misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-02-03 03:11 am

The last four days in England...

The day after I got signed off, I still woke up at 7am. This was a good thing though, as I had made an arrangement with my flatmate to leave my bags in his room so that I could enjoy one last day in Oxford despite being technically evicted at 11am, and he had to be at hospital by 8am. Although I tried to go back to sleep afterwards, I wasn’t successful, so after a breakfast of good old migoreng and handing in my keys, I decided to walk into town (my bus pass had just expired). Besides, it was such a nice, sunny day, and the squirrels were out – a most auspicious sign in my books!

But alas, just as I started walking through the park to get to college where I had to pay my dinner invoice, the heavens opened up and I was blasted with wind and rain – enough to break my umbrella and waterproof boots. So after sorting out things at college, I headed to the common room where I sat next to a heater for an hour planning my next move. I decided to stroll down to town and pick my spirits up with a bit of retail therapy. Claire’s was having a sale of 10 accessories for 10 pounds (including brush sets, light-up mirrors, socks, and Hello Kitty paraphernalia), and I wanted a Lush moisturizer (Lush is slightly cheaper in the UK than in Australia once you convert things). After this, I decided to just hang out in a coffee shop until my Sydney friend, AZ, finished his 11am tour.

AZ and his friend R had come up from London to have a look at Oxford, and since I had a whole day free, I could think of no better way to spend it than getting people into colleges free on my Bod card and such. And HS, one of the other elective students also leaving at the end of January, was keen to also catch up on tourist attractions. We started with lunch at Turl St Kitchen, which supposedly played host to such famous faces as Oscar Wilde! R was game enough to try the buffalo steaks, while I just stuck with a frittata.

And then we began college-hopping!

Since we were on Turl St, we worked our way downwards. Exeter – famous for the bust of Tolkien lurking in the chapel, Jesus, and Lincoln. Then we tried to get into the library, but it was closed to all those except members. So we headed down to Christ Church, after which point HS had to leave us to move out of her accommodation. The three of us remaining walked to the Christ Church meadow, where we spotted some deer! We then walked past Corpus Christi and down the street to Magdalen, which is my secret favourite. There I put my most charming face on as you’re technically only allowed to bring one guest in per Bod card and took many photos in the rapidly fading light. Finally, we stopped en route to the train station at the Grand Café (the oldest coffee house in England) to have “Cream Tea” which is scones/jam/clotted cream with a pot of tea. It was delicious! I then walked those guys to the station before getting a bus back to my flat to pick up my luggage and catch the bus to London. I was originally planning on attending the college salsa night for a bit, but figured leaving Oxford to arrive in London earlier (and avoiding being groped by seedy guys) was a better option.

I arrived in London at the Marble Arch at about 9pm, hopped in a cab and checked into my hostel, the YHA on Bolsover St. I found the staff really helpful, the rooms clean, and everything fairly secure. I would definitely recommend this hostel if you were looking for somewhere cheap to spend the night (though possibly next time I will be spending extra to get a private room, as living with 7 other people has difficult moments…like when you want to pack at 11pm or when you need to leave at 4:30am, but don’t want to wake everyone else up).

After a quiet Thursday night, I was definitely ready to get going on Friday morning. I got up a bit too early, so after grabbing some stuff from Pret I went for a wander around the west end while waiting for the box office of Her Majesty’s Theatre to open (to get Phantom tickets for 21 quid!). I stopped by the post office to get rid of two kilos of stuff, and then at 10:30 I got 21-pound seats for me and AK (a friend from Potter fandom)!

After this I headed straight up to the zoo to wink at a boa constrictor. It was a little anticlimactic because the snake in the movie wasn’t technically a boa constrictor, but it was a really great zoo nevertheless. Not as sprawling as Taronga, but definitely a lot of interesting animals (oh my god, the reindeer!) I came back at about 15:00 to just chill in my dorm and get changed for the night, before deciding to window-shop some more. I met up with AK at 17:00 and we went to Forbidden Planet, which is an awesome sci-fi/comic book store in Chinatown! I may have splurged on a little something…but it’s not for me, so it’s okay, right?

AK was kind enough to treat me to dinner in a surprisingly authentic Chinatown restaurant (and she gave me chocolate too! Holy crap I have a new best friend!) before watching Phantom. Glorious Phantom. Which I’ve loved since I was a kid and discovered my dad’s “Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber” CD. Phantom and Christine were excellent, but for me the standout was actually Raoul who had a surprising depth to his voice. The set was stunning – I was surprised that even though the stage was about half the size of the Capitol in Sydney, it was really compact and they made really good use of the space they had. Loved the multi-levels!

On my way back to the hostel I stopped at a Tesco’s to replenish my calcium supplies (69p milkshake FTW!) and vitamin water for my travels. I slept soundly until 8am the next morning, after which I started packing before I realized it was 9am, meaning I had only an hour to be dressed, breakfasted, and at the Cambridge Theatre to attempt to score Matilda rush tickets. But once I got to Kiko’s café, an Italian place across the road from the YHA, and had a giant veggie English breakfast placed in front of me, I decided that if I couldn’t get Matilda tickets, I was quite confident I could get Wicked ones anyway. So I didn’t wolf down my breakfast, but enjoyed it with my excellent Italian-style coffee, went back to the hostel to clean my teeth, and only then did I make my way down to Leicester Square. It was past 10:00 by this point, so I was expecting a queue, but I actually just walked straight up to the box office and asked if they had any student tickets left. There was just one…just for me! (Apparently a bunch of couples had rocked up just before me, but there had only been a single ticket left…)

The next thing on my itinerary for the day was a Harry Potter bus tour. It only started at 13:00 so I caught the tube to Embankment and just wandered around the shore. I had yet another Starbucks hot drink to kill time and use the bathroom, before making my way to the assigned meeting place at Temple station. There was a lovely Brazilian girl in a Slytherin scarf who I had a very animated fan conversation with as I put on my Ravenclaw robes and scarf. Nobody else was dressed up though, sadly. But the tour was fantastic! From the comfort of our heated bus, we were driven around to a number of filming locations. It finished at King’s Cross where I got a proper picture with my school uniform and the trolley at Platform 9 ¾.

