Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A restaurant trip

Seems it was a long time since I put some photo in my blog. So here goes: a blog post with lots of photos.

A couple of months ago, I won 3rd prize in a slogan-writing contest and made it to the local daily.


The prize was a voucher for a complimentary dinner-for-ten;


at this high-class looking restaurant of a high-class looking hotel.


We were given a private room,


that had a huge table, so huge that it creaked and groaned whenever you put your arms on it.


Even the chairs were huge, as demonstrated by my sister.


It was a nine course dinner. The servings were large, as seen in the Cold Appetizer below:


Pan-fried beef with celery, sweet and sour prawns and tofu.


Mixed vegetables, honeydew chicken, mango fish.


The food was not bad. They came in quick succession, one after the after. Too quick, in fact. As if there’s no one else in the restaurant to serve.

Which turned out to be the case.


No other single soul was in the restaurant the entire night except us and the four waitresses serving us.

Didn’t realised that they were giving us the VVIP treatment. I thought only the filthy rich can reserve the whole restaurant. I can’t help imagining the cooks being there just to cook for us.

Now that’s exactly how you should treat a contest winner.

Okay enough of the photos. If you are interested in some of my pharmacy adventures, read the post below.

Enforcement pharmacy

I had been spending the past two days in the enforcement pharmacy. It was one of the departments where there is a possibility for me to be sent to serve my three years compulsory service. As I detest paper-works and enforcement is full of them, I decided to act dumb so that I won’t make a good impression and the boss won’t pick me to join the team next year.

Enforcement was also a two-weeks placement. I followed the enforcement officers to the port where we go through the custom declaration forms of pharmaceutical shipments. If we see something suspicious, I need to call the forwarding agent up and demand for an itemized invoice or do a physical check on the shipment.

Today I went to court to hear them mention cases. They were trying to prosecute someone who had sold some unregistered meds. Apparently pharmacists chosen to be enforcement officers can be the police, detective and lawyer 3-in-1. They can raid premises, investigate people and prosecute them if necessary. That’s the cool part of the work.

So anyway it was kind of fun and interesting to device ways of not looking too efficient. For example, instead of showing initiative, I loitered around until the officer found things for me to do. Usually it’s mundane stuffs (and actually their job). And when they did, I only did some of them, the excuse being “so the next pharmacist attached to the station after me got something to do’”. I also acted blur, constantly looked as if I forgot to do what they asked for. And asked dumb questions while looking innocent like “what do we go to court for?” Hopefully it works!

To summarised about compounding, it was actually quite a good placement. It’s like a big kitchen. In fact, the hospital is like a big restaurant: the patients being the customers, the doctors being the waiters and the pharmacists being the chefs. Played with the pre-packing machine, made lots of cream, eye drops, suspensions and syrups. Was trying constantly to improve my syringing skills. Now I think quite pro already. One thing compounding taught me was to appreciate how difficult it was to make some of the stuffs that we dispense to the patients. So next time should be more stingy and give less. ^^

Also went for a full day Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshop last Saturday, They flew in a vastly experienced Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) pharmacist from KL to give a talk. It was very insightful and certainly gave me a brand new perspective on that area. There were also a talk on Oncology which was a very good revision of the stuffs I learnt while attached in the radiotherapy unit.

I guess that’s long enough for now. Probably will update again in a week time. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On opposite sides 3

The muffed sound of the alarm clock rung incessantly under the thick pillow. A silent groan escaped her mouth. Her body was still stiff, remnants from yesterday’s hard work.

She rubbed her heavy eyes that had seen too little sleep. She swung her legs onto the floor, the cold morning blast hitting her as the blanket slipped from her body.

She lumbered into the kitchen, and opened the fridge, the orange glow within piercing through the darkness of the house. Her hands reached inside, searching for ingredients to be transformed into the family’s three meals.

For the next ninety minutes she busied in the kitchen washing, chopping, slicing, boiling and frying, while seizing every available snatches of free seconds in between to brush her teeth, change into the day’s cloths and comb her hair.

When she heard her husband’s footsteps echoing through the house, she knew it was soon time to go. She put all the newly cooked food into the cupboard before tiptoeing into the room next to hers. She gazed fondly at the sweet innocent face of her nine month old son, her fingers gently wiping away a tiny pool of saliva that had drooled down from his agape mouth.

Lets go,” said her husband, who was leaning against the doorway studying mother and child. She cast a final lingering look at her soundly sleeping son before following her husband footsteps out of the house.

He pushed the motorcycle around 20 meters from their compound because starting the engine. She climbed on behind him, hugging him tightly. It was the only time of the day they can afford to have physically contact this close.

