Saturday, May 31, 2014

Switching to phone-based blogging

Dear friends,

From today, i.e. 1st June 2014, my blogs will appear on http://dayre.me/drtaher for the next three months. Do check out this site daily and please please follow me and add me to your reading list. However. to be able to like or comment, you should first download the DAYRE app from Google Play (on the Android smartphone) or from iPhone Appstore. Register for an account there. After this, come to read my stories at least once a day by typing http://dayre.me/drtaher into your browser on the phone or on a laptop. Every comment you make on the blog will help me earn side-money and more reputation. The topic of the blog will be "LIFE and LIVING". 

My Saudi Arabia entries will continue here, as usual. 

Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Preparing for a brief holiday

Under normal circumstances, when we were two pediatricians working in the same hospital, arranging our holidays was a long-drawn process: first, one must prepare a single vacation request, which is received by the HR department's working person. He then asks you to wait patiently while the paper goes to Taif where it is scrutinised by person or persons unknown, and about 2-4 weeks later, you get your "karaar ijaaza" (holiday approval letter). The karaar ijaaza implies that your vacation has been approved and your application for it has been considered bona fide. 

The next step is for you to collect a clutch of documents: I won't list all of them, but they include a letter from your house landlord that says that you have been an ideal tenant and haven't defaulted on payment of rent; another one is a set of signatures you must get from various departments of your hospital saying that you have not damaged any goods in the hospital and/or you have no complaints outstanding against you. The signatures range from pharmacy, to HR, to equipment, to medical director, to hospital director; a third set of documents (to be filled in quadruplicate) affirms your identity and your address in your home country. I do not know where exactly these four copies go (and, frankly, I don't really care or worry about this); yet another letter names the person who will be responsible for any claims made against you in your absence, SHOULD YOU abscond and not return to Saudi Arabia again.

After you have collected these documents, you wait until your liaison officer pays his weekly visit to the hospital to pick up these documents. Thereafter, the effort from your side is over, and you must wait for the same officer to come a week before your holiday with your passport and visa so that you can go on your holiday. 

Easy? Certainly not. Difficult? That is an understatement! It is a torture to get all the necessary papers in time and be ready for the weekly visit of the liaison officer to hand over the papers to him! And then, you have to literally be after him so that he remembers to get your passport etc. well in time. 

I have gone through all of the above, and am now in the waiting phase for Mr. Ali (our liaison officer) to bring my passport and visa well before my proposed date for a fortnight long holiday. My leave will be specifically for me to attend a training course in MRCPCH in Bangalore from 18th to 21st June 2014. In addition, I would be helping my family tie up any loose ends with respect to the hundreds of things that need to be done while charting a normal life in Mumbai. I am hoping that I can meet my friends and family ... I mean I hope I have the time to do so in the brief time that I will be there in Mumbai.

Do leave your valuable comments and help me interact in the conversation! Thank you.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A mix of good and bad news ... as usual

I must begin with the good news: I have recovered my car! 

How did it happen? On Monday, I received a call from one of the doctors working in our hospital ER. His name: Dr. Effat. He told me that one of our ambulance drivers had called him to tell him that my car had been spotted by him in the desert about 15-20 km away from Al Muwayh, just off the main highway that goes to Ta'if. I did not believe him at first, but I called up the driver myself (a Saudi by the name Nawaf). He spoke in Arabic, and I could not really understand what he was saying. However, I surmised that he wanted me to go to the local police station and ....(I could not understand the rest). I requested him to pick me up from in front of my residence to take me to the station. He agreed, and was there to pick me up within the next few minutes. From what I learned from him, and later from my conversations with the policemen, Nawaf saw my car off the highway about 1 hour before he called the ER doctor. He saw the car partly submerged in the sand. He then called up one of the policemen who was his friend. The police had then started off for the spot in the desert where the driver had seen the car, and they would, if all went well, bring the car back. 

