Thursday, October 7, 2010
On the bus home, I usually reminisce about each day's work. I thank God for the people I met in the new workplace, the new bits of knowledge that I acquired, the different diseases that I never saw in my hospital, the amazing surgical procedures that they were able to accomplish and which we will probably never do in the next few years. I marvel at their technology, their air-conditioned premises, the eminence of their teachers. Over there, the male doctors wear long-sleeved shirts and ties, while in my home-base, my male colleagues would rather wear jeans. There, they have 6 by-pass machines, here we only have 1. They do aneurysm surgeries left and right, peripheral artery bypass is a common procedure. They have Cell-Saver, ECMO, heart-lung machines, all sorts of technology my poor old hospital will never get to afford.
Perhaps I never should have stayed in my home base. The world outside is big. It's much bigger than my UP-PGH.
But I remembered what I had back home. Last night I stayed up late in my office's conference room, while taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi. I was elated over my students' (who are now Tayns' babies because of my absence) awesome performance in a class activity. I reread my favorite teacher's speech and shed tears again. I chatted with some old colleagues and students through Facebook. I spent the night in my callroom and woke up to the sound of the rattling LRT rails. Early this morning, my oldest consultant had me check his emails and his Pubmed account. He also showed me the nth revision of his paper on heart failure and digoxin. I could not leave while he still wanted to talk about the benefits of digitalis, so I left my home-hospital much later than I should.
I am in my home-hospital again, now, as I write. The conference room is in a mess. Tayns is busy printing the students' exam. That annoying duty phone is ringing again. Leora is still typing the echo results. There was a half-eaten chocolate cake on the table. Some small mice are running around, unafraid of the humans in the room. Dave dropped by to watch his telenovela. Junjun is relating how Dr. Abelardo started everybody's morning by exclaiming, "Putang ina! Ang galing ng mge estudyante kahapon!" Sometimes I doubt if this is really the best place to train. This may not be the institution that will make the best cardiologists out of us. We are all tired. We are all underpaid. We may be, just maybe, stuck in the wrong place.
But this is home. And there is no place like it. Definitely, most definitely, this is where I'd rather be.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Take a look at restaurants, for example. No, not even those fancy ones. Pick those cheap, mass-driven fast-food joints such as Jollibee and McDonald's. Whatever branch you visit, there is never a table good only for one person. Even the fast-foods are biased to group customers and couples. Darn couples. Why is it that the best restaurant deals are good for two? Why can't dining be good for one person only?
Due to my chronic lack of travel company, I've been forced to shell out more than what is necessary. Travel packages are for big groups, or at least two people. Hotel rooms, even beach cottages, are for two people. Boat rides, tricycle rides, even hiking guides are priced for couples. Solo travelers like me would have to settle for the chance to hitch with strangers, or if other travelers are not around, we would have to pay a huge extra amount just to be able to get around.
Aside from the ridiculous expense that comes with traveling solo, I occasionally get those annoying Spanish-inquisition looks from the locals. Why does a woman like you travel alone? Are you doing research on our culture? Are you planning to do something crazy (like an abortion or drugs) when you're alone? Are you a nun planning to go on meditation? Do you intend to commit suicide? Sometimes, I get so tired of having to explain my solitude that I just nod and say "yes" to all those questions.
There was this one time, when I was in Samar, I chose to have a huge bottle of San Miguel Beer while I sat on the sand by the beach watching the stars. I was surprised that the caretaker of that deserted resort sent over his female house-help and his 15-year old son to stay within 10 meters from where I was supposed to be getting my epiphanies. When I asked the nice Manang why they weren't in their rooms sleeping, she told me, "Sabi po kasi ni Kuya, baka daw anong gagawin nyo." I ended up talking to her and giving her half my beer.
I am heading to El Nido in Palawan at the end of this month. My favorite travel buddy, J of the McDreamy fame, has vanished to oblivion (as always). My good friend from North Palawan would be stuck in his hospital. In all probability, I will be exploring the most beautiful place in the world alone.
Alone. Alone. Alone. I am that suspicious, solitary entity who will perpetually be stuck outside the rest of the world dreaming, wondering what it would be like to belong to someone other than myself.
Even if it seems unlikely, I do hope that solitude is not my destiny. I do need company. I need someone to dine with, to travel with. To split the expenses with, to share that big beach cottage with. To to talk to when some crazy idea bothers me, to be quiet with. I need someone to listen to when I'm tired of hearing myself talk (which is most of the time). I need someone to walk with in the morning. I need someone to have half my beer.
If there's anyone out there who's interested to tag along, I'd be very grateful. I won't bite. I won't be a burden. I won't usurp your own solitude. We will be as the strings of a lute - we will make good music together because we will stand on our own.
Come on now. I'm not so bad. I am actually nice. I might actually be interesting.
