jon's blog

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.
Sunday, June 22, 2008

how croutons turned into fish food while my grandmother used her secret means of comunication on me

i seriously think that the paternal family seem to be running out of ideas when it comes to the sunday gatherings that i mentioned in two blog posts ago. remember those picnic outings with them in the random parks of Singapore? the humongous portable picnic tables and gaudy Spiderman 3 mats from KFC? the ones that were filled with a weird assortment of foods and tetrapack drinks? the ones where everyone would be talking about their families while my father would be doing his Martin Luther thing while my Robert Kiyosaki of an uncle would be reading his books on politics and anything else that would most likely have a '$$$$' sign on its cover? yeap, those sunday gatherings in the park.

these gatherings, much as i find them morbidly embarrassing, are actually quite enjoyable. given the hustle and bustle of the modern day life, one would actually be quite hard-pressed to find a decent and quiet spot to have a picnic. everyone in Singapore it seems, wants a piece of the green on the weekends. and that includes us. but when we do find some nice spot that is actually quiet for once, it's when i start to appreciate these outings the most. and by 'nice spot that is actually quiet', i mean that everyone else in the park is quiet except for my family who makes as much noise as a political rally. other enjoyable things in the park of course include (but are not limited to) - curiously gay rollerbladers, over-dressed joggers, eccentric old people who exercise in the park with their chinky chunky peripherals, et cetera.

so it was with the saturday that had just passed that i found out that my parents were taking out the disposable plastic cups from one kitchen cabinet. now, when the parents start brandishing the disposable plastic cups around the house, it can only mean two things. one, that we're having the relatives over at our place this coming sunday. two, that we're having the picnic gatherings. i decided to go with the former as i remembered the picnic gathering that we had had just about three sundays ago. it was at a relatively desolate spot of green named, 'Chinese Garden'. there were lots of trees, presumably Chinese-looking rocks, Chinese fishes in a broad lake that doubled up as a reservoir and a pagoda at the end of the garden that over-looked the whole estate. it was a place that was really perfect for an evening's jog or a walk in the park. or as one other gay friend so aptly put it, 'a nocturnal rendezvous for them horny homosexuals'.

cruising aside, it was with the assumption that the paternal family were headed for my place the coming sunday that i started the usual routine of hiding all the carnal stuff in my room. and i know i sound like Mary Alice (of Desperate Housewives fame) when i say this, but indeed, every family has their secrets. my dad would start keeping all my Xbox360 games that has 'unchristian'-like covers inside a discreet-looking cabinet beside the television set. i do my part by hiding that bottle of Baileys and the 42 below from sight. my secret stash of gay porn which i usually keep on a shelf just above my bed would have to vanish as well (Cousin: 'Hmmm.... i wonder what CDs you keep in that CD pouch of yours!' *unzips*).

it was on Sunday morning that i discovered the blatant exposure of the Xbox360 games just beside the gaming console itself. on the top most of the stack was Dead Rising which had a cover of the main character in the game bashing a television set into the face of a zombie. to avoid having to show a demonstration of the various other bric-a-brac that the main character can also bash/slice/dice/impale/dismember into/from/on the many many zombies in the game, i decided to start keeping the entire stack of games into that nondescript cupboard as aforementioned. my very observant father of course noticed this and casually mentioned, 'We're not having nai nai (our affectionate term for the grandmother - literally means paternal granny) and all over today, we're going to Chinese Garden instead.'

i started the not-so-tedious process of replacing the empty voids in my room with all my carnal indulgences again.


the picnic gatherings are always a potluck event. every family unit in the paternal side is deputized to bring a consumable of sorts to the gathering by a quick family discussion. the lucky family of the particular outing would have the wild card of 'drinks'. all they had to do was provide a beverage of some sort rather than cook or buy something that would satisfy the palates of everyone. if it's not a fruit punch or rose syrup, it would be the infamous Yeo's tetrapack drinks or Pokka green tea bottles that are a dime a dozen in the homes of Singaporeans across the island. i have always enjoyed it when one particular family gets the 'drinks' designation. they always provide a bottle of wine or at least some sort of sparkling juice. as the cousin from that particular family once told me, 'Wine is acceptable in the bible context okay!'

unfortunately, my family had had the 'drinks' wild card on the previous outing. so this time, we were designated with a food item instead. my mother, being the other of two members of the paternal family who pushes the boundaries of everyone's palates in the paternal family (the other's the family who brings the wine), decided to try a quick and new mushroom soup with croutons. she normally does baked goods like cinnamon rolls and raisin bread and what-danish-nots, but i guess she's a very exploratory person by nature. none the less, don't be fooled by the simplicity of the name of the dish. because, it may sound really, like the crass stuff you find at western dining restaurants, but the end result is somewhat a work of art. of course, she's my mother and this is quite possibly a biased statement.

