Friday, November 24, 2006

Bor Penh Nyang...

which means 'no worries' in Lao.

Annabelle, Claire, Nabila, and I have arrived into Vientiane (by way of Bangkok yesterday) and are having a fantastic time! However, my backpack didn't arrive with the others and is still 'missing'. Whatever - I've got me some insurance. The atmosphere here has been absolutely laid back, people are really friend, and the beer (Beer-Lao) is phenomenal! It's been a big adjustment going really hard these past few weeks to taking things slowly and as they come. A paradigm shift, if you will so call it. :)

Alright, I should be off...time to see whether the airport has found my backpack!

Friday, November 17, 2006

2nd Year - DONE

So, the second exam came and went. And I don't know which exam was worse, the first or second one. It seemed that most (if not all) people coming out of the exam was quite dissatisfied with the exam and/or their performance (a little from a and a little from b). Perhaps the medical school was using a completely cirricula than it gave us at the beginning of the year.
After the exam, some of us went do to the Pizza Caffe, had some good food and wine. We drove back to Claire's place, and drank more wine and watched some episodes from Season 3 of NIP/TUCK.

Thursday and Friday were spent pouring over our clinical examinations, history-taking skills, communications and clinical reasoning.

Saturday morning came and went - and I was so grateful that I finished on a high note! I know that I passed each station and I know that there were a few stations that I got full marks! After we all left the testing area, everyone was giving each other high fives, hugs and making the motions to get some booze into their system. I headed home to change (had some scotch & dry) and went ot West End to meet up with the others. I was out till 1am - yeah, that's not a big night but the endurance and stamina to be drinking all day can tire a person out.

This morning, everyone was tired and we headed out for breakfast. It feels surreal that we are done 2nd year (and hopefully will never have to repeat it). Dave, Suz and I have been packing and cleaning the house as we are leaving for South East Asia (I leave on Wednesday and D&S leave on Friday). We aren't renewing the lease so everything needs to be packed up and the house cleaned for inspections. Looking at all the stuff that I've accumulated over the past 2 years, I don't know how I will take this all back to Canada (that is if I decide to go back).

Okay, I should get off the computer and do some more cleaning/packing. Some people are heading out tonight (those that wrote their MSAT today) and I'll be meeting up with them for a few drinks.

Soon to come, the newest section of the chapter - South East Asia

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

One down...

It's almost 10:40pm and I've recovered from the first exam that we had today. The lead up to this exam has been like none other. I started studying for finals in the first week of October and increasing the intensity all the way through SWOT VAC. In fact, SWOT VAC was the most productive study I've done all year! (For those that are not familiar with Aussie lingo, 'SWOT VAC' is period of usually two-three weeks before exams where there are no lectures or tutorials so that students can prepare for their exams) Last year, I spent SWOT VAC with Lou at her house, plugging away on the one seat on her dining room table (It's the seat that I always take if no one else is on the table). This year, I spent it with Claire and Annabelle up in Springbrook. The study was productive, consistent and (almost) effortless. The last couple of days have been especially hard because there is only so much that you can learn and absorb (and only so much that the SOM can actually test you on). The propensity to do nothing is much higher in the days leading up to the exams. And living with other medical students that aren't so frazzled only helps to calm the nerves towards the lead up.

On the way to the exam, I was feeling a bit off. I know what I know (and what I didn't know could potentially bite me in the ass). When I got closer to the where the test was being held, I was feeling a bit sick in my stomach. In fact, a number of people that I spoke with were feeling the same way. I got into the exam and during the 10 minute perusal, I looked through the questions and didn't feel too shocked about what was ahead. However, when I started writing, the knowledge in my head went to the furtherest corners of my brain. I felt as if I was blind with the added task of grabbing straws. At one point, I seriously thought what would happen if I got up, ripped up the exam and ran screaming from the room! Yes, a bit melodramatic but true. I quickly got myself together and plugged through until I could no longer do anymore. I had an answer for everything (I left only one thing blank because I really didn't know what it was - it was only worth 1 mark). I got outside and felt like retching and in fact, I had to go down to the toilet and get some of the retches out of me. brutal. I felt as if I would be a very lucky man if I passed that exam. Most of the people that walked out of the exam were looking as if they have been gutted and then had to eat their entrails or something - sick. After having a great dinner with Lou, Claire and Annabelle at Quan Thanh (the new best place in Brisbane for Vietnamese), I felt centred and know that tomorrow is a new day. After talking it through with Dave and Suz, I reckon that we all had our issues with the exam. There is something to be said for going through an experience with a group of people and having persevered until the bitter end.

Now, I've several ethics essays to read and to go over respiratory, gastrointestinal, arrhythmias/valvular disorders and immune/infection/defence before tomorrow's exam.
I doubt that I will learn anything new, except for the fact that what I know I know. The important thing about tomorrow's exam is that it will be the last comprehensive year-long exam that I will have to write in my medical school career! The next time that I will have to write a comprehensive exam will be when I sit my speciality exams, which won't be for quite some time. The plan for tomorrow night is to have some dinner with some friends, have a few glasses of wine and watch as many episodes of Season 3 NIP/TUCK. Thursday will be a long day of clinical skills preparation for the clinical exam on Saturday morning.

One down...two more to go.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Can't believe...

Hello! It's been a while since I've last posted and I do apologise; things have just been quite hectic around here for the past couple of weeks.

FIrst off, I've changed the template of the site (as you can clearly see). I was getting sick and tired of the underlined text and I thought that I might as well just give it a fresh look. What do you think?

Soon after I posted the last post, I was getting geared up for Diwali (Diwali Mubarak & Sal Mubarak everybody!). I always knew that a lot of work goes into preparing for these jamvanus but I was really underestimated the amount of work that goes into it. When I was living at home, there would be mass mobilisation of people to help clean, organise and cook for the party. There were multiple trips to the grocery store to get those last minute fresh items, e.g. coriander and green chilies. The house would be cleaned to a shine that only Mum and Dad approved of, games would have to be organised to keep people happy, areas set up for dining, socialising, etc. This year was no different! I had invited about 45 people for Diwali jamvanu (fortunately only 35 or so people came). I got up early (6:30am) to get ready for a 7am cook-up. I cooked at Lou's place because her kitchen is massive and she had numerous pots and pans. The house was decorated a few nights before the actually day. Multiple runs were made to Coles to get some last minute items. I had a fear that I would not have enough food for everyone. But in the end, there was enough
food and then some!

Dave, Suz and I dressed up in our Indian clothes (because we could) and I must admit that I was brtimming with joy! There is something to be said for cooking for that many people, being a good host and ensuring that everyone is having a great time. Pam (an Indo- Newfoundlander in my year) said that she felt as if she was back in Newfoundland at a Diwali function. Mum told me that I was crazy to have organised such a thing - but I wanted to see whether I could pull off something like that. By the looks of it, everything was a great success! That being said, I know that I won't be pulling a massive Diwali (or any other dinner function) without having other people to help with the cooking and stuff.

Here are some photos from the night: (sorry about the spacing between the photos, I tried to fixed it several times but the same thing happened over and over again)

The menu was: cauliflower mughlai, muttar paneer, roasted eggplant & potato curry, naan, rice, raita, salad, and bhajiya (onion & potato fritters that have been battered in besan flour).

As for dessert, there was fruit, ice cream, soan papdi, kaju katri, and caramel slice.

Here are Dave and Suz in their Indian finery! I bought Dave's outfit when I was in Delhi last year. Mum got Suz her sari. I reckon that a woman's wardrobe is not complete without a sari. Whereas for a man, no wardrobe is complete without a custom-tailered suit. :)

Here are Claire and Annabelle showing off their bangles. Annabelle's fushcia kurti is from the legendary "Fab India' in Delhi. These two ladies (along with Nabila) are travelling with me in South East Asia. I can't wait for this upcoming trip, as it is going to be a ripper of a time!

Suz and I - I am really going to miss her and Dave next year. They are moving up to Rockhampton for their 3rd year. Rocky is one of the sites that the UQ School of Medicine has a Rural Clinical School. There is one good thing out of this. A trip to Rocky to see them! :)

In other news, things have been getting frantic about the 2nd year final exams that are fast approaching. There is quite a lot of speculation on what will be on the exams and whether we will pass (or for some people, how well they will do). There is still are still 9 full days before the onset of exams. It's plenty of time to get through everything. I'm heading down to Springbrook, the hinterland of Gold Coast, for the week today with Claire and Annabelle. It's secluded, no mobile coverage, and we have to bring our own food. Claire's parents have a house down there that we can use. It will be nice to have no distractions and be focussed on the upcoming exams.

