Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Designer in Me

Other than reading, writing and drinking coffee, I actually have another passion, which is interior designing. I think the only reason none of you have ever heard of this passion of mine is because the only time I get to design and decorate my room is when I move to a new room, which has only been thrice. Ever heard of the lazy designer? Those are the minimalists, and I am one of them. Minimalists emphasize on simplicity, practicality, elegance and, well, minimality. That's why people call us lazy. Enough said, let pictures do the talking. This is my room in college, most of the stuff in here were bought in Ikea and no, I am not paid by Ikea to do this post ;)

My sanctuary

The view from my studying table

My lovely espresso bar. Where I wake up to a perfect cup of espresso with just a touch of a button and a dollop of hazelnut or toffee nut syrup

My faithful Coldplay poster where I bring along to each room I move into

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Path I Am On

I went for follow up today. My tympanic membrane is now intact, which means I can now swim and fly, but my high-frequency hearing lost and tinnitus is still there. At this point, it's most likely going to be permanent. But yeah, I'm past the grieving period over the lost, so it didn't sadden me much. It takes some time to get use to this slight disability. Sometimes people call my name from behind and I have no idea where the voice came from. Last week I was caught with wandering attention by a lecturer during clinics when in fact I was paying attention to my tinnitus which gets louder in closed and quiet clinics. Oh, don't let me start with the operating theatre, where people talk in whispers. I tried to assist a surgeon and end up passing over the scissors to another student just after 30 minutes because I cut when I am not supposed to and did not cut when I am supposed to. 'Cut (whispers)' 'Cut...cut, cut! CUT!' He goes, and hey ho cherio I go!

I also went to psychiatric ward round today. There was this young lady who got very depressed and tried to kill herself because her mental illness made her unable to work or earn money so she felt that she was useless and a burden to herself and her family. I guess one of the things that got me going on is seeing others that have illnesses worse than mine. I have the chance to see it every single day, and every time I see other people who have worse disability than me, I felt thankful and appreciative of what I still have. My dad asked me why I wasn't depressed after I've learned about my permanent disability. I asked him 'Should I be?'. He said most of his patients got depressed and traumatized after learning they had a similar disability as mine, and I should learn my lesson of not joining anymore stupid outdoor games. So being a faithful son, I followed his advice and went on being depressed the next week for 5 days. Yeah, it was an awesome experience but I don't think I want to do it again.

Living with tinnitus actually sucks. Imagine having a ringing sound in your head 24 hours for the rest of your life. There is no moment of silence for me. But to take it positive, I just imagine this ringing in my head is a call. A call which is a constant reminder for me to always work towards being a better person. So when I do nothing but sit around, I will start paying attention to the ringing sound...and that is where I am reminded to get up and do something productive. I have to keep myself busy doing something to distract myself from the sound. I'm just glad that when it didn't affect my relaxing ritual sitting in cafes because although coffee exaggerates tinnitus for awhile, hearing music on the headphone masks the ringing sound.

While my hearing loss might limit my career choice of specialization, unlike the young woman I saw this morning, at least I can still work in other specialties that doesn't need me to hear soft subtle sounds from the chest. Or being in operating theaters. Or quiet clinics. I've always wanted to be a physician and specialize in infectious disease. But being a physician involves a lot of precise hearing of the chest sounds. Maybe I'll just move on to something I have always been interested in, like hospital management, health care planning, health economics and stuff. Influence something big in the Ministry of Health, or maybe work for the World Health Organization in Geneva, save the world and things like that. You know, the big picture.

All in all, despite all the things that happened to me, I am quite happy with the way things are now. I can still study and carry out my responsibilities, I can still have fun with friends. I still hold on to my favorite phrase: 'life is too short to be miserable, are you who you want to be?'. By the way a psychiatrist sensed there was something wrong with me, called me up after clinics, found out my problems and suggested me to do my own personal CBT, which stands for 'Cognitive Behavior Therapy'. I told her ''It's okay doc, I don't need CBT, all need is CBTL: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf'' ;)

