Friday, December 15, 2017

A month in Malaysia

I've been home for over a month, and haven't blogged once. How lazy of me. It's not like I've been doing nothing all day, though -- I've actually been really quite busy. It's been a great time of rest, getting reacquainted with my guitar, getting reacquainted with old friends, making new friends, and spending time with family. Reading, writing, exercising, all that good stuff.


And eating, of course. So much eating. I always come home with a mental list of Things I Must Eat When I'm Back, and my family frequently asks what I haven't yet crossed off when we're trying to decide where to eat. I spent a few days in Penang with friends on our grad trip, and came home 1.5kg heavier. It was glorious (the food, not the weight gain). Of course, all this eating has had to be offset by gymming, because graduation is fast approaching, and grad pics (as I keep reminding myself) ARE FOREVER. Do I want pictures of a chubby me adorning the walls of my parents' and grandparents' houses? No. No, I do not. So gym it is.

Another thing I've been up to is helping out at the Teddy Mobile Clinic! It's a pop-up clinic near Segi College KL that provides free healthcare for the homeless and urban poor. I'd heard about it last year, but never got around to contacting them. This year, I met someone who was interested in helping out too, so we did! The set-up is impressive, really. There are registration stations for new and returning patients, an obs/BSL station, a doctors' station, and even a pharmacy station! The pharmacy station is manned by pharmacists who dispense meds like antibiotics, antihistamines, basic analgesia, basic hypertension and diabetes meds (metformin and CCBs, from memory), scabies treatment, and a variety of others, free of charge! Wound care is also provided by members of the clinic. It really is quite impressive.


I've been for three sessions and they've all been great. It's heartwarming to see so many people gathered together, giving up their Wednesday nights to help in whatever way they can. Many volunteers are, like myself, fresh med grads waiting for jobs. There are also non-medical folk helping out, and their contribution certainly isn't worth any less than the medical folk's. That being said, what warmed my heart the most was the MOs. Medical Officers were probably the most time-poor out of all of us there, and some of them you could tell were tired after a long day of work...and yet, there they were. That'll be me in a few years, and I really don't know if I would have the heart or energy to volunteer for something medical in my limited free time, given the opportunity. I can't tell you how much I admire the doctors there. Actually, Teddy Mobile Clinic has sent out a request for more doctors to join the team. If you fit the bill and are interested, have a look at their Facebook page here!

While at the clinic, I also bumped into another volunteer group called Street Feeders. One of their team leaders told me that, despite their name, their purpose isn't actually to provide food for the homeless. Instead, they were more about reaching out, hooking them up with job opportunities, and helping them back on their feet where they could. I've seen them around twice now, and they seem to mainly consist of teenagers and young adults. For this reason, I've found Street Feeders and, to a certain extent, Teddy Mobile Clinic to be incredibly heartening (TMC has a bit of an older demographic). It's so nice to see young people working together to do good things for society, giving up their free time to reach out to and help people they don't (yet) know. It's just made me really optimistic about Malaysian youth in general. Woo, millennials in Malaysia don't all suck! Four for you, Malaysian millennials! You go, Malaysian millennials!


In a few days, I will be leaving Malaysia yet again. It is bittersweet -- I am excited to be starting work as an intern, but leaving home is never easy. I will miss the city and its bright lights and its constant supply of things to do/see. I will miss the food, so cheap and delicious and readily available at any hour of the day. I will miss my family and friends here, whom I really only get to see twice a year. This time will be a little different, though -- my family will be coming with me, to attend graduation and see the sights around Tassie. I'm thankful they're able to be there for grad. Also, I'm thankful they're coming because extra passengers means extra baggage allowance, so I get to bring back more stuff, heheh.


For now, though, I'm ticking off the last few items on my Must Eat When I'm Back list and Must Meet When I'm Back list. I've done a pretty good job with both so far, I'm happy to say. I don't know when the next time I'll be back will be, so I'm soaking up as much of Malaysia as I can before I leave. Malaysia has its faults and many a flaw, but ultimately, it has always been home and will always have a very special place in my heart.