It was kind of late by this point, so I was more than happy to just head back to the hostel for a bit. Then I had a big falafel salad for dinner before the show started at 19:30. I almost treated myself to a candy cupcake, but given that my breakfast had come with chips, I thought it wasn’t a particularly good idea.

Matilda was amazing. I had heard good things about it from a few of my Sydney friends who had dropped into London last year, and I was a fan of the book, and I’m a sort of fan of Tim Minchin, but it actually exceeded my expectations. It’s a high-energy show with a lot of catchy tunes, and I felt the characters were very true to Roald Dahl’s. The set was also surprisingly good! I would tell you more but shhhhhhhh spoilers!

And now I’ve plonked myself in the common room. I have to start making my way to the airport at 04:45, so I figured instead of waking everyone in my dorm up, I would just hang out in the common room and pull an all-nighter. The fringe benefit is that when I get onto the plane, and I get to sleep, I will be totally in sync with Sydney time!
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-31 11:48 pm

Oxford, the end (for now)

Just like the snow which melted this week, and the rain which came and went today, everything has its time. Today it was time for me to leave the place I have called home for the last month and head to London for one last weekend of freedom from the parental units, before flying home. I actually started to feel bizarrely emotional yesterday when I said goodbye to my team. I nearly cried when I had to bid the cath lab people goodbye, because they were the ones who made me feel so welcome in my first week when I was just floating around without a supervisor, and put up with my really dumb questions. Oh, and when saying goodbye to the other elective students? Particularly the other Aussie? Definitely a heart-wrenching moment (it was at Christ Church too, i.e. Hogwarts). And OMG the Quidditch team! I had to write them a little note with a loaf of bread asking them to please feed the ducks in my absence. 
 
In some ways though, the thought of leaving makes my heart soar. For example, things I miss about Sydney:
  • The weather (Me: I wish I could send you some sunshine {from Australia} Dr D: That sounds like the beginning of a song. Me: Oh okay, maybe I'll write one!)
  • Mr Ravenclaw
  • Yum Cha, cheap Thai food, my kitchen (especially my nonstick wok and endless pile of tea towels), Mr Ravenclaw's cooking, mum's cooking
  • Having a towel rail, a shelf full of my toiletries, a bin, mats, and a dual flush toilet in my bathroom (and a shower not covered in hair). Also mixer taps! You have no idea how annoying it is when there is a hot tap, and a cold tap...so you either freeze or scald yourself. Also, can I just say that European showers are the most confusing things ever?  
  • Having a mirror in my room. 
  • Not having to wear shoes everywhere around my house. 
  • My giant bed and nice pillows and plushie collection
  • The beach
  • My PLC girlfriends, uni friends, the whole gang...
  • Flip-flops and open-toed shoes and shorts and short skirts
  • My clothesline (and the ability to do free laundry)
  • Mr Ravenclaw
  • Photoshop 
  • A medical records system which I can access, printers that work consistently, and stable wifi (though the unlimited 3G is AWESOME)
  • My car
  • Mr Ravenclaw
But jokes aside, Oxford has been extremely good to me. I've had all the ward time, theatre time, clinic time that I wanted. I've been to the gen med ward. I've watched a pall care discussion. I've seen emergencies. I've been to an audit (yuck). I've gotten a lot of free food from journal club meetings and JMO teaching. I've even helped out at the final year exams! I am so grateful for the opportunities I've been given. I think it says a lot about my team that I didn't constantly feel the urge to skip class like many other people on elective...on the contrary, I genuinely wanted to go into hospital to learn and spend time with my team. 

And yeah, I'll just never be an Oxford student again. This is why I actually avoided going into London every weekend...I feel like I can be a traveller in London and go to shows/museums/touristy things whenever, but college-hopping/bopping/etc can't be done when you don't have a Bod card. 

And speaking of London, I'm there now! And I should get an early night as I plan to go to the zoo tomorrow, among other things!

misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-28 07:45 pm

Oxford, Day 26

I got to ward rounds about one minute late, but nobody seemed to notice me anyway. Until Dr R was like, "how are you?" and I turned around thinking he was addressing someone behind me, and there was nobody there :P

Instead of tailing the resident around though, I followed one of the consultants up to the gen med ward. Oxford is different to Sydney in that many people with simple heart conditions are managed entirely by the general medicine team, don't have much contact with actual cardiologists, and never get moved to the cardiology ward. So I saw 4 patients with heart failure with Dr D, who quizzed me throughout the morning. Luckily I was able to answer his questions about Barret's, Multiple Myeloma and Thyroid diseases because they show up in 5th year case protocols!

I then made a mug of instant ramen. Shortly after coming out of the staffroom though, the emergency alarm went off. It turned out one of the patients (a 50-year-old lady with dilated cardiomyopathy who'd just had an ICD inserted) on the cardiology ward collapsed, having gone into VT. A minute later I heard her talking though, so I assumed she recovered. But then she went into VT for a second time, and lost consciousness.

In years 4 and 5, whenever there was an emergency, all the students would be told to get the hell out of the way. I was about to do the same here, before one of the junior doctors asked if I knew how to give CPR. When I replied in the affirmative, he told me to get a pair of gloves on and get into the room ready to take over from someone doing chest compressions. I did a couple of times, though I fear I wasn't terribly useful because I'm a bit of a weakling and I tire quickly. Actually, once more fit young male doctors came along, my job was to hold the arms of the patient because in her semi-conscious state she kept flinging them around, dislodging her cannulas. The patient's pulse came and went, she flipped between sinus/VT/VF, they had to put a magnet over her ICD because it kept randomly going off, many shocks were given, PE/rupture/etc were all ruled out eg by echo, a heck of a lot of adrenaline got infused, they had to suction the intubation tube because it filled up with sinister red fluid, and the team even tried some amiodarone. The resuscitation efforts continued for about one and a half hours but unfortunately, with the patient becoming less responsive and the pH dropping severely and the lactate rising, and since the patient had requested to not end up in the ICU, they decided to stop. 