it all begins with four can of Campbell's mushroom soup, pour in a fair amount of water and put them all to boil in a pot under a medium flame. it's actually quite entertaining to watch while my mother cooks because she will start singing her church choir songs while she's chopping up unidentified bits of 'things' (which i presume are herbs and mushrooms) that will end up in the pot of mushroom soup. it's as if she's singing the mushroom soup to perfection.

the tedious part however, starts from the croutons. my mother would start by butter a million slice of bread, dice them up into a billion cubes, and bake them into that all-too-familiar crispy, salty excellence that i'm so fond of. of course, along the way, the crispy pieces would start flaking into a zillion bits and specks, which would basically result in a real mess on the kitchen floor. which is why it's so tedious. i'm always the one who vacuums the floor after the baking of the croutons.

and with that, the end results is a steaming pot of creamy mushroom soup with floating bits and pieces of unidentified chunks and croutons. to put it simply, both are just a match made in heaven. admittedly, i have never bothered to ask what else my mother puts in the soup other than the occasional mushrooms. but you know what they say in the culinary world, 'if it looks simple yet tastes curiously good, don't ask what went into the damn thing.' and thus, looking like we're headed to those infamous heartlands Tupperware party traps that sell 'as-seen-on-TV!' infommercial products, my mother packed and sealed the entire mushroom soup and croutons into them air-tight containers. yes indeed, we were ready for another outing at the Chinese Gardens. not forgetting the disposable plastic cups of course.

since the only thing i did contribute to the mushroom soup with croutons was the occasional tasting, some saliva (i can't help but be conditioned to salivate when my mom cooks the soup, blame Pavlov!), and the post-cooking vacuum-ing, i have always tasked myself to help promote my mother's goods. when my mother presented her cinnamon rolls the first time at one paternal gathering, the oriental taste buds of theirs were not that receptive to the whole idea of western baked goods. i facilitated by rummaging through their fridge for a bottle of coconut jam. apparently, they liked it.

based on this success, i have always been the kinda sad guy you see at fun fairs and carnivals trying their utmost to hawk the wares of others. in marketing terms, it's the wrong target group we're looking at. in my mind, it's always like trying to sell platinum bling blings to a group of Chinese aunties. and the only way to make them buy it is if you put in huge chunks of jade into the plat blings.

at this particular gathering, everyone loved the mushroom soup. given that Campbell's chicken soup is pretty much a staple food/soup in my paternal family, their palates were well-versed to their creamy taste of the mushroom soup. my mother's baked croutons however, were left as untouched as a virgin. in fact, the only people who helped themselves to the croutons were the wife of the Robert Kiyosaki uncle, the cousin who believe that wine is acceptable in biblical context, my father, my brother, my mother and me. and believe me, my mother baked A LOT of croutons. it's as if Jesus took the famous five loaves of bread and broke it into a million pieces and one basket of the famous twelve that he broke, was sitting right there in the middle of the Chinese Gardens right beside me.

i tried really hard. believe me. but that wasn't a fridge to rummage into for sauces or coconut jams and thus, it was a hard battle lost when it came to the croutons. unexpectedly, it was at that moment that my grandmother hobbled over to where i was sitting beside the 'basket' of croutons (you do realize that it's not really a basket but merely, a Tupperware right?). my paternal grandmother has been through many orthopaedic surgeries that involve inserting in metal screws and plates to keep her spine upright. i've already lost count of the number of surgeries she has been for apparently. but what i can confirm though, is that she has enough metal in her to build one of those tacky, touristy replicas of the Eiffel Tower. alas, the pain that she constantly experiences upon physical movement is pretty much comparative when i take one of those Eiffel Tower replicas and stab it into your spine and joints. not fun i can assure you, especially when you're already in your late 60s.

which is why she hobbles. and when she's really tired, she needs a hand to hobble up the stairs. which is what she asked me to help her do when we wanted to take a walk around the park to see some of those Chinese fishes as i mentioned at the beginning of this post. it was during this assistance of her hobbling that she always takes the chance to talk to me. she would often ask about my general well-being, my health, whether my father was ill-treating me and stuff of the like. she always knew how violent my dad used to get so she really cared a lot about my parents and me. plus, my father's the only son in a family of daughters, so being the eldest grandson and the only grandson of the only paternal son, i am (IMHO) quite highly-priced in the grand children's market (i must've lost you somewhere in those family connections, haven't i?) opf the paternal family.

so i expected that my paternal grandmother or nai nai as i so fondly call her, would ask how life was in general. instead, she bent low and gripped my hand tight. and she said to me in a sort of forced and hushed whisper yet with a smile in mandarin, 'Ah Than!!' she always calls me by that since i was young. the chinese language apparently, doesn't have a rough approximate pronunciation for the Jona- part of my name. 'Ah Than!!! Don't smoke already lah!!' which came about as shocking as an Eiffel Tower pain in my mind. 'Smoking is bad for health!'

