Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lucky Guy 4

image "What's your name? Boon Phi..?"

"Boon er... say that again?"

"Er, sorry I don't think I can pronounce your name."

"Never mind. just call me Boon."


"Boon! How are you?"

"Why don't you get an English name?"

So officially in this campus, my name is Boon. Unfortunately, Phiaw seems to be a little bit too difficult for their cultured Aussie tongue to pronounce.

Oh well, it was something unforeseeable. In hindsight, I should had figured out a good English name before I came to Melbourne like most of the Chinese students.   

First year was all about the 20 minutes walk to Uni. HB, KY, LZ and me, the 4 JPA kids all live in college square. 8.30a.m. lecture means leaving college square at 810a.m. If someone is late, it will be frantic telephone calling to say "fast, fast or we will be late!"

Back then we don't have lectopia, a fancy name for recorded lecture. If you missed the lecture, you missed everything. Come to think of it, that kind of "don't be late or you'll miss out" culture seems so far away now, even though they only have lectopia from last year. Nowadays, lecture theatres are only half full and there are some students who just disappeared from Uni.

First year lectures stood out for their dullness. I think my first-time-ever doze off is in Pharm Chem lecture about isotonicity. It was basically about chemical calculations and was as dry as sandpaper. Not every lecturer prepare lecture notes for us to print out - some like the bald headed Maths lecturer, prefers us to write everything down. So it was 3 hours of copying everything down neatly on pieces of foolscap paper every week.  Nowadays, students complain if the lecture notes are uploaded late. Time had really changed a lot within four years.

The most interesting lectures were the psychology series given by Louis Roller. For one thing he is a good lecturer, for another, I love psychology. Psychology stuffs also stick well in my brain, especially his favourite catch-phrase "perception is reality".  In fact, the one and only book I brought in first year is the psychology text book.

There was also a lot of pracs in first year. The first one was the most senseless I guess, as all we do was pipette and measure water again and again. But I remembered the Indian demonstrator saying my handwriting is the neatest guy handwriting she had ever seen. Funny how things like that tend to stick in my mind.

Other pracs that I remembered include the physiology prac where we had to carve out a mouse to study their anatomy. It was fun until I severed a blood vessel and the whole body cavity of the mouse was flooded. Another prac is where we had to extract caffeine crystals from tea leaves. That one I recalled because my partner didn't turned up and I had to do it individually - and I was the only one in the whole group that was able to grow the crystal. It was a proud moment.

It was fun reminiscing these moments. I guess I will keep the rest of the first year memories for my next post.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Royal Melbourne Show


Went to the Royal Melbourne Show today because my sis said "if you didn't go this time, you may never have the chance to go again".

To think of all the things I did just because I may never get to do it again. I think I can't cover them all even if I used all my toe digits to count.

The Royal Melbourne Show can be thought of as a combo of animal fair, food fair and fun fair.


There were a lot of novel and sometimes funny events.

Highlights include this pig racing competition.


And cow milking.


And sheep shearing.


Kheng Ying was feeling the pain for the sheep.


There were also competitions to judge the best horse, cow, dog.. and alpaca too.


Found this very funny. A competition for making the best butter cake. Dunno how they judged it. They all looked the same to me.


The cake decorating competition was much more exciting. Found this cake to be the most adorable.


Didn't regret going even though the show are mainly for kids and teenagers and animal lovers. The only thing to complain was that it was freakin hot today. I think it was way more than the 27C predicted. Hopefully didn't get sunburnt.

And yay.. having a one week break from today!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A little bit of gratitude

I'm unabashedly a guy who find it very hard to express my feelings of gratitude, particularly to someone I didn't really know.

Deep down I sincerely wanted to say "thank you", but somehow have difficulty forming the actual words in my mouth. More often than not, it was left unsaid. And I usually live to regret it.

Today, I had a hair cut. The girl cutting my hair was very meticulous. She trimmed my hair down a bit, combed it through, checked the length and re-trimmed it. She massaged my head while washing my hair too, then spent 5 minutes gelling it. This was in contrast with some other hairdresser who simply just cut-and-go.  Anyway the point is, she did a very good job.

So I said to myself, I had to praise her, no matter what. Even though 90% of the haircut was done in silence.

It went something like this:

"What's your name?" (Lame I know, I knew her name, but I really have no idea how to start)


"Well Alysha, I like this haircut very much, and I think you are very good. Thank you."

And then came the million dollar moment. Her face immediately lit up.  She clasped her hands together and there's a big smile pasted on her face.

"Oh thank you very much!"