My paternal grandfather passed away when I was 11, my great-grandfather when I was 12, my maternal grandfather when I was 16, and my great-grandmother when I was 21, so this wasn't the first time I'd seen someone who'd recently passed away. But I don't think any of that fully prepared me for how sad and scary it is when someone slips away rapidly before your eyes. Like as I saw the patient's extremities turning blue, watched as successive blood gas readings came back more and more acidotic, felt her grip weaken in response to "squeeze my hands if you can hear me", and then got asked to help clean up some of the blood before the patient's husband came in, I still didn't quite believe what was happening. I just kept imagining she was going to get her pulse back properly, and then slowly but surely wake up. And also, when we were leaving the room, I couldn't help but think how horrible her final moments must have been...she was evidently aware that she had a tube down her throat and a needle in her neck and two more in her arms, plus we were squashing her sternum, and taking arterial blood samples from the femoral artery (that's basically in the groin, folks). One of her cannulas failed so a new one had to be put in, and she tried to fend off the needle. And even when we weren't checking her response, I noticed she sometimes just held my hand anyway. 

But yeah. Just nothing completely prepares you. I sort of sleep-walked out of the ward and to the registrars' room to message someone online, because I remember just desperately wanting a hug but being too scared to ask any of the doctors. So I got a virtual hug from Mr Ravenclaw. Then I decided to call it a day and calm my nerves with some piano and fudge. It was kind of good timing, as I realised I could properly bid farewell to the Steinway that has served me so well during my term at Oxford. Whenever I've felt like a wreck, I've usually gone to the piano and just played all the bad feelings away. I did a post office run to send off some goodies to Northern Ireland (only 2.70 pounds including packaging for a small parcel going across a body of water!? And the lady felt apologetic that I couldn't quite fit it into a "large letter" and had to pay more. I'm pretty sure I've paid more than $5 to send a hat from one Sydney suburb to another). 

The weather was dismal. Seriously, not only was it bucketing down, the wind was howling away so that even if you had both an umbrella and a raincoat, you still got wet. And since nobody was keen on joining me for an Atomic Burger (apparently there's a burger place that's decorated to look like a cartoon), so I just went back to my flat, did a quick ab workout, showered, and then ate up the last of my udon. I just need to figure out what on earth I'm going to do with my rice, because I have a large packet and nothing to cook it with. I think I may just end up eating it plain one morning. 

I was going to write an entry the other day about how the snow had all melted, and just like the winter wonderland, and my English adventures (along with all my petty woes), nothing can last forever. But I can't think of a clearer example than today of how fragile life is. And it is so humbling when you think that even though it was my first time, for everyone else in that room it was just part of their daily job. They have the courage to deal with such trials as these many times a month. I have been reminded once again that even though I'm near the end of my med school journey, I'm barely at the beginning of becoming a doctor. 
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-27 10:16 pm

Oxford, Day 25

I woke up to discover that someone had indeed picked up and kept safely my Ravenclaw scarf (the one I accidentally left on the Quidditch pitch in my rush to get to afternoon tea on time). So I packed up my gear for the day, and headed out to Worcester College to collect it. I am relieved to write that I did not cry, however I babbled a bit about sending the Quidditch team some Tim Tams to show my appreciation for them (they not only let me train with them, they also invited me to their socials! And then they rescued my scarf!). 
 
I used the trek up to Worcester to wander around the area near the train station. I walked around the Oxford Castle (which I have to admit, after seeing Windsor and stuff, was a bit of a letdown), across a few bridges, along the river, and down the streets that would lead me to Rewley Abbey, which is another part of Green Templeton. 
 
Rewley was the venue for the college Sunday brunch. Where "bring a plate" actually means "bring an empty plate" (unless you feel like being a chef for the day). We feasted on pasta, noodles, curry, cheesecake, crepes, Indian sweets, bagels, and more...I really regret not going to these earlier (although I've generally been doing other things with my Sundays, like waking up in Scotland) because it was actually a lot more laid-back than I was expecting. Heaps of people were meeting each other for the first time, so it didn't matter that I only knew one or two people there. Plus, I got a free meal that kept me going literally all day! 
 
Since the weather was good, I went college-hopping again, working my way south down Parks Rd. I've now seen Keble, Mansfield, Wadham, Balliol, Trinity (which I'd only seen at night before) and Oriel. Because the weather was generally quite good, I also took my robes out for a spin and took pictures with them at New and Christ Church. At New, I encountered a tour group that wanted to take photos of me! One of the dudes even said I looked just like Katie Leung...anyhow, I thought I'd make their day and ask if anyone wanted to borrow my robes for a picture, and about five of them said a resounding YES! In return they helped take photos of me :D

En route, I also squeezed in quick visits to the Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museums. This was partly to escape the rain, which sort of came and went all afternoon. 
 
At 4:30pm everything closed, so I went window-shopping for a bit and picked up some pieces of jewellery from a cute shop called "Aspire". There were some nice dresses but they were all too big (for some reason the smallest they stock is a size 8 D:). On my way to catch my bus home, I spotted a sign advertising Evensong at Queen's College.
 
