|i could go on for 40 days and 40 nights about my blog title and bore you to bits and pieces with 10,000 different ideas i actually had for the name of this blog but because of the 500 characters limit that is imposed upon this mechanism which, by the way, is supposed to promote free speech, i shall shorten it to just two words basically describing what the hell this is all about and who this hell belongs to.|
Monday, March 31, 2008
elephants, oxes, culture and all that shit
i like to people-watch. this is of course, not to be confused with the primary gay past time of cruising for sex. to me, people-watching is one of those activities that you can learn a lot from. it also helps that i have this uncanny ability to notice bizarre little details about people. it could be one's manner of walking, one's manner of speech, the accents, a scar, line of vision, choice of apparel, et cetera. from these details, my mind processes it with cultural facts and information gleaned from life. it mixes it around and comes up with a conclusion as to why that particular detail exists of this person.
i know this makes me sound really intellectual and all, but i assure you that i'm not that clever. and anways, most of the conclusions that i come up with are along the redundant lines of 'He's wearing a white shirt because he's a waiter' or 'Prolly because he likes to wear white'. poin tis, people watching accompanied with the ability to notice bizarre details on people is prolly the main reason why i love visiting foreign countries so much. plus the fact that you can seal real hot men in the flesh.
beats having to download porn just to see a Caucasian.
if there's one thing i've noticed on this trip to Thailand, it's that people go to the Land of a Thousand Smiles for various different reasons. in fact, you could divide up those reasons into two simple ones. for the typical Asian tourist, it's the cheap bargains, cheap food, cheap produce. not forgetting the really (cheap) fact that you can be an average middle class worker in your home country, but thanks to the currency rate and way of living in Thailand, one can really live like a king of sorts. the inexpensive airline tickets are another big lure as well. i can't help but think that perhaps this is why every other gay person in Singapore thinks of Bangkok as the perfect weekend destination to buy cheap goods and hook up with other hot Caucasians or Negroids. pricing, simply put, dominates the mind of the typical Asian tourist.
for the average Caucasian tourist though, it's a totally different matter. in the eyes of the Asian tourist, the average Caucasian is prolly insane. it could be an American tourist taking pictures of the Bangkok rush hour, in the middle of the road. or the purchase of a Jade Elephant statuette or an ornamental vase. i daresay it's that immaterial substance that permeates every corner of Thailand. the typical Caucasian tourist asks questions. why the curves on the roof of a Buddhist temple are done that way. why are the temple domes are covered in gold leaves. why there are over a thousand step on the only entrance to the Buddhist temple in question. it's this all-encompassing thing called Culture.
it's perhaps this stark reason of a lack of culture in our family holidays, that my parents decided on Bangkok with a detour to Chang Mai for this trip. after all, we've done Bangkok so many times that we're prolly bored stiff. the normal routine whenever i go to Bangkok with the family would be to get what i want from the various department stores and then head to the nearest coffee joint for a cuppa, some reading and people-watching. my father will accompany mother on her shopping trips like the perfect husband. my brother will simply follow along because he doesn't have any money of his own to spend.
Chang Mai is quite the desolate place. not as crowded as Bangkok and the traffic is actually way better. and there are 'American' pubs everywhere on the main tourist districts offering ribs and steaks and Chang beer. which explains why the night market rates are prolly jacked up way higher than the Bangkok prices. it's a great place to relax and chill none the less, which was what i did most of the time when the parents weren't in my hair to bug me.
our time in Chang Mai was spent doing cultural things. things like visiting the various handicraft and produce factories with our tour guide, Noi. Noi was really informative and knowledgeable about Chang Mai itself. after all, you wouldn't expect any less from a person armed with a Masters in Political Science from the University of Siam. previously in the import/export trade, he became a tour guide after 9/11 when his businesses folded one after another. and thus, he told us the history of Chang Mai, the various kings, the princesses, the ones who brought back the silk trade, et cetera. i had a better understanding of why the Thais are the kind and hospitable people that they are after listening to his stories.
the second day of Chang Mai was rather exciting to say the least. we went all wildlife and nature and took an elephant ride. Noi drove us all the way to an outpost in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. there was a big sign that announced something in Thai and broken English. you could basically understand two things from the sign:
1) there were elephants in that outpost
2) this was an outpost of some sort
Caucasian tourists were everywhere. most were plus-sized, in their 50s and had really bad peeling tans. the screech of cicadas pierced what would otherwise have been a nice quiet forest of sorts. if you listened closely, you could pick up strains of French, Russian and German words occasionally punctuating the air. Noi who wasn't one to waste time due to our tight schedule of visiting many other cultural-inclined places quickly ushered us onto two elephants, the parents on one and my brother and me on another. i have to admit that the only elephants i've seen are on Discovery Channel, Nat Geo and the Singapore Zoological Gardens. and these are all encounters behind a television screen or at least some fencing. therefore, to see one upclose and feel the skin and all of an elephant is really quite an experience.
riding an elephant is not like riding a horse or a 100% speed mount (to put it in World of Warcraft terms) where you hop on and get to the business district within five minutes. there's a big hand-made seat with leather cushions for two tied on top of the elephant. an elephant trainer sits in front of you armed with a stick and a mobile phone, presumably to send text messages when he's bored ('I'll c u @ outpost 4 lunch in 1 hr, am ridin now'). it's a slow process that only tourists with all the time in the world to spare can afford to do. for this elephant ride, our destination was to the village of what i think was the Lisu tribe in Chang Mai. i felt like a joystick, suffice to say. we constantly swung to the left, to the right and then one sweeping round. this constant pattern of swing left and right and one round was really making me feel queasy. what wasn't helping was that at that point of time, i was going through a bout of indigestion, having consumed a large amount of Chang Mai sticky rice the previous day. i thought of lighting up a cigarette. but i also thought of smoke-aggravated charging War Elephants in a computer-based strategy game (Age of Empires) i once played. i decided to live with the nausea and a handy stash of Maxalon pills that my mother brought along.
