Friday night: the sky was dark when we poured into the little courtyard. A vine hung above us, vague and wild about the guttering. Bill had propped a 3-legged table in the doorway of the common room so that we could go back inside, and an out of place Pepsi machine stood with its back to the wall behind us.
In fact, the two of us were creeping into the triangular corner garden at the side of the hospital basement to perform a Jewish blessing ceremony, to welcome the Sabbath with Romi, who had to go somewhere with Bill later that night and couldn’t be home with her family to do it.
It seemed we were in a wind pocket – the candles kept burning out, and even the matches couldn’t stay aflame. Romi gave up after two strikes, and I found myself trembling. It was frigid. Not even a tiny flame in my palms could make it better – and the candles went out almost as soon as I lit them.
Shivering and dark, Romi brought out a jar of Yiddish wine to pour into a tiny silver pitcher, and two loaves of bread from a bakery somewhere near the station. She blessed them both, eyes closed, hurrying through the prayer, and we took small sips of it and the bread after it’d been broken.
Only Jewish-made and approved grape products were kosher…and so this was the only kosher wine I’d ever had. I loved the weight of wine on my tongue, and the sweetness that fought its way through the tannins.
I don’t know if my weekend was any more significant than that.
Brian and I ended up seeing a movie that night, spontaneously. I was still in the basement of MMC trying to check my emails at 8pm, and he happened to message me then about catching up.
Similarly, I was woken up at 10am Saturday morning by a message from Josh. Was I at the ENT lectures and were they worth going to?
“What ENT lectures?” I asked, when he picked up the phone.
I ended up going, and falling in love with ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat surgery). It seemed so simple that these quick measures intranasally could make someone feel so much better about their lives. I don’t mean like abdominal surgery, all that blood and gore; I mean sucking out discharge from chronically inflamed sinuses and putting grommets into sticky ears, although clearly ENT gets more complicated than that.
Perhaps another one of my short-lived surgical love affairs..?
In the evening Joce and I caught the train together to the city, for J’s thing at Golden Monkey. Strange how all my years of living in Melbourne have never involved Hardware Lane before. I’ve walked past it maybe twice (I don’t go on that side of the city grid very often). It’s a charming place, warmly lit by lantern-light and throngs of people speaking softly or laughing in candlelight.
Golden Monkey would be easy to miss, were it not for the giant insignia on the single arch doorway and a bike on the wall with the name inscribed. It was modelled after a 1920’s Hong-kong/Shanghai haunt, just like an old movie.
It turns out Ying did work there. I’d googled pictures of the place last night to look up the dress code and saw her picture in a staff profile photo. The place had won Bar Of The Year a couple of years ago and she’d attended. I even remember that dress she wore, which she painstakingly picked out. Yet when I’d asked her if she worked there one night back in second year, she’d said no. I had been puzzled at the time – all the clues fit. The bar awards? The rum club?
Stepping in off the lantern-lit street, I thought about asking if she was working there that night. She still owes me a lot of money; but then, I thought, would she actually pay me back? If I harassed her for over a year and it didn’t work, would it work now?
Especially as she’d disappeared without a trace just over half a year ago. Especially as I sucked at that kind of thing. Especially as it was someone else’s celebratory thing.
It turns out J had booked a corner at the ever-popular place because his family friend owned the bar. Not that he’d pulled strings to get in there (he said he hated doing stuff like that). It was interesting to talk to his friends from school. They said he hadn’t changed much, except maybe become more ambitious.
I could picture that.
I wonder how someone starts getting ambitious. Surely they must have had the seeds of ambition in them all along. For most people, it works the other way. A lot of people I know did a lot more in school than at uni in terms of positional things and want of leadership positions. It feels like ambition is something that peters out to a happy warmth when thinking of the future.
J seems to have a mysterious kind of urge to get somewhere in life – but the end destination is unclear (as far as the moon, maybe? Or further. It’s hard to know where it’s all leading, just to somewhere beyond where I will be going).
“I am so happy,” he said, with a half embarrassed smile. I’m sure he wasn’t that embarrassed, only when he smiles he always seems a little embarrassed (it’s just his face).
I like that about him.
Ling and I took the train back together around midnight, along with a second year that I didn’t catch the name of. He was outspoken, and kept touching my leg on the couch as we spoke, which I found a little weird. Still, he spoke well – a kind of confidence that only people that age have. Correction, a confidence only people that age have, if they have gone through their whole lives with people telling them how great they are or how much what they had to say was interesting and worthwhile.