Hopefully it made her day. But what I knew for sure was that it made my day. I never realised that doing something so simple can have such a profound effect on two people.

Guess we never stop learning in this world.

P/s: By the way, found this excellent and meaningful website via a blurb in The Age. Free Rice gives twenty grains of rice for every vocab questions you answer correctly. Nice time filler when you are waiting for people to write their replies while MSN-ing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's not so safe after all


I think Panadol as we know them, or more accurately known as paracetamol, is the most well-known medicine of all. Whenever we have a headache, toothache, a little fever, the flu - just chuck two of these white pills in, take a nap and everything will be okay.

But a recent study conducted in over 200,000 children found strong evidence that giving paracetamol to a baby increases the likelihood of the baby suffering asthma by 1.5 fold.

This is besides the fact that taking more than 4g of the drug at a single day will increase your risk of liver failure. 4g is like just 8 standard tablets, and paracetamol can come in packs of 100. That's like 50g of potentially lethal drug on your cupboard. I never knew that fact before I studied pharmacy.

Maybe we didn't really notice how dangerous it is because it is so readily available in supermarkets and grocery stores. Dangerous for us are things that we can't buy legally like ecstasy and morphine. When it comes to medicines, I think those of us in Malaysia are pretty ignorant. We are so used to following doctors' order that we lost the desire to empower ourselves with knowledge about the medications we often take, like Panadol.

Now that we are learning about health promotion in pharmacy, I suddenly realised that there are a lot of 'empowering people' activities that I can do in Malaysia. People should not just follow orders, but questioning them all the time. Perhaps that's something I can focus my energy on next year. That thought left me pretty much excited - ah.. a new challenge!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lucky guy Chapter 3

imageOrientation - the last week of fun and sunshine before the nitty-gritty of the new University semester starts. O-week is the week where you are supposed to meet new friends, form new alliances and settle into your own cliques.

Any my, cliques there were. There were the Malaysian girls clique, white people clique, African clique, Hong Kong clique, nerds with long hair and glasses clique...

That what I'd observed while being an O-week Mentor this year. I guess much that we endeavour to meet people that are different, we tend to stick with people that are like us in the end. That's the reality.

This year, I decided to be an O-week Mentor because it was something I always wanted to do. There was some sort of wicked allure in bossing new kids around.

The most satisfying thing I did in O-week was facilitating the introduction of new students. I sort of go to one guy sitting by himself in one corner, talked to him, and then proceed to talk to another guy nearby, chatted with him, and them introducing those two guys together.

I remembered feeling very happy after doing that. It was like witnessing the birth of something new - like watching a butterfly coming out from its cocoon.  Upon reflection, this was exactly what I hoped my mentor did for me during O-week.

My mentor for O-week was a girl by the name of Benita Dalton. The only thing about her besides the name which I remember was that she is pale skinned, has a lot of freckles and ginger red hair. She should be a nice girl, but unfortunately, did not leave much of a strong impression.

I arrived on Melbourne on the night of the 23rd of February 2005, a hot and humid Wednesday, and went to University the day after with Freda, Kheng Ying and Hui Bing to catch the tail end of the Orientation week.

I am trying hard, but the overall picture about O-week that surfaced was blurry, with little vivid snatches here and there. No, there was no party. We missed it. Nom there was no clubs to join. We missed it too. Free lunch? Don't think there were some.

I remembered the first person I met was Esin, who was the International Students' Advisor.  Lined up to take photos for the ID card. Listened to introductory speeches by Louis Roller and Richard Prankerd. Touring around the campus, and Benita with her friends bringing us four to Lygon Street for lunch. Had a hamburger that cost $9.90 and a can of $2.20 Fanta. Having a croissant in Uni on Friday morning.

The person which left the strongest impression on me during that week was Louis Roller. If I was disappointed by the physical side of the campus, the first lecturer who spoke to us really captured my imagination. Tall and charming with a head of whitening hair and moustache, he had a touch of ancientness about him, not unlike Dumbledore in Harry Potter. He spoke with passion and fervour,he voice strong and warm. To me, he was the epitome of the classic professor, right from the pages of story books. This is how they should look like. I remembered that I couldn't wait for his lecture.

So that was the pathetic story of my Orientation week. Lucky I was there this year to savour what I had missed three years earlier. Better late than never!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


This just struck me as ironic.

I had just spent nearly the entire Saturday night cooped up alone in my room, reading of all things, books on communication skills.

Shouldn't I be outside instead, practicing communications skills with real actual people?

