Back in Ottawa!

May 03, 2016

You know you’re back in Canada when…

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Bagels, timbits, and Tim Horton’s coffee – who doesn’t make a pit stop as soon as your plane lands? We certainly did once we arrived in Toronto! Landed in Ottawa and was so incredibly happy to be greeted not only by my mom and brother, but also my grandparents and my Uncle 2 (Cau Hai)! Despite how late it was (midnight!) they insisted on a meal – so we ended up at Pho Ba Ga La in Chinatown!

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I’ve never been out so late with my grandparents! 😉

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It was a good time with the family, but you know me, no Vietnamese restaurant beats homemade food and I still stand by it!

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Thank you to my wonderful family – so happy to be back in Canada!

In case you were wondering where Michael’s family was – they live in Kingston so it’s a drive to Ottawa! Since Michael was planning on staying in Ottawa for the coming couple of weeks for wedding planning, it made sense for them not to drive up but we would see them soon!

Experiencing my first donair from KoD

For years, I have been told that donairs are amazing and that I must try them. Hailing from Ottawa, I wonder how anything could compare to the glorious shawarma 😛 Well finally, I had the chance to judge for myself!

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Mike and I stopped by King of Donair for my first taste. It was completely empty, despite being the best in Halifax! 😛

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We ordered a regular donair with donair meat, onions, tomatoes, and donair sauce. First impression – certainly does not look appealing, and could use some more veggies! However, it was pretty tasty.

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The donair sauce is sweet (garlic, condensed milk, sugar, vinegar – from what I tasted) and addictive, I can see why it’s unique! However, donair meat is such a mystery… to the point that it looks quite unappealing from a health point of view. I wish I knew exactly what meats/cuts I was eating. Otherwise, although Michael said the quality of these donairs were acceptable, from his years of living in Halifax, I found them tasty and I would definitely have it again!

We also ordered a side of donair egg rolls, which were simply egg rolls stuffed with donair meat, and accompanied by a side of donair sauce. What could possibly go wrong with deep fried goodness? 😛

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Completely different than a shawarma, but I will definitely be missing donairs when I’m back in Brisbane!

King of Donair on Urbanspoon

Good times in Halifax

Mike gave me a lovely surprise when he picked me up at the airport in Halifax on the evening of August 16th. I was expecting to go back to Matt & Laura’s – where he had been staying and where I would be staying for the month. Instead, he took me to Holiday Inn Habourview for an evening together with just the 2 of us. After weeks of being apart, it was so nice to spend time with just him.  We even went fancy and had McDonald’s for late dinner 😛 Here’s the view from our balcony, from Dartmouth looking over at Halifax.

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The following morning, Matt was kind enough to come and bring us back to his place. Shortly after, while they were out visiting family, Mike and I went for a drink at Lion & Bright on Agricola St.

Loved the atmosphere! High ceilings with communal and private tables, even work stations. On one side, it is a cafe but come evening, it blends perfectly to a wine bar/restaurant.

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We snacked on maple chili popcorn, which was an interesting combination, and enjoyed a glass of red. Unfortunately, they don’t have a drinks menu online and we can’t remember what we had off the top of our head – it was good wine though!

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Unfortunately, the weekend was short lived and Michael soon had to head off for his elective in Bridgewater, leaving me in Halifax. Luckily, I was never truly alone as I stayed with Matt & Laura! 🙂 I definitely worked hard and long hours in hospital during the weekdays, but weekends were always full of fun!

Here are some weekend highlights. Many of them will have their own separate post, so stay tuned!

August 22 – 24

  • Dinner at the Brooklyn Warehouse with my love
  • Spending time with Bill and Nina’s family on their farm in New Germany and even sneaking in some photography! Matt & Laura come down as well, enjoyed a yummy dinner of Banh Mi.

August 29 – Sept 1 (Labour Day long weekend)

  • Had my first donair at King of Donair! According to Mike, the quality was merely acceptable but I could definitely see the appeal! That sweet sauce is pretty addictive!
  • Party at Mike & Christine’s on Friday! Lots to celebrate, but especially Christine soon starting on a new journey in becoming a Registered Nurse! Got to meet so many of their lovely friends and shared so many laughs.
  • Camping on Saturday with Mike, Christine & Stella, as well as Mike’s cousin Nathan, his wife Lisa and their daughter Amy at Kejimkujik Park. My first time experiencing camping with canoes and portaging!
  • Yummy pizza at 2 Papa’s Pizza & Donairs in New Germany on the way back from camping
  • More time with Bill, Nina and the kids! Even got a taste of Bill’s cooking – Okonomiyaki!
  • Visited Dan & Leigh Anne at their home and had a wonderful dinner! My first time having chili (vegetarian), mmm! So happy for the chance to catch up with them, but especially Leigh Anne who was around 38 weeks pregnant and ready to be holding her son in her arms!