Some coffee ritual I do at airports

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Expectations

Most of the time, we are bogged down with the expectation of others, held back from achieving great things in life because the fear of 'what will people say' or 'how would people respond to what I say or do?' Making a decision is not a popularity contest. Decide to do the right thing, not necessarily the the most popular thing. I have learned the hard way that as long as you know that you are in the right, it does not really matter what people say or how people respond. Those are actually their problem, not yours

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Ocean in Me

I woke up in the middle of the ocean to the sounds of sea waters slapping against the ship. I realized that sunshine has slipped its way between the golden silk curtains. As I drew them open, mounds of majestic mountains greeted me, seeming to float above the shimmering waters, reflecting the lively morning sun. In the far distant, I saw some other ships on sail, moving out of the alcove we were anchored in for the night. Some people above the decks were taking pictures of the sun shining its glory between the limestone islets. My mind recalled an article read a few weeks ago about the sunrise in Ha Long bay. The view was some of the most coveted in the world of photo enthusiasts. Impossible to be appreciated by land, it takes at least two hours from the shores to sail into this magical wonder. Just as I put my feet on the wooden floor, the sounds of rattling chains was heard indicating the anchor was being pulled up, and the ship was ready to set sail again.

I went to the upper deck for breakfast. Some of the other passengers were already having theirs. I chose a corner spot by the window so I could admire the glorious view as I had my breakfast. I was never a loyal breakfaster, often substituting the morning meal with just coffee and biscuits (not a good habit, I know). The memory from the previous day’s visit to the magnificent floating fishing village still lingers in my mind as I was having this proper breakfast I rarely took. I never thought people could live and make a living on sea waters. Perhaps the rather serene waters of the bay, protected from violent ocean waves by the surrounding limestone islands has made the place a safe haven. The place has a legend, as told by our guide. ‘There was a war between the local people and the Chinese invaders’ he said in a typical Vietnamese accent. ‘A family of dragons sent down from heaven to defend the land. These dragons spit out jewels and jade, which turned into the islands and islets surrounding the bay. The people were protected from the invaders by these walls of limestone islands’ he continued. ‘The dragons were enchanted by the beauty of the bay they have made themselves, the dragons decided to live among the local people’. 

Beautiful story, I thought. Those people he told of fish for a living until the present day. Their houses floated on water in the middle of the ocean, far from the lands, but the sight of lights, television and electric generator proves that human beings hardly escaped modernity. As I was passing by the floating houses I saw a mother holding her baby by the waters, staring unblinkingly to the sea waters, mesmerized by the reflection of the sun. Come a few more years, the baby might have grown up to be mesmerized by her own reflection on the waters than the reflection of the sun. At a place like this, I wondered at what age the child learns to swim. As there were no walkways between houses, they had to either swim, or use sampans to get from one house to another.

I turned my view from the vast ocean to the other passengers in the dining area. Except for me, everyone on this trip came in pairs. It made sense, I thought, since I myself would consider this cruise perfect for a honeymoon trip. The other passengers had already got used seeing me alone throughout the journey. They must have mistaken me for a reviewer for some travel magazine or blog. It was later I realized that with the notebook and camera I carry around with me all the time, I did look like one. As awkward as it gets sometime, there is a certain kind of serenity when I spend some time alone marveling the spectacle of nature. I have always disagreed when people equate being alone with being lonely. While being in the company of others and having someone to talk to is healthy, being alone once in awhile just thinking about life, marveling the breath-taking nature, or just watching the world pass by is necessary for the health of the mind. I call this the period of detachment. Sitting around doing nothing but think seems counter-productive, but it is a lot better than running around being busy with no idea where you are heading to. Thinking about life, what we are going to do with it, what it means to us, and what it really is about gives us a better perspective once we are out in the world full of people again. Life is about balance. Like these oceans, the ocean in us has its own high and low tides. Sometimes they are rough, sometimes they are calm. Treasure the ocean in us 

The engines had stopped roaring as I walked out to the decks. We visited a cave, went kayaking, fishing, hill climbing and such. All those experience was invigorating, but nothing compares to the night before, an enchanting moment I will never forget. As I sat at the roof deck of the ship as the sun set, the ship sailed towards an alcove. I watched the mountains fade away, and the stars came out. I stared at the stars, realizing how small and insignificant we are compared to the universe. If life was meant to be hard and serious, why was I smiling?
Beautiful Moments

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