Most people, as they get older, lose that for some reason (if they had that in the first place).
Actually, I’d never met Ling before the night either, although Joce and Mandy talked of him sometimes. He’s the only person who would willingly sing the whole opening of Sailor Moon in the middle of a city train station at night, including the guitar riff at the end. He likes to sing. He doesn’t listen to much music (at all). His idea of a song is the Eric’s theme to Final Fantasy 7. He’s trying to teach himself that on piano. He thinks his voice is a lot lower than it is (we had a debate about this). He wants to do paediatrics, maybe. He doesn’t drink. He wears Burberry spectacles. He lives with his mother and younger sister. He hates his father. He is terrible with directions.
I think he reminds me a little of Will (who I am seeing Avenue Q with this Thursday). The naïve kind who haven’t strayed far from the people and places they know, who have never been hurt and who have no idea about the fluctuations in social interactions around him. Nobody has told him fanatic love for Sailor Moon in your 20’s is uncool. Either that, or he just doesn’t care.
Unlike Will, Ling…is happy with himself, the way he is right now.
I don’t know whether that exasperates me or amuses me. I think it’s a bit of both. In a few years time, he will definitely turn into Albert (my tutor from last year): a sweet, awkward Asian guy who is a medical genius, genuinely concerned about his patients, and who everyone can’t help but like. And that’s not a bad person to turn into. : )
Will, however, is dissatisfied. He wants to “grow up”, whatever he thinks growing is. He used to say this to me all the time in his senior year. The thing is, Will’s capacity to accept the fallacies that people he views as “grown up” accept is almost zero. He said to me once that he thought it was sad that people took the line ‘there are just some things in life that you cannot get, no matter how hard you try’ as an excuse to not try hard enough. And that people didn’t understand that if you tried hard enough you could achieve anything.
This is fine. In fact, this is admirable. Except when he puts so much pressure on himself to succeed that it’s almost like if he doesn’t get what he wants he might end up somewhere horrible.
His mother actually phoned me last week to ask me to talk to him.
It got me thinking – maybe that line really is an excuse after a while for us to slack off and not give 250% to attain what we want. But maybe that excuse is there for a reason. Otherwise we’d all be committing suicide over being an imperfect human being.
I mean, I could take a year off and study for SATs, then attempt to go to an Ivy league school on full scholarship.
I’m pretty sure if I tried hard enough I could get there in the end.
Except I’m not going to. Because I value time and my (parents’) money more than that. Most likely I lack the drive to, also.
Will hasn’t learnt that yet. No matter what anybody says about it, he refuses to believe them. He still wants to fix everyone. This is the most exasperating thing about him, and also the most endearing (to me at least).
“Auntie,” I said, “it’s a part of growing up. I know you’re worried about him, but no matter how much you try to convince him he won’t believe you. Or worse, he’ll feel sorry for you. I know I did when people tried to tell me how imperfect the world is. I don’t think it’s a bad trait to have at all. Just dangerous, maybe. And I think we only think that way because something has happened to us at some point in time. Maybe it won’t happen to him.”
(I still think it’s strange that she calls me to talk about him as if I were a parent or at least a peer).
Maybe it won’t happen to him. I personally don’t think we should press judgement on him and make him try and see our cynical ways. At first I wanted to shake him and say wake up, but after arguing with him on the phone one time about deferring from Adelaide uni, I realised that it was futile. Also, I was being horrible. Why ruin it for someone else so early just because I tried and failed (or, according to this common philosophy, didn’t try hard enough and therefore did not succeed).
All in all, Will’s a pretty good kid. There are very few people who are that morally intact in the world.
Innocence should not be a crime.
Isn’t it strange how desperately we want to preserve it in children, and how desperately we want to take it away after they go out into the world…for their own sakes?
I suppose the fall is the hardest thing, and it’s that we are wanting to save them from. Inevitably to get from A to B, it can only be due to gravity.
Lying with her in his bed, he’d rubbed her back for hours until she said to stop because he had to be tired and it wasn’t his fault she was untouchable and he was the last person in the world who had to make anything up to her. They’d fallen asleep spooning the way they often did, sleeping together platonically with his arms wrapped around her, she at his core.
