Saturday, December 30, 2006


Just to prove I did more than shop, here's the scoop on our Milan trip. The merry throng consisted of Jack, HP, Shaun from Liverpool and we were joined by HP's mum and younger sister. We started off all enthusiastic to go to Venice - I had two travel plans ready; down to the type of wine we'd be drinking, until we found out that planes can't fly when there's fog.

Will Ryanair give us our holiday?

After 2 cancellations that saw us tearing back and forth Liverpool, we finally got on a flight to Milan, arriving in Milan a day earlier than planned. First sight of Milan proper:

It looks like some big historical place but its actually the train station

Our comfy abode for 3 nights

We made our way to the main square, where the huge Duomo, or church, hid shyly behind an equally big advertisement.

Apparently the last one was a reclining lady promoting perfume.

Inside it was suitably huge (the 3rd largest in the world according to Jack) and walking around its huge stone pillars reminded me of the scene of the underground dwarven cavern from the first Lord of The Rings. We went all the way to the top too, where we got a view of the city.

According to Jack, there are over 1000 statues all around the roof

Outside, the square was bounded off the other side by a shopping complex again cunningly disguised as a historical site with a name to match - Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel 2 (in roman numerals, just in case you were wondering).

Hope this place stays this way

Some pretty interesting stuff to see here, apart from all the high street brands. There was a cafe where guidebooks raved about, and where composers and kings alike had visited, so that was our lunchtime settled. No McD's for us in the fashion capital of the world!

Though even the McD here seemed a class above

In the gallery/shopping place, legend had it there was a mural of a bull, which featured a particularly prominent set of testicles, against which people would rub their feet for good luck. Being the nosy bunch of Malaysians that we were, we sought it out and did the necessary.

Wonder where the legend came from anyway

Poor bull - the people who thought this up must be laughing their heads off now

Anyway, a short walk through led us to La Scala, the famed opera house. Inside the museumy bit, we watched an orchestra rehearsing through a box gallery seat and saw clips from a production of Aida, an opera by the composer Verdi. The museum also happened to have the original manuscript written by Verdi himself. Looking at the notes, which were not at all like what you see in modern music manuscripts, I wondered how musicians back then were able to read them.

La Scala by night

The next day saw us wandering around town visiting what seemed like an endless stream of churches. The first visit though, was to a castle, in the middle of Milan. It was easily the biggest castle I've visited so far, housing a museum and an art gallery inside. Unfortunately couldn't get pictures of the garden, which was being replanted or something.

Housing works of Leonardo da Vinci, among others

First off, was a church which was founded in the first few hundred years AD, by this chap Saint Ambrose, who was responsible in bringing Catholiscism to Milan. It was a quaint old church with a courtyard that seemed to echo with the footsteps of the priests of long ago.

The embalmed body of Saint Ambrose is actually on view inside

Another church we visited, contained the famed Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci. However, tickets to see it were all booked up till February, so we had to content ourselves with a replica.

The actual painting covers an entire wall

The Chiesa Santa Maria della Grazie (St Mary's church) housing the Last Supper

We had dinner at a posh restaurant. Trying to be adventurous for a change, I ordered carpaccio, which was on the top of Food To Eat in the guidebook I'd been reading. Out came this glorious creation:

Raw beef sliced thin with cheese slices and rocket

Not to say it wasn't nice, actually it tasted better than I'd expected, just that I probably wouldn't place it on my Top 10 food list anytime soon. The dinner went well for everyone in general though, with Shaun having the Milanese breaded veal cutlet, and others having the saffron risotto. The staff were pretty helpful in planning a song and cake for Jack's upcoming birthday, so the night ended well.

Right before we surprised Jack with the help of the staff

High street in Milan

Where we saw prices for clothes going up to thousands of Euros. Where Shaun got scolded for trying to take photos in a store, and we theorized it was because they didn't want their designs stolen by other people prematurely. Where almost everyone seemed like models and the Hummers sat beside Ferarris and Porsches and Mazeratis on the sidewalk.

The Galleria Vittorio E2 at night

Little Venice - a canal in Milan

On the as-yet unfulfilled quest to eat really great spaghetti in Milan

Traffic - trams in the middle of cars and pedestrians

A walk through a park

Trying to reach the arch - similar to the one in Paris

A spoon embedded in the concrete - weird

Gelati - cinnamon flavour rocks!

Things I'll remember about Milan: Dogs that are small enough to be stepped on walking all over the place, each in their individual clothes, old-fashioned bicycles yet not looking out of place in a town, the disco roller bladers and spray painter street artists, the way shop prices are displayed outside shops so you know whether to go in or not.

Still want to go to Venice though.

Over Christmas

I've learnt a few things, among them, being my clothes sizes. I have a collar size of 15 1/2 inches, a shirt size M and a coat size one larger, 36 inches waistline (34 by the end of the year..come on!) and a shoe size 10 1/2 - 11 depending on the shop. All this from a day of shopping with my cousin at Blue Water, one of the biggest, if not the biggest shopping place in Europe.