we spent close to an hour on the elephants, riding from the outpost all the way to the Lisu village. it's really like National Geographic, crossing rivers, seeing kids play in them, forests and plenty of flies and mosquitoes. my father and i were pretty nonchalant about all things buzzing, having survived the army and all that survival training stuff. my brother and mother though, were constantly slapping them and losing their karma points. our missing luggage hadn't arrived at that point of time and therefore there wasn't any repellent to go around. there was plenty else to see otherwise. the villagers dotting the surroundings. i couldn't help noticing that anatomy of elephant as well.
as you know elephants are BIG creatures. and BIG creatures translate into BIG anatomy. there was another elephant in front of ours. and it had an anus the size of well.... i can't find anything to describe it. but to put it metaphorically and humorously, if you wondered why the Vitruvian Man has his arms stretched out... well it has something to do with the length and width of the elephant's anus. amidst all that gray skin, there was a rude pinkish hole that constantly dripped some really viscous fluid of sorts. one would automatically assume that's the anus of course without expecting anything else other than faecal matter to pop out of it.
but Mother Nature sent her act of confirmation with a really loud plop of sorts. it was that kind of plop that sounded like a human dropping from a building, thanks to CSI. lo and behold, the elephant started shitting mid-trip to the Lisu village. the rude, angry-looking anus in front of us started evacuating huge chunks of big green balls of shit. they looked equally angry too. i'm not sure about elephant social mechanics, but this shitting seemed to be a sign for all the other elephants trekking through the forests to start defecating as well. whilst riding on top of the elephant, one could feel a sort of strain going through mammal itself, before you heard a loud plop behind you.
i'm fine with mammals shitting actually. but i'm not fine when the shit that comes out of the elephant is accompanied with green fluid. and you could be in another country far away from home, but the laws of physics still apply. in this case, wet and hard lumps of shit hitting the floor will cause the wet bits to fly all over the place. 'all over the place' included several spots near my sneakers when our elephant was trying to overtake the elephant in front of ours. who was shitting, no less.
i was therefore really relieved when the elephant arrived at the Lisu village. there were no tribal dances and people crafting wooden inanimate objects as the average Caucasian tourist would expect. my parents though, being the Asian tourists, predicted another tourist trap selling handicrafts. and true enough, there was a whole row of stalls selling local products, mainly along the lines of bags and trinkets. business was bad. not because there were few people visiting the village solely to pee in the toilets and get a few drinks. but prolly due to the fact that there were about fifteen over shops all selling THE SAME trinkets in THE SAME colours and THE SAME designs. and every shop owner was a Lisu girl dressed in THE SAME tribal costume saying THE SAME welcoming greeting of 'You want come see!' in THE SAME accent and THE SAME tone of voice. i'm not trying to be degretory here or anything like that, but some business smarts would be really welcome here. obviously, the whole batch of tourists around us never bought anything.
you must be wondering then, how on Earth did we get back to the elephant outpost? thank goodness it wasn't by elephant this time, but rather ox-cart. two oxes, a wooden cart and a ox rider armed with an even bigger stick of sorts prolly to tame the critters. he had a mobile phone as well, of course. it was a really rocky ride. and from the experiences, i couldn't help but conclude that our oxes seemed really unintelligent or have problems with psychomotor-coordination. the right ox kept veering towards the right of the designated dirt path. and to the right of the dirt path is a bunch of trees. hoorah.
the ox rider of course, had to do something. and he had two things i hand, the taming stick and the mobile phone. i was hoping he would use the mobile phone actually and call some friends for a replacement cart or whack the ox or something. simply because the taming stick was really thick and had a huge wooden ball at the end of it. getting bashed with it would result in internal haemorrhage or some random forensics detail. 'WHOCK! WHOCK' two hard beatings on the ox's back were given. being people of urban living, we as a family were of course shocked. my dad gave the ox rider a nice tip of two hundred baht after the whole ride which lasted a good half hour.
we asked Noi later on as to why the ox rider gave the poor critter such a harsh chastising. he told us simply that oxes in the Thai culture are considered to be one of the less intelligent creatures when compared to others such as monkeys and elephants. there was no other way to teach it properly other than 'negative reinforcement' (in his own words). SPCA would come beating at the Lisu village's door step.
but then, that's culture for you.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
why my mother can't survive a holiday disaster
for the uninformed (as in you didn't get the information, not as in you have a uniform fetish of sorts), i'm just returned from a short hiatus in Thailand. Chang Mai, to be precise. remember that Tokyo trip for two that my mom won first price for in her organization's annual dinner and dance? it was apparently a five days four nights thing for two to the land of the rising sun, costing somewhere between three to four thousand dollars. i would have bore no grudges or feelings of jealousy if the two parents of mine decided to be selfish (for once) and claim the trip for themselves. in fact, i can already see them soaking up the heat in the hot springs and eating sushi while making loud exclamatory noises ALA Japan Hour. back in Singapore, i would have practically the whole house to myself with no one to constantly bugger me about my smoking habits while i play World of Warcraft.
but obviously, something like that would be rather hard-pressed to happen. mainly because my father is a family man. the duty-bound, 'my children's expenses before my HD TV', responsible person that one would rarely find in these days of materialistic wealth. the father would not have it any other way than a family trip, the main reasons being that:
1) we as a family, have not been on a holiday in a very long time (the last time we went on one was to Vancouver in 2005)
2) the brother is entering the army for his National Service soon - it's difficult to plan a trip when one of your relatives is in the military (or any other governmental organization for that matter)
3) it is after all, paid by my mother's organization.
and thus, plans were made and think tanks in the entire family's heads were activated to brainstorm for holiday destinations we could actually go. we actually did set out sights on several places initially. Japan, for the culture and the food. Perth, for the farmland animals, koalas, kangaroos and perhaps the food as well. UK for the art, gardens, palaces and tea, presumably. Korea, for i dunno.... Bae Yong-joon and kim chi? so many holiday ideas, mainly about food, but here's the catch: hey! reality check people! we don't have enough money!!
and thus like scorned upper middle class people having to make do with second best, we decided on Thailand. and do note, this is after i contributed at least a thousand dollars for airfare (mine), another two hundred for food and on the mother's behest, a final hundred dollars for the brother's expenses (who couldn't be bothered to take up a part-time job despite having been lazing around for two months coming while waiting to enlist in the army). that's practically three quarters of my month salary. whatever happened to responsibility and duty-bound and 'my children's expenses before my HD TV'?
