Friday, September 11, 2009

A Participant's Review of the 1st MIMSC, 2009

"A drug is that substance which, when injected into a rat, will produce a scientific report."

Author Unknown

Yeah, that's pretty much it.

As you all know, I was at the 1st Malaysian International Medical Students' Conference (or if you like acronyms - the MIMSC 2009) a week ago and on Tuesday, I wrote an informal coverage of the whole affair focusing only on the unimportant motes and motleys. Now, if you remember, I promised to pen a slightly more academic review of said conference in that previous post... so surprise, surprise! I'm actually making good on my promise for once! Summon the heavenly choirs and break out the 'lectric guitars, cuz' this one post escaped the oblivion of my all-consuming Draft Folder!

I learned from an inside source that the entire conference was supposed to be held within the confines of the Palace of the Golden Horses, where all the participants were housed, but they hit a bit of a budgetary glitch with that plan, so the scientific presentations, the plenaries and the workshops in toto were conducted in the nearby International Medical University campus instead - which, as of last August, is my sister's school.

Emo Bookstore
IMU has an EMO bookshop. No word yet on whether they have an EMU convenience store or not.

According to the excellent and very helpful conference book they gave every participant, they have scheduled 38 slide-show/oral scientific presentations by contesting medical students on Saturday, divided into three concurrent series. The keywords here are "contesting" and "divided into three concurrent series".

Yes, it was a contest; a rigidly-timed rigmarole arbitrated by three judges of respectable research repute. Now, I may be wrong on this but I feel - and I feel strongly - that 8 minutes of jumping through hoops dictated by scoring schema don't make for very thorough and effective research expositions. One contestant from Saudi Arabia, Aws Saad AlMufleh, lamented to me that he had to prune large chunks of his PowerPoint presentation in order to fit the time-frame, rendering some parts quite unintelligible. As he had exceeded his pittance of 8 minutes of talky and 2 minutes of Q&A, I had to approach him after the session to quiz him further about his study on behavioural risk factors amongst youths, which I found fascinating but oddly truncated. You see, I came to this conference with the express goal of actually imbibing the contents of the the medical students' research papers, not to watch how neatly they can compress it down to less than one-sixth of an hour. I came for the substance, not the form (which is very important to some people, I'm sure). 20 or even 15 minutes would have been a more reasonable and manageable allotment, and we would all be richer for it. Although if I had my way, I'd do away with the whole contest format altogether.

The other BIG problem was that the presentations were "divided into three concurrent series", each taking place in a different auditorium. This meant that a person would have to move between the venues if the talks they wanted to catch were inconveniently peppered across the three threads. Then, there was also the probability of those talks overlapping with one another, forcing that person to choose and attend just one. Two of my colleagues from our delegation had papers to present and they were scheduled back to back in different auditoria. I sympathise with the bloke who had the floor right after our first colleague completed her presentation. I mean, the moment he stepped up to the rostrum, about two dozen people stood up and egressed the room.

Lai Yin Talks
Miss Chow Lai Yin did a speaky on her study of stress levels amongst medical undergrads.

Sanjeev Has a Dream
Mr Sanjeev Kumar Pugazhendhi passionately declared that he has a dream.

We actually missed the first half of Sanjeev's presentation, which is a bummer especially for me since I stayed up till 5:30 am helping the man prep for it - and let's not forget to figure in that one whole night's sleep I've already forfeited at this point to swot for my Community Medicine end-posting exam which was conducted in the morning before I board the college bus to this conference 2-hours away in K-fucking-L. Let us not even talk about how I have to wake up almost immediately at 7:00 am to get myself ready for that morning's agenda.

There was so many presentations I wanted to listen in to but could not. There's that one on the Effect of Shift Work on Psychological Stress, Sleep Pattern and Health of Nurses in Riyadh by a Saudi Arabian delegate which sounded highly applicable to all of us. Then there's that piece on the Influence of Ramadan Fasting on Calory Intake of Housewives in Pulogadung District, Jakarta by our largely southern neighbors. My mate, representing IMU, was going to talk about house dust mites and childhood asthma in a third auditorium but I had to give him a pass in favour of Lai Yin and Sanjeev's slots. And, I'm sure all of us felt like we were missing out on something truly awesome educational when we couldn't make it to an Iranian delegate's show-and-tell on sexual activity during pregnancy among Iranian women.