Sept 5 – 7

  • BBQ at Matt and Laura’s on Friday, which I almost missed because we were so busy, I didn’t get out of the hospital until 8:30pm 😛
  • Breakfast on Saturday at The Armview with Matt, Isabelle, Ian and his pregnant wife Sarah! Also had the chance to see Al (as he works at the restaurant), which was great!
  • Breakfast was followed by shopping with Mike in Dartmouth! Stocked up on some clinical clothing for good prices!
  • We spent the evening at Dan and Natalie’s, catching up and then went for a delicious Korean dinner at Seoul.
  • Sunday was pretty exciting. We went on a Food truck adventure! That’s code for we just ate, all day. It was spectacular.

Sept 10

  • Bill drove Mike into the city on Wednesday as we had our exam the following day. Couldn’t leave without one last meal together. I have never been a fan of raw oysters (and I’ve tried numerous times). I finally had the first ‘delicious’ oyster at The Five Fishermen! This was followed by Japanese dinner at Dharma Sushi.

Sept 11

  • Finished our Medical Specialties exam Thursday afternoon! It was not as bad as we anticipated, although still awaiting results. We celebrated that evening, dinner at Agricola Street Brasserie with Matt, Laura, Isabelle, Ian and Sarah!

Sept 12

  • Our last night in Halifax. We had a wonderful time with Matt & Laura, Will, Dan (Leigh Anne was resting at home), Mike & Tina, and Ian & Sarah – BBQ, catch ups and a good game of Cards Against Humanity

I had an amazing time in Halifax, thank you for everyone’s time and hospitality! ❀

MCCEE in Sydney

May 05, 2014

If you are a regular reader, you might remember that since the beginning of this year, I had been studying for the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam, more commonly referred to as the MCCEE.

As a Canadian studying to be a doctor in Australia, writing the MCCEE is the first of a few steps if I ever want to complete a residency (training after graduating) back home.

I flew down from Brisbane to Sydney the day before to write my exam on May 5, 2014 from 9am to 1pm at ITIC PTY LTD LEVEL 3, 321 Pitt St. It is only a few minutes walk away from Museum train station and therefore easily accessible.

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Note: I’m going to be a little detailed with my experience, in case it can help anyone feel a little more comfortable going into their exam. 🙂

What did I bring?

I brought 2 pieces of ID, although they only looked at one, and my test confirmation email. Make sure that the name on your ID matches the name you registered with! I definitely wore a jacket in case it got cold and brought snacks and a bottled drink. There was water provided at my test centre. I also had other belongings with me like a purse, watch, study material, which was fine but must be locked up and access to them is not allowed during the duration of the test.

What was my experience like?

The test centre in Sydney, like all the others I assume, is very straight forward. You sign in and are given a key to store your belongings in a locker and taken to a separate testing area. You are not allowed to bring anything into the testing room except your ID and your key but you are allowed to have access to your locker during breaks. You will be seated at one of the cubicles where you have access to a computer, some paper and pencils to take note, and some headphones to drown out noise. The room I was in was small, approximately 5 cubicles, and got very warm – good thing there was a standing fan.

The computer is set up for you once you’re seated and you first have a 10 minute tutorial on how to navigate the exam (ie. moving through questions, how to highlight/strike out, how to mark questions for review, etc).

The exam is 4 hours long, which begins when you hit start and the first question is loaded. During these 4 hours, there are no scheduled breaks, however, you may take them whenever you want, for however long you want, it is up to you. The timer never stops, so your breaks are part of the allotted 4 hours. I have to say, 4 hours is plenty of time for this exam. After completing all the questions, I signed out for a break to go to the bathroom and to have a snack before going back in to review my questions, and still finished the exam with around half an hour to spare.

If you leave for breaks, you must sign in and out each time.

How was the actual exam?

The test consists of 180 questions total, however, only 150 of them are actually counted towards your score. The other 30 questions are used for quality control or even to test out newly developed questions. The questions revolve around the following 5 subjects: Child Health, Maternal Health, Adult Health, Mental Health, and Population Health and Ethics. Yes, I did find the distribution of questions equal amongst all topics. 

You don’t have to be concerned about knowing normal values or ranges. Any number given to you will be followed by the normal range in brackets, so you don’t even need to open a separate page. There were a few questions with images, which were displayed for you on the screen and the quality was completely fine to answer the question.

Unfortunately, I can’t give examples of questions but I did find all the questions to be fair, there were no impossible questions. The ones I struggled with, it was because I didn’t cover that topic enough during my studying, not because it was overly difficult.

