Saturday, September 29, 2012

"So you are planning to go back to Malaysia?"

I nodded.

"Where do you want to work?"

"My mom wants me to work in KL. Almost everyone in my family is there right now," I replied, remembering the conversation I had with her a few nights ago.

"KL... it is so noisy. Not for me. I boarded an Air Asia plane from Perth to KL. Then I took the bus to the city. I didn't see a single Malaysian. Everyone was a foreigner... speaking in five, six languages that I don't understand. They are not tourists, you know. I don't mind tourists. But they are foreign workers - Pakistani, Bangla..."

I was listening, but I couldn't understand him because the irony was plain for me to see. Here he is, a foreigner in Australia complaining about the foreigners in Malaysia. If I were an Australian with his outlook on people, then I would see him as nothing but an opportunistic international student who is taking our jobs, our tax money and our women.

It is unfair to the foreign workers in Malaysia. They are just trying to earn money to send home. Somewhere in our Malaysian lineage, we have at least one ancestor who was a migrant. To look upon foreign workers with contempt is to look upon our histories, ourselves with contempt.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mom and Dad

It just struck me this week that I don't have a single photo of my parents. Not in my computer. Not in my phone. Not anywhere. Sometimes, I wonder if I will forget their face... simply because I don't see them every day.

But I miss them all the same. I see other people's mothers and fathers and I think of mine.

Last Thursday, before I went to work, I stopped at the bus stop and dialed my dad's number. It was his birthday. "Heyyyyy!" He seemed so happy to hear my voice. I couldn't help but smiled myself silly that day. I chatted with my dad as I walked to the pharmacy from the bus stop. I walked as slowly as I could.

Tonight, my mom called me unexpectedly. She wanted to know how to spell "Curtin University". She wanted to pray to the gods so that I would graduate safely with a pharmacy degree. She wanted divine help so that I could get a job in a hospital in KL. I just giggled at her (somewhat) preposterous ideas. But a mother's prayers cannot be underestimated.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


The wind was raging outside. I began to worry. Why does this have to happen on my last day?

Peter commented on the fickle weather. "I hope it settles soon. I need to collect my parcel from the post office," I said in return.

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh, what is it? Is it a book?" He knew I like to read.

"Er... it is a CD."

"What kind of CD?"

"Japanese rock band."

With widened eyes, he said: "Okay. Say no more."

I had to laugh. The timing for the release of Spyair's second album was pitch-perfect (pun very much intended). Then, Peter felt curious. "So, is it a boy band? With long hairs and thick make-ups?"

I cringed inwardly at the "boy band" phrase. I felt my cheeks slightly heated. I had to defend Spyair. "Well they are a rock band, yes. But they are not boys. All of them are already in their late 20s. And they wear t-shirts and jeans." Peter's fingers hovered over the keyboard. "What is their name again?"

"Spyair. S-P-Y-A-I-R."

Peter actually googled my favourite band. As I spelled out the name, a thought just struck me. Spyair just recently released a music video in which they performed entirely naked. Okay, what I just said seemed misleading because their 'important parts' were carefully masked by their instruments and the lighting was made tastefully. What if Peter thought I am a pervert because my favourite band did that? Thankfully the Youtube video he clicked on was "Reset" - a song from their indie days. "Well that is unexpected. I never thought you'll like this type of music."

Haha, many people think so too. I will accept that as a compliment. 

"So which one is your favourite member of the band? Is it this one?" Peter pointed at Ike.

"Oh no... I like the one with black line across his face." It is Momiken. I like him because of the lyrics he wrote. And I explained the line was actually just make-up. "Ah, just like Marilyn Manson."

The bell rang, announcing the arrivals of customers. In between moments of busyness, Helen (Peter's mom) asked me to help myself to the curry puffs and French toasts she made. She even cut one of the mooncakes I bought into eights. How efficient was she, for someone her age with poor knee joints! Jen (the intern) served a customer who came in for scripts. A whole stack of them. She looked at me with a glint in her eye. "So, you want to do? This is your last day to play."

I just laughed. "Okay sure. Why not?" I might not get the chance to use this dispensing system after today, I thought to myself as she handed me the scripts. After dispensing, I went to the back of the dispensary to help myself to more morning tea goodies. Then, I heard a knock on the backdoor. It must be Chris, Helen's other son. I opened the door and sure enough, the man was there. He talked to his brother. Helen was looking at her sons and said: "Chris is my eldest son. Peter is the youngest. They are three years apart. They look alike, don't they?"

I glanced at the brothers again. Personally I didn't think so but of course, I didn't say it aloud. There was a proud mother standing in front me after all. A thought struck me. "Helen, do you have any daughters?"

"No. I only have two sons. I wish to have a daughter." I was reminded of my Mimmy. Mimmy was the opposite. My mom has one daughter too many and waited fervently for a son. As if proving a point, Helen proceeded to say, "Daughters are good. Daughters take care of the parents." She practically told me the story of her life - how she is taking care of her parents and relatives in Penang by sending money back to them, how John (her husband) is so very supportive of her. "I married well. John is a kind man and is very good to me."

John was kind indeed. I even received a personal call from him. He thanked me for my work in the shop. "Thank you for having me here," I said finally. John had wanted to say goodbye to me personally, but it seemed that the shop had enough staff for the day. So he decided to stay home.

I was busy dispensing scripts until the very end. When 1pm came, everything was a blur and happened too quickly. Helen fished out two wrapped boxes - my souvenir. A card was placed atop as well. I don't need this, I thought. I wasn't very much of a help in this place. My yesterday's attempt at declining any gifts from Helen proved to be futile. I decided to be grateful and accept them. I took out my bag and file from the shelves. This time I mustn't forget my pink umbrella. I walked out slowly from the dispensary, thanking them profusely for everything they had done for me.

