Saturday, March 21, 2009

Back in Sydney

It's been 1 week since I returned to Sydney and I must admit, it has flown by rather quickly. I've just started with my Obstetrics and Gynaecology term at Royal Hospital for Women so I can't really comment much on the course yet. The first few days were mostly lectures to refresh our minds with the vital aspects of O&G and a brief introduction of the O&G course with emphasis on our assessments. For the O&G course we are required to observe 5 vaginal deliveries (witness 3 and actually do 2 on our own which is something I am very paranoid about), perform an obsteric examination, vaginal examination and PAP smear on actual female patients (not plastic models/dummies this time), explain a practical procedure including the risks of a test result, the diagnosis and treatment to a patient which are all assessed and observed by our supervisor. And we also have to do 2 observed clinical assessments which includes a complete history and physical examination , 1 literature review on a particular topic and write a case log book recording patient encounters. For the entire 8 weeks, we are allocated to a supervisor who we are expected to religiously follow in the footsteps of. My supervisor is a registrar who is specialising in reproductive endocrinology and infertility and the majority of her work is done in outpatient clinics which are located in several places: Royal Hospital for Women, the city and Greenwich. I am actually not entirely happy that I have been stuck with infertility and reproductive endocrinology as this is a very highly specialised sub-speciality of O&G and I'd rather much prefer general O&G which is more related to what is required of us at this stage. Or even something like gynaeocological cancers or high risk obstetrics. At the end of the posting, we have to ask our supervisor to sign a learning plan which he/she will grade us on our overall performace, attitude and attendance.

I'm actually quite astounded with my peer's knowledge and grasp of O&G as the term has barely started and already my colleagues seem to possess an extraordinary amount of 0&G knowledge and skills. Either they are brilliant and have retained the information that was taught earlier or they have been doing their own revision during the break. I feel so lost compared to them not to mention very inadequate. I guess I have always felt inferior to my peers especially the local Australians who not only have excellent verbal skills but are very knowledgable. After all they are the 'cream of the crop' and the majoirty of them have emerged top scorers in their previous pre-university/college and high school. Actually its not just the local students, even the international students are equally smart but in my opinion they are more hardworking. Sometimes, its such a struggle to keep up with the high standards.

I don't know how I am going to survive the next 6 months. I am terrified of the final year exam that is just looming around the corner which is the FINAL HURDLE before I graduate as a doctor. Everyone is feeling more pressurised to pass this exam as no one and I repeat NO ONE, wants to retake the exam or repeat another year. Imagine the dismay and disappointment one will experience to repeat another year with the junior batch when all your friends are rejoicing that they have passed and are happily planning for convocation or internship. We have made it this far; to have all your dreams, hopes and aspirations of being a doctor shattered is going to be absolutely devastating.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Last night at KL

My flight to Sydney departs tomorrow night at 10:40pm KL time so this is my last night officially at home. As I am writing this, my heart is filled with a tinge of sorrow and remorse as no doubt, I am going to miss KL and my beloved home. To be frankly honest, I am not looking forward to returning to Sydney to start afresh a new year that is bursting with upcoming challenges and face a 6 month period of pure brutal slavery before my dreaded FINAL EXAMINATIONS that will determine whether or not I graduate as a doctor. Not to mention having to make very important decisions this year that can shape the next few years of my life such as the location of my internship, contemplating whether or not I should take a year off before internship for a well deserved vacation, applying for a PR in Australia etc. I am turning 24 this year (I already feel very old but not that wise) which means that I should more or less have the decency to think like a mature and logical adult and make these decisions as they come...and be willing to face the consequences. Our thoughts determine our actions and one should never 'cry over spilt milk' as we only have ourselves to blame unlike 'a bad carpenter who blames his tools'. Often when we fail in something, we look for alternative explainations to why we did not succeed but in reality, these are just mere deceptions in attempt to divert the 'blame' away from ourselves and rest it on a fellow object/person. Certainly if one does not have the resources in the first place, then one cannot expect to have such high hopes of achieving the task but in my case I feel quite blessed that I AM equipped with such valuable resources. I am grateful that my parents have sacrificed a lot of their earnings, savings and investments in my education (Medicine is not cheap!!!) and providing me with an exclusive apartment in Sydney (that not many interntational students would be willing to pay for a one bedroom unit) that is modern, comfortable, convenient and well located.

