Monday, August 31, 2009

Countdown to another chapter Part 1 : Fighting mental battles

Today we celebrated 52 years of nationhood amidst H1N1, temple controversies, another hike in petrol prices, TBH premature and unjustified death and many other X-Files. For me personally, it's a day filled with sleeping, eating, sleeping and Internet just because I'm post-call. Life is mundane and sedated in Ipoh, especially without my chirpy housemates.

typical a day in Ipoh : walks/runs in parks ringed by limestone hills, eating and sleeping

Back-to-back call, to me, is like the black hole of medicine. It's something that has always been there but we try our darnedest to avoid. Once sucked into it, there is no escape. It's 2 and a half days of being stuck in the, nite, day, nite, day...almost 50 hours of staying alert and attending to all types of problems in the wards, OT and emergency department. It's something Malaysian surgeons are used to (with some centres having their surgeons being oncall the entire week..GASP!) and trainees trying to acclimatize to it ASAP, as much as possible.

the saving grace of many KLites working in Ipoh and the only major shopping centre in Perak

It was a long weekend and being off calls for many weeks, of course I'm the first choice of being oncall. Initially, I thought it would be fine doing back-to-back as I'm sure that my energy level is up to it. After all, I've done 15 EOD calls before in HKL (EOD is another medical lingo created to confuse many ppl not in means every other day) and weekends are supposedly cool days. However, I didn't figure in other confounding factors : the mental and emotional aspect. The key word is that the last time I did 15 EOD calls, it was in KL when I was back at home and back in my comfort zone. Now, it's an entirely different ballgame altogether.

An undispensable tool and something I'm very grateful for : HF Electrosurgery tools

Like what my fren PS say, the mental part has a lot to do with how we face challenges. Our mentality and fighting spirit could determine the hits or the misses. Initially, I felt kinda left out on Saturday as I missed the departmental party/KL's open house. Then I felt worse because my sister came to visit me in Ipoh and I could only meet up with her for half hour before I went back to hospital to settle some problems. So, I hardly had time for anyone, socially. The zenith of disappointment was when I realize I am oncall again next weekend (another back-to-back) on a similarly long weekends, while most people are with their families and loved ones as I run up and down the hospital corridors and wards.

In the end, as I'm typing this post, I began to reach a EUREKA moment...The consolation is that I should treat this as an early training ground, as minor sacrifices that I have to make in order to achieve my dreams. If I am not tough enough for it,if I am not strong enough to fight for it, not brave enough to encounter challenges, not enterprising enough to discover new terrain and not resilient enough to fight mental and emotional battles.....then I have no right to claim my dreams in the future.

After all, if we do not fight for what we believe in, what we hold on to be true, what we aim for in the future, then what's the point of having dreams in the first place?

My first part in musing about life in Malaysia before I cross the fence where grass is not necessarily but hopefully (with fingers crossed), greener.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Let's Go Prego

It's not often that I get to eat really classy, gourmet-type of food. However, we had a chance to go dine at a fine-dining place in Westin Hotel, Bukit Bintang. Yup, we were in Prego!

From the moment we entered, there was a lot of expensive-looking good wine and liquor on display. With tasteful lighting and modernistic decor, suddenly I felt underdressed. Thank goodness it was only lunch.

As customary, we were greeted by a cute-looking waiter and a bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Why? Just like in any other authentic Italian restaurant, we are 'encouraged' to chew on their home-made bread while waiting for our appetizers to come.

Looking around us (while waiting), it's easy to be completely at ease and at peace. The whole place is so warm and airy..with giant windows and bright sunlight streaming in while the busy traffic bustled about outside, it's almost like another world.

Fashionable ladies and happy tourists walked past us as strong wind rustled the trees along Jalan Bkt Bintang. As the little yellow petals fluttered by, I feel transported to somewhere a small cafe in Rome or Paris. A truly idyllic afternoon huh?

Anyhow, food came quicker than we thought and the theme of the day was : TOMATO AND CHEESE

Both our appetizers featured juicy, sundried tomatoes and tasty gooey cheese. Mine has rockets, feta cheese, figs and tomatoes and I loved its freshness. The salty cheese is the perfect foil to the sweet figs.

Main meal was...not much different. I expected a nice pizza..but Calzone was more like a giant curry puff with 'Italianized' fillings. Of course the salami in it was brilliant but I felt I made a wrong choice. There was a lot of tomato in it so much so that at the end of the meal, I was bursting with tomato goodness from the whole experience.

Anyway, the servings were HUGE. I packed my food and ate half of it for breakfast the next morning. To give them credit, the calzone actually tasted good even the next day. BK had some sort of grilled chicken with a tomato-based sauce. I thought it was a better dish compared to mine. I reminded myself : Thou shalt not covet....

So my verdict : Prego is definitely the place to go when you are in town accompanied with a gigantic craving for good Italian food AND with a thick, well-padded wallet.
P.S: The meal was 'partially-sponsored' (but not by the restaurant) I kinda hope that someday, I will be a food blogger par excellence and someone in the food industry will actually sponsor me. I promise to run more to burn off the extra goodies!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I know it's a eventful day when....