You! Yes, you. Will you come travel with me?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
With these maternal instincts so strong and troublesome, I decided to do something about it. Desperate as I was, Fate played a helping hand by allowing me to stumble upon this hilarious ad. Simply because the ad was strange and ridiculous, I emailed the guy. Nope, the man behind it was not even half as psychotic as I expected him to be. He seemed like your everyday kind of guy with a not-so-ordinary way of looking at the world - traits that made the idea more appealing. I happen to believe that peculiarity and eccentricity are an asset - they are the vital ingredients for an adventure.
To make a long story short, I was actually crazy enough to meet with the guy. He didn't seem to sound like a hoax. Seem - being the operative word. It would have been exciting if I took this deal hook, line, and sinker. But I didn't. I begged for one more year. One more year to find someone. One more year to do things the normal way. One more year to be hit by that proverbial stray bullet. One more year to be struck by lightning on a clear day. Sorry, my dear eggs, but I was not brave enough to indulge you yet. Let's give it one more year to wait and see. But if nobody comes along, then we will cross the Rubicon and cast the die.
My huge baby project would have to wait. But I'm sure glad there are still crazy people in this planet bizaare enough to give me my Plan B.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
So there, this is all rubbish. Bollocks to this! But this is all I could manage for now.
Lately I've been having dreams. Not those nocturnal ones that come when one is in stage III delta-wave level slumber. I'm referring to those types that cross our minds in the middle of our most boring occupations, when we wish we're somewhere doing something else. Here goes.
Two months ago, in the middle of a heated weight-loss competition, I wanted to be an authentic anorexic. You know, like those Karen Carpenter types who have body dysmorphia, who think they're overweight when their waists are in fact already as narrow as my upper arm. I pictured myself with a 20-inch waist, eating a leaf of lettuce for lunch, and a stick of carrot for dinner (which, I'd most likely puke out anyway, after skillful manipulation of my tonsils and uvula). Ahhh, to weigh a quarter of my current weight. That must be heaven!
I ended up in McDonald's eating a Big Mac. So much for anorexics, huh.
Last month, because of the mountains of stuff I had to finish, I envisioned myself as a workaholic. You know, like those Devil-Wears-Prada-Cruella-DeVille types who will stop at nothing to earn the big bucks. Or maybe I can work all day and all night to discover the cure for the common cold, or the ultimate no-side-effect-instant-weight loss pill and live like royalty until the day I die. Yeah, I could probably be that girl. I'm smart and people do think I'm competent, right? I can be ruthlessly competitive, ambitious, materialistic. I'd have decreased need for sleep, finish hundreds of research papers. I'd be the wonder-woman-of-medicine-who-succeeds-in-everything! Perfect!
I ended up sleeping. When I woke up, my poor old Braunwald textbook was smudged by the crusted saliva from my drooling.
And then came Venus Raj. Two weeks ago, I wanted to be Ms. Universe. I'd be a 22 year-old with a 22-inch waistline, standing 5'11" who looks vavavaoom hot in a bikini, and even hotter in her painted birthday suit. I'd wear a stunning cocktail dress with my cleavage out there for the whole world to fancy. I will be so glamorous and beautiful and perfect that Harry Trump himself decided right then and there to buy out the company that produces Barbie and name the doll Jean, in my honor, of course. Oh geeeez, if that was me in Vegas that day, the Philippines would have had it's new Ms. Universe. Even the president will leave his girlfriend just to kiss the ground I walked on! Aaaargh!
Oh well. I ended up in the Cardiac Cath Lab, pressing on a femoral artery after pulling out an arterial sheath at 3 in the morning. Yeah right. I can't even wear 3-inch heels!
Today, I finally realized what I really wanted out of life. All I really want to do is finish my Cardiology training, settle down in a beautiful town somewhere south, have a small but noble practice, teach in a reputable medical school, travel around the country or overseas once in a while. I'll marry a good man who is smart enough to talk to me for hours and comfortable enough to be silent with me for hours, who happen to find me as his best friend and his indispensable travel buddy, and who adores me and loves me and looks at me like I'm the prettiest woman in the world. We'll have 3 or 4 kids, some dogs, a cat, a neat little house with a huge lawn for a garden. On weekends, we'll have picnics and lunches at our own dainty hut by a quiet beach. Breeze on our faces, joy, laughter, contentment. Love. Ahhh, love. Yes, I'm that shallow. A happily ever after is all I'm really after.
Duh. Being the other dreams seem a lot easier to come by.
OK. I give up. I'll settle for Ms. Universe.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
"You have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don't even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realised the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid."
- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray Ch. 7
Monday, August 23, 2010
Dancin' when the evening fell
Dancin' in your wooden shoes
In a wedding gown
Dancin' through the underground
Dancin' with the marionette
Are you happy now?
