Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Alphabet Tag

My blog buddy Marj sent me my first meme of the year, and I figured I'd take a break from contemplating my status as a figurative "dumb blond" by playing along.

(Who am I kidding? I love doing this!)

So... here's the ABC of everything about me.

A. Attached or single?
Do I even have to answer this question?

B. Best friend?
Isa, who became my friend in college, and is the most collected, together, and serene person I know. She's the perfect foil to my scatter-brained, flustered, hyper self. I miss her heaps.

C. Cake or pie?
Cake! Cheesecake, mudcake, shortcake...

D. Day of choice?
A perfect day on a perfect beach.

E. Essential item?
My iPod. Mobile phones are a dime a dozen, but I'd be devastated if I lost my iPod!

F. Favorite color?
I love blue, but I find my closet is currently stocked with different shades of pink. How did that happen?

G. Gummy bears or worms?
Gummy bears!

H. Hometown?

I. Favorite indulgence?
A full body massage at In Sense spa (which I haven't had since I got here!)

J. January or July?
January. July always brings nasty weather - whether it's in Manila or Perth.

K. Kids?
Hope so!

L. Life isn’t complete without?
Quality alone time.

M. Marriage date?
I stopped giving myself a deadline years ago!

N. Number of magazine subscriptions?

O. Orange or apple?

P. Phobias?
I don't like heights.

Q. Quotes?
Don't really have one.

R. Reasons to smile?
There are heaps! It's just a matter of looking for them. :)

S. Season of choice?
Fall, in a place where the leaves turn. I love the colors of autumn!

T. Tag 5 people -
Raymond, Sonny, Jean, Pepper, and Marlowe

U. Unknown fact about me?
I can drink half of a 750ml bottle of Absolut Vodka and still be (somewhat) lucid by the end of the night.

V. Vegetable?
Sun-dried tomatoes (yes, I know it's technically a fruit, but humor me.)

W. Worst habit?
Jeez, I have to pick one? They're all terrible! Erm... nail biting to the point of bleeding. (Gross, I know...)

X. X-ray or ultrasound?

Y. Your favorite food(s)?
Dessert. Any kind. To my detriment.

Z. Zodiac sign
Taurus (and I'm a textbook one).

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Disaster Queen Strikes Again

It's the last day of my long weekend, but, despite not having gone off somewhere far away as originally planned, I've had a fairly good one. Apart from the fact that I almost got hopelessly stuck in a beachside city of Rockingham last Friday with only twenty cents to my name after my car keys disappeared.

How could she be so stupid?, you must be asking yourself with a shake of your head. Believe me, I asked the same of myself several times the next few hours that followed.

The day started out pretty great - I'd managed to drive all the way to Freo to have lunch with a friend of mine who works there (her treat, which is always a good thing) and, as part of my resolution to use my long weekend right, I decided to go further afield to somewhere I'd never been before, let alone driven to. As I drove along Stock Road, veering towards the southern beaches, I even flirted with the idea of going as far as Mandurah - which is almost 80 kilometers out of Perth - but settled for Rockingham, which is just around 50 kilometers out.

As soon as I saw the almost swimming pool calmness of the turquoise waters and the golden sands from the foreshore, I was in love.

Much as I love the beautiful Aussie beaches, this was the first one I'd seen that had absolutely no surf. Which is a god-send for me because, while I know how to swim, I don't consider myself a strong enough swimmer to really spend too much time in the rough and ready waters of the beaches to the north. So, understandably, I completely abandoned my plans for sight-seeing and photo-ops for a chance to hit the beach instead.

I had a fun couple of hours just floundering alone around in the clear, calm water and doing a bit of baking in the sun (what's summer without a bathing suit tanline?). I had decided on a run along the foreshore to top off my idyllic summer day, having brought both my beach gear and running gear (one of the best things about having a car is that you can bring EVERYTHING with you), so I got out of the water with just enough time to spare for a shower, a run, and still be on my way home before dark. After walking in ignorant bliss to my car to get my running gear, I was completely shell-shocked to find that MY CAR KEY WAS NOT ON ME AT ALL.