Ninja Talks
Depicted above may or may not be Ms Auhood Salem (it's quite hard to tell for sure) who bagged one of the runner-up positions for her concise presentation on the ancient art of ninjutsu Prevalence of Smoking Among Physicians at King Khalid University Hospital, Riyadh.

The conference bolsters an atmosphere of scholarship which I find sorely and strangely lacking in the education mills we call universities here in Malaysia. I find that the majority of Malaysian U-goers have very claustrophobic focuses and approaches to their studies; a sort of "if it ain't coming out in the exams, it ain't worth learning" mentality. The very few foreign delegates I have had the pleasure of talking to are a whole breed apart. They aren't merely students, no - they are real academes with a certain esprit de la Renaissance clinging about them. One of the Saudi Arabians surprised me with his in-depth knowledge of Malaysian racial politics and was deeply curious about our unique social structure, asking me many questions pertaining to it. He told me that he greatly admire our harmonious ethnic relations, in spite of the unfortunate circumstances. He said and I quote, "If I am not Saudi, I wish to be Malaysian."

That made me want to tear up, a little. I don't think we notice it very often but for the very first time, in that hall, I saw Malaysian medical students of every ethnicity sitting all hodgepodge together, showing not the slightest inkling that they realise this simple but powerful innate sense of belonging. Then, I noticed that Ezyana was sitting beside me at the time and wondered if I have ever seen her in in the context of her Malay ancestry at all. I don't think I have.

Ah, got a bit sidetracked there, didn't I?

Another member of the Saudi Arabian delegacy, Aws, have recently traveled to Chang'an (present day Xi'an), Beijing and Shanghai and we were exchanging tales and thoughts on Chinese culture, history and monuments. He was in the middle of divulging his thoughts on Communism when the dumb ice-breaking games interrupted us during our first dinner together. I would certainly like to have followed that thread of conversation to conclusion.

Aws and I and Someone Else
Aws and his friend whose name I didn't catch on the night of the banquet.

One of the highest-points of the conference were the plenary sessions when they had genuinely distinguished guests to speak to us. The first of them was Dato' Dr Ronald S. McCoy, a founding member of Malaysian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (MPPNW) and its President and also Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a federation of 83 national physicians' groups, representing 200,000 doctors worldwide and dedicated to the elimination of nuclear weapons. He disserted on the role of a doctor in times of peace and war and on a doctor's responsibilities in political issues ranging from nuclear apocalypse to the environment - the latter of which is a cause I champion and hold quite dear to heart myself. While I disagree with him on nuclear power plants, which is possibly the best energy source we have now to temporarily substitute fossil fuels and to abort the escalation of anthropogenic global warming, I find his doomy speech of doom to be quite an enlightening experience. I was fortunate enough to speak with him privately after his talk (which is to say I cornered him and bugged him with my inanities) and we very briefly discussed the urgent need for clean alternative power apart from nuclear fission, and environmentally-sustainable housing and skycrapers.

"Oh, like the sort designed by "Dato' Dr Kenneth Yeang?" I commented.

He beamed at me and said, "Yes, exactly."

Boy, I feel smart. Never mind that the only reason I know Dr Ken Yeang is 'cause he's Beve's dad.

The 2nd plenary speaker was the equally illustrious Mr Youssouf Mohammad Oomar, an economist, diplomat and accomplished singer (or so I heard) who heads UNICEF Malaysia and had served years in many troubled regions around the word. Also, he is a native of Mauritius and spoke with a rich, pleasant French-tinged voice. His topic of choice was mainly on women and children in conflict zones, and on the Rights of the Child. Now, while he was a less mechanical orator compared to Dr McCoy, I found the content of his speech to be ever so slightly less engrossing. The majority of my colleagues disagree though.

One question though: just where did the organising committee of this conference pull enough clout to summon these heavies for the plenary sessions? I must say that I was well and bloody impressed by it all.

