AMSC: Jakarta upside-down

Life has been extremely good to me. Right now, I am currently on a long holiday. I’ve had 3 weeks and I still have another 3 ahead. If the absolute number is not that spectacular, let me put it in perspective. Other unis, especially the med schools, have shorter holidays than I do; in fact, some of them only get two weeks of time off. However, holidays are but facts of life. I need something more, something monumental. Thus, to top my happiness, I had the privilege to be a part of Asian Medical Students’ Conference (AMSC) 2010 in Jakarta Indonesia.


AMSC2010 is held by Asian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) chapters of University of Indonesia (UI) and Pelita Harapan University (UPH). It was a week-long conference, from July 25 to July 31, with Geriatrics as its main theme. Participants come from countries with local AMSA, most of them in Asia. In Jakarta, they are treated to a vast array of scientific, social, and cultural activities; not to mention the opportunity to build connections and, most importantly, friendship. Many submitted their entries for the paper, poster, photo, and movie competitions; all of them are wonderful, some emerged as winners.


From Southeast Asia, there were delegates representing Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia. Other Asian countries in the conference are Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Palestine. Additionally, we were more than happy to welcome delegates from Australia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.


So what makes the title of this post?


It comes from my personal experience during the conference. First, the conference required me to be in parts of Greater Jakarta I have never known that well. If it wasn’t for AMSC, I would’ve never been to UPH’s campus in Karawaci. The second day took place in Sapta Pesona building, which is the office of Tourism Ministry and in the Balai Kota for dinner. I knew the places, but that was the first time I went there. On the third day, I accompanied delegates to Kelapa Gading Mal, a giant hunk of a supermall made up of 5 malls. I’m not familiar with the mall, so it kinda felt like trapping them into a maze. And the most surprising discovery is…that there is a nursing home for the elderly very near to my house and I’ve been passing the location for as long as I’ve lived. I have to thank the organizers of the social visit.


Second, I was trained to see Jakarta in a very different light. While following the delegates everywhere, sometimes they ask me about the things they see: traffic jams, huge shopping malls, the capricious weather, strange foods, and all the little bits. I’ve been to Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and the UK so I can see where the question comes from. For example, the girls are just blown away by the sheer number of shopping malls in the city because Australia simply does not have half as many. On the other hand, I gained new insights from other delegates like Mongolia, Bangladesh, and Nepal.


Last, there was a lot of movement. My house is in South Jakarta, almost at the southern tip of the province. Each morning, I have to outrun the delegates to the venue of that day. After the day is done, I tag along as they return to Mercure Hotel in Ancol. Ancol is in the very north of Jakarta. Heck, the hotel is by the beach! Not less than 3 times did I ride a taxi from north to south, at midnight the earliest. I once got home at 2AM and had to wake up again at 5AM.


Despite the ‘hardship’ I had to endure, AMSC is truly an unforgettable experience. New friends, great times, amazing activities, and tons of fun! Thanks to Facebook, it is even easier to keep in touch with people from all corners of the shrinking globe. I was in a deluge of friend requests, comments, and photo tags. Nothing more I could ask.

Jogja-Solo jaunt: part three (final)

This post should’ve been up last week but I was too busy last week helping out in the Asian Medical Students’ Conference 2010 in no other place than Jakarta. The week-long conference was hosted by University of Indonesia and Pelita Harapan University. There were 400 delegates from Asian countries, including Australia, and it was so much fun. Yet, for now let me finish my traveller’s notes first.


Going down the mountain from Ketep Pass, we decided to go to the Borobudur temple since it’s somewhere in the middle between Magelang and Jogjakarta. We arrived there quite early for tourists; there were only some foreigners who probably was on the Borobudur sunrise tour. We went into the temple complex after a simple breakfast in the food stalls around the complex.


Borobudur is a colossal Buddhist temple built in nine layers. Its walls are decorated by narrative reliefs, the beauty of which is multiplied by the sheer number of panels in the temple. Sitting at the higher layers are Buddha statues surrounding a main dome at the very top. It is a huge draw for tourists from not only around the country, but also around the world.

 

P1000621 

Nevertheless, what really made me fall in love with the place is its location. Going to the higher layers of the temple, visitors will be surrounded by green hills and mountains beyond the carved walls. The lush forest is the perfect backdrop for this masterpiece of human creation. In fact, I’d rather take photos with that background than stuff a stupa into the frame.

 

P1000627

From the cool morning rose a scorching sun. Thus, we headed back to the guest house and prepared ourselves for the long-awaited lunch: Suharti Fried Chicken. Going to the restaurant reminded me of past years when we used to go to my grandparents’ hometown for Lebaran. Everytime we passed through Jogja, we always stopped at Suharti’s, no matter what time it was.


The restaurant’s top item is obviously its fried chicken with kremes. Kremes is basically a mix of spices and flour, fried together with the chicken, to make the dish crispy and tastier. Suharti makes a unique kremes that sets it apart from other traditional fried chicken. Served with warm steamed rice and sambal, Suharti’s fried chicken was definitely delicious and filling.