So long, Malaysia. Thanks for all the good food and good people. I'll see you again soon!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sheltered Christians

Let me start off by saying that I am not the best Christian. I subscribe to the religion, I have accepted Christ, and I attend church and growth group regularly. However, there is much I have yet to learn about Christianity and God in general. This post is merely my two cents on something I've observed over my time as a Christian, which was made all the more apparent to me, coming from a non-practising 'Christian' background.


I don't mean to offend, but over and over again, I have made the observation that life-long, brought-up-in-Christian-families Christians can be quite...sheltered. I suppose that isn't all too surprising. If someone was brought up in a Christian family, grew up in church, had lots of Christian friends from cell group and conferences, maybe even went to a Christian school, they would have lived their life in a pleasant little Christian bubble where most people shared their values and beliefs. Which is fine and dandy, and I'm sure is great for growing their faith.


However, the real trouble starts once they are exposed to the 'real world', where there are numerous people of different religions and atheists and agnostics and people who are against religion in general. This is probably quite jarring for someone who had never been exposed to people like these. They are quite often horrified by many things, and their tolerance for being horrified can range from a boy and a girl being alone in the same room together to premarital sex with multiple partners. "Don't they know it's wrong!" they exclaim, quite distressed. "How can they do things like that!" The thing is, if you ask the people who practise these things, it isn't wrong. Let me explain why.


For someone who was raised outside of the Christian faith, their morals and values would largely have been shaped by their upbringing and society. With regards to upbringing, I have been told that church attendance today (as a percentage of the Australian population) is but a fraction of what it was decades ago. More and more people are atheist or agnostic, and fewer people identify as Christian. As a result, people's upbringing may not have been guided by the same values as a Christian family's. With regards to society, it's not news to anyone that we're heading in a direction away from Christianity, or indeed religion in general. Many things that are okayed or even promoted by society today are against what is written in the Bible. If someone lives their entire life being told by people around them that certain things are good, then as far as they're concerned, those things are good. Why would they think or believe otherwise?


This then brings into question the task of explaining the Christian view to them. A noble task, as it is an extremely difficult one. Fortunately or unfortunately, I think most sheltered Christians don't realise just how difficult it is, and they seem to be particularly bad at it. I've had these sorts of conversations with non-Christian friends, as well as observed such conversations between others, and have made notes on things you should never do. These include:

  • Only speaking and never listening
    Communication should be two-way. You're not preaching -- you're there to listen to their point of view as well as express yours. 
  • Disregard their point of view because it's 'wrong'
    Never, never, never do this. It's disrespectful and counterproductive. If you're hoping for them to have an open mind and listen to what you have to say, you should do the same for them.
  • Use Christian jargon
    This is a fault many well-read Christians possess. Non-Christians aren't going to really understand what you mean when you use language like 'slaves to Christ' or 'God's design'. At best, it will sound floofy; at worst, it will put them off completely. Using Christian jargon with non-Christians is kind of like trying to explain the colour pink to a blind person by saying "It's like red, but a little whiter" -- it just isn't going to work.

However, before you even begin having these discussions with non-Christians, you should take note of the way you view them. This brings me back to what I was saying earlier about people newly emerged from the Christian bubble. You cannot be horrified by the actions or beliefs of non-Christians, or the way they are. You should not expect them to uphold the same values you do, as they may not even be aware of them. You should not view them as bad or evil, and you definitely should not talk down to them. After all, aren't we all sinful? Isn't all sin equal in God's eyes? It crossed my mind the other day that there is possibly no one as acutely aware of their own flaws as a devout Christian. We have all sinned and we have all had evil thoughts, because we are only human. I think it's important to remember that. 


I've never blogged about anything to do with Christianity, because I've always felt like I knew too little about it to have anything worth writing about. However, the recent goings-on in Australia have allowed me to observe a fair few debates between people of different beliefs, and these sometimes turned quite ugly. I felt that I had something to say about it, and spent a fair while working on this post. This wasn't meant to offend in any way; I only aim to facilitate better communication and discussions, and hopefully encourage some self-refection.


Feel free to let me know what you think, or even call me out on things I've said that you don't agree with. Some healthy discussion is always good, and I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Almost there!

It's been four days since OSCEs and I think I'm finally over the PTSD-esque flashbacks. Which is great, especially since those were hopefully my last OSCEs ever.


