A Stroll through Sarawak’s Very Unique History: The Brooke Rajahs

 If you didn’t know already, this event was held as part of What About Kuching 2018 which is drawing to a close. I had the chance to attend the event yesterday at Fort Margherita.

For the uninitiated, there is actually a new gallery inside the restored fort which has been in operation since last year. Aptly named Brooke Gallery, it was a herculean effort that drew little attention (at least among my circle of friends) which led to the creation of what is, in my opinion, a truly wonderful showcase in Sarawak’s unique history.

9 Cardinal Principals – did you know about this?

The stroll is actually sort of a guided tour through the gallery. Led by Paul Gerarts, a volunteer heritage tour guide, we were given a brief but informative insight into the formation of Sarawak.

The participants had the chance to hear about James Brooke’s role in the creation of Sarawak as well the Brooke’s family’s efforts to forge Sarawak into what it is today. To me, it was a very refreshing take the land’s history, which unfortunately has been neglected in the official narrative for far too long.

Many people had assumed that Sarawak went through a period of oppressive colonialisation by western powers. It could not be further from the truth in Sarawak. This explains why until today, you’ll find many native Sarawakians who speaks fondly of the White Rajahs. This is truly a unique aspect in Sarawak’s history.

Why, you may ask? Well, visit the Brooke Gallery yourself and you will find out all about what they have done for what was back then the independentcountry of Sarawak.

All I could say is, Sarawak has a truly unique story compared to other states in the federation. This WAK event, in my opinion, has successfully showcased an important piece of that story via the gallery and many people will come to know the true history of Sarawak as word spreads among the Kuching populace about this still relatively unknown cultural gem.

Participants of the event listening intently to Paul’s explanations.

The event lasted for an hour and a half and Paul did a great job of providing a lot of information within a short time. It would’ve been more interesting if he introduced more about himself at the start though. We left the place wondering who he was and why did he volunteer for the event. Maybe everyone else there knew who he was (which meant that me and my friends were very ignorant, lol).

Would I recommend a visit to the Gallery? A resounding yes. I will pay a visit again sometime in the future just to digest the tremendous amount of carefully researched information and artefacts pertaining to the state’s foundation. 

For more information, do visit The Brooke Gallery‘s website.

Life after quitting housemanship – a what-if scenario

It’s easy to think quitting housemanship is the solution to all your problems. 

I’m not here to tell you about my experience about quitting housemanship. This post aims to help guide your thinking process if you are on the verge of quitting.

See, life after quitting housemanship wouldn’t be as rosy as you think. There are many considerations to take into account.

Financial obligation

Do you have a back-up plan after quitting?

Do you already have a second job that you can immediately transition into after quitting?

Do you currently have enough emergency savings to last you for at least 6 months?

Do you have a backup plan in case your job search after quitting housemanship fails? It’s not easy to get back into the government sector if you quit. 

Time lost – opportunity cost

It took at least 5 years to get that medical degree. 

Do you think it’s worth it, not having at least passed through housemanship and getting a full registration with the Malaysian Medical Council?

Do you think it’s worth it to redo everything and go through another 3 or 4 more years to get another degree to start all over?

Do you think you can somehow make up for the lost opportunities alone the way that exist in other fields, just by quitting and catching up?

Granted, one can always go into related healthcare fields with a medical degree. Plenty of people have done it. For example, pharmaceutical sales, insurance etc. Let’s not delve too deep into that.

Think carefully before you leap

Nobody said housemanship is easy. 

Everyone knows how toxic it can be. No one is condoning covering up all the alleged sexual harassment, mental health issues and bullying that are prevalent in the field. It’s another topic altogether.

But like what I wrote in my other post – 

Pain is temporary. Growth is permanent.


You might find tremendous success in other fields. Yet, as with everything in life, nothing in certain. The opposite might just happen and you could be in deeper shit than you were before. So do consider all options before making that decision.

GetFood App Review

getfood app

Recently Kuching welcomed another addition to its food delivery app scene with the arrival of GetFood app.

Now we Kuchingites have plenty of options to choose from!