I've been wanting to visit Queen's, but you can only visit it if you're brought in by an accredited tour guide (well, I had a conversation with a former Christ Church student, and I understand that opening a college to tourists is actually like opening Pandora's Box, so I can understand why some colleges aren't easily accessible). I've also wanted to go to an Evensong, after hearing SXY tell me about her choral adventures, except I've always felt a bit too intimidated (and plus, I'm not remotely Christian, and the last time I was in a chapel apart from my friends' weddings was back in high school). Thirdly, I got stood up for dinner plans (was planning to go to Atomic Burger, which apparently looks like a comic book, with the other elective students but they were too tired) so my alternative plans were to go home and eat a frozen pizza while waiting for Mr Ravenclaw to wake up and get on Skype. 
 
I had another hour to kill though, so I went to Starbucks and had a big Vanilla Spice Latte, caught up on tweets/instagram and read up about the Queens College Choir. They *are* the really famous group that I've heard of that make CDs and stuff! So naturally I had very high expectations...
 
...all of which were exceeded!
 
I showed up at Queen's at 6pm, about 15 minutes before the service was meant to start. This meant we heard the tail end of the choir rehearsal, which already sounded amazing. I also had some time to take some (terrible quality) photos of the college and chapel, skim-read the hymns to be sung (one of which I kinda recognised from school!) and watch the candles be lit by a very tall/dashing Englishman. 
 
The acoustics of the chapel were stunning. The harmonies were magical. The choir was the best I'd ever heard. The organ was amazing. The minister was hip enough to discuss Big Bang Theory and spill the beans on a tutor of the college who had a "Bullshit" roll-on stamp for his students' essays. And the theme of "Love" was just such a nice, universal topic and something that had been on my mind lately, so it provided a bit of time for introspection. 

I left Queens just as another one of my buses pulled up, which meant I was back at my flat in no time. Dinner was my frozen pizza (yay for 700 calories!), but instead of dessert, I had something (or should I say someone?) even sweeter. (I'm a little late, but Happy 5 months if you're reading this!) 

And now for some ginger tea and a nice early night. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh it's gonna break my heart to have to leave this place!
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-27 12:21 am

Oxford. Days 21-24

What did I do with my Thursday...well, I went into hospital as usual, but I didn't do my usual things. Because...it was the day of the final year med students' final exams, and I had volunteered to help out from 8am-5:30pm. There were a few reasons why I'd signed up:
  1. The promise of a free lunch and free snacks.
  2. To meet other med students (and it turned out also, junior doctors who were currently doing research).
  3. To support the 6th years, because our job was to provide them with a stress-free run through their stations.
  4. To earn brownie points with consultants from my department, who were being examiners.
  5. To see the students (and examiners!) dressed up in "sub-fusc". This usually consists of black pants/white shirt/white bowtie for boys and black stockings/black skirt/white blouse/black ribbon for girls, all worn under academic robes. However due to the infection risk, during the practical exams, robes aren't worn and the white shirt sleeves are all rolled up to the forearms. Still, it was quite a novelty! I wonder what would happen if we turned up to our exams in sub-fusc for lulz. I mean, I had a conversation with a 4th year med student who explained she quite appreciated the exam uniform, since it helped her get her head into the zone.

I was also hoping to get to observe some of the actual exam stations, and see what kinds of questions were asked in Oxford finals, but since I was assigned to be a chaperone, I only managed to see/hear some of the questions and marking schemes. Nevertheless, I could tell that the standard of the candidature was extremely high and once again I felt slightly underqualified to be in Oxford!

There was an amazing walnut cake for afternoon tea, but I missed out on the apparently even more amazing "lemon drizzle" cake. Coincidentally though, I found a recipe for it in one of the free newspapers we were given to read during the breaks, so I will  be attempting it when I get back to my kitchen and my utensils and my ingredient supply. I had been planning to go out on Thursday night to a bop, but I was too tired to go (and besides, I wasn't terribly keen to get hit on) and ended up curling up with a bowl of noodles and a new book recommended by the boyfriend.

Friday was one of my insane days! I followed my favourite resident and registrar all day until Journal Club, where we were shouted lunch by the people marketing "Edarbi" (azilsartan medoxomil). I then went back to the ward for a bit, although it was quite sad as we had to tell the husband of a lady with carcinoid that she was reaching the final stages of her illness. I stalked one of the consultants back to his office and gave him my elective forms, so that he would have a few days to fill them out. It's actually been quite difficult as I have been floating around the three cardiology teams: electrophysiology, intervention, and imaging/structural/failure for the last month without a lot of emphasis on a particular one (well, except maybe EP, I don't understand it well enough...) So hopefully Dr D has seen me enough to say that I've been present and involved in my elective. I guess if I haven't, then perhaps I could stay another 4 weeks here...but I'm not sure if my visa, wallet or family would like that.

So I came home at about 3pm and attempted to do a load of laundry. Unfortunately, the machine swallowed a few of my coins and appeared jammed, so I trekked up to the accommodation office to ask what could be done. Apparently I may get refunded my 1 pound 20 pence...if the machine gets serviced in between now and Thursday. The chances are slim, but hey, I tried. And I put a sign on the machine with Don't use this machine! It will eat your coins! so hopefully nobody else will suffer the same fate. I got my laundry done eventually in another machine (though it looks like I'll have to do yet another round of washing tomorrow...aargh!)

