Aug 11, 2020

What Drives You?

There are many reasons why we are being driven to do things. Often, multiple factors play into it, thus culminating into a general direction that we decided to pursue. Some people only need few reasons to do what they want to do. Those reasons are usually the solid ones that born out of lifelong desire or fear. Some people need a lot of reasons before they can decide whether to do it or not. And there is also a selected few who don't need a reason to do things - they just do it regardless.

How do you know whether your decision to pursue something is a correct one?

It's hard for me. I always second-guessing things. I think I am comfortable at where I am now, but what if I can get more comfortable working at something else elsewhere? What if my future is entirely a different thing?

What if my future is already present? Do I have what it takes to finally put my foot down and declare that this is where I will live and die? I am struggling to decide where to plant my roots in. I am constantly on tenterhooks, mulling over and over about my life here. Sometimes I feel like I am in a bog - warm, relaxing muddy water to immersed in under hot baking sun but at the same time I'm suffocating my roots and lungs.

But why shouldn't I stay where I am now? I have a stable 9-5 job with weekends off, my locum days are guaranteed every month, a nice small rented house to live in, and it's within acceptable distance to Penang island. My bosses are nice, my colleagues and staff are helpful, and my patients are minimal. Day in and day out being a doctor at a health clinic does not seem like a bad career.

The thing is, I don't see a lot of elderly doctor working at health clinics. So far, there's no doctors over the age 50 that I see working at clinics. Where do they go? Did they get transferred to the PKDs or the JKNs? Or were all of them continued their study and underwent master program? I know a number of them resigned and focused on doing private practice. I don't think I ever saw a contented older doctor who has already worked at health clinic for 20 years.

I'm afraid later on in my 50s I will regret for staying where I am now. That I easily feel adequate and comfortable, not pursuing more than what I am being offered at. I'm afraid that I won't be at ease with what I only have, that I will always lament on how different it might be if only I dared to pursue anything, and I mean any specialty, and be more than just a health clinic doctor.

If I close my eyes and my lingering mind, I will not be having this much of a fret. But the achievement of my acquaintances and colleagues in terms of their advancement in careers is slightly more difficult to ignore. Whenever I read their posts or saw them in my timeline, that jealousy seeps in. I recently congratulated my ex-colleague for successfully securing a slot for an FMS parallel program trainee. In our conversation, he jokingly encouraged me to work with him again in the future, him being an FMS and me a YM in charge of the clinic.

I know he didn't mean it, but the mere thought of him lording over me makes my skin crawl. Upon all the petty reasons that exist in the world, this is it. This is the one reason that finally drove me to decide on taking the Medex paper this year. 

May 31, 2020

Virus and I

We are entering the second half of the year so far, and I believe we all agree that this year is just unbelievable. What were we thinking in January, to be scared of the possibility of the third world war when we were already at war with the pandemic? This viral enemy that kill indiscriminately, at times insidious and covert, rapidly and surely draining our finite resources to combat it.

I was unfortunate to be absent from writing for too long. With the virus occupying most of my responsibility at work, I was dismayed when my laptop broke down in March. With almost half of the services in the country halted to contain the spread of the virus, I was left at the mercy of the clinic's computer to do my work. Writing about my travelog will have to stop, for now, seeing that all my pictures and videos are stored locally in the old laptop.

For me, all of these started last year when we are dividing our work portfolios. Before this, I am responsible for managing verbal autopsies in our health clinic, along with other two minor portfolios that I haven't been briefed about. Then, I was tasked to handle infectious diseases as well. Prior COVID-19, our infectious disease folder include ebola and MERS-COV guidelines, forms, and work flowcharts. In December, 2019 nCOV was added to the list. I was okay with all this because we never thought it was going to hit us big at that time.

Because I handled 2019-nCOV (later coined to COVID-19) for my health clinic at that time, I had to attend all district level meetings pertaining to this virus. I was responsible to make sure our health clinic is ready to attend COVID-19 cases at all time. Thus, my work slowly piled up from setting up camps outside clinic, making flowcharts and flow map, updating the staff regarding changes in PKD directives, addressing issues and concerns, making rosters, and also managing the 'front line' allowances for the staff. I was put in a different position because in other clinics, the ones who handle COVID-19 are all the MOICs (MO In Charge) while I just handle one portfolio, not the whole clinic.