The last plenary was hosted by Dr Mahadevan Deva Tata, while also having quite substantial a list of fame to his name, spoke to us mainly in his capacity as the Area Commander of Port Dickson for St John Ambulance, Malaysia. While possibly the least resplendent and engaging of the 3 plenary speakers (due to his lack of an English or French accent, probably), what he lacked in high ideals and decorated language he made up for with solid practicality - as the subject of his discourse is disaster care and first aid, something medical students are ironically crappy at due to a lack of exposure in their curriculum. The title of his talk, Disaster Care: An Inconvenient Truth, could have been a little less, er, plagiaristic and irrelevant though. Just sayin'.

Fracture Immobilisation
Ezyana, Patrick's twin and co working hard to immobilise some joints or something. Whatever.

The last day of the conference was mainly comprised of the workshops. There's one on suture materials and suturing techniques by the B Braun folks, who are suppliers of healthcare products like - yeap, you guessed it - sutures. For some reason, I thought they made toothbrushes. While I was only taught the simple interrupted stitch back in 2nd year, the workshop covers a wider range of techniques, including the running stitch and the figure 8 stitch, and pontificated generously on the differences between a granny and a reef/square knot (which I wished my instructor had). While the workshop was dead useful, a lone hour simply wasn't enough time for many people to pick up even the basics, and factoring in the limitations of having to share suture sets in duos simply worsened the time constraint. I defy anyone to try and master the one handed tie in just 3 minutes after only watching a 30 seconds long video clip. Go ahead. I'll wait.

There was a total of 4, maybe 5 workshops and everyone was cycled through all the stations mechanically in accordance to a strict schedule. If you thought that the allotted time for the suturing workshop was miserly, you'd be aghast to know that the same amount of time was divided across the remaining 3 workshops; transportation of injured patients, fracture immobilisation, and the chest tube and central IV line insertion combo. Again, all the workshops are quite fun and I believe also, quite essential in augmenting our repertoire of medical know-hows. The problem there wasn't enough bloody time to do any one of them justice!

Ezyana in a very inexpertly tied triangular bandage for head compression by yours truly, the resident inexpert himself.

The penultimate event which preceded the closing ceremony was the so-called Open Forum which carried the modifier of An Integrated Approach Across the Globe to the Panoramic View of Medicine which contained a lot buzzwords like "integrated" and "panoramic view" - which I detest almost as much as I detest words like "proactive", "synergy and "paradigm shift", but that is wholly a matter of personal preferences. I only participated in one segment, which is the one on medical ethics. The short of it is, someone brought up euthanasia, and Aws, in his turn, said that the guidance of religion should be paramount in this issue: the life belongs to God and not to men, so therefore, to perform euthanasia or to receive it is sinful. This was the point I got interested in the forum. What I basically argued is that religion has NO place in medical ethics whatsoever. Zero. Nada. Nil. Zilchville. The whole idea of life being sacred to a deity is purely a theological viewpoint and it should be kept out of medicine the way faith healing and the demonic theory of disease is kept out. I find it ridiculous that there are even laws restricting a person from committing suicide in the face of insurmountable suffering and at the nadir of living quality, considering that not everyone buys into the whole "whoopsie, soul belongs to Guy upstairs" deal. This is basically forcing a religious idea onto everyone. It's unconstitutional and is plain wrong. When your cat or dog is at its life's end and are in pain, you would take it to a vet to be put to sleep, wouldn't you? All I expect is that the same kindness be given to me when my turn comes.

The moderator of the forum responded by saying something like, "I feel very strongly about patient autonomy but we also have to consider everyone's culture and beliefs." Pure 100%, unadulterated, freshly-squeezed, soundbite, straight from the fruit. I don't blame him though. The debate was veering dizzily onto highly controversial terrain and apparently addressing the really hard questions wasn't in the forum's integrated panoramic view of purposes.

Aws spoke a second time, this time narrating how the guidelines of medical ethics of his country was form from a hybrid of teachings from philosophers and religious leaders while skirting the points I made completely. After that, the moderator closed the segment due to time constraints (again) and the forum plodded harmlessly forth on a series of soft topics handled delicately with poofy little baby gloves some other subjects, and I promptly lost interest and fell asleep.

Naturally, I continued the debate with Aws off-mic and he conceded that he simply could not think of a justification for forcing a particular dogma on people who do not believe in the religious institution which birthed said dogma - which was why he did not address my argument publicly. I suddenly found him immensely likeable.

