The Knitting Intern

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This may be the weirdest post I’ve ever written. A while ago I was on admissions-duty for obstetrics. If you’ve spent time on an obstetrics service, you know that there are short bursts of action followed by long periods of waiting. Less so in admissions, but the intern and I still had a lot of time that we were waiting for something new to happen. I took out my iPad to read study and he… took out a ball of yarn and continued knitting something that seriously resembled a sweater.

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For all my ranting about stereotyping, I still struggled to keep my reaction in check. Now, I know THIS DOESN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE but… This intern was pretty awesome. He was about a year older than me, a pretty fit kid of Asian origin, with really good hair and smallish ear-gauges. He was also really cool and nice: he had taught me a lot that day and let me do all the internal examinations (I needed them for my log), AND he didn’t make me do all his scutwork.

And so, yeah, I definitely did NOT expect him to pull out a ball of yarn and some knitting needles!

But I recovered very well and started asking him about it. He taught himself to knit because there are times when he doesn’t have anything to do at hospital (hard to believe but apparently true), or during an overnight call with accompanying insomnia, or when suffering post-call insomnia.

Long story short: he likes it, he has finished a few items already, it keeps him awake during boring meetings, and if he gets called away he can put it down immediately. Oh, and also, he can talk at the same time, which I cannot do while practicing my go-to hobby (reading).

We did knitting at school. I was ten and the biggest mistake I made was to choose the most difficult pattern the teacher had available. So while my friends knitted simple teddy bears, I attempted an owl plushie (I’ve always loved owls). Given that my hand-eye coordination was pretty crappy (I still refused to wear my specs at the time) my knitting was appalling. I never finished the project as it was not a graded class, and by the next year our syllabus had dropped knitting/woodwork/etc.

Needless to say, I walked away with the belief that I was no good at knitting. Okay, I mean, I REALLY WASN’T, but I have to learn that I don’t have to be NATURALLY good at everything I try. It’s okay to have to work at it.

Recently I’ve had the urge to learn to sew. My suturing is pretty bad (so bad that I am considering using a week of holiday just hanging out in the skills lab), but also I’m really jealous of my friends who sew their own reversible hoodies and scrub caps, and tailor their own scrubs. I have been thinking about taking some sewing classes next year but the truth is that any free time I have outside of hospital I will want to spend on exercise, my family, and reading.

I am reaching a point now, I swear: I wonder if knitting might be my answer. I really enjoy reading during those quiet moments, but it takes a while to get back into reading and then if you have to put it down to rush off to a code you will probably forget what you last read. Reading is not the most social activity and I don’t want people at my new job to avoid talking to me because my nose is in a book and they don’t want to bother me. (Yeah, I’d much rather read than do small-talk but I am old enough to understand that I need real-life friends too.) And people are probably less likely to steal some unfinished knitting than to steal my tablet (then again, this is South Africa, so you never know…).

I just… I mean… KNITTING?! I have so many bad preconceived notions about it. The teenager in my brain still wants to paste an L to my forehead just thinking of it. Which is mean because people I love have made me some really awesome knitwear. Will I enjoy it? What if I suck at it? Is it an expensive hobby? Will I really be able to put it down and pick it back up without difficulty? WHAT WILL I MAKE?!

And don’t hate me, but I’m kind of scared people will laugh at me. I have a lot of bluster about being true to oneself and doing what makes you happy but nobody likes being laughed at.

Anyways. Knitting doctors? What do you think? What else can one do in hospital to pass the time?

Travel Throwback: Walking Aimlessly

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It has been well over a year since Semester at Sea Spring 2013 and I find myself thinking about it more and more. It was fantastic, and I can’t wait to travel again.

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Because I was on a fairly limited budget, I tended to stay in the cities where we docked and I tried to walk as much as possible. Of course I had plans and short trips, but I often spent some time just walking through the city without much of an agenda. I would like to say that I took really deep HONY-esque pictures, but most of those pictures are in my head, safely.

Anyway, I walked, and sometimes got lost, and I felt like I melted into the streets and got a tiny taste of what it was like to live there. To blend in as much as I could (which was all relative in most countries with my fair skin and strange accent). We walked a LOT in Japan (my feet were killing me after Tokyo), and on the last day in Japan I spent a few hours walking completely alone in Kyoto. My editors at YJI had introduced me to an amazing friend of theirs, who had spent some time showing me around. When he left, I wandered around and ended up walking for hours. It was really cool. I read a lot about Kyoto’s history as I walked. I don’t know what this project is called, but it’s cool. These monuments explain a bit about the street names and the history of their origin. Very cool for someone who loves history (me).

