About Chitra's Blog

- Doctor - Global health enthusiast - Amateur reader of Egyptian Hieroglyphics - Studio Ghibli fanatic

Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part III & Other Musings

It feels like the last couple of weeks have been a little ‘strange’ to me, since coming back to Leeds. There have been days where I was so driven to do things, but there have also been days where I haven’t been quite as motivated. For a while, it felt like time was going so slowly and I was feeling rather blah about things…and it’s only been two weeks!

The first weekend I spent since coming back to Leeds may have been a productive one. This is despite having many movies running on at home, probably too many to count. I was able to sit down and literally brain storm ideas on the whiteboard, for the cervical cancer screening programme I am organising in Bwindi-the objectives, statistics, equipment, screening and treatment options, current infrastructure, collaborators, funding organisations, questions to the hospital, the list is endless.

Despite taking a solid weekend, it felt like for the first time, I was able to create a vision in my head of what the programme should encompass. I have already sourced the equipment in Uganda instead of in the UK as I originally planned, and am looking into funding options for these. I have also been in touch with the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Manchester University and important charities who have expertise in this field of medicine. I’ll admit some responses have been slower or less helpful than others, but I do have some direction of focus. If there’s anything that I’ve learnt, it’s that you should keep going until they tell you no.  I’ll give you an example…

In my previous blog post on the expedition, I mentioned that I was in contact with a gynaecology registrar at the hospital. Unfortunately responses from him thinned out, to the point that I directly made contact with the Royal College itself for advice and about a potential staff training course for the healthcare workers. It was useful to know that this is a pilot, in which they require more information from the hospital. At least I knew this now and in my mind, this still wasn’t a no.

The beginning of last week was probably not one of the best ways to start the week off…my uncle passed away.  I received a flood of text messages from my family asking me to ring them back, and this was unusual for them. Though we weren’t very close, I was still upset. He was my uncle, and every time we made trips to Sri Lanka, he was always there.  I took a couple of days off work though weirdly enough, it felt like I wasn’t present most of the week. However we’re managing to carry on. I found it weird how every time my family asked if I was ok, I actually felt worse. I don’t know if that’s normal, maybe I just wanted some space for a bit.

This week almost feels like things are a little bit normal again. I’ve been trying to get on with things-marathon training (which I recommenced today), chasing jobs for the expedition, reading and establishing a routine again. Yes sometimes I like normal. Normal is trying to keep yourself busy and occupied with something, wanting to wake up in the morning to do it. Its important, it helps you get through the not so nice times, and it can help you feel a little less blah about yourself.

Live Your Life

As I head back to Leeds on the train again, I reflect on how I spent the last few days in my home city, London. I use train journeys as a golden opportunity to recollect the good memories we made at home. It’s always something I can come back to.

I hadn’t been at home in just over two months, and hadn’t seen my family since I did my exam. It was nice to actually spend a few days with them, not just a weekend. In addition to getting a hair cut, I took the opportunity to meet my cousins. A couple came over to see us and I met up with a close one in the city.

I always enjoy going to central London, and this trip was no different. I love the fact that it’s literally a 30 minute trip on the Underground to get there. I met my cousin at around 5pm in London Bridge, at a fresh Italian Pasta restaurant called Padella. Despite the early dinner and neither of us being particularly hungry, we somehow managed to consume 3 pasta dishes, a chocolate torte and a bottle of Prosecco between us! I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

After having our meal, we walked across the city centre. Starting at Borough Market, we made our way along the River Thames and passed many London landmarks-Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal National Theatre, London television centre, the London Eye, Sea life London Aquarium, Dungeons and Dragons, skateboarding sites, the list was endless. Streaks of sunlight were seeping through the clouds still, yet nobody was cold. Everybody looked happy and was in a good mood. We said our goodbyes on London Bridge at around 8.30pm and we went home our separate ways. My understanding is that the London terrorist attacks took place two hours later.