Stunt Police
The Best Damn Bit of MIMSC 2009, if you ask me. Police escorts FTW!

That's pretty much the chief bug of the entire MIMSC wasn't it: a ruinous, detestable poverty of time. The blitz of workshops, the bite-size integrated panoramic forum, the 8-minute-apiece scientific presentations, divided into 3 concurrent series... it pretty much put a bit of a damper on an otherwise monumental medical students' conference (though I admit my experiences are woefully limited on such matters).

Let me just put it out here that I would most certainly sign up for next year's MIMSC if I have the time and chance (and if I'm allowed back, of course). It was certainly one of the most agreeable and enlightening weekends I have ever participated in. Sure, our delegation didn't win any position in the scientific paper presentation contest, but neither did the fellas from, er... Monash! Yeah! Boy, they really sucked, didn't they? We did at least dominated the ice-breaking games and bagged first prize for the best traditional dress pageant.

There you have it: a serious as a heart attack review of the 1st MIMSC, 2009. Now, I shall go crash into my bed hard. I've stayed awake for the past 36 hours and honestly, I worry that I might two brain cells left to rub together tomorrow if I stay up any longer.

Goodnight, readers.

P.S. The bit about Monash sucking is a total joke. If they suck, we suck equally because both delegations didn't win the... Look, if you need me to explain this, you really shouldn't be allowed on the internet at all.

P.P.S. Will correct typos and grammatical errors when I regain consciousness. Right now, I'm seven different kinds of whacked.

Like seriously yours,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I Was at the First International Something

"Primum non nocere"


But if it's cancer, it's "primum succurrere," mkay?

Programme Book
Ooh, glossy.

Last weekend, I attended the 1st annual MIMSC - which is anagrammish for Many Imperious Medicos Self-Congratulating the Malaysian International Medical Students' Conference - at the Palace of the Golden Horses up in Mudtown. I call it "Mimsey" in my mind, and I am hoping that it will catch on. "Mimsk" sounds like someone having a hiccup attack trying to say "memes," amirite or amirong?

I was part of a delegation from my college to the conference and while some of my colleagues were attending with the intention of presenting their scientific research papers, I was pretty much just there to inflate the size of our entourage and to provide comic relief. It cost me RM 250 in all but damn, you wouldn't believe what RM 250 could buy.

Just for starters, it bought two nights at a 5-star hotel,

They take their equine theme pretty seriously.

The room I shared with Sanjeev, who was presenting a research paper.

Now, I'm no ignoramus when it comes to lodgings and paid accommodations having quite a taste for backpacking myself, but my experiences have largely been limited to the shoestring budget variety. I don't demand a lot personally - a clean bed and a clean bathroom are all I ever asked for, but the Palace was... outright palatial in comparison to the kind of places I've roomed in before. It has cable TV, pseudo-antique furniture, a balcony, a giant mirror overlooking a bathtub and a stone washbasin so big you can have a threesome on it. However, it does lack free wireless internet access which is a real buzz kill. If my uncle's budget-class hotel can provide that free of charge, any 5-star outfit which doesn't is just going to appear miserly in comparison.

The view from my room.

In the Baffrum
And here's me in front of that giant mirror I was telling you about. It's for people who like to look at themselves in the nude.

That RM 250 also bought 6 all-you-can-eat buffet meals - two breakfasts at the Palace's Carousel cafe, two catered lunches in the IMU campus, a classy dinner at the Saloma Theatre Restaurant and a banquet in the Palace's Grand Royal Ballroom! Just imagine what sort of havoc all that can wreak on a person's waistline. I have officially decided to participate in this month's Ramadan fasting, and I'm going to abstain from Sahur too but that's only because there's no way I'm waking up that early during my holidays. Oh, did you knoe I'm having my hols now? Well, now you do.

Unfortunately, this is the only photo I got of the nosh I scoffed. I snapped this one because... BACONBACONBACON!

The kicker ceremony and dinner was to be held at the Saloma Theatre Restaurant on Jalan Ampang in the middle of KL and several tour buses were slated to whisk us there. The logistics of carting a few hundred medical students through rush hour KL on a Friday evening in the span of just half an hour was mind-boggling to say the least. Considering that we only departed about six-ish, we'd be lucky if we could make it in time for a midnight snack.

