Saturday, March 27, 2010

Berlin, Germany

Anyway, enough of that whinging. (Except to say: 6 days until I meet up with my sister, brother-in-law, and Mum in Paris!) I'm posting full photo albums on Facebook, but I thought I might select some favourites to post on my blog too.

I started my trip in Berlin. Disclaimers:
  • I'm really out of practice with my photography
  • I'm not very good at using Photoshop either (but I learn fast)
  • The sky was very grey in Berlin
  • I got snow and rain on my lens, and tried to clean it with a tissue, for God's sake. What an idiot!
With that out of the way, here are some photos:

East Side Gallery, a portion of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved for artwork

Brandenburg Gate

Quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate

Reichstag building

Inside the dome on top of the Reichstag building

Inside the dome

Victory Column

Schloss Charlottenburg from the front

Schloss Charlottenburg from the back

Brandenburg Gate at night

Next time: photos from St Petersburg...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I think I'm alone now

For the first part of this overseas holiday, I'm travelling through Eastern Europe by myself. It's only for three weeks, but I'm finding it to be quite challenging.

As I mentioned in this post last year, I'm comfortable with my own company. But there's something about travelling... I find I prefer to share the experience with at least one other person.

(Note: For once I'm not complaining about the lack of a "significant other" here. I'm talking about any travel companion - lover, friend, relative, whoever.)

For example, I find getting from the airport to my hotel to be quite stressful, especially in a non-English-speaking country. I've been emailing my hotels to get detailed public transport transfer instructions from them (so far, they've been brilliant), but instructions don't help when you're trying to carry a 20kg suitcase up a flight of stairs in the snow in Berlin, or cramming said suitcase into a packed trolley car and then dragging it through the snow/ice-covered streets in St Petersburg. After my traumatic St Petersburg experience (made worse by having to decipher Cyrillic characters), I've decided to stick to cabs unless I know the language and the commute is not too complicated (that leaves Paris and London).

Getting lost is part of travelling. I'm excellent at reading maps (I would KILL as navigator on The Amazing Race), but inevitably one ends up somewhere unexpected. I don't find this to be stressful, but it would be a more enjoyable experience if I could laugh about it with someone else, or bounce ideas off someone else. Meals are also more fun when shared.

It's very easy to be ignored when you're travelling alone. When I go on organised tours, I make sure to stick very close to the guide, and arrive early at meeting points, for fear of being left behind. (Yes, I'm aware that this may be overkill.) I'm currently in Krakow, Poland, and I had an experience at breakfast yesterday that bugged me. I walked into the room with the buffet set up, and one of the waitresses looked at me but didn't approach me, so I did the same as everyone else - grabbed some cereal, bread rolls, and a cuppa, and found somewhere to sit. I was thinking, "Geez, it's a bit of a dodgy buffet with no hot food", but then I looked around the room and noticed people eating bacon and eggs and other hot meals. A little later, a couple walked into the room - the waitress greeted them, marked their names off a list, and offered them a choice of hot breakfasts. What the hell? I called her over and mentioned that I'd been there for a while, and that I'd like to order my breakfast. I don't even like eggs that much, but I ordered scrambled eggs and toast, just for the sake of it. It really bugged me.

Obviously I don't really have the ideal personality for travelling alone. I don't want to stay in hostels, so I'm never going to meet people that way, and I'm not the type of person to just rock up to random bars and talk to strangers. That said, my intention for going on this holiday was never to meet new people. (If it happens, well and good, but I'll live if it doesn't.) I've got specific things I want to see and do in all the cities I'm visiting, and that's my main objective.

When you're alone you have a LOT of time to think about things, and to overthink things. For example, I sent one of my best friends an email over a week ago, updating her on my travels. I would have expected a response within one or two days, but I've heard nothing. What's going on? Did I say or do something to upset her? Is she OK? Surely I would've heard from someone else if something had happened. Maybe she's just busy? As you can see, it's easy to make mountains out of molehills. (It's also very difficult to cultivate a potential new relationship that inconveniently started just before I went away. Why didn't he answer my email? Did he see my DM on Twitter? What about that message on Facebook? Aaaaaghhhhh! The internet can be a blessing and a curse.)

