Monday, 9 November 2015

November 6th

Well I didn't get the date wrong and this is most surely intentional. Quite a lot of things have happened over the last couple of weeks and I am determined to make it more confusing by not going in chronological order. The significance of November 6th is that it was the glorious day when I decided to give up waiting on Oxford and swear my allegiance to Sussex for a year of general surgery. Its is funny how fate seems to always swing around and bite you in the ass when you think you have outsmarted it earlier. To think that just a couple of months back I've had 2 lip-smacking offers from Oxford Spine and Cardiothoracic beckoning me to gobble them up before I ruthlessly turned them down does make all this very very sore indeed. However, the bottom-line is that I will have a job, albeit non-training and in Jeremy Hunt land. With all the media bravado going on, I do seriously wonder how bad it is going to get. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter where I go until I get a training-grade job. Harvard was a letdown. I will tough this one out and for the moment continue to resist going back to Singapore for all it's worth, although at times I do wonder just how prejudiced I am to have nurtured a thought like that.

Karen has never been sweeter about this and I really needed her to be around for this ruckus. She is a lot of things I am not and most certainly did not deserve to have been the target of that pot-shot (Mum was incredibly careless there). All this extra time with her has undoubtedly gravitated me along the Blue Nile but my initial reservation for unfathomable reasons is still not completely dissipated. That bothers me no end, although I think I am getting there.

What was truly unfortunate was that Zurich and Geneva and all the splendour of an Alpine autumn had to happen before November 6th. The trip was not meticulously planned but there had been mumbles to join in Willi's big 80th celebration since I left Boston. As expected, mum was not keen, egged on by her bowels which were even less keen. However the magnificence of the crystal lakes bathing the banks lined with rows after rows of golden grape vines, blooming into variegated splashes of orange, red and gold was certain to have made impact on the positive side. As we witnessed the expanse of Lake Geneva proudly sprawling out, shimmering in the evening glow, gently caressing the torsos of bold swimmers (or dippers) and lapping at the feet of swans so overfed that they were practically cripples on dry land, we breathed in a deep sigh of Switzerland.

It is almost unimaginable that I grew up a little bit here (from 5 to 6 and a half). Mum and dad wanted to revisit what they remembered. The communal place up in the mountains of St. Cergue where the Migros bus chugged up weekly for our grocery; the low wall along the primary school in the tiny town of Moudon where I tried (and failed miserably) to fight off the local kids; the creaking attic with the lonely looking windows overseeing the baker's across the street where I ventured daily to get our baguette that measured longer than I was tall; the stony deck on the ground floor with slabs so smooth that I learned roller-skating on… It's unimaginable how 25 years just sped right past us without ever looking back. We could not recognise everything as much has since changed. But I could tell that it was a good trip from the gleam in their eyes, and that was enough.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Straight to the Seoul

See what I did there with the title? Anyway, here's the promised article. I had an amazing time with Karen and there is noone better to travel with in all honesty. This one is to you :)


We were driven across Seoul to Jeongdongjin overnight by dear friends, arriving at the beach close to 5am in the morning. The night was chilly but bearable through the skins of my sweater, tickling my throat and leaving it with a salty, refreshing aftertaste. The sand was fine but sticky underneath my feet, leaving my shoes surprising clean and unfazed. The moon was still up and the waves were rolling in with a bit of temper, in contrast to the calm ocean air. We took forwent the idea of the sparkler for a nap, waking up shortly after 6am for a much anticipated sunrise. Already we could see color in the sky and the clouds forming in a distance, revealing the Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht majestically perched over the cliff overlooking the East Sea. We eagerly wrapped ourselves in blankets and hopped down to the beach. Tourists have already gathered armed with tripods and cameras of all makes. The air continued to brighten and now birds were streaming across the sky in flocks. Troops stationed at the town marched past us in their morning patrol, kicking up sand and adding further excitement to the impending brilliance of the sunrise. Minutes went on and everyone went quiet and stayed quiet. Fingers on the shutter trigger, eyes wide open, breaths held, and…nothing. The sun rose through the blind of the morning mist and hid from everyone’s gaze. The sky turned a bright blue and we did a little too. However, being in this magical little town absolves everyone of any sense of regret or disappointment. As the sun polished the train station over with a new shimmering coat and warmed the sand to a toasty crumble, we left the beach with the biggest smiles of the trip.