The following morning, after waking up to numerous Whatsapp messages to check people were safe, I went to a barbeque my sister was organising for me and my parents. We were joined by one of my old family friends who I hadn’t seen in almost a year, and her American cousin who I briefly met at my sister’s wedding. I won’t lie, I thought I had felt a little awkwardness between us, maybe because I hadn’t seen her in a long time or maybe because they were guests. However I think it settled…my sister showed us wedding videos (some of them I knew I’d seen before) and we chatted again like old times.

After the barbeque, we drove to my friend’s house where she was staying with her parents, whilst she was back in England. Her house always reminded me of happy childhood memories and the days we used to hang out there. Her cousin was a medical student and talked about the medical school system. He also invited me to come to America. Yay! My first American friend! It was even more lovely seeing her parents again. Her father is a retired GP and I had the utmost respect for him. He had a very good work ethic which my mother always talked about when I was younger, and I’d like to think  that he was proud of me. Hilariously he exclaimed, “ahh Chitra, you look like a 10 year old!”, and we had an energetic conversation. We talked about the hospitals I worked in and he was happy that I can do LPs, (lumbar punctures), stating “yes, you’re a doctor”.

I definitely enjoyed my time in London, I always do. I love trying to make time to see old friends and family, because I want to be reminded of my roots when I tend to forget them. This trip back to London will probably stick to me more, because of what happened in London Bridge. Last time I met up with my cousin was around Christmas time last year. We met up later in the evening and I came home later. What if we decided to meet up at a similar time this year? It’s almost terrifying to think that, and I did lay awake that night thinking about what could have happened.

My mum mentioned that I should stop going to central London often (as if I go often!), and brought up many a time, how I encouraged her to take trips there that very evening, before we heard the news. But really, should something like this stop us from carrying on with normal life? According to her, it almost felt like she believed that. Yes maybe I’ll be a little cautious, but I won’t be living in fear. We have a life to live and we should live it.

Song of the Month

It’s that time of the month…song of the month!

Incidentally, this song happens to follow on from my latest post. I’ve become a big fan of the rock band Halestorm and although I love all their songs, I wanted to share and reflect on this song. It talks about the importance of just being yourself, and for no one else. Listen to the lyrics, and maybe you can relate to it too. Enjoy!

I’m so Fancy

Over the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve been making more of an effort to dress up nicer. I thought to myself…why have I become influenced to do so?

I think one reason is that I have a little more time to myself. Somehow I make the time to dress better, though I wouldn’t describe myself as spending hours on it, that ain’t my style. I’ve noticed that on the days I put more effort, they just turn out better. This is because of my thought of that day:

‘Even if I have a bad day today, at least I looked good’

I’ve started to understand a sense of style I’d like to develop. I did some research into outfits, by mainly looking at how other women dress, and seeing if their clothes appeal to me. Then I try to imagine if their style suits me. I admit I don’t buy a lot of clothes often, actually rarely, maybe once in a few months. So when I do go shopping, I try to buy items which could resemble an outfit, and mix and match with some other clothes I have.

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Here’s one example of a style I like. Though I’m 5 ft 2 inches tall, these skinny jeans do make me look taller. I  have also learnt that for shorties like me, boots & a short skirt work well!

So that’s clothes sorted..what’s next?

Let’s go onto make up.

To be honest, I haven’t purchased much make up in the past few weeks, because I’m happy with what I’m using currently. My make up range is rather limited: moisturiser (if you can call that make up), eye liner and lipstick. Eye liner is a must. I rarely leave the house without it on. Because I usually wear glasses, I need something to bring out my eyes more. I’m also lucky to receive nice compliments about my eyes from others (my family always say I get them from my mum), so I do like to flaunt them a little. I went through a ‘lipstick phase’ a few months ago (not weeks), following my love of the American hard rock group Halestorm. I admire the lipstick shades of the lead singer Lzzy Hale, and I think that because she’s so iconic, I was further influenced to purchase some lipsticks of my own. I went for the MAC lipsticks: ‘Russian Rouge’ and ‘Mehr’. 

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It was this music video, ‘Familiar Taste of Poison’ that got to me. It’s rather ironic how I was influenced to buy the lipsticks, considering the storyline!

Shall we move onto hair?