I had some questions in my mind ... a whole lot of them, actually, but the uppermost was: they did not have the key, so how did they plan to open the car and bring it back to Al Muwayh. However, the police seemed quite confident, so I simply kept my mouth shut and sat amidst them like a non-person. After half an hour or so, Nawaf, too, left. I sat there for another 45 minutes, by which time it was nearing 9:00 p.m. I was feeling a bit worried, since over an hour had passed since I had reached the police station. However, to my relief, the policemen soon announced that my car had already arrived, and was being removed from its link to a police jeep that had towed it in. I rushed out to see my old car once again. I had never thought I would see it again! I soon learned that the thieves had stolen the battery of the car. We pushed the car (one of the cops and I) into a parking slot outside the police station. 

At that point, another cop from Al Muwayh who has recently befriended me through some work I helped him with in the hospital came up to me to congratulate me. He and I opened the hood, and then the trunk to take a look at what else was missing. The following things were missing: my shades, my hydraulic jack, some car tools like a spanner, a screw-driver, etc., a car mobile charger, some of my Hindi movie audio-cassettes, a front-glass sun-shade and one of the new tyres (they had replaced it with an old tyre). This cop then took me in his own car to a car-parts shop where we asked around for a battery. After searching for a battery at the right price, we finally got one, which we took back to my car to discover that it was the wrong sized battery (it was one that was bigger than the one we needed). So, he took me back to the shop, where we exchanged the battery for another one that was the right size. We then drove back to the car, placed the battery in its place, connected the wires, and checked to see if my car started. It did, almost instantly! 

I was pleased. I met with the senior policeman inside the station. He informed me that the car would have to stay with them overnight. They would take pictures and make out documents the next morning, after which my car would be handed over to me. My friendly cop then escorted me back to my home. I invited him in for a drink and dinner, but he refused. 

I got back my car the next day, as promised. I took it to the mechanic, who examined the machine etc. and pronounced that the car was good, with no major parts missing. The engine oil was intact as well, and the petrol was there too. The next thing I did was to get the old tyre out and replace it with a relatively better one that was inside my trunk (the stepney, of course). The next evening, I went to a car electrician to add an extra switch that will stay hidden. This switch, once turned off, will prevent any future thief from starting my car even if he has a master key. 

This, then, was the story of the return of my car.

On Wednesday, I received the bad news. The London office of RCPCH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health) informed me by email that my seat for the India exam was not granted to me, and I would have to wait for the next time. The reason for this was that as I stay outside India, they could not give me a high priority for the India exams. (This explanation I got from the London office when I placed a call to them the next day.) I was dejected, but realised I couldn't do anything for this. 

This, then was the mix of good and bad news I received last week. I hope you enjoyed this write-up.

Do leave your comments. Thank you.

P.S. I gave a small token of my appreciation to Nawaf, who found my car. It seemed like the fair thing to do.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Start of a new week, and a few things to share

Of course, in Saudi Arabia the new week begins on a Sunday. My first day in this week was rather hum-drum. The work at the hospital was as usual. There were less than 10 patients through the day, a happy circumstance. However, as the days pass, I am feeling a little low. It's now been over a month since my co-pediatrician left, and I am working alone. I do a lot of creative and educative things, and my life line here is the internet and Times Now. I do speak with my family almost on a daily basis, and that sort of helps me connect with my loved ones. I also participate regularly in group discussions on Skype. Currently, we are a group of 4-5 doctors who meet to discuss cases for the upcoming MRCPCH exams. Finally, I do my studies for online courses that I am currently taking (see my earlier blog for that one). 

Thus, time goes on. My blog has now crossed 29K views, an achievement I am proud of, since the topic is quite unusual. However, at this point, I should thank all my regular readers. I know you are all a bit shy or unwilling to join the dialogue here through comments, but even so, I know that you all love me and are my well-wishers. So, a BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU. 

Indian elections are over, and now it is a matter of time before BJP comes to power, NaMo becomes the PM and a cabinet is installed. In these last few days of a Congress-led caretaker government, let us all resolve to strengthen Narendraji's hands. It is indeed a matter of collective pride that a man who used to serve teas in childhood has risen to become the most important executive of a huge country like India. My salutations to Narendra Modi. We, the Indians, are expecting a lot of things from him and we hope and pray that he and his government delivers on those promises.