I then had a shower and got ready for the two parties I had to attend this night. Firstly, there was a black tie dinner to celebrate Robert Burns' birthday. Burns is a Scottish poet, the author of Auld Lang Syne and a couple of other famous bits and pieces, so Scotland like to celebrate him with "Burns Night". It admittedly felt a bit weird to be celebrating a Scottish poet on Australia Day (well, it was the 26th in Australia by 1pm 25th Jan GMT) but it was SO much fun. We began with drinks upstairs, before we were serenaded with a guitar/violin duo as we descended the stairs to the dining room in our tower. And then the bagpipes suddenly began! We filed into the hall as Scotland the Brave played. None of the other elective students managed to snag tickets, so I ended up surrounded by strangers, but everyone was amazingly nice and put me at ease immediately. The first course was soup, after which the bagpipes came out again, as the Haggis was brought in (="Piping-In of the Haggis"). As I'd specified "no red meat" I was classified with the vegetarians, so my haggis/neeps/tatties was once again a safe, spicy veggo version. In between our mains and dessert we were once again serenaded by our guitarist, who sang a few of Burns' songs. One of the fellows of the college also stood on a stool (not a table, or a chair, because that was not OHS-friendly) to recite the tale of Tam O'Shanter (yeah, same name as the ridiculous hats my school made us wear in winter). Even though it was in Scottish, he acted it out so well that I understood most of it (plus he gave us a synopsis, so that helped!). After this awesome entertainment, we had Cranachan. Holy crap it was strong!

After this there was coffee/chocolate and Scottish dancing. Unfortunately I couldn't hang around for long as I had to be at a "sexy sub-fusc bop"! I love doing the sexy schoolgirl thing so this was really fun! Plus, 2-pound vodka/cranberries? Who wouldn't be enthralled?! I came home at around 2am though, aiming to be fresh and bright for Quidditch the next day.

This didn't quite work though, because I left my Skype running on my phone and got woken up a few times during the night. I also found out that my body clock does not like me sleeping in. Hurrah for my regular 7am wakeup, even on a freaking Saturday! I went back to bed, of course, but barely slept and ended up wide awake before 9am. So I stumbled out of bed, made some ramen, decided to give Justin a call, tried to eat gracefully in front of him, and perved on his amazing house.

I made it to Quidditch, got my weekly dose of crazy cardio, and got horrendously muddy (to the point that I am considering not bringing my boots back, because no matter how much I rinsed and scrubbed, the mud would not budge), then excused myself a bit early so I could tidy up before BD's afternoon tea (she's a med student coming to do her elective in Sydney!) Unfortunately I left my scarf behind, so I may need to put all my knitting projects on hold while I make myself a new piece of Ravenclaw paraphenalia. Furthermore, the public toilets had no sink, only an "auto soap/wash/dry" machine. So I was basically sticking my head into the machine, wiping my face with the inside of my hoodie, and...yeah, it wasn't a pretty sight and no matter what I did, I couldn't get most of the gunk out of my hair.

BD's place, which is a little bit north of Oxford, is a beautiful old house with multiple cuckoo clocks and numerous photos of family all over the walls. We were treated to some amazing food, including a very authentic pavlova, and some malteaser concoction that looked like brownies but was actually solid chocolate. BD's mum was so sweet and thanked me already for helping out BD with her Sydney visit. Her sisters were also really great, helping to cook and clean up! And BD's friends were awesome. Even though I do funny things like call "yohg-urt" "yoe-gurt", they still put up with me :)

Eventually it was time to go, and I decided to head straight back to my flat. I was fairly glad, as shortly after I arrived back, it started pissing down...

misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-19 01:47 pm

Oxford, Days 13-17

Here's a rather disorganised entry about my third week in Oxford, written on a train to Edinburgh :)

This week I had the privilege of observing a TAVI! And no, I did not attempt to type "N'Avi" from Avatar. In cardiology, TAVI stands for "Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation". Basically, everyone has valves in their heart to prevent blood from flowing the wrong way. Sometimes, these valves get gunky and don't work properly. One method to fix this is to open someone's chest, put them on a bypass machine, open the heart and put in a new valve. This is a huge, fiddly and risky operation. So for some people, there's an alternative method where they stick a tube up the artery of the leg/neck, or through the chest, and deploy a valve in the heart through it. That's what a TAVI is! Compared to open heart surgery, which I've seen in Sydney, this is much faster (takes about an hour all up). 

I've also watched a pacemaker operation become complicated by abnormal anatomy. And an ASD repair which went hairy when the device embolised to the aorta, causing a dissection and requiring a "fishing trip". I guess it's important to watch and learn what to do when things don't go exactly as planned. I.e. stay calm, ask another person's opinion, etc. Because all those events could have had an adverse outcome, but because they were well-handled, everyone was ok. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday I somehow ended up in audit meetings which was so painful that even with the English accents, my ears still came close to bleeding. Monday and Thursday I also spent lots of time in outpatients, which I really liked and will probably do more of next week. Especially the one on Monday with Dr F, who loves his history and taught me about William Witherings, Nikolai Korotkoff and Monckeberg. I still haven't really impressed anyone apart from Dr A, who runs a cardiomyopathy clinic (because I'd decided to read about it the night before) but hopefully I haven't disappointed them too much. I've not spent that much time on the wards because this is what I always do back home...though I've felt some impressive reactive arthritis, heard a pericardial friction rub, and seen a guy in ARF who probably won't recover :(

My extracurriculars have included visiting some more colleges: Magdalen, All Souls, Christ Church, and of course Green Templeton, which I've been made an "honorary member" of in order that I can attend their dinners and whatnot. I just have to climb St Mary's, but I'm going to wait til DS and JS get here to do that with them. 

But yeah, GTC! The highlight of being a member is that I have access to the Radcliffe Observatory which is a tower with several levels. On the bottom is the dining hall, on the next level is a lounge where movie nights, drinks and post-dinner coffee/chocolates are held, and I haven't been up the top yet. It really feels like I'm hanging out in Ravenclaw tower! Well, except when I look at GTC's logo which is a green snake. Hmmmmm. Oh well...also, their "formal" Thursday and Wednesday dinners are kind of intense. They ring a gong to get you into the hall, they say grace in Latin, people wear their academic robes, and the food is pretty good. There was this chocmint cheesecake that I wanted to last forever. On Friday night I also went to a "bob" themed "mathletes and athletes" which I wished I'd brought my cheerleader uniform to. Well, having said that, given that a random guy came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "excuse me, but I have to kiss someone before I leave," (seriously? Is that even a pickup line?) even when I was wearing a tshirt and trackpants, maybe it's a good idea I didn't go as a Cheerio. But yeah, I've never run so fast in my life as I did from that dude, or pushed anyone away with such force. And even though it wasn't midnight yet, I decided to leave. Plus I think I'd managed to put about 5 standard drinks into myself thanks to the themed cocktails so that was probably a good thing. 