The time passed quickly, although I never felt rushed and completed the questions at a steady pace. The relief and happiness after completing the exam is great, although I always find it hard to gauge how well I did on standardised exams. It takes about 2 months to receive your mark, so I have a long way to go!

What did I use to prepare for this exam?

I used mostly CanadaQBank questions and supplemented whatever question/topic not adequately explained with additional reading. I started ‘studying’ in January, however, with 2 busy rotations (Paediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynaecology), I simply did not have time to read additional textbooks. I found the CanadaQBank questions to be very representative of the MCCEE, both in terms of question style as well level of knowledge and difficulty – with even a few extremely similar questions on the actual exam.

CanadaQBank had a total of 3868 questions, of which I did approximately 80%. I didn’t have enough time to prepare for this exam as well as I would have wanted, but it is definitely possible to complete all questions multiple times if you have a good study schedule.

I also tried some USMLEWorld Step 2CK questions but stopped because the style was too different than the MCCEE. You will not have such long stems and style of question on the MCCEE.

Fees?

The cost of the exam is $1695 USD along with the expenses of flying down to Sydney, food and accommodation. It’s not a cheap exam and I suggest to be fully committed to passing it if you are going to write it. I had initially scheduled to write my MCCEE on February 28, 2014 with Michael in Melbourne. However, at the last minute I rescheduled it to May 5th ($50 USD fee) because I felt underprepared and uncomfortable with the possible notion of failing. Looking back now, with an extra 2 months, I did not get much additional studying done and probably would’ve performed similarly if I had written it earlier.

What next?

The next step is to complete the NAC OSCE… which I am not planning to complete anytime this year, so I will save that for a future post. 😉

Phew, long post! Thanks for reading if you are still here and of course, feel free to ask any questions! All the best if you are studying for your MCCEE!

AYCE buffet at Eclipse Asian Cuisine

December 16, 2013

At my mum’s friend’s recommendation, our family decided to have AYCE buffet lunch at Eclipse Asian Cuisine.

A reasonable, $12.95/person + tax/tip for weekday lunch.

Our first impression of Eclipse was, “Holy, heavy doors!” But we did appreciate the eclipse decor pattern on the glass.

Joking aside, the restaurant is large with 2 main seating areas, offering both tables and booths. We were greeted at the door and immediately shown to a booth. Recommendation: hooks by the booths to hang up coats!

The decor is nice and tasteful with wood and brown furniture against purple walls with circular white and yellow accents.

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We arrived shortly after 11:30am for lunch so it was not surprising that there were only a few other patrons in the restaurant. However, there was a steady flow of diners as we headed into lunch hours.

Before grabbing food, I walked around to take a look at all the dishes available and take a few pictures. I was quite taken aback when an employee, I assume the manager/owner as he was in a dress shirt and tie, saw me and harshly asked, “Why are you taking pictures?!” When I replied that I like to blog and was planning to write a review, and asked if taking pictures would be okay, he gave a curt nod of his head and walked away. Isn’t it easier to be friendly?

Anyway, I quite liked the set up of the food. A symmetrical, semi-circular area with an island at the centre and 2 smaller areas off to each side.

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The presentation of the food was elegant, smaller portions cleanly plated on white square dishes. However, I believe this also allowed the dishes to cool a little quickly.

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There are many meat dishes (vegetarians will have a hard time here) and a number of seafood ones to choose from. Many of the classics (dumplings, General Tao’s chicken, egg rolls, stir-fries, etc) are available along with a selection of sushi, salads, soups, and desserts.

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Hungry for food!

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I found my mum’s side profile funny

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My plate. Trying to get a bite of many dishes…

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Unfortunately, my tiny, sesame ball with red bean filling was still raw on the inside.

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And 2 of us had big chunks of fat in one of our pork dishes, not a fan. Fat is the closest piece, pork behind it.

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Overall, the food and selection is good. Of course, the variety doesn’t match Emerald Buffet, but Eclipse still offers something for everyone in a nicer environment. Some dishes are cooked and taste better than others. I especially liked the salmon Teriyaki and salt and pepper shrimp. The sushi is decent, although if you are looking for sushi, I would definitely recommend going down the street for AYCE at Sushi Kan.

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Desserts were definitely disappointing, with a small selection of fruits, jello, ice cream and pre-bought desserts. Unfortunately, many pastries/cakes were dry as they are left open to the air. Would’ve loved to see some Asian desserts as well!

With reasonable prices and food, I’m sure we will find ourselves back when craving Chinese buffet!

Eclipse Asian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

No excuse for not blogging!

Hi friends!

Yes, I have no excuse for not blogging, I am on vacation after all!

How is everyone doing? Getting excited for the holidays yet?