'How did you know ah?' i asked my grandmother in that equally juxtaposed mix of a harsh and forced whisper yet enveloped by a smile.

'How i know doesn't matter! What's really important is that you don't smoke already! Or at least cut down! Bad for health!' that's what i like about the grandmother. she's as Christian as Jesus himself. but she always gives practical, sound and really quite reasonable advice.

alas, the only response my mind managed to conjure up was a flimsy, 'Okay.' there was a quiet, pensive air between nai nai and me after that. as we hobbled back to the table, i couldn't help but wonder who was the missing link in between that led to my grandmother knowing about one of my many carnal vices. was it the cousin who took up the same nursing degree as me? was it one of the relatives who drove past while i was puffing away on a cigarette? after some elimination and mental images of literally eliminating the suspects, i quickly decided that it had to be the cousin. who else really, had the most contact with me outside of the sunday gatherings.

as we hobbled back together to the picnic table, i discovered the 'basket' of croutons missing. i didn't think that the relatives would self-initiate themselves to gobble the whole basket up. it wasn't until i heard the happy screaming and shouting of my youngest cousins, John Chua (the one that was named after me and has curiously effeminate ways) and Grace Chua feeding the fishes in the pond with my mother's croutons. apparently, my cousins saw the other park visitors feeding the fishes the lake with torn pieces of bread from a giant jumbo loaf. so wanting to join in the fun, they searched for the nearest source of baked goods. and being the clever kids that they are, they saw opportunity in my mother's basket of croutons.

and thus, half-gone were my mother's croutons by the time i confronted John and Grace Chua. i decided to let them have the rest of the croutons as my mother didn't really seem to care about her food as well. in fact, she was down on her knees beside the lake with a wooden stick, trying to indulge in a childhood activity of picking water snails from the lake. the icing on the cake was when there were no more croutons left, John and Grace forced me to eat the toppings off a pizza that one of the family members had baked so that they could have the baked pizza itself. pizza = bread in their minds.

clever kids, i say.

Monday, June 16, 2008

why i never endorse the use of restraints on patients

i vividly remember my posting at the Institute of Mental Health during my nursing student days. it was an old building located at one of the most inaccessible parts of Singapore. true, there were buses and taxi and people living in the area, but the nearest train station was about a half-hour's bus ride away. in Singapore where our train stations are constantly expanding their branches and networks, a populated area like this being isolated from a train station is something out of the ordinary.

i recall the whole place giving me the impression of an English countryside. the complex stood proudly on a hill of green, like a grand old dame standing erect and stoically, watching the rest of the world with the eyes of weariness. maybe she's really tired, maybe she's on meds. who knows? what i did know and notice though is that a long winding road led to the main entrance. architecturally and scenery-wise, it looked like the place for a mental patient for a retreat. from a nursing and security perspective, well.... it's a long run down the hill if you're trying to escape. not forgetting the fencing and the security guards armed with tranquillizers. of course, you do realize i'm joking right?

on arrival, the lobby greets you with a very warm and relaxed atmosphere. genially friendly staff are there to guide you to the place you need to go. given that the complex is actually quite big, i daresay that it's a godsend. the aroma of fried noodles from the cafeteria and the scent of antiseptic wafts through the eerily quiet place, giving you the impression of hygiene and good food (which is the only way you want your food to be, no?). i allowed myself a wry smile as i thought to myself, 'i wonder if they serve noodles fried under aseptic technique'.

none the less, i was posted at a general ward which housed a grand total of about thirty male patients. some were truly insane. some were mildly off. some were questionably crazy. it's easy to tell the extremes apart. the really crazy ones and violent ones wore orange t-shirts. the questionably crazy ones wore the blue. but sometimes when i talked to those patients, i found myself wondering if they really deserved an orange after all. not because it's more suitable for their skin tone or it looks better on them, but rather the content in their conversation seems rather.... off+++. for all it's worth, several plastic shields and batons were hung in the nursing offices for emergency uses. and i'm sure those equipment are no respector of t-shirt colour.

one of the patients i talked to was a jovial old man who seemed like a mentally-healthy person. he talked about coffee and he talked about politics. and when he talked about politics, his face had this glowy 'in the zone' kind of look to it. it was obvious that he really enjoyed talking about politics. i wasn't that familiar with the local political scene during those days and i took everything he said at glowy 'in the zone' face-value. i mean, it really made sense and it didn't hurt to actually believe in the governmental conspiracy theory that he was relating about. unfortunately i decided to discard what he said on the second day when i started getting chummy with him. he pulled me to one corner of the psychiatric ward, and he whispered to me in hushed tones.

'Eh boy! since you're so nice to me, i'm going to give you something!'