After Suharti, my mom took us to Beringharjo Market in Malioboro. She needed to buy batik quilts to send to a number of relatives. Batik quilts are not only beautiful, but also useful. At first, I thought it was a half-hearted comforter. I mean, batik is not known for that use. Yet, apparently it does fulfill its purpose and currently I have a batik quilt for my bed. One last thing, witnessing my mom haggling is as exciting as the bustling market itself.


Before going to the airport, we took a stroll in Vreideburg Fort, just next door to the market. As with most Indonesia’s historic buildings, it stores hundreds of stories but no one had asked what the stories are. It can surely do with more engaging exhibits and better storytelling. Anyway, it’s relieving to see that at least it’s not demolished…yet. Good luck to the fort.


As the sun set, we headed to the airport. Not surprisingly, our QZ plane was delayed for around an hour. Secretly we had mentally prepared for such delays, especially after I had had to endure a 3-hours delay in KL for my plane back to Jakarta.

My taxi driver said…

(A little detour from the Jogja-Solo journey posts.)


After months of being a TransJakarta victim–an experience I have frequently shared in my previous blog–I adapted to ensure my survival and discovered a faster route to my nest. Now, instead of riding TransJakarta all the way, I take a shortcut by taxi to the Corridor I in Sudirman and get on the bus there. No need to change buses, which drastically reduces waiting time. Let’s just say that at least it halves my travel time.


Today, I hailed a taxi in front of my campus for the first leg of my trip home. When I told the driver that I’m going to a TransJakarta bus stop, he asked whether I’m going to take the bus there. I just nodded and he continued, “It’s a mess, a failure.”


“Yes, indeed. If I get on the bus here, it will waste a lot of precious time. Better to just ride Corridor I,” I honestly replied.


He proceeded bashing Sutiyoso’s pet project. For one, TransJakarta steals road lanes from other road users, yet it does not utilize them optimally. It is definitely not a smart move, considering that there is more car and motorbikes than all of Jakarta’s streets can handle. He summarized that TransJakarta does not alleviate the city’s chronic traffic jams. In fact, in some places it worsens the gridlock.


Next he attacked the management, saying that too many hands are drawing the picture, resulting in utter chaos. TransJakarta’s nine corridors are operated by different companies and they are not very nice to each other. Jakarta’s transportation agency fails to integrate its busway; I’m not expecting them to integrate it with rail service and the mythical waterway.


Those complaints came from a taxi driver, and whether he knows it or not, that shows genuine care for his city and its people. He drives around, gets stuck in the choking traffic jam, and sees all that’s speeding in the wrong direction. Like it or not, he has to witness it all. I can not belittle him by saying “it’s easy for you to complain” because that is what he can do. I don’t want him to use his deadly ninja skills to hijack the whole TransJakarta operation.


On the other side, there are those who actually have the power to make the change. In Jakarta, one of them is called the Governor. The law gives them power to place things in the right spots and to make sure that whatever that thing is, it keeps on working efficiently. They can get things from the wrong place back to the right place.


But where are they? I don’t see them complain about how Jakarta’s traffic problem is getting worse and is routinely complicated by the flood, let alone make decisions to solve the problem. The blaring sirens of their motorcade proudly roars to the world that they are above being trapped in traffic. They can afford to not see the mess they are living in everyday. They can live without caring.


The traffic problem is but a pebble in Jakarta’s mountain of problems, yet it can give a hint why we are not seeing real solutions. Instead, we are forced to cope with ephemeral glitzy projects that dies before the day ends.

Jogja-Solo jaunt: part two

It’s fun isn’t it when life is not all about beating hearts or bundles of alveoli. This post will cover half of what I did in Jogjakarta, right after I went back from Solo. There will be a mouthwatering gudeg and magnificent mountains (5 of them!).


We arrived in Jogja at around 4 PM, stuffed and happy from the Tambak Segaran satay. My dad and my brother yielded to their primal desires to sleep after having such a big meal; on the other hand, my mom and I were too excited to stop moving. Thus, we headed to Pathuk Street. If you know Jogja, you get what I mean.


Pathuk Street, which is now called KS Tubun Street, is a little patch of heaven for hungry tourists. It is home to numerous bakpia shops, selling their famous bakpia along with countless variety of traditional delicacies. Bakpia itself is a small round pastry filled with paste, originally of mung beans, but in recent years also of cheese and chocolate. If people know you are going to Jogja, surely they will ask you to bring home these bite-size snacks. We nearly looted the store and went out with a huge box of snacks.


When we got back to the guest house, it was almost time for dinner and we were clueless. Fortunately, when I was in Palembang a couple of weeks ago, I met some UGM students and so I consulted them about the best place to have a Jogja dinner. One of them recommended Gudeg Sagan near UGM campus. It is near the place where I stay and, hey, gudeg is more Jogja than the Sultan of Jogja is. Hence, to Gudeg Sagan we went. If I must be frank, I don’t like gudeg, the sweet boiled young jackfuit. I do like gudeg’s friends on the plate like the chicken, brown boiled egg, and krecek; yet, gudeg is somewhat yuck to me. However, I wonderfully tolerated Gudeg Sagan. In fact, this might be the first time that I truly enjoyed gudeg.


Back from Gudeg Sagan, we retired early because we had something special waiting for us. We were going to see the sunrise in Ketep Pass near Magelang, surrounded by 5 big mountains. We also planned to go to Borobudur before going back to Jogja. This, I’m warning you, is the best part of my trip.