“It’s a wonderful body,” he’d whispered the next morning while she was still asleep. Not even the blue silk Loretta Caponi pajamas he’d brought back for her from Florence could disguise its lumpiness. But it was so gorgeously strong. She almost never got sick. She could outswim riptides and ski double diamonds. And even when a wave scraped her into the sand or a patch of ice threw her to the ground, she rarely bruised. He loved that body for taking care of her, for sheltering the one thing he couldn’t live without.”
”—-from ‘How to Buy a Love of Reading’ - Tanya Egan Gibson
The idea of being excited about going there because there’s someone there you can’t wait to see…or something there you can’t wait to have again (something you’ve been missing since you walked out the door). Whether it’s a nice salad, a hot shower, or a good sleep..or a feeling of warmth (a fan heater vs a scarf and flimsy winter clothes)
I feel pretty middle aged right now.
Kinda daydream about it a little sometimes — what kinda sofa I want, how bright the light…the pieces of artwork I might have (or not have =_=).
A fake fire, probably (can’t maintain)
Nice soft bed…white undersheets…canopy? Ah.
I keep picturing that ED doctor I see sometimes in hospital who would be at home with me to greet me when I return. (We’ve spoken properly like..twice. I keep losing my voice whenever I go say hi to him, and now he thinks I am mute, or I like to mouth things for no reason).
(I really like him for reasons listed in the previous post. Sometimes I go out of my way just to try and see him).
Maybe someday I’ll find someone like him.
I think after you’re 20 you somehow find a lot more urgency in life to do what you want with it. That is, you want to settle and not always wander around — there is a limit to the extent you will go to to do new things and experience new ways of life because at the end of the day, you hold more selfishly to your own self. I guess we’ve all fought a long way through the teenage years to figure out what that self is, so it makes sense that we wanna nuture it.
I want what my mum and dad had. Clearly not in that exact dimension; and clearly I don’t really know the real dynamics of their early relationship. More like…that sense of home, or the creation of a home environment where there are lemon trees trying to grow in the yard and failing, and they argue about the French furnishing because they’ve never owned a house with it before and wanna do it right.
Mum used to call me and ask me what table looked more ‘French’ when we first got the house (she sent me photos to compare).
In Paediatrics I see a lot of parents. Some of them are dysfunctional. Some of them are ‘bad’ parents (from my perspective). The majority of them are lovely, and a few of them are enviable. I see my parents sometimes, how frightened they must have been when I got asthma. Did they wait with me in ED like these people? Did they mind the medical students?
When I walk through 41N, I have this vague memory of heading to the playroom (Which one!? there is a playroom around every corner that looks the same. In my memory you have to take a right turn past the nursing station to get to it, but it turns out the ward is structured in a circle and there’s a playroom at every right turn). The nurse once hunted me down and made me drink apple juice there. I remember also being puzzled as to why some children got toys brought to their bed (eg. the little boy in the bed next to mine whose family was always there) and why I had to be allowed to go to the playroom to get anything (I realise why now :) ).
I remember crying at night when my mum went home and the family next to mine having to buzz for the nurse to calm me down because I had no idea what the buzzer was for (nor did I care, really. Give me my mummy back!!! :p).
It makes it hard to get back to adult medicine, really.
I used to think Paediatrics would be crappy because all it is is dealing with parents, and very rarely with the kids themselves. In fact, it’s a privilege working with the parents, and it’s a privilege getting to know the kids.
A child’s trust is everything, I think. That’s why I find it really hard when people lie to the kid…like…the next bit not hurting and stuff when the kid knows it will. Sometimes it’s because you don’t want the child to struggle when you insert an essential line in to save their life/for a necessary task. It still feels wrong though.
Yesterday we put a little girl to sleep who needed a kidney transplant at age 6. We weren’t transplanting, but we were inserting a porta-cath in preparation for the operation scheduled the following week. That was an emotional experience — the surgical registrar walked over and quietly said, “this is what happens when you get too much anaesthetics when you’re little. It’s sad really”.
The little girl was screaming her head off, terrified of falling asleep and not knowing what was going to happen.
I think parents are brave to trust us with the lives of their children. Not that we are bad or incompetent, but we represent the unknown too.
So now what?
Upstairs, all the children are sleeping.