"Who knows we might meet again in Malaysia? We do a lot of travelling and we love to go into pharmacies to see what things they sell. We might be able to see you managing a pharmacy someday," Helen said, as I bid her goodbye.

"See you around. We will be here. I will be here for the next 15 years or so," Peter said to me. I just laughed weakly. I couldn't even imagine what next year will be like, what more 15 years down the road? I said a final goodbye to everyone, including Lindsay the postmaster.

"Take care. Don't get blown away by the wind now. Don't be like Mary Poppins!" Helen shouted as I stepped out from the pharmacy. I smiled and muttered to myself. How I wish I could be Mary Poppins! I braced the strong winds to the bus stop. It was as if the elements wanted me to stay. Funny how I could still smile in the end, even though I had shed many tears while walking along this road.

It wasn't until a few hours later when I had the chance to open the gifts and the card they gave me. I had to pick up my Spyair CD from the post office first of all. The presents weren't much of a surprise but the card was.

There it was! At the bottom of the page - Momiken's caricature! 
Curtin Uni sent my preceptors a letter. I saw it by chance. 

"Dear John, Peter and Andrew," the letter said.

I almost laughed aloud. The letter sounded as if it came straight out from the Bible. 
Went out for Korean lunch with W, SK and of course my dear Mei Ing. Our food came pretty quickly all at the same time. I was about to tuck in when W intercepted. He wanted to pray. So, we all closed our eyes as he led us in thanking God for the food on our table. 

To be honest, I was ashamed of myself of forgetting many an important thing.

Because for the past few years I have mostly eaten my meals alone. I have forgotten to thank God for my meals. I have forgotten that food is merely for sustenance, and that we must be grateful to all living beings that make our food. I have forgotten to first asking the elders to eat their dinners, before I dip a spoon into mine.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Graduation Goggles

It is just like high school; no matter how bad things were, at graduation we would only remember the good times. 

As I walked against the strong winds along Belgravia Street, I laughed to myself. For I had walked many a tear-filled journeys on this road and yet, at the end of it all I only seem to remember the good times. I have no one to blame for my tears. I know that very well. But I do have to thank the pharmacy staff for the smile on my face. 

I wish I were more eloquent in person. Then, I would be able to say sorry for all the trouble I have caused them. I would also thank them again for guiding me and welcoming me into their fold for a brief 6 weeks. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012


That word just doesn't even begin to describe my second assessment for the placement unit.

23 drugs to memorise (the indications, counselling points, and all the other nitty gritty stuff) and 27 primary care topics to read. Daunting enough for you?

It definitely was for me. It left me in a dark, dark place for a week prior. Reading and reading, and eventually feeling that all the words just flew over my head. The night before the assessment, I read in between naps. In the end, I wasn't really sure if I had done enough of the two.

T (my tutor) was supposed to visit me at the pharmacy at 10.30am. But she turned up suddenly at ten past. We exchanged pleasantries and then she got down to work. She flipped through my workbook and placement diary (I smiled nervously throughout). She asked me 4 questions in total for the oral test. Lithium and metronidazole (from the drug list). Cradle cap and weight loss (from primary care). I couldn't believe it myself.

After T left, my preceptor, P, asked me what questions did I get. I answered truthfully. And he raised an eyebrow. "Lithium? I shouldn't have told you what question D got for her oral exam. But then you knew the answer when I asked you." I was beaming. "Didn't I asked you metronidazole the other day?"

"P, maybe you have some sort of prediction power," said J (the intern).

Maybe he does have clairvoyance. As for the two primary care topics I was tested on? They just so happened to be the ones I read on the way to work. I really have to thank my lucky stars for that. T was happy with my marks, considering I failed my first assessment. Remembering her "You have a lot of work to do" comment after my previous test with her still makes me cringe.

But then again, just before T left, she talked briefly with P. I overheard snippets of their conversation. It was something along the lines of "real life situations are not the same with test results"... something like that. I sighed silently in my heart. We cannot win all the time, can we?

Monday, September 10, 2012

i miss you

are you
just a voice on the line?
words on my mind?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"You like reading, right? You can read this." My preceptor handed me an article about medicines in pregnancy.

Uh huh. I did not mean that kind of reading, sir.

I finished 'A Monster Calls' in a little over an hour. I read 'The London Eye Mystery' in about 3 hours. But the freaking AMH (our pharmacy bible) took me FOREVER to read.

There is a huge difference between reading for pleasure and reading for work/study.

Reading for pleasure keeps me up at night. Reading for work makes me sleepy.

:S *this face says it all*

Don't judge a book by its cover

Today at the pharmacy, I was doing stock count when a customer came in. The pharmacist on duty, A, went to serve him.

"Hi, may I have a fit-pack please?" the big burly bearded man said.

At this point, I raised my eyebrows (but the customer couldn't see me because I wasn't facing him). Fit-packs contain sterile needles for injecting drugs, often illicit street drugs.

"With water or without water?" A asked him.

"With water, please."

And when the customer got what he wanted, he said "Thank you and have a nice day" to A.

How very polite of him! I was surprised.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Monster Calls: Review

I actually ordered this book online but it took forever to arrive. So I did the next best thing: download the ebook version. It made me feel guilty for supporting piracy of books but I just couldn't help it. I was too curious.

I read it in a little more than an hour.

I cried my eyes and heart out.

The book was that good. It was not an easy one to read, because the subject matter is really dark. It made me think about what I have gone through in my own family. But at the end of it, I guess I felt a little bit better about being a contradictory person. And I miss them all over again.