'And what are you going to give me, uncle?' i replied with a cynical tone.

i was half-expecting some junk or some sweets or something silly. after all, these patients had very few physical possessions to begin with. this was for fear of them injuring others or hurting themselves. it was almost like Prison Break, except that you've got an all-star Asian cast. and the orange and blue t-shirts of course.

'I will give you....' he held his breath as he fumbled in his pockets for the mysterious gift, 'the personal phone number of the president!'

from his pant pocket, he took out a note book. it was the old and ratty type that punters and gamblers used to take down sweepstake numbers, copy down names of winning horses and quite possibly the mobile number of 'Krystal' who offers lapdances at bargain prices. he asked for my pen and proceeded to write down the number on a piece of paper. intermittently, he would look around to see if there were any Internal Security Act Agents standing around to arrest him. he tore the jotted-down number from the punter's notebook and handed it over to me.

'Don't look at it until i've gone away!' he said again in a harsh whisper that was in close proximity to my right ear. unfortunately, my Jackie Chan nose was also in close proximity. i could smell the fetid breath of halitosis as he quickly attempted to mingle with the rest of the patients again.

when i opened the folded piece of paper from the punter's notebook, the following numbers to the president's personal telephone were written down in a somewhat childish and untidy scrawl:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

indeed, government conspiracies. he was really funny though and i enjoyed his company thoroughly.

another highlight of that particular posting in the institute involved a fellow nursing student. this fellow nursing student was the ardent Christian type. the type that says grace before food, the type that drops the name of God intermittently in every two or three sentences. the type that says 'Thank God!' and really means it as 'Thank you God my precious saviour and all that thou hath done for me!' aside from the zelous nature of hers, she's pretty and she has a mole on one cheek that really befitted her. i called her 'The Christian Beauty Spot'. i found her enjoyable to talk to and we shared a lot on how our churches are like and alike.

none the less, Christian Beauty Spot and i were on duty that particular day. she mentioned in the morning that she felt tired and weak. i shrugged it off as a lack of breakfast. and as if to chastise that nonchalance to her general body condition, she fainted right there and then on the spot. i manage to catch her in time just as a few other patients were trying to make a grab for her. according to other nursing students, they had a lecherous look on their face. i can't really tell if that was true though i seriously think they were trying to catch her too.

but that's the problem with mental health: how mad is mad? is eccentric really mad? and can mad be sometimes simply shrugged off as eccentric? the homeless chap whom you pass by everyday - everyone so readily labels the poor chap as insane and mad. but the professor of science and the arts and all his weird little idiosyncrasies is no more than eccentric. there seems to be a bias in place when it comes to the definition of madness.

none the less, over a cup of milo in the tea room, she thanked me. there was a look of adoration in her eyes that i felt really embarrassed about. not helping was that her beauty spot of a mole turned into a dimple when she smiled. charming. over the next few days, she kept would bring up the event and reinforce to me that she had had breakfast in the morning. to which we would have a good laugh over and reenact the moments and snippets when she fainted. at the end of the posting, she gave me a CD of a sermon by a famous preacher in her church. the title was something along the lines of wealth and health.

these days when i see her in the hospital, she still looks pretty. my father inherited the CD which she gave to me and occasionally listens to it with plenty of scorn and cynicism.


the concept of restraining patients in the hospital setting has always been one of questionable ethics. when do you need to restrain a sick person? why do you need to do it? is there no other alternative? what about sedatives? how do you go about doing it then? do you know how to tie a knot? why do they call it 'tying the knot' when the only firm sort of knot that you know of when 'tying the knot' is most likely a 'dead' knot?

rubbishy questions aside, the ongoing understanding from having worked in the hospital for several years coming seems to be that only restrain when the patients is doing something harmful to themselves. then again, how do you define harm? a person slashing their own wrists and doing bodily injuries to themselves or others is definitely within the boundaries of harm. but a 'naughty' patient who tries to remove his blood transfusion cannula and refuses treatment when he's already of a questionably unsound mind and low haemoglobin level seems to fall under that category as well. there's loads of factors to consider when the decision to apply restraints on someone is considered.

even so, application of restraints comes with the proper technique. cotton pads are applied to the wrists when hand restraints are used. charts have to be set up to ensure that the nurses check on the restraints regularly to see if they are too tight. the doctor has to be informed. the relatives have to be informed as well. and there's the fact that most relatives, just like parents who receive news that their child has done something wrong in school, almost always refuse to believe that their loved ones are unmanageable to the point of restraints. i knew of one patient whom a colleague had restrained in the afternoon. throughout the night shift, that particular patient's relative constantly called every hour or two to check on the condition of the patients. she apparently slept peacefully throughout the night.