The first cock had only started to crow when they reached the end of the bumpy un-tarred road. She alighted and joined the short line of people standing next to a stick stuck into the muddy yellow ground. She heaved a sign of relief when around ten minutes later, a van spewing thick clouds of exhaust duly rumbled to a stop in front of them. Yesterday they had to wait for twenty minutes. They all squeezed in; men, women, young, old, fat, skinny. She closed her eyes. It will be another two hours before she reach her workplace.

While she was catching forty winks in the van, her young boss was sipping coffee and eating toast that his mother had just prepared for him. He had a piece of report in his hand which caused a frown to creep onto his face. “This Sally again!” he muttered. She had been late for the past three days and missed the last two weekends’ meeting. He had a good mind to admonish her later in the morning. Such unprofessional attitude. What a tardy and lazy good for nothing woman.

“Pa, I am ready to go!” he hollered. It was already 7.30a.m. His father started the car as he climbed in. He was driven to the office, where he promptly put both legs on the table and waited for Sally to arrive. He can never comprehend why she was always late. It only took him one hour from waking up to reaching the office. Surely she can just wake up earlier if she needed more time for make-ups!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pharmacy Updates Again

Something is wrong with this world. Yesterday five of us took a short walk (around 200m) under the sun for lunch. Four gals and me. And I’m the only one bringing an umbrella. Doesn’t they know about sunlight and skin cancer??

Anyway been busy the past two weeks studying for my pharmacy law exam. The exam was like a blind date, coz I have no idea how it is structured and how difficult it is. Turned out the examiners didn’t know also. We assumed it was open book till they told us 1 hour before the exam it will be a closed book. It wasn’t until we read the exam paper cover then we discovered it is open book after all. So fun..

Now I am placed at the compounding pharmacy. Did a few eye-drops using aseptic technique on Monday and mixed up some Chloral Hydrate this morning. Tasted a few drops of my product coz I wanted to know how it taste like. Maybe that’s why I became so sleepy for the whole day?

Satellite Pharmacy was fun. There’s always a lot of things to eat there, which is nice. The workload was just ideal, so was the room temperature. But didn’t see much patients, mostly dispense to the wards. Did three bedside counselling on how to use an insulin pen. Very funny coz the senior pharmacist I was following around actually marked out the injection spots on the patient’s stomach itself.

Hmm.. I haven’t cooked up a story to write after my experience in Satellite Pharmacy. Maybe I will get some inspiration soon. But still busy these few days as we are finalising a research proposal. Malaysia very advanced. Even intern pharmacists need to do real research with real patients.

Okie I should get busy.. so long then.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The attractive theory

A lady named Abby Wong wrote a beautiful article in The Star that had became the talk of the paper. The piece first appeared on 24th May and till today, someone was still commenting on it.

What  was it about? Well… drum roll…. she seems to think that guys reading in public are attractive. Wow. Why didn’t she write it earlier? Damn, with that insight  I would have read all my novels in shopping centres and bus stops instead of while curling in my bed. Oh, now I can’t bear to count the number of lost opportunities…


Being educated in the scientific method, I decided to put the theory into practice. From that week,  I strolled across the corridors of the hospital appearing to be deeply absorbed in the pieces of paper I was carrying.  When I had free time in the pharmacy,I read a book.

Alas, I can’t spy any adoring glances, nor hear any hushed whispers saying “he is so attractive!”. The only comment was “Wow you are so hardworking.”

So much for Abby Wong’s theory. She had gotten it so wrong.

Let’s try my theory: Girls find boys who cooks attractive. They will positively drool dreaming about waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee tantalizing their nostrils and the melodious sound of luscious vegetables being chopped into bite sizes ringing in their ears. They fantasizes going home after a tired day of work to find piping hot spaghetti ala carbonara waiting for them on the table.


The next thing to do is to prove it. So last week I baked a cheesecake to work and share it around.


After getting my word that it was really me who created such delicious fare, here came the questions:

Question 1: Are you still single?

Question 2: What’s your criteria of a girlfriend?

Question 3: Are you willing to consider a girl a few years older than you?

Question 4: Maybe I should introduce my cousin to you.

I swear its true.

It was hence proven that guys that can cook is a much more attractive commodity. But then there’s a problem, we can’t just push a stove into any public place and proceed to cook our breakfast on the spot, can we?


Disclaimer: This is not, I stress, REALLY NOT a piece of self advertising.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


On Friday I ended my tour of duty in the radiotherapy unit pharmacy, which is just a nicer name for a pharmacy dealing with chemo drugs and dispensing to cancer patients.

It was not a fun place to work, considering the fact that all the patients I saw had an uncertain future in front of them.