We've also had buckets of snow. On Friday I disappeared from hospital before 1pm to play in the snow. I started by checking out Christ Church meadow, built a snowman and saw a deer! I then met up with AB (from Quidditch) and his friend in Uni Parks to feed the ducks. I found they were quite aggressive creatures...AB reckons it's because the seagulls are teaching them things. So we threw snowballs at the seagulls, then at each other. Also, AB nearly threw me in the frozen lake which I was not amused at. But he did offer to share his bread with me earlier so I suppose he was allowed one prank. Before we left, we turned an icy, dangerous bridge into an awesome slippery dip. By this time, it was 4pm and getting dark, so I decided to head back to my flat to have a quick nap, and record a video for the Hogwarts Choir. I'm not totally happy because the lighting in my room is terrible so I will be trying again later next week...

Next week is going to be amazing! The 6th years finally finish their finals, which means PARTY! Also I'm going to a Burns Night black tie dinner at college (for which I have bought a long dress...) And of course, my friends from Sydney are coming to visit! I'm sooooo glad because I really miss everyone, and to get some news from home would be really lovely (yeah, I know I'm constantly on Facebook, but it's just not the same).
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-13 06:02 pm

Oxford, Days 8-12

Time for an update, I think. The last few days of my second week in hospital got kind of hectic, because the guy who was meant to be my supervisor finally showed up. So I had to be on my best behaviour and stay in hospital til at least after 4pm. But I learnt lots of stuff! I have played with an ICE catheter! I have heard a lot of ESMs and felt "slow rising" pulses! I have gotten horribly confused by the different units used to report blood test results! I have met lots of patients/doctors/students who think I'm American! I have spent a lot of time in the med student clubhouse known as Osler House (WHICH HAS A PIANO OH MY GOD MY WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS ARE CURED)! My team have made a LOT of orthopod jokes! Also for some reason I’ve had to chaperone 2xPRs. And this is the cardio ward! I shudder to think what gastro/neuro wards are like here!

Also I saw a blood glucose monitor that claimed it was "fast, compact and stylish". Excuse me, "stylish"? How on earth can a piece of medical equipment be "stylish"?

The other elective students (C, H, J and R) have all started now, which has made my life a bit more interesting (though K has gone home, sadface)! Although nobody is staying at the hospital with me (maybe I should've paid the extra $$ to stay in college...but then I'd have to catch the bus into hospital every morning, and I hate mornings), we've had dinner together (<3 Wagamama!) and gone to a party (or rather, a "bob") together, and I'm hoping we can do a pubcrawl together too (C's idea).

Ah yes, the "bob". Where the action only starts after 10:30pm, 6-shot cocktails cost a mere 4 pounds (my readers will probably be dismayed to learn that I asked for a half-sized "Willy-O", the Osler House specialty), candy brains/eggs/teeth etc are served, people proudly wear cardboard boxes/paper plates/newspaper/garbage bags/next to nothing, "Gangnam Style" is the only song that brings everybody together, and the vodka lemon/lime consists mostly of a really disgusting green cordial. It was held in the main room of Osler House, with the canteen being converted to a bar and the couches being cleared away to create a dancefloor. However, I noticed people spilling into other rooms, especially the pool room (but alas, the piano room was locked for the night). And despite the bitter cold, a number of people were loitering outside...smoking >_<

I've also been adopted by the Quidditch Society and the Harry Potter Society (which overlap a bit). Thanks to them, I've gotten some serious exercise, I've had someone to see Pitch Perfect and Les Miserables with, I've gained the courage to just stroll casually into colleges (thanks soooo much B and M for taking me to Trinity and Oriel!), and I've consumed a significant amount of chocolate biscuits while knitting my next sock. They are also teaching me to speak Oxford English (yeah, apparently it's not all about the Oxford Comma). It's not a library card, it's a "bod card", for example. And we have to be quiet because of "collections".

Actually, their knitting club, a subset of the HP Society, deserves a whole paragraph. Not only is everyone making Hogwarts scarves and eating chocolate biscuits, they are the coolest (read: geekiest) Oxford students I've met yet. And for this I love them all. Today, they sang excerpts from Les Miserables, spent >15 minutes discussing the number of minutes in a year, and discussed past and upcoming D&D campaigns (admittedly, I don't play RPGs because I lack the time, but for all my dating I have {happily} been a D&D widow, which I prefer to being a football widow or something because at least D&D/Shadowrun/Pathfinder/Dark Heresy are compelling intellectual pursuits).
But generally, I love Oxford students in general (except the smokers, they’re just gross)! Even though they say things like, “awwww, who thinks it’s cute that the Aussies are cold!” I’ve still had really fun conversations with them. Especially about our wildlife. And our beaches. I’m so excited that some Oxford med students are coming over in the next few months! I hope I’ll be able to drive them up to the northern beaches and stuff.

This week I also managed to fit in lots of touristy things! I did the free Footprints walking tour on Saturday morning when J, my med school colleague/neighbour/revue friend came to visit. The guide was genuinely funny, eager to tell us all the tales of Oxford (e.g. the Mallard Duck story, the college “where fun goes to die”, and the antics of several Rhodes scholars including Bob Hawke and Bill Clinton). We also wandered down many cobblestone roads, got inspired by the same sights/sounds that CS Lewis (omg the Narnian lamp post!) and Lewis Carroll did, discovered what a “kissing gate” is, and took a jumping photo near the Bridge of Sighs. Today I visited the Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Camera, the Divinity School, Harris Manchester College, New College, and the Museum of Science (so I’ve now done most of the Harry Potter sites, apart from Christ Church, which is a work in progress as I’m trying to get myself invited to dinner there).