According to this report from Borneo Post, GetFood app is owned and operated by Wahh Innovations Sdn Bhd with support from iCube Innovation. They promise to deliver under 35 minutes upon ordering through the app so I decided to try it out myself.

User interface

Loading time of the app needs improving – it took more than 5 seconds for my phone to fully load the app after opening.

Otherwise, ordering food is easy, just search for the type of cuisine, proceed to order and et voila~ your food is on the way! Payment was a breeze via credit card.

The app features easy tracking of your order status as well as rider location.

I proceeded to order from Chinese Barbeque Specialist which is located at Padungan Road – a good 20 minutes and 8.4 km away from my house.

Time taken from the start of the order until the delivery was about half an hour, which is within what the company promised. Kudos!

Verdict

Another food delivery app to the scene – what’s not to like? This will be a great addition to people who are simply too lazy to drive out on a balmy Sunday afternoon.

I think loading time for the app can be improved though. The app feels significantly slower than its nearest competitor – EzFood. 

Try it today – available on Google Play Store as well as Apple’s App Store.

World Press Photo Exhibition @ WAK2018

I covered another event during WAK 2018 and this time I found myself trudging along the wet field of Padang Merdeka on a cool Saturday morning.

world press photo 2018 kuching

World Press Photo 2018 happening on Padang Merdeka

World Press Photo is an international photography contest that was started in 1955 by a group of Dutch photographers. Since then it has grown into a prestigious competition. The photos selected are essentially visual stories that highlight almost everything you can think of – humanity, environment, contemporary issues and so on. 

This year Kuching is hosting the prestigious event for the first time. It is actually an open air exhibition and open to the general public without any fees. 

world press photo

Poignant displays of various issues that will surely make you think

This year’s Photo of the Year was won by Ronaldo Schemidt who took this moving imagery of a protester on fire. José Víctor Salazar Balza  was set alight when the gas tank of a motorbike exploded. He survived the incident with first- and second-degree burns. Click here for more info.

venezuela crisis

Venezuela Crisis – Image credit to Ronaldo Schemidt

It’s definitely an interesting event not to be missed especially if you are an aspiring photographer. The photos really do make you pause and think about the stories and the message the photographer was trying to get across. 

Some of the photos are quite explicit though, but I am sure Kuchingites are more than mature enough to contemplate the issues and messages instead of taking offence.

Do check out the event until 28th October 2018 at Padang Merdeka. You can also read news article about it on Borneo Post.

What About Kuching 2018 Food Safari

What About Kuching 2018 included a new event called Food Safari which is currently being held along Jalan Padungan. The organisers are Meritin Hotel and Batik Boutique Hotel.

padungan road

Lots of hidden artwork for you to explore along the street. Jalan Padungan takes its name from what was back then the largest Malay village in Kuching. The villagers moved way for the construction of the road and shophouses. Earliest settlers were wealthy Hainanese and Teochew towkays who got rich from the rubber boom.

I represented Sarawak Bloggers to cover the event yesterday during the opening day and went along the street to sample some of the foods. Got our passport from Meritin Hotel (but apparently you can get it from any one of the 60 vendors listed).

food safari

This booklet is super informative! Contains very detailed information about the event and a full list of the vendors with descriptions.

First port of call? Ming Hong Kee. This family shop has been around for more than 60 years and is one of the oldest businesses on the street. We tried the kolo mee which was delectable.

kolo mee

Tried the traditional kolo mee and kolo mee kosong with a bowl of meatballs in seaweed soup. Yummy!

Sampled some char siew buns from Abee Traditional Buns. Delicious! Too bad didn’t take any photos. Went on to Hong Kong Noodle House for the missus to tapau some roasted duck noodles.

roasted duck noodles

Roasted duck noodles

Visited Hock Hai / Fook Hai Cafe and sampled the kolo mee there. I found it quite different – the meat was really tender and juicy, quite unlike other char siew meats you usually find on other kolo mee places. Needless to say, their steamed char siew buns were really delicious too – they’ve been in business for more than half a century!

Kolo mee at Hock Hai / Fook Hai Cafe. Heavenly!