I intend to take 5 days' leave next week, if I am able to get this leave. It appears that I will get leave as my medical director Dr. Shehabeldin Hussain Mukhtar has now taken this matter seriously and is in talks with the medical director of Zalm (a neighbouring village about 50 km away) to arrange for a substitute doctor to come to Al Muwayh in my place. Amen to that. 

My car is nowhere to be seen/found, and I am beginning to adjust to the thought that it won't ever be found. I guess that leaves me the option of getting another car from someone else and if that old car is found, I can always sell it in the open market. I should probably have my car within a week. In the meantime, I try to take a lift from someone else, or I walk to my destination (which can be tiring on a hot day).

That's the update for now. See ya all. Do keep reading my blog and please do connect to the blog with your email to get automatic updates in your inbox. Thank you.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Things begin to look up - but still carless.

Yes, I am still without my car, and as the days pass, I am beginning to think of it as a has-been. There will be some sorrow, of course, as I used this car extensively during the 17-odd months it was in my name. I did overpay for it initially, and I had to spend a lot more to keep it ship-shape, but it had already cost me more than SR 18000, and for this kind of money, I could very well have purchased a much more recent car at that time. The other thing is that as I am not planning to stay for a longer time (perhaps a year more as I write this), this car would have served me well for the remainder of my time here in Saudi Arabia. So, yes, it does pinch. Then again, on the flip side, the loss of this car has made me walk a bit more (not a lot more, though, as I do get someone to give me a lift every day). Also, the way it kept having problems makes me think that if I had continued to use it, it might have had more problems, translating into more expenses. 

So, I say to myself: whatever happens, happens for the good. And I move on. I have short-listed an American car owned by a colleague of mine who is leaving Saudi Arabia for good within a few weeks. It is a 1997 model car, a Crown Victoria (Ford), and having driven it myself, it seems to be a good car, but the asking rate is a bit stiff. Let's see how this deal goes over the next week.

Coming now to other news. I am still working alone here, and it has been over 4 weeks since my colleague resigned and left Saudi Arabia. In these 28 days, I have not taken a single day's relief, as I am all alone. The work has been average, but last week, there was a surge in delivery cases, so I was called several times to attend to the newborn after it had been delivered. Even today, there was a delivery and I was called to take a look at the slightly preterm baby. 

On Thursday evening, our friend Dr. John the dentist called up at my home. He has been here in the Kingdom since over 23 years, and had a few tips for me on how to go about searching for the car. It seems that if you know someone strong in the police, they can activate GPS tracking on your car as the number plate is GPS compliant. I do not know anyone so strong, so I probably will not get access to this facility. He also agreed to help me to go around Al Muwayh one evening (we agreed to go on Friday evening) to see if we could spot my car somewhere in the desert. I served him dinner at my place, which he accepted. 

Dr. John is well-connected in the Kingdom. His family stayed with him the first fourteen years, but later, they left so that his daughters could complete their high school and university education in Mumbai, India ... yes, he is a Mumbaikar like me. Only, his roots in Mumbai are deeper than mine as he is a direct descendant of the Koli tribe, and an East Indian, to boot. Over the past two days, I have learned more about him and I have no hesitation in saying that he is highly educated, kind, generous and very intelligent. 

On Friday evening, he called over to my place and we both went around Al Muwayh, and then drove on to a place called Badriya, which is over 60 km away from the hospital.  On the way, as well as at Badriya, I left my car number and my cell number with several people - locals who could well act as eyes and ears for me and bring me news if at all they saw my car. The road to Badriya was not all asphalt, though, as certain sections had been closed and rough roads led out from the road into the desert, to join the asphalted road from time to time. In the event, we returned to Al Muwayh after sunset. We returned to Dr. John's house, and then went to Hotel Zamzam for a dinner of tandoori chicken with rice.

He also helped me to coordinate with a courier company with whom a parcel of mine had gotten stuck. Eventually, on Saturday afternoon, the courier company's Taif worker, a Hyderabadi gentleman by the name of Mr. Azharuddin, drove all the way to my place from Taif to hand-deliver the courier an Indian bank had sent to me. We all had lunch together, with Dr. John eating quite less. However, Azharuddin enjoyed my serving of rice with chicken curry very much. And, of course, he agreed to keep in touch with me.

