Tuesday, July 31, 2007

i'm going to be hated

i'm an agnostic. Pascal's Wager states that you should embrace Christianity for mathematical reasons. the potential risk of being a non-believer is spending an eternity in Hell, and the potential benefits of being a believer is spending eternity in Heaven. given that we do not know whether or not there is a God, Pascal argues that it is best to err on the side of caution.

i guess the main problem i have with that is that there are at least two other religions who have a clear division between Heaven and Hell - Islam and Judaism, and not counting perhaps a few more smaller religions in India, South America, Africa who may also have a "retributive" God. so pick which one?

i've got a joke:
Q: What does the agnostic, dyslexic insomniac do?
A: He stays up all night wondering if there is a dog.

and i've got a picture (please don't get angry, it's meant in good fun):

A Year of Doctoring

*wow* a whole year just passed by!

WHAT I HAVE LEARNT:
forget all the medical things, as well as the non-medical things like venous access and venepuncture. i don't think i learnt to be more responsible or trustworthy (i think i learnt those things when i was in high school - it'll be too late to learn them now, yes?).

i think i shall miss housemanship for the sheer mental stress of juggling so many things to do at one time, and with only one person to do it. so i guess the most important thing i've learnt is to complete many many tasks in a short short time, and the prioritisation of those tasks.

WHAT I HAVE NOT LEARNT:
i don't know enough about medicine (both theoretical and practical) yet, but i'm working hard at it. i guess i've still not learnt to wake up early every morning and not sigh at another day at work. i'm not a morning person, and i don't think i'll ever be. but that's ok, i usually warm up after an hour, so i'm lucky. some people spend their entire day perpetually in a bad mood.

ANY INTERESTING PEOPLE:
yeah, i work with a lot of very interesting people! doctors aren't only bookish nerds with thick glasses - they are also famous bloggers, excellent footballers, lawnbowlers and swimmers, King Scouts, all-around nice guys and girls, magicians, potential models - i think i'm in the company of good people to work around. but that doesn't mean we don't have bookish nerds around. *smile*

WENT ANYWHERE:
i was in KL, Singapore and Sipadan, and those 3 places were the defining holidays of my three postings in Year One. i had a fantastic time scuba diving, i watched a fairly good Phantom of the Opera in Singapore, i enjoyed a few nights stay with friends in KL just chatting away. i also went to a couple of small places around Taiping, day trips on my bike, and i enjoyed the rustic environment and sun(burn) too!

MISSED ANYTHING:
sleep, a number of meals, chats with mum & sis, reading 4 newspapers a day, writing and thinking, debating, football, Scouts. most of my conscious hours are spent resting or sleeping or being alone (talking CONSTANTLY to a lot of people takes a huge emotional effort), and that leaves not much time for much else.

WHAT'S NEXT:
two three-month postings in Orthopaedics and Paediatrics, and then i'll have finished my housemanship. what then, i'm not sure. i don't mind getting shipped out for a few months in Hospitals Selama, Grik, Parit Buntar or Kuala Kangsar, and i don't mind staying put in any department in Taiping. i don't mind taking up GA/Intensive Care either.

STORIES:
plenty. *smile*

Monday, July 30, 2007

a debating holiday

two weeks ago, i went to Sipadan for 3 nights for a scuba holiday. now, i've just come back from UKM from a debating holiday. is it me, or have my holidays become themed occasions where i don't do anything else, save for whatever theme was pre-decided?

anyway, i'm done with work on friday evening, and my one year career as a houseman is over, and 4 months in surgery is also over. nothing dramatic, no one announced my departure with more than a flirtatious comment (by a colleague that i adore) and a congratulatory handshake (by my immediate superior).

i desperately wanted to take the midnight train again, i had such a swell time then. unfortunately, tickets were sold out, even for the seats. dang! i'd have arrived early morning in KL Sentral, have a nice breakfast and then take the train to UKM in time for the morning round.

as it is, i woke at 5.30am to make the 6.30am bus, and i got to UKM in time to see a lot of people that i haven't seen for a long time - catching up wasn't awkward in the least, despite the passage of time.

so i adj'ed 5 rounds, laughed at one humour round, and debated as Opp Leader in the last round. i dunno how i did, and i certainly dunno how they thought i did - but it shouldn't matter much, i had a good time, and i think i'm seeing a lot of things now that i never saw before.

work's matured my thinking in some ways, i think i'm slightly more complete now. do Worlds this year? a tad too late, but it's something worth thinking about again~!

Monday, July 16, 2007

FAQ Sipadan

we did a total of 5 dives in Sipadan over 2 days, 2 evening dives on Day One and 3 morning dives on Day Two. the evening dives were fair, the weather was slightly turbulent and the seas very choppy, which meant that visibility was poor. an uncomfortable boat ride over rough seas ("the sea is calm" - propitious words) wasn't the best start for the evening dives too. not even fervent prayers to Poseidon managed to calm the waves. or maybe i should've tried Neptune. or Calypso.

on Day One of Diving, we finished around 4pm and came back to Mabul, 30 minutes north of Sipadan. we stayed there in a rudimentary backpacker, with about 12 twin-sharing rooms each containing two beds, two mattresses, two bedsheets and two large towels which are meant to be blankets. there was also one light switch and a bulb, and one stand fan. electricity, however, only came on at 7pm.

there are two communal bathrooms using partially-treated sea water. there's a huge table seating 12 people, for meals. but the highlight - unlimited hot water for tea and coffee, and a huge verandah with seats facing the Celebes and west.