The good thing about travelling alone is that I'm answerable to no-one. I can kick back in my hotel each evening, watching DVDs on my laptop or surfing the web (free internet was essential in every hotel I booked). I can get up when I want. I can have afternoon naps if I like. I can eat whenever/wherever/whatever I want, and no-one will know or care. I can wear whatever I like, and no-one will see me. It's like I'm invisible, which can be fun, but also demoralising at times.

Tonight I'm getting an overnight train from Krakow to Budapest. I'm a little bit nervous about it. Hopefully I can get some sleep and not get robbed. And hopefully the other people in my three-berth sleeper cabin are normal. Actually, hopefully the train won't be full and I'll have the sleeper cabin to myself.

So I'm counting down the days until I meet up with my sister, brother-in-law, and Mum in Paris (12 days to go). In the meantime I'm loving Skype, instant messaging, Facebook, email, and Twitter. And sleep. I'm loving sleep.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

After all that

Gosh, it's been aaaaages! Sorry about that.

In case you haven't worked it out, yes, after all the trials and tribulations of the past four years, I've finished uni and I'm now officially Doctor KT. What the what??

I completed the last part of med school from mid-January to early March. It's called Pre-Internship (PRINT), and basically we're supposed to do all the things an intern does, without being paid for it. The term went for seven weeks, plus one week of Dermatology (the less said about that, the better). I was placed on the Haematology ward, and I loved it!

All the staff were fantastic; from the ward clerk to the nurses to the allied health regulars to the doctors, they made me feel like part of the team. I got to do plenty of procedures and help out with the other (more boring) parts of the job, like calling for consults, organising scans, and writing discharge summaries. My resident and registrar were awesome, and by the end of my term we had a great rhythm going for ward rounds and jobs post-rounds. They were very encouraging of me and made me feel like I was going to be OK at this job after all.

The only bummer about the rotation was the other PRINT student allocated to the same ward. I've known him and have unfortunately spent a lot of time with him over the past four years, and he was insufferable during this term. Without going into details, he was an arrogant, incompetent tool. And he has no insight, so he had no idea how much everyone on the ward couldn't stand him. (Huge irony = he wants to be a psychiatrist). The other staff tried to draw me into bitching about him, but I tried to stay professional and let them rant to me without ranting back at them (believe me, once I started ranting, it was hard to stop!). The good thing was that he made me look amazing in comparison.

So while I was at the hospital every day, during the evenings I was packing up my house, planning and booking my overseas holiday, and working (of course).

I moved out in the last week of February, stored my stuff in a friend's garage, and stayed with some other friends for my last week of uni. Those friends offered to throw a massive party for me on my last day. It was brilliant! Even though it rained, we had a great time. My friends were so excited for me; it was quite overwhelming. I kept saying, "It's not a big deal, it's just a job", but I guess I've given up a lot to get to this point, and my friends recognise that. I have great friends. :)

Now I'm on my 7-week overseas holiday. Here's the itinerary:
  • London (staying with my sister and her husband)

  • Berlin (travelling alone until I get to Paris)

  • St Petersburg

  • Krakow (including Auschwitz)

  • Budapest

  • Prague

  • Ljubljana and Lake Bled (Slovenia)

  • Paris (meeting my Mum, sister, and brother-in-law for Easter)

  • Northern France (driving for a week with my sister)

  • Paris (alone again, for a week in an apartment)

  • London (staying with my sister and brother-in-law again)

  • Sydney!

This post is coming to you from St Petersburg, which is beautiful and covered in snow! I'm hoping to get a chance to do a few blog posts about my travels over the next few weeks. Yay to free internet in hotels, not to mention free wireless in caf├ęs and airports!

I get back to Sydney at the end of April, and then I need to find somewhere to live in Wollongong during May, and then start work in early June. Very exciting!

Once I start work, I'm not sure what I'll do with this blog. I'll have to see how motivated I am to keep posting...