I can't believe that I've been living in Australia for almost two years. To further complicate things, I think that I can see myself living in this country. I've been looking into the process of getting my permanent residency papers. Apparently, I've to start compiling components of my application. Now those of you that know me can testify that I'm always on the move, never feeling fulfilled by staying in one location. Even though, I've taken a number of trips whilst being in Brisbane, it's a great base to have. Now, if only I can convince some of you to come here... :)

I've also got my details sorted for coming to Calgary this Christmas season! I will be in Calgary from December 23rd til January 3rd and then back again from the 11th till the 15th. For those of you in the Calgary and environs, it would be awesom to see you again. Just drop me a line.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

In PBL with Kim and Claire

Yes...I'm stuck in a room with two beautiful women. No, it's not the new porn film that i'm starring in. Kim was one of the hotties in my old PBL last year, and Claire is also one of the hotties of the year (I's crude but oh well).

4 weeks till exams and my moods have been quite erratic. There are moments where I'm extremely calm and thinking that I can put off studying for one more night. Then there are moments, where I'm extremely frazzled and have no clue as to where I need to start studying. I don't have a particular system at the moment and perhaps that is where the problem lies. I've started numerous different things this year but they've all been shit.

On the up side, I'm having a Diwali jamvanu (dinner in Gujju-che speak) on Saturday night and I can't wait! Heaps of people and the food to boot. I just wished that some (blood) family members could be here. It's times like this where I am lucky to have cultivated the family that I have here in Brisbane. I am eternally grateful to those wonderful people.

After the dinner, the only big thing that I've to look forward to is my trip with Annabelle, Claire and Nabila to South East Asia! I spend my idle time (which is quite a lot of time) pouring of Lonely Planet books to the region, reading about things to do and trying to imagine where the journey will take us. It does bring a smile to my face (that and passing my 2nd year exams).

Okay, on that note, I reckon that I should get back to the study.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Another weekend, another headache

So, I last left right before selecting Year 3 clinical school/rotation preference. Well, I logged on fearing that there would be systems crash or something. However, I was surprised that the server remained strong. I put in my preferences (Southern Clinical Division starting on Mental Health rotation). Everyone in the room was able to put in their choices. We kept on refreshing the page to see how the spots were filling up. It was like watching a horse race and seeing which horse would cross the finish line. Rockhamptom Clinical School was filled up in almost 90 seconds! Leanne told us that that is faster than the tickets that sold out for the upcoming Kylie Minogue concert! I got home and Dave and Suz were up as well, talking to people on msn and mobile about the how things are going with regards to the preferences. Everyone is giving their commentary on what's happening and what to speculate for those people that decided that they were going to put in their preferences in the morning. Sadly enough, there were a few people that were in the boat. I bleieve that the SOM has fielded several questions regarding this and has increased the amount of spots for those division in Brisbane - Central and Southern, by 3 and 6 respsectively.

The Friday night was the last keg of 2007. It's a keg mainly for 4th years who had finished their last exam on Thursday. The 3rd years are still mid-rotation, the 1st years have their exams in 2 weeks and the 3rd years still have about 5 weeks until their exams. It was nice to see a big group of people out having a great time, not thinking about exam worries. Originally, I was only going to go for an hour. Leanne and I went to Hayley's pre-keg party and by the time that I left her place, I was already a bit tipsy. The keg went till about 10:30 and then they had buses that took us to this bar that was in a location that I've never been to in Brisbane. I found out that it was called Chalk. Interesting place, a place that I don't think that I would have picked out to go on a Friday night. The night got messier as it progressed. Leanne ended up staying over at my place, as her car was parked there. We got home around 1am and stayed up taking till about 4am. A night filled with many laughs, tears and the revelation that it is a privilege to be surrounded by good friends.

The next day was an absolute right off, as I developed a nasty cold. I know that it didn't help that my systems were working hard because of the alcohol shock the night before. I had planned on doing a full day of study but that quickly turned into a day of blowing my nose, taking some naps, and cleaning the house. That evening, I put on my fancy kurta/dhoti combination and heading out to Suncorp Piazza, as that's where the raas-garba for Sharad Poonam was being held. To take a little sidestep, a couple of weekends go, Navratri had started and I was adamant that I would have a better time this year. This year, I also knew more people which makes all the difference. I had a fantastic time! My feet are still covered in blisters, some of which are taking quite some time to heal. I met a 'Thanki' family, who were living in Kent, UK and have moved over here in 2003. No surprise whatsoever, they know who my parents are (not very well but we were able to trace how we know each other). It was a different connection that I've not had since being in Australia. Back to Sharad Poonam...I invited Param (who, as usual, always looks amazing beautiful) and she did a few rounds of garba with me. We didn't stay for the raas portion, as my feet were throbbing and a couple of the larger blisters had popped. So, we went across the road to the cinema and saw Step Up. Class film...class. If you like "Save the Last Dance", then I reckon that you'll like Step Up. Both Param and I were dancing in our seats or moving our heads to the music. After that finish, Param took her bus home and my bus never came. Instead, I headed towards the Valley (as that is just a short walk from my palce) and met up with Pam (another transplanted Indo-Canadian from Newfoundland who is in my year). We talked for a few hours and I headed off home. The weekend was filled with many great conversations that took friendships to a more intense level of commitment and sense of belonging. It never ceases to amaze me how I am able to be surrounded by such people that truly make me have a life worth living. For all of you that aren't in my physical presence, you are always in my thoughts. On that note, I'm going to drink a hot drink with paracetamol and lemon. Goodnight.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Twas the night before Year 3 Rotation Selection...

It's almost 11pm and I'm sitting with Annabelle, Claire, Kim, Leanne, and Lou.

We have to login in at midnight and select our Division. People are getting a bit tense and stressed about it all. We are essentially choosing where in Queensland we want to go (there are 4 Rural Sites - Rockhamptom, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay - Maryborough, and Toowoomba). If not choosing rural site, then we have to decide between Central or Southern placements. I've decided to go back to Southern - as I was a part of Southern in first year. Also, there are options of going to Brunei to do either GP, Medicine or Surgery (Rural Medicine, Surgery, Mental Health, General Practice, Medicine is the order of the rotations). Also, the Rural Medicine can be done in several different areas. I would love to be able to do it in Northern Territory, perhaps Alice Springs. I'm so excited about the idea of being in 3rd year.

Okay, I better get off this site so that I can get back to obsessively trying to refresh the Rotation Tracking System. I'll let you know how it goes...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back in Australia!

After several flights and airports, missing a number of inflight meals and potential video viewing (thanks temazepam!), I'm finally back in Brisbane.

Okay…[Veevek sighs and focuses on breathing out], here is the massive post that people are waiting for. Sorry for the delay – I just needed to get caught up on sleep, food and seeing people. :)

Alright. Here’s goes. I must warn you that this post really is long. Get yourself a glass of beer, wine, spirit, or a cup of coffee. You may want to put a pillow next your computer so that you can rest your head and take in these words or you can just turn off the computer and go straight to bed from reading such boring drivel. :)

So, the night before me leaving on my journey, Veevek goes to the annual Med Revue, which was entitled “Medicine at a Glance: A Guide to Clinical Hilarity”. It was the last night of their string of performances, which meant that there would be some sort of after party. Not only that, that night was also the night when the Indian Student Association hosted Club Masti. My friends Anita, Milan and Rohit (from Calgary) were in town and were going to this Bollywood extravaganza, so it would be the last time that I would see them until I head back to Calgary for Christmas. After Med Revue finished, I headed straight to Club Masti – had some fun dancing moments with Anita, Milan and Rohit. Around 11pm, I get this text message “get your ass heqd now” - I hoped into a taxi and headed to Chic Boutique and was welcomed by many, each brandishing a glass of alcohol for me to drink. Keeping an eye on the time (because I was flying out at 8:30am the next day), I was trying to pace myself and make sure that I can get home, get some decent amount of sleep and be at the airport in due time. Well, still having kept an eye of the time, I got home way too late, didn’t get much sleep and wasn’t at the airport in time to make my flight. Yes, I missed my flight from Brisbane to Sydney and, subsequently, I missed my connecting flight to Hong Kong. Fortunately, the nice people at QANTAS ticketing put me on the next flight to Sydney/Hong Kong (my flights to London and Paris were still okay) without any charge to me.