Laughin' with your broken eyes
Laughin' with your lover's tongue
In a lullaby
Where do you go when you're blue
Where do you go when you're lonely
stars go blue...
I'll follow you...
I'll follow you, when the stars go blue.
All photos taken in Sabang, Palawan. August 7 - 8, 2010.
Now traveling solo is a pathetic habit I'd have to start getting used to again.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Come to think of it, tonight is my 5th night of sleeping in the hospital. I go on 24-hour duties once every 5 weeks this year, which would have made all the other Cardiology fellows out there envious, but I'd rather spend my free time in my workplace. Where I work is now where I practically live. PGH should charge me a fee for board and lodging. But this is only step one.
My dream is to be a self-centered over-competitive bitch, who won't allow anything to get in the way between her and her career. I'll read Braunwald from cover to cover, memorize every page, master every diagram. I'll publish one at least one research paper every month. I'll make rounds even on the evenings, so the MRODs will consider me their favorite firendly neighborhood Cardiology fellow who's just a text message away. I'll be on-call 24-7. Got an interesting case out there? Com on, tell me about it. I'll devour it voraciously, as I would every new article in the New England Journal of Medicine or the Lancet.
Little by little, I'll have decreased need for sleep. I'll just read and read and work and work. Until I'm numb and no longer thinking.
Now that's suicide.
Friday, July 9, 2010
This (blog) is a very self-serving, childish, almost histrionic attempt to organize my thoughts, so at least I could have a semblance of order in my very disorganized life.I admit I have a severe form of neurosis which is akin to paranoia, but which I'd rather call, for simplicity's sake, Trust Issues. It's hard to believe that someone like me can actually write a rather intimate and honest online journal. I am Ms. Solitude who can't sleep in a bed with someone else, who can't endure a relaxing massage or spa which most people find comforting, who gets irritated when someone joins me in my morning walks along the boulevard, who can't go to church with other people (because that's my most intimate hour of the week), who'd rather sleep under the stars than in a tent with someone because of claustrophobia. I have this bothersome, almost alarming need to keep a safe distance all the time. I don't think I can endure anything intimate for long. But here I am, pouring out my entire life and wearing my whole heart out in...(WTF!#$#%) a crazy blog!
This blog is nothing but a story. And in my vocabulary, fantasy happens to be stronger than fact. What is most important is what the reader gets out of all these.
This blog will disintegrate in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6... Hmmm, wait, let me think about this again. Even an outcast samurai has the right to pick the best time to die.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it.
Poverty and power it melts them like ice.
Fate – monstrous and empty, you whirling wheel, you are malevolent!
Well-being is vain and always fades to nothing, shadowed and veiled,
you plague me too!
Now through the game, I bring my bare back to your villainy.
Fate is against me in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down, always enslaved.
So at this hour, without delay, pluck the vibrating strings.
Since Fate strikes down the strong man,
Everyone weep with me!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Among all the good things in life, the following are on top of my list: old friends, cold beer, fresh breeze on a calm and quiet evening, bursts of uncensored laughter, and good conversations.
Ah, good conversations – they are extremely rare these days. In an age of perfunctory relationships and shallow interpersonal connections, where most of our interactions with other people are shady and self-centered, finding someone you can truly talk to is highly improbable it’s almost like winning a P200M lotto jackpot. In today’s superficial universe, intelligent people who may not necessarily agree with you, understand or condone you, but who can empathize and connect with the workings of your twisted mind, is an endangered species, perhaps more scarce than the African Black Rhino or the Chinese Giant Panda.
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to encounter one of these endangered kinds. As it turned out, Luck is a strange thing. While the universe runs on strict principles of cause and effect, sometimes we find ourselves caught in odd circumstances - those ones that do not make sense at all. Take Randomness, for example. In a universe where entropy is the law, and even the smallest of molecules have a tendency towards disorder, it escapes my brain how two molecules operating on Brownian motion can actually collide and result in some kind of an atomic interaction that leads to a boom, whatever that is!
Blame it on Randomness. After all, it doesn't really matter who and what we collide with. What matters is who or which of those we collide with can join us in this perpetual Brownian motion of our existence. I don't mind being a victim of Randomness once in a while. If the random connections we make result in thought-provoking conversations over doses of cold beer that would have normally knocked the consciousness out of you, well, that isn't too bad, is it?
Anyway, last weekend was a rare one. I exceeded my limit for words spoken in a day, surpassed my liver's capacity to produce alcohol dehydrogenase but surprisingly stayed sane despite the nausea, and was totally unaware that the clock has struck 4:30AM - the first dawn that I was ever by Manila Bay without my running shoes on.
After the alcohol was out of my system, I was still lightheaded and floating. My legs felt like lead and it was impossible to work. I was sick. Right then and there, I knew what it was all about. I was having symptoms similar to my dreaded but recurrent Post-Travel Depression Syndrome. Psychologists say that people who travel may suffer from post-vacation blues after returning to a normal routine from a journey, especially if it was a pleasurable one. The longer the trip, the more intense the blues will be.This time, I didn't travel. But what I had was so much like it.