But I was lucky, in a lot of ways. Yes, the pandemic surged in March and early April but the cases are significantly low in my district. My clinic, in particular, although it is the third busiest in the district it is still way under capacity. I consider my clinic as a rural clinic, even though the building is new and fancier than the others. Changes in how clinics operate during movement control order (MCO) to combat the spread of the virus also have seen a dramatic decrease of patients that come to to the clinic seeking treatment.

We still saw some actions, tho. Those PPEs that are sweaty and stuffy? Yes, we all wear that as well. Bringing suspected patients into isolation bay, referring to our FMSes through plastic-wrapped phone and distorted voice, deconning (decontaminate) ourselves once patient had safely been brought away by ambulance - we all done that except making selfies, that is. I find it to be callous of me to have selfies in PPEs, simply because I think we are fortunate enough not to wear that too often.

Personally, COVID-19 affected me greatly in other ways. Firstly, my parents in law had planned for them together with my wife and I to do Umrah pilgrimage back in March. I had already had my leaves approved and I drove from Penang back to KL on the weekends we are scheduled to fly. The day before our departure, Saudi Arabia had barred all pilgrims from entering Mecca and Madina, the two Holy cities in Islam. Further confirmation with our pilgrimage tour company had reaffirmed the worst - our Umrah was cancelled until further notice.

The quarantine, or the MCO, came in two-week stages. Among the many restrictions imposed to the public, the one affecting me the most is the interstate travel ban. My wife and I are working in different states and usually, one of us will take turns travelling to each other every two weeks. The ban was lifted partially in May to allow couples like us to travel home to our significant others. Thus, after almost two months of not seeing each other, my wife finally drove all the way from KL to Penang to meet me. Such reunion was special and holds a different significance to both of us.

In term of career-wise, both of us are working in essential services, although in different fields. Our finances are not affected at all during this troubling times and for that we are very grateful. My locum hours are cut shorter by two hours in view of the locum clinic has to be closed earlier than normal, meaning I am losing around 20% of my usual locum income. Despite that, my salary was adjusted in May, making me earning back what I was due starting from October last year. Together with the COVID-19 allowances and Eid bonus, I have enough as usual.

Seeing the trend of the cases in the past two weeks, our district is currently in the process of preparing for post-COVID health clinic settings. The new norms must stay and changes must be done to ensure all clinics stay ready to accept any unforeseeable events like a new surge of infection in the future. The task fall back to my colleague who is the MOIC for the clinic. I gradually had more free time on my hands due to this, and I hope that a vaccine is found soon so that we can contain this more properly and surely. With this I end my writing for now. Stay vigilant and stay safe, everyone.


Feb 14, 2020

Travelog: Bali - Day Two

We started our Day 2 in Bali by having a short walk along the Kuta beach to find breakfast. Kuta beach is a surfing beach and when we were there we saw surfing operators prepping their makeshift stalls ready for the day. Already we saw people hogging their surfboards around, eager to go into the water.

Behind my wife is the wall of Kuta beach. Hotels, restaurants, shops are all lined up along the road. For such a busy and jammed road, they should have make the road two lanes.

Some dude with his surfboard.

We did not booked our hotel with breakfast included simply because we know that the food was not halal for us to consume. Bali is predominantly Hindu with a small majority of Muslims living here. There is a few restaurants that have halal certification, but for our ease of mind when we were in Kuta town we hit those fast-food franchises instead.

All international fast-food companies (e.g. McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, etc.) that entered the whole of Indonesia and give licences for franchises to open are halal-certified by the Majlis Ulama Indonesia (MUI). Doesn't matter if you are in Acheh, Jogjakarta, Surabaya or Bali, they are all halal. We had a quick breakfast at McDonald's while waiting for our supir to pick us up.

We visited an amphitheater called Sari Wisata Budaya to watch a traditional Bali dance called Barong and Kris dance. Barong is the number one mythical creature in Bali, which represents good fortune and health, and is very much popular here. It's not in our itinerary, but we thought why not - after all we ought to know more about the local folklore and legends here.


Personally, I think the company can improve more. Even though the story was printed in pamphlets and were distributed to all visitors, it's hard for foreigners to understand or listen to the performers. More so when the setting is done in an open space. Perhaps the performers can use a microphone or uses more than one language? I was half guessing for the rest of the performance on which characters the performers were supposed to be. In all, it was so-so.