(Fast forward to a point in time after take off from Kingsford Smith International – Sydney) Veevek was seated next to a young Chinese woman who spoken very little English (and I mean very little). She was surrounded by her girlfriends. After getting our first meal (more accurately described as a snack) I ate ravenously because I really didn’t eat much before I left Brisbane. I took a quite kip and when I woke up, I found heaps of cheese and crackers, bowls of salad, the tiny chocolate bars all littered on my tray! We exchanged looks and she said to me with her eyes wide-open “eat, eat”. HAHAHAHA. She probably thought that I was some refugee or poor starving person. I did look tired but not to the point of being emaciated. The flight attendant took notice of all this extra bits of airline food on my plate and asked me where I got it from. I told her that it was the lady beside me who gathered all the bits of food from her friends and put them on my plate. She gave me this look of “sure, sure. Next you are going to tell me that the drink trolley just fell into your mouth.” When the next meal came, the same thing happened! But this time I was wide awake. She gathered all the bits of bread, dessert (basically anything that wasn’t Asian-based food) and put them all on my plate. And this time, the same flight attendant witnessed what just happened. She gave me this look of “what the hell just happened?!” and then gave me two bottles of the Cabernet Sauvignon that she held in her hand and she said, “you are going to need this”.

Hong Kong – what a beautiful city to fly into (at least I think so). The airport is right beside the water, you can see the electric glow from Kowloon, the Junks that are littered on top of the water and the haziness of general Asian urban living. I can’t wait to spend some time in Hong Kong (outside the airport) when I’m there at the end of the year on my way back to Calgary.

Now, I’m on my long haul flight from Hong Kong to London (13 hours). And it was a very full flight – no empty spaces anywhere. Fortunately, I was sitting beside a university student from Cincinnati, Ohio who was doing a joint degree in medicine and law. K and I got along really well from the moment we sat next to each other. In fact, we got along so well that we decided to celebrate the time together with drinking (what else will university students do on an international flight?!). When the drinks came around, we asked the flight attendant to get us two vodka cranberries – each. It wasn’t a problem, in fact, all of our drink requests were fulfilled. At dinner, we were able to take each of the wines that they were giving for dinner! We also watched a movie called The Wild and it was too similar to Madagascar (and it wasn’t as good because there were no penguins in this movie) and then we fell asleep (passed out) for the majority of the flight. When we awoke, we were almost approaching Heathrow and got stuck in the holding pattern. We were offered morning tea, and what did we drink? Vodka orange juice. Good god, my liver had taken such a beating from the time that I left Australia.

Heathrow was a mad house! All the new security measures meant longer queues, longer waiting times for everything, frustrated airport staff and passengers and the like. I had a 4-hour layover and it took me 3 hours to clear security. Craziness. Finally, I was en route to Paris, the first stop in this destination around Europe.

-- Paris --

Paris was absolutely fantastic! I met up with an ex-girlfriend, Elodie. We both found it odd to see each other in the beginning – as neither one of us believed that I’d be in Paris with her. The last time that we did see each other was in May of 2003. We got back to her flat (tiny, 24 metres square) and headed out to see bits and pieces of the city. We walked around in the Latin Quarter and saw Notre Dame, Pantheon, outside of the Louvre, and Le Concorde. We had dinner at this quaint restaurant and had real French food without having to pay such exorbitant prices that you would pay elsewhere in the world for it. Oh, and the wine! The wine was cheap and fantastic. I definitely found a place that I could be for a while. After dinner, we met up with one of her best friends, Ben, for drinks. We were out in an area of Paris called Le Marais, which is the Jewish quarter and quite funky and trendy.

Elodie blending in with her surroundings.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The next morning, Elodie made breakfast (more so, she arranged breakfast). I was absolutely blown away! Fresh fruits (bananas, I had so many bananas because bananas in Australia are so expensive due to the fact that Cyclone Larry wiped out 90% of the banana crop), all kinds of cheeses, jams for the cheese, fresh baguette and croissants. I couldn’t stop eating – I was in heaven.

We took a lovely walk around her flat (the area is called Ourcq) and came across this fantastic museum (insert museum photo). We then made our way down to an area called Barbes, which is a very African area of Paris. There were all these street markets, most of which were illegal. I saw a whole street become a prayer area for Muslim men. In fact, it did remind me of some episodic moments whilst I was living in Kenya. Well, Elodie used to live in this area. She told me that this area is one of the most dangerous in all of Paris.

Not only did she used to live here, but the Sacre Couer (Mont Marte) located here as well. Most people would recognise this church as the same church that was in Amelie.

She also took me to the grocery store that was in the movie as well. It was awesome to do this miniature tour from Amelie. We then headed down from the hill and Elodie took me to see where the Moulin Rouge is (not very impressive) and we did some shopping. That evening, I met two more of Elodie’s friends, Jean Gabriel and Charlene. I remember her telling me all about them when she came to Calgary in 2002. It was incredible to meet her friends because I was able to see her in her element, as she was able to see me in mine whilst she was in Calgary.

We made savoury crepes for dinner and had sweet crepes for dessert. The savoury crepes were spinach, brie, and some other cheese. It was so decadent, I couldn’t even finish it. Mmmm…

The next day we decided to go see a ‘real’ museum and headed down to the Musee D’Orsey. This is a fantastic museum of European art. This museum often gets overlooked because everyone wants to go to Louvre. Here are some wonderful paintings that I was able to get photos of:

After the Musee, Elodie, myself and a friend of hers, Adrien, went towards the Eiffel Tower because I was meeting up with Vinay and Bhavisha there. We waited for quite some time but then I finally met up with them! It was so nice to see them. I couldn’t believe how much weight Bhavisha lost and how much taller Vinay got. He even got his braces removed. Here are some photos from that night:

After the Eiffel Tower, I thought that it would be nice to spend some more time with my family, so I went to stay with them. Apparently, I have relatives that live in Paris! WOO-HOO! They live outside of Paris in a town called Sannois, which is about a 20 min train ride to the centre of Paris. It was nice to be speaking Gujarati again. It was quite strange to see Gujarati people who would speak better French than English. The next day, I took Vinay and Bhavisha into Paris because we all wanted to see the Louvre and Vijaykaks and Ashakaki weren’t that interested. I told Elodie that I would be in touch with her so that she could meet up with us but none of us had a mobile phone. And I made the mistake of thinking that there would be pay phones in Paris that would accept coins. Nevertheless, we walked around seeing Notre Dame, the Louvre. We did get caught in this massive (and I mean massive) rain storm. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve seen rain drops that big before. We thought about having lunch somewhere but then opted for the more French options of having crepes. In some of the touristy parts of Paris (sometimes it’s quite difficult to tell those areas apart), crepes are sold everywhere and it’s hard to pick out those little fellas that are struggle to keep their business open. Fortunately, we were able to find this little crack in the wall that was selling only crepes. Vinay got nutella avec coco, I got nutella avec banane et grand marnier, and Bhavisha got nutella avec banane. The last time that I’ve had more than a spoonful of nutella was at least 10 years ago. The crepe maker put at least 2 cups of nutella on each crepe. Eating them warm just made the experience so much better…mmm…I’m craving a crepe right now!

We had to be home by a certain time for dinner and so that we could out again with the family. We took the train back to the station that we got on (Francoville). The ride from the house to the station took less than 5 minutes, so we thought that we would walk in the general direction of the house. We walked about 2 kilometres and thought that we should head back. We head back and nowhere was there a payphone in sight. I even asked this storekeeper if he had a phone that I could use and he told me that his phone was broken. He even told me that his mobile wasn’t working either. Bullshit. To make matters worse, it was Sunday, which meant that nothing apart from a few things are open. We walked around, talked to people to see if they could give us directions but that was of no avail. A nice guy gave us a phone card that we could use at a payphone. So, we have the means to make a phone call…but there were no phones around! Argh. At this time, I could tell that Vinay and Bhavisha were getting just a tiny bit worried. Bhavisha had a brainwave and saw a pizzeria and thought, “hey! They deliver! Maybe we can give him the address of the place that we are staying at and they could drop the pizza and us off!” Better yet, this would be a place that would have to have a working phone. We called the house and our relative came and picked us up. We got home and had a quick bite to eat before heading off to Mont Marte to see the Sacre Couer at night. It was quite nice to see the place and walk around. I left my cousins and relatives there and took the metro back to Elodie’s place. My relatives warned me to be extra cautious on the train at that time of night, but hakuna wasi wasi.