I daresay, one of the best steamed char siew buns I’ve ever tried.

Went back to visit Taiwan Siao Jou too. This chain of eatery needs no introduction – very good place to go if you’re looking for something home-style cooking.

Tons of dishes to choose from to go with your rice or porridge.

Will definitely check out the rest of the shops. There are over 60 vendors listed in the event!

You can get your passport stamped with every purchase at the participating outlets, but do note that some of the vendors may have their own terms and conditions (e.g. Hong Kong Noodle House will only stamp if you purchase more than RM50).

Gather 20 stamps to redeem a WAK 2018 fun pack, and get 40 stamps for a surprise goodie bag. Food Safari ends at 11.59pm on 28th October so you still have about a month to go sample all the foods.

What About Kuching is back!

Kuching is truly a wonderful place to be, and I’m extremely grateful to live here. There’s always something new to explore.

What About Kuching is a festival that aims to showcase Kuching’s arts, culture and lifestyle and will be a month-long event starting from 29th September 2018 until 28th October 2018. It’s actually the second edition this year. I foresee it to be a huge thing that will be an important annual event for Sarawak, on par with Rainforest World Music Festival.

This year I will be officially covering a few of the WAK events

  • Food Safari – 29th September, 8am – 6pm @ Padungan Street
  • World Press Photo 2018 Exhibition – 29th September, whole day @ Padang Merdeka 
  • A Stroll Through Sarawak’s Very Unique History – The Brooke Rajahs.  6th October, 10 – 11.30am starting from Fort Margherita.

Stay tuned for more updates!

For more info do check out:

Occupational Health Doctor: An Alternative Pathway after Housemanship

I mentioned about OHD a while back. The reason why I chose this field was because:

  • It’s a relatively unknown field
  • It’s something quite different
  • No oncalls. Yass!

Chance had it that I was given the opportunity to pursue this pathway so I give thanks to God for that. Truth be told, I had zero inkling what occupational health is all about before I went for the course conducted by NIOSH.

Occupational health was and still is one of the subspecialty under the domain of Public Health in Malaysia. However the pathway now to become a recognised Public Health specialist is much more difficult compared to few years ago.

I got a lot of new knowledge after attending the Occupational Health Doctor course. For your information, NIOSH (short form for National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) acts as the agency responsible for training and research, whereas DOSH (Department of Safety and Health) is the enforcement arm that swings down the bat of justice hard on those unscrupulous employers that exploit and harm workers.

The current training format of OHD is one of short course where training takes place over 9 days split over 3 weekends. In this very short period of time, the amount of information they’ll cram into you is staggering. One would have to learn about the different terminologies, new way of thinking, adapting clinical knowledge into industrial setting, relevant laws and regulations and so on. Not to mention the myriad occupational diseases – which would be the clinical side of things.

The course I went for costed me about RM3k and it included all textbooks and food. It was held at the NIOSH office. We also had the opportunity to conduct a mock workplace assessment at a construction site (which is normally closed to the general public) to try our hand at identifying workplace hazards and come up with control measures, which is bread and butter for a practising OHD.

As to the exam.. well, that’s a post for another time. I haven’t sat for the exam yet.

I came to understand that OHD is a very popular supplementary qualification sought by a lot of doctors in the country. After attending the course, I realised why. A lot of the laws and regulations which employers and industrial companies have to adhere to require some interventions of which only qualified OHDs have the authority to conduct.

The lecturers allude to the lucrative side of the career- hard to see why. OHDs are high in demand by big multinationals and GLCs, and having this qualification puts you in good stead of clinching a good job offer in the private sector should you think of quitting the government at some point in the future.

That being said, becoming and OHD doesn’t mean you become a specialist. It’s just an extra qualification which qualifies you to do certain things the general public or practitioners from other fields couldn’t. While it can potentially be lucrative, it’s completely up to the resourcefulness of the doctors themselves to venture into business (depending on which side of the country you’re in).

Some final thoughts – OHD is one of the things I’m glad I forked out my hard-earned money for. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air compared to the usual things you see in the hospital wards. It can be dry at times, but the exposure to the technical side of things is essential for you to grasp the intricacies of this field and become an expert in it.