We shot off from the guest house at 4.30 AM, an unknown territory for me and most of you. I wish I could tell you about the road trip to Ketep Pass, but I kinda ofell asleep in the car. I do remember glimpses of thick fog blocking the view. I was so terrified, I dozed off again. After a forgettable dream, I was woken up when we reached Ketep Pass in (or near) Magelang.


Ketep Pass is basically a vantage point surrounded by 5 mountains: Merapi, Merbabu, Sumbing, Sindoro, and Slamet. The first two are much closer to Ketep, compared to the last three. Heck, I could only see their faint outlines. When we arrived, everything was covered by thick fog, something that our driver had warned us about. Since it was too early anyway, we simply waited. Voila, in less than an hour, Merapi and Merbabu teased us by revealing their bodies strip by strip. The fog faded away and there we stood guarded by two supposedly mythical mountains. (In the myth field, I’m more sure about Merapi, though). The fog never left the base of the mountains, so they looked as if they peaked above the clouds. I could look up a synonim for majestic in the thesaurus, but none of the result would suffice to describe the view, and the feeling, there.


P1000585 P1000587

There was nothing to do but to enjoy the magnificent panorama and try to immortalize it through camera. My photography-crazy dad had a blast capturing the  sensual curves of Merapi and Merbabu. Only occasionally was he frustrated by the random fog. And if you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned the sun in this sunrise trip narration: the sun rose for sure, but it was hiding behind the mountains, giving us red streaks across the sky. We could only see the sun after 8 AM.


P1000586

P1000591

That is the end of the second part – because it’s 12 o’clock, the dark one, and I have to get up early tomorrow. Or this morning. Please look forward to the last part where I climb a colossal monument and ate something legendary.

Jogja-Solo jaunt: part one

As the second summative test of respi ended, my soul was freed from its chains. The huge burden suddenly vanished and everybody almost literally leapt with joy. If happiness were fuel, the collective happiness of my class could’ve sent a rocket filled with FPI over the solar system - but not back to Earth.


Last weekend, my family went on a very short vacation to Jogja and Solo in Central Java. Originally, we wanted a longer trip but our free time never line up perfectly. My dad only come back from KL every two weeks; my brother had already gone back to school; while I was just in the first days of my holiday. In the end, we had to make do with a two-days trip. Nevertheless, it was very memorable.


I took off from Soekarno-Hatta’s brand new Terminal 3, the tacky design of which deserves a bashing. Expect it soon in this blog. After landing in Jogjakarta’s Adi Sucipto airport, we went straight to Solo. First, we visited the grave of my paternal grandfather. It was located in a family cemetery reserved for members of the Solo royalty. My family is not closely related to the current king, but we can trace our roots to one of the kings in the past. In a very strange way, I felt comfortable going there. Perhaps it was the perfect weather and the merciful shade of the big tree beside the grave.


Next on our agenda was lunch. But the Earth’s rotation cannot keep up with our appetite so we had to find a distraction before going to lunch. We shopped at the Orion Bakery, famous for its unique Mandarijn cake. Near the shop is an old traditional market called Pasar Gede. Pasar means market, while Gede means big. So its name pretty much explains everything. What I like about it is that the city council preserves thehistorical building, even after a fire. Unlike in Jakarta, where we see bustling markets turned into half-hearted shopping centers.


P1000571

Pasar Gede


Solo also boasts its own Keraton or palace compound. Despite having been to Solo more than ten times, I have never really visited it so this was my very first time. The Keraton is located near the alun-alun (city square), along with the Great Mosque of Solo. This setting is very common in Javanese cities although sometimes the mayor’s or governor’s office takes the Keraton’s place. We rented two becaks (cycle rickshaws) to go to the Keraton from alun-alun and also to go to Kampung Batik.


In the Keraton, there was this museum about the role of the kingdom’s role in fighting the Dutch invasion. The museum also houses many regalia from past kings. Next to the museum is the palace court. It is very amazing how the Keraton and its 300 abdi dalem (servants) can not only hold on to tradition but also still lead the people, at least spiritually, in this ever changing world. After the Keraton visit, the becak driver took us to Kampung Batik where more than a hundred local batik makers open their business.


Then came the moment we have been waiting for: lunch. In Tambak Segaran street, there is a satay restaurant that sells the best sate buntel in the world. Sate buntel is a variation of satay using minced meat wrapped in a thin layer of fat. OK, not so thin, but we don’t eat the fat anyway. The meat was very tasty and it is complemented by the sauce. The portion is very generous and just a plate of two satays satisfied our longing. A plate for each person, that is.


After lunch, we headed back to Jogjakarta. My time there will be covered in the second part.

Slow, deep breaths

Out of the three exams I told you, there’s only one left. The anatomy lab was not as horrifying as I had expected. There was no obscure muscle or blood vessels to pull with careless abandon. In the ten-questions exam, the trickiest two were, as I had predicted, identifying segmental bronchi. However, even the bronchi are quite obvious and thus, did not require any excessive specimen-poking or wild guesses.