So there I was, the solo traveler wannabe, staring helplessly at my locked car - where my handbag and wallet and all my money were - dripping with sea water from my afternoon frolic in the sun and close to tears. I could have sworn I had taken my car key with me when I changed into my bathing suit. But after having gone through each item inside my beach tote and laying them on the hood of my car one by one, I had to face the fact that IT WAS GONE.

In a stunned daze, I went to the shower rooms to change back into my street clothes to give myself time to regroup and figure out what to do. All my money was in the car, so I couldn't take public transport to the house (a two hour trip one way at least!) to get my spare key. There was only one way to get out of the scrape - call for help. Thankfully, I had the foresight to have my mobile phone with me, and promptly rang one of my co-residents the only person with a car who lives in my suburb.

Just my luck - he was on duty until 11 pm. Of course it was out of the question for me to wait for him until 11pm - this being Perth, all establishments close at 9pm at the latest. So we hatched a plan for me to get a cab back to Armadale, which he would pay for when I got there since I had no money on me, then drive back to Rockingham after his shift with my spare key so I could take my car home.

When my other Pinoy friends caught wind of the trouble I was in, they vetoed the plan and proposed an alternative - for them to pick me up instead. They would go to my house (at least 18 kilometers from where they lived) to get my spare key then drive the rest of the way to Rockingham (another 30 to 40 kms away). And they wouldn't take no for an answer.

It was so embarrassing to have to be rescued. Nonetheless, I was just so glad that I was near enough for them to be able to rescue me!

As a mortifying postscript to an already mortifying travel disaster, I found my car keys the next day under the piles of stuff inside my trunk. It must have fallen from my pocket or I must have tossed it in withe rest of my stuff when I was so excitedly preparing for my swim. OH MY GOD.

Er... Is this someone who thinks she can actually go on a solo holiday somewhere in the woop-woops? Go ahead, you can say it. Claire is a disaster area. I must be out of my fricking mind to even consider it!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Tuesday Morning

(WARNING: When I say random, I mean random. Don't throw shoes at me when you get to the end of this and think, "And what exactly was the point of all that?")

It's been a while since I last struck up a conversation with you guys.

Not really because there hasn't been much to talk about, but more because since I no longer share quite as anonymously as I used to, I've had to be a bit careful about giving into my verbal diarrhea and emotional exhibitionism. There are just some things that I'm not quite as comfortable sharing with people who know me - or maybe it would be more appropriate to say, people who think they know me.

So why am I doing in front of my laptop instead of using this extra morning time (because I set my alarm too early) to blow-dry my hair?

Because I can't help these occasional descents into random babbling, that's why. Even when the only audience is my keyboard.

I've been toying around with the idea of taking up pole dancing. Seriously! It's supposed to be a great upper body and core work out and heaps of fun - and I just may be light enough these days to actually lift my body weight on a pole without pulling my arms from out of their sockets. Plus, and more importantly, it's something I would never do back home - something which is fast becoming my battle cry these days.

I have no illusions about my dancing ability - as one of my friends put it, I have the grace of a pregnant elephant. But it sounds like fun. And while dancing is probably at the bottom of the barrel as far as my skills go, I actually love doing it especially when no one else is watching. Or at least no one who knows me (and knows I can't dance) is watching. So what better place to learn to pole dance but in this city where no one knows me, in a country where one of the prevailing philosophies is, "live and let live?"

Obviously, it's really self-consciousness that's a curse. And for some reason - I don't really have a lot of time to do actual research on this right now, but I'm sure it's written down somewhere - Filipinos seem to have an overdeveloped sense of "what-will-people-think-itis." Probably because, as a people, we Filipinos have no qualms scrutinizing the lives of perfect strangers and indulging in thoughts along the lines of, "what-in-the-world-are-they-thinking-doing-that-itis!"