and thus, with our luggages in tow, we found ourselves at Changi International Airport on a friday. despite the time being no more than six o'clock in the wee hours of the morning, the father seemed rather perky. so did the mother. and of course, the brother. i was still recovering from the night shift blues, having completed another set of nights from monday to thursday. it was all pretty much a blur to me. the checking in, the piling of the luggage on the baggage counter, the passports, the sudden disappearance of myself for a quick cigarette break. i had a feeling that i was not really going to enjoy this trip. based on past experiences, i could already foresee intermittent periods of silence where nobody knows what to say, phases of indecision where nobody knows what to do. i brought along my laptop because of this. if i'm bored or speechless, i could open up my laptop and start surfing on the wi-fi internet. falling short, i could bash myself on the head with it for agreeing to come on this trip.
the plane ride was uneventful. a ride to Suvarnabhumi Airport and then a quick transit to Chang Mai International. the children barely communicated more than a few sentences and brief terms of agreement to the parents throughout the entire ride from Singapore to Chang Mai. even then, the method of communication was mainly through a family-trained tradition of grunts and nods. however, all this changed when we tried to survive our first-ever family holiday crisis. we were awaiting our baggages along the belts. my humongous Quiksilver carry-on, check. my brother's small carry-on, check. the parents' medium-sized wheelie, check. the parents' large boxy luggage, ch.... wait, where is it?
it's one of those epiphanic moments of denial that you typically see in American dramas. you know when the lead is alone and in another country without her baggage. a really emo-sounding indie tune would be accompanying the scene and the baggage belt just grinds to a silencing halt at the appropriate climax of the song. except that in this scene, we had just one luggage less, two really calm men, one panicky mother and one nonchalant teenager. the baggage belt did have that really have an impact though. it seems rather to silly to stand watching at a non-moving baggage belt, but we did just that. presumably hoping that some random Thai airport staff would poke his head from the dark recesses of the baggage belt entrances and start screaming something incoherent like 'PRAKTUCHAI KAP SUM PONGSAP SONGKHRA BAGGAGE SINGAPORE KRAP PONG PONG KRAP??' (loosely translated: 'What in lemongrass is this baggage from Singapore doing in here at the end of the baggage aisle?')
and i'm not kidding you when i tell you the first thing my mom said was this:
'*gasp* But all my facial products are inside!!!! my hand cream. my moisturiser. my sunblock!!!!'
my mother - 45 and still quite the bimbo. my dad was primarily concerned with his itinerary and PDA and electrical chargers, which of course made more sense. he took it much better though, in the same resigned way that i seem to have learned from him. no point crying over spilt milk. we thus lodged a lost property claims with a pretty Thai lady of about late 30s. she was your traditional Thai beauty. the type that should be found working the duty free counters rather than handling your lost luggage. her make-up was so thick that you could go all Discovery Channel on it with your hammer and chisel and discover fossil fuel and dinosaurs bones beneath it. she seemed more preoccupied with holding her pen in a manner that wouldn't put her well manicured and painted nails in harm's way. this of course agitated my mother even more.
word was therefore put out from Chang Mai to Bangkok for a serial tagged baggage. and seriously, there was nothing much we could do since our one piece of luggage was not in Chang Mai anyways. with that, we proceeded out of customs and into the warm humid air of Chang Mai. our tour guide, Noi, a very jovial-looking gentlemen of about forty greeted us warmly. my father greeted him back as Nok. and for the rest of the trip, he was Nok. nobody bothered to correct him, not even Noi himself.
of course, my parents who have never had luggage lost overseas before packed all their important essentials like mobile phones and itineraries into one big bag. my mother was acting in a forlorn sort of manner that started to drain the spirits from the trip. we could be visiting a Silk factory and she would suddenly start talking about her moisturiser. half-way through a paper umbrella crafts centre, she would recall that she was unprotected from the UV rays and bemoan the lack of sunblock.
mid-way through lunch at a hole in the wall Thai restaurant she started to urge the father to push the tour guide to make frequent calls to the airline side to get updates. she said in Mandarin that she thinks Noi isn't trying his best to look for the missing luggage. and when the mother speaks in Mandarin (which is seldom), she's trying to hide something or say something bad. the fact that Noi was also a smoker wasn't really helping him build cred with the parents. having smoked a cigarette with Noi a few tourist stops ago, i asked him about the luggage. he simply said that these things usually resolved themselves within a day or two. nothing much to worry about. 'your mother seems very worried though,' he added. we shared a rather resigned smile.
because of this constant association i make with evil whenever my mother speaks in Mandarin, i decided to tell my mother to get a grip on herself. in a nice way, of course. i offered her my facial foams and washes. i even offered her my exfoliating scrub which had granules the size of Pakistan and would probably get rid of half her face. 'But all my Truste products....' she wavered off. 'You really Truste your products eh?' my father giggled. the brand of multi-level marketing lycopene-based facial products that she used was of course, aptly named Truste. i wanted to laugh out loud, but then again LOL, LMAO or even ROFL for that matter, in front of the family.
of course, all that worry was for naught. because roughly one and a half days later, our luggage arrived intact, smelling like airplane cargo. my father thanked Noi profusely, even shaking his hand so much that the coins and keys in his pocket jangled like Christmas. as we checked the luggage in the hotel room, we couldn't help but notice a little tag that indicated from whence our baggage came from.
a chinese logo. chinese words stating the name of a china-based importing company.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
take away my uniform, take away my cup, but you can't take away my ehrm... dignity/pride/all-encompassing sense of justice?
the hospital is one of those dangerous places that are bounded by an inordinate amount of laws. of course, most of these laws are about as helpful as a pistol that points backwards. as in, if i try to shoot you in the foot, i will end up shooting my own head instead. of course, this makes a rather exceleent cure of one's migraines, but it leaves a rather grisly mess for the forensics team to figure out. that, and the fact that headless people are generally considered rather dead.
