Sunday, May 30, 2010

[at the playground]

We've been having pretty busy weekends lately. First it was the potluck, then an impromptu night at the park (which was cut short by a sudden sandstorm..was quite exciting actually lol, minus the sand in my eyes), then we visited a friend's place, and last weekend we made it to a theme park. We'd (the desperate [house]wives) planned for this ever since the istiraha so some of us were literally counting down the days to the event. Hey, we need thing to look forward to!

The theme park was a pretty modest one and it was ladies and kids only so the fellas had to find their own fun. Nowhere near sg standards, I think we'd call it more of those funfair thingies we have on open fields every now and then. There were very few rides and since we were super early (life here starts at night on weekends, we were there at 4.30!), we had to wait for the rides to start. The rides I took for the day was the go kart, rollercoaster and a water ride. Yep, only three. Sad right? Well, there was one crazy ride which swung u up in the air more than 45 degrees each way, while rotating, but that was too much excitement for me. Didn't want my hernia to get worse lol. I was hoping the rollercoaster would set my tummy back where it belongs but seems it didn't..haha. One of the girls had a preconceived idea that being s'porean, I would love theme parks and take all the rides. So she was kinda urging me onto the rollercoaster when I was reluctant initially so in the end I was like, fine why not. Child's play I would say really, but it seems as you get older those plunges get scarier. I wonder what other preconceived ideas they have about S'poreans...hmmm...

The weirdest thing that happened was Ms A getting frightened about going into the 3D Dark Room which was supposed to be a horror house of sorts. We were ready to set off when she panicked and decided not to go. Luckily there weren't many people so I wasn't so embarrassed. The first cart came back and A was asking them how it was. Seems that I didn't miss much, since it was literally just a dark room, with a couple of not-very-frightening "ghosts" that popped up twice. As AM put it, the only frightening thing was that the room was dark. Guess I didn't miss much...I guess I've been spoilt after going to the haunted house in Sweden and after that, even the horror house in Bkk wasn't frightening. I tell ya, nothing can beat that. :P And I also think that having traveled lots and experienced fantastic theme parks (the one in Brisbane was awesommmeee), this was totally disappointing.

The rest of the time was spent eating and talking and me trying to decipher what they were saying (sigh, they keep telling me to learn some phrases, but if you speak only in one language and not translate, how am I supposed to learn right??). Well anyway, had a pretty good time overall. We plan to visit the theme parks one by one every few weeks or so. I heard the guys are already complaining about having to chauffeur us there and back. Wahaha.
On a separate note, I was pretty shocked to see what the local ladies wear when they're "free"...from thick makeup to beehive hairdos to plunging necklines and exposed cleavages of assets that were obviously pushed up, if not already naturally very well-endowed. One of the gals said this was nothing, seems that at their weddings, their ballroom gowns come in all shapes and sizes. She even said that since the Indians who were there wore their traditional salwar suits, she felt like she was too decent lol. Hope I get to witness one while I'm here...I shall get a sexy low cut dress to attend it hehe.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

[sorry no cure]

It seems that I spoke to soon. I was happy that they found a CAUSE of the pain, but it seems there is no CURE for it. The dr will only be able to treat the symptoms with proton pump inhibitors to lower the acid content in my stomach but the hernia itself cannot be treated. Surgery is only a last resort and mine is still considered minor. My mood plunged down to below zero after yesterday's appt when he said that. Sigh. Yet another problem that is uncurable. First asthma, then back pain, now this. Looks like I'm accumulating symptoms throughout my life. By the time I'm 60 I wonder how many more problems my body will accumulate. Grrr.