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I watched little kids walking home from school, and teenagers chatting and joking. Later, back in Kobe, I met up with some SASers who were also walking back to the port, and we cut through a massive public sports field. There we met up with some Japanese college students, who invited us for a game of Soccer. Although I have two left feet. So that was awesome!

In Hong Kong a friend and I also spent most of one day discovering the city. We got incredibly lost and it was wonderful (yeah, I didn’t think I would ever say that, either). I saw non-touristy parts of the city where people were too busy going about their lives to try to sell me something.

Yangon (Myanmar) was probably one of my favourite cities to walk aimlessly in. I felt like I knew so little about the people, and a lot of them were wary of answering questions, so observing the city as I walked gave me a better feeling of its struggles and atmosphere and joys. In Casablanca I had an intense conversation with a local linguistics professor about the evolution of languages, the Arab Spring and the youth of his country.

It’s a pretty intangible concept, this idea that a place sometimes nestles in your being when you are walking around in it, watching it, tasting it, feeling it. You don’t find facts, but you find a sense of it that you can’t shake. I could lose my photos (God forbid) and the memories may grow fuzzy, but the sense of the cities I visited remains unique and vivid. It makes me feel like I did not just visit there. I was part of it. I was one of the many feet that trudged through it. And maybe for a few seconds, I was just another cog in the wheel of those cities.

I refuse to be ashamed that I visited India but not the Taj Mahal, and China but not the Great Wall. Maybe one day I will visit those, but I don’t feel that I have missed out. I had experiences that money could not buy, education that no class could teach, networking that no conference could offer. I will never feel sorry that for a few days at a time, I got caught up in the web of interwoven threads that make us human.

Zzzzn-Znnn-Zzzzzn! The Body Electric by Beth Revis

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I don’t often get the access to eARCs for highly-hyped books so I was out-of-my-socks excited when I got approved for The Body Electric by Beth Revis (her blog). In case you’ve been… uhm… without internet, Revis has been doing a fantastic job of marketing her latest novel, and I was really super sad that I couldn’t order a limited edition of the book.

I know it sounds like a massive cop-out, but it really is true that the less you know about the story up front, the better. The Body Electric is sci-fi set in futuristic Malta. It involves virtual reality, inception-like entering of dreams, memory, nanobots, androids, cyborgs, big corporations, unified governments and a good dose of rebellion. If that doesn’t excite you then I don’t know what will. Continue reading

On the Ethics of Treating Ebola (or refusing to)

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The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that “far more Liberian doctors are in the U.S. and other countries than in the country of their birth, and their absence is complicating efforts to curb what has become a global health crisis.”

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The article further documents the difficulty in getting doctors to treat patients with Ebola. This is not the first time I have read about something in this line – there were also reports of staff of the Madrid Carlos III Hospital staying away due to fear of Ebola. Continue reading

Book Review: Gracefully Grayson

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Grayson is a sensitive kid, orphaned as a baby and living with his aunt, uncle and their two children. Grayson is an artist. He loves thrift stores. He experiences his world vividly. He has undiscovered talents. He is kind.

But he is not who he is. Grayson is not a little boy, even though he was born one and is known as one.

I adored Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (you should check out her blog). This book is so gently told that one’s love for Grayson just swells. I want to give her a hug and make everything better.

A few weeks ago, Stacey Ann Chin tweeted this:

Well, it’s not a movie, but Disney-Hyperion did well with this book. It is middle-grade and a quick and easy read. The dialogue is genuine and the characters are tangible. Just a group of regular people, navigating their way through some challenges, one that happens to be the issue of transgender children. Continue reading

Reviewing “Ebola” – and can we just admit that we don’t have a handle on this?

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I read Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen. There is hardly a more current book on the matter and I am getting so many questions from friends and family that I figured I might as well inform myself a little more.

In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host animal. And until we find it, Ebola will continue to strike.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with the literature (or you’re a student or professional in any of the medical sciences) you might not learn too much that you did not already know.

“The current scientific understanding of ebolaviruses constitutes pinpricks of lights against a dark background.”

Continue reading