And then I knew. I'm not changing my mind about the beauty of a good conversation. But the trouble with having experienced one is this - everything else you hear around you becomes small talk, and you realize that the language of the outside world is plain gibberish.Going back to the real world takes a lot of getting used to, huh?
The trouble with a good thing is that you will never get enough of it.
Monday, June 7, 2010
In my chronic struggle with obesity, I have been yoyo-ing from being morbidly obese to being hideously fat. Either way, I’ve always been fat. This has been the case for the last 23 years, since I had my last normal BMI when I was in Grade 1. As far as I can remember, I was already heavier than a sack of rice since I was 8 years old. During that time, when kids my age were still being thrown around by their dads like little monkeys moving from one tree branch to another, I was already stuck on the ground, moping like a depressed Mommy King-Kong who can’t heave herself up to the lowest branch of a tree strong enough to carry a ton.
So when the well-meaning, health-conscious IM residents announced that they are holding a second season of the IM Biggest Loser contest, I was one of the first to sign up. Again. Last March, these residents, who, for some strange reasons, suddenly became staunch advocates of healthy lifestyles, launched the first season of IMBL with much fanfare, and I also enthusiastically joined in. After 3 weeks of gorging on Sibutramine, Metformin, and various diuretics, I had a bout of annoying premature ventricular contractions that paralyzed me for a day. So despite the loss of more than 5 kgs, I spent the next weeks regaining what I had lost, feasting on chicharon, lechon, and deep-fried galunggong over heaps of steaming rice during my leave. By the start of May, I was back to where I started – all four weeks of running along Roxas all the way to Mall of Asia, horrendous starvation, and ridiculously expensive weight-loss pharmacologic armamentarium – flushed down my Xenical-induced-lipid-laden-feces-stained toilet bowl.
Ugh! Yuck! I’m exaggerating of course. But you get the idea, don’t you? I’m fat! I’ve been fat for as long as I can remember. And I absolutely hate it!
I want to wear that bikini. I want to walk around PGH wearing nothing under my white coat except an ultra-short, spaghetti-strapped dress, uhm, negligee!
So I signed up. After my embarrassing stint with IMBL season 1, I’m trying my luck again in IMBL season 2. The pot money is almost three times that of IMBL 1, and the contestants are a gazillion times more competitive. There’s a huge chance that I wasted another one thousand bucks over a senseless competition I have no chance of winning. But who cares? I want that bikini!
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I need to get a haircut. This sweltering summer heat is rendering my withered and mummified brain useless that I could not think beyond the blistering El Nino sun and the persistent and annoying beading of sweat on my brow. Even the art of staying still that I have long ago mastered is futile in decreasing the temperature to within physiologic levels. This heat is so oppressive that a lot of women I know are shedding off their prized and expensively pampered manes for the chic and slightly more summer-friendly bob. But that is not the reason why I need that haircut.
You see I need to return to Earth. That’s the literal translation for the warning my brain is currently sending me every day. If my brain is a Jejemon, that message would have looked like this: “eow poh, ang jaba na ng jair mhow, jejeje”.
Let me tell you why.
After years of traveling on my own, and whining about the loneliness and the ludicrous expense of solo backpacking, this June will be an entirely different story. The sudden change of my traveling affairs is so shocking and revolutionary in nature that even as early as today, the first day of June, and still a long way before my planned adventure, I can barely contain my excitement. I finally found that ever elusive, first-rate travel company. For this upcoming Independence Day long weekend, I and my elite travel group will be exploring South Cotabato, Sarangani, and General Santos City – which incidentally, is the realm of the Greatest Hero of Jejemons - Congressman-elect Manny Pacquiao.
Before I completely spill the beans on this trip and this premium, hand-picked group and inadvertently spoil everything, I’d keep my mouth shut. My recent rendezvous with disenchantment and heartbreak has taught me a lot of things. I have stopped crafting plans that will only get spoiled. I have stopped making expectations that will only fall short. I have stopped hoping to avoid disappointment.
Suffice it to say, what could be better than traveling with two of your greatest friends? Traveling with two of your hottest, most amazing, smartest, coolest, cutest, single male friends! One of them is someone I have known more than half of my life, the other one is someone I met in the strangest most outrageously unexpected way. But both are wonderful people – definitely the two men I measure everyone else against (the third is my dad). And they both happen to be straight!!! Waaaah! Ang haba na talaga ng hair ko.
Oh well. Earth to Jean. Earth to Jean.
Today, in preparation for that much-awaited trip, I went to my hairdresser and got that much needed haircut.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at where we started and know the place for the first time."- TS Eliot