here's a picture from the verandah at 5pm, just as the sun is setting.


the wetsuits and towels were intentionally left there for dramatic effect - i am many things, but not a lazy photographer. interesting composition, no?


so you see - i hated to have to come back. when we finished diving, we'll shower up, wash our hair and change into dry and comfortable clothes, fix a cup of tea or coffee and sit on the verandah and just chat. that's all we did for two days after diving - shower, dry clothes, tea and chat. and the view... oh gosh. for RM50 a night, we didn't need hot water or airconditioning or buffet dinners, all we had was ourselves, and the huge sea.

which is why i'm suddenly seized with the purposelessness of life. these guys on the island - they do what they love every day. they go diving with friends and interesting strangers, plenty of sun and fresh air and Nature. when they come home they chat and unwind and look at the setting sun. why do we need so much money and larger apartments and expensive holidays?

why can't we just be like these islanders? gentle, unruffled, sophisticated in their ways?

a nap on the verandah with the wind blowing, sleeping overnight on the verandah under the clouds and stars, conversations about politics, life decisions, holidays and diving on the verandah with the waves lapping against the stilts and the beach - life stood still for a glorious two days, on the verandah.

so why am i now at home typing away at this computer? a slave to modern capitalism, yet perpetuating the very system that i'm now failing to understand. i wish life were simpler, and we were allowed to do the things that we'd like to do, rather than those that are imposed on us.

it's strange that a Holiday should put someone in a bad mood, but strangely im all smiles here typing out my frustrations. i've got to let this all out, because i'm going back to work tomorrow, and i cannot afford any distractions.

i can't wait for another Holiday - it doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be renewing. :-)

FAQ Sipadan

i don't write much these days because i feel that it's so difficult to get started. the first sentence is something i agonise over, and it's not easy to just come up with something attention-grabbing. sigh... the curse of first impressions.

i went on a scuba holiday in Sipadan last week, and i only got back last night after 3 days there. to be honest, i hated to have to come back - i think i could have cried yesterday when i was leaving Sabah/KL.

***

it all started in January when Xeng Inn called me to ask if i wanted to go to Sipadan again this July - airasia had free tickets to Tawau. how does one say no? then i forgot all about it, with just the distant memory at the back of my head of July's scuba holiday.

well anyway, July came and i had to make arrangements to go to KL and then to Sabah. i hadn't come out of a particularly tough period of work - sure, there were EOD calls and 12 hour days, but it was relatively quiet, so i was very fit and rested and happy.

***

i decided to make this holiday a much more exotic one, as much as possible, so i took the midnight train from Taiping on Wednesday morning. i haven't been on a train since i was in Standard 4 perhaps, and that's 17 years ago! there's a certain passion about railways, about the way that the rest of the world has to give way to the smoke-producing, steel-clad, whistle-blowing reminder of our past, older than planes and cars.

there was a bunk for me to sleep on, but i chose to stand for an entire hour between the carriages (there's a door that opens to the outside that i can stand through and see what's outside). mostly jungle yes, but when you look at the sky you can see stars - they're very bright and much more closer to you than in the cities.

occasionally, we'll pass through small railway stations in the dead of the night - no one will be awake, except for the yawning station master and one or two passengers waiting to board.

i remember waking up at around 6am to watch the sunrise from the train. i couldn't see much actually, there was always something blocking me. but it was nice though - the sky was slowly painted bright. it began with a milky white light bathing everything, the kind of light where you're not sure where it comes from.

we passed though Jalan Kuching, and there were a million cars on their way to work. we passed alongside the Gombak River. we passed through the old KL railway station, and finally reached KL Sentral.

i got out for breakfast with Auntie Rose, and that's the end of the first leg of my journey.

***

i spent the rest of the day reading and shopping for books, and had dinner with my friends who used to be in the debate team with me. i haven't seen these guys for a year, and there were 10 of us at the dinner in Manhattan Fish Market. at least another 10 more weren't there, but there was enough laughter and happiness shared for a hundred people. and then later, i went to watch Harry Potter, the midnight show. well... i guess it could've been better, but i'm not interested to dissect the boy wizard today.

***

waking up was gloriously late (that's 9am). a hot shower, and then it's off to KLCC because they were the only bookshop in KL to have Agatha Christie's The Labours of Hercules. The Holiday was only about 24 hours old, but i had already finished 2.5 books (i had brought 3), and i was in danger of intellectual malnourishment. so i browse and read and request unwrappings and soak myself in books for a glorious 2 hours, by a sunlit window in Kinokuniya overlooking the park. how can anyone not be happy?

***

lunch was in McDonald's, your ubiquitous Scottish restaurant, in KL Sentral. Kean Tee, Wai Seng, Xeng Inn and i sat through fries and cokes and gossip and jokes about each other's declared area of intended specialisation. it was a pretty good lunch, but mostly because of the company i was around.

we leave for the airport for Tawau for our 6pm flight, and play cards along the way over the South China Sea. touchdown was smooth, and Lee's Restaurant and Hotel the way i had remembered it from last year. our instructor, Big John, took us out for dinner, and said that conditions were good for diving, "The sea is calm," so he claims. 10 minutes later, it rains and strong wet winds swirl around us. at least he's since bought a new boat, a 35 footer, and we were looking forward to the boat ride the next day.

morning wakeup was 7am to leave for Mabul, and a refresher dive there before we got to Sipadan. visibility was quite poor, but it was good to be in the water again. so we finish one dive in Mabul, and then had lunch at our backpacker before leaving to Sipadan around 1pm.