Always remember the adage, if you’re good at something, never do it for free.

Life after Housemanship: Now What?

It’s been 4 months after I officially finished my housemanship.

I’m pretty sure a lot of people had the same doubts as I had when I was nearing the end of my housemanship. Yet I consider myself decisive when it came to making a decision for myself.

Many people would settle for one of the big 7 specialisation – Medical, Surgical, Orthopaedics, Paediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Anaesthesiology and Emergency Medicine. A lot would settle for serving at rural clinics or Klinik Kesihatan.

As for myself, I have not an inkling of idea what to do with myself in the next 30 years. And I shudder to think of being oncall for the rest of my life. I don’t see myself being in the clinical side of things. And I absolutely hate calls. Lack of sleep and the heavy patient load has taken it’s toll on my body and health and I loathe to imagine how I would end up if I continue doing something I hate for the next few years.

So that meant almost all of the specialties is a no-no for me. In Malaysia, that leaves only going into administration or continue being a general clinical MO as viable pathways.

I have always liked Public Health as an alternative and for a time that became my goal. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, that would mean having to go through PhD before one gets recognised as a specialist eligible for registration in the NSR. Not to mention the “mentor-mentee” program (which I have absolutely zero idea about) and having to serve in district (at least that’s how it is in Sarawak).

I shudder to think of being bonded with the government for another 7 or 10 years if I do decide to go for the local PhD route. It would mean having served at least a quarter of my life in an invisible bondage of service.

Another option came up and I chose take it – Occupational Safety and Health. Granted, it is not a specialty by itself. But I went for the OHD course anyway and found myself quite interested in the field. That’s a story for another day.

There are a lot of different fields available in Malaysia as our healthcare system improves every year – nuclear medicine, pathology, radiology etc. Even more obscure ones are those who serve in the military, of which I’m pretty sure are only reserved for those who graduated from the RMC or Universiti Pertahanan. At one point I even fantasised of joining the army as an army doctor but that would mean forfeiting my life once my parents find out and kill me.

Well, for now, I’m content, and I haven’t felt this way in a long time. And that’s saying something.

Quitting Housemanship

Qutting Housemanship

stressed doctorShould I quit housemanship? To be honest, this question has crossed my mind countless times. I came near to my breaking point barely 2 weeks into my HOship in O&G rotation. I can understand too well the stress of being in a completely new environment, feeling like an idiot and having no idea how to function. I know too well the feeling of inadequacy and the anger at myself for having spent 6 years abroad with nothing to show for. If you’re a houseman on the verge of quitting, then I hope my writing would help you decide, if only a little.

Should You Quit Housemanship

That being said, I still think, no, you shouldn’t quit housemanship.

Yes, it is the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. Slogging 2 years without adequate sleep, enduring harsh criticisms from superiors, having the nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten to do something right – all these is part and parcel of working as a lowly HO in Malaysia.

Yet as I grow older, I saw housemanship as a period where one can achieve tremendous personal growth. Just bear in mind that no other profession gives you the opportunity to develop yourself in such a short period of time. At least, no other profession requires you to perform and not kill somebody at the same time.

The need to perform well under pressure will hone you into someone you’ll barely recognise 2 years down the road. Whether that pressure made you into an amazing healthcare provider or a horrible boss who will just continue the vicious cycle for the younger generation is another matter entirely.

It all boils down to one essential word: grit

Grit

If you haven’t read the book by Angela Duckworth, I highly recommend you to. Her book has opened my eyes on high performance and tenacity. Her research shows that, no you don’t need talent or a high IQ to be successful in life. All you need is the passion and the perseverance to persist to the end.

Yes, housemanship will break you.

You will be driven to the edge of your abilities.

You will be pushed past your limits.

Yet if you persist, if you hold on to that one word, believing that all difficulties will just help you develop that grittiness, then you have the essential quality called The Growth Mindset. It will carry you far in life.