Which is why most of us just sit in the sidelines and watch the brave, crazy people doing their thing and having the time of their lives - not really caring that they look funny doing so. And why most of us may laugh and pretend to be appalled by what we see, but inside, we're really just that little bit envious and wishing we had the guts to do that, too.

I'm currently reading a self-published booklet of thoughts written by a 36 year old man who is terminally ill with ALS - like Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie. He's the very good friend of one of the people I share a house with, and it's the copy that he gave her that I'm reading. He's been battling with the disease for two years now, and, suffice it to say, he hasn't been winning. Which is why he's decided to distill his take on the meaning of life into that little booklet.

It's been interesting reading so far. At times he gets very abstract and a bit difficult to understand - or maybe that's because I was plodding though some parts at two in the morning - but it's a very real reminder of how short and how precious life is coming from someone who knows that his time may soon be up.

One of the things he cites is how toddlers - who are almost as mobile as us but still not fully verbal - live their lives so differently and so naturally compared to how we live them as adults, trapped in all our abstractions. As he puts it, toddlers' only pre-conditioned physiologic motivations are to QUESTION, MOVE, EXPLORE, CREATE, RELATE, and feel JOY.

"Joy is the natural outcome and quality of the organism, expressing and doing what it desires to unimpeded by external guilt or shame."

Basically, he points out that with all our complicated, adult verbal views and self-conceptions, we've basically managed to limit ourselves from drawing on those basic motivations and finding joy - or basically, living life.

And he poses some interesting questions as well.

"No matter what you do, how much you save, who you know, where you go, what you believe - you're going to cease to exist, always sooner than you think. Do you do what you do because you assume (it will) make you live longer? Or do you live knowing your life is on loan, and the only thing that matters is your daily experience of your life?"

As I said, interesting stuff.

All that being said, I hope that the pole dancing school will get back to me on the whether we can get around class schedule issues that conflict with my weird roster. And if it doesn't? I'm sure I'll find something else.

Okay - off to work now!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Strange Things I Know to Be True

One of my patients passed away at work today.

As a doctor, even one who has only been in the practice of medicine for going on a decade (including medical school), I'm definitely no stranger to death anymore. But the circumstances around his passing reminded me of a few strange but common occurrences related to dying that I've witnessed over the years.

Here's the story: my patient was an 85 year old, slightly demented and not for resuscitation, who had recently had a heart attack. He had been doing poorly for a few days, but seemed to be turning the corner clinically.

But by way of most cardiac patients, after having a restful night, he suddenly just stopped breathing and had no audible heart rate - his heart probably went into an arrhythmia. While we were placing the cardiac monitor leads on him, he spontaneously started breathing again. Given the length of time he was out, we figured he wouldn't wake up. We told his niece to let his family know that the prognosis wasn't good, and she had already phoned most of his relatives, who would be coming in shortly.

The staff and I left the room to give his family private time and so I could update my consultant about what was going on. When my consultant came a few minutes later, we came into his room and saw that while he was awake, we all got the feeling that he would not last long. Sure enough, he passed on within the next two hours - after all of his relatives in the area had come in to see him and say goodbye.

Which leads me to the first strange thing I know to be true: dying people can actually "hold on" in order to wait for certain people who they want to see before they die.

One more strange thing I know to be true - very sick patients, most often the terminal ones, have a final surge of strength or a "good day" shortly before they slip away. Sometimes we get lulled into thinking that these patients are clinically improving, only to be stunned the next morning to find out that they've passed on in the night.

It is also possible to die of a broken heart. And I don't mean that in a physiologic sense. Have you ever tried looking at old gravestones and noted how close apart old couples die one after another? It's probably because after one passes, the one left behind loses the will to live. I had a 80 year old patient recently who was quite well medically and good functionally until his wife died. After that, he was in an out of hospital, and he died of pneumonia six months after she did despite all our medical efforts. Quite simply, he had lost the will to live.