The next day was my last day was my last day in Paris. Alas, Elodie had to go into work but that wasn’t until late morning. We went to a cafĂ© for coffee and croissants. We said our “a la prochaine”. It was sad to leave Paris. I can’t wait when my travels will take me to France again. From Gare du Nord, I took the Eurostar to London’s Waterloo station. However, the train took almost 5 hours to get there because there was some delay in the Channel Tunnel.

-- London --

I was greeted by my good friend Sara at her local tube station (the nearest major one is Earl’s Court). It was so great to see her again. The last time we saw each other was in New York. She took me back to her place, where we drank a bottle of wine before going out to a nice place for dinner. We decided to have a big night because the next day was my 27th birthday! The conversation kept flowing from one topic to the next. Having such a quality in friends really is the best because it would just suck if most of the time people were silent and had their fingers up their noses. After dinner, we headed to this dodgy Mexicanesque bar that had salsa dancing on. A few drinks later, it was time to head back to Sara’s place. The next morning, we met in town and had lunch in a park. It was nice to be in London again, to feel the vibes and knowing full well that this is place that I have called home because of my family that live there. Nothing beats that particular feeling. I left for Luton Airport to get on a plane for Stockholm. It was the first time that I’ve ever celebrated the actual date of my birthday in two different countries!

-- Sweden --

I arrived in Sweden on the night of my birthday. I was picked up by a very familiar face, Tobias, J’s younger brother. It was great to see him again, especially since the last time I saw him was in 2004 when he was on exchange to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. On the car ride back to his parents’ house, we caught up in our respective lives and shared some thoughts about the wedding that is only a few days away. We finally arrived to Uppsala and was had a very warm greeting by H and J. They were working on some last minute things for the family bbq that was on the Friday before the wedding. It was so nice to see them again! We all had a few glasses of wine and called it a night.

The next morning, I saw J’s parents and gave them these massive hugs! Her dad can give a proper bear hug. We had a quick breakfast before some of us headed up to Bodahagen, which is their summer house. We had to pick up some things from there for the bbq that was on Friday. It was now the early afternoon and H and I headed down to Stockholm to get some last minute things done like pick up his wedding ring, the suit and little things here and there. It was so nice to spend the day with Hasit – yeah, I would have liked to have done it under other circumstances as he was so focussed on the wedding.

The next day was a day that was spent at the J’s parent’s house trying to get things organised for the bbq and the wedding. I met J’s sister, Malin, for the first time that day and we hit it off so well! We worked on seating arrangements for the reception and talked about different ideas of weddings and what some of the expectations would be, etc. It was nice to have a relax day – not having to worry about travelling to the next destination. I could have as many cups of tea, chocolate cake and other nibbles without having a huge hole in my wallet. :) This was also the night where I met James, H’s best man. H, James and I went out for drinks before James and I booked into our hotel room, which was not the same hotel that the others were staying at. However, it worked out for the best because H & J were at this hotel and we had a few things to organise for their room and all. James is a great guy! Even though this was the first time that I met him, by the end of our time in Sweden, it seemed as if I’ve known James for years. I love it when people can connect like that.

The next day, the cousins from the UK had flown over and H and I met up with Mum and Dad, Vijaykaka, Ashakaki, Bhavisha, Vinay, and James (H’s best man). We took the train down to Stockholm. It was great to see them everyone again. It was the first time that I met James but we hit it off so well, by the time we parted, it felt as if we’ve known each other for years. We strolled around Stockholm and saw all the pretty things like Gamla Stan and the main town. Our time in Stockholm was quite limited because we had to back in Uppsala for the bbq. We headed back to the bbq and all these cousins started to pour in – the hugs and kisses were given and introductions were made. J’s parents really did make sure that everything was looked after. Many preparations went into the bbq because my entire family is vegetarian, which can make a bbq quite tricky. Fortunately, all the food prepared were items that H & J have had/made. In fact, they had made a memento of a cookbook for all the things that were served. The food was all vegetarian (for the exception of a smoked salmon dish), different kinds of Swedish breads and cheese, desserts that would make any full person have an empty stomach again, enough alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks to make someone happy but not too inebriated, and to top it all off the evening weather was perfect. Alas, I don’t have any photos from the bbq but I will post them when I get them.

So, the first major meeting of the families was extremely successful. In fact, people are still talking about it today. :)

The next day, J’s mum had arranged for a guided historical tour of Uppsala. Whilst H & J had their own things to do on the day of the wedding, I was in charge of rounding up the Thankeys/Modhas and heading out. We had this extremely tall man (6’10) named Tim (he’s not so tiny) who gave us this fascinating tour of Uppsala, starting from the cathedral (the tallest cathedral in all of Scandinavia and the builder was inspired by the Notre Dame in Paris) and ending up at Uppsala University. The wedding started later on that afternoon at 4pm.

The wedding – my god. I may be a bit biased, but it was the best wedding/reception I’ve even been to. The amount of attention to detail that H & J paid was insurmountable and it definitely paid off. Every person that was there would say the same thing. Some of the example of the detail:
- Having traditional Swedish music (and singers) start off the wedding (and sing two songs in between moments at the ceremony)
- J’s aunt (who is a judge) officiate the ceremony and giving a reading from one of Tagore’s work, “Unending Love”
- Having a champagne break between the wedding and reception
- Every guest having their own personalised menu
- Seating arrangements done so that every man and woman is pair up, pre-existing couples were not seated together, and made sure that people that would get along well/have similar interests were in the same area
- A different type of wine with every course

Here are some photos from the wedding:

This is J's brother (Tobias) and sister (Malin). They were the toastmasters for the evening.

Our version of "Snow White and the Seven [single] Dwarves"

Throughout the sit down portion of the night, there were speeches. All of them were crowd pleasers (including my dad’s!). I gave a speech about when our family first met J. I was pretty tipsy at that point (there was an empty bottle of wine in front of me at my spot on the table) but I came across eloquent, classy and memorable. After the sit down portion, the tables were cleared and moved so that the dancing area could be established. Now that the sun had set and people were under the stars, the garden was littered with candles, making the ambiance even more intimate for all the guests that were present. There was an open bar, which meant that there were a few of us (if not all) that were a buzzing to a new high. That night, two families joined and it was celebrated with style and great pomp. H & J’s first dance was to Frank Sinatra’s “Under my skin”. There was a healthy mix of English and Indian songs, which was an excellent fusion upon the dance floor. The party lasted till about 1am, whereby we had to clear the gardens. Those of us that were still up for going out, we went to this little club called Orange. I didn’t get back to my hotel room until 6:30am.

The next day was a day to chill – H & J had their own plans and meeting up with the two sets of parents for dinner. Some of the cousins had flights to catch back to the UK. However, a few of us decided to go down to Stockholm and spend a couple of nights there. Jigna, Minesh, Kajal, Dipal, and I went in the mid afternoon, after saying our goodbyes to people. Most of the key people at the wedding will be coming to the UK for an Indian joint reception for H & J and Yogesh & Priya. We checked ourselves into a hostel on one of the 14 islands that make up Stockholm. Unlike the nights leading up to this one, we had a quiet night gorging ourselves at a nearby restaurant, so that the night’s sleep could be blissful. We got up the next morning early enough to catch the complimentary breakfast. We also took the opportunity to make little sandwiches so that we don’t have to worry about spending money for lunch (as Sweden is quite expensive, even the Brits thought that!). We met up N, one of H’s friend’s who was staying in Stockholm for an extra week before going back to work for NATO in Brussels. We walked around Gamla Stan and making sure that we can soak up as much of it we can whilst being there.

After that, we took a 2 hour boat tour of Stockholm, which was quite interesting…for the most part. Much of the tour was listening to different types of Swedish hits, including ABBA. We all had such a fantastic time together that it times like these that really make me wish that I was closer to family. That being said, I’ve cultivated another family in Australia, and I don’t think that I could bear to stand the thought of being too far from them either. Argh.