Earlier today, I had my integrated lab exam. By ‘integrated’, I don’t mean that all the departments get together and make a grand collaboration to test the students. Instead, they simply do their own exams together in one go. While it was surely not easy, it was not nightmare-ish either. Perhaps the previous modules has toughened us up – or brutally killed our fear neurons.


And here I am. Two days away from the very last exam, which covers half of all lectures in this module. I repeatedly comforted myself by remembering that I had at least glanced at the lecture slides, but still I cannot fool myself. This is an almost-emergency. In the normal campus atmosphere, I will be drowning myself in slides and textbooks as if I breath words of science.


But this is the last week of second year. Everybody has switched on the holiday mode a few days too early and we are definitely taking it slow. Nevertheless, I admit that this had better stop: we do have to pass the test to get a long peaceful holiday. Hence, I’m gonna post this and immediately choke myself with a bowl of medical knowledge – unless I can watch The Simpsons first.

Respi exam week

As it has always been the darkest before dawn, so has exams before holiday. I’m only a week away from my real holiday, yet exams stands in the way between me and bliss. This bunch of tests will wrap up the seventh -and last- module in second year of med school; there is no reason to not be eager. My heart is bouncing up-and-down like a 5-yrs old boy on sugar high, knowing that what it has been longing for is so close.


However, before I can enter that world of pure joy and laziness, there are three exams.


First is the anatomy lab exam this Monday. It will consist of 10 questions, ranging from the nose, down to the windpipe, and to the lungs themself. We will be asked to identify what structure is being pointed by the needle or tied with the string. While the trachea is quite obvious, it will be rather tricky to guess the lateral segmental bronchus in the medial lobe of the right lung, or bronchus segmentalis lateralis lobus medius pulmo dextra. Only two languages is accepted for answer: Latin and made-up Latin.


Another tip for respiratory system anatomy: you don’t have to squeeze the lung just because it’s spongy. Refrain from excessive lung-poking and you will be saved from the annoying rain of formaldehyde.


The next day, five or so departments team up like the Power Rangers’ robots to make one humongous lab exam that packs a mean punch. As usual, histology and anatomical pathology are there, and they will be joined by microbiology, parasitology, and clinical pathology. And also as usual, anatomical pathology is haunting students days before the exam itself.


Last, on Thursday, comes the second summative test. It is the typical multiple-choice exam but this time, it covers more than half the topics in this module. Four of them about tuberculosis. I have to know my RHZE. If I manage to exhibit a speck of time management, I’m optimistic that I can catch up.

A short pause in Palembang

P1000495 Last weekend, I took a very brave break from the ever-increasing studyload: I went to Palembang, South Sumatra, for AMSA Indonesia’s 25th national meeting. A bit of background first. FKUI has a vast array of student organization with a gamut that runs from the scientific to the stark raving mad. I chose to go easy on myself and picked only one to join. That happens to be the Asian Medical Students’ Association. AMSA-UI is the local chapter of AMSA-Indonesia, which is a member of AMSA International. I survived the year-long selection, and long story short, I genuinely enjoy being a part of the AMSA family.


I took off to Palembang on Friday, right after the last plenary session in the second year of med school. I arrived at about 4.30 PM and was picked up by the committee from AMSA-Unsri (Sriwijaya University). The opening ceremony was held at Griya Agung, kinda an equivalent of the state palace. Delegates were asked to don traditional costumes, a request I resourcefully fulfilled. I’m not the kind of guy who dress up, so instead of going all fancy, I opted for a white shirt, black pants, and a sarong for accessory. It was Jakarta enough for me.


Saturday was mostly filled by the meeting itself, over which I presided. On that task, I was accompanied by two other delegates, one from host Unsri and another from UGM (Yogyakarta). Half of the meeting was spent for yearly report from each university with AMSA. AMSA Indonesia had 20 members, 18 of which attended the meeting; the meeting also welcomed 3 new members. Therefore, there are now 23 univs in AMSA Indonesia. The meeting ended with the national leadership’s report and the election of advisory board.

P1000486The fun part of the day was dinner. We were treated to a feast at Riverside Restaurant on the waterfront of Palembang’s famed Musi River with a view of the Ampera Bridge. The whole span of the bridge, and also its two soaring towers, were lit up to crown the night sky. The program for the night is quite entertaining. In spite of Along with some singing, there was a presentation for Makassar’s bid to host the national work meeting in September and open campaign for the next AMSA Indonesia’s top post, Regional Chairperson (RC). The campaign was heated but friendly, like the atmosphere in a real family debate.


On Sunday, we had a meeting in the morning and an excursion after that. The meeting continued the previous night’s Q&A session for the candidates and then voted the new RC. Right after the meeting, delegates were taken by bus to a pier in the Musi River near the dinner venue. We were then spread to a number of wooden motor boats to go to Kemaro Island in the middle of the river. The island is somewhat far from the pier, and as we approached the island, the Musi gets wider and wider. I have already known that the Musi is big, but I had no idea that it was so big that huge ships can be anchored in the middle.