having worked for several years in a hospital, i have come to realize that one of the most prominent laws the general public loves to wave about is the Law of Negligence. or what i would like to call the Law of Negligee. the negligee being a item of fabric to promote a certain transparency of sorts, but mostly useful and looking good if only one has the required assets to wear it. similar to real working life in the hospital, the Law of Negligence is only useful if you do your work well in the hospital and follow laws by the book. but truth be told, taking care of one human being is never easy work. taking care of one human beings while being bounded by laws and rules is rather difficult. now try taking care of eighteen human beings and throw in the laws, ethics and rules, it's seriously overkill. eighteen patients is what i usually have under my charge. i break the rules half the time in order to help the patients. not fun when you consider my measly pay and my entire career at stake.
i find the whole Law of Negligence thing to be a real ironic matter. we nurses put up with a lot of bullshit from the patients. we put up with even more bullcrap from the relatives. i mean, for most relatives, the hospital is the next best thing to a pet care centre to dump their elderly relatives whom they have absolutely no intrest in taking charge of. call me cynical and call me horrid, but countless are the times when the whole nursing profession is treated more like a service-oriented job. the typical complaint that comes about with the relatives are things like 'Why didn't you walk my father after the operation?' or 'Why didn't you change my father's diapers regularly?' which sometimes i would really like to pose the question back to them in a 'if you were in my shoes kinda way', 'do you actually bother to walk your father?' and 'do you want to do the changing of the diapers instead?'
of course, the rules in the hospital are not only limited to negligence-based ones. as with any other organization, there are rules set in place to keep the staff in check. like women and hair accessories. no dangling 'Beyonce-ish' hoop rings are allowed for ear accessories. only one wedding band is allowed for rings on the fingers. and coloured hair is generally frowned upon. i daresay that i'm the only male nurse in my hospital that has golden hair. which generally makes me very much frowned upon. yes, male nursing seems to be a really dowdy lot.
but back to rules about the nursing uniform. the nursing board has dictated that uniforms are strictly forbidden to be hung behind the doors of the cubicles in the staff toilet. this is of course for a good reason. a sanitary napkin dispenser lies in the corner of the cubical. people are bathing and splashing bacteria all about the toilet walls. menstruating women who can't pee properly staining the toilet seats (i have personally seen this before in my staff toilet). ironic, given that we practice aseptic techniques while at work, but can't seem to be hygienic with our ablutions. none the less, i have always made it my habit to hang my uniform in the shower cubicles in the toilet when i leave for work. this is purely out of unbounded love for my parents who do the laundry. one uniform typically lasts for two days. i have told my colleagues about this little tit-bit before and received feedback ranging from 'eeeeee' (the clean freaks) to 'oh please! mine lasts for three days *flies buzzing*'.
not helping is the typical locker that the nursing staff are given is about as big as a box of condoms. okay okay, i'm exaggerating here. it's roughly the size of two boxes of condoms. the staff locker is big enough to fit in one set of folded uniform and prolly a pair of shoes. and really, who in this hygienic society of ours wants to keep uniforms and shoes in the same place? whatever happened to the medical drama locker room scene where one can actually HANG those scrub suits to air dry?
there was a period of time when the female nursing staff all kept their shoes in the cabinet underneath the sinks. one of the health-care attendants (the people in charge of washing dishes, cups and serving beverages and doing the menials tasks that keep the hospital running) who had an all-encompassing sense of morality, grabbed the ward supervisor violently by the arm (she has a history of bipolar disorder, now well-controlled, thanks to medication) and dragged her all the way to the staff toilet. 'YOU SEE, SISTER! ALL THE SHOES OVER HERE!! SO DISGUSTING!' she emphasized, prolly with the same ardour as one would preach the gospel to a group of heathens. this particular health-care attendant is rather fond of capital letters and exclamation marks in her speech. all the affected females had their shoes dumped into a big black trash bag after that brouhaha. the females in question also had a hard time sorting out the uniformed black shoes and have come to hate the health-care attendant in particular.
none the less, my uniform which was supposedly hung (hur hur!), had disappeared when i got to work one night shift. initially i thought i was the victim of someone who hated me at work, but then again, i didn't aggravate anybody enough at work to generate that much hate. which led to the next logical conclusion, the bloody supervisor. she's the old school of nursing type of person who got to her senior nurse manager position by following strictly by the book. the type that would definitely find it hard to survive in today's rather flexible world. left with no uniform and an impending shift, i went to borrow a set of scrubs from the Infectious Diseases ward. the ID ward typically wore hospital-issued t-shirts and flowing pyjama pants which tend to 'flow' rather well over prominent private parts. Pangkeng, being the naturally perverse person that he was, couldn't help but constantly comment and try pulling down my pants which were precariously suspended by a simple knot. and i'm very bad at knots.
infuriated by this sudden act of confiscation, i refused to speak to my senior supervisor for three days. if there's one thing i've learnt since primary school, it's that taking things without permission equates to stealing. so technically, she stole my uniform from me. and if she wants to return it back to me, she had better come see me rather than i go see her. it wasn't until the third day when i had no choice but to pass her in the hospital corridor that she confronted me about the uniform in question. to summarize, i listen to her explanation without agreeing to a single thing she said. she returned my uniform intact with my name tag which was hanging neatly on a hanger behind her office door. admittedly, i was touched. but i guess deep down inside, to avoid similar feats of theft from happening, i decided to use that small two-condom boxes-sized locker to keep my uniform.
about a fortnight later, an even sillier act of supervisor-based theft occurred in the ward. the nursing staff have a norm of keeping their cups and water bottles in the pantry. the pantry being the places where the patient's diets are kept and stored. on a normal day, one would find about fifteen to twenty water containers amassed at the pantry. logically speaking, since the staff lockers are already filled with uniforms, shoes and toiletries, keeping a cup where one drinks from in that locker is rather unhygienic. of course, once again, the nursing board dictates that the pantry is solely meant for the patients. and with the Joint Commission International audits looming round the corner, the supervisors are going gaga with the rules.