For those who don't know, OSCE stands for 'Objective Structured Clinical Examination', and it's the way med students are assessed in exams. It typically involves a student, an examiner, and a role player who acts as a patient whom we examine, take a history from, or give medical advice to. Of course, being a doctor isn't strictly limited to those things, so OSCE stations can sometimes test your practical skills, like the unexpected DRE (digital rectum examination) station we got last year (which I was and still am traumatised by!). Each station runs for eight minutes, preceded by a two minute period during which we read the instructions given and plan our approach. There are twelve stations altogether. Starting last year, it was decided that we would do all twelve stations in a day as opposed to doing six stations a day for two days. It sounded horribly daunting, but we were given a rest station after every three stations, so it was fine. Getting them all done in a day was probably better than having to have two days of exams, anyway.


There were a few stations I definitely wasn't expecting this year. The termination of pregnancy one really threw me, and so did the PPH (postpartum haemorrhage). The latter was an emergency station, which always makes me really flustered because it feels like everything needs to be done NOW NOW NOW. Thankfully there was a rest station right after so I had time to recover, but I also had to exercise a great deal of self control to refrain from beating myself up over what I felt was a poor performance. If there was a station I thought I really might fail, it would be that one. Still, I stabilised the patient and got the diagnosis and made some of the right arrangements, so hopefully I pass.


OSCEs really do require a lot of mental fortitude. Having back-to-back stations means you can't afford to dwell on the station you just completed lest you risk messing up the stations to come. Preparing for fifth year OSCEs is also incredibly taxing since they could theoretically ask you anything. I found this idea inconceivable in my earlier years of med school, but, while preparing for OSCEs, it just seemed normal, a fact of life. And now I'm done.


A few friends and I celebrated by leaving for Melbourne that very night. We met up with a few other friends there, and had a great time. It was so nice being back with the Hobart people -- I hadn't seen some of them in ages! We talked a lot, walked a lot, and ate a lot. Calories don't count when you're on holiday, right? Wrong. I came back a kilo or two heavier despite all the walking we did. But whatever, it was worth it. The places we ate at were:
  • Gami: Korean fried chicken and beer. So good! The Soy Garlic sauce was a little too sweet for me, but both Sweet Chilli and Spicy (which is actually pretty spicy) were A+.
  • Short Stop: Krispy what? This doughnut place is where it's at. My favourite is the Earl Grey Rose one, cake in the shape of a doughnut. They didn't have the matcha one I'd been wanting to try, unfortunately! 
  • Secret Kitchen: Dim sum. Sweet, sweet dim sum. They had pretty much everything you would find at a dim sum place back home, and then some. Biting into siu mai and liu sha bao for the first time in a long, long time nearly brought tears to my eyes. Everything was fantastic. Please go there if you can. Take pictures. Let me live vicariously through you.
  • Hot-Star: Taiwanese style fried chicken. Delicious, juicy, well-seasoned, and massive! There was also similarly delicious chicken popcorn for those who prefer a higher coating-to-chicken ratio. They also had deep fried Tim Tams, which sounded promising but were really nothing to phone home about. 
  • Pho Bo Ga Mekong Vietnam: A pho place, but I got pork rice paper rolls because I just wanted a snack. There was another rice paper roll store just right next door, but this place appeared less commercialised and more authentic. There were also way more people. When I saw pictures of Jackie Chan eating there, I knew I had made the right choice. The pork was delicious and well-marinated, and the dipping sauce was good. A+ rice paper rolls!
  • Sakura Kaiten: Nominated as one of the best sushi trains in Melbourne, I think? It was delicious, and there was an incredible variety of options. You could grab stuff off the train as well as order things on the iPad, and they were sent to you on a little conveyor belt. We definitely don't have sushi like this in Launnie! Fell victim to the sushi train trap and ended up spending way more than expected, but woo, celebratory dinner!
  • Dessert Kitchen: Great Asian desserts, not so great staff. The Taiwanese style shaved ice was delicious and refreshing, but my favourite was the Dancing Queen (yeah, it's one of those places), which featured matcha ice cream, red beans, matcha jelly cubes, those little white QQ balls, and vanilla ice cream mixed with milk pudding. SO GOOD.
  • Lune: Need I say more? Lune is an incredibly popular croissant place. I had a cronut for the first time here, and it was beautiful. Cutting it open was beautiful. Feeling the crunch as I bit into it was beautiful. The Pear and Burnt Butter as well as the Kaya cronuts were beautiful. The amount of butter I knew I was consuming did not make me feel beautiful, but it was a beautiful experience nonetheless.
  • Industry Beans: This was the only place we ate at that I did not enjoy. I got a Truffle Egg, which sounded good. It was not, unfortunately. Sure, it looked all artistic and well-plated, but the meagre amount (they weren't kidding when they said 'egg', as in 'singular') combined with the downright strange amalgamation of flavours (pea panna cotta and weirdly sweet almond couscous) made me feel that it was not worth the $23 price tag. A friend didn't even finish theirs. It was unfortunate that this was our last meal in Melbourne.