..I had a good, non-halal breakfast on a working day. Ipoh dim sum rocks!

..a car exploded in front of me while I was crossing the road! We heard a loud sound and apparently, smoke was coming out from one guy's car. Guess what happened?

..some guys fought in front of the hospital : throwing punches and pushing each other around. It was like a Bollywood movie!

..walked around in the rain without an umbrella but didn't get wet at all. Creative utilization of BHT!

..workday ended respectfully on time!

..and despite all that : I didn't take any pics. Aaaaahh!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wish i could bum more...

My roomies and I decided to go to Perhentian after my exams and in retrospect,it was a brilliant idea. I haven't gone on vacation in months and needed to refresh my almost-nonexistential diving skills while the gals wanna take up open water diving course.

After extensive on-line research (Thanks PS!), we found out that there are two ways to get to Perhentian from Singapore...either by a 10 hour bus ride or a 12 hour train ride. Being girls, we decided on the more 'leisurely on the bum' and 'romantic' train ride and endured an extremely long and jolting ride across the whole Peninsular (from the South to the North via the East Coast) cutting across the heart of Taman Negara.

Our mission was to dive, soak up the sun, eat, sleep and snorkel. We managed to do all that and even more. Discovered that we are the only Asians on the island. Trekked across Pulau Perhentian Kecil to Long Beach. Found out that the nightspots on the island is quite happening. Stumbled upon a secluded 'personal' beach. Ate food twice as expensive as KL but half as nice.

One word of warning though..the speedboat ride to and fro the island is a force to be reckoned with. It's like a 25 mins roller-coaster ride on a good day (with high waves, strong winds and a half-mad driver). We bunked in cheaply at D'Ayumni Resort and Hostel, which is a small place tucked in between Tuna Bay Restaurant and Resort (high class) and New Cocohut Resort (middle-ranged)...when we checked in, realized that we have a roomate from Netherlands who got so sun-burned on D1 in Perhentian that he spent the entire holidays indoors. So, reminder from the medical community : WEAR SUNBLOCK!!

Aside from people-watching on land (more like feasting our eyes upon the sun-kissed, hot bods of young guys and gals), I was quite disappointed with the marine life in shallower waters when we were snorkelling. Although this island is still better than most (Redang and Tioman, for example), I think the fragile ecosystem is unable to sustain the onslaught of tourism any longer. So sad...

Of course tourism brings in money and development to many parts of the country, but at what cost? I'm not sure whether the corals and marine creatures will ever return to this part of the country again. It sounds like the West coast all over again. That's why, I occassionally feels guilty when I dive/snorkel. I feel like I'm bringing more trouble to the stressed ecology.

Anyhow, this is a beautiful place and we should try our best to leave behind only footprints and take only pictures. On my way home (the plane was delayed half usual lar), I noticed from the air the surreal and awe-inspiring landscape. So my Merdeka Day wish for this year is that we shall care more for the enviroment and do our parts in eco-friendliness.

Anyway, I am just so glad that I'm no longer stressed :-) Do look forward to more blogs from yours truly....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My life past 1 week

A lot of studying. So much so that I felt like I was zapped back to uni days again. I've been studying since past 1-2 months but the past few weeks was the intensive revision, hopping from 1 book to another because of the vast syllabus and not knowing what to expect. After all, I've not gone to any revision courses and I've been studying on my own without a study partner. Aside from a few practice sessions with my seniors and surgeons, I'm almost clueless and entirely on my own.

The most brilliant thing was getting this room in Dover Close. I love the quietness and serenity. There is a gentle breeze blowing in daily. It's facing a small garden in a shaded alcove (fringed by majestic tall trees) and so i sit by the window and study while glancing at the greeneries once in a while. There is no need for artificial light as sunlight streamed in through the big windows. An altogether pleasant experience IF i'm not so emotionally and mentally stressed.

The house is general is pleasant, clean and airy. My landlady and her maid was pleasant and nice throughout my entire stay here. With a nice garden and no sight, sound or smell of vehicles, it was like a quiet neighbourhood in Ipoh.

Most importantly, I could get peaceful sleep in here as it's away from the hustle and bustle of any roads or MRT. Assess to food is also convenient. Although it was wake up, breakfast, study, lunch, study, dinner, study, sleep for 6 or 7 days straight, I think it was made better by good accommodation. Of course I miss my friends and families but this was something of utmost I kept on encouraging myself mentally and seeking God. I told myself, sometimes, we have to sacrifice social comfort for our dreams (to console myself not to miss KL/Ipoh so much)

Anyhow, I'm very grateful to those of you who contributed to this productive stay. God has poured so much of blessings into me indeed. I couldn't be thankful enough :-)

By the way, this is a major road in Singapore at 7 pm at peak hour on Monday. I couldn't believe it when I was crossing the road after dinner. I've never seen this in KL. Wow! Where are the cars?