Our next destination was to chill out at Pandawa beach. Yes, it was under hot, baking sun where the heat scorched the Balinese earth with extreme prejudice. Most people avoid going to the beach during noon but it was still a very pleasant trip for the both of us.

After we killed some time chilling (really? did we chill?) on the lounge chair under the beach umbrella, sipping coconut water and eating ice cream, we headed out to the main highlight of the day.
Our next destination is the Uluwatu temple to watch kecak and fire dance.

The dance is performed in an open amphitheater facing the sea. We knew beforehand that we had to be early to grab the best seat in the house so we arrived quite early as planned. Our supir handled the ticket and waited in line for us. To enter the temple, all visitors are required to don either a purple sarong to cover the legs or an orange sash to tie around the waist if already properly dressed. 

Because we came early, we had to wait for quite some time as people filling up the seats. The show started around an hour before sunset to make full use of the sunset in the sea view as the background of the dance. Again, we were sweating like mad here.

Uluwatu kecak and fire dance is one of the must-see attractions in Bali. It was quite entertaining for the first timers but I doubt it is something that you will do again when revisiting Bali (oh yes, you will visit Bali again for one purpose or another). I for sure will skip going here and will hit the beaches instead.

The dance ended around 7.30 pm or so. We decided to go back to Kuta for dinner and call it a night. That night was the first time I tasted a Wendy's burger. It might have been because of the hunger, but I found the burger was exceptionally tasty. Ho ho. 

That's it for our second day in Bali. I know it's wayyyy overdue but with COVID-19 outbreak and various personal matters that I need to handle I couldn't find any free time or the mood to continue writing about our honeymoon trip. Have no fear, tho, that I will finish writing about this travelog. Just don't expect it to be any time soon HAHAHA!

Jan 11, 2020

Travelog: Bali - Day One

After so many years of not travelling, finally I was given the chance (and the time) to do so. Actually, I did went travelling last year; together with my family we joined a travel tour to Padang, Indonesia. We felt cheated, tho. The fact that the tour group consisted of teachers making "feel good" trip for the sake of completing their yearly requirement or some bullshit meant that WE had to follow the school trip's itinerary. I was so mad with the whole trip I made no effort in making a travelog.

Anyway, that's enough for an introduction. Let bygones be bygones.

Now, let's talk about BALI!!

The trip to Bali is a honeymoon trip. Initially, I proposed to my wife to go to Japan for honeymoon but seeing that we were both very much broke (still are, huhu) so we looked into other options including Maldives, New Zealand, and Ipoh (okay, this is my idea of a second getaway right after the first one). My wife then suggested Bali and I was like, hey, not a bad idea.

We made plans for Bali months before the trip. Earlier when we started planning for our wedding back in March I introduced to her the wonderful world of Google Docs where users can view and edit the documents online at the same time. We had such fun planning this over calls and shared documents. I won't give you details of our documents but if you can squint your eyes, here's how our Google doc file looks like: 

I know, I'm such a nerd. LOL.

Million thanks to my wife for spearheading the search for the details about the trip. I think that's the dynamic of us - me making the general idea and direction while my wife fine-tuning the whole thing. We scoured the Internet for places worth going in Bali, accommodations to stay, the costs for every attractions, the best supirs, and many more.
  1. For flights, the cheapest we could find was Airasia. 
  2. For accommodations, we went for hotels / resorts over Airbnb. 
    • In Kuta, we chose Mercure Hotel (there's two Mercure hotels, go for the one facing the beach)
    • In Ubud, we chose Onje Villa.
  3. For supir (tour guide/driver) - google Pak Yanto. Almost every Google search for the best supirs in Bali will show Pak Yanto. Why we chose Pak Yanto? 
    • It's a huge family business.
    • They are muslims, so they will recommend and show you halal eateries.
    • There's so many good reviews about them
    • They are easily reachable. 
    • The fee is set after we confirmed with them our itinerary. That way we can be reassured there won't be any surprise added charges when we were there. 
    • We will not share the supir and the car with other tourists. 
    • The car they provided for us was a Mitsubishi's Ertiga. Other options are all MPVs, which is suitable for small groups of people like a family or couples. 
    • They will suggest which place worth going, and they are FINE with it if you refuse. 
  4. Places to go - we researched long and hard for this and decided that the mood for our trip is relaxing and easy-paced. There is a few must-go attractions in Bali that are iconic and should not be missed, but with the timing and location we did not go to Pura Lempuyang temple which is famous for the insta-worthy picture of its Gate of Heaven. 
  5. Itinerary - we made it on our own. We searched each of the place we're going on the Internet, locating where they are, how far from the hotels, and the duration to complete the whole tour for each day. We confirmed it with our supir, who repeatedly said that he will bring wherever that we wish to go (within reason) because it's our honeymoon. 