That evening, we went to a pizzeria (yeah, it’s not very Swedish but when you’re travelling with a group of vegetarians, pizza is the easiest meal option) and decided to make our way to this bar that we’ve heard about called the ICEBAR. It is a bar that was created by Absolut and as the name suggests, it is completely made out of ice and kept at a temperature of -5 degrees Centigrade. We went to the hotel that hosted this bar and found out that there needs to be a reservation and that not all of us would be able to go at the reserved time, which was 11:15pm. The entrance was 150 Kr (which is approximately $20) and that included the first drink. Every subsequent drink was 85 Kr. We hung around the area, did some shopping, more laughing, and a couple of drinks at a place called the Light Bar. And for kicks (because we could) Kajal and I did a small Bollywood dance number along one of the main pedestrian streets in Stockholm. We went back to ICEBAR and got ushered into the bar with the heavy duty silver parkas and gloves. We went inside and it was pretty cool for the first 5 minutes and then the novelty wore off. We got photos taken with the hot barmaid and then left without having a drink. When we left we also realised that we didn’t pay the entrance fee! We went across the street to back to the Light Bar and had a few drinks before going home. Our bus to the airport left at 7:20 and we made our way to the airport. On the way to the airport, I was thinking aloud and I said, “I wonder if I need my confirmation because I never received one from RyanAir for my flight from Stockholm to London”. I didn’t think anything of it. We all checked in, except for me because my name wasn’t on the list of passengers. I was like, ‘wtf? You sure?’ I reiterated that no confirmation was sent to me. I went to the information desk and found out that my flight was YESTERDAY! Fuck. The lady at the counter told me that the flight is overbooked and I will have to wait 10 minutes prior to closing the gate to see whether I can buy a ticket and get on this flight. I told them all the necessary details and bullshit like “I’ve to get on this flight because I won’t have anywhere to stay in Sweden, I’m broke, I’m going to my brother’s reception, etc”. I felt like shit…it was the first time ever that I’ve done this – completely get the wrong date of when I’m supposed to fly out. I guess there is a first time for everything. I started thinking of a contingent plan but nothing was coming out of my head. My cousins reassured me that I will be on this flight and everything will be fine. 10 minutes go by (which almost felt like an eternity), and I was told that there is room on the flight! Now, keep in mind that I had booked this ticket in early May and paid only 7 Euros for it. Guess how much I had to pay? 150 GBP! That blew my budget for the UK and some of Finland. Well, at least I was making it back to the UK with my cousins.

-- UK --

We arrived into Leicester (the home of the majority of my relatives in the UK) and greeted with some great food and the chance to take a hot shower. The first night was a chill night to get some sleep. We also met up with some other cousins and went bowling. The last time I was in the UK was in early September of 2003 when my grandmother’s health was not so good. This time the family reunion is of a much happier note. I couldn’t believe that H & J were married. Then again, they were pretty much living common-law in Ottawa; the marriage was an official formality. The next few days leading up to the Indian reception, was spent catching up on sleep, eating good meals (how I love Indian food), and being in the company of family. I really am lucky to have such a close connection with my cousins. Jigna and I had several conversations about medicine (she’s an RMO and thinking of doing surgery, specially head & neck). We have similar goals in life and it was so nice to have an honest reflection of thought and ideas. Minesh – a man who will give everything for his family and still be the coolest cat on the planet. I’ve never met anyone who gives so much and expects so little in return. He was definitely a host with the most, in terms of driving, paying for drinks, and providing more laughs than I could conjure up in a single day. Then there’s Kajal, a pre-reg pharmacist, who really has become herself in the last few years. When I was working in London, I was staying with Kajal and her family. We spent a lot of time together talking about family relations, where she sees herself in all of it and what she wants for herself. My last night in the UK, I slept over at Kajal’s place in Birmingham. I made her, her flatmate and flatmate’s boyfriend, dinner. We didn’t have much cousin-time but we had enough to know that the other was really living their life.

The Indian reception was awesome! It wasn’t like the Swedish one but then again, I don’t think that anything Indian can come close to something Swedish. HAHA. Well, first off there were 525 people in attendance. I was told that at least 1000 invitations went out. I met up with family members that I hadn’t seen in a few years, like my Madhumasi (masi = mum’s sister) and family from my mother’s side. Oh, and the reception wasn’t only for my brother and J, it was also for my cousin Yogesh and Priyabhabhi. The food was great, a self-service buffet of Chinese, Indian and Italian. Indian sweets and fruit were absolutely tasty, including a very tall chocolate fountain. Considering the amount of people that were there and the very short attention span that a very large group of Indian people have, speeches were kept to a minimum (I was quite impressed). I gave a short speech on the two brothers and wishing them very happy and successful marriages. The dance floor ripped up and we were there for the rest of the night!

The next few days after the reception were down time for everyone. Sure there were still family dinners but nothing too grandiose. The cousins went out on the town to do some shopping and to chill. Some of the family members had to go back to their respective cities/countries. I still stayed with Jigna and Minesh for a few days before I had to leave for Finland. I spent an entire afternoon with Mum and Dad on my second last day there. It was nice to spend some quality time with just those two. The conversations that we hard were quite intense, all focussed on the issue of married, cultural unity and my life plans. Now that Yogesh and Priyabhabhi and H & J are married, I’m the next one (on both my mother’s and father’s side) to be getting married (if you are thinking chronologically, not taking into account whether I’ve a girlfriend). Let’s just say that there is a lot of a food for thought, some of which I’ve taken to heart and some of which, I will let destiny take over. I left for Birmingham after I saw Mum and Dad, and spent time with Kajal. I flew out the next morning…

-- Finland –

I left the UK with a heavy heart because I don’t know when the next time that I will be seeing my cousins and family again. At least I will see Mum/Dad and Bhavisha/Vinay at Christmas. However, my relationship with my cousins, which I think is quite strong, thrives on distance to keep us close. When we get together after a long time of not seeing each other, it seems as if we’ve never been part. Regardless, I flew to Helsinki via Copenhagen from Birmingham. I arrived into Helsinki (well, Vantaa to be exact) and took the Finn Air bus from the airport to a stop close to the Olympic Stadium Youth Hostel. So, why was Helsinki a destination of this trip? Well, for those of you that have seen “Little Britain” you will get the joke. But seriously, Helsinki was the location of the 17th International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) World Congress. I walked to the hostel and met up with many other students. I finally met a few students who I’ve been in touch with over email for the past 1.5 years. It was so great to put a face to the name or to put the face with the photos from previous IPPNW international activities. I saw one familiar face that I’ve met before, which was Mahyar’s. I met him last year when I was in Adelaide visiting Ruth.

This is Thomas from Stockholm; he is one of those persons that I've been in touch with over the past 1.5 years over email about the NWIP

This is Wenjing and she is also from Stockholm. I told her that she looks kinda like the old movie stars like Za Za Gabor and she thought I said that she looks like a whore. HAHA.

This is Inga, she is a medical student from Germany. She was one of the NWIP coordinators from 2004 to 2006.

I did want to put up pictures of Martina and Camilla (Hej Hej!) but unfortunately Martina didn't like her pictures and I don't have one of Camilla! (hint hint ladies)

The next day was the opening ceremonies for the students’ meeting and was filled with many different workshops and chances to meet new and exciting people. I naturally gravitated towards the Swedes and Germans but also included some students from Israel, United States, Denmark, and Australia.


The 2nd day of the student meetings was intense because that’s when the majority of the workshops were being held. I, along with 5 other students, ran a Nuclear Weapons Inheritance Project (NWIP) workshop on the crash course of nuclear weapons. An interactive session on bringing students up to speed on what the nuclear situation is around the world, some of the treaties behind the arms, medical effects and the economic costs of nuclear weapons. It was a good practice run for a similar workshop that we had to do for the ‘doctors’ at the World Congress. That evening, the students went to a City Reception, which was held at Helsinki City Hall. The spread of food and the wine was fantastic! After eating and drinking plenty, there was International Night for the students, which was at this ‘club’ in some apartment building near the industrial area. International Night is a night where the different student delegations bring food and drinks from their country and most give a presentation/dance/skit, etc that reflects something about their country. As a part of the Australian delegation, we didn’t have anything prepared. But when we go to the next IPPNW World Congress in Delhi, we will definitely have something prepared. The drinking and eating continued well into the night, not to mention dancing and just being able enjoying the company of new friends.

Jakob (Germany), Lena (Germany), Wenjing (Sweden), Misha (Australia), Rosemary (New Zealand), Catherine (New Zealand), ME, Ruth (Australia): this is the group that did the workshop on crash course of nuclear weapons.