For now, I guess my stomach has an inbuilt mechanism to stay healthy. Seems that avoiding the following things will help with the acid secretion:
- Tomatoes,
- Citrus fruits (but where to get my Vit C??),
- Chocolate (gasp!),
- Coffee (not a problem, I avoid it anyway cos it works as a laxative for me esp in the mornings lol)
- Smoking
- Alcohol
- Spicy food (bye bye chilli...)
- White/refined flour
- Fried food

And I should stock up on the following:
- Exercise
- Milk
- Honey
- Greens
- Elevating my head while sleeping
- Relaxation techniques for the diaphragm

I'm still hoping that my symptoms are a stay-in-this-country side effect. Maybe in 2 wks time the pain will suddenly disappear when I land at Changi airport. Hehe. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to get a 2nd opinion when I'm back in June. Sorry hubby, since coming here it's been hospitals almost every other wk (past two wks it's been almost twice weekly!). Hope I can make it up to you in some way. *Huggies*

Sunday, May 23, 2010

[the verdict]

Ah finally had the gastrocopy done. At least now I don't have to worry about the procedure and what exactly is wrong. It was pretty harmless, since I was sedated lightly, though I remember trying to regurgitate out the tube and the doctor told me to relax..yeah like I could control it while being in lala land :P

The diagnosis? Hiatal hernia: an anatomical abnormality in which part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and up through the chest. More on it here...I like the diagram lol. Seems that it's the same thing I had as a baby where I wouln't be able to keep in feeds till my dad had to rush out to pharmacies at odd hours (when stock was low) to get thickeners to add in the milk. Asthma is also believed to be a consequence of it...I wonder if it's linked in my case. Interesting.
Anyway, I'm kinda relieved because at least he found something wrong...I hate going for checks, especially such invasive ones, and getting the result: nothing wrong, i.e. nothing we can do about it. I read up on it after coming home, and it seems that I'm already taking the meds that are prescribed for it. I hope this doesn't mean mine isn't treatable. I don't want to resort to surgery. I hope this problem will resolve soon since we're planning to have a baby soon (heartburn and what not gets worse during pregnancy...if this is already so bad, don't wanna imagine that!)

Got to thank my hubby for being by my side all the way, even being in the waiting room with me before the procedure (even though he hates needles and hates seeing me being poked) and as far as he could till they closed the room for the procedure. :)


Felt very touched today when my friends and sister replied to my fb status abt going for my gastroscopy tmr. Was feeling a little nervous so wanted some words of encouragement heh. Auntie even told me to give her a call before I go for the procedure, and my MIL said she'll be praying for my quick recovery. I was especially touched when I received a call, from an unknown m'sian no, and it turned out to be a friend I met many years ago in Melaka after being online friends for awhile. Auntie E sounded quite concerned about what and why I needed the procedure done and said I could call her anytime for a chat. Sweet right? Hee. I guess even though I complained that my parents have not called me even once since coming here, God has sent me angels of friends who show their love through these little but meaningful ways.

Hopefully all will go well tmr (i.e. no complications) and that they'll find a (not so serious) cause as to what's going on, so that there can be a more specific solution to my gastric woes. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

[super machine]

We had our 2nd day of training yesterday. True to my words, our driver came 25 mins late. I'd already told Dr L to ask O to come much earlier cos he'd be late anyway, but perhaps he doesn't have much punctuality sense either. Sigh. When we reached there about an hour late, I was shocked to see that the training hadn't even started, and the trainer told us he'd been waiting for people to show up since 9am. Haiz. I guess next time I'll just ask hubby to drop me directly. Even if I'm super early, at least I won't be guilty of making anyone wait for me.

What machine have we been training on? It's this awesome chemical analyser which can run about 92 different biochemical tests, 44 tests per run, and about 400 runs per hour. Fantastic huh? It kind of obliterates the need for a graduate to do the running of biochemical tests, but I guess that's what technology is aiming for these days. I think any Tom, Dick or Harry could be told which buttons to press and voila, albumin, creatinine, urea and what nots can be measured in about 10 mins.

the super machine

Which leads me to the topic of research here. Research has not been a big thing here since recently. Even then, it seems to be picking up quite slowly, with doctors still prefering clinical work and trials to basic science research. Most of the basic science research is only done in universities here, and they have very few research institutes (I'm only aware of one, and that is part of a govt hospital). It seems that funding and infrastructure isn't a major problem unlike in Sg. My centre for example, after getting HUGE funding, probably has enough money to set up its own lab. I've toured several labs from beaming doctors/scientists who are all out to impress this S'porean and I must say I have been impressed - from latest super high throughput PCR machines that do ALL the work for you at the press of a few buttons to this super machine that can run plenty of tests in such a short time. They cost millions of riyals, and I'm sure they're probably in the millions of sg dollars too. Unfortunately though, what seems to be lacking is the expertise to carry out research. If they can be impressed by an "epidemilogist" like me who has such basic knowledge in the field, it makes me wonder about the quality of their research. Many of the labs also seem to be newly set up and still looking for overseas experts to guide them. Oh and I should mention that most of the people who are interested in research are locals who have been trained overseas and, I assume, have been exposed to the research world.