Yesterday night, I once again started my Skype sessions with a small group of doctors. I hope and pray that I am ready for the exams when the time comes ... the date is 10th September 2014 and the venue will be Hyderabad, India. 

Times Now continues to be telecast in the background as I write this. The reality of the oncoming Modi era is sinking in. Jubilation is now giving way to pujas and aartis in homes as well as outside in the community all over India. A special puja is being held in Varanasi. Rather unnecessary, don't you think ... as Narendra Modi has already had Mother Luck smile on him since he decided to become the PM of India.

Do let me know your comments and thoughts on today's entry. Thank you and have a great weekend.

Friday, May 16, 2014

BJP rules, Modi to be the next Prime Minister of India

The results are out, and Narendra Modi, the PM designate of the Bhartiya Janata Party, is all set to be crowned the next Prime Minister of India. Times Now calls it the end of the era of dynasty politics and the era of coalition politics, as the BJP and its allies (known collectively as the National Democratic Alliance - NDA) race to become the single largest formation in the history of independent India. The spokespersons of the Indian National Congress (INC) sound either sheepish or belligerent as they stare at their bleak performance in the 2014 general elections. The BJP has made a clean sweep of Gujarat and New Delhi.

The INC faces the possibility of not even becoming the chief opposition party in the parliament. As all this is happening in India, and I am watching this telecast on Times Now, I feel as if this is history being created. For the last two decades and more, India has always had coalition governments. Now, it is all set to change. The NDA may not even need any more allies to create a "super-NDA".

What does all this mean for India? The stock markets have already given a resounding thumbs up to the emerging results. The SENSEX climbed above 25000 in early trades, and is now at around 24850. These are all-time highs and we are in uncharted territory. BJP offices all over the country are jubilant, as they should be. Congressmen are ducking questions, or answering them with a counter-question to deflect the heat off their own breasts.

The larger questions are what this means for secularism, what this means for the Muslims in India, what this means for infiltrators across the borders between India and Bangla Desh, and what it means for India's foreign relations with Pakistan and China. People are wondering what these results will mean for the Gandhi dynasty's future. They want to know how much time Narendra Modi will take to turn India's economy around and to reverse the horrible problems of corruption, terrorism, inflation, and other pervasive problems. There will be hundreds of other questions, but these are the most important big ones.

In the end, only time will tell.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I am once again getting used to a bit of walking

Naturally, since my car has not yet been found! I remember my first year here - when I had no car and had to hitch-hike with other doctors, or locals to reach the hospital or travel to Taif. Now, however, things are different. After using the car that I had up until a few days ago, I have sort of become so used to driving it everywhere that walking is alien to me! Of course, I still walk almost every day as part of my fitness activity, but that is in the evenings. Whereas, what I am talking about is, like, walking to the hospital in the morning as well as after the lunch break, and walking home from the hospital in the afternoon for lunch and in the evening at the end of duties. In addition, since I am perpetually on call, I have to sometimes go to the hospital in off-duty hours as well to attend to emergencies.

I have gone around my village and also around it a couple of times to search for my old car, but no result so far. The police have no news to share either. I have also asked my hospital director to talk to the police and to influential people in the village. 

In the meantime, life goes on. Yesterday was so-so. I had a couple of ER calls, but nothing great to talk about. A gynec. colleague who is leaving within a few weeks wants to dispose of his car, and I may accept his vehicle if the price is right. Yesterday, I rode with him in his car and also drove it for a short while. Although his car is in pretty good shape, it is 17 years old, and his asking rate seems a little high, so negotiations are going on.

I have requested for a much-needed break next week ... and will travel to Taif if there is a replacement found. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Yet another misfortune with my car

I will make it brief. On Friday, I last saw my car outside my home at about 7:00 p.m. From then until the next morning, I was indoors and did not see the car. When I emerged from my house at mid-day on Saturday, the car had disappeared. First I thought I must have forgotten about where I had left it the previous evening, so I went around my street and the adjoining areas, even going as far as the supermarket where I usually buy my provisions. It wasn't there. 