in my humble opinion and principles (hey, i actually do have some of those okay!), i don't really believe in restraints. it's demeaning and besides, most patients on restraints tend to struggle even more than they previously did when they were unrestrained. this basically ends in really knotty situations whereby you spend even more time undoing the restraints that were enforced on the patient. actually, come to think of it, i'm about as capable with tying restraints as a junior boy scout member. i mean, i can do enough knots to get through a couple of shoes, a neck tie, a wedding gift, a plastic bag of general waste and perhaps a session of light bondage that is not even convincingly tight. but since when was a Windsor applicable to a pair of hands? which is why every knot i tie ends up as easily removable as a shoelace or as permanent as a dead knot. most of the time, i cut the damn thing off with a pair of nursing scissors.

my other colleague whom i work with on the permanent night shifts is a strong advocate of restraints however. she's been in this permanent night business for about three years coming. and believe you me, three years of irregular sleeping hours and horrid colleagues handing over terrible work for you to follow-up during your shifts can really make one bogged down and burned out. she has the dark eye bags and permanently tired look on the face to prove it. six months into this gig and i have already sallow skin and a permanent frown on my face as battle scars.

my colleague usually considers restraints after three warnings to patients against whatever silly things they are doing. some are plainly confused. some are irrational. other are just bordering on pure disobedience and bastardry. why come to the hospital when you're going to refuse treatment and cause so much trouble? either way, i think that the 'three warnings' system is quite possibly the best method to go about hinting at restraints. but then again, i'm stubborn and stick to my principles sometimes like a frozen tongue on an alpine ski lift.

i steadfastly refuse to restrain my patients. so much so that if they are restrained at night, i would secretly untie them in the dark of the night. Pangkeng (whom i have taken to calling 'Xena, Warrior Princess these days due to his overall lack of gentleness) gets extremely pissed when i do that. most of the time, the patients don't really do much damage themselves. they pull out their cannulas, they attempt to climb out of bed (but rarely ever manage to do so). nothing that can't be resolved. in fact, most of them actually sleep better at night when they are unrestrained. but then again, the only patients i usually nurse are men.

now, the reason why i brought this story up was simply because of a lapse in my principles several weeks ago when a patient under the charge of my colleague was admitted for a suspected bleed in the gastro-intestinal tract. her blood count results showed a low of about 7.0mmol/L. couple that with a previous history of a duodenal ulcer and she was thus scheduled for a scope the following day. during the course of the night, she was transfused two bags of bloods to 'top up' her blood supply. according to my colleague, she was really nice and all during the day when the bloods were still transfusing. post-transfusion however, she was caught attempting to leave the bed.

there was nothing wrong with actually leaving the bed, but the fact that she actually leaving and walking all the way down to the other end of the ward corridor - now, that's a worrisome fact. we asked her of course, what she was trying to do by walking down from one end of the corridor to the other. she just said she was looking for her relatives. it was about 3.20am at that point of time. when i thought about it, it was pretty obvious that she was trying to look for an escape route from the ward. she was constantly opening doors and on the lookout for an exit. not helping was that she did the above-mentioned with all the subtlety of a brass band's percussion section.

as nurses, we always attempt to try the nice method first. the more forceful alternative would always remain as a secondary plan. of course, the forceful words always come after we settle whatever issue a patient has at the pantry ('What is wrong with this old man? he wants me to hold his penis so that he can pee properly???' - this is true, i heard it at the tea room before). we attempted to convince the old lady to go back to the bed and take a rest as her blood levels were low and she was at risk of fainting at any moment. we tried helping her by guiding her at the arms. she slapped my hands off and ended up slapping me in the nose. which basically gave my Jackie Chan nose a reason to start up a sinus party. i couldn't stop sniffling after that.

after parking her in her bed, she attempted three more 'escapes'. 'escape' is in inverted commas as there was absolutely no stealth in her attempts. you could hear the loud click as she undid her bed rails. the flip-flops she was wearing truly lived up to their noisy names. one bizarre thing though that made us question whether she was of sound mind or not was that she didn't even try to run or walk briskly. she was actually must sauntering about and looking about for that elusive escape route of hers.

and thus a final warning laced with a hint of restraints was issued to the lady before we enforced on her the inevitable. i couldn't bring myself to do it as i was just being a real prick with me and my principles. but one could really hear it was a tough job despite the fact that Pangkeng was there to help. bloodcurling screams and shouts pierced through the quiet night air. and Pangkeng was occasionally spewing vulgarities. he only uses vulgarities when he's with me or when violence ensues. so he was obviously getting physically abused. it was either my friend getting kicked or my principles. i decided to screw them for once and help Pangkeng.

at the bedside, it was truly an ugly scene. gauze wrappers were strewn all over the floor. blood could be seen trickling out from an ex-cannula site that the lady had forcefully ripped out from a vein. the lady was screaming, shouting and kicking everything and everyone in sight. the rest of the patients in the same room as her had woken up and wondering what the commotion was all about. she had even managed to pull her pyjama top open. a button lay at the side of the bed and she had one breast exposed. she looked savage and she looked vicious. in my mind, i made the mental connection between the lady and the harpies in Van Helsing. my colleagues got bitten and pinched. i got kicked twice in the chin. Pangkeng, the warrior princess got slap on the face and his balls kicked. but he's resilient.

