Sunday, February 10, 2013

A month later

I have been so busy with this and that, that I have, for the first time, neglected my pet - this blog. For that, I apologise to my readers.

Having said that, I must say that life has been quite busy. I have been reading, studying, watching TV and such other "usual" things, but, also, I enrolled in an online study course on Primary Health Care three weeks ago. This course will run for a few more weeks. It is online, free, and from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Our teacher is a seasoned Primary Health expert, Dr. Henry Perry. The course itself requires less than 2 -3 hours of your viewing/listening time, but one can spend endless hours interacting with fellow-students on the course discussion forum. I am pleased to report that as of today, I am the discussion board leader in terms of total posts of mine recommended by others.

At the end of week 2, all students were required to write an essay that would then be assessed by 4 of your fellow-students. An average of the marks you got from the four colleagues would be your score for that essay. I haven't yet got my results ... they are due after about 3 days.

Also, there is a 10-question quiz at the end of each week. We are allowed to take the quiz up to 4 times each time without incurring any penalty. The questions are designed to refresh your memory of the lectures and videos one saw during the previous week of study.

What this course has done for me: it has, of course, taught me a lot about primary health care. In addition, I now have a lot of new friends, and, I daresay, new admirers, but most significantly, I am able to see myself joining a big PHC project in my later years to render service to the most marginalised sections of the society. Let's see what comes of this ...

Cooking has been intermittent. I did speak about my culinary experiments with Dr. Paresh Shah in my previous blog entry. Nothing that unusual is now up, but I keep making food in slightly unusual ways just to try new tastes.

I have now been to Ta'if twice in my own car. The first time, Dr. Gofran accompanied me, and it was good, because I wasn't that confident of doing this alone. The distance to Ta'if  city center is about 215 km. I went in the morning and returned the same day in the evening. The second time I did it alone, again returning the same day. The traffic inside Ta'if is heavy and it took all of my driving and cautionary skills to not get killed by wayward drivers who think nothing of shouting at you, abusing you and even hitting you from behind if you don't offer them the right of way.

I gradually improved my driving by practising longer and longer drives the whole of the previous month. Venturing out on the highway for 15 minutes the first time, I gradually increased the duration/distance till I was comfortable with 100 km at a stretch of drive to/return from a certain reversing point. I drove towards Ta'if, towards Riyadh (in the opposite direction to Ta'if) and to other directions on motorable roads. On my first drive to Ta'if, Dr. Gofran and I stopped at a mid-point to have breakfast and tea; we did so on the return journey as well. On my second drive, I did stop, but only on the shoulder of the road to rest for five minutes; and, on the return, I drove without break the full distance to Al Muwayh. This was indeed a break-through in my driving stamina, and I am confident I can replicate this again and again. My car underwent several repairs before I did go on long drives. I changed the engine oil, heretofore neglected by the car's previous owner (the oil was black!); I changed the oil filter, both the front tyres, and several small tweaks to make the car weather long drives. If possible, I will change the remaining two tyres as well in the near term. 

I spent the last two days in Zalm, substituting for their lone pediatrician who had to go to Ta'if urgently for family work. The two days being Thursday and Friday, there was hardly any work. However, the internet was terrible, and therefore, I requested my Indian colleague, Dr. Parvez, who is a pathologist, to allow me to spend the second night at his place. His house is too good. He has a completely furnished home, with gadgets and stuff that I would never dream of investing in while trying to save money. He has a BOSE home theatre, a projector (wall-mounted) and a white cloth sheet that forms a screen in his sitting room. We saw a recent Hindi movie "Table # 21" on his home theatre screen. It was just like watching a movie on the large screen in a commercial cinema house. The movie itself was good, a game show that is not actually a game show but something designed to teach the main protagonists a lesson. 

Apart from these events, life has been the same.

My family's earlier plan to return with me to Saudi Arabia to perform umrah etc. fell through because of problems with the dates of Hannah's final exams. Hence, I had to reschedule my return flight (paying SR 100 extra) to time it with the end of my holidays at the end of March 2013. 

That's all for now ... bye and thanks for reading.

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