And don’t get me started about my retail therapy…remember that red dress I mentioned a few entries ago? Well, it got marked down from 18 to 10 pounds, so I caved in and bought it. Since I’m going to start going to parties more, investing in a decent dress is not a bad idea. I guess the problem is that I also caved in and bought a 20 pound wool trench coat and a 5 pound pair of cute pink shorts (I’m planning to wear them to skype the bf). Oh, and today I did my varsity shopping…bought a Green Templeton hoodie (whose logo DS will approve of), an Oxford t-shirt to match it, and some track pants. WHAT?!? I got a student discount! Oh, and I bought some tea towels for my mum and grandma and another female relative that I have forgotten to buy presents for. Oh well, I plan to chuck all my toiletries before I leave home, so that’ll free up significant weight/space in my bag…

And now speaking of toiletries and things, I can’t help making a few comments on my accommodation. Read more... )

In summary, it’s been a really hectic week, but I love this place and it’s going to be so hard to leave after one month (except when I think of the warm weather back in Australia, then I can’t wait to go home and defrost)!
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2013-01-08 04:45 pm

Oxford, Days 5-7

What?! I've been at Oxford for a whole week now?! Well, I've stopped getting lost and I think I've figured out a series of shortcuts that gets me from my room to the registrars' room in the length of two SNSD songs (about 7 minutes) in the mornings. 

These past two days I've been going on ward rounds in critical care, then heading into the cath lab. I've been able to see pacemaker stuff, TOE, PFO closure, and ablation for atrial flutter, but not a LACA for AF because supposedly it is like "watching paint dry". It's all pretty amazing that they do all this stuff by sticking a wire into someone. Especially the PFO...where this little umbrella thing comes out and...voooooomp! No more PFO! I've also started to pluck up the courage to go and see patients on the wards on my own...they all get excited when I tell them I'm from Australia and want me to sit down and tell them about the climate. Which is funny because apparently Sydney was treated to a 42C day yesterday (which I'm pleased to have avoided!) Now, if only I could hear an S3 without having to be told by the consultant that it was there...also, I have been looking every second drug mentioned on ward rounds up on Wikipedia. I swear I have never heard of Dalteparin being used in Australia (okay I'm not that dumb, I knew it was a form of heparin, I just didn't know if it was unfractioned or not). Also, "Co-codamol"...seriously? 

Anyway, I'm conscious that most of you reading this aren't med students, so the last paragraph was kind of boring. Never fear, the next paragraph will be about my Sunday adventures in London!

K and I caught the "Oxford tube" into the city, which is really a bus. We started out at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, which attempted to imitate continental European winter festivals. I wanted to skate on the ice rink, but it was ridiculously expensive (think 14 pounds for an hour), so we just walked around, laughed at some of the rides (what was a pirate ship doing there?), and took photos with the swans (K couldn't believe that Australian swans are black!). We then went to the Victoria and Albert museum, which was really good despite us missing out on the Ballgowns and Hollywood Costumes special exhibition because we hadn't booked tickets earlier. We also explored Harrods (but obviously didn't buy anything) and a few other nearby shops. K wanted to go to Mayfair, but it was a bit underwhelming as it just looked like a regular suburb. So we hit up Oxford St to do some shopping. But I couldn't find anything I liked in my size or price range, alas. I do really want a new coat but they all seem so big! I especially liked this hooded wool coat from Zara, but I already have a red coat so it seemed too indulgent to get another, especially if it makes me look kind of short. I also still need a dress for my formal college dinners but I think I'll wait and see what other people wear to them to get some ideas. And I was thinking of dropping by Victoria's Secret, but I like to do my underwear shopping alone, and I've heard that it's quite overpriced in the UK anyway. Also...Primark, can I just say, "yuck"? Also it was so overcrowded in there! 

Okay now I recognise I've alienated all my male readers with that last paragraph. Okay, the next one isn't mostly about clothes...

Okay, I'll write about food! Food is generally cheap here! I can get a nice big sandwich for lunch for less than two pounds! And it's not ham and cheese, it has French Brie, cranberry and salad! I'm also heading out to Wagamama tonight with the other elective students who've just arrived (I have an ulterior motive because I'm really craving some Jap noodles, which I can't find in the supermarket and therefore cannot cook for myself...and K has never heard of ramen) and the yasai yaki soba, which is $17 in Australia, is £7. I am pretty bad at maths, but I'm pretty sure this is a saving! Unless of course the serving turns out to be half the size. Oh, and there's all-you-can-eat sushi for £19 at this Japanese restaurant I walked by the other day...which actually doesn't sound anywhere near as good as Scoopon back home, but...yeah. 

I think that's made all of my readers happy, so I'll end this here! Hope you and all your pets have survived the heatwave! 
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-05 08:30 pm

(no subject)

Oxford, Days 2-4
I'm now settling in, learning the nuances of my flat. For example, one of our showers doesn't get hot enough to have a comfortable shower, the lights in the bathroom take 5 seconds to turn on, I can get moderately dodgy wifi from one corner of my room, and the washing machine on the far right gets stuck mid-cycle.

I'm also slowly getting acquanted with Oxford itself. You can't seem to walk anywhere without bumping into a beautiful old church or something, and I love that. I even intentionally got lost a few times. Sometimes I was following squirrels. Yeah, feel free to judge me. 