But truth to be told, communication is not as easy as what meets the eye. Consider the snippet below:

Customer: (deep sigh) George had been sick for so long, sometimes I wonder if he's every going to get well. I don't know if I can keep my spirits up much longer.

Pharmacist: Now, of course, George is going to get well, and you can keep your spirits up. You've been so strong about it.

Customer: But it's been so long. It seems that Dr. Johnson should be getting George well pretty soon.

Pharmacist: Now, you know Dr. Johnson is a good doctor, and you shouldn't be questioning his care of your husband. It's important to trust your doctor.

Customer: Well, he's certainly not getting anywhere with George!

Pharmacist: How long has it been now that George has been sick?

Customer: Thirteen months. (note: this is why I chose this example =P)

Pharmacist: Sometimes these things take time. Maybe you just need to get away more. I think it would do you good to have someone come in and stay with George, say one day in a week, so you can get out more.

Customer: I don't want to get out more. I want George to get well.

Pharmacist: He will, believe me. He is getting the best care possible.

The way the pharmacist replied seems reasonable, right?

Wrong! Confused? Well the book where I got it from did tell me why. The first response was a falsely placating response, the second was too judgmental, the third probed about irrelevant info, the four offered a stop gap solution to a long-going, deep problem. The pharmacist response was supposed to be understanding and emphatic.

So now do you still think communication is easy?

If you are wondering why I am reading all these, I have a "failure is no option" oral exam on the 8th of October, which examines my communication skills.

I'm not reading them for fun. But reading them was a fun process.

Ah, the intricate art of communications. Next time I really need to think before I speak.

Maybe you should too.

Oh no, I shouldn't have said that. That was an advicing response. The book said I shouldn't be so caught out in my role as 'expert' that I lose sight of the limits of my expertise.

Anyway go have a think about it.

Snippet copied verbatim from Tindall, Breadsley & Kimberlin: Communication Skills in Pharmacy Practice.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The end is near

It's Friday!

and end of Week 10.

means 2 more weeks to go

before the end of B.Pharm.

its really the end.

no more.

4 years.

long time, yet so short.

Guess it will just be

footprints in the sand.

Nevertheless, it made an impression.

How do I feel?

I don't really know.

Just trying to grasp

whatever morsel of time that's left.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lucky guy Chapter 2

IMG_1890 Being a student ambassador is something that I am relatively proud of. I viewed it as some sort of recognition from the faculty that I am good enough to be entrusted with the job to represent them.

Hence, come every and any open day, a number of us decked in our highlighter green shirt will enthusiastically greet you, with a great big smile pasted on our face - and proceed to sell you the faculty.

"This faculty is one of the best in the country. It is also the oldest, with 127 years of history"

"It is located right on the Parkville strip. Had you heard about the Parkville strip? It is the premier location in Australia for bio-medical research."

"It is very difficult to get into the Pharmacy. Even if you achieved an entry score of 95 and passed your UMAT, we still need to rank you and only get the top 250 students."

"Last year 99.4 percent of the graduating class managed to get a job within six months of graduating."

"You know, the drug to treat influenza was synthesized right here in this campus. We are also now working on a drug to treat malaria - with great success."

It was ironic.

Four years ago, I chose to do Pharmacy here without knowing anything about the background of the faculty at all. I came because of two main reasons: one, a lot of my friends will also be here in Melbourne; and two, Monash University is a very established and well known University.

That was it. Thinking back, it was funny how I made such a seemingly important and potential life-changing decision so easily. But then again, making decisions was never my strong suit. It still isn't.

I never knew the pharmacy campus was actually an independent entity until it merged with Monash in 1992. Or more interestingly, that the campus is so small. First day I saw Uni was kind of a shock. "What? only three buildings in the whole campus?"

It was smaller then my primary school! On a side note, it now consists of four buildings.

And more importantly, it deviated away from my concept of a University - the clock tower, circa 1900 castle-like buildings, flat lawns with lush leafy trees, and the need to run across brick steps to get from one lecture to another. In short, a place full of quaintness and rustic charm, seeped in tradition and history.

Here, we sat in the lecture theatre with the lecturers coming to us. The buildings are modern looking, square with glass-paned windows, and there were wild ferns growing rather then carpet grass.

If I knew this before hand, most probably I would chose University of Queensland instead.

Luckily, serendipity is something that I always have faith in.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


This year, mid autumn festival arrived early.


Lanterns showing the way to a brighter future...

Last Thursday in Uni, we had our yearly Mid-autumn aka mooncake aka lantern festival.

Due to better planning and marketing this year, the turnout was huge - more than 80 people were there.Colourful lanterns dotted the cafeteria.


