"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." ~ Jawaharal Nehru

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The unplanned hiatus...

Boy oh boy... Time really flies. I just realised it's been more than half a year since I last blogged. Time to blow off that dust layer and shake off the cobwebs and get this blog site active again.

Ok. Where should I start? Still have so much fodder from my time in Sarawak. Oh, you didn't know? Finally got the transfer to come back to the Peninsula. Anyway, maybe a general update of what's been keeping me busy these few months should get the ball rolling.

1. Transfer back to West Malaysia.

As most of you know, the stint to East Malaysia was meant to be for 6 months. 6 months, get gazetted then leave. Most of my fellow FMS's leave their family back at home, go to either Sabah or Sarawak as part of the "Saya yang mengikut perintah" pledge we all made and come home after 6 months. In fact, during my stint in Song, I have worked with 3 different FMS's in Kapit! (Tells you how long I've been there!) However, things were not that simple for me. Yes, I did send in my transfer letter after 3 months but somehow my plans to come back always fell thru ie. not being offered the place of my choice or have that coveted place just slip from my tightly fisted grasp due to factors beyond my control. So 6 months became 1 year, and 1 year got extended till the beginning of 2014. In retrospect, 6 months was way too short for anything to get done. Just as you get a hang of things, it's time for you to go home. The extended period in the 'wilderness' not only allowed me to get a grasp of rural medicine but also gave me a profound respect for healthcare staff working under such circumstances. Furthermore, with the extended duration I was able to see my projects to completion and push for better services, infrastructure and equipment in KK Song. You know, that smug look after accomplishing something significant... that must have been plastered on my face after finally getting the portable ventilator for on-water transfers. Getting it involved a season of letter writing, personal appeals and repeated phone calls but finally there is fruit from all that labour! Even managed to put it to action twice before I left!

Training in progress

I was eager to leave Song but when the time finally arrived, I left with a heavy heart. A heavy heart cause I was leaving family. Saying goodbye's isn't easy, what more if you're bidding adieu to loved ones. The clinic staff, especially the older ladies openly embraced me as their daughter (from another mother). Knowing I wasn't a fantastic cook, I would be invited over to their homes on weekends for dinner. I was buddies with the younger nurses, MA, pharmacy aides & physiotherapist. I also had an extended family in the form of my brothers & sisters in church. Who would have imagined fireworks (no, not that puny stick variety but a whole 1x1 foot box of China-made pyrotechnic awesomeness!) to light up my farewell party. Couldn't help but have mixed tears of joy and happiness well up!

2. I climbed Mt Kinabalu... again!

Climbing Mt Kinabalu for a 2nd time was one of my to do's in my 40-bucket list. So when MMA-SCHOMOS organised a charity climb, I jumped at the chance. A prerequisite for the climb was a donation collection and thank you everyone who contributed to my MMA-SCHOMOS Climbathon - Snapshots of Sarawak campaign. Your generosity even saw me win a prize as 1 of the top 3 collectors.

Back to the climb. I knew it wouldn't be that easy this time - factor in age and my lack of training. I climbed Mt K 7 years ago with  Pita. We took the Mesilau trail which was longer but more gradual. This time however, we were ascending and descending via Timpohon. This is 1 huge badass collection of steps! The last time, Pita and I climbed Gunung Angsi & Bukit Gasing as part of training. I would also do stairs - 11 flights of them at a local apartment complex. Training wise, I was reduced to climbing KK Song's 4-storey apartment complex, walking the hilly roads to Sg Nyimoh and weekend trips to Sibu to join a friend at Bukit Aup, a recreational park with a couple of hills connected by steps. Anyway, I still made it to the summit! With some help from my porter and also some IM Volataren (Malaysia's highest IM shot, perhaps?). I will dedicate a blog post specifically for the climb later.

When climbing mountains, I believe determination & will power is equally as important as physical strength. As they say - YOU DON"T CONQUER A MOUNTAIN, YOU CONQUER YOURSELF!

3. Presenting at WONCA

Had the honor of presenting at WONCA 2014 in Kuching. WONCA stands for World Organization of Family Doctors and this year Kuching had the privilege of hosting the Asia Pacific conference in the surprisingly well-appropriated Borneo Convention Centre.

I was part of the Rural Health symposium and spoke about reproductive health issues among indigenous women in Sarawak.

In case you're wondering, Indu is the Iban word for female. 

Joining me in this symposium were my fellow FMS colleagues from Sarawak. Dr Zul the state director started with an overview of healthcare in Sarawak, Dr Maurice gave an insight on the inspiring leprosy outreach work among the Penans whereas Dr Kong talked about overcoming challenges among Sarawak's 'Islands'. I wore beads presented to me by the 'indu' of Song as a tribute to them during my session.

It was also a time of fellowship as I caught up with ex-colleagues in Sarawak (I was already posted back to Peninsula then) and those who I've not seen in ages from other parts of Malaysia. Also managed to traipse along some familiar food trails in Kuching looking for my favourite kolok mee, chicken rice, Dayak food and also coffee! Who says East Malaysia doesn't have good food!

4. Busy writing

If you're busy writing, why isn't the blog updated?

Unfortunately for you (and fortunately for me!), the sort of writing I'm doing is academic writing. Something about seeing my name in print gives me a buzz. However, academic writing takes lotsa time and effort. First is cracking my brains for a topic or study. Then comes the hours of literature review - finding full text articles online, sieving through the relevant one before actually reading the 4-9 page article. Once the study is planned and carried out, then there's data cleaning, manipulation and making sense of all the results. Finally the writing portion. Every submission you make requires a specific writing format. If you are lucky and the manuscript gets accepted, then there's revisions to do. If not, back to the drawing board.

I have been working on 3 different manuscripts. Thank God the first one has already been published. The other 2 should be out in the later half of the year.

5. Travel

All work and no play makes me a very dull girl.

Pits and I have this sort of thingy where we try to blow out birthday candles in different parts of the world and in the craziest places. I once blew out candles in a restaurant where I had to get across a crocodile pit to get to the toilet. Not for the drunk or faint hearted!

This year we went to West Sumatera.

Sayu mata memandang

Most people head to Padang and Bukit Tinggi for the shopping but Pits and I headed instead to Harau for the amazing valley of waterfalls and Maninjau for the liquid crystal swimming lake! Also went off to a lone coconut island for some diving!

My very own island for 3 whole days

Who could ever imagine a place so spectacular just a 45 mins plane ride away?

What can I say - Travel... a consolation for turning a year older! Hahaha!

6. The next BIG thing

This last thing has been keeping me busy since I came back. There's still things to chase and stuff for me to do. What was once a lofty, whimsical dream of mine is slowly taking a physical and attainable form. Some of you are already privy to this information and I would be grateful if you kept it to yourself ie. confidential. All will be revealed in due time once things are officially confirmed. In the mean time, watch this space!


  1. Hi bos,

    I was posted in KK Lusong Laku in the 2003...there was nothing during my time. No water tank, no pipe water, no generator for electricity...everythings by our own. No telephone and internet line. No TV, No Radio....
    But we still give our service to Penan..!! I love to be there again...

  2. Hi, Jean!
    Thanks for your service to rural Sarawak! It's an honour to meet you & read your story! =)