P1000526

P1000514 The Kemaro Island is a small island with a pagoda and Chinese temple. We had a picnic in its park and savoured Palembang’s renowned cuisines: pempek, martabak HAR, tekwan, model, and mie celor. It was a real picnic where we sat together on a mat, enjoying our meals. The trees provided a welcome shade from the blazing sun, and wild chickens are closely spying on us – or our meals, they didn’t say which. It was undeniably the best meal during the whole weekend. Another highlight of the island is the Tree of Love. Despite its name, couples are advised against taking pictures there as it may, let’s just say, predispose them to breaking up. Don’t ask me why.

P1000525

P1000530 

P1000531

I flew back to Jakarta that evening, and exams are ‘eagerly’ waiting for me. Well, at least the trip refreshed my mind and motivates me to work hard so I can go to Makassar this September. But seriously, I have to work on my exams. I have an acid-fast bacilli staining for M. tuberculosis lab test and clinical skills quiz tomorrow (Thursday). Next week, I must brace for a storm of three exams: anatomy lab test, the integrated lab test, and the second summative test.

 

Jakarta!

Just a few days ago (June 22, to be exact) Jakarta celebrated its 483rd anniversary. Netizens took to Twitter and Facebook to share their love for the city. The media ran articles about Jakarta’s history and rapid development. Local shopping centers joined the party by taking part in the Jakarta Great Sale Festival. Last and as usual, poorly-designed and easily-misunderstood banners by the city council are flown all over the city.


In written media, the attitude towards Jakarta can always be simplified into a sentence: ‘Despite its frustrating <insert negative points here>, Jakarta is a wonderful city because it <insert positive points here>’. Popular negatives include traffic jam, pollution, lack of green areas, and atmosphere of utter chaos; on the other hand, the positives center on how Jakarta is growing very rapidly and how Jakartans generally have more fun than their neighbours across the strait. (We got Beyonce a few years ago because some wacky Malaysians thought she was too entertaining to do a show there.) But this is not news.


What actually stole my attention was the banners. White background with green design. Green, green, green. Everybody’s going green. The Governor’s smile graced the banners and beside his face, a sentence along the line of “with our diversity, let’s make Jakarta an environment-friendly service city" bravely expresses its designer’s confusion. And we say, “WHAT?”.


Living in an environment-friendly sustainable city is every citizen’s dream, and changing Jakarta into one is our responsibility. In fact, most Jakartans I know are currently trying to reduce their negative impact on the environment. For example, plastic bags are beginning to lose favor and the Bike-to-Work community is thriving. I, along with many friends, actively choose to reduce our paper use by going paperless as often as possible and printing on both sides of the paper.


However, I still cannot make any sense of the banner. First and foremost, its green theme suddenly popped in without prior brouhaha. While Jakarta has been known by many names, I have never heard anything so defiant like ‘Green’. The lack of empty campaign is quite surprising actually, because if you need to get a lot of mouth (and no action) on an issue, you can always rely on Indonesia’s government. Perhaps they are not trying hard enough to fool us.


Next, what on Earth is a service city? A city that provides real public service so that its citizens can achieve high quality of life? Definitely not Jakarta. Just take one example. Applying for a Jakarta-issued national identity card can take as long as waiting for the Halley comet – and as expensive as lunch for ten people.


Ultimately, it is a sign of pure ignorance and shamelessness to put up such banner. The go-green motivation is noble, but when we put that banner in Jakarta’s context, it is just sad. As the world proceeds to embrace more advanced green-living principles, Jakarta consistently fails in fulfilling the basics.


Just another example, flooding is a common complication of rain in the city, and when traced, it comes back to people who throw away their thrash to the streets or into the rivers. In addition, the city government neglected their duty to regulate the development of gigantic, green-space consuming multi-use shopping centers.

At the end of the day, I can only sigh with shame. I love Jakarta. I have tasted the cities of Europe, America, and Australia, but I have always foolishly said Jakarta is better. As the years pass, it takes more and more effort to do declare my unconditional love for the city. But, finally, I can only say “Happy Birthday My Dear Jakarta”.

Everyone’s a fan

That is what generally happens to the Earth’s population every four years. Perennial football fans will find their cheers amplified by World Cup enthusiasts; people who couldn’t have cared less about soccer for 3 years and 11 months are suddenly converted into football fanatics for a whole month. My observation presents 3 major groups of these die-easy fans.


First, guys (or even girls) who are genuinely into World Cup football because of the festive atmosphere and they do feel that football is interesting. These people can be quite well-informed, although their penchant for showing off sharing soccer trivia can be annoying at times. They usually root for certain teams and make fairly good match predictions based on their knowledge.


Next, good-looking soccer players draw a considerable crowd of overexcited girls and gay guys. These romantic football fans always predict that the team of their hearthrob will rule the world, and their favorites are quite typical. In case of yellow or red cards, they will turn into the world’s greatest defense attorney and will bring the best evidences to prove that their star did not kick his opponent in the nuts. Heck, if Iranian clerics can blame women for earthquakes, why can’t we blame Miley Cyrus for Zidane’s headbutt?


Last, kids and the young-at-heart gladly joins the worldwide party just for the fun of it. I used to belong in this group in previous Cups, before I learned to believe that ‘I don’t have to like what you, or all the Earth’s ten continents, like’. They are a blast to be with, even if you don’t have the slightest idea what Jabulani is, and won’t judge you if you chose to let the quadrennial ball pass. Just don’t ask them about any World Cup things after the event.