Day One

We were late. It was my fault and it was a damn close shave. We nearly missed the flight but somehow, luckily, we managed through. When we finally settled down in our seats, drenched with sweats as we cool ourselves with the tiny jets of air-conditioned air overhead, I remembered something about how we only truly know about ourselves as a couple when these things are involved: Money and Travel. We both were very much amazed at how we quickly put our heads together and made a plan on the spot when under pressure. There's much to this tale, but it's the story for both of us that we won't ever forget!

The flight took 2 hours and a half, so and so. After we comfortably ate in the plane, followed by a fresh cup of warm coffee (for me), we proceeded to sleep (first revelation of us as a couple) and woke up when the plane descended for landing.

The airport, or bandara, is very clean and looks new. I read that a huge renovation was made to accommodate the numbers of tourists that flock to Bali.

Hers and mine :)

Sunset here in Bali is one hour earlier than in Malaysia, although there is no time zone difference. Hence, by 6 pm, the sun will set. As we arrived around 2.30 pm, we still had hours to go. We already had lunch in the air so we went to Agung Bali first to kill time and to browse for souvenirs. The items here are not as cheap as anywhere else and the prices are fixed so don't bother to barter. However, the t-shirt designs are pretty and can't be found elsewhere.

You can compare the prices of souvenirs sold at the airport and at Agung Bali with shops elsewhere in Bali whether in Kuta, Ubud, Tanah Lot etc. in order to get the feel of the range of prices. Airport, being airport, sell expensive souvenirs that are premium looking. Agung Bali merchandises are like the "official" souvenirs, while the rest can be from poor knockoffs to hidden gems.

We didn't buy anything from there at that time. Once we had toured the whole place, we went to the first and only place planned in our itinerary of Day One - dinner at Jimbaran beach.

Besarnya topi sis

Initially we are worried that it might rain in Kuta, but somehow it never does

We picked the table closest to the water (at that time) and had such a lovely time as we ate dinner while watching the sunset.

The sunset at Jimbaran beach bathed us a glow of indigo. 

The restaurant that we went to had a musollah for us to pray if we need to, but seeing that our next destination is to check in at the Mercure hotel, we opted for qasa and jama' takhir instead.

Step up your game, Mercure. What is this half-assed welcoming deco?

We checked in at Mercure hotel close to 8 pm. If you read the reviews online you'll find that this hotel is slightly more than okay-ish and it doesn't break the bank by a thin margin. The room we got was exactly as described and showcased, so we had no problems. Others might complain that the room is too small, but it's fine by us.

When we entered the room and started to unwind, suddenly there's a call.

Receptionist: Pak, everything okay? We have a cake to give to you.
Me: Cake? What cake? *getting suspicious*
Receptionist: It's a welcome cake, pak. It's for you.
Me: ummm.. is it free?
Receptionist: Gratis, pak. 
Me: Oh. *awkward* Hmm where is the cake? (god kill me)
Receptionist: Someone will come shortly to bring you the cake.
Me: Oh. Erm, hmm, okay. Thank you!

And then the doorbell rang and a young porter at the door, holding a frickin' CUPCAKE in both of his hands!! We thought it's gonna be one huge cake like a proper birthday cake with candles (at least, that's what I had in mind when they told me). We accepted the cake and crackled like madmen afterwards.

Muka sedih dikecewakan dengan harapan cake tapi dapat cupcake

The biggest strength of this hotel to me is the location. We knew roughly where it is, but we couldn't appreciate the location of this hotel in relation to other places. This hotel is located directly across the road that runs along a part of Kuta beach. The road is one of the busiest road in Kuta and at night it becomes lively. There's a number of shops and hotels around this place, which made cityboi like me a very happy man.