Unless that RM 250 also bought...

Police Escorts
The cavalry has arrived!

I have no idea how they managed to swing this, but somehow, the organisers surprised the lot of us by calling in a couple of police escorts to speed up the transit. It was the highlight of the conference for most of us (in my bus, at least), if the cheers and whoops were any indication. There is simply no way to describe how gloriously awesome it was to travel with so much pomp and ostentatious display of self-importance.

This must be how royalties and ministers feel like daily. No getting stuck in jams. No waiting at intersections when the light is red. Just cruising painlessly through town, blowing raspberries and making fart noises at all the plebeians in cars that you sidelined. Damn, power is intoxicating! I'll 'ave 'nother glass, pleash, guv'nor *hic*.

Parting the Way
Because we are totally worth it.

I wonder how they would feel when they find out that we have set back the entire jam about half an hour just because a bunch of medical students wanted to make it in time for dinner.

And speaking of dinners, here's where we had ours,

Studies have shown that a full moon and the KLCC in the background improves appetite by 50%.

We were seated according to our assigned numbers with the designed purpose of enforced mingling between the foreign and local delegates (if you remember, it's an international affair after all). I met a couple of very interesting Saudi Arabian characters but I shall not delve into the details of our conversations just yet. I'm relegating that and more to the weightier, slightly more academic writeup I plan to pen about the conference after this one (a review of sorts, if you like). For now, let us focus on the fluff.

The dinner spread was myriad and plentiful, and the entertainment was thoroughly capital. I particularly enjoyed the organising chairman's speech. He seem to have quite a bit of problem distinguishing between R's and L's in his pronunciation, and the effect was balls out, laugh-out-loud funny, particularly this little gem;

"It is a preasure having all of you here..."

And considering the subtitle for the theme of our conference, the word "confrict" pops up hilariously often too. One of the organising committee member at my table had to ask me if I was choking on my bubur lambuk. I shared the joke, naturally, and pretty soon, a small number of people in the audience had to stifle their laughter every time "doctors in confrict" and "confricts alound the world" come up. I directed so much of my attention to anticipating his subsequent slip ups that large portions of his waffling just flew over my head whenever he addressed the assemblage. I don't think I missed much though. Most of these sort of speeches tend to be meaningless soundbites anyway.

They also presented a disaster-themed slide-show to us while we sup, one comprising of pictures of natural calamities and human suffering, which are precisely what we need to look at to help our buffet dinner go down well. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on grammatical conventions (and Jeebus helps me, I make more than my fair share of them daily) but if I was able to spot them in that slide-show, they must have been glaringly bad. Still, they were good for a hoot. And why was the suffering-filled presentation set to an incongruously soothing soundtrack? Talk about mood dissonance.

The ice-breaking game that night was a hybrid entity partway between speed-dating (apparently) and Simon Says, which is refreshingly juvenile for such a stuffy sort of conference. The problem is, it went on for far too long - and one game made the hall smell of shoes.

Sanjeev and I
Sanjeev and I at the banquet on the final night.

The "Banquet Dinner" (I'm sure that's redundant) which was held in the Palace of the Golden Horses' Grand Royal Ballroom was sedately climactic, but was an interesting and colourful affair throughout, which I understand to be a very hard thing to accomplish. There was a traditional-themed dress code but everyone knows how I feel about wearing weird period-drama clothes. If I have my way, I'd do away with the very concept of dress codes and conventions.

By the way, I'm sure I am speaking for everyone when I say that the opening act for the banquet was stretched on for far too long. There's only so much a lion dance troupe can do besides busting eardrums when they aren't going to perform any real acrobatics.

Lion Dance
"Now for my pièce de résistance, I shall stick my head into this papier-mâché lion's jaw!"

The performance troupe from the Malaysian Tourism Board was better but mostly, they were just adequate. The short blowpipe demonstration was especially embarrassing - I mean, missing 2 out of 4 balloons from a distance of about ONE FUCKING METRE away? Well, I'm no blowpipe expert but don't people usually make sure that they are good at something first before they trot their stuff out for everyone to see? Who auditioned these clowns?