We had fun playing all sorts of games,


ate a variety of mooncakes,


and went for lantern walks.


The event will be sorely missed next year.

At least I had fun enjoying mid-autumn festival in Uni for three straight years...

Every good thing must come to an end.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Lucky guy


I was doing a campus tour in Uni the other day. It involved bringing a group of prospective students around the campus, showing them the various first class facilities and enthralling them with positive stories of Uni life.

On this particular beautiful and sunny day, I was hosting a group of students  from Ngee Ann Polytechnic Singapore. Wonderful and inquisitive people they were. One of their lecturers was in my small tour group of nine. We had just passed the cafeteria, where masses of students were having their lunch break.

"There seems to be a lot of girls in this campus. How's the males to females ratio here?" the lecturer asked.

"I think its around 30 to 70. Or maybe 35 to 65." I replied.

"It must be lucky being a guy here." she contemplated.

"Yeah I guess so," I replied after a pause. "I guess so."

"I am lucky to be a student here."


Perhaps that's the best word to describe my time here in this campus now known as Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science.

Not that because it is a predominantly female populated course, even though that's a plus sign.

I was lucky because I was given countless opportunities do develop my skills and network. I had the chance to sample nearly every facet of student life, accumulating a wealth of experience in the process.

I was given the chance to realise my potential.

I never really realised I was lucky until a couple of weeks back, when it dawned upon me that a lot of International students who came here to study didn't have the chance to enjoy the opportunities I had.

They came here, study diligently for the whole degree, and went home with a cert. That's it.

Not that I didn't work hard for those opportunities, but I must admit a big amount of luck was involved.

Damn, I wouldn't even be here if not for the huge amount of luck during SPM examinations. Chinese was always my Achilles Heel, and getting that elusive A1 was like a faraway dream until I was lucky enough to get an essay question similar to one that I had memorised.

That clinched the JPA scholarship and I had a plane ticket to study overseas, which was never a part of my dream.

In fact, I was seriously considering to study in a local Uni and be an English teacher. Being a pharmacist? The thought never crossed my mine in the first 18 years of my life.

After 18 months of studying matriculation in Peninsula Malaysia post SPM, I finally came to Melbourne on a hot and humid day in February 2005, on a wing and a prayer.

P/s: This is the first part of a continuous series on my Uni story.

About love

I felt that the will for me to write a book had stagnated over the years.

It had always been one of my dreams to publish my own novel.

But I kept procrastinating and shelving the idea.

Can't even consistently write and update my blog even though I have fast Internet connection.

Perhaps the creative juice in me had dried up.

Asked someone recently what should I write in my blog that will make interesting reading.

Something about love, she said.

Hmm I mused. How am I supposed to write about something I had little idea or experience about?

Should I write a love story?

Come to think about it, a lot of novels had at least some romance in them.

Think Harry Potter. Da Vinci Code. Not stories about romance, but still some intonations about love.

Suddenly had an idea. Mills and Boon made their money from publishing stories about females getting swept off their feet by tall dark handsome guys.

But not really on stories of guys trying and succeeding in sweeping girls off their feet. There's nothing on the hard work, the sacrifices, the everything.

All stories I had read are female-centric. Maybe there's a market for male-centric stories?

Perhaps on stories like how a fat guy lose weight in 30 days in order to woo a girl. Or a poor guy working his ass off to increase his social standing. Stories with a touch of inspiration and doesn't make love as easy as it seems?

But love stories are supposed to make people feel good and should not be depressing, right?

What do I know about love?


Just something to think about.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Capturing memories

There's only less than 100 days left before I put a full-stop on my Melbourne experience. 4 years of toil, fun, adventure and self discovery will come to an imminent end.

I started this blog during my first year of stay here to chronicle my overseas experience. Which was a good decision. I guess a lot of things will end up as forgotten memories if I didn't make an effort to keep pieces of it  frozen in time.

People changes. Physically as demonstrated by the pictures below. Mentally too I supposed. Quite nostalgic looking at them.

This pic was taken in 2nd Sem 2005. First year.


Second year my camera broke down =(. Hence no pics.

This was 2nd Sem 2007. Third year.


And this was 2nd Sem 2008. Fourth year.


Everyone looked more matured now... but still can't believe its near the end now, and we have to go on our own roads and pursue our individual dreams after this...

Guess that's life.

Now it is the right time to start reflecting and tie the knots up. From this week onwards, I will try to write up snippets on my University life. Hopefully it will bring back the memories when I read it five, ten years down the track. Hope it will never be forgotten...