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Journey Well-taken

This journey was started way back in medical school. It was my dream to become a surgeon when I entered med school. The journey was eventful but I know that God's gracious hands was upon me. Taken a very expensive route to my intended 'destination' and travelled to Singapore on my own for this high-stake 'gamble'. And today, you can say that I 'won big' :-)

I'm so humbled by this blessing. I've tried my best and went through the mental and emotional stress. I thank God for I emerged one intact piece!! Thus, I've entered the world's oldest surgical association. Another progression towards my goal, a big step forward.

So, a big thank you to all of you who helped me along, borrowed me books, let me practised with you in hospital, motivated me, pushed me along, humoured me, eaten with me, tolerated my mood swings, laughed with me, scolded me for not revising enough!! I've now gotten my MRCS (Edinburgh) and part 1 of M.Med (Singapore). THANK YOU!!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Strangely,I don't recall campus life was like this....

A few things I noticed in NUS when I was hanging around waiting for my exams to start.

1.Every single student has a better laptop than me. I could spot the latest MacBook, Sony Vaio, etc. Not only that, there seem to be bling-blings decorating all the laptops too!

2.The preferred choice of footwear is Birkenstock. These famous flip-flops (and infamously costly) are found adorning perfectly-manicured feet of most ladies 16-25 year old in this country.

3.The indoor facilities are exactly like my university. Note the keyword: indoor. Externally, the façade looks like Silicon Valley but the dissection hall and anatomy museum gives me déjà vu all over. It’s indeed UM’s twin (only in the inside, of course)

4. You can dress casual to campus. No one seem to mine. Less is indeed more. I guess nubile creatures should display their God-given perfect skin and body. It’s a spring/summer fashion show in here. That’s an understatement.

5. No two girls dress alike. Again this is my basic sentiment since the last few visits in Singapore. Since they are mostly slender and well-groomed, it's like a collective effort to look well. I wonder where they get the clothes from….after all, most retail will sell the same stuff. I need to go shopping here when I can afford it and maybe discover the 'secret'.

6. Reducing carbon footprint is the new buzzword. Public transport is in, cars are out. I love it when people are collectively eco-conscious and eco-friendly. Save the environment!

7. Serious shortage of cute guys. Are they all overseas or in National Service? Strangely girls seem to outnumber guys here. Maybe the guys are all indoor playing with their PS and Wii.

8. Cafeteria serves palatable food. Now that’s a compliment in comparison to certain campuses I know of. I remembered the ammonia fish in uni canteen..urgh.

9. Parking (and to add to that, ERP, petrol, etc) is bloody expensive. I don’t think I can afford a car here. Not that I park or drove here. It's all walking and MRT for me.

10. Singlish is exactly like Manglish. Now that’s something I can definitely cope with!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stress Management and the feelings of being a student (again)

Constant stress, easy fatigability and self-doubt : the natural state of mind in an examination candidate.

My mental state seems to fluctuate between panic (when away from the books) and drowsiness (when reading the textbooks). Panic attacks seem to be quite common. Got scared when I look at past year questions. Then got an even bigger scare when I don't know whether I've been reading the right books all along.

After being scared and worried, then I begin reading before nodding off. Finally I found my head laying on top of the pages, almost snoring away....I've forgotten how medical texts can be the best insomniac medications ever. Sure beats Zolpidem!

My last major exams was in final year and that was the biggest stress of my life. Now I've willingly put myself through another round of mental and physical 'torture'. Pimples sprouting out, weight fluctuating, and appetite disappearing. I better stock up on those concealers and 3-in-1 drinks!

I need a break..looking forward to the diving trip but first, I shall journey down south and face a few hours of reckoning at the exam hall and hopefully, encounter some friendly and helpful faces along the way.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Who goes to an apartment for food?

There is an apartment which serves good food in town and I've been there 3 or 4 times with different groups of people to savour the taste and quirky decor. I've enjoyed it each time.

It's BK's birthday and decided to go to the Curve for a nice birthday lunch due to the staggering amount of choices. It's weird but some guys DO NOT LIKE surprises and although I am big on surprises (after all, any surprise outside the hospital is usually a good surprise)'s time to give the birthday person the choice. Initially, we wanted to go for some French cuisine but downtown was closed to traffic (due to the huge demostrations in town) and we have to settle for somewhere else. And ze apartment was ze answer.

Starters was this cute bread with unknown spread..was it chocolate butter? or some peanut butter? Not really sure about that.

Both of us tried the various tea available on the menu and I kinda like the chamomile tea. According to reliable sources, chamomile is an excellent herbal aid to sleeping. Yours truly have no problem in falling asleep (due to the amount of revision I've got) but chamomile is always very calming to the nerves...

As for the real deal, I had something from the sandwich and wraps section. It's a grilled chicken quesadilla..some sort of tortilla concoction that is just big enough for a small person like me. I wish it has more fibre inside but I just have to make do with more tropical fruits later! Anyhow, it has good mix of flavour in it.

BK had a huge grilled salmon which is 'big' enough for the muscleman. I didn't really fancy oregano but he enjoyed the dish. The menu is very extensive and so far, I have yet to try most of the selections. For the record, I've always enjoyed the cosy ambience and good service here and food is mostly scrumptious.

So I guess you might catch me in the apartment again..
P.S: There is another sister outlet in KLCC facing the park. I've been there last year and it's worth another visit there too!