I can recall how happy I was when I shifted out of my former old, rather filty, gloomy apartment at Kennedy Street whom I shared with two other IMU medical students. Every day, I would have to trudge my way up the steep slope after buying groceries/food/appliances at Kingsford or carry all the heavy items by hand from Randwick back to my apartment which street is very dimly litted and has an eerie atmosphere especially when you walk back during the late evenings/nights. Oh and that's not the ending; I am forced to walk another six flight of stairs before I finally reach my apartment since it is located on the top floor. In terms of security, Kennedy street is not an ideal place for any girl or even boy to walk alone back to the apartment past 8' o clock as the alley is dark and Kingsford is notoriously known for crime and vandalism. Plus the room I stayed in was absolutely 'tiny' as compared to my current apartment with hardly any ample place for a study desk, cupboard, bed and dressing table. The pipes perpetually in the bathroom was c leaking so the plumber was constantly at our place and there was one time when the water from the shower nozzle actually seeped through the walls and entered my bedroom! I remember sticking stacks of old newspaper to try and bandage/cement off the dripping water and my entire carpet next to the wall facing the bathroom (my room was directly beside the toilet) was drenched which eventually started to give off a rather stale and nasty odour a few days later. The kitchen area was not equipped with good appliances either so it only housed the neccessary ones such as a small fridge, sink, an electric stove and a kettle. This meant that my food back in those days were all bought either from shops or Coles/IGA supermarket which I kept in large containers or tupperwares in my room. Apparently there wasn't even enough room in the cupboaords or fridge to store our personal food. So you can imagine what sort of food I survived on; namely bread, cereal, biscuits, crackers buns, instant cup noodles and canned foods like salmon/sardines/baked beans/tuna/soup with the occasional take-away foods from shops/cafes/restaurants. During that time, I had absolutely zero cooking skills and I didn't have the initiative to whip up something simple in the kitchen where my housemate is already boiling her usual chicken soup with tons of Chinese herbs and wolfberries with a few added meat/fish balls in her own personal slow cooker (which I believe she ate on a daily basis). I rarely saw my other housemate on the other hand eat as she ate her meals in the solitary confinement of her own room but in the morning I was a bit astonished in the morning to find a garbage disposal bag in full to the brim with Tim Tam chocolate biscuit wrappers, cake leftover boxes, jars of peanut butter and jelly or hazelnut hocolate smear, instant noodle packets, candy and jelly beans wrappers, bags of potato chips and empty, discarded cereal boxes. I guess she must be surviving on these snacks/food which is the most convenient but probably the most un-nutritious. When you are pressed for time coupled with the fact that your kitchen area is not blessed with the neccessary and adequate equipment and that it is far too small an area for three people to cook their separate meals (except probably salads which you just have to slice and dice the vegetables) simultaneously. Another con about the apartment was the fact that the majority of the time, I was cooped up in my room left to entertain or busy myself with my books, internet, borrowed dvds and skype. Do not get me wrong, the people whom I stayed with are by no means nasty or irresponsible, but its just that sometimes one simply cannot connect or bond well with others no matter how hard one tries. Its something like karma. We are still on talking terms and if we do bump into another at the hospital or any other venue, a conversation will definitely be exchanged but we did not enter the zone of 'bosom friends' or 'buddiness'. I've heard endearing tales from friends relating to their sacred relationship with their room/housemates on how countless hours were spent chatting or gossiping away in each other's rooms, watching tv series together till their eyes began to turn red and watery, lending a ear to listen in on the recollection of the day's events and throwing harmless yet playful pranks or jokes on one another. In fact, the three of us mostly spent our time in our own rooms and we rarely had a get-together-session in the kitchen/dining area. Maybe we were more solitary creatures, like most medical students are.

Another negative aspect about the apartment was that it was bloody freezing cold during the Winter and excruciatingly scalding hot in the Spring/Summer. This was because none of us bought a shared fan and electric heater (unless you bought one for your own personal use in your room). The lack of ventilation drove me to either perspire heavily during the hot Summer nights where sleep was often disturbed or bury under the covers trying to seek warmth during Winter. Another complaint was the washing machine and dryer which seemed to always gather dust balls and the long, entangled wires meant that you had to be extra careful not to trip over them during the night. Oh and don't even mention about having a televison set in the living room or even a radio; the only probable electrical source of entertainment was from our laptops which were wired to the internet cable that functioned at a snail-like pace.