the night staff arrived one fine day to find that the water bottles and mugs missing from the pantry. in fact, the entire pantry was devoid of a single water container. Kegal Laugh's Ripcurl water bottle. Pangkeng's mug described as 'my deceased grandmother gave it to me!!!!'. my very own Aquacel Ag mug that i got from the very first colorectal seminar that i attended which had very high sentimental value to me. of course, all of us were angry. 'Taking without permission is stealing,' i proclaimed at the top of my tar-coated lungs. and so we investigated and ask around the afternoon shift staff who prolly knew better as to the fates of our mugs and water bottles.
one health-care attendant witnessed one of our supervisor gathering all our mugs and putting them in a transparent plastic bag. and if that wasn't enough, she proceeded to place the transparent plastic bag conveniently outside the disposal room. normally, placing stuff just outside the disposal room is a message to the housekeeping stuff to throw things away. and believe you me, our housekeeping staff are really efficient and don't ask questions. you could place chopped up body parts wrapped in tin foil outside the disposal room and they would still send it to the great big garbage dump for incineration.
so either the supervisor in question really was ignorant about this norm, or she was just the plain embodiment of evil and wanted to dispose of all our cups, just so she could teach us a lesson. being infuriated at that point of time, we all went with the latter. that was when i started to formulate a plan of sorts. well, since the supervisors are so in love with taking away and throwing away all our water containers, let's give them more to throw away then. i grabbed a new unopened packet of plastic disposable cups and started placing them at every corner of the ward. the nurses counter, the toilet, the trolleys, the pantry, the medical officer's office, the floor, the cabinets. every single surface that could support a cup wasn't spared. i even managed to pyramid of sorts on top of the water dispenser. the tune of the New Radicals 'You Get What You Give' kept playing in my mind while i carried out my diabolical plans of revenge.
but of course, the thing about plans is that 'Man Proposes, but God Disposes.' early march was pretty much the monsoon season accompanied with strong winds, no thanks to El Niño. it happened to rain that particular night and the wind blew half the cups away. even my pyramid display wasn't spared. suffice to say, i spent the night picking up cups like an Egyptian loser. not exactly very fun thing to do.
silly little rules and authorities, perhaps this is why i've never liked working for organizations. but then again, which young adult ever enjoys subjecting oneself to rules and authority?
Monday, March 17, 2008
technology for the modern homosexual
technology, in a cheeky and extremely lewd sense, is more or less comparable with a dildo. doesn't matter whether it's a vibrating, rotating or electrical impulse-releasing one because it really does 'broaden' (hur hur!) one's horizons. just when you thought that the time when everything there has to be discovered has come to pass, a new bit of technology really gives one new inputs of perspective/pleasure. of course, one could come to embrace it or even reject it with ardent displeasure. for me, i welcome new technologies with a pinch of salt. especially that of mobile and communicative technologies.
you've got to admit that we've come a long way since the days of paging devices and chunky video cameras. i was actually one of those simpletons who thought that the video camera was the epitome of recording advances. of course, i was also an impressionable eleven years old at the point of time, primarily obsessed with Pokemon, Twinson's Odyssey and Rockman manga. i remember when my dad bought his first Sony Video Camera. it was big, accompanied in a big carrier, and came with an even bigger price tag. this basically encouraged him all the more to film practically every second of his life with the family. till today, we still keep DVs of birthdays, weddings, festive occasions and funerals. yes, my father actually has a one minute video still shot of my maternal grandfather in his coffin. that and the twenty-plus digital photos of the grandfather in seemingly artistic shots.
fast-forwarding a few years, today's mobile devices are compact, efficient and definitely more affordable for the average consumer. the typical teenager owns at least one mobile phone, MP3 player, camera and laptop. to think when i was a teenager, i didn't even have a Motorola MemoJazz which was all the rage back then. i relied mostly on coin-operated phones before proceeding on to become rather acquainted with phone cards. of course, all this also means well for the average homosexual.
from a 'you've come a long way, baby!' point of view, there are two things that technological advances have changed drastically for the gay man. back in the dark ages (and this is based solely on what i've gathered from mature forty-year old homo men that i'm acquainted with), the main way of getting laid would be cruising and clubbing. swimming pools were hot spots. toilets were smelly but good spots. and Sunday nights at the clubs are always packed... with men-loving men, that is. VCDs were the main form of media when it came to porn. i have yet to come across anyone who owns an intact copy of pornographic material on a VCR-playable tape. but i'm sure there were many circulating around in the early 90s.
these days we can practically get our rocks off without leaving the house, all thanks to 'The Big Connection' fondly known as the internet. come to think of it, the only instance i can think of whereby one has to leave would be fine examples such as 'crap, i've run out of rubber' and 'is your place available because my mother's at home'. as any gay man can attest to, being a homosexual is really an art form in itself. having to stay inconspicuously under the radar for the general straight public, yet at the same time letting out the homo vibes for the gay crowd - definitely not an easy feat. social mores and taboos within the gay community. the places to go to get to meet like-minded brethren. if one is lucky, one has someone to learn the tricks of the trade from (i make it sound like prostitution). i wasn't so lucky, apparently. i basically gleaned everything from the internet, followed by sexual encounters, followed by meeting actual gay people who weren't interested in meeting up just for sex. web cams, chat rooms, gay personals on the internet, downloadable porn, etc. one could be gay without even having sex with real gay men.
the other thing that has truly affected today's gay men is that of mobile recording technology. i'm thinking that back in the 70s or 80s, the thought of fitting a recording device on a mobile phone was totally preposterous. hell, the thought of a mobile phone was even ludicrous. today, just log on to any streaming porn site such as (insert random site that you frequent)tube.com and you can see supposedly real videos of Singaporean men and their sexual escapades. common titles include things like 'Me Waking Up in the Morning with a Hardon' or 'Cumshot at 30,000 feet' (this one is real! someone actually took a wanking video of himself in an airplane toilet! SQ some more!).
the modern video camera phone of course, bodes well for the narcissistic gay person who would rather have sex with the mirror. call me paranoid, but i've never been a fan of recording myself having sex with other men on mobile devices. well, at least not after the whole Tammy hoohah in Singapore. but hey, who am i to judge? everyone's entitled to get their rocks off in whatever way that helps. of course, the whole mobile recording device thing was thrown into perspective just a few days ago at a gathering of four men. two's company, three's a crowd and four is definitely an orgy. so yeah, it was an orgy of sorts. did i make it crystal clear? or do i need to calculate the meth?
