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storm 27 °C

Really I love medicine, I do. But I am amazed how a university manages to turn such an interesting subject into a pile of meaningless assignments and compulsory classes with teachers that can't teach. And who needs to research ethics? Maybe they should offer a course in common sense too.

Anyway, I have some blog catching up to do. Everthing was going great last time I wrote. New rotation, babies, pregnant women and it was all fun. But something happened. It seems to be an annual brick wall that I hit and wow did I hit it this time.

I have just recently had a week off which I spent in Vietnam, but before that was Hari Raya. Now if you are one of my muslim friends reading this, please don't get offended, I am just an observer.
Basically Hari Raya is the holy month when muslims fast for each day, from sunrise to sunset. Between these times they can eat as much as they like. The purpose of this fasting period is still unclear to me as I asked about 20 people and got 20 different answers. Could be an exercise is self-control, brings them closer to Allah or to teach them what is like to be disadvantaged. Maybe a combination of all, but either way this holy month had an impact on me whether I liked it or not....

1 - my tutors suddenly wanted to teach us at lunchtime. They can't eat, or even drink water, so they don't need a lunch break. Apparently nor do I and I even felt bad carrying around my water.

2 - all the local restaurants are closed during the day. Ok, so nobody wants to cook when they are not allowed to eat and actually not that many people are even eating. But still, my ayam penyit was forcefully taken from my food pyramid and no matter which way you justify it, that still stinks.

3 - the 6:30 rush to buy food. A lot of muslims will wake in the morning before the call to prayer and eat a meal to start their day, then after the evening call to prayer they can break their fast. Instantly. So any evening at about 6:30 - 7:30 the restaurants will open their doors and everyone will order their food making absolutely certain that they have a big spread in front of them before the call finally booms over the loud speaker. Actually, just to make sure nobody misses it, the call is precluded by an ear-piercing siren. But I just can't get over how funny it was the first time I saw 100 people all staring at their food before simultaneously devouring it like the starving people they are.

4 - this would be no skin off my nose except that I went to a Hari Raya market. It looked pretty and it was kind of cool. I just happened to be there at around 6:30pm so I waited for the massive queues of people buying food to disappear before I ordered. Afterall, I wasn't fasting and waiting until after the siren seemed a good idea. Only it wasn't. Every stall, every shop and every stand turned their burners off, stopped cooking and sat down to eat. Of 20 different food stalls, I could not get a single thing to eat. There was a stack of people sitting around devouring their meals and watching me walk from shop to shop probably wondering what on earth I was doing there. Sadly I had to resort to Maccas.

5 - the loudspeakers at the nearby mosque do a pretty good job of waking me in the morning as it is. Besides that they are so awfully out of tune each time they "sing" the call to prayer it makes my ears hurt. Might explain the complete lack of homegrown Malaysian music. But during the holy month, the guy on the biggest loudspeaker in JB managed to find enough important stuff to talk about until midnight each night. That is like 5 hours of non-stop praying delivered to my balcony. I presume it is praying, can't understand it anyway.

I am sure these are just things that everyone here in Malaysia gets used to and it is no big deal really. But regardless of that, I have been here for almost 9 months now and I still don't feel welcome. I could go on for pages about all the reasons why, but that would be no fun. I think it is more to do with JB than Malaysia but as much as I don't like the sterile and strict rules of Singapore, at least they know how to welcome strangers.

That brings me to Vietnam. After booking flights to Ho Chi Min City and arranging a visa to be ready at the airport, I discovered that the friend I planned to visit actually lived in Hanoi. This was a fairly major piece of information that had been left out of my plans and it cost me a pretty penny to fix it. And I picked on Anna for booking a bus 12 hours later than she planned. At least it was going to the right place.

Anyway, Vietnam turned out to be just the break I needed. I didn't exactly come back refreshed, in fact I came back having had almost no sleep at all and some nasty sunburn. But it was an amazing week. It made me feel a bit more love for Asia.
Where beer is an acceptable part of culture, actually an irresistable part at 20 cents a glass!!!!
Where people dress according to the climate and not to their religion.
Where I am not one of the only white giants in the city.
Where Ha Long Bay actually give Wilson's Prom a run for its money. Almost.
Where music is everywhere and they are pretty good at it too.
Where people smoke tabacco in bongs and laugh histerically at a white man's coughing attempt.
Where they still wear cones on their heads and look good doing it.
Where they have a really cool national flag (that isn't an attempted copy of the American flag).
Where I really didn't want to leave and come back to JB.
I know it sounds like I am Malaysia bashing, and I am sorry to all those people that call this place home. In fact I think most of you that read this blog are my friends here. But I just can't put my finger on it. It is not that I am homesick, I actually don't want to go home, I just don't want to be here anymore. Maybe even just living in an apartment for the first time in my life is finally taking its toll. Either way, it is making the looming exams in 6 weeks seem a monumental task. I am sure I will get through, I always seem to in the end and I sure don't want to trip at the last hurdle. But my love for medicine has left me for the moment, and the timing could not be worse. As much as Vietnam provided me with a much needed break, it also made me realise that I am in a place I will never belong.

There is plenty more to write as there always is, but this is just not the blog it should be. I always have trouble writing when I am this way so I have turned to my music instead, which I have finally started to record. If you care for a listen please check out -
http://www.myspace.com/samdortmans - I am interested in any feedback, good or bad. They are very rough and I am still learning how to use the recording gear, but you can get the idea.

So, hopefully after a few productive days of study I will feel a bit better and can write a shorter but more interesting read. Until then, selamat malam.

Posted by The Doctor 03:50 Archived in Malaysia

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