A couple of things spring to mind. I recently invested in a clipless hair curling wand from Aria Beauty. I’ll be honest, this wasn’t planned. We were walking down the mall in the city centre, when a friendly Romanian lady approached us and asked if I wanted ‘something done’. I didn’t even know what it was at the time, she was talking very fast!

‘Come with me, I’ll do something for free! You won’t regret it, it’s free!’

I figured that whatever product she was selling wasn’t obviously free. She was however providing a free service of some sort. I just looked at my boyfriend who was next to me. She was really nice, and I found it hard to say no.  The curling wand was on discount and, well I’ve never had curly hair before. Her sales tactics worked.

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  End result!

Not only was I loving the new curls, but I now knew how to curl my hair, thanks to the saleswoman. Over the past few weeks, I also fantasised about highlights. These ranged in many colours: from blue (yes blue), to purple, to ‘copper red’. Having spent the past few days in London, I decided to make an appointment with the hair dressers in my home town. Whenever I get a hair cut, I like sort it out at home (even if it rains almost every time!).  Having said that though,  I haven’t had a haircut in almost two years, despite coming back to London several times, terrible!

In addition to getting a basic trim (I wasn’t looking into getting layers like I have done before), we discussed highlights. I learned that in order to get blues and purples, you need to bleach your hair. No, I didn’t know this. I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad (I need to do more research), but that term just horrified me! We then talked about copper red as an alternative and as a first timer, I nervously accepted this treatment. Despite some variation in my hair colour, it unfortunately didn’t fully stick, just because my hair is apparently too dark for it. The only way to get this colour highlight was to still bleach my hair. I’ll be honest I wasn’t that desperate, so we just stuck to the classic wash, cut and blow dry. No matter, lesson learnt.

Interestingly, it was my boyfriend who mentioned about getting hair extensions. I mean, if I was still interested in getting highlights, why don’t I try this? It’s quick and easy, and you can still keep your natural black hair. Yes I’ll be looking into this.

Last thing I promise! Nails.

Having migrated out of hospital posts, the dress code now tends to be less strict in the community. This gives me the perfect opportunity to have pretty nails! I had a select number of colours. This includes your standard classic red nail polish, your black one, and your gold and silver ones. The top coat nail polish is a must for that glossy shine…and if I’m not mistaken I think I can use my one as a base coat. Though I had a few others, I wanted to expand my range. I looked online and literally google searched ‘pretty nails’, to find a variety of colours and designs.

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Some of the more ‘simpler’ designs, yet very pretty. I take no credit for this google search image!

Following my research, I went to Superdrug and purchased some more nail polish of various colours, including some rather bold choices. This came to about £15 for 6 bottles, roughly equating to £2.50 per bottle. Maybe pricey, but considering that they will last me a long time, and I can now create a variety of designs, I think the price is right. (I also got more points to my Superdrug points card, always a bonus). Though I’m aware of the ‘silver accent nail’ , I hadn’t realised the importance of having white nail polish, which you can use to decorate your already painted nails! Yes this may seem incredibly simple, but it wasn’t something I had thought of, so I also bought some nail designers.

Is this another phase I’m going through? Yeah maybe. I don’t expect to spend hours on my nails but I think once in a while, its nice to pay attention to these.

Well I think I’ve finally come to the end! Do I usually blog about beauty products? Well no, never. This may in fact be my first time. I felt like writing about something a little different this time, even though this is also based on personal experiences. Remember, these changes were over a few weeks, and definitely not one after another. My beliefs have probably changed. I now believe that I should be putting more effort into how I dress. It’s how you present yourself to other people. I was narrow-minded and used to think that it was shallow to want to dress up better. I’ve realised now however, that wanting to look nice is normal.

Trivial Pursuit

How do you develop culture? How do you become that all-rounded person that knows the correct facts, just at the right time, and just enough to show off a little bit? (Maybe that’s your intention? Well it’s mine too!)

I suppose the first question is, what’s the point of being cultured? Why bother?