Six Weeks to Breathe

I woke up today with the sun staring down on me. “The early bird gets the worm,” the sun said, “but you’re no bird. You do need a lot of sleep!” I turned to see the clock, and the short hand has already left its usual position above the depressing number 6. As my soul starts to come back, I went to the kitchen and made myself a full breakfast. I enjoyed it thoroughly, tasting every single bite. No rush at all. A beautiful day is waiting for me, and I’ll be relaxing on the couch with Salinger’s The Catcher in The Rye.


But this is not a blog for fiction or happy glowy stuffs. This is a medical student’s blog. Expect lots of violence and gore with a strong mix of self-hatred. Only Glee can glow here.


Two weeks ago, I had gladly hugged cardio goodbye - although I really suspected that it wasn’t so happy to let us go in one piece. Without any drumroll, another module swiftly took its place. Respiration module, affectionately called ‘respi’, will enter its third week tomorrow; as usual, modules run for 6 weeks and I have three breathless weeks ahead.

lungs 


Respiration is a challenging topic, if not downright difficult. Definitely not for the faint-hearted. There are a zillion topics to cover, from the microscopic structure of the alveoli to the public health aspects of tuberculosis. Among the basic sciences, physiology took first place in the Torture-the-Students contest. As a whole, it is not too scary, but some topics involving laws of physics and intricate biochemistry will devour unprepared students.


In the clinical stage, tuberculosis owns the spotlight. There are at least 4 lectures on the disease alone; starting with its pathogenesis and ends with rational treatment for TB. A group discussion session is also dedicated to the ancient disease – and yours truly has stepped forward to volunteer in delivering the report for plenary.


To be honest, I have set a high target in this module. My grandparents are pediatricians specializing in respirology; so naturally there will be a little extra burden, but on the other hand, I have my own experts to consult with. I’m looking forward to getting through respi unhurt. What doesn’t kill me will make my holiday perfect.

A Passion for Hatred?

“I could kill all the Jews in the world, but I kept some alive so you can see why I was killing them.” – Adolf Hitler


Living in a predominantly Muslim country, I have to admit that the air here is polluted with blind anti-Israel sentiments; more so in recent years as Islamic conservatives tighten their grip on the society. Thus, it was no surprise that in response to the Gaza flotilla clash, the above quotation spread so fast like chicken pox in an elementary school.


For years I have resisted condoning, let alone being tempted, by the regrettably racist behavior by my fellow Muslims. I simply kept my mouth shut up. Only occasionally have I tried to correct the narrow-mindedness. My position in this matter is that Indonesia should not get too involved in the fray, lest we be caught in a bad romance.


For one thing, it has become very impossible to take sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, which started an extremely long time ago. In any fight that goes on for too long, no one is free from blame and no one deserves too much sympathy. I’m not saying that we should leave the people of Palestine and Israel be. They do need our help so badly. However, I wouldn’t throw all my sympathy to one side or another. A bullet through the heart is a live lost, doesn’t matter if he’s a Palestinian or an Israeli. A house rocketed is a home lost, regardless of the flag it flies.


But for now, I cannot allow myself to be silent. I do understand that Israel’s raid on the activists’ flotilla is a tragedy for humanity; moreover, the incident is another episode in the already violent history of the region. We have to demand an independent and thorough investigation regarding this attack. Nevertheless, this trend of quoting der fuhrer is utterly racist and disturbing. The toxic words, along with the ideas it carries, should be stopped as quickly as it had started.


First, we are speaking for humanity and humanity deserves a better spokesperson than Hitler. Thousands of influential figures from the past and present, and people come up with Hitler!? If any of you has forgotten, he threw millions of people into suffering. Surely we don’t want our quest for peace to be blurred by gas chambers.


Second, the act of passing on the message means that people give their nod to genocide. I don’t have the slightest idea why people could agree with such massive killing. What good would it bring anyway? Furthermore, people are being blatantly unfair. Try replacing the word ‘Jews’ from the quote with ‘Muslims’, no doubt mobs with pitchforks and torches will siege the German embassy in a flash. With the do-unto-other spirit, I say we should say NO to disseminating this hate message.


Last, I humbly ask everyone who claims to ‘support the path toward peace’ in the Middle East to rise above all the anger and hatred. Anger and hatred are what had started this chaos; we must not let them take control of the situation. What this world needs is, as clich├ęd as this may sound, compassion. If that’s not possible in this heated atmosphere, then restrain will do just as fine.


We have to stop Hitler, once again.

Done in A Heartbeat

It’s always been like this in every module. Each module is always preceded by the pre-module excitement, which is actually a cry of freedom carried on from the previous module. Into the module itself, the first weeks are filled with lectures on basic sciences; thus, there are tons of new things to discover. This phase is quite engaging, if not challenging. On the the following weeks, lectures come from the more clinical departments. Lecturers from this department do bring interesting topics to the table, yet they are very unpredictable in making questions for the exam. Out of this dilemma was born a love-hate relationship with the departments.


During the last weeks of a module, life seems to painfully decelerate to make sure that each module can torture students more thoroughly. In cardio parlance, the Earth experienced severe bradycardia and students are congested with clots of exam materials. Finally, the ‘longed-for’ exams come and, poof, buh-bye module!