One of the only pros about my previous apartment at Kennedy street was that it was nearby located to the UNSW campus where we spent three days of the week attending lectures, tutorials and workshops and the Prince of Wales hospital which was the posting of my primary hospital. It was all within walking distance which saved a lot of time having to get up super early in the morning and also walking back to catch a quick nap or break back at the apartment in between classes. And we were also situated very close to two other IMU students in our batch who lived in another shared apartment on Meeks street.

You probably might think that I am being very critical of my previous apartment. I mean, I could have stayed at a better place which would have saved me unneccessary suffering even if the cost was a bit higher. But I must say that it was in my opinion, a very good learning experience to stay in that apartment and also with three strangers who I barely knew beforehand except that they were also from IMU. It has made me appreciate my current apartment and learn not to take the simple things for granted.

Note: The above pictures are a few snapshots from my room in the apartment at Kennedy street.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Last week back home

I cannot believe how 3 months have flown by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was arriving at KLIA with my packed luggage comforted and eager to be back home; away from the stress of medical school life and jubilant that I had just finished my 5th year exam. And now, I have to head back once more to face the trials and tribulations of FINAL YEAR MEDICINE which is something I am highly anxious and nervous about. This year marks the end of my medical school training before (*GULPS*) I emerge as a young doctor thrust into the unknown world of curative, preventive and palliative medicine. To be honest, I feel 'incompetent' to be called a doctor as I feel that I still have large gaping holes in my medical knowledge and skills that desperately needs to be filled.

Furthermore, the final year examination is without doubt a barrier exam, which many senior sixth year students claim to be 'difficult but passable'. I want nothing more than to pass this final exam (that is one of my main goals this year) but wanting something and doing something are two completely different things. I often doubt myself and my capabilities and in this case it is no different. But I pray and hope that with perseverance, dilligence and luck I will be able to finally obtain my MBBS which I have been striving towards for the past 6 years.

Coming back to the topic on home; I will definitely miss many things in Malaysia. Oh and not forgetting, having the luxury to wake up extremely late in the afternoon (as a result of downloading free movies off youtube till the crack of dawn) as compared to the dreary early mornings where I have to practically 'drag' myself out of the bed to go for ward rounds/clinics/tutorials. I know I will sorely miss and probably develop severe cravings for several food items in KL such as the light, fluffy, steamed sponge chocolate cake and tapioca kuih from Jenny Hong kuih stall, the moist fruit cake with abundant chopped dried fruit from Cake Sense bakery, the wholesome carrot cake glazed with just the right amount of sinfully sweet icing on top from Taman Tun Pasar Raya, the foot-long toasted tuna garlic bread with a delicate dash of butter from Jusco bakery at 1 utama, the various assorted baked bread items from Delifrance which are discounted and marked down during the evenings (which flocks of people gather eagerly grabbing the juiciest and most scrumptious looking bun/pastry/sandwich), the red bean bun from Damansara Kim which is practically bursting with red bean paste the instant you take a bite from it, the light and healthy yet tasty popiah which is wrapped and slathered with a sweetish dark chilli sauce and assorted ingredients such as turnips and dried shrimps, home-cooked bak kut teh with thick tender pork ribs immersed in a giant bowl of heavenly aromatic dark flavoured herbal soup, the deep fried fish head milky soup from Ang Kee, stewed chicken feet, the savoury, rich and flavourful prawn stock from the Ipoh hor fun soup with prawn won tons/dumplings, the sweetish-sourish tangy assam fish soup and the lusciously tender steamed chicken/kampung chicken from Taman Megah food court. And not forgetting the abundant free food sampling in shopping malls (most often at supermarkets) compared to the few, measly bread slices offered to customers at Bakers Delight. Oh, and expect to receive frowning looks of disapproval if you decide to dive for a second helping.

I guess what I probably miss the most back home is the presence of BOTH my parents and the part about being a family REUNITED. The simple things such as the evening walks with dad (which is a form of good exercise as well as excellent time for bonding), having the absolute pleasure to go window shopping with mum at shopping malls without having to rush back home immediately to study/finish assignment, the dinner meals where the three of us sit down as a family, the pasar malam and occasional vcd store trips and basically just being able to enjoy each other's company. I think I am a 'family-oriented person' and I have been brought up in a close family; always feeling comforted and secured in the presence of family members. A family is the roots of a person, the pillars that holds a being up giving it emotional support and strength. I often dispute with others when they feel that they need to break away from their family and terminate all connection and communication. After all, despite the petty quarrels and arguements, one should realise that 'blood is thicker than water'.