Through the morning fog, we were taken to the peak of the mountain via the cable car. As we make our ascend, the splotchy autumn colors at the foot of the mountain began to merge and evolved to become a brilliant patchwork of red, orange and yellow. The morning vapor enveloped the vegetation, making us feel like we were entering a celestial realm. We got to the plateaued landing at the top of the mountain on foot after the cable car drop off and lingered joyously in the mist. The view was indeed breathtaking.

When we got back to the foot of the mountain, we chose to explore one of the trails leading to the Biryeong waterfall. The wooded path shaded us from the morning sun and led us across bridges that lay on the valley currently dried out from the season. Green foliage occasionally gave way to the autumn shades. Accompanied by small streams and pebbled banks, we found our way to the foot of the waterfall, where we decided to turn back. Looking from one end of the bridge where the track ascends into stairs carved out of rocks, we took in a deep breath of the sweet scent of fall and immersed ourselves in the season of bright red wonder. 

Numero uno all over again

I cannot believe that I am coming back to this site and boy has it changed. The last time I came near it with a twig was when I was still a teenager, eager to show it off whilst acting all clandestine, trying my very best swing at being incognito. It was all to impress someone of the opposite gender and never a true reflection of what I really thought. Well, maybe a little, not a whole lot though. Popping this open brought back 'Just the 6 of us' and 'εƒι‡ŒδΉ‹ε€–' unexpectedly. It is wonderful how everything is so intricately linked to google nowadays and to be honest I love it (not so much the pictures of the old skinny us with our badly managed crewcuts trying the very best to grow up while looking cool). Still, those were probably the best times of our lives, at the very least definitely mine, and I would like to thank all of you guys from the gang.

This unexpected lull which was meant to last 2 months with a perceived fruitful end is certainly not working itself out. First, the VISA that is meant to chauffeur me back to Harvard has definitely acted up for real this time. Whatever salvage manoeuvres they're performing there at Plastic Surgery had better boost my chances as it has been a truly disappointing descent having prioritised this job over all others. It was a huge leap of faith parachuting myself into Beth Israel and having my inadequate British MBBS brutalised by the Harvard horde, and I guess now I am paying the price. Everything said, I am tired of waiting and can't wait to get my hands on patients again (in a magical, healing way mind you). With all the nice offers I had previously mercilessly rejected from Oxford, their spirits are back to haunt me. I still do hope to catch one and tame it to my benefit. We shall see on the 6th of November…

This incredibly long, unexpected break had me looking at myself and being very appalled at how I have neglected my holistic well-being. I have not picked up a book in years since graduation and even when I do, it's Medicine. The Martian by Andy Weir has completely blown me away, and I've certainly caught the train late because I remember seeing Jason Bourne in a Martian suit on a movie poster somewhere a while ago. Doing the reading only when you know the movie has been a box-office hit is just uncool. But now I know what Dr Odom was going on about when we were on rounds. He remains the coolest Trauma surgeon I've worked with to date. But hey, I've finished a non-medical book since graduation! This is a milestone. For those of you who still hasn't read the book or watched the film, you seriously need to do either or both, and you'll want to give Mark Watney a fist bump.

It's been 3 months of self-discovery, a lot of thinking, mum and dad time and Karen time. Despite this being more or less involuntary, I would like to think that it generated more good than bad. These guys have done wonders for me and I'd literally be in fetal position crying myself to sleep if it hasn't been them cheering me on. I'll log more of their greatness in the future for sure.

This has been an excellent first entry, and the next one will be something I've written for a magazine but would just really like it out here as it was the first piece of proper writing (not translation) I have done for a while. It's a piece on the beautiful scenery we witnessed in South Korea just outside of Seoul  a couple of days ago and boy everyone should get a chance to see those leaves and the true colours of autumn. Enjoy!