For now, I am happy to announce that cardiovascular module is DONE, DONE, and DONE. Well, I don’t know if I passed all my tests, but after weeks of systole, there’s no reason to not enjoy this rare period of diastole. (Sorry if my allegories burn your brains). To review, the two multiple-choice summative exams were relatively easy; the anatomy lab exam was hellish; and the path and histology lab exam was somewhere in between.


This weekend is all the time I have to stop and smell the flowers before I choke myself on the respiratory module.

A Short Break

Since Vesak Day fell on last Friday, Indonesians are now in the end of a long weekend. It should’ve been a party, but unfortunately, I’m having two exams next week. First is the lab exam on Wednesday which covers Histology, Anatomical Pathology, and Clinical Pathology. Compared to previous modules, this should be a breeze. Yet, I have never experienced a real ‘breeze’ in med school; so there’s no letting my guard down. Second, there is the second summative test to evaluate students’ on various lectures. As usual, it covers the more clinical aspects.


Now you are probably thinking that I’m in a freaky studying frenzy.


You guessed wrong: I am on a short vacation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to visit my dad who has been working here for a month or so. Well, I do bring a bunch of school materials and have skimmed a couple of lectures. But still, this journey is quite thrilling since I have so many stuffs to catch up.


Time, please be on my side.

Anatomy Frenzy!

Because of unknown reasons, most people associate med school with caressing countless cadavers in creepy labs. It might as well be the first, and sometimes the only, question people throw to a med student to find out his/her progress. They don’t care if you performed the coolest, most complicated physiology experiment; they just need to know if you had poked your way into some (dead) stranger’s stomach.

From a med student’s view, it is indeed a challenging topic, especially in the musculoskeletal, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. The former two I had passed in the 2nd and 3rd semester, respectively. This module will be the last of the deadly trio, and exam is coming this Wednesday.

What I need to identify in the exam includes the following:

  • External structures of the heart
  • The four heart chambers and their internal structures
  • The big arteries and veins that go to/from the heart
  • Arteries and veins in the upper and lower extremities (!)

And to give you the right impression of this exam’s urgency, I’ll end this post abruptly to study, hopefully.

This Week in Med School

To my delight, the first exam in the cardiovascular module was not that horrible. Most of the questions are straightforward and there was no need to overanalyze stuffs. Even better, the bane of preclinical students, anatomical pathology, did not trample us with fancy-schmancy morphology; in fact, there were specific hints in all of the questions. Identifying the diseases was more like identifying Paris by looking at the Eiffel Tower. There were a few hurdles, especially in cardiac physiology, but overall, the exam was manageable. Now I can get back to life – for a while before anatomy ‘fever’ sets in.

 

Last Saturday, I attended a minor surgery and circumcision training. This is my first time going to such event and as expected, I was very excited. Well, my mom was enthusiastic too; somehow, the thought of me tinkering with some kid's penis is entertaining to her.

 

In the minor surgery session, I was taught to do 3 types of basic sutures. I won’t get technical in this post, but you can look them up here, here, and here. We trained to suture sponges, but we used real surgical tools. And that’s when I realized that suturing involves pushing a needle through a person’s skin over and over again. If it wasn’t so cool and necessary, it would have simply been barbaric. Looking at my stitched sponge, the trainers said I did quite a good job, but maybe that’s a code for “thank you for not slicing us”.

 

The circumcision session was eye opening. Who knew you can learn to do circumcision by doing it to a candle penis wrapped in two layers of elastic gloves? In the beginning, it was somewhat awkward for me. The trainer, who happened to be a girl, explained the basic anatomy of a penis to a group of penis-owners. To my relief, there was no new information on penis anatomy. Then we proceeded to the circumcision itself. It was a little hard (no pun intended), but the trainer assured us that real genitals are not that stiff (except during certain times, of course). In the end of the training, I got my first minor surgery certificate. I won’t be cutting anyone open anytime soon, but there was that unmistakable sense of achievement.

 

Today, the president of RI visited my campus as a part of Alumni Awakening Day. The background story would be very long so here’s the summary: FKUI was founded by the Dutch and its students was instrumental in the national awakening movement which ultimately led to Indonesia’s independence. My favourite part of the story is how Abdulrachman Saleh spread the news of RI’s independence using a simple radio in my school’s physiology lab. In the nascent republic, doctors from FKUI served various position within and outside of the government. It is of utmost importance that the current FKUI embrace its noble past and emulate that fighting spirit to build an even better FKUI and Indonesia.

First Exam!

Life has been too sweet for the last several weeks, but it will all change now. This Wednesday, I will be having my first exam in this cardiovascular module. It will be an MCQ test with 80-ish questions. Topics covered in this exam come from basic science deoartments, including the following:

  • Cardiac and vascular anatomy
  • Cardiac and vascular histology
  • Metabolism of cardiac muscle
  • Cardiovascular physiology
  • Anatomical pathology: cardiac and vascular
  • Clinical pathology: atherosclerosis, rheumatic heart disease
  • Epidemiology of cardiovascular problems

Compared to exams in previous modules, this one includes fewer lectures. However, this is the cardiovascular module, so let’s not take anything for granted.