That's conclude our Day One in Bali. I'm going to write about every day in Bali a blog post each because I talked too much and I'm still too excited about it so I will talk at great length at everything that we went and saw LOL.

Jan 10, 2020

Major Life Update Announcement

A little quick announcement:


  • We had our solemnization on Dec 8th in the morning before continuing with the bride's reception in the afternoon.
  • My side's reception was held the following week on the 15th.
  • The day after, we scrambled to Bali for our week-long honeymoon.

Okay, that's it for now. The next post will be about our travel to Bali, together with the video I managed to put together shabbily. See ya (not so) soon!

Dec 7, 2019

3 Years A Doctor

Two days ago was my third anniversary of being a doctor.

Even though it feels like it's been forever, it is just the beginning. Everyone says so, even if my heart tells me otherwise. After the hardship of doing housemanship, my placement to a chill klinik kesihatan has made me complacent. It's hard not to. This is the Respite. A safe haven. I think I deserve this break - heck, I'm lucky to even have this break. I'm literally one of the last people who got permanent placement before KKM axed that promise of job security and throw everyone under the bus.

It feels kinda surreal, to be honest. Too many close shaves I'd encountered, but miraculously I managed to hang on. I remembered being depressed when I was a houseman, but I've never seriously thought of giving up for good. For real. No matter how bleak I thought my life was heading, I never entertained the idea of quitting being a doctor.

Alas, this is no bravado. Nor do I feel the necessity to brag. But I think I was scarred badly enough when I was in medical school that nothing can faze me much after that. No bad day during housemanship could make me cry while driving alone late at night. Nothing can compare the hopelessness that I felt during my fifth year with any given day of me working as a doctor. It also doesn't mean that the hardship I endured during housemanship is a walk in the park either. I've talked plenty about it, though, so enough about that.

Three years of being a doctor. Three years of accumulating knowledge and experience. It's not much, and I fear it is not enough, but for what I am doing right now I think it is passable, albeit just barely. Most of what I learnt in Surgical and Orthopaedics rotation are fast leaving me, and what I learnt in O&G and Paeds are slowly coming back to me. Again, it's not much, but it helps me with what I'm doing right now.

I guess, at certain times, I still feel like a fraud. I used to feel this way all the time in the past, but now it only lingers from time to time. It never goes away completely, so sometimes when I'm in doubt I feel that what I am doing right now is wrong. That surely any other doctor is doing a much better job than me. This sense of insecurity, of being inferior, has long been instilled into me by products of mishap and misfortunes in the past. I can't changed what had happened long time ago, but what I am right now is an accumulation of scattered fragments of vulnerability that is hard to repair.

All I ask in life is a stable job with a stable family. I longed for a place I call my own home. I want to plant my root, make a family, and to raise it well. All of that requires me to focus my attention to more than my job. I want to be able to go home after work on time, looking after my kids (when I have one!) and spend time with my family. I want my weekends to be free at home, free to lounge around and doing house chores. It is my longest ever dream, perpetuated more firmly from my desire to escape from the all-work-no-life lifestyle while I was in housemanship.

But is that all I amount to? Does ambition mean nothing to me? Don't I wish to pursue further qualification, shouldering more responsibility, and be more than just a medical officer? Sure, my dream of having a stable family is a worthy one, noble even, but is it all it has to be? Should I strive for more than whatever it is I think I am having?

What more should I be doing? I am growing attached to the place of work I am in right now. It has medium workload, weekends off, supportive superiors and plenty of GP locum hours. This could be the place for me to plant my roots. To raise a family. Sure, it is a bit far from home (well, it's damn so far up north, to be honest), but this could be it. This. Could. Be. It.

But pursuing master may not be a bad idea. Even though it surely mean that I have to move around again, that I need to pour my brains out again studying more than ever, that I will have to work more, be responsible for more things, and that all may impact on my homely dream. Maybe the place after this will not be as nice as the one I am in. Maybe I will have less time at home. Maybe I will grow to hate being forced to work like this.

I think, for now, I will work as usual at my beloved klinik kesihatan to gain more experience. Next year I will enter the 30-year realm of adulthood. Another three years to go through before I'm even qualified to take the master program. But maybe, within that time frame I will have my answers whether to pursue specialty or not. For now, it's work and learn. Work and learn. May Allah ease.