Non-medical people will find the concept difficult to understand, but health professionals - doctors, nurses, carers - can actually spot when a patient is on his or her way out. It comes from experience, of course, but we can tell. But one more weird thing my co-residents and I have noticed in our dying but awake patients - when they ask for water, death always comes close behind. Seriously. I don't know how true that is in other medical people's experience, but it's certainly been true to my and my co-residents' experience.

And you know the one about the dying calling out for people who have died or saying that they see people who have died calling for them? That one happens pretty often, too.

Sorry for the morbid turn. It's just amazing to be reminded that there are so many things that can't really be explained by logic or science but actually occur in the world.

Do any of the other medical people in the house have any other weird observations and anecdotes to add? Oh, there's still that one about what happens to people (specially psych patients) when it's a full moon... but that's another story.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Prices Based on Twin Share

a panorama of Busselton Beach (2 hours out of Perth) by Dave Curtis

My itchy feet have been acting up again, and they, along with the unexpected gift of 4 days off coming up on my roster, have turned my thoughts to travel dreaming once more. After all, while I was in residency I couldn't stop complaining about how I never had enough time from the hospital to travel - so what kind of crazy fool would I be to pass up this opportunity?

Along those lines, I've put my OC skills to researching flight costs, bus fares, and accommodation costs - a painful reminder of the harsh reality that going places costs a pretty penny. Struggling to keep my penny-pinching side from screaming me into abandoning the idea completely, I determinedly plodded on, only to run smack-dab into another frustrating stumbling block.

In my quest to plan my first-ever solo holiday, I have come to discover that the travel industry is not at all kind to single wanderers. All the bargain holiday packages come with the following clause attached, "Prices quoted based on twin sharing."

It's almost enough to tear a single girl's hair out in frustration.

I've been having an inner debate on whether or not it would be a good idea to fly over east to Melbourne (where I've been several times before) to spend a few days with the relatives, versus traveling by myself to somewhere in the vast and beautiful state of Western Australia which I've never seen before.

Option A would definitely cost me less and be the safer and wiser choice - but where would be the adventure in that? I don't deny I'd enjoy seeing family again after six months of being totally cut off. But taking a plane ride or a long-haul bus ride to visit relatives at some far-away destination is definitely not the same as planning on a whole vacation - even a short one - entirely on my own.

On the other hand, every single girl should have at least one solo holiday under her belt. Despite my best intentions, I've never actually gone on a holiday solo. After proving I can be independent after my life-altering move to Perth, I figure it's high time I smashed through my self-imposed limits of needing a travel companion to indulge my insatiable wanderlust. And I figure there's no better time to do it but now.

Now if only the logistics would fall into place.

I still haven't booked where to go - a must given that it's the height of summer here and school holidays are in full swing - because I haven't quite made up my mind where to take my itchy feet. I'd love to drive my car over because in Australia a car is an absolute necessity when exploring the overwhelmingly huge countryside, but I'm not sure I'm quite ready for that yet. I can always take a bus from here to the country towns, but I won't have wheels to get from one attraction to another when I get there.

Then there's that irritating, totally discriminatory twin-share rate.

Obviously, at this point, I'm still in the process of trying to figure things out. I just know that one those four days off, I will not be in Perth and be off having an adventure somewhere - on my first-ever solo travel holiday. I'm open to suggestions... does anyone have any?
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Friday, January 09, 2009

Happiness is a Plate of Tocino

Tocino by Jepster

One of the things I miss most about home is being able to eat Pinoy food.

I do get samplings of it every now and then during get-togethers with my fellow ex-pat friends, but Filipino feasts are few and far in between. I do know how to cook traditional Pinoy meals, but for reasons I've already explained before, I really, really hate cooking for one. And I'm also not very good at improvising in the kitchen with western ingredients.