Thankfully I guess the problem of skilled manpower can be solved by the abundant funding that the govt is putting into biomedical research (sounds a little like Sg...hope they don't get disappointed as our ministers are 10 years later lol). I think if they were to hire a few capable s'poreans ( me..haha), they would be well on their way to churning out excellent 2nd tier journals. Meanwhile, let's hope that their enthusiasm in research continues to grow and that their motivations are not driven by the monetary rewards (did I mention PIs and co-PIs get monetary incentives??? kind of unfair because us downlines who actually do the nitty-gritty don't get such bonuses...hmpf!).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

[let us drive already!]

Today was an excellent example why women should be allowed to drive here. Asked hubby to drop me at KKUH although I had a training session at the new building. Partly because he gets grumpy when I ask him to send me there, but mainly because I didn't want to be early so that Mr S wouldn't be buaya-ing me. Who is Mr S? Well, he's a "colleague" at the new building, a fella from my hubby's neighbouring country who even after my emphasis that I was married, still tried to buaya me by asking for my number and asking if I wanted him to "show me around" the lab when our 2nd training had been postponed (during that time, we'd only had training for a centrifuge, vortex, etc...yeah like I need revision on that!).

So anyway, it took me 3 calls to finally get the guy who usually drives us. 45 mins later, after basking in the sun (I was sitting in the shade but the heat was just as bad, summer's kicking in!), he was still a no-show so I decided to move indoors to wait for Dr L so that we could go together (feel better with him around so that Mr S won't buaya me, or at least I can use Dr L as a shield lol). So anyway, the driver never turned up much much much later and by then Dr L managed to get an alternative transport and we were almost reaching the new building already. All in all, my attempt to reach there at 9.30 became 10.40. I think if I had driven, it would've just taken a bloody 5 minutes. GRRRRR!!

On a lighter note, hubby and I had a magnificent indulgence at a 4 star (I think) hotel last night. There was a Brit & Irish food festival going on and I was feeling down so hubby decided to cheer me up (he seems to like cheering me up with food...bad The ambience was absolutely fabulous - apart from maybe the almost-beach dining experience I've had at Msia, this was perhaps the most fantastic place I've been to. The dining area was on a lawn...the carpet grass, twinkling lights and man-made waterfall cascading down closeby and the wooden furniture made me feel like I was transported somewhere not in this country hehe. The food didn't disappoint either - from Irish stew to Lancashire hot pot to even Balti prawns. The fish-and-chips were easily the best I've tasted in a long time, it was of excellent quality and the fish was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The lamb steak was also very juicy, wayyyy better than the regular steak place we've been to twice and always disappoints me in regards to the meat (u'd think I'd learnt my lesson right?? what to do...hubby doesn't eat meat here so I have to satisfy my meat cravings at restaurants heh). Gosh, I sound like I'm advertising for them. The only disapponting bit were the desserts, which was a bummer because I usually live for desserts during buffets (my ex-colleague G can vouch for it lol) but these had such weird tastes that we were literally left confused whether they were good or bad.

When the bill came our hearts did a flip over, because neither of us knew how much the buffet was gonna cost (can't possibly ask them the price then turn away when we find it too expensive right? hehe). It came up to about $190 (yes, sgd after conversion), making it about $95 per person. Must've been one of the most luxurious meals I've ever had. So now Mr F says no more dining out for the next 3 months..hahaha. Let's see how that happens...maybe I'll be upset again and he'll cheer me up again, at a less expensive place lol. And don't forget, in 2 months time will be our one year anniversary (wow, time flies!!) and my b'day :P

A perfect ending to that wonderful dinner would be to win the lucky draw to Ireland. So fingers crossed! :)

