Thursday, 28 November 2013

I live in a beautiful country

I've just moved everything home in preparation for the big move - to London - and took some photos of what I'm leaving behind. My last day at work was beautiful so I took some photos.
Driving to work

Work carpark...
Driving home!
Yes, that is a cyclist on the highway. Yes, they are allowed to be there.
I drove up from Wellington with a very fully laden car. It was not the most fun 7 hour trip of my life, mainly because everything was crammed in and spilling over into the space for the driver and passenger...a testament to how much stuff I have, I think.
Wellington - the view from my balcony
Heading up the coast...
Obligatory sheep and cows
Driving into some rain on the Desert Road

Lake Taupo
Thankfully it was great weather for driving for the most part and the weather continued to hold. I'm now frantically stressing and packing for London (which has consumed most of the last 2 months to be fair...) but will hopefully update this a bit more once I'm there!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Things I have learnt about myself so far.

I had a conversation with my flatmate whilst on nights which went, in part, as follows:

"How was your night?"
"It was okay. One went to ICU. The one from ICU last night died after I started my shift."
"Oh no, that's terrible!"
"Yeah, sadly we couldn't fix him."

This gave me pause for thought - to me, it was just a casual conversation about work, but to my flatmate, it was really a big deal that someone had died. Which of course, made me wonder - have I stopped caring about the people I meet and look after?

When I first started freaking out about "being a doctor" in my final years of medical school, I was more worried that I would be too emotional and burn out caring about everyone. This was probably true right at the start, but wallowing in guilt whenever something bad happened and having existential crises whenever a patient died thankfully resolved itself in the first 6 months of work.

The reason that this man dying didn't make me go "oh, that's horrible" the day after I'd watched him go from "a guy with constipation" to "probably a perforation", was because there was nothing we could do to make him well again. Thus, the "best" outcome was that he was kept as pain-free and undistressed as possible at the end of his life. I honestly think I did the best that I could for this man in the set of fairly crap circumstances he was thrown - and because of this, I don't feel upset because he died. It was still sudden, and unexpected, and a crappy set of things for him to have happen - but I don't feel the need to mourn him or break down in tears because of it, because at the end of the day, we did the best we could with what we had.

So - I haven't had some big lightbulb moment or extreme revelation. I don't think I've stopped caring. Instead, I think that I've just gradually come around to appreciating the positives of being alive, the things that I can do, and the way that you can make a difference, even if you can't always change things to how you want them to be.

Friday, 4 October 2013

A new friend appears!

This cat belongs to one of the neighbours down the road and is simply the cuddliest thing ever in the suburb.
In which it is evident that piles of paper and plastic on the floor are not my priority

Nor is making my bed, evidently.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Dragon100 Forum Part 2: Culture and crazy awesomeness

Part 1

Day 3: Temples and temperatures

The day started off with a couple of slightly hungover people and several more sensible, not-hungover people (I was actually in the latter category, having mainly had energy drinks rather than alcohol the night before) being subjected to the heat and humidity that comes with being outside on a mid-summer, sunny Hong Kong day.  Whilst the weather was certainly nice and warm, my eyes were definitely protesting the sunlight and of course I forgot my hat and sunglasses. 

It was hot. Very hot.

Of course this had a cultural purpose to it, this being experiencing Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. This complex is an undertaking on an epic multi-million-dollar scale, and perfectly replicates the Tang Dynasty style of garden and temple. Something that I just can’t get used to (being, of course, from New Zealand) is the backdrop of high-rise buildings outside this peaceful oasis.

Every time I look at this picture it confuses me.
I will let the pictures speak for themselves as this place is much more spectacular than any words could describe.
An exhibit explaining traditional wooden architecture in the garden. Apparently these hold up to earthquakes just as well as the modern earthquake stabilisers; they're built on platforms so don't have underground foundations

Second view of the Golden Pavilion from the top of the stairs. It is entirely coated in real gold, and closed off to the public. Even most staff members are not allowed in it.

Chi Lin nunnery, built using the traditional methods. No close up photos of the temple complex were really allowed since it is supposed to be a place for worship rather than tourism...

 The afternoon was spent at the Yuen Yuen Institute (actually, if you want to visit, look at this link) which is a complex which initially confused me because it is dedicated to multiple religions and so the variety of temples and places you can worship at is almost like the variety of street food you can get. This is something I couldn't imagine really having in New Zealand, although having a church, mosque and temple all within a stone's throw from each other would look pretty cool. We were provided with an amazing vegetarian lunch, the opportunity to explore the huge complex and offer our respects in whichever way we chose, and treated to an exhibition of Tai Chi as well as hearing about some of the crazy awesome projects other delegates are involved with. Again, pictures.
Lunch! Vegetarian lunch, even - the variety of mushrooms was amazing.
One of many places of worship

I was actually trying to get a picture of the giant albino carp that was at least a couple of feet long - that's just the top of it's head and mouth visible to the left of the orange was HUGE
That evening was spent wandering around the Hong Kong waterfront, taking MANY photos and just being generally touristy.
Ridiculously clear evening...