Being a Saturday, there was hardly any crowd wherever I went, but I then went to the police station to file a complaint. The guy on duty, a Mr. Nasser Otaibi, was quite efficient. He sat on his office chair, and removing a blank writing book, he began to systematically jot down all the required details about my car. I had to sit patiently while he did so. After he had filled 3 sheets of his large book, he said good-bye to me and retreated to an inner room. After a few minutes, he asked me to put my right hand thumb print on several places on the document, and then he let me go. 

I returned to the police station the next morning and was given an official copy of my complaint letter. In the meantime, news about the loss of my car had spread to almost all the corners of the village and almost everyone I met said Inshallah I would find the car again.

Hoping against hope and keeping my fingers crossed. Economically it will be a big loss since I have nearly spent 20000 riyals on this old car (Toyota Corolla, 1993). R. I. P.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Getting paid for blogging

Dayre is a mobile application which is being rolled out selectively to bloggers from all over the world. They sent me an email a few days ago; they have asked me (like thousands of others) to blog exclusively from their site for 3 months beginning June 2014. If they find that my blog fetches many eyeballs and followers, they may select to grant me a blogging scholarship running into thousands of dollars; even if that does not happen, they can still grant me a small honorarium at the end of three months. How cool is that? I have decided to write on a myriad topics ranging from fitness to food to lifestyle ... and I request all my readers here to visit my blog on Dayre whenever you can and follow me ... but hey, hold your horses. This does not happen until a few weeks later. At that time, I will post a link and you can then visit my blog either on your smartphone or on the laptop/PC. Getting more followers is the key, and hence this is a humble request. 

What is in it for you? LOL ... when you read the blog and enjoy it, please consider that as your legitimate reward. When the money comes, if it comes, sure, I can host a party at that time. Will let you know the details. Thank you.

Okay, so Al Muwayh is quiet. It is my third weekend on continuous call, and as of today, I do not see any relief, but I have requested my Medical Director for a few days' leave next week so that I can rest for a while. In other news, my studies are at a low level this week as the internet is fractious here and my colleagues cannot add me to their discussions. 

I am learning about a few things online. Both my online study courses have completed or are completing 2 weeks and it's been a great experience. The course on Engaging India has students from all over the world, with 40% of them from India itself. It seems that Indians also want to learn a lot about their complicated nation! The forums are exhaustive, and to some extent, exhausting. The guys out there are so well-read on matters Indian that I feel like I am a sort of caterpillar emerging out of pod of peas in front of them! The lecturers, both Australian, are certainly well-versed with their subject. They have both spent many years in India, so they should be knowledgeable about ground realities as well. And they are. To an extent. 

The other course I am doing is Community Change in Public Health. This course is also very interesting. It is about how health workers, NGOs and other committed beings and entities can transform communities from being helpless into being competent enough to take matters into their own hands and chart their own territory to improve their own health both individually and collectively. Building up on the principles of Primary Health Care (Alma Ata, 1975), the course goes deeper into how we can bring about such change and how we can measure and follow up with the progress of these interventions.

What else is happening? Well, I am visiting India from mid-June until the end of the month (for 15 days) in order to attend a training course for MRCPCH in Bangalore and also to meet my family and complete certain pending tasks. My leave permission letter arrived from the Health directorate on Thursday, so the vacation is ON. 

I also wanted to share something about a TV serial that I had downloaded on my laptop and which I have been viewing episode by episode since the last several months. It is called BREAKING BAD. It completed its story over 5 seasons (approximately 70 episodes) and after viewing four of these five seasons, I can say that this is a must-see serial. Download it and watch it, guys. The main protagonist is a mature actor, and acts very convincingly. His wife, his handicapped son, his work colleague, etc. are all well-chiseled characters. The story itself is compelling viewing.

That's it for now. Right now, of course, all Indians are restlessly awaiting the announcement of the results of the general elections - with Narendra Modi predicted to carry the day and become India's next Prime Minister and his party, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the party forming the government. I am following the news on Times Now, and it is, sometimes, even more gripping than all the other TV shows combined. At other times, though, crass politics and name-calling makes the viewing offensive, nay, unpardonably unwatchable.