Then there's that violin recital by one of the members of the organising committee. To put it in euphemistic terms, her talent with the violin was massively outclassed by her other God-given gifts. This is the absolute last thing I'm going to say on this subject. Another committee member performed a traditional Indian dance which would certainly have been impressive to me had I not previously spent two and a half years in India, watching Bollywood-worthy boogies every other night till I felt like hurling.

By and large, the most memorable and exciting performance of the night was the peacock dance,

Flaming Queen
"Hose me down, quick! I'm FLAMING!"

Of course, what I truly enjoyed about it is the subtext - only male peafowls possess the distinctively flamboyant plumage we're all familiar with. If the peacock isn't already the universal symbol for transvestism worldwide, well, it should be! It certainly helped that the dancer himself was highly accomplished at expressing emotions through fluid facial and body cues.

The thing which really got everyone roused was the best traditional dress pageant, and two of our colleagues were selected to compete. Unfortunately, I only managed to photograph just one of them,

Nickson in the golden kurta he made in India.

Our other representative was Torng Lei (which means "slaughter you" in Cantonese, by the way). She wore a sweet, pink Nyonya kebaya that night and actually won. It was quite a "wow" moment for me because... just take a gander at the kind of competition she was up against,

Magdelena from Poland. Her dress is white, signifying that she's *winkwink* unmarried.

Aws in a an Arabic thawb and what I think is a keffiyeh on his head. He was explaining to us how the headdress signifies a person's honour and what he would do when he is elected President of the World (honestly).

Yukata Girl
Ping Ping from IMU in a yukata.

The night was wrapped up with a few more speeches and more bouts of self-congratulations endemic in these kind of events, and the chairman (unsuccessfully) tried to coax the floor into participating in a bit of ballroom dancing - by asking Magdalena to dance on stage, much to the murderous chagrin and envy of every male in the hall. I wanted to ask one of the ladies in ninja outfits burqas if I could have a little jig with them, but for the sake of international relations and world peace, I ultimately decided that it was a very bad idea indeed.

Alright, there you go; a little primer on what I was up between last Friday and last Sunday. If you're looking for a more serious and scholastic review of the 2009 MIMSC Mimsey - which I promise you I shall write in a day or two - stay tuned to this channel. Now, in case anyone finds my portrayal of the conference thus far to be unfairly negative, let me just say that the whole event was one of the most enjoyable weekends I have spent this entire year. Kudos all round to the Society of MMA Medical Students and the organising committee!

Over and out.

Your friendly neighborhood medical student,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Guess What I Did this Weekend?

Here's a hint: It involves the privilege of having police escorts and zipping across a Friday 6:00 pm rush hour KL from the Palace of the Golden Horses to KLCC in less than 15 minutes.

I am a VIP
"Shove off, pissants. Very important folks coming through!"

Full disclosure after I recuperate. It was one fucking AWESOME weekend, is what it was.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Baileys and Love

"What matters to you, doesn't matter, matter to me
What matters to me, doesn't matter, matter to you
What matters to you, doesn't matter, matter to them
What matters to them, doesn't change anything."

First Train Home (2009) by Imogen Heap

Baileys and Love

In retrospect, it wasn't the smartest thing to do - traveling up to Mudtown to pick up Phoebster and bringing her down to Malacca - especially since on the following Monday, I have a midterm Surgery paper to slay. But on the other hand, I haven't seen Phoebs since March. I won't say I missed her, but that's only because it's so damn clichéd. I annoy myself every time I say it. I was hoping that she already knew how much I wanted to see her anyway. My crossing the state line four times in 4 days ought to have clued her in.

I brought Phoebs to a family dinner, but that's because Phoebs was here and I thought that it's only proper to introduce her. Normally, you can't corral me to one without either a gun or copious quantities of rohypnol. Family situations are my kryptonite.

This was the first time I brought a my girlfriend to meet the family.

Anyhoo, I can't report whether the meet was a success or not. I was listening to a Slashfilm podcast I recorded on my mp3 player the entire time and was laughing into my soup by myself at wholly inappropriate moments. "We can all hear you snort in laughter, you know," Phoebs whispered repeatedly to me, quite aghast.