Today I went to the Asmodean Museum...wait, Ashmolean (dammit, DS, for putting Wheel of Time into my head, but it's your birthday so I'll forgive you) which turned out to be quite amazing - I spent about 2 hours wandering around there without even paying to get into the "special exhibitions"! I especially liked the collection of Egyptian mummies, the musical instruments (omg, I saw the Messiah!), everything Roman (I managed to read a few of the Latin sentences without having to look up the translations!), the Greek pottery, the Chinese porcelain, and the Japanese paintings. Actually, I was really proud of myself today because apart from buying some tofu (hurrah! I can stop being malnourished!) I didn't spend any money today (Ashmolean museum is free, and I have a frequent-rider bus ticket).

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my other days in Oxford. Okay, granted, I had to do several rounds of groceries because I prefer to cook most nights, even if all I cook is pasta, noodles and fried rice. I also ran out of hotel soap...but fortunately Boots chemist was having a 50% off sale, so I got this fantastic vanilla/raspberry body wash for a little more than one pound. This stuff usually retails at Coles for over $4 a bottle. And oh my gosh, I love it! It smells like those strawberry-and-cream hard candies that I haven't seen since the 1990s. And even though I have been using it for less than a week, I already feel all nice and moisturised. When I get home, and it comes on special at Coles, I will buy a shelf full of it.

But yeah, I still need to get a dress for my formal college dinners. I saw a nice red-and-black dress today, but it was a little bit big and not quite formal enough, so I put it back. I kind of want an excuse to get something from this quirky place, which I see every time I ride the bus, but it's probably so expensive I may as well be shopping in Australia. And as hard as I try, I will probably gain weight in between now and my gradball in November. 

Anyway, you're all going to think I've been all play and no work. I actually disagree...I think I've been fairly well-balanced so far! I've been getting to hospital at 8am for ward rounds, then going to the ward, or the cath lab, or outpatients. I've also spent some time in echo. The bosses and registrars have been really nice so far, even when I've asked horribly dumb questions like, "What's a firm? Is it just like a team?" Some of them even seem to like Australia (one registrar thought that Australians have cool place names, eg Wagga Wagga).

I feel like I need to work on my mannerisms because the way I phrase things sometimes sounds odd to English people. In my next entry I'll make sure I describe in detail a situation where someone looked at me a bit funny. I mean, usually they can smell my accent a mile away so they roll their eyes and think, "stupid Aussie" but like...oh, I dunno. Actually, to be honest, it works both ways, because sometimes I take awhile to process what people with heavy northern accents are saying :( some of the doctors must just think I'm really dumb.

I've also had the pleasure of meeting one of the other elective students. K is from Poland, and apart from being ridiculously smart, beautiful and gracious, is a really fun and adventurous person! I actually feel quite bland next to her (in fact, with everyone telling me Oxford is extremely competitive, how the hell did I get in?!?)  I imagine all the other elective and native med students are similarly super-hyper-overachievers...eeeeeek!

But yeah, there you go! Not only have I survived week one, I'm having a ball! And the other Oxford students haven't even officially started term yet...next week, the parties start!!
misspotter: miss potter at school (Default)
2013-01-02 07:39 pm

Oxford, Days -1 and 1

Happy New Year, everyone! To those of you who are following this from Livejournal, you can find my annual year-in-review post here. My NYE was fairly uneventful, as my whole family were worn out from touring and everyone except me was showing signs of the common cold. So we just enjoyed the London fireworks from the comfort and warmth of our hotel room. And I got to share it with the bf too, thanks to the awesomeness that is Skype! The only non-awesome thing was that although our hotel room came with two double mattresses and one single mattress, the single bed had no linen/quilt. So I was sleeping on this bare mattress huddled under my Hogwarts robes for warmth. Not terribly fun, but at least it was only for about 6 hours...

On the first day of 2013, we woke up early, breakfasted before 8, and were heading out for the station by 9. We took the underground to Paddington and the train to Oxford, which was all surprisingly painless. It helped significantly that my brother was there to carry my suitcase. I'm thinking I won't be able to buy a lot of stuff, or else I'm going to have to start chucking things, or I'm going to break my arms on the return journey. Anyway, before we knew it, we were staring at the glorious architecture that decorates the town of Oxford.
Read more... )
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2012-12-21 08:15 pm

Things I noticed in the remainder of my days in London...

I'm now in Austria, and about a week behind posting because none of our hotels have had free wifi til this one. Sorry!

Firstly, the women are gorgeous...Perhaps it's to do with the smart winter coats/hats/gloves everyone is wearing, or maybe people have less of a tendency to be morbidly obese than in America, but nearly all the girls I've laid eyes on look so elegant and well-groomed. Even the goths, like the girl with rainbow dreads, clip-on horns and lip piercings I saw on the underground yesterday, seem classier. Perhaps, again, that's the accent talking.

Secondly, VS was right, the bratty little children with posh accents are hilarious. Even when they're chucking tantrums about wanting sweets they're adorable. Just recall, "Daddy, I want another pony" from Charlie and the Chocolate factory. My mum is a morning person, so we usually breakfast before 8am, which means on our walk to breakfast we usually encounter children on their way to school. Since it's winter, they're all wearing giant puffy coats over their school uniforms which make them look as wide as they are tall. Which, when you're only a metre high, is cute overload.

There was a school excursion to Westminster Abbey the other day and the teacher told them not to lean on glass cases in the museum, then asked them why. The reasons they gave, ranging from "you might leave a mark!" to "you might fall through!" were delivered so solemnly in posh accents that I wanted to laugh.

Read more... )
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2012-12-13 09:11 am

My first three days in England...

Just as the inspiration for Harry Potter came to JK Rowling on a train ride to Manchester, on a plane somewhere between Sydney and London I was suddenly struck by the idea of starting a public blog again. It's now been more than ten years after I got my LiveJournal, and about 8 years since I locked it away from casual viewers. I am now (fortunately) no longer a hypersensitive teenager, and these days get less worked up about my readers judging me. Also, I'm about to embark on the trip of a lifetime and feel like even the 5000 photos I took last time I went overseas wouldn't do it justice. 

December 10th-13th )