But now, thanks to my ex-pat friends (and this is just one more reason why it's a MUST to have fellow Pinoy friends abroad) and by virtue of having my own car, it's no longer a pipe dream to have a taste of home.

A few weeks ago, my friend Michelle took me to an Asian grocery store in a suburb about a 30 minute drive from where I live. It was well worth the drive as I finally got to stock up on my favorite Pinoy comfort foods - Barrio Fiesta bagoong, preserved green mangoes, dried squid, Mang Tomas lechon sauce, and Lucky Me instant pancit canton, just to name a few. And guess what else? Tocino mix!

Tocino has always been my favorite all-day breakfast food - probably in part because of my sweet tooth. Tocino plus a serving of garlic rice and one fried egg with atsara or vinegar on the side is my idea of a great Pinoy meal. It was too hard to resist flirting with the possibility of being able to eat it again - so I bought myself a pack, a half kilo of thinly sliced pork tenderloin, and decided to experiment.

Not that it takes a lot of culinary skill to dump pork in a container, mix in the sugar-food-coloring-and-nitrite concoction, and let it sit overnight to let the pork cure. But I'd tried the same with chicken fillets a few weeks before, and the results were not exactly great, so I was really putting a lot on faith that my new experiment would turn out well.

After an overnight soak, in just fifteen minutes cooking time, I had my picture-perfect pork tocino, which I paired with my trusty microwaved steamed rice. (Unfortunately, I was too hungry and excited to take actually pictures for my blog and just dug in.) And it tasted just like what we had back home. Yes, success!

Next time, I'm definitely splurging calories on the garlic rice and the fried egg. If any of you happen to have family living in Perth who know where to get good atsara to go with my tocino, please let me know - you will be in my "God-bless-you" list for the rest of my life.

Hmmm, living down here has certainly expanded my definition of "life's little joys." At the moment, a plate of home made tocino happens to be one of them.
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Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year Blues

I've been a bit uninspired blogging-wise over the past few days... I think the grime of having worked through the Christmas holidays is still upon me and has just been a bit tough to wash off, even after a few visits to my favorite recovery room.

I've been thinking of drastic solutions to this funk I'm currently in. I was planning on taking a solo trip out of town to fill up a 3 day weekend I have coming up at the end of the month, but my plans are all up in the air at the moment due to accommodation and transportation issues.

It would be nice to fly off somewhere - but the air fare will cost me at least half the cost of a new dSLR or a whole 120G iPod... not quite worth it for just a 3 day weekend. I thought of going to Rottnest Island, off the Perth coast, by ferry - but it's high season, so there's no room to be had. I'm currently looking at the possibility of going to a couple of resort towns down south by bus, but it might not be a great idea since it will be hard to get to the scenic spots around them without my own car. And I'm not quite ready to drive that far and that fast by myself.

Retail therapy sounds like a nice second-line remedy, but I've been getting myself some post-Christmas bargains by way of jeans and bathing suits - and it's only been a temporary fix. Maybe it's time for me to buy a new toy - not that I can really afford it right now with my car rego and my visa renewal costs coming up but desperate times and all that.

It's a toss up between a dSLR (I'm thinking a Nikon D60 with a VR twin kit) which is more expensive and a risk as I don't know how serious I am about photography; or a new iPod (120G) which is cheaper and will definitely more utilized but my trusty old iPod is still holding on and still working quite well.

I'm trying to clamp down on my miserly side and just jump into a purchase and enjoy the fruits of my holiday labors, but, as all my good friends will attest, I am one of the most indecisive people to go shopping with. I will chew a choice to death until the bargain eventually gets away from me. Most of my major purchases have been made under the impetus of both necessity and some serious prodding by whoever I was shopping with at the time. If I were by myself, I'd spend weeks just looking and looking and LOOKING and eventually end up not buying anything.

So, what do you guys think? Should I go for it, or just save my money? Will a new toy manage to cure my new year blues? The solo holiday is still on the table, but a new toy to stand in as a date may not be a very bad idea...

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