For once, I am (mostly) on top of Christmas preparations! That even includes putting up the Christmas tree by myself at the beginning of December, yay! Not to mention all my presents have been wrapped… which normally never happens until the night of the 23rd or 24th.

Here are a few scattered moments since my last blog post:

Remember when I said I was digitizing all our old photos? Well, I finished! But I have not yet organised them T_T

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Mum made delicious guacamole!

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Got the tree up and this was my first present wrapped!

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Grilled cheese on a panini grill

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Snacking

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Made some macarons with the bro. They were successful in that they had feet, but failed in smoothness and texture – overbaked and way too crispy! We’ll try again soon…

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One of my favourite fruit snacks – pineapple with salt and pepper, yummy!

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Don’t know what made my mom think this would be good – smoked oysters (from China) in a can by Clover. Needless to say, she tasted one and didn’t get further.

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A little bit of a lot going on in this photo

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It snowed so hard on Dec 15! 😩

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Which was also the day my sister came home for the holidays from Vancouver. Thank god my uncle (Cau Hai) drove us to pick her up… or we would’ve died on the road.

The flight was, of course, delayed. Our poor grandparents had to chill at the airport until close to 3am when Jenni finally arrived!

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December 16 – day after my sister came home. And Michael came up, finally! ❀ We went to see the Ottawa Senators vs St Louis Blues hockey game at the Canadian Tire Centre!

My sister, the biggest Toronto Maple Leafs fan… forced to wear a Sens jersey

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One of the most exciting games I’ve been to with the winning goal scored by Ceci in the last minute of overtime, yay! Note: I dislike hockey and have not watched many games in person.

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My brother “studying” before we left for the game.

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December 17 – breakfast with mum at Cora’s before driving her to work! Cora’s food was a disappointment, this is my 4th or 5th time going and it just… never wins me over.

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And homemade jajangmyun (Korean noodles with black bean sauce) that night! Mmm!

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Of course, Michael couldn’t visit Ottawa without having lunch at Play! Love the current menu options, although they have since increased the pricefrom 2 plates for $20 last year to $22. Still a great deal though!

Started off with house bread and frites with aioli sauce.

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Our first plates. beef laab / hoisin / jalapeño / daikon / romaine / ginger for Michael. So fragrant and delicious! Great contrast of flavours and textures, definitely a favourite.

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I enjoyed the pappardelle / chorizo / duck / celeriac / winter squash / shallot. Also very tasty! The pappardelle (broad pasta noodles) was cooked just with with really nice flavours but way too oily for me.

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Onto our second plates! rabbit meatballs / pork / cornbread / eggplant agrodolce for Mike. Tender and moist meatballs against fluffly cornbread made for a very hearty meal.

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I chose the pork belly/edamame/Thai sauce/apricot/red bell pepper/onion. The flavours danced across my tongue… easily our favourite dish of the day! Crispy pork belly on a bed of wonderful delights with a good amount of heat. Unfortunately, the sauce in this dish was too oily, which was worse than my pappardelle because the pork belly is already so fatty. Still a delight though!

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And finally, guess who!

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Back home in Ottawa!

Hello friends!

I just wanted to check in to say I have safely been back home, in Ottawa, since early Wednesday morning! 😀

Please be patient with my lack of blogging, I have been terrible, I know. But I assure you once I’m a little less busy and also not using my free time during the day to nap, I will update you on lots!

Love!

Guess who got their N95 mask fitting?

We did!

Glad we got this done during the break because it would have been hard to get it done during business hours while on rotation again.

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What am I talking about?

From the FDA website: An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. In addition to blocking splashes, sprays and large droplets, the respirator is also designed to prevent the wearer from breathing in very small particles that may be in the air.

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Why did we have an N95 mask fitting done? Because it’s one of compulsory requirements for medical electives back in Canada. 🙂 As they come in different sizes, it is important to have a fitting done in order to know which one to use if they’re ever needed. If fitted properly, they can filter a minimum 95% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger. We got to keep our 2 masks for reference/practice purposes. Let me tell you, it is not comfortable wearing a mask!

For any of our friends who need to get it done in Brisbane:

Contact Brian or Terry (Occupational Hygiene Advisers) at the Occupational Health & Safety office on St Lucia campus! You can get their contact information HERE.

Jack Layton’s last letter to Canadians, a most moving document

Jack Layton (1950-2011), you will be forever remembered by countless Canadians for your actions and your words.

For me, I will especially remember the last thoughts you shared with all of us. Even though you were so ill, you spent some of your last moments addressing the nation in entirely positive words.

I hope that one day, when I am near the end, I will be able to show the same hope, courage, support, and love for the world as you have done.

Until then, you leave me with your last inspiration:

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

CLICK HERE TO READ JACK LAYTON’S LETTER