there were three laptops at the gathering. three hard disc drives full of downloaded porn were also present with their laptop accompaniments. being a bit of a pornoissuer of sorts, i brought along my heavy duty Maxtor that had practically 360GB worth of media. suffice to say, someone showed me a rather scandalous porn of sorts. it was rather grainy as it recorded on a mobile device. but you could make out a computer screen with a shot of someone having webcam sex. my train of thoughts while watching the grainy recording were as followed: 'oooh... big', 'nice body', 'is that a gold necklace?', '*gasp* oh my god! isn't that (insert random high profile gay person in Singapore gay scene)?'
to which i asked my acquaintance who owned the recorded video, '*gasp* oh my god! isn't that (insert name of high-profile gay person in Singapore gay scene)?'
i left the gathering in the wee hours of the morning, grateful that i wasn't that big on web-camming. as in 'i don't like to have web-cam sex', not 'why does my penis look so small on the web-cam?'.
Monday, March 10, 2008
hospital horror stories involving smells
one of the most practical assets of being armed with this giganormous Jackie Chan nose of mine (other than to headbutt irritating citizens of Singapore on the trains who refuse to give way when people are trying to get off, nose first of course) is that i'm almost always able to pick up the most distinct of odours. this ability is of course most poignant in the hospital where the sick and the destitute primarily exist. the production of smells is further amplified by the fact that most of these individuals are really not that well to begin with. and funky odours coming from the human body is its way of saying 'Oi! seek help! seek medical attention! go to the fragrance department!' the same could of course be said for bad BO and halitosis uncovered by beauty products.
the wide variety of smells in the hospital is perhaps one of the reasons why i like being in the hospital so much. i have to admit that i have this obsessive obsessive obsessive obsessive obsessive-compulsive desire to smell every single fluid and solid that comes out from the human body. in a single night of working in the hospital alone, thoughts like 'Hey! this is the smell of Mr. Chan's shit!' and 'Oooh! Gangrene!' waft across my head, the same way those odours are doing so in my nostrils. i can't pinpoint an exact reason as to why i love smelling funky odours other than perhaps just professional interest. of course, it could also be an undesirable fetish of sorts. but that's just plain gross.
some of these smells have become so distinct or second-natured to me, that sometimes, they become rather indescribable. you just know that odour comes from (insert random producer of foul smell) when you inhale it. i mean, it's easy to describe the smell of shit and piss. but how do you go about describing the smell of shit laced with blood? or piss from a patient on Penicillin? or even the smell of gastric contents? some things in life are simply just better experienced first hand. you know what they say about pictures speaking a thousand words. but with smells, they mostly just render you at a loss for words.
none the less, i have decided to compile a list of the various smells that i commonly come in contact with on a routine shift in the hospital. not all of them are body fluids of course. because you can only derive so much fun from shit, piss and gastric juice. so for starters, let's go with....
1) Septanol - is that vodka? oh wait, it's just medical disinfectant.
i'm a clean freak. i have this bad habit of needing to pack up the nurses' station and treatment room before i commence with work proper. and believe you me, the hospital is one hell of a dirty place to be at. from hospital acquired infections to the various ailments that the patients come in for, 'clean' is the last word a hospital should ever endorse. we're looking more at 'hygienic'. and at risk of sounding like a Dettol advert, i have to admit that there's nothing more pleasant-smelling and trustworthy than the many bottles of Septanol that one can find in the hospital. it's blue, it's made up of 70% methylated spirit and most interestingly it smells strangely like vodka. every time i clean up the treatment room, i can imagine drunk little gaseous atoms knocking against each other, and well.... just generally knocking each other up. how can i not love a medical disinfectant that kills germs and reminds me of clubbing at the same time?
2) General Anaesthetic - the common cure for halitosis
halitosis (or in layman's terms, bad breath) can be quite a distressing experience for the average Joe. but hey, i think i might have just discovered a simple cure for the typical attack of halitosis. you see, i once had a patient who admitted for the simple hernia mesh repair. he was genuinely nice and really courteous and all. the only weird thing he kept doing was to cover his mouth when he spoke to all the nurses. it was only when he had to sign some formal documents and speak to me at the same time when i realize why he kept on with this idiosyncrasy. his mouth apparently, emitted this really foul stench, strangely resemblant of a dish of all the strangest foods in the world fermented together in a great big melting pot. and one could tell that he must have lived with it for quite a long time and was really embarrassed about it. i felt kinda bad for him actually, because he was considerate enough to want others to avoid smelling it by constantly covering his mouth.
post-operatively though, he seemed like a changed man. for one, he was conversing with me without the hindrance of an appendage muffling his speech. the foul stench was gone apparently. and the dear patient could definitely feel it. instead of the vile concoction of fermented foods, the pleasant staple smell of medical disinfectant and anaesthetic coloured his speech. there was this confidence in him that made one feel warm and snuggly inside. so i say, if you've got a case of bad breath, don't panic. go for surgery under GA. tell your local GP, 'i want my ear piercing during under surgery, and make sure it's under local anaesthetic!' do this while covering your mouth please.
3) Vomit (part one) - is that the smell of the Ministry of S... blueragrhhhh!!!
vomiting is the body's way of saying (actually more like screaming and shouting) 'i've had enough alcohol for the night! put in some more and i'll morbidly embarrass you!'. and throughout my entire nursing career, i've received only two such patients in my general surgery settings. of course, in my entire clubbing experience, they're a dime a dozen. me, included. there's nothing that feels better than vomiting after a night of heavy drinking. of course, that's not the point. the point is that the distinctive smell of Absolut and vomit permeates the air when such patients are around. i remember one such overflow patient, a case from the Department of Internal Medicine.
she was morbidly obese, on top of already being morbidly embarrassing to herself. she came into the ward straight from the Emergency Department, drunk and incoherent. she wanted to pee, but couldn't even walk to the toilet. she was vomiting like there was no tomorrow. and before you knew it, she soon fell asleep with her legs with her legs spread-eagled, black lacey panties for all to see. around her were puddles of pee, vomit and patients with looks of disgust. this is a typical case of people drinking too much on their first ever night out in the clubs.
the next day, the whole ward smelt like a club on Sunday morning.