Once again I’m in the basement of the hospital, just after midnight. Sometimes the coke machine in the common room hums a little bit. I wonder what everyone else is up to at this hour of night…
Melissa:Hey, so I saw bed 4 - a 4 year, 8 month old Korean boy brought in by his father for 1 day history suprapubic pain, and fever of 40.1C tympanic this evening. Just now he was found to have 4+ haematuria in his urine. History was difficult as his father speaks limited English and K.K doesn't speak English at all.
Dr. M:Do you speak Korean?
Dr. M:Then how did you take the history?
Melissa:Gestures, mostly. And dramatic acting. :)
Melissa:Anyway, it turns out KK's paternal grandmother also had albuminuria...
Dr. M:Hold on. How on earth did you get 'albuminuria' from gestures and dramatic acting?
Here is the song I promised before I started Paeds — belated.
Alice gave me this song in first year. I remember a lot of moments in first year as sensory memory: the cold air on waking, but not the waking itself. The uncontrollable shivering in the anatomy lab and not being able to walk home (someone had to drive me the 2 streets it took). The texture of chicken salt from Peri Peri chicken on campus (I love that stuff!!).
There were lots of mottled sunsets along the highway (our house jutted out and looked onto Dandenong Road). I remember the shadows that the lace in front of the windows made, and the stain of light through a water glass on my table.
There’s something horribly lonely about that time seeped into every memory. Strong, heady emotions — a complex mix of everything and nothing.
It was a turbulant time…but I think I became the me I am today over that year. We can’t pick and choose the moments that make us, any more than we can choose the moments that unmake us. In a way I’m grateful for the person involved for making me who I am (at least in part), even if it was through not giving me what I wanted.
Anyway, this song is so full of life and light. I want something like it, someday. :)
I know I said I’d post a song…but then I moved house and internet hasn’t been connected. I’m writing this from the basement of the hospital, which always makes me cringe because it’s right next to the linnen press (I don’t like the smell of whatever they use to sanitise it with here).
So much is happening so fast.
I will say one thing: paediatrics is fun, dynamic and exciting —not the subject, which is the biggest workload I’ve ever had in Med— children are so unique in their quirks and qualms, even when sick. Paediatrics is also frightening —to see sick children, struggling families. Or to see the blood results of children who really need care with parents who didn’t bring them into clinic for followup/are notorious non-attenders — that, too, is scary.
Most of all, paediatrics is humbling.
It’s one of those things where no matter what life is like on the outside world, you step into a room and say hello to a small 11 month old who has heart failure, deformities, pulmonary hypertension, who smiles at you with such pale skin. The mother says she’s planned the funeral.
Life is so easy outside these four walls.
There are babies dying. Get over yourself and live — you are so blessed.
I am in a good place right now. I’m glad this rotation has come at this time.
I’ll update on everything soon. All I have to say is, wow, I was horrible in first and second year. :) Sorry about all the trouble I’ve caused — I’m really embarrassed about it now.
A list of achievements/ expectations/ status updates at the end of the intersemester break:
1. Moving house tomorrow…again.
2. Australian citizenship achieved! I’ve sworn allegiance, put the native plant I got given in the care of Samantha (it’s tipped over in the kitchen at the moment); I got an Australian badge too…which was really cute.
3. Won some money in the 90 million dollar jackpot Tuesday draw. :) Profit…of 7 bucks. But whoa I love the feeling of winning something! :D
4. Finally am able to get a ”student loan” as a citizen. I am unofficially in debt (the official part comes in when I don’t pay my student fees by the cencus date and my details get passed on to the Australian Tax Office). Almost feels like I should be throwing a party! ^^;;
5. Thrown into paediatric specialty clinics without any paediatrics training in a large tertiary hospital I’ve never been to, without any admin advice or ID starting Monday (?! Where is Rheumatology outpatients? Which door do I use to get into the hospital in the first place? Is there a back exit? Where are the faculty offices? How do you page people? Who is the doctor in charge? How do I examine a child? What are the checkpoints in a paediatric history?)