it was with all that violence that we decided to reinforce the entire set of restraints - a body vest, a pair of hand restraints and a pair of leg ones. Pangkeng did the ultimate of plonking his entire hulking 98kg frame on her legs to stop the kicking. and it's really ugly to see a woman scream and shout when you usually see them very well in control of their emotions. i felt bad as throughout the whole ordeal, she was screaming and appealing to us not to tie her. she mentioned that we were bullying her as there were four nurses tying her up. she stated that she was old and that tying her up was a sign of disrespect. being Chinese and having a father who imbued me with respect for the elderly, i really felt that the whole thing was... demeaning or disrespectful or well, i can't pinpoint an exact word. but i hoped that i was doing the wrong thing for at least the right reasons.

and restrain the lady we finally did. exhausted, Pangkeng and i decided to head to our secret spot in the hospital for a quick smoke. when we came back an estimated fifteen minutes later, we found that the entire bed had been shifted out to the ward corridor in front of the nurses' counter.

'She actually managed to undo her restraints!' my colleague exclaimed in exasperation.

upon closer inspection, 'undo' was not really the correct word. she actually ripped out her restraints. and those weren't soft, cottony gauze restraints. we used linen restraints that were double sewn at the seams and connecting points for extra strength. as we did her restraints again, she got even more violent and abusive this time. somehow or other, she managed to get hold of a bottle of Chinese medicated oil that she stashed underneath her pillow. she start sprinkling the entire vial of mentholated fluid at us. it was burning. it was hot. and resolved all of us nurses to quickly get the job done.

when we managed to restrain her the second time she suddenly started singing a bizarre song in Hokkien. there were some old Hokkien words in there that i couldn't understand and my Hokkien is l33t. but what i did grasp was that she was trying to call upon the spirit of her in-laws to destroy us. and being Chinese, calling your in-laws for help is sorta like the last resort, given that most Chinese in-laws are quite the horrible bunch. we were kinda freaked out as her unnatural strength, her loud screams and shouts, her Hokkien in-law song... we were thinking along the lines of demonic possession actually.

suffice to say, when she was more settled down and asleep from all the physical exertion (or maybe the demon left her, who knows?), i managed to catch a breather with my colleague.

i asked her, 'you think it's worth it to tie her up after all that kicking and scratching?'

she was scratching at the already inflammed area on her arm where the medicated oil had landed. on her other arm was a slight hint of a bruise. the other arm was a redness that came about from a pinch from the patient.

'maybe,' she said, 'i mean, it was either her or us.'

was the lady with the low Hb condition mad to begin with? or was she just plain 'naughty'? those thoughts made me pensive for the rest of the evening.

but i'm thinking it's mainly due to me being really anal about my principles.

Monday, June 09, 2008

how i got my Platinum card and still couldn't make the father proud

(apologies for having not blogged for so long, plenty of activities and educational pursuits and work matters, apologies for another post on family issues as well. you must be bored to death hearing about my father and his constant suppresion of myself. i'll blog about something as next week. otherwise, i'll.... ehrm... post naked pictures of myself!)

my paternal family has the sort of 'fun-filled family activities' enthusiasm going on that can really sometimes irk you to death. you see, it all started with one fine Christmas gathering when the entire family committed to spending more time together. this particular Christmas gathering was the one that had just passed apparently. the one whereby my father tried to convince the entire family that the world was ending and that we were to tighten our chastity belts and keep a good check on our faiths to see if we were still in tune with the Lord. the one when everyone simply just laughed at my father's all too zealous belief that the world was ending. the one whereby my father still has a sore spot over the fact that the paternal family laughed at his claims.

in all honesty, it wasn't that my family didn't believe in his theories of apocalypse. everyone in my paternal family (well, practically everyone - i'm not that there yet in terms of faith) is a strong Christian that truly deserves a one-way ticket to heaven. but it was more of the way he did the whole spiel that made everyone think that he was verging on a crusade or matyrdom. it's all cool to believe in an 'end-days' theory, but to be a doomsday preacher is way not cool. which my father apparently needs someone to drill it into him. but how many people actually approach their local doomsday prophet and actually correct them or tell them 'it's not cool'?

the more i think about it, when i actually dress my father in the scholarly robes of yore, hand him 95 pieces of theses and place him in front of the Wittenburg church door, i begin to realize that i have actually been living with a Martin Luther in the house. not exactly in a 'it's wrong for the Catholic church to withhold the bible in a foreign language from the public' kinda way, but more of 'i challenge the authority' manner. it's quite apparent that the doomsday belief of this Martin Luther father of mine (and i say this with all the love in the world for the man who raised me up) has apparently tainted and coloured his social life. my father has only friends from church. my father only conducts business dealings (eg. insurance agents) with like-minded brethren. he even managed to convert his best friend from Catholicism to Christianity. last heard, i think he was a Deacon in one of the sister churches of my dad's in Canada.