4) Milky Milky Stools - it smells like funky strawberries (which makes a good name for an ice-cream flavour)
i've generally found dietitians to be the prim and proper ladies of the hospital. they are almost always slim and petite. they wear nice clothes and walk around in pumps or clickety-clackety heels. i mean a plus-sized dietitian wouldn't really reflect well on the profession, would it? of course, the dietitians can afford to dress up like they are partying in the wards, not only because they are beautiful and live by a balanced diet, but also, they are simply not involved with the nursing side of things. what nursing side of things you say? cleaning up stools, cleaning up vomit, cleaning up everything that causes an unpleasant smell generally.
dietitians are generally called in when a patient is not taking food well. perhaps they don't have an appetite or perhaps they just need that extra nutrition to supplement their diet. one of the most common tools for helping these malnourished patients to put on weight would be that of Ensure. in case you're not from the health-care profession, Ensure is a brand of well-balanced and nutritious milk feeds. it comes in strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavours. the staple orders in my ward are tragically, strawberry. Ensure can be a real boon or a bane, depending on the patient's gastric tolerance for dairy products. the worst professional bomb that a dietitian can throw to the nurses is a simple order of Ensure 6 cans/day for a patient who has just recently started taking soft foods. and you know what milk does to the lactose-intolerant and people who were recently re-introduced to solid foods. they shit all six cans of milk out like their bodies were simply no more than a catalyst of sorts.
this is why i've become so familiar to the scent of shit mixed with strawberry milk. Ensure-based shit is a creamy and thick pasty kind. the closest resemblance in terms of consistency and colour i can think of is Japanese curry. and boy, do i love Japanese curry.
5) Bloodied stools - the smell of the Industrial Revolution
people can shit bloody stools for all sorts of reasons. from a tear in the stomach lining to putting phallic-shaped objects up their orifices WITHOUT the aid of a lubricant. my ward, being general surgery and all, commonly receives cases of the former, the bleeding gastrointestinal tract cases. we call them BGITs for short. sometimes they have stomach cancer which causes them to bleed and bleed and bleed. other times they are simply no more than ulcers in the stomachs. the more serious cases have their haemoglobin levels ranging in the 6 and 7s (Haemoglobin levels above 9 or 10 are generally considered to be quite okay). they often require a massive amount of blood transfusions to replace the losses. the worst is when the blood goes in, simply to come out from the anus again. and blood-stained stools are the most worrisome kind. they don't smell as unpleasant as your typical stools, often bordering on the odour of metals or coal. but like i said, they make you worry a lot for the lives of your patients.
6) Menses - the fisherman's wharf
one of the things that you'll come to accept as a male nurse is the fact that you will have to get changed in a unisex toilet. or at least in my hospital, i'm always changing and doing my ablutions in a unisex toilet. i remember the first time as a student nurse when i used the staff unisex toilet, the distinct smell of fish was wafting through the air. that was the day when i added the Sanitary Dustbin into my list of things that one will commonly find in the toilet.
Pangkeng and I are always screaming and complaining about the women in our ward who pee and dirty the toilet seats with their menstrual fluid. our idea is that if the women can moan about the men who don't put down the toilet seats after use, then the men also have the right to retaliate with stained toilet seats. and believe me, it's a very nauseating scent when left in the toilet for an extensive period of time in a country like Singapore. and you know what's the crowning glory of it all? i'm supposedly put in charge of maintaining the cleanliness of the toilets. of course, the janitor does a very good job of cleaning up the majority of the stains. but within an hour, the toilet always smells like a trip to the fish market. and i'm not saying it's fish just because all the men think it's fish. it really smells like fish.
7) Vomit (part-two) - I know what you had last dinner....
another common ailment that our ward accepts is the case of intestinal obstruction, or I/O for short. we get a lot of I/Os over the festive seasons, whereby the locals stuff themselves to death at buffets and gatherings. and when your body is stuffed, the best way of expulsion is either through vomiting or if your body processes things fast, defecating. for those who are admitted into the hospital, we insert a tube down their nostril that goes straight into the stomach. and then we suck out the gastric contents of what they had during dinner. there will be a drip running at the same time in case we suck out too much and they get malnourished and faint. we call this procedure the 'drip and suck'. this always initiates laughs between Pangkeng and me.
but what gets more laughs between the two of us is when we try to identify the food products the patients have had previously before admission into hospital. the common things we have smelt before are tom yam soup, chicken broth and being resident alcoholic drinkers in the ward, red wine. we always make it game. once we've smelt the item at hand, we'll lay a cigarette bet of one or two sticks. then someone will proceed to ask the patient what he had for dinner. i normally win when it comes to the wine. Pangkeng being the big eater wins the food portions.
being exposed to these smells in the hospital have made me practically immune to the worst of smells. i have smelt rot and death before. the rubbish truck loaded with yesteryear's foods can drive past me but i wouldn't even flinch. perhaps this is why i love working in the hospital so much. it's practically an adventure of smells for me.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
why love is patient, is kind and also very much blind
one of the reasons why i'm so cynical about love is prolly the number of relationships that i've seen building up and crumbling faster than you can say 'we'll be together forever'. i've met gay couples starting off with so harmonious of relationships that even the most adept of feng shui masters would approve of. however, throw in some emotional turbulence and infidelity, the same gay couples break up within the span of less than a year.
apparently, being gay exposes you to a world of perilous relationships fraught with cheating and fickle-mindedness. most of these relationships of course end with plenty of drama and in the twinkle of an eye. and speaking of things twinkling, i've also known of gay men in their forties and fifties who have obviously materialistic twenty to thirty-year-old boyfriends. i mean i've got nothing against young-old love, but evidently, most of these men that i've known of have debts incurred by their twinks. i've always wondered why despite everyone warning them that they are falling into a money trap, they are still very much in love with these twinks. being quite the cynic of gay love, i'm thinking that's what the Spice Girls meant when they sang the lines 'Love is Blind, as Far as the Eye can See'.
it seems though that our heterosexual counterparts are faring much better in the war zone of love. my beautiful preceptee has just gotten married at age twenty-one to a policeman. my great friend from secondary school also just got married in Australia. my plus-sized latin mama friend from the same secondary school also got hitched last year to an American. come to think of it, i'm attending the wedding dinner of a nursing school acquaintance who is getting married to an air-force pilot.
wedding bells are ringing everywhere apparently at the age of twenty-three.
i had just started my shift on the Thursday night that had just passed when the ward phone gave a shrill rang that broke the immense silence of sleeping patients and nurses writing their reports. being a narcissistic lover of my own voice, i picked up the phone and launched into my usual introduction and greetings.