P.S. I've been wondering whether ppl are still reading this blog and was pleasantly surprised when G made a comment about one of my posts. Yay! Anymore readers out urself! Haha.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Had a mini moment reminiscing as I read some posts while editing my blog. Since it's sort of an anonymous one (not that anyone has ever linked characters in the blog to me, from what I know at least), I searched for names that I accidentally forgot to de-identify e.g. Sakura's real name instead of Sakura, and changed them to pseudo names. Very free right? Haha. Well, I am actually lol. So friends don't worry, your secrets won't be divulged on my blog, knowingly at least.. :P

So anyway, even came across posts about Sakura going mad studying for her O-levels (she used a puncher on my hair..gasp!) and I was thinking, wow, now she's already in her 2nd year of uni. Time flies. I still remember setting up this blog to write down about my Sweden adventures. Perhaps in a few years time I'll be reminiscing about my "wonderful" time in S%%%% (btw, the reason I don't type that out is so that no one gets offended in case I bitch about the place lol).

Sunday, May 09, 2010

[an eventful weekend]

This must have been the busiest weekend I've had since I came here. And no I'm not complaining, cos at least I wasn't wasting my time at home playing FB and watching movie after movie. (By the way, can't believe it's almost 6 months since I've, time flies!!) On Thursday we went to the M'sian embassy for a bazaar they were having. It was a modest affair with several booths in the parking area, mostly selling food. Needless to say, I jumped at the satay and laksa that I saw. They tasted a little different (M'sian style I guess) but hey, when you're missing home food, it doesn't matter. They had other events like three-legged race, 5 stones, etc. Unfortunately Mr F wanted to leave early so I didn't get to play. :(

That evening we went over to A's (aka LM) place for what was supposedly dinner. It was a potluck but I managed to escape bringing something (cooked) since N told the hostess that I'm "a working woman" and didn't have time lol. I wanted to make Banoffee pie but hubby said it was expensive, so our contribution was two tubs of yummy ice cream. The guys over stretched their volleyball playing so they came home 2 hours later than planned. As if that wasn't bad enough, dinner was served only a couple of hours later and I had to endure the pain in my stomach that had returned that was worsened by the hunger and the chattering that went on in a foreign language. If it weren't for S I think I'd have wanted to leave early when Mr F suggested it. All in all our 6 pm dinner started at 10 and ended at 12am, and only thanks to Mr F making the first move to leave. I guess I shouldn't complain, since I had some interaction. Something's better than nothing. We've even planned our next event! Oh and I should add that hubby said he's glad his wife is a better cook than his friends' wives hehe (maybe he just got used to my horrible cooking haha).

On Friday, we had yet another event. This time it was an usrah (gathering to talk about Islam) at a M'sian diplomat's house. They have usrahs pretty often here, about fortnightly. I had met the diplomat's wife via FB and also the previous day at the embassy. Their house was a gigantic 3 storey semi-detached house which cost 140k riyals (~55k sgd) rent per MONTH! And guess how many people living in it? TWO!!! Oh well, shows how much governments spend on keeping their diplomats happy lol. So anyway, the topic for the day was pretty heavy for a first-timer like me - burial preparation - though it was quite amusing when we tried to demonstrate on one of our fellow attendees. The crowd was mostly M'sian (duh) and besides me, I think KS was the only other S'porean. After the usrah, we said prayers together with the men leading (I miss that too, they don't seem to do it in Indian gatherings) and next up was...FOOOD! It was a potluck and naughty me didn't bring anything even though I was gorging myself on the mee kari (curry noodles...somewhat like laksa), ayam masak merah (chicken cooked favourite!!!) and numerous other dishes. Ok ok, I promise next time I shall bring something hehe. Again, hubby was quite eager to leave and since I thought that was it and I didn't want him to get bored further, we left soon after. Only later on I realised they stayed on till late to chat more and play some kampung games like congkak, I was like...darnnnn, next time I won't be so accomodating. Lol.
(kids playing congkak, photo grabbed from here)

Hopefully things will keep looking up with more such gatherings. Friends (although I would call them acquaintances at this stage) are soooo important in maintaining your sanity.

I've learnt a few lessons from this weekend:

1) Maybe I've been counting on the wrong people to "befriend" me. If I keep searching, I'm sure to find more friends on my own.