The next day was the official start of the 17th IPPNW World Congress. The first plenary session was fantastic, with speakers being the Mayor of Hiroshima, a very emphatic and energetic speaker and some other noteworthy speakers. There was always something happening that suited the fancy of everyone that was there. Indeed, there were a couple of plenary sessions that just seemed to drag on but we entertained ourselves, like me putting on Wenjing’s earrings. HA. That evening was the Government Reception, which was even more fantastic than the previous night’s reception. Food and drinks were provided and this was yet another round to see how well one’s liver can cope. Not only that but many discussions on future student activities were discussed not to mention what sort of things we would expect from the 18th IPPNW World Congress, which will be held in Delhi, India. Those of us that were involved or would like to be involved in the NWIP went back to the hostel early to sort through some administrative stuff such as coordination and activities planning meetings. After that, a large group of us heading to a local bar near the hostel to have a few drinks and once again to further solidify the bonds that we have laid down within one another.

This is a photo for the Helsinki Cathedral that lies close to the main harbour. Looks more like a government building than anything else.

At the Student Farewell party, there were a few things that went on. First and foremost, it was the best spread of food all week. There wasn’t an open bar but that didn’t stop us from having a few drinks. My throat was so shitty that I had hot tea with lemon, honey and some whiskey. :)

That was also the evening where all these Finnish riot police were out on the main street heading towards an area that was adjacent to where we were at. It was absolutely an amazing sight to see about 100 police officers in full riot gear and barking dogs.

It was also the night where we found out who the new coordinators for the NWIP were. There were seven people that expressed interests and three were selected. Jakob from Germany, Wenjing from Sweden and ME! This is the first time since the creation of NWIP that a non-European is one of the coordinators. The previous coordinators (Camilla, Inga and Martina) left huge shoes to fill and I really do hope that the three of us can continue the momentum that those women left for us to carry. It will be an exciting year as there is a delegation planned to Iran in October. There are plans for having delegations to France, Israel, China/Japan, India/Pakistan and North/South Koreas.

Me, Jakob and Wenjing - the new NWIP Coordinators for 2006 - 2008.

After the party finished, most of us headed out to explore Helsinki’s nightlife. Considering that there was such a large group of us and most of were students, the likelihood of us getting into a club and paying a cover charge was slim. We ended up at this bar with a minimum age entrance of 24! It was obvious that the bouncers were selective in who they were letting in. It seems like that age restriction didn’t apply to women. Those that didn’t get in went to the bar that was near the hostel. Meanwhile the rest of us stayed on the main floor of the bar (there was a nightclub downstairs but you had to pay 7 Euros to get in) and after more drinks, we created our own little dance floor. Me being the ‘responsible’ one kept my eye on the time because we had to be back at the hostel before 3am or else we would be locked out (there is a lock out from 3am to 7am). We made it back in the nick of time!

The last day of the conference was a bit sad because it signalled the fact the conference was over but also the fact that my 4-week sojourn was coming to an end. However, there was much work to be done. There were still a few things that Jakob, Wenjing, Camilla, Inga, Martina, and I had to go over in terms of the handover between the two sets of coordinators.

The night before some of us were leaving for Estonia, the remaining students we had dinner at an Indian restaurant and then we heading out to a bar down the street and had some drinks before calling it a night.

-- Estonia --

What a beautiful little country! On the very last day of my stay in Finland, Mahyar, Dana, Lauren, Misha, Misha’s dad, and I decided to take a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia. It was absolutely fantastic! We left on the first ferry (8am) and came back on the 14h00 ferry so that Lauren, Mahyar and I could make our flights. The ferry took 1.5 hours and it was awesome because we were all able to catch up on some much needed sleep. We only had about 4 hours to see stuff, and like most tourists come to Estonia, we went straight to the Old Town. The Old Town is still a working place, many embassies, residences and local shops are there. However, there is a very large tourist base, and the types of businesses (souvenirs, restaurants, bars, and cafes) reflects this.

This is Dana (one of the few non-medical students at the conference, she's did International Relations) is from Germany. She's wearing a typical woolen Estonian hat and holiding a little wooden viking.

This is me in Old Town, overlooking the beautiful backdrop in Tallinn.

This is one of the main Russian Orthodox church in Tallinn - there was no photography allowed in side but it was absolutely beautiful.

All in all, this was a trip that was indeed extremely memorable. The people that I connected with, the times spent laughing with family, seeing my brother getting married are all things that I would do all over again, knowing full well how much I’m paying for it right now. I’m quite behind with med school but I reckon that that is how the cookie crumbles. The next 7 weeks will be filled with uber studying and making sure that my mind doesn’t wander about the next trip that I’ve planned.

So, thank you for reading all of this (or even a portion of it). I hope that you were able to relive the memories from this journey, I know that I certainly have.

PS - Ahura maza Ahura maza, Ahu maza, Ahu maza, Anyti anahita ata vahu, Anyti anahita ata vahu

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Almost done?!

It's September 5th and the past few weeks have been absolutely amazing! There have been moments of joy, frustration, guilt, and self revelations to name a few. I've many pictures and stories that I want to post but will do so when I return to Australia.

Well, this is the first time that I've been able to sit down with my thoughts (granted I'm at the airport) and to sit back and enjoy a surprisingly nice cappuccino from Starbucks. I'm making mental notes and trying to process some of the intense situations that have happened in the last little while.

I'm off to Copenhagen in about 1.5 hours and then will be travelling onwards to Helsinki.

For my 'family' in Australia, I really do miss you all. I wish that you could be here with me to celebrate and take part in the festivities that just passed. There will be lots of catch up and plenty of merry to be had when I return on September 13th. Alright, I'd best be off before my coffee gets cold.

Signing off from the UK...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A weekend to look forward towards...(post-edit)

Yes, the weekend has arrived here in Brisbane! The question is, why is this weekend any different? Well, there are so many things going on this weekend that I'm not really sure what end is up.

Okay for starters, I only had 3 hours of sleep last night. I can't remember the last time that I've had such little sleep because of doing uni work. My very good friend Anita and her sister and their cousin have arrived into Brisbane today (I'll be meeting them later this arvo) and will be spending the weekend with me. It will be a riot! I can't wait to show them around the romping grounds and to have them meet some of my friends here in Brisbane. I know that I've said this before - it's always nice to bring people from different spheres of your life and introduce (or collide) them with others. The consequences can be quite interesting (and I mean consequences both in the positive and negative outcomes).


It's now Sunday evening and what a weekend I've just had! Saturday was jam packed with friends, food, alcohol and great fun! Saturday morning I went to a birthing kit workshop where volunteers put together a small kit consisting of a large plastic sheet, scalpel blade, gauze, gloves, pieces of string, and soap. These kits are then sent to places like Ethiopia and Vietnam (where this batch of kits where going to) to provide a sterile environment for women to deliver. After that, my birthday celebrations were about to begin.

It was a bit odd considering that my birthday in not until the 22nd, I wanted to spend time and celebrate with my friends before leaving for Europe. The arvo was a picnic in New Farm Park along the river. It was awesome - a huge spread of food, including Anna's pig cake:

And this is Anna.

Most Australian children will have a cake like this at one point in their childhood (and adulthood for some of us). It was an afternoon of lying in the sun, playing hackysack (which I haven't done since Malta), playing with a very hyperactive puppy (courtesy of Kat and Ant), and having heaps of laughs with friends. We have also decided that you don't necessarily have to have an occasion to have a picnic in the park. Anita, Milan and Rohit quickly made friends at the picnic and it was a disappointment that they couldn't come out to the night festivities.

Here's a photo of Anita, myself and Milan.

We went home for a couple of hours to get some sleep (which didn't happen) and change into something more appropriate for going out in the Valley. Also, Anita and crew were going to their relatives' house for the remainder of their stay in Brisbane. We chatted it up, had some more laughs (cooking, fukrudin, ape-man, and the funny) before they had to leave. After they left, Dave and Suz presented me with presents. I always get a bit sheepish when that happens - I never expect gifts, as their friendship is more than enough. It seems a bit odd, but it always amazes me how you can meet people and that they can become so close and, in some cases, even more closer than family. They gave me a few things - a empty book with a quote on the front which read, "friends are the family we choose", a L'Occitane travel kit, and the original design of the caffettiera espresso, which looks like a teapot screwed on top of a base and you put that on the stove. It makes fantastic coffee!