Personally, for me, I held on, and I am forever grateful to my friends and family who helped me through it. I strongly believe the 2 years shaped me into a more mature and courageous person who will not easily take no for an answer. All the harsh treatment only made me develop a kind of mental toughness and tenacity to persevere through the shitty phase in life.

I will spare you the usual arguments defending our current HO training system. I personally think that it has much room to improve. Look past that, however, and you’ll realise that housemanship is a valuable training ground for you to rapidly become a capable adult. All the experience you garner through the period will help you in whatever field you choose, even outside of medicine.

Dear housemen, don’t give up. Fight on. When all else fails, just remember, pain is temporary, but growth is permanent. Everyone has the capacity to grow, and you can too.

 

Bako National Park

Yesterday was Labour Day and I decided to make full use of it by visiting one of the more famous attractions around Kuching – the Bako National Park. After 28 years of staying here, professing to be a local Kuchingite, frankly it’s a little embarrassing to have yet visited an easily accessible national park.

The park itself is situated approximately 37 km from the city.

How to go to Bako National Park

We started our journey from Kuching at 7.30am by car and reached the Bako National Park car park and boat jetty within 40 minutes. There is scarcity of parking spots around the area so we were lucky to have arrived early. By 8.30am the jetty was already packed with throngs of tourists and day trippers (especially so since yesterday was a public holiday).

Park entrance fee is RM10 per person for Malaysians, and it costs RM30 each person for the return trip by boat to the national park itself. The journey by boat takes 20 minutes.

The boat stopped at the beach and we had to disembark from it straight into the water. That was a bit surprising, yet we took off our shoes and waded through the water anyway. That was, as I later found out, the Teluk Assam beach. It was quite a walk to the park HQ – photo opportunities abound along the way on the vast expanse of sand.

teluk assam
Disembark from the boat onto the beach straight

teluk assam
Vast expanse of sand

Bako Hiking Trails

There were numerous hiking trails to choose from, some of them are closed so we went for the most popular routes – Teluk Pandan Kecil and Teluk Pandan Besar. One has to register at the park HQ before starting the journey.

After a quick breakfast of fried noodles, off we went merrily into the jungle. The flora and fauna is amazing – we saw long-tailed macaques and wild boars up close. No sight of proboscis monkeys though – they’re at a different part of the national park. The initial flat parts of the trail in some parts consisted of wooden walkways over mangrove swamps, but it quickly gave way to steep rudimentary steps perched on tree roots which turned out to be a testing exercise in physical strength. We reached the fork at the trail to Teluk Pandan Besar after almost 2 hours of huffing and puffing. By this time the mid day sun blasted its heat without mercy at us, testing not only our strength but endurance.

bako

teluk pandan besar
Teluk Pandan Besar viewpoint

Teluk Pandan Besar Trail ends at a cliff which affords a spectacular view of the South China Sea and a secluded but inaccessible beach below. After taking photos we quickly left as the heat was too much to bear. We hiked back to the fork and made our way to Teluk Pandan Kecil and after another 30 minutes of torture, made it to what is supposedly the end point (judging from the number of people taking photos and even having a picnic there).

Finally made it

We were about to turn back and start on our journey back towards the HQ when a fortunate stroke of serendipity happened. An elderly gentleman told us it was actually possible to take a boat straight back to the HQ. So off we went, making our way down the steep descent to the beach below the cliff.

We arrived at a secluded beach which was really tranquil. Save for a few hikers, jolly swimmers and the boatmen, we were the only ones around.

Pure tranquility

We took a boat together with another foreigner couple and the boatman took us close to what is arguably THE place to be in the whole park – the magnificent Bako Sea Stack.

It is one thing to be seeing this thing everywhere in tourist brochures and even textbooks, and an entirely new experience to be seeing it up close, with the choppy seas around us.

We reached the HQ at about 2pm, exhausted yet fulfilled. I kept thinking about the chance encounter with the stranger. What a stroke of luck! If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have known that it was possible to take a boat straight to the HQ, with the added opportunity to see the sea stack up close.

Bako sea stack
Ain’t she a beauty?

If you’ve never been to Bako National Park, I highly recommend you to pay a visit.