2) There are a great deal of expat wives (one website calls us "trailing wives") who sacrifice their jobs and careers for their husband's sake when they have to drop everything and go overseas. I salute all of them and at the same time grateful that not only my hubby lets me work, but I found a wonderful job in such a short time.

2) Am grateful we're living in such a neat, clean, non-chaotic and safe neighbourhood, and a new and clean house too.

3) Even though you've been advising me to "lower my standards" in finding friends, it seems you're not heeding your own advice in helping me "fit in". Which brings me back to point 1. But anyway, I know what you mean now.

4) Maybe after all this "searching for friends", I realise I'm pretty content spending quality time with my hubby afterall. :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

[this or that?]

Have opposing kinds of stories to not sure to combine it into one post or not. Anyway here goes..

On the down side, the city was flooded after a heavy thunderstorm yesterday. A couple of friends and I were so happy that it was raining, we even opened our windows to smell the rain (the things you miss when you're away from home). Unfortunately though, this country has a very poor drainage system, if they have one at all. Underpasses were heavily flooded, cars were drowned in water. The authorities issued a state of emergency and closed down schools today because they expect even more rain. Seriously, it's about time they built some drains!!

More horrifying images here. Thank God my baby got home safely.

On another note, by some sort of wonderful coincidence, I met another fellow Singaporean. I'd replied to an ad on an expat mailing list requiring tuition for IB Biology and since it was my down week, I replied. [NB: my workload, I realised, is like a sinusoidal curve - when I have no work, I have absolutely zilch work to do. When the drs decide to give me work, they all give it at the same time. Gah. It's my busy week now, though I'm so used to bumming now I don't feel like doing anything lol]. So anyway, when she called she sounded Singaporean, so I asked where she was from and voila! No wonder she was asking me which schools my previous students were from. First day tuition worked out well, except that I was a lil rusty, and the girl being a gifted student, didn't really need any basics covered, so she was asking me complicated questions. Told her to let me know what topic she wants for next tuition so that I can be more prepared lol.

Can't help but wonder if it was a God-sent, since I've been yearning to meet more Singaporeans. The mum is even inviting us over for dinner one day and told me she'd include me in more gatherings in future. Can't wait..yay! :)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

[unlucky or blessing in disguise?]

I've been craving for interaction and physical activity. So, when a certain "adventure" group posted that they were going to have a walk at a town on the outskirts of Riyadh, I immediately responded. It was going to be a one hour walk around the town, I think.

Mr F said he was going to service the car that morning. I assumed he meant he was going to fix the screen wipers which really needed to be changed especially since it's been raining lately and knock out the dent that someone gave the car (hit and run..grr). I assumed (again) he was doing it the very morning we had plans because we were going to drive quite a distance so better to be safe. It's been quite surprising how much/often it's been raining here, which is a fantastic thing. The last time we were out and it rained, we were driving pretty blindly because instead of wiping water off the windshield, the wipers only made things worse. So there I was, waiting patiently for Mr F to come home. It was already time to set off and he was still at the workshop.

When he finally returned, I was a little annoyed so I said I didn't want to go since we'd be late. He convinced me that we'd reach on time so off we went. I noticed that the dent was still there so I assumed he just fixed the wipers. I was wrong. Halfway about our drive the car started jerking. It happened several times so Mr F wanted to stop by a mechanic before continuing to our destination. It was then I realised that when he said service the car, he meant cleaning/polishing it, both the exterior and the engine, so that he could "make an entrance". Yeah make an entrance we would, since we'd be the last ones coming. Since we were already pressed for time, I told him to forget about the meetup and just get the car fixed.

We took a U-turn and headed home. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed. Awhile later, there was a mild sandstorm. I tried to cheer myself by saying that maybe it was a blessing that we didn't go, since I certainly didn't want sand in my face...that is, if it was sandstorming at the location we were going as well. Later on that night when we went out, I guess the engine "dried up" so it was fine again. No jerks at all. The last time we wanted to drive west for an adventure (the iris fields that we didn't see), we were misinformed and it didn't work out. This time we were headed west again, and something else happened. Sigh, just my luck I guess.
Moral of the story: don't wash your engine before a road