'Good evening, ward 69, Staff Nurse Jonathan speaking, how may i help you?'
normally the introductions would be so long and tedious that i would get cut off at 'ward 69'. the more impatient ones slice at 'Good evening'. this one though, allowed me to finish and even threw in a free five seconds of silence and what sounded like sniffling.
'Hello?' i asked, wondering whether someone had made a wrong call. Singaporeans are so fast-paced that they normally don'tleavepausesorspacesinbetweenconversations. the deep breathing and sniffling continued for about a few more seconds before a female voice came through the line. it was the recognizable quivering voice of a malay female colleague of mine. let's call her 'The Good Girl' out of old times' sake and my habit of labelling people whose names i can't mention on this blog.
'Jon, (The Good Girl's name) here. (pause, sniffles, pause) Do you have something you want to tell me?'
i was at the nurses station at that point of time picking up pieces of papers and alcohol swabs that the previous shift had strewn about. a normal routine i would do just before i start work proper. my colleagues can save lives, but they can't maintain a sense of tidiness. Florence Nightingale, a seemingly hygiene freak would shudder at the sight, it seems.
'Huh? What do you mean?' i blurted out.
'Pangkeng told me already. (sniffles) i just want to double confirm what i already know.'
apparently, Pangkeng and i know something about a colleague of ours and a certain scandal he had committed with a nursing student that was attached to our ward. this particular male colleague was in a supposedly steady relationship with The Good Girl. it wasn't the first time that she had asked a question like this. i remember one time when i was doing the night shift with her when she just asked out of nowhere, the same question of 'Jon, do you have anything you want to tell me?' i shrugged my shoulders, feigning ignorance and said, 'Ehrm... you're beautiful?' she laughed it off apparently.
the phone conversation with The Good Girl took a bit of a downhill turn from that point on.
'Well, since Pangkeng told you about it already. then there's nothing more than i have to add then,' i said. there was a certain tone of finality in my tone of voice, as if it were the end of a chapter in a novel about love, life, death and scandals in the hospital.
'He's a bad guy, that's all i have to say.'
was it something i said? was it something i should have said? or maybe was it something that i should not have said? because, all of a sudden, my words launched her into tears. and if there's one thing i'm more terrified of than roaches and anything more than eight-legged creatures, it's got to be people crying over the phone. i simply don't have the vocabulary to console the crying and the technology whereby where can express our feelings by touch over the phone is still a few centuries away. a real crying (hur hur!) shame if you ask me.
so i did what i did best when i have nothing to say, i simply said nothing at all. as i listened to The Good Girl cry, my other night shift colleague mouthed the words 'who is it?' there was no one around and besides i was pretty close to this colleague, a pious and religious Muslim girl who wore her tudung with grace and a great sense of moderation outside of work. i mouthed back The Good Girl's name and everything fell into place for her.
The Good Girl carried on with her intense crying for about a good two minutes or sound. i couldn't help but think it queer that someone should be calling me at work on an office phone and crying at a relatively unnatural hour of eleven pm. i also couldn't help but think that The Good Girl sounded a bit like a banshee.
and as sudden as the crying came about, she ended the conversation in a normal sort of voice.
'Okay thanks Jon bye,' and the phone went click, the dial tone a clear indicator that the bizarre conversation had just ended.
Fat Boy Slim (there's a hyperlink there, the only thing you can do is really to click on it, that's what hyperlinks are for right?), remember him? well, The Good Girl is his girlfriend. to summarize, Fat Boy Slim is quite the chauvinist. brash, crude and almost always talking about sex. it's okay to talk about sex, really. but it's not okay to talk about sex all the time when you don't look like you're getting any (the general word around the ward is that he's not getting any because he's girlfriend is really a good girl through and through, plus he cuts quite a full figure). he sells expensive fish on e-bay as a side job. he smokes when his girlfriend is not around. and he's an all-rounded bastard (literally speaking).
there was this one time when i worked with him during an afternoon shift. The Good Girl made him a boxed dinner and left it in the communal fridge in the ward. as luck would have it, we were so busy with admissions and transfers that we simply didn't have time for a decent dinner break. and so the uneaten dinner was left in the fridge during the whole shift. it wasn't till the end of the shift that he took out the tupperware. it was quite a lovely sight, suffice to say. fried rice, fish nuggets and two sausages with perfectly-spaced grill marks on it. it was almost a personification of love. of waking up at 4am (The Good Girl was on the morning shift before ours). of chastity and purity. and Fat Boy Slim just poured it into the dustbin. 'I've no mood to eat now lah!' was the only logical explanation that he could come up with.
recently though, matters in the ward were complicated with the return of a nursing student previously attached to our ward. let's refer to her simply as The Third Party. she's quite a decent-looking thing, being of mixed blood and all. so it's a wonder why The Third Party ever had a fling with Fat Boy Slim. to crown it off, the fling is still on-going. not helping is also the fact that The Good Girl was working in the same section of the ward as her.
i'm quite a big fan of all things dramatic, so it would have been quite fun to see the catfights and sparks flying all over the place if Fat Boy Slim were still around. alas, he has been called up by the government to serve his requisite two years of national service for the country. thus, the two girls in question were left hanging around to sort the awkward moments out by themselves. i can't help but give a different look whenever i pass The Third Party in the ward. Pangkeng and i are constantly guessing whether she even knows she's a third party, which all the more complicates things.
love is such a complexed thing, yet we all can't help but succumb to it. i couldn't help but be glad that i wasn't in love after that phone conversation with The Good Girl.
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