We were only there from Tuesday night to Thursday afternoon, but managed to cover all these places. Suffice to say, we were almost constantly full, and also very satisfied. Besides all that eating, we did manage to do other things. Like go to the museum! (Thanks for entertaining my nerdy request, friends.) Using our student cards for one of the last times, we entered for free and explored the dinosaur, WWI, and brain/mind exhibitions. We also did some shopping, window or otherwise, which brought about a nice sense of familiarity. I miss wandering around malls! Also, Emporium reminded me a lot of Pavilion. At night, since things were still open (shock! horror!), we went to 'sing K', as I have learnt that it's called. It was all a lot of fun, and I was glad to have had the company that I did.


Now, I am back in the peace and quiet of Launceston, enjoying my last few days off before uni begins again. One and a half more rotations and a portfolio interview to go, and then I will be officially done with med school! Five years have gone by so slowly yet so quickly, and I cannot believe that we're nearly there. I used to feel woefully unprepared to be a doctor and far from capable, but at this point, I think I'll be okay. I really do.


I will probably post a longer, soppier post about my feelings on this when we actually finish. For now, though, I'm going to enjoy what little time we have left before we have to start getting stressed over logbooks and our portfolios and things like that. I've not felt this relaxed in a very long time, and I am going to savour it as much as I can, while I still can.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Michelle Yeoh boleh!

Hello, blog! It's been far too long. Uni placements and job applications are keeping me quite busy, but I recently came across something I really wanted to blog about.

I don't normally keep up to date with pop culture and movies and things, but this bit of news caught my eye: Michelle Yeoh, a Malaysian actress, is keeping her Malaysian accent in the new Star Trek series. So what?, you may ask. It's just an accent, what's the big deal? Ah, but it is indeed a big deal, to me at least. Let me tell you why.

I am a Malaysian Chinese. In 2013, I came to Tasmania, Australia to study. It wasn't very long ago, but Tassie back then wasn't the popular tourist destination it is now. It was one of the less cosmopolitan parts of Australia, with a predominantly Caucasian population. Some people had never left the island, never mind Australia, because they were perfectly happy where they were.

Enter me, a Chinese girl who spoke English as her first language and didn't actually speak much Chinese. I didn't foresee communication to be a problem at all. It'd be fine, I thought. I'd talk to people, make friends, ask questions if I needed to. It'd be fine.

It was not fine.

Within the first few days of being on the island, I quickly realised two things:
1. People couldn't understand me because of my accent.
2. People assumed I couldn't speak English well.

Number two sometimes happened independently of number one. They saw me, a timid-looking Asian person, and just assumed I had a poor command of the English language. And that I was from China. Because all Asian people are from China. But anyway, I'm not here to rant about that. Let's talk about number 1: my accent.

When I was still in Malaysia, I was told by a few friends that my accent 'wasn't very Malaysian'. Whatever that meant, they probably weren't right, because my born and bred Malaysian accent was one that just could not be understood by the locals in Tassie. Close to nothing I said got through. Conversations got awkward really quickly, and it got to the point where I dreaded having to converse with anyone. One particularly memorable exchange happened in Woolies.

ME: Excuse me, do you guys have any kale? It was in your catalogue.
WOOLIES GUY: Sorry, what?
ME: Do you guys have any kale?
WOOLIES GUY: *stares at me intently* Do we have any..?
ME: Kale?
WOOLIES GUY: Um. *looks super uncomfortable* *starts looking around for help*
ME: Y'know, kale? K-A-L-E?
WOOLIES: K-E-L... What?
ME: No, K-A-L-E!
WOOLIES GUY: K-E-
ME: Okay, never mind. Thanks.


