changed my major a lot  in college” story. I started out college as a musical theater performance major, wanting to be on Broadway. I went through a few different majors before ended up a microbiology major, taking classes in ‘advanced molecular virology’ as I wanted to be an immunologist. I actually got in to UNC’s Immunology program to get my PhD but instead went to get my Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology and Public Policy. Now I’m working on my doctoral dissertation using satellite image analysis to predict outbreaks of infectious diseases. Musical theater performer to satellite image analyst. I haven’t met someone yet whose initial and final majors were that different 1 .

I’ve spent a more than a month each in Peru, Jamaica, Kenya, and India. All in the last 3 years. And all for work. I guess you could say I sent myself to these locations, since I created my own projects/reasons to spend time in that country. In India and Jamaica I worked with regional health systems to improve surveillance for dengue fever and malaria (two mosquito-borne diseases). In Kenya I worked with 2 colleagues to launch a not-for-profit organization which puts on a week-long medical camp in a medically-underserved area called Port Victoria – a project they’ve revisited each year since. As for Peru, my parents used to live there and I fell in love with the Amazon, so I created my doctoral dissertation around a city in the lower Amazon basin called Puerto Maldonado. I guess you could say I’m at home when I’m far away from home 2 .

Goa, India

My feet on the beach in a lagoon in Port Antonio, Jamaica

Giving de-worming medicine to school children in Kenya

On a Blackwater Lake ecosystem in the southern Peruvian Amazon

I’ve been a Continental Elite member for the past 4 years. That means that I’ve flown at least 25,000 miles a year, domestically and internationally, just on Continental Airlines, which is most of the reason I titled this blog “Running Around the World. While it’s swayed more toward Running in the past year (since I’ve been training for my first marathon), the original purpose of this blog was to be an online journal. I used to send mass emails to my family and friends when I was working in a foreign country to let everyone know what I was up to, but I found it to be a big hassle to manage – I would forget people, or get really confused as to who exactly I was ‘replying’ to, and lots of peoples’ email accounts were full of strangers saying things like “ooh neat! glad you’re having fun!”.  I decided that a blog might be an easier way to go.

I was on the crew (rowing) team at Kansas State University as a college freshman and sophomore. It was insanely hard work, and I missed out on a lot of things that first year – like bonding with sorority sisters or going to a lot of freshman mixer-type parties. While I did get some good out of the experience – I learned to work as a team, I exercised a LOT, (pushing my “freshman 15 lb” gain to be more of a “sophomore/junior 15”) – I’m not sure I’d do it again. I developed something called synovial plica syndrome because I had bad rowing form which was not corrected by my coaches. It made bending my knee ridiculously painful – I cried myself to sleep many, many times; I also rowed and ran while crying many, many times. My coaches didn’t seem to care, and made me feel guilty for being injured. So, I quit and had knee surgery over Christmas break of my sophomore year. Crew made me associate exercise with feeling emotionally abused, so I was pretty sedentary for about 8 years after that. Then I got fed up with being a little pudgy and lazy and started running, which I now love.

I'm in the bow seat (farthest to the right).

I speak French, Spanish and Italian. No, not individually – at the same time. I’ve taken 5 years of French, 1 year of Italian, and have spent the last 3 or 4 years trying to pick up Spanish (since I work in Peru). My brain processes them all pretty oddly. If I want to say something in Spanish, first I say it in my head in French and then translate from French into Spanish. So when I go to say that phrase, some of the words end up not being converted from French to Spanish and my sentence comes out in Franish (or is it Sprench?) Occasionally an Italian word ends up in there, if I don’t know the French or Spanish word for the thing. It’s like a little language grab bag in my brain. Oddly enough, most of the time a Spanish-speaking person understands my Sprench phrases.

I can quote the entire script of the movie Bull Durham. Whenever I’m at a baseball game and there’s a meeting on the mound, I have a little OCD thing where I have to quote at least the line “…and nobody know’s what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present.” If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the movie, for the love of cheese you need to watch it ASAP. It’s one of my all time favorite flicks.


So, since I wrote this post because I was tagged, I’m passing it on. Brigid’s post didn’t say how many people I was supposed to tag to get good luck, so I picked 7. If I didn’t tag you and you want to write your list too, make sure you link me to it in a comment below so I can go read it!

1.  Allison of Happy Tales Blog
2.  Heidi of The Unpredictable Journey
3.  Isis & Lee of The Running Couple
4.  Elizabeth of Road Full of Promise
5.  Katie of Run This Amazing Day
6.  Theresa Ashley of Running In Circles
7.  Suze of Running Around the World (we share this blog, but she needs to do a list too!)


1 Please share with me your weird starting and finishing majors if they’re equally weird! I love hearing that other people are strange, too.

2 I’m going to post my non-blogged journal/email entries from India (summer 2009) and Jamaica (summer 2010) soon-ish. But I’m going to date them the day I emailed/wrote them, so don’t be surprised if you see some seemingly old posts pop up in your RSS reader one of these days.

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2 Responses to 7 Things About Me (aka Chain Letters Still Exist)

  1. Brigid says:

    Yay! I’m glad you did this! Your crew story sounds.horrible. I’m glasd you are able to enjoy running now. I can’t wait for Suze’s 7 things post 🙂

    • laura says:

      Yeah, crew was not the best thing. I got out before I got seriously injured, thankfully. A few girls had slipped discs in their back that weren’t diagnosed until after they quit. There were some serious problems there in the early 00s.

      And how could I not do this post? It’s fun!

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