Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stepping down memory lane

"You can never home again." Whoever devised that phrase was not speaking literally but metaphorically. Whenever you leave your childhood home and go back years later, the childhood home you fondly remember has changed and so have you. The same can be applied to any place you remember fondly and it applies to me regarding my time at Brighton College.

I had an opportunity to stroll down memory lane when the current headmaster Richard Cairns and his assistant Patrick Meehan held a drinks reception for Old Brightonians. Also coming along were parents of current pupils. There were a few OBs there but there could have been more if they didn't schedule the reception on the opening day of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens. It was nice talking to the current headmaster and Patrick about what is going on in Brighton College, finding out that my former housemaster Kenneth Grocott is going back to becoming a housemaster of the boarding house again.

There was a showing of a promotional video about the current state of the school, which is a good idea for OBs who haven't been back for a while. Essentially it was like a piece of propaganda, an advertisement showing how brilliant the school is but you have to accept it as it is - one has to sell the school on the merits in any possible way. I would still recommend Brighton College to any prospective parents out there.

During the video they showed a class learning Mandarin. It was amusing watching English students trying to pronounce Chinese characters from a Hong Kong perspective. I also found it amusing when they showed the Leavers' Day with "Jerusalem" being sung in the background, with one of the parents at the reception asking if that was the school's song. Obviously anybody who has been to Brighton College knows that is the English national hymn which is song at every Leavers' Day but to anybody in Hong Kong is just sounds like a majestic song.

I really hope they do hold more of these gatherings and hope more people will come. I know they are a few more OBs in Hong Kong. Not everybody has fond memories of their school days but there must be some good memories to share with others who have gone through the same experience.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter holidays

Currently in Hong Kong it is a wet, slightly mild Easter weekend. As I often said before in my life, "Typical English weather!" At least yesterday (Good Friday) was warm and my parents took the dogs to the park for their usual weekend outdoor frolic.

I often wondered why most countries allow Christian holidays to become public holidays for the rest of the country. In certain countries such as USA there is supposed to be a separation between government and religion. Therefore the state shouldn't allow certain religious festivals to become national holidays whilst neglecting others. Just because the majority of the country so happens to worship God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost does not mean there shouldn't be a holiday for Yom Kippur or Ramadan (although Ramadan does last a whole month). In fact most people who are Christian are not very dedicated to their faith (like myself). Most Christians don't go to church on Sunday, go to bible groups or know all the teachings from the Bible. Most people just fill in 'Christian' in the census for the sake of history or habit. In fact the 5th most common religion in England is a bit of a surprise - Jedi. Why isn't there a holiday for George Lucas's birthday or the commemoration of the opening day for "Star Wars"?

I just think countries need these days just so people can have enough public holidays away from work. Evidence for this can be seen in Hong Kong. When the former British colony was handed back to China, the region had to give up certain holidays such as the Queen's birthday and the liberation of Hong Kong during the World War II. I don't know why we had to give up the latter holiday - wouldn't people want to celebrate being freed from oppression? To replace these holidays, new ones were put in place such as Labour Day, the Buddha's birthday and the National Day for the People's Republic of China. I don't seem to recall there are many Buddhists in Hong Kong. I know Chinese Folk Religion and Christianity are the major religions for our region, with a great deal of public holidays to serve both faiths.

I'm not complaining about having public holidays, just complaining the purpose of having them. Yet in my (hopefully) future line of work, it wouldn't matter which days are public holidays. I actually wouldn't mind working on a public holiday. Far fewer patients are likely to be admitted, since who would want to be in hospital during a holiday. When I would have my holidays, there are far fewer people around to jostle with.


So what have I been doing this Easter weekend? Apart from preparing for my last exams, I've gone back home to what I like doing - cooking and baking. I'm not a great cook but I'm not a bad cook either. I'm just willing to try recipes. I like making desserts and Western dishes, which is a pity for my family since I'm the only person to have a sweet tooth and my parents usually abhor anything Western.

So what did I make. I tried making a strawberry cheesecake, which was not all that successful. It was my first attempt a making a cheesecake with gelatine, which I usually abhor since I prefer the New York style cheesecake. The cheesy part was a bit too soft, requiring longer to set, whilst the biscuit base was a bit too firm, requiring a chainsaw to cut through it. I'm just going back to making the New York style cheesecake, which I haven't mastered yet. The other dish I made was mini strawberry tarts. Again not a complete success - the shortcrust pastry (which I made from scratch) was a bit too crumbly and I didn't dry bake it long enough. The custard part was fine.

It just occurred to me that anything one cooks, no matter how bad or good it is, you'll be willing to eat your own creation. Both creations weren't that perfected but perfectly edible (actually the correct sweetness).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Exam stress

I just finished my psychiatry test just today. It was a bit humiliating, not because of the pertinent questioning of the examiners but the patient decided he would talk in English to help me. I do not need to be reminded my Chinese is crap. There are people who constantly remind me. There are people who are kind about it, just like today with my patient who said, "I noticed you are not fluent in Chinese." There are other people who are not so generous saying, "You're Chinese is crap." It is not just uneducated people who have said that. I've gotten that remark from university lecturers. I just find that Hong Kong people are not very tactful.

Thankfully my test went well and my next (plus last) exam will be in nine day's time. It's a long time to wait but at least it gives me time to rest and revise properly.

During exams, I always wondered why you get stressed. I know examinations are a highly stressful event but compared to war, violence and death it is not life threatening. You know the stress is coming and cannot do anything about it, so why does our heart beat faster and our hands tremble? The whole point of the body's response is to get ready to run or fight - it just doesn't help in a test. So why hasn't evolution gotten rid of this? Why does our mind tell our body to get ready for a fight that is not coming?

At least I'll have some time to ponder this.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Some observations about examinations

I tend to get bored in examinations, which is not a very good thing. It just so happens I tend to finish early in multiple choice questions, which everybody else does. Either you know the answer or you don't, so spending extra time on the question trying to decide between A, B, C, D or E won't benefit you, since you probably narrowed the answer to two choices. So what do you do when you finish early? You tend to go over the questions again, sleep or look around and what other people are doing.

Whilst observing my fellow brethren, it occurred to me that it was the same people who were getting up to use the toilet, myself included. I know I have a relatively small bladder and have been having some urinary problems of late. But there are some people who use the toilet during the exams more often than myself. I noticed one guy who used the toilet three times during the three hour examination we just had. This situation reminded of a bedside teaching session we had, when the same guy, answering the question "What are the common causes of fainting?", said urinating. To those even without a medical degree or knowledge know that taking a whiz is not a common cause of sudden collapse but my fellow peers have speculated ever since that this guy probably does faint if he hold his bladder too long. Maybe I'm reading too much into the scenario.

One of aspects I don't like about examinations are the post-exam histrionics. After spending three hours in complete silence, everybody has to talk for the sake of talking. The same subjects are verbalized - "How did you do?" "I did so badly!" "Did you answer XXX for question XXX?" etc. I don't need to know how you did and I don't know how I did, so there is nothing to tell. Discussing the question afterwards is of no help, unless you plan to sit the retake and I don't need every girl screaming and shouting "Oh dear! I'm going to fail!" I know it is just me making these observations but sometimes people have to look at themselves on how they behave and see if it is appropriate or not.