so you see, given that we're not getting much of a social life in terms of a family unit, i think it's a prudent investment of time to go on various outings with the paternal family over the weekends. what sort of outings you say? thus far, when we don't head out into the public, we rotate potluck parties at each others house on a weekly basis. we would try to have themes and prepare dishes in accordance to the themes. so far, we have only been successful at Western, Japanese, Korean and of course, Chinese cuisine. actually the Korean was falling apart with the appearance of Chinese ngoh hiong rolls (translated to mean '5 spices' - it's my grandmother's speciality).

when we do go out however, it's much more interesting. we do morbidly embarrassing things like go out to the park with picnic tables in tow. we literally find a grassy spot under the shade and open up this grassy-green coloured portable picnic table that's the size of a hedge. in fact, it blends in very well with a hedge (thank goodness!). since we have only two tables that can sit a family of four, the others would make do with the trusty ol' picnic mats. and not just any ordinary picnic mats, but tacky Spiderman 2 mats courtesy of Colonel Sander (it came free with a family feast from KFC). and sometimes i question their cleanliness because we don't often do picnic moments together. so the picnic mats tend to be in great need of dusting. i can't really tell whether it's just Spiderman's webs or really cobwebs.

during these picnic outings however, there's always a bizarre mix of foods. everyone brings whatever they can lay their hands on. packets of chips that nobody eats at home, a big metal pot of Shark's fin soup (can you actually say that you actually have eaten Shark's fin soup in a park in shorts and singlet), bottles of green tea, a box of 16 doughnuts, roasted duck, a chunk of agar-agar that looks like a fish (??). of course, there's the standard fare of fried vermicelli and finger foods like sausages and nuggets.

it's all these outings that i come truly prepared. i bring along a good novel and my ipod and indulge in a good half-hour's worth of reading. another person who does the same, albeit without the music, is my uncle-in-law who opened the nursing degree programme that i'm currently being educated at. my selection of reads are mainly limited to fiction and the occasional popular non-fiction literature. whereas my uncle-in-law is the direct opposite. he reads books on financial management and success. he would always be armed with a copy of the Business Times and financial magazines. titles like 'You Can be Financially Prudent Too!' and 'Money Matters' flash across my mind when you ask me about the books that he reads. i just met him again last week and i saw him reading 'Master Plan of Evangelism'. eclectic mix of books, that's all that i can say.

i've come to realize that the both of us are the only one who don't really talk much to the paternal family. my reason mainly being that i'm in the presence of my parents and don't find much comfort in expressing myself. my uncle-in-law however, it's a different matter. the only moments he chips in are when it involves politics and financial matters. and he's quite well-versed in these things. listening to him talk is like watching a political commentary. which admittedly, thrills me to no boundaries. i'm sure he quotes most of the stuff from the books that he reads. but it's almost like watching Robert Kiyosaki at work. which is quite possibly the next best thing to sex (for me, at least).

Robert Kiyosaki and Martin Luther... isn't my paternal family quite the fun bunch?


they say that good financial habits comes from good parenting. however, when it comes to all things financial, i'm about as wise as a piece of banana money. my parent's idea of financial prudence is a matter of saving for the rainy days. as the free thinker of the family, i feel a presing need to go against the grain. every day seems to be a rainy day for me. after all, what's money if you don't spend it? of course, i'm not that callous with money. just a tad more generous when it comes to friends and colleagues.

still, i've come to realize that i've made many financial errors in my life. one of the top ones begin that i took up a financial advisor that was introduced to me by my mother. she joins the church choir (she's a soprano) and knows a lot of people in there. one of these people that she's connected with, is an insurance agent or more aptly put these days, a financial advisor. he's a Christian guy whom i suspect is a closet case or at least someone who's trying to suppress those man-loving tendencies. he owns EVERY season of Friends on DVD (not exactly crminally gay) that he keeps in an OCD-resemblant disc folder, he speaks in a light tenor voice, and well... the ground that he treads on basically sprouts pink daisies. but he's a good Christian aman and i can without a doubt attest to that. problem is, i don't feel comfortable sharing my financial situation with brethren that are as like-minded as my father. and my financial advisor is one of them. it was with him that i signed up two insurance policies that amount to a monthly premium of $354.67.