Dave, Suz, Liam and I met up with some people at Bar Soma for drinks and tapas. After a few hours there, we all made our way to the Bowery (one of my favourite places in Brisbane), which is an older, classier place in the Valley. There were moments were I was quiet, not because I didn't have anything to say, but I was revelling in the fact that here are people that I truly do care for and all of them were having a great time. That feeling made my night. After the Bowery, I was ready to shake my groove thang...and some of us headed off to an Irish pub called Doolie's. Yes, I'm sure that most of you are thinking, " Irish pub to shake the said groove thang?!" Well, the pub has several levels and on the bottom level, there was a DJ that was spinning R&B/hiphop. Even though the music was alright, the place seemed to attract the dregs of people left in the Valley. Then we made our way to a the Royal George, by way of the Mustang (we were unable to get in because of our friends wasn't carrying their ID, even though he clearly looks over the age of 18 - think Jack Black). Brisbane has a 3am lockout, which means that if you aren't in an establishment by 3am, you'd better make your way home. So, everyone left to go home and I walked with a friend to her place and we talked for almost 2 hours. This friend was someone that I wasn't particular close to but we had a great time whenever we interacted. After last night, I know that they will a regular character in the Book of Veevek's Life. I got a taxi home (even though I could have walked home...but I just didn't feel walking 20 minutes and risk seeing the sun come up) and the taxi driver didn't charge me any cab fare. A great way to finish up the night. I came home and then instead of doing the normal thing and going straight to bed, I did some reading. Why? Well, why not. :) I finally hit the pillow at around 5:45am and then got up with a jolt when I heard Dave and Suz leave the house to buy some baking powder for pancakes, which was at 9am. It's almost 7:15pm and I'm absolutely buggered but the weekend was absolutely blissful.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Viral infection?

Yeah, viral infection. I reckon that that is what my computer has. My computer has been acting so strange for the past little while. In the beginning, all these adds for installing WinAntiVirus2006 were coming up. They eventually went away with the advent of a cocktail of anti-virus programmes. Now the Internet is acting all funny. In what way? Well, I'm not able to log on to MSN and affiliated Web sites, no personal Web sites (blogspot, etc) and I can't even log on to! Things are really slow and it just makes this whole Internet business a pain in the ass more than anything.

So, that explains why I've not updated in a while. But here are some of the things that are going down....

1. I'm leaving for Europe in 12 days! My brother is getting married in Sweden. I can't to see him and J again (haven't him since end of 2004 and her since August of 2004)! It will also be nice to have all the members of my dad's side of the family present for such an occasion. The Thankey Clan will be meeting up once again - I can only imagine what sort of things will come to the surface. :) I'm also meeting up with some good friends in Paris and London (Elodie and Sara, respectively). There is something so revitalising about seeing friends in odd places. I'm also going to be going to Helsinki for the World Congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. As I wrote before, I can't wait! Needless to say, I've been working like a madman trying to get as much work done now before my departure. I know that I'm kidding myself when I say that I will be getting work done whilst overseas.

2. Anita is coming to Brisbane! My very good friend Anita from Calgary will be in Brisbane next week. There is something to be said about hosting friends, especially in a city that they've never been to. There will be heaps of photos and stories about the crazy stuff that we will undoubtedly get into. :)

3. I've booked another ticket overseas! Annabelle, Claire, Nabila and myself will be travelling to South East Asia after our final exams at the end of this year. All of us are so excited and it's nice to have something fun and adventurous to look forward to at the end of a uni year. We will be flying into Vientiane (capital of Laos) via Bangkok. Our tentative plan is to travel within Laos, then over to Vietnam, down the country and into Cambodia. We will be flying out of Bangkok - some of us are thinking of maybe even going to southern Thailand to soak up some beach and the like. We will be gone for 4 weeks (whilst other students in our year are going for much longer period of time, up to 8 weeks in fact) because both Nabila and I have our flights back to Canada on the 22nd. It will be cool.

Alright, I'm now heading out to Byron for the weekend. Yeah, I know...I should be doing work instead. However, I will be taking a textbook on clinical neurology...wish me luck.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Post exam photos!

Finally, I was able to get the post midyear exam photos from Leanne. Now, considering that there are many people in these photos that don't necessarily look their best (including yours truly), I won't inundate you with them.


This is the first photo of the night! Leanne, Lou, Kim and I went back to Lou's place straight after the exam to get ready. Lou's mum made them roasted chicken sandwiches and she made me a vegemite sandwich! There's always a source of beautiful red wine at Lou's's to being half done 2nd year!

And yes, that is a goatee on my face. :) I didn't shave for about 2 weeks, and kept a shell of a goatee. I must admit that it turned out quite well. However, I got rid of it whilst in Darwin because it reminded me too much of my older brother. :)

M. was gracious enough to have the MBBS II midyear party at his bar, LUDO. I guess it really does pay to know the right people. :) This is a photo of Marlo, me and Param. Param had a flight the next morning to Vancouver, as she was going to a couple of her girlfriends' weddings. If I were her, then I would have been absolutely brutalised for that long transpacific flight.

So, here's where the night just gets really out of whack. The photos tell a story (and I'm leaving many parts out).

Yes, this is me and Kim. She was smiles all night and I had that dorky look for most of the evening as well.

Here's the KSG! And if it weren't for these people, I don't think that that I would have passed my midyear exam. They are a solid bunch, a wealth of information, and a supportive circle for ideas and talking through your ideas of how things really are. THANKS GUYS!

There are more photos but they just get really silly after this part of the night.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Back to the grindstone

The starting of the second week of the second semester of second year. Apparently, our midyear exam results come out on Wednesday. Am I nervous? worried? sure a little. However, I know full well that it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I have had several discussions with other students, ad nauseum, about what it may mean. At the moment, we are in the middle of the pyschiatry block and it's definitely much harder than I thought that it would be. Sure, people may think that it's all artsy-fartsy but there are some intricate systems and the interplay between systems that can make it complicated.

Oh - before I forget, I know that I am supposed to put up photos from my midyear post-exam festivities but I still haven't gotten my hands on any photos. Leanne had heaps of photos on her camera; in fact, they told a story of the night. However, her photos got wiped cleaned. Shit. Hopefully, some photos will surface.

Back to the grindstone is it. I'm off to Perth on Thursday morning for the Australian Medical Students' Association - Developing World Conference. I'll be back late on Monday night. I know that some people that are reading this are thinking, 'why are doing all this travelling knowing full well that you will be missing more uni in about 1.5 months?' Yes, it's true. I know that I am taking a small risk by missing a few classes - but at the end of they day, I know that I will make up for it all. Besides, at the moment, I'm trying to get into the habit of studying as if I will not have the chance to study whilst being overseas (even though I will be bringing my notes and some small key texts with me). I know that a good friend of mine thought that way before she went back to Canada for her brother's wedding. When she got back, she only had less than two weeks before the midyear; meanwhile, I will have almost two months before my finals.


It's Monday morning and I fly out late this afternoon back to Brisbane. The weekend has been absolutely fantastic! First off, Perth is an absolutely beautiful city. People are extremely friendly, plenty of things to do and see, and (to my pleasant surprise) a very multicultural city. The Developing World Conference's theme this year was "Telling Truths" and it was the common thread that brought all the speeches, presentations, workshops, and plenary sessions together. I ran into old friends from last year's DWC, which was held in Syndey and met new ones. It was so comforting to be in an environment where there are like-minded individuals, and the common thing thread that runs through every person is the fact that they care about the state of healthcare in the developing world (and within Australia).

I got my results from my midyear examination - and I passed! WOOHOO! However, I didn't do as well as I wanted to do and apart from knowing my stuff better, I don't know how I can change my study tactics. Suggestions?

Alright, I'm running out of time and I need to get on to explore more of this city!

Until next time...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Top End different from the Bottom End?

Okay, first off, I will be posting photos from the post-exam activities when I get the photos from the different people that were dangerous enough to have cameras that night.

It is Saturday of the weekend before uni starts up again, and I am not ready to get back to it. It feels as if the holidays has just started. Oh well, I knew that this is what I was getting myself into.

Like many other people that in my course, I had to leave Brisbane to get refocussed to remind myself that there is a world outside of medical school. So, I headed up to Darwin. Why Darwin? Well, why not? :) One of my goals (and I think that I've already mentioned it before in another posting) whilst in medical school is to have visited every state capital and Canberra. After this year, I will have been to all of them except Canberra and Hobart. Liam and I are thinking of doing a trip down to Canberra and Hobart, which would be too cool!

So, what to say about Darwin? Well, it's quite a small place, in fact, it's the smallest capital of all the states. It's a lively, modern place with a youthful, easy-going lifestyle. And at times, it can feel quite cosmopolitan. However, the city has its unique ways of making people realise that it was, and still is to some extent, a frontier town. To put Darwin in perspective, it is closer to Singapore and Jakarta, than it is to Sydney and Canberra, respectively.