Further support of my hypothesis that no matter where you go, the Irish pub will always be called Murphy's

At this point I seriously wanted to jump in - it was BOILING!

Lights at night and someone's hand

Day 4: Enter the Dragon

Our final day in Hong Kong started at a quite reasonable hour of the morning with a trip to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Not only was this exciting due to my love of museums, but also because the first thing we saw as we got out of the bus was a poster for the special exhibit about Bruce Lee! So naturally there were many attempts at replicating the pose of the giant statue that greeted us as we entered the museum – my best attempt is displayed below.
How I wish my side kick was actually as high as the statue...

The Bruce Lee exhibition itself was an overview of not just his adult movie career and martial arts skill (which is what most people remember him for) but his whole life, covering everything from his early days as a child actor, dancing skills, personality, and career as an adult movie maker. Unfortunately it was strictly no photos allowed (and policed fairly vigilantly) so I don’t have any illustrative aids, however the exhibit was well laid out and absolutely crammed full of personal items, images, and films of Bruce Lee, including of course his movie costumes and notes about martial arts as well as personal letters and a portion of his library of martial arts books. According to the exhibition information, it includes the largest amount of items ever loaned to a museum by the Bruce Lee Foundation. This is a special exhibit which according to the website will be up for a number of years – so if you’re in Hong Kong before 2018, take the time to visit the Heritage museum, and for this exhibit give yourself a good hour. I could’ve spent two hours here easily, but most people seemed to be done at about the one-hour mark.

We also toured one of the permanent exhibitions about Cantonese opera, a subject about which I previously knew absolutely nothing apart from what the title inferred, and also looked at the movie adaptations of some of the Cantonese operas. The skill, costumes, and presentation are just breathtaking - especially since martial arts often feature in the opera, so performers must be particularly acrobatic and talented as well as being able to sing and act. One particular movie clip featured a performer spinning her ponytail around her head during a martial arts display, and I’m just going to say – Willow Smith whipping her hair has NOTHING on her!

We spent the afternoon at the School of Creative Media which is an incredible facility somewhere in Hong Kong (I was well and truly lost in terms of my sense of direction by this stage) and has this amazing 3-D room. Again, it wasn't super appropriate to take photos here, but wow. The room. We were shown the Mogao caves in a way that you can't even experience in person (as some are sealed off now). According to the guide, they were painstakingly photographed, laser scanned, and adapted into this format so you can essentially be inside and experience the caves. The current feature exhibit is Pure Land which has taken one of the murals in the sealed-off caves and made it come to life - you can see the "restored" original colours of the mural, hear what the music in the temples sound like, and even see the dancers which have been animated. Very, very cool.
Photo courtesy of the School of Creative Media

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Someone drew a picture of me!

Posted this in a "post photo, get your picture drawn" thread...
Facial expression does not correlate with the love I have for this dress.

Got this picture! It's awesome, AND by some magical coincidence, the background is also one of my favourite shades of purple.
How is this so amazing?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Dragon100 Forum Part 1: Hello Hong Kong!

I was selected earlier in the year to be one of this year's New Zealand delegates to the Dragon100 Forum on "Chinese Culture: Continuity and Innovation" which was held in Hong Kong and Taiwan. To be honest, I applied without the expectation of being selected so it was an awesome surprise when I got the confirmation email!

Day 1: Introductions and setting the scene

I touched down in Hong Kong at the very respectable hour of 7:30am for the Dragon100 forum and immediately experienced a 15-20 degree rise in temperature and 80% rise in humidity compared to New Zealand. I’d had a good sleep and terrible breakfast on the plane, so was ready for whatever the day ahead held.
Not exactly large, friendly letters on the cover, but a good travelling t-shirt
Outside the airport, to demonstrate the weather I arrived to!

We were met at the airport by volunteer staff members, transported to the hostel for formalities and check in, and then told we were free to do as we chose until the introduction portion of the evening. My first priority was to take a shower, then get food – luckily, Y-Loft (the hostel) was located immediately by an MTR station and thus a mall. I was lucky enough to find a group going out for dim sum, shopping, and exploration around Causeway Bay. Not much was bought, but I had good fun wandering around and looking at the shops.