I had seen concerned son and daughters standing outside the chemo room for hours, peering through the glass door as their aged parents underwent chemo infusion inside. I had dispensed cancer drugs to mothers who had their young children in tow, and heard crying relatives. It was not a pleasant experience but nevertheless, an enriching experience.

As a pharmacist, I believed that we should sometimes try to think from the side of the patients. What do they expect from us? How do they perceive us? How should we show empathy, to show that we care even though the time we spend with them is limited by how busy we are?

During my stint in the out-patient pharmacy, I wrote a short story from my perceived viewpoint of the patient, which I titled “On opposite sides”.

Now that I had finished my radiotherapy unit, I came out with another short story written from similar viewpoints. Just scroll down to read it.

From tomorrow onwards, I will be posted to the Satellite Pharmacy. Hopefully it will be another good learning experience.

On opposite sides 2

“This is for your cancer.”

The pharmacist in his crisp white-coat didn’t mince his words. He didn’t try to sugar-coat it, or attempted to soften the blow. Like a newly sharpened knife, the stark reminder was stabbed straight into my heart. “Yes girl, you really have cancer.”

Cancer. Ten years ago, it was the poster of African kids with bald heads. Okay maybe that was AIDS. Five years ago, it was the horoscope sign of my supposedly best matched beau. Ten months ago, it was the fiction I watched on my favourite medical soap Grey’s Anatomy. Five months ago, it was a hard lump on my left breast.

With robotic efficiency, the pharmacist delved into a monologue on how to take the medicines. I caught snatches of “once a day”, “not with milk”, “only when necessary” while the others flew pass me in tiny wisps, or perhaps repelled by the piece of glass window separating us.

I felt like a high priest sitting in a confessional window, with him the sinner in the process of divulging his crime. How ironic that mental image, as it was I who was now serving a sentence with a span of unclear duration nor destination. How had I sinned?

For me, cancer felt like a prison sentence where death is a lottery not a verdict; baldness is the forced crown not a crew cut; poisons slowly infused into you body the sadistic punishment not stokes of the rotan. It was sometimes too painful to think about it. I had wallowed in enough self pity to let the tears come streaming down again.

“Do you have any questions, miss?”

He peered at me across the window. Was that a condescending look? A silent rebuke for catching me zoning out?

“Yes. Er no. Thank you very much.”

Quickly I reached for the bag full of medicines he had pushed to my side of the window. In my haste the bag slipped from my numb fingers and fell to the floor with a plonk.

A few concerned people rose halfway in their seat, “It’s okay,” I mumbled. I went down on my knees, reaching for the assortment of bottles and packets scattered around like a shattered piggy bank. I brushed aside the tails of my bandanna that has became slightly dislodged and trailed across my eyes. I looked up to the window, half expecting him to tower above me, cold mirth in his eyes. The window was blank.

“Come, let me help you.” He was squatting right besides me, picking up the packets of medicines, peering into each packets of white round tablets to check for damages. For the first time, he looked human, a slight softening at the edge of his eyes, a discernable line on his forehead. Like a hypnotizing pendulum, the name tag he wore around his neck swung to and fro, suspended by a thread of silver beads, drawing me to it.

Walter Ong” it read. The name had a familiar ring. Walter Ong... Walter Ong… suddenly the memories came flooding back. There he was, a young kid who once plucked off a stem of Aloe Vera and dabbled the soothing juice to my skinned knee. Surely it was the same Walter, the kid from the next class with the double eyelid and sweet dimples. The silent kid who once gave me a rubble band to play with when I was banished to stand outside the classroom as punishment. The kind kid who helped to carry my lunch box when I was inundated with too many books.

I looked at him, searching vainly, futilely for the slightest sign of recognition from his impassive face. There were none. Like the doctor I was seeing, he had learned to mask stark knowledge well. Or had he really forgotten about me?

“Here you go. Remember to take the pyridoxine tablets as I had told you. 5 tablets in the morning. Then your fingers will be better, okay?” he handed me the reassembled packet. I nodded in a daze, gazing into his eyes. He averted them. I stared at the back of his white coat billowing in the soft zephyr as he walked swiftly back into the door he came from, his footsteps growing fainter and fainter.

I rose and walked towards the exit. Just before I exited into the sun lit path, I can’t resist stealing a final glance. He was back in the window, and he was looking at me. Was that a sad wistful look? Perhaps he did remember. Perhaps he didn’t want his memory of me to be scarred by the bald bag of bones which I am now. Perhaps he wanted to spare me the awkwardness of meeting here. Indeed the oncology clinic was the worst place to meet and reconnect with old friends, especially when you are on different sides.