my parents expect a monthly contribution from my salary to the household expenses. which i'm actually fine with. the initial amount was a whopping $500, which in reality i can figure out lots of foolish ways to dwindle it down. i can buy all the lap dances i want for an entire night and still have enough to spare for a a supper for two, a cab ride to the nearest love hotel and the transit rate there. i bargained it down to $300 stating that i was just starting out work, which the father expressed unhappiness and compared me to the cousins who literally contributed $500 a month. if there's one thing parents should never do is to compare their children to that of relatives. it's demeaning. and anyways, the brother's the one who wastes electricity by leaving all the switches on on the 'vampire' electronic devices.

then there's the issue of my school fees that sets me back by about $250 every month. my phone bill as well which never exceeds its stipulated minutes every month since i don't really like to talk on the phone. this basically results in me having roll-over minutes EVERY month. i do subscribe to a wireless broadband service though. total - $67.50. a World of Warcraft account costs me $25.14 per month. adding the odds and edds and i fork out a total of $997.31. i bring home about $1.8 - $2k every month from working the permanent night shifts. which leaves me about $1K every month. and apparently, it's bordering on being insufficient. i find myself lacking about $50 every month. i think it's the smoking.

you see, i smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. and i can't do the low-end brands because they make my throat phlegmy and leave a terrible after-taste. not that i'm trying to be prissy or classy or anything like that. but the only cigarettes that i can enjoy and i find a good investment in are Dunhill Kings, Consulates, Camels and Marlboro Ice Mints. so it's practically $11-12 a pack. not helping is that i need to be at Starbucks every weekend to help generate these blog posts. so if you add up here and there, i'm actually surviving on an amount that's just sufficient, short of $50. i throw $50-100 into savings every month which i end up having to tap back into.

i'm not thinking of quitting smoking or even cutting down any time soon. the last time i bought new clothes was when i was in Thailand. before that, it was during the Chinese New Year, before that it was Christmas and before that? my birthday in October. so i'm not exactly splurging on materialistic goods.

so when i think about my finances, it basically all boils down to matter of unwise financial decisions that i'm bogged down with. the insurance especially. but i understand that in the long run (pending the doomsday prophecy), it really helps. the bigger problem though is that every month i'm constantly having to head back to the parents for money. and i'm not asking money from THEM, but rather, trying to tap on my savings which i decided to let my father safeguard. alas, my father being the prophet of the end times would never release my savings to me without 'the talk'. now, 'the talk' would usually last about a half hour or more. it would usually start from my smoking habits, and develop and evolve till it reaches his favourite doomsday prophecy. the first few times when he did it, it did have some form of impact on me. subsequent times however, it was much less impressionable. mainly because it was the same old recycled material that he would always use. keywords that would often pop up during 'the talk' would be things like 'gnashing of teeth' (to describe what hell was like), 'seven years of trials and tribulations' and 'rivers turning to blood'. and all i wanted was the take some money from my savings...

and to crown it off, he would never ever release my savings to me based on a previous experience of me splurging when i had a lot of money in my bank account. of course, i was young and i was new to the whole concept of holding a singular fifty dollar note in my hand. and splurge i did. what my father would normally do would be to take him like a credit card and roll over the money. so every month, i tap on my father's credited money and roll the money to the next month to pay him back. in all reality, i might as well get a credit card with all the legal and financial implications behind it and be spared the hellfire and brimstone prophecy.

so i did the administrative procedures for a Citibank savings account and credit card application over the weekend. it was smooth-going and my application was approved within two hours. it was after that unfortunately that i had to consider whether to come clean with the father regarding my credit card application. because, living with them is like living with the Secret Police. they used to go through all my mail until one fine day when i raised my voice and locked my bedroom door. they were so freaked out that they never dared to go through any of my mail again. i decided to save the voice-raising and door-locking for emergencies in the future.

out of love and honesty and a responsibility to my parents, i decided to talk to my father about the application and its approval. i tried a 'i want to take responsibility of financial matters now that i can manage better' tactic with my father. suffice to say, my father on top of being the Martin Luther of the family is now quite the wet blanket. 'Are you sure you can manage a credit card because from previous records, i don't think so,' he started. and thus he launched into his barrage about bankruptcy and the seriousness of it and how the banks will come after me if i can't pay up and et cetera. i was hoping for something more along the lines of 'oh congrats on getting your first ever credit card' or maybe even a smile or some sense of pride. and he once again had to make a comparison between my all-too-perfect cousin who saves money every month and contributes a lot of money to the household and can rent a car every month to take the family out. i hate being compared.

i'm thinking that i will never ever be able to make the father proud unless i become a Martin Luther myself. alas, monastery robes and all that are just not my thing. i wish the Robert Kiyosaki of an uncle-in-law was my father. but i try to refrain from doing that because that's already a comparison, no?

About Me

Name: the nurse
Home: Singapore
About Me: i'm a nurse, i'm gay, i smoke, i play the piano, i patronize the theatre, i flip through glossy magazines for no apparent reason, i love sex, i am a left-handed libran, i watch art-house films mostly, i love house music, and did i say i love sex?
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