First priority: food! This one is a pineapple bun 
Char siu bun, egg tart, custard/fruit plait. All are recommended!

Second lunch/early dinner of dim sum

Sneaky shot of a cat-themed store

As a side note, I would definitely recommend Y-Loft as a place to stay if you don't mind being half an hour out of town and at the end of the MTR line. The rooms are clean and well-presented, there's wi-fi everywhere, and it's a generally nice environment. There aren't really many power points free to charge your electronics (you'll have to unplug the lamps) and apparently the hostel block is not as nice, but the common areas are modern and there's even a small gym (which has 2 treadmills, a bike, a bench, and some mats. No weights, oddly enough, and supposedly only open from 8am-10pm but no-one minded that I went outside those times)
Beds - the messy one is of course mine
Bathroom - with not-wide-enough shower curtain
TV and desk.
This was a design feature I particularly liked - despite being 13 floors up, it felt like we were in a smaller building as there was a central courtyard built in, and all the rooms in the block had a small balcony.
Our balcony!
But actually this is how high up we were....

Day 2: Happy Birthday, happy birthday

Our second day was focussed specifically on the 10th anniversary of the Dragon100 forum and celebrations pertaining to the same, including a ceremony, afternoon workshops, and of course a celebration dinner.
Everyone dressed up in their business best!
For me, the highlight of the morning was actually the keynote lecture around the topic of the forum, “Chinese Culture; continuity and innovation”. Despite one of the delegates saying afterwards that the lecture was not so informative because “everyone knows this”, I learnt a lot both in terms of basic facts and with respect to the more current conflicts between "older" traditions and values held today.
Keynote speaker
On that note, since it did make me think a bit about assumed common knowledge, I think it’s easy to be complacent about things that “everyone should know” when you assume that everyone comes from a similar context as yourself - particularly in a forum such as this where all the participants are of Chinese descent. However, in the same way that I don’t necessarily expect everyone to know what I consider basic information about health despite everyone needing good health to stay alive, I don’t feel that it's expected of me to have learnt about the history of China and Chinese culture. This is particularly true given that my upbringing and schooling has been entirely in New Zealand where it isn't really part of the curriculum. I can tell you a whole lot about the history of New Zealand though! Of course, lack of knowledge doesn't mean lack of interest (especially when it’s pretty much handed to me in a nice gift wrapped hour) and actually, given how well-presented the information was I am more inclined to find out more now.
Different types of teas

During the afternoon workshops, my topics of choice were tea ceremony and qipao. Despite the workshop on tea ceremonies being entirely in Mandarin and me requiring translation of 95% of what was being said, I enjoyed learning about the different tea types and the rituals involved. The second workshop, on qipao, was also partially in Cantonese and Mandarin, and there were more than a few blank nodding and agreeing faces between me, some of the other non-Chinese speaking delegates, and the non-Cantonese speakers. As someone who is a hobbyist with respect to sewing, this workshop was pretty much captivating – we covered the history of qipao pattern drafting, construction techniques, tools, material choice, and got to see some amazing hand sewing as well as the instructor hand-sewing a basic qipao for a delegate within an hour and a half.

Apparently this garment is around 300 years old
Chinese tailor's chalk, ruler, and traditional width fabric

One of the points raised during the qipao workshop was the lack of a national dress in China, and the desire to preserve the older style of qipao rather than the more modern, British-influenced garment as being more "true" to tradition (the newer style typically uses western tailoring with darts and a zip; the older style has neither). This lead to several interesting discussions about the place of qipao in modern society and the different approaches to clothing and fashion - probably enough discussion for a separate blog post that is likely to go off into geeky tangents about sewing, in fact. So I will talk about the rest of the night instead.

Dinner was of course a fancy and formal affair as would be expected due to the nature of the celebrations, with performances from local dance groups and also the local Hong Kong delegates. And the food. Wow. Food. Pictures speak for themselves, I think.

There was a teeny seahorse in my soup!

Rice with fish roe in it, amazingly tasty

Sweet soup and pastry
 A group of us headed out to go clubbing in LKF afterwards (can't remember what it stands for; too lazy to look it up) and spent a couple of hours dancing in 7 Heaven. The music, atmosphere and company were great, but I'm used to clubs being non-smoking areas and I really hate the smell of cigarettes, so that irked me a little. Not enough to stop me having fun, of course.

On the right is the club we went to...
People on the street - way busier than New Zealand is usually!

I have over 300 photos and a whole lot to say about my trip since I didn't lose my camera/phone this time - so stay tuned for further updates and discussions.