Just One Day

The physiology lab time for EKG went smoothly, producing 2 normal 12-lead recordings. Now that I have actually done it myself and analyzed the result to find out if it is normal or not, EKG is not so scary. Surely the spikes are still daunting - and I haven’t even dipped my toes into pathologic EKGs.

 

There is something far more important than EKG: a one-day holiday is just around the corner. Ascension of Jesus Christ is a national holiday in Indonesia, and this year it falls on May 13. I am really fond of these mid-module holidays since they put a stop on the overflow of information from lectures, lab times, and group discussions.

 

On ordinary days I have to cope with ridiculous amount of materials. Due to time constraints, virtually no one can absorb that kind of load each day so we med students have to prioritize. Anatomy: urgent; radiology: clueless. Coloquially, we say “X out of Y slides” with X the number of lecture slides digested and Y the number of all slides for the next exam. The ‘out of Y’ part is frequently omitted because we don’t even have the energy to care.

 

That’s were holidays come in. On holidays we obviously get no new materials; thus the brain-demand is not increased. Additionally, we also have more time to study, which increases the brain-supply. If a module is a race between a hare (lecturers) and a turtle (us), holiday is the part where the hare sleeps and the turtle continues fighting forward. The expected postholiday result is, of course, a better-prepared student.

 

But that only happens in the world where Indonesia have competent leaders and my mom is the Queen of Narnia. Holiday is a day to oversleep, overeat, and overstupidify. This is the time to be human again and live life like we are meant to. Well, if it’s any consolation, the academic pace also picks up a bit; but you can already guess the overall result. Hey, it’s not my fault Pondok Indah Mall is ultra-tempting.

That Spiky Thing

EKG. The sheer awesomeness of the word blows me away.

 

ekg

In the cardiovascular module (that’s the module I’m studying right now), students are taught all about EKG: the underlying physiology, the correct technique to record EKG, and the interpretation of an EKG recording. However, what looks so cool and easy on TV can be somewhat frustrating in real life.

 

Tomorrow, I am scheduled for a physiology lab time. EKG party time! It would be great if we could just walk in, plop some electrodes, fire away the 12 leads, and go home. But no, life is beautiful and sadistic like a dominatrix; there is a pretest for few fortunate students and also a compulsory group discussion after the lab time.

 

If you are sad, depressed, or anxious about anything…you should feel better already. You don’t have to care, let alone learn, about some cryptic grass-like code.

A Bit of Background

I have just realized that this blog, born in the middle of my 4th semester in med school, will be unclear without a background story. It would be like popping in the cinema in the middle of Iron Man 2: fun but confusing. (Although the dancing Ironettes in the beginning will give no help in getting you oriented anyway).

 

I have stated in my first post that I live in the Big Durian, Jakarta. I was born and raised here. As I grow up, I started to understand the chaos that runs the city. The maddening traffic, lack of open green spaces, oversupply of posh malls, and the thug-like hospitality of its citizens. I happily fooled myself into thinking that it will help develop stronger, more resilient men and women.

 

I am the first son with one younger brother who looks like a cuter version of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine - or a hybrid of Hanuman and Doraemon, whichever appeals to your imagination. In contrast to what people think, my parents are not doctors. My dad works in a South East Asian bank, while my mom is a proud full-time mother. On the other hand, my maternal grandparents are doctors. Pediatricians, to be precise. They studied in the same university, in the same year, and both have worked in the same field: pediatric respirology.

 

My educational background is not so eclectic. From kindergarten through high school, I went to Al-Azhar 1. I could add that it is the one near the Great Mosque of Al-Azhar in Kebayoran, yet I don’t know how many of you would actually benefit from that info. It is an Islamic school, but generally works like a normal school with a few extra ‘Islamic’ rules. If you are asking right now: no, boys and girls are not separated; yes, we are allowed to act like the average teenagers; no, there is no such thing as an Underwear Bomb 101 class.

 

My journey to med school is a mix of daring and blessing. My test scores during the 3 years of high school afforded me a chance for direct application without any entrance test. I used that chance and daringly did not prepare a Plan B. Fortunately, I got one of the nineteen ‘no-test’ seats offered by the medical faculty.

 

Since then, life has been kind enough to surprise me everyday.

Come Join the Ride

Hi everyone. I’m not that good with introductions but society dictates that we always introduce ourselves before starting anything, however irrelevant or forgettable that intro will be.


My name is Adit and I am currently another victim of life in Jakarta, Indonesia. If I let my hair grow, it becomes crazy-curly like in the profile picture. In the young age of 17 years, I landed myself in medical school: a move in the right direction according to my plans.


However, it has become more than a good move.


I am currently in my second year. Still in the preclinical stage, so those looking for batshit crazy patient stories would do right to visit other blogs by not-so-sane doctors who made us pray that we never get sick. Despite that, med school has taught me many stuffs other than why you want to poo right after a meal or what happens if you rectal-touched a baby with Hirschsprung disease. I relearned how to socialize, made new friends, and juggled tons of activities. Additionally, I have ridden on the proverbial rollercoaster of life that would make national politics look like a serene yoga session.


Welcome to (the hole on the fence that lets you take a peek at) my life.


Adhitya S Ramadianto

Class of 2008