When more people find out that Marks and Spencer, Topshop, Topman, Burton, Gap, Next have online services, though, I predict the night of the 25th of Dec will see many people crouched in front of their computers waiting for the Boxing Day sales to start. No more waiting through queues 4 lines long and wading through clothes thrown all over the floor.

Also had my first milkshake in years, a weird flavour at Ed's Diner, but a must-try if you haven't had it before; peanut butter and banana. Would've tried making it at home if Ed and HP were more forgiving, and if I had a blender.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas 2

For its the mystery of the universe,
You're the God of holiness,
And yet You welcome souls like me,
And with the blessing of Your Father's heart,
You discipline the ones You love,
There's kindness in Your majesty,
Jesus, those who recognise Your power,
Know just how wonderful You are,
That You draw near.

Cos when is God nearer to the hearts of the people around us, than at Christmas? Even for those who do not celebrate it, or call themselves Christians, there's a different air about this season than at other times in the year. There's a reason Christmas is called the season of giving, and of forgiveness, in most parts of the world.

Its pretty amazing the way God welcomes everyone and calls them His children, the way a human being might welcome dust mites as children. Despite the fact we don't understand Him in the least, that we have been living for years causing Him a lot of bother, and that we're on a whole different level of existence, He singles us out and accepts us into His family. Not a one-time invite, but a standing invitation that extends till He comes again.

Hope everyone reading this will have a great Christmas. Don't forget the love waiting for you out there.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas 1

We are the reason that He gave His life
We are the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost, He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live

I remember first hearing my seniors at youth group back in Sitiawan rave about this song, how it was so full of meaning, so tuneful to the ears. This was when everyone used to get excited about going for carolling practise in the mornings at church. It seems pretty amazing actually, now that I think about it, how people with no vocal training or musical background could be taught in a matter of months to sing in parts. We used to come together and warm up our voices...usually by singing along to a pianist playing scales or arpeggios going higher and higher till it became ridiculous, then going back down again. Then we'd split into our 4 parts; sopranos and altos would be made up of the girls, the tenors and bass would be the guys. Each part had a leader who was responsible for learning the part and teaching it to the rest. And inevitably, we'd clown around in the MYF room, the hall, the sanctuary, or wherever else we'd be practising at the moment, while the leader tried his level best to teach the songs with his guitar/keyboard.

We'd gather back and sometimes, when one group would finish practising earlier than the others (usually the girls), they'd go in and sing their part while the other groups were frantically trying to learn theirs, resulting in a battle of voices, as each part tried to confuse the other as much as possible. When order was restored, we'd sing through the favourites, with a guitarist/pianist at the helm. In time, we'd learn that each carol had a specific guitar intro and could pick it up immediately. Joy To The World, Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard On High, Hark The Herald Angels Sing were the staple SATB songs we sang back then, now since joined by Not That Far From Bethlehem and A King Is Born.

Christmas carolling, one of the staples of December in Sitiawan in the years gone by. Still think the song is pretty deep even now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Out of control

I've invited my tutor in Uni of Liverpool (a doctor that I was assigned to for my 4th year, whom I've only met once or twice) to join Zorpia. Along with a whole bunch of other people whom I don't ever recall.

Which is weird, because I don't remember ever feeling so short on love and companionship that I've had to sit down and painstakingly invite my email list to join my hitlist on Zorpia! In fact, what in the world is Zorpia? And do I even have an account there?

Wonder what the poor doc's thinking about me now...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Palliative Care 3

Visited the hospital chapel for the first time today. Wondered whether it was closed, cos I'd just been talking to a patient who was telling me about having Holy Communion on her bed last Sunday. She's got high hopes to live till her wedding anniversary next year, after which anything else is a bonus. Remembered her as I was on my way back so I was just going through to the stairwell, I decided to make a detour into the chapel.

FUrness General's chapel is actually quite a nice room, with lighting that is not too dark that you can't see five feet in front, but not too bright that everyone's nose stands out in stark contrast. Chairs with cushions lined up, a small pulpit in front, and a raised platform, above which is a small cross. Across the wall near the entrance are prayer notes written, with a big bold disclaimer underneath: Do Not Breach Confidentiality.

Spotted my patient's name there, and was reading through the rest. Though instructions on the board said just to leave the patient's name on the board, many had written short messages alongside. Some were obviously written in frustration and anger, others seemed to be almost pleading in their tone. At least one had the words thank you on them. A girl had written a few, her requests for quite a number of patients to get better spilled over a few pieces of paper, Last of all, she wrote her own name there and said she hoped she would get better too.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Palliative care 2

So not only are we a bunch of noisy people, we smell bad too. This from my consultant in palliative care.

"We've been getting feedback from some of our patients. Try to keep the noise levels down when you have discussions. Also, they have mentioned that they cannot tolerate your BO."

Stunned looks all around the table. Suddenly, we're the group that stinks, literally. Well, at least some of us, but she's not telling who.

Later on, while talking about gangrene:

"So, what's the patient's main worry going to be?"


"Anyone ever smelt gangrene before?"

Adnan, our resident joker pipes up, "Well, it's us that are going to smell worse anyway..."