I think that being cultured is important, because not only is it a part of today’s society, but it’s nice to be educated about the world and it’s languages.  Though I’m not a historian nor an artist, it’s worth being well read in some history, and sustaining an appreciation of the arts. I also think that being cultured generally makes you a more interesting person!

I did some research, and there are many ways to become a cultured person!

I find that taking trips is one way of improving my knowledge of culture. You may remember a previous post of my trip to the British Museum, one in which I relished the culture. Recently we took a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the UK’s leading open-air gallery. It was my first time driving on the motorway (a ’30-minute each-way experience’, one I was both excited and a little nervous about!). The weather was beautiful and there were many sheep in the car park! It was quite possibly the perfect way to spend a spring day out.

Having walked almost 7km across the park and through the forests, I was able to appreciate the sculptures on display and the nature surrounding it. Yes many of the fields were covered by sheep and cows (and their poo!), where we were literally entering some farms to get across places. But that didn’t matter to us, that just made the exploring all the more fun! I think what made it sweeter was that the farm animals were just carrying on with their grazing and snoozing, in the beautiful sunshine.

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I’d like to think that these two are a couple 🙂

This was a day I definitely appreciated the history, art and culture. We could view works from both British and International artists, such as Henry Moore and  Ai WeiWei respectively. There was so much I didn’t know about art, and so much more I can now appreciate. We ended the visit by heading to the gift shop. Standard. My boyfriend bought the book ‘What’s so great about the Eiffel Tower? 70 questions that will change the way you think about architecture’. I’m looking into ordering the somewhat unconventional book ‘Burn after Writing’, a collection of some gentle probing life questions. The bookshelf had a version for teenagers only. I unfortunately am no longer a teen!

Do you recognise any works from Ai Weiwei? Henry Moore?

The trip inspired me to keep on broadening my culture horizons. Since coming back to London for a few days, for example, I’ve been reading through some of my dad’s UK citizenship books. It looks at British history and culture… it even tests us about William Shakespeare and Harry Potter! I decided that I will continue to take a keen interest on culture, to maybe make me, that all rounded person.

Swinging from the Chandelier

I used to dance. I did classical Indian dancing (something called Bharatanatyam) for almost 10 years, from the age of 6. Since then however, I hadn’t really danced much…maybe a special one now and then. 

More recently, I’ve tried to incorporate dancing again into my exercise regime. A couple of years ago, I came across the fitness trainer, motivator, choreographer and businessman Shaun T. I even bought a couple of his home fitness programmes- FOCUS T25 and CIZE. They, amongst other home fitness programmes worked wonders…I lost 7kg with T25!

I use CIZE more for fun really, to practice some dance moves and get in touch with my dancing roots again. The last routine in the DVD series is to the song ‘Chandelier’ by Sia. It probably is my favourite routine, because I feel so free when I dance to it. I saw this youtube video below of Shaun T dancing to it, and it blew my mind…

I thought just for fun, I’ll take a recording of me dancing to the very same song. I’m know I’m obviously not the best dancer, but for me it was about letting loose, and being free.

We are Family

I managed to accomplish another task on my list of things to do this year.…I passed my first GP exam 🙂 Having kept a close eye on the website (might I add all day), the results came through this evening, as I was naturally happy. It was a hard exam and I didn’t know which way it could go.

I got home and spoke to my family back home in London. Unfortunately, I received some strange responses:

“So you’re almost there now, you can be a lazy GP”

 “You can write out prescriptions, send out x-ray requests and patients to hospital, while drinking tea”.

Was I hurt? Well no at first. I was still trying to let everything sink in.  However after hanging up, I reflected on that conversation…why were they being so negative? Why did no one stand up for me? I couldn’t tell if they were being ‘haters’. Yet these are the same people who are constantly calling me up for informal advice.

A few days later, I brought up this conversation with my family, and how I didn’t appreciate some of the things they said. They apologised, and expressed that they were supposed to be jokes. Maybe it’s me, I heard it too often, and it sticks with you. I did forgive them however and we moved on. I haven’t told them about what else I’m trying to achieve in my list (point 4 to be exact). They don’t even know what’s coming.