Monday, May 05, 2014

What dictates our lives in Saudi Arabia

As I mentioned in my previous post, a pharmacist couple from India have a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia, and the male member, a Dr. Arif, called me to ask me if coming to Saudi was a good decision or not. He was worried about the "strict" Islam that is followed here, but the opportunity was a big one; according to him, they would both be employed as assistant professors in a medical college near Riyadh, and their joint salaries would be more than twice what they are making now in India.

After encouraging him to definitely take up the opportunity (we even had a skype chat), I brooded about this whole issue and here is what I think about the pluses and minuses of working as a doctor with the Ministry of Health in the Kingdom. I think that this might also selectively apply to other professions, and even labourers.

The first thing is that one has to be prepared to face some hardship. Whether it is about the strictness of Islam, or the comparative non-tolerance to other religions, or about the nature of the food that is readily available, the climate (the heat in summer), the culture (virtually completely different from the cultures of all the other 220 countries, the language (it is Arabic, of course, but there are so many dialects that, even with experience , you can sometimes fail to understand a single word) ... I can go on .,, there will be a learning curve which you will often not completely master even after being here for years.

The second thing is that you have to plan your stay well in advance. The money is great, but how much of this you will save depends upon - a) whether you will be alone or with your family b) whether your posting is in a large, multi-dimensional city or in a smaller town or village c) what kind of money are you planning to save ... I mean how much and over what time-frame and d) your particular requirements. At the same time, you also need to plan for what you will do AFTER  you complete your goals here and want to go back to your own home country. If your plans are in place soon after you have reached here, or, preferably, as in my case, BEFORE  you even come here, it is the best option, since you will be working to realise your local goals as well as plan for the goals to reach later on after you have left the Kingdom.

The third thing is relevant for those who work in the smaller, rural areas. They should plan about what they want to do with the spare time. There is always sleeping, watching the TV and surfing the net (if available ... I have heard that only about 60% of the population has access to the net). However, these are idle things. It might be a good idea to develop as a human being doing things like studying for a higher qualification, learning new skills outside the field of medicine (cooking, drawing, painting, new languages, driving, camping, travelling, hill-climbing, etc.) and acquiring life-style changers like a better, trimmer body/thicker body (if you are fat/extra slim respectively), adopting meditation, exercising, dieting, training yourself to be a better person (calming techniques, public-speaking, teaching, blogging, etc.). You can also, by interacting with citizens of different nationalities, imbibe diverse cultures, have a better understanding of the peoples of the different parts of the world and learn about their quirks, their culture, their habits, their attitudes, etc.

If you are a religious Muslim, Saudi Arabia is the final stop in this life. You can easily do Umrah as often as you want, visit Madinah (the Prophet's mosque) as often as you want, and perform the Hajj at extremely low costs and overheads ... perhaps more than once. Spiritually, this country is like heaven on earth for the devout Muslim.

Finally, it is all about how YOU feel. If you feel stifled, no matter what the environment, then this country is not for you. If, however, you learn to adjust, to assimilate, and to evolve, then, sure, you can not just survive, but even thrive in this country. I mean, if you discount the human rights and woman-rights problems and the language problem, Saudi Arabia is technologically advanced, culturally stable, and has great financial strength and stability. In the big cities, you will see malls better than those in the advanced countries of the Americas and Europe. They have great roads, an amazing infrastructure, superb housing and industries, trade and commerce, transportation, and the cheapest petrol rates in the world.

Hope this post will be of help to other people who are still weighing their options on whether or not to come to Saudi for work. And to those who are already here, this post may help them to seek out better things to do than just laze around or while away their days without any productive results.