Okay, enough of the geography lesson. I came up to Darwin to see some friends who are completing their medical rotations at the Royal Darwin Hospital; Ruth is there doing a portion of her paediatrics rotation. Also, I (along with Lou, Pat and Anna) am thinking of doing my internship at the Royal Darwin Hospital. It's probably the best place in the country to be doing tropical medicine/infectious disease due to the tropical climate, large indigenous and tourist population, high amount of trauma, catchement areas which covers the whole Top End of Australia and into South East Asia. After the Bali bombings in October 2002 and 2005, injured Australians were evacuated to the RDH. In fact, it was the sole initial receiving hospital for the Bali victims. The RDH acted as the advanced receiving hospital in Australia's largest-ever offshore disaster requiring urgent evacuation.

I still have a couple of years left before deciding on where I would like to do my internship and the visit to Darwin just made the Top End seem a little more real. :)

My time was really focussed on relaxing and enjoying the time with Ruth and friends (Mandivavarira, Sarah, Mel, Leah, Brett - thank you for such a great time!). The first day there was spent walking and seeing every (and I mean every) street in Darwin city. I bought a book called "Why Warriors Lie Down and Die" by Richard Trudgen. Trudgen goes into great detail describing the difficulties the Yolngu people (an indigenous group within the Arnhem Land) have in understanding the medical and health workers who support them.
This applies in reverse, as the doctors and nurses have difficulty in understanding the aboriginal attitude to health issues. It is in this area that the real work of this book becomes important. Reading it whilst being up there, really drove home a number of points regarding the interactions of health professionals with indigenous people and how language and social construct are crucial in trying to promote and empower the health status of these people. Okay, I digress. Here are some photos that I took within the city:

This is a photo of the Australian, Northern Territoriy, Aboriginal and the Torres Striat Islanders flags.

This is the State House, which looks like one of two things: 1. A house from New Orleans that has been given a huge amount of steroids and 2: a very large wedding cake (a la Ruth).

This is the remnant of the old Town Hall, which was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. She built up over December 24, 1974 and by midnight her winds began to reach their full fury. At her peak wind speeds were as high as 280 km/hour! Of Darwin's 11,200 buildings, 50%-60% were destroyed. Only 400 survived relatively intact.

Here is an example of some of the artwork that one can find along the wharf, along a pathway called Traveller's Walk.

That night I cooked dinner for Ruth, Sarah, Mel and Mandivavarira and we drank lots of wine and scotch & dry. :) Yummy. The weekend was filled with walking through the Parap Village and Nightcliffemarkets during the day, all of them have great foods from all the different ethnic communities that have settled in Darwin; Ruth and I ate till our heart's desire. Ruth and I went to see one of her friend's play in a music concert that was held in Darwin city. It was the first day of the Sounds of New Music festival. The concert was held in three different places and each place had a different aspect of how indigenous and Western themes are incorporated. After that, we went to a fantastic little place called the Moorish Cafe. It was a littel pricey, as our meals consisted mainly of tapas and some beautiful wine. The next day, we met up with Brett for a cup of great coffee at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. It was fantastic (both the coffee and the museum). After that we headed down to Mindil Beach market to eat some fantastic crepes and drink good fruit juice. Being full from the food and drinks, we waddled our way down towards to the city to the Deckchair Cinema to watch Veer-Zaara, a Bollywood film that was being shown as the opening for a weeklong Indian Culture festival. Ruth and I nearly died from the opening act, which was a god awful magic show that went on and on. There was a point that I could no longer watch and went to the back to get me some beer, Taj Mahal beer to be exact. The movie was good (I had seen it before) and it was nice to do a very familiar activity with Ruth, as we used to watch Bollywood films in Calgary. Ruth pointed out to me that I haven't put any photos of her on my blog, which is quite true! So, here are some photos of Ruth:

Here's an old photo of the two of us. It was taken at a Christmas Party at my parents' house in Calgary.

The weekend came to an end and I still had yet to see any of the things outside of Darwin. Many people use Darwin as a pit stop before heading out to some of the national parks like Kakadu and Litchfield. I booked myself for a day tour to Litchfield National Park and, boy, was I not disappointed! I was picked up early in the morning and met the other 9 people that were in the my group. We did introductions and had to say our name, where we are from, and what we do (working/studying/travelling/etc). So, I was the first one to go and gave them all my particulars. When it came to info about studying, I just told the group that I was studying at the University of Queensland. Then I was asked what I was studying and I told them 'health'. And they prodding some more and finally I told them that I was studying medicine. I really hate telling people that I do study medicine because it instantly changings their preceptions of me and proceed to ask me heaps of questions about things that their GP should be answering. Regardless, we headed down to the Adelaide River to see some river wildlife, namely the saltwater crocodiles.

Here, I'm holding a snake named Monty (he's a python, yes a clever name). I was also telling some people about a story that my Ba (grandmother) told me when I was young about how she had a worker how had tied a goat to his wrist. He fell asleep under a tree and when he awoke, the goat was gone but he was tied to a python!

As you can see, we were quite close to the crocs. However, we were still a safe distance that it wouldn't be able to launch itself into the vessel., crocs don't just out of the water to frolick with the sun. There was a person on the boat that had meat tied to a stick to entice the animals to jump out of the water. Apparently, crocs will jump out of the water to catch prey like brids who swoop down to the water's surface to catch fish.

After seeing the crocodiles and avaian life along the Adelaide River, we headed down to Litchfield National Park. Our first stop was to see these massive termite mounds. The one that is in the picture is an example of a cathedral termite mount. I should have stood beside this to give you all a perpsective of how tall this really is. If you can make out the three holes in the bottom middle of the structure, then that is how tall I am (170 cm). It takes 10 years for these to grow one metre. Brutal.

These termite mounds are very unique in that they are called magnetic terminte mounds because the terminte is buit in a north-south fashion, which aligns with the earth's magnetic field! So, in the morning, the sun hits the east face of the mount, warming it up. At midday, the sun is overhead and only shines light to the thin ridge exposed, keeping the structure cool. In the late afternoon and evening, the sun is shining on the west wall, warming up the structure for the night. If the mound is built misaligned, then the termites within perish. Brutal. Also, this was the place that I tasted green ants. I didn't eat them, but rubbed their green back body portion on my tongue. It tastes like lemon-lime. There were also honey ants that you could suck their honey as well! They were very tasty. The aboriginal community that lives in the national park (the Commonwealth has leased the park from them) uses them for antiseptic and to satiate their sweet tooth, respectively.

After the termite mounds, we headed off to Florence Falls, which is one of 4 waterfalls in the park. This is where my day went from exciting to OHMIGOD what the fuck am I doing to great again. :)

I was about to head into the water for a quick swim, when I hear, "help!" I see this guy pull this girl out from the water and she looks like shit. Apparently, she got caught in the strong undercurrents, which pulled her under and she was drowning. Immediately, my brain went into DRABC (Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation). A person from my group beckoned me, I told the guy that I am a medical student. I told him to put his friend on a towel in an area that didn't have any sharp rocks or anything. Then I checked to see if she was responding, by tapping her on her clavicle and doing a sternal rub. There was no response...I felt as if I wsas going to shit my pants! I thrusted her head back to make sure that her airways are clear and then checked her breathing and her pulse. She wasn't breathing and her pulse was really weak - FUCK! I called out to our tour leader and told him to call on his satellite phone if there are any doctors in the near area. I started rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). Finally, I heard this voice, "I'm a doctor, what's the situation". I told him what was going on, "teenage girl, non responding to external stimulus and not breathing and weak pulse; I've started rescue breathing". Instead of him taking over, he told me to keep continuing what I was doing. I was like, "are you fucking kidding me?!?!" Anyways, what seemed like an eternity, the girl finally started coughing and I put her up into a forward sitting position. Wow - the power that knowledge has on people. I stayed around a little bit to make sure that the girl was okay and I chatted with the doctor. He was on holidays with his family from Western Australia. He aksed me about where I was studying and in what year. He told me that if it weren't for me (and if there was no one else that knew how to do CPR), the girl would have died. Then and there, I felt revitalised about studying medicine and knowing that in the end, you are indeed saving lives.

After that, we headed on a little hike to another part of the partk and made our way back to our van. On the way back to Darwin, we stopped in this small little hamlet on the outskirts of the park. My group bought me some celebratory drinks and I knew that that was the first time that many of them saw a brown person blushing. We headed home after that and I spent my last evening with Ruth, Mandi, Sarah and Leah. It's absolutely incredible to know that everywhere you can go, you can always be sure to have good friends that treat you like family.

Darwin, anyone?