Thankfully, it wasn't this bad at uni, where lecturers were more familiar with Malaysian and Singaporean accents due to previous students. I still avoided asking questions whenever I could, though, instead choosing to utilise Google (who never misunderstood my typed rather than spoken questions). I also stuck to people who spoke the same way as me, people who could understand me and whom I could understand effortlessly. Speaking to anyone local was difficult and uncomfortable and made me feel very small.

It wasn't long before I started seeing my accent as an embarrassment. It outed me straight away as someone foreign and different, someone who wasn't from here and didn't belong. My accent was not one of a predominantly English-speaking country, like America or the UK, so people found it difficult to understand. I often had to repeat myself a lot, and even then I slowly grew used to watching people's eyes glaze over as they gave up trying to understand me. Communication was hard, and it was all my own darn accent's fault.

So I adapted. My accent slowly became a weird Aussie-Malaysian hybrid that I detested but knew was necessary. Over the years, I like to think it's become more Aussie and less Malaysian (though I do still speak with a Malaysian accent normally!). My accent is now less clumsy and comes more naturally, and my tongue stumbles less over the round vowels and drawls of the Aussie accent. I can comfortably hold conversations with classmates, doctors, patients, people at church, people at the gym...anyone, really. Also, I've made some great friends along the way!

Not every Malaysian and Singaporean goes through this dramatic an accent transition, however. There are people who speak with their (toned down) normal accents to locals, powering through the awkwardness until they are understood. Whether by choice or because they can't, their accent never changes, and I respect them so much for it. I think it says a lot about someone who doesn't change who they are or the way they do things purely to make life easier.

Which brings me back to Michelle Yeoh keeping her accent. From what I've seen around the Internet, she's already been receiving some flack for it ('Hire sum1 who can speak English!!!11'), but reception has been mostly positive. I, a Malaysian, am so proud and so grateful that she wasn't embarrassed to speak with the accent she was brought up with. Of course, this accent has been flavoured by her time in the UK and Hong Kong, but it is ultimately her own Malaysian accent. And I am so glad to hear it.

Thank you, Dato' Michelle Yeoh, for being unafraid to speak with your Malaysian accent on a platform that will be viewed and heard by many. Thank you, director and producers of Star Trek, for allowing this to happen.

One of the best things about globalisation is the normalisation of different accents. I hope this means that we will no longer feel ashamed of our own in the future. Lah.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Leaving home (again)

I've just checked in for my flight and I am upset.


This break has meant the world to me. It's been a time of rest and reflection after a stinker of a year (good riddance, 2016!), it's been an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, and it's been a lovely period of being spoilt rotten by my parents. Also, I can't tell you how nice it is to be more relaxed about money -- no more covertly converting currency in my head and chastising myself for contemplating buying things I don't need. Man, is it great to be able to afford to eat out more.


Speaking of which, the food! The food! Chilli pan mee and nasi lemak and pork noodles and roti canai and duck rice and claypot loh shi fun and banana leaf rice and chap fun and Hokkien mee and lin chee kang and various biscuits and kuih and oh my goodness have I put on weight. But it doesn't even matter! Home food is the best food! I'd missed it so much! And I'm going to miss it so much all over again when I leave.


Going back to Launnie signifies the end of my freedom, basically. It's uni and the final exams of my uni degree and freaking job applications and graduation, and then work starts the very next month. I ask myself all the time how I got here so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was super excited about going to Australia to study.


Suffice to say I am quite dreading going back. I want to stay here. I like having free time, and selecting books to read from our massive collection, and having meals with my family. I like meeting up with friends, catching up with them and hearing about what had been happening while I was away. I like wandering around KL, appreciating both the old, weathered shoplots as well as the towering skyscrapers. I like being able to converse freely with people in Manglish or Malay, or even my woefully clumsy Mandarin. I like it here. This is my home.


But of course, nothing is permanent. The bliss of the holidays must end. Soon, I will be back in cold, small Launceston, trying my best not to get too stressed out about, well, everything. I need to constantly remind myself that I'm lucky to be there, that I'm lucky to have the opportunities I do. Deep down, I know that and I am thankful. I really am.


Unfortunately, it doesn't really make the homesickness any better.