Thank you for reading. Do leave your comments.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

May Day, May Day, May Day

The first of May this year fell on a Thursday. Dear readers, you must be wondering about the title of this entry. I will presently come to it. Let me first begin by thanking all of you who have been following me through almost two and a half years now on this blog. It is thanks to people like you that I am nearing 30000 views of my blog. I know of at least three or four other people aspiring to come to Saudi Arabia as doctors who have contacted me because of this blog and have sought advice from me. Compared to some stalwarts whose blogs have crossed a million views, I am still small fry, but I am happy I was able to help even a few people take the right decision about whether or not to come to KSA to practice their professions, and to make more money.

Also, some of you kind souls have been clicking on the various ads that are seen on my web-pages, and this helps me to slowly but surely reach the payment threshold for Adsense by Google, whose ads I publish on my blog. In the last seven odd years I have been on Blogger (my first blog was Seriously Joking), I have managed to earn about USD 55/=. I will receive my first payment only when the total crosses USD 100/= so I guess it will be after another 7 years, LOL. Whatever, if the ads look promising, why don't you just click on them and help me?

My kitchen saw a bit of activity during the last few days. I made a mean Alu Muttar on Thursday, and a nice 3-egg omelette today morning. However, for the most part, I have a full refrigerator and I am not cooking much. Yesterday, I made chapatis. Now, let me tell you that on 2 previous occasions, I tried to make chapatis with the chapati maker machine that I have brought from India ... but I cannot seem to get the hang of it. The chapatis turn out very hard. I am still experimenting with the proportions of the various ingredients.

On Thursday night, Dr. Magdi and I went out to buy shwarma from the local shop and then we sat in the garden to eat it. While I had one, he had three of them! After this, we split up as he was called to the hospital to go with a patient to Taif (he was on referral duty). I dropped him at the hospital, and returned to the garden to participate in the send-off function of Dr. Yasser Mahmoud Al Shibiny, my outgoing colleague. He was quite calm, and a bit withdrawn, or so I thought. 

Now he is really, officially gone. My panic will increase, and I just might radio in for help. Now, do you get the title? It is about the first of May, isn't it?

Here are some photos of the send-off party.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

All on my own

As I write this on the early morning of the 1st of May, I realise it's been almost a week since Dr. Yasser left the employment of the MOH (Ministry of Health) and so, here I am, working alone as the only specialist Paediatrician in Al Muwayh. The feeling of independence has somewhat ameliorated the despondency of the situation. I am now the Head of my department, and can implement certain changes right away. At the same time, I am perpetually on call, so that I cannot go away from Al Muwayh unless they arrange for a replacement for me, even if it is for half a day. This thought has kept me gloomy ... and brooding in temperament.

Only six days have passed since Dr. Yasser left, but it looks like a lot of time. I can honestly say that I have not once gone to my upstairs office in my capacity as the Patient Safety Director. I am able to co-ordinate the work of PS directorship from my O.P.D. office, and that is working out fine.

Since the last 2 1/2 days, my back has thrown a spasm, and although I have taken physiotherapy all the three days, I still find myself in a lot of pain. Today, I requested my Medical Director for a half-day off, and he was kind enough to grant it, so that I left the hospital at noon, and was not called for the afternoon shift. The rest that I got ... I lay supine on the floor for nearly 4 hours in the afternoon ... has helped, and the spasm seems to be less as I sit and write this post in the wee hours of the morning of Thursday. 

So, what else is new? Two of our ER nurses have also finished their final contracts and are in the exit process. They are both Filipinas - one is Sherell, the intelligent, good-looking, single and short-tempered (at times) woman, and the other is Mary Jean, the sauve, married, intelligent one who I got on the wrong side of a year or more ago, but with whom I made amends and a friendship that we both mutually respect. The attrition from the ER is rather rapid; last year, too, three of the ER nurses left us. This is easy to understand, as the prospects of nurses who have ER experience is good in other countries too, esp. Canada and the U.S. Among the rest of the staff, there is little to look forward to.

This is all I have to share with you.

P.S. I paid my fees for the final installment of MRCPCH examinations. Also, within a few days, I would be paying fees for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam that I propose to take in Mumbai in June 2014. I am also successfully going through my current two online courses: one is called Community Change in Public Health, and is run on Coursera. The other one is Engaging with India and is run on edX.org. Both have completed their first weeks and I am looking forward to the next one.

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