6. Seven different people telling me that this semester is going to be “tough”, “the worst semester ever”, “hahahah good luck with that”, “I don’t envy you”, “it’s character building” x2, “**** that was ****ed up. Thank God it’s over for me”. Thanks guys. As if I weren’t already pulling my hair out. :D Gotta leave some for the little kids to pull~
7. Accomodation in Frankston for 9 weeks time not resolved despite 5x phone call, begging for favours from 2 strangers who had to ask their family members if they had room in their houses. This is including one devout Jewish family. Read up on Kosher practice just in case I had to live there …it’s way more intense than I thought (it’s not just about eating allowed meat, it’s about what you eat it with and when. Also grape products are not allowed if not produced by the right people, etc). :D Ah well. I could have lost some weight if that had gone through…
8. Maybe getting a car in light of the fruitlessness of all possibilities for No. 5 :D
9. Pre-reading during the holidays for the first time in 4 years. How do law students do this every holiday? It is both boring and strangely addicting once you get started.
10. A few pieces of new clothing that I really like! (+they’re warm) — including a lovely grey scarf which is my new favourite scarf <3
11. ?Plan something for my birthday now that I’m back in Melbourne. ^^ Ideas?
12. In love with Hugh Dancy. So cute! And engaged to Claire Danes. And modelled for Burberry in the good old days!
13. Emma Watson is so pretty, just as an aside. Coincidentally, she modelled for Burberry this (last?) season. I swear I’m not just liking people that model for Burberry. She’s been in a lot of articles recently, probably in light of the new Harry Potter movie coming out so that would be why I notice more. According to everyone in the house, young Leo is in love with her. Ah, what good taste! :P
14. I dunno why, but I suddenly think Burberry is <3. I’m not usually a label person in the high fashion sense. (Ok, so I like to buy really plain clothes from country road. They’re comfortable! It’s a fashion thing :(( )
15. I wish I were booked into a holiday at some pacific island resort. I know it’s not as exciting as Europe or South America, and I know I sound like a sell-out. I just don’t want to think for a few weeks. Evacuate space…just find some sun, drink cocktails, sit by the sea and enjoy the second skin of a warm summery night. This is totally how I plan to survive semester 2.
16. Yoga DOES work! :D
17. Two words: Restaurant city. (I NEED PORK, RAMEN, ONION, GARLIC, BAYLEAF!)
18. ADSL2…connected at the new house next week, apparently. Exciting stuff? I think so. Why is it exciting? I am not entirely sure…I heard it’s fast, but I suspect my new (Asian) flatmates are huge downloaders. Lol, what a waste. At least I can say I have it ;)
19. BMedSci 2010?
20. I just realised how weird I feel having pointless conversations on the phone with someone. I always assume people want something when they ring me. If they apparently want nothing, I feel suspicious. =_= Clearly not having a landline for so long has lead me to economise my phone calls to only making relevant calls so much that I feel uncomfortable when someone calls me to catch up the day after I last saw them. Melissa! Phone calls are not a crime! …Am I just paranoid? I felt so uncomfortable. I wanted to run to someone for a hug =_=. (22. It’s a little more complicated than that, but it doesn’t have to be).
21. Hmm.. small script: I guess the difference between when I did used to make long phone calls to friends is that now we all just go out and see each other. Even phone calls to catch up end with a time to meet over coffee during the coming few days. :D Adults have the luxury of doing that I suppose.
22. Brian and I went to have lunch at the cheapest but most worth-it Japanese place ever. Waaaah <3 A proper bento for 10 dollars. And no, they weren’t stingy either.
23. Ever wanted to know what kiwifruit or oranges tasted like if stuck into a chocolate fondue? :) Wonder no more! Oranges = it works! Kiwifruit = what were they thinking? =_=
24. I just finished working out my Paeds timetable and formatting one on Excel. It took me about 2-3 hours.
25. I hope I don’t hate kids after this.
26. I love kids!!! What am I saying?
27. Old ladies and old men are cute too.
28. Sometimes I wonder what could have happened if I hadn’t become a social black hole halfway through first year…..
29. I wanna do something international someday.
30. I’m falling asleep. No internet for the next week or two…so this is it for a while. :) Should I upload a song next? :D Maybe. (Just one for the road? Hehe..certainly so).
31. Haven’t been on MSN for what feels like ages (even though I just talked to Been on it last night. But it felt like ages before that!)
32. Kinda excited about having a new house to live in. A new room to decorate…my stuff in there…new people…can buy snacks to put in the fridge and order pizza like I did in second year…it looks really cosy too.
32. I don’t want to sleep yet. It’s raining so hard, I wanna listen to it some more.:)