We had all of 3 days together, which was the maximum number of days Phoebs mom was comfortable with leaving her daughter with me without any supervision whatsoever and it certainly didn't help that I have lecture classes to attend the entire time she was here. Phoebs barely got to visit half the places I wanted to bring her to - not to mention all the awesome Malaccan nosh that she didn't have time to sample.

She was quite determined not to like Malaccan food though, because I kept telling her how much KL food sucks compared to the culinary masterpieces we eat daily down here. Also, she pouted over the fact that I've brought my ex to most of the eating places in town before - you know how girls are about wanting to be the first person to do anything with their boyfriends, right? A stupid sentiment if you ask me; my ex was like that about my other ex too. I promptly pointed out to Phoebs that my previous girlfriend also breathed air, drank water and liked that girlie-man Wang Lee Hom, and that she should give all those up too. What's the right response to give your girlfriend when she's all pissy about silly stuff like this anyway?

In the end, Phoebs decided that she likes every single restaurant I took her to after all. I remember her sneering at the idea of Malacca's awesome baba cendol before coming to visit, saying that she ate cendol in KL before and that she won't want any in Malacca - but I made her eat it anyway. A day after she got back to KL, she started pining for it. She's still pining for it now.

Tunnel and Phoebe
Phoebs in a small little alleyway off Jonker Street leading to some teahouse. Some hairdresser mangled her fringe so she had it pinned up. I do not like her fringe pinned up. And I hate her Crocs.

Now even though it was just 3 days, it was a really exhausting 3 days. It comes from wanting to do too many things in much too short a time frame. By the end of it, I wasn't even sure I could survive the long night drive back up to KL to return Phoebs to her mom - but evidently, I did. Then, after spending a night there, I came back down the next night with the prospect of a big Surgery paper glowering down at me from its Monday perch. I didn't even have time to recuperate. With only Sunday left, I couldn't possibly bone up enough on surgical factoids to do very well, if I could even pass at all. I guess I should have spent more time with my Bailey and Love's Short Practice of Surgery textbook instead of sipping glasses of Baileys and making out. Haha, bet you thought I was going to say "making love", didn't you? *ba-dum-tush!*

Yesterday was Phoebe's birthday, the second one which I didn't get to celebrate with her ever since we got together - she had to return to India last Sunday. It always seem to me that the biggest enemy of our relationship isn't the distance but rather the beastly timing of everything.

Still, I made sure that Phoebe wouldn't leave without her birthday present,

Bday Pressie
I know that the quality of this picture is unreasonably iffy - blame Phoebs' camera-phone!

It's an external hard disk drive I picked up at the recent PC Fair! Filled with movies, songs, TV shows, comics, mangas, PDF novels and other assorted goodies! There's got to be about a whole year's worth of entertainment in there if you go through all of them one by one without sleep. It took me about a week to amass the lot from my own hard drive, my friends' media collections, and the hostel's sharing network - and it's just about the only gift I have ever given anyone with such a high degree of surety that the person receiving it would love it (and I was right, naturally). Phoebs' college internet connection has an Orwellian screening system which completely blocks any site that's fun and through the entire previous semester, I had to squeeze songs to her through her minuscule bandwidth one measly MP3 file at a time using MSN Messenger. Half the time, the sending process will fail midway. I'm sure if hell exists, one of its punishment would be doing this for eternity - sending MP3 files to the folks in heaven because as we all know, hell gets all the best musicians. Heaven only has Elgar and Liszt.

I wrote the words (yes, they are) on the bottom side of the drive using a silver metallic-ink marker, and unfortunately, I did it in a bit of a rush so it didn't look as good as planned. I was worried that the writings would melt when the thing heats up but so far, they are holding up pretty good.

I have an external hard disk drive which is the twin of Phoebs', sans the silver scribbles. Now, I'm not going to say that it's a like a couple T-shirts or matching rings sort of thing because it's so damn corny and schmaltzy. I mean, I couldn't stop myself from bursting in laughter when I practiced saying. "Mine is exactly like yours - we are sharing the exact same memories" in front of a mirror. And no, I absolutely did not consider any juvenile lines about plugging hard drives into USP's - I mean, USB's - either.

Happy 22, babe. You're positively elderly now.

The boyfriend,
k0k s3n w4i