Sunday, October 19, 2008

Andy Goes to Hamilton

Day 1 - Friday

This weekend was the 2008 Ontario Medical Student Weekend (OMSW), hosted by McMaster University. After lab on Friday, my friends and I headed for Union Station so we could catch the GO Train to Hamilton. The GO Train is a short-distance commuter train, and I had never taken it before.

The three guys I was rooming with and I bought our tickets from the teller and then went over to rejoin the rest of our group. We had just asked the teller for tickets to Hamilton, and had not specified the mode of transport. Glancing at our tickets, we saw in bold print "4:50 PM." Having checked the schedule earlier, we had also noticed that there was a bus leaving for Hamilton at 4:50 PM. When we checked our watches, we noted that the time was almost exactly 4:50 PM, which led my friend to exclaim, "Hey the bus is at 4:50! How are we going to make it?"

We rushed over to the rest of the group and I proclaimed worriedly, "Did you guys get 4:50? We got tickets for 4:50...!" Our friends looked at us quizzically, then replied with amusement, "That's the time you bought the ticket, you idiot." Confused, I looked down at the ticket again and in finer print along the bottom it read, "One-ride take trip within 4 hours of issuance." Okay, so I have no idea how GO Transit works... I got an earful about this incident the whole train ride to Hamilton.

The train ride was pretty neat except that our group got split up from each other in our rush to make it on board, and we ended up fragmented into three groups across the cars. GO Trains are double decker, so that was kind of fun for me. They're pretty comfy too considering tickets are $9... but I guess if you need to ride them twice a day, that's still quite pricey.

We arrived in Hamilton, checked into our hotel, and registered for OMSW. Then we decided to eat dinner. A couple of our friends were craving McDonald's, which was next door. However, on our way there, we ran into another friend who had actually studied at McMaster and he suggested another restaurant. The group quickly deferred to his experience.

We ended up eating at a Japanese slash Chinese restaurant. Most of us opted for the Japanese food, though a couple ordered dim sum dishes. The food was generally pretty bland and the dim sum came out tiny, shrivelled and dry looking (except for the cheong fun which were drenched in soy sauce and soggy). Overall, we non-Hamiltonians were not impressed. When we expressed this to those who had actually done their undergrad at McMaster, we were generally greeted with, "Really?" followed with assurances that this was one of the best places in Hamilton (not a great sign) and finally with, "Well, it's pretty good for Hamilton, isn't it?"

While I admit that sometimes I too have used the excuse, "Well it's Kingston..." when attending Queen's, particularly in relation to Chinese food, overall the food in Kingston is actually excellent. So I was a little bit disappointed with my limited Hamilton experience, Hamilton being a city many times the size of Kingston. However, a friend later informed me that Kingston itself is exceptional in having the highest restaurant density in Ontario, though I can't be sure of the veracity of these claims.

After dinner, the girls in our group came back and hung out at our hotel room for a bit before heading off to locate their own lodging and prepare, as girls do, for the night's festivities. Immediately after the girls set off, one of my friends started complaining about how lame the environment had become now that only us four guys were left. Personally, I thought it was a good guy bonding opportunity, but my friends didn't seem particularly interested.

We headed out for Koi Lounge, an atmospheric feeling restaurant/bar/club type scene. McMaster had arranged for four such venues to be open to OMSW attendees. It was a pretty nice place, but was soon packed in pretty tight. I spent some of the night talking to classmates (which was not optimal due to the loudness of our surroundings), getting shoved around by strangers, and having drinks spilled on me. The floor by the end of the night was completely and somewhat disgustingly adhesive. At this point, four guys in a club might have benefited from some girls, but my friends who had seemed rather at a loss without the girls in our hotel had oddly enough decided that we didn't need girls for the club. I couldn't help but feel this was somewhat of a backwards approach.

We did end up checking out two of the other venues: Sizzle and Diavolo. Sizzle was a really energetic clubbing venue. I've never actually been clubbing... so for me, seeing all these people shoved into the centre of a high walled room, with people looking down from an upper floor, and lights flashing and strobing all across the room was like something out of a movie. Unfortunately, not many our classmates had chosen this particular venue, which made it less attractive. Diavolo had more of an urban bar feel to it. It was more geared towards hip hop, with most of the clientele wearing baggy clothes and baseball caps with that punkish swagger and scowl that made it look like they were going to knife you at any second. We didn't stay there very long.

Day 2 - Saturday

Saturday was the OMSW conference proper. I had three workshops.

The first workshop was a lecture on Cultural Competency at 9:30 AM. Supposedly 30 people were registered for this workshop, but only 3 (including myself) showed up. The lecture itself was mildly interesting, but extremely vague and overall not very helpful.

The second workshop was on the ABC's of Vital Signs. This was relatively interesting as we learned about pulse and blood pressure. We had our chance to try taking blood pressure readings using a sphygomanometer, but I have to admit that I suck and will need lots of practice yet. The instructor for this workshop seemed very on top of things - he was a fellow, having done his medical and residency training at UofT.

My third workshop was on Dressing. We briefly went over how to dress a cleaned and sutured wound and then learned how to drain and treat an abscess (a local inflammation filled with pus, white blood cells, etc.) with an orange serving as our abscess. We anaesthetized, cleaned, opened, drained, flushed, and stuffed our orange abscess... but obviously, I didn't feel qualified to actually do so on a real abscess by the end. Still, it was certainly interesting. While doing the workshop, I couldn't help but think my patient had breast cancer, due to the peau d'orange (or orange peel-like skin) they were expressing.

In addition to the workshops, there were a number of speakers scheduled throughout the day. I caught one talk about private versus public health care as well as the keynote speaker on providing medicine abroad. While the topics were interesting, the talks were not particularly so, but they certainly helped to fill the time between workshops. There was also a pizza lunch, though the pizza was chronically missing (I could barely get my hands on a piece).

Lastly, there was an information fair where lots of different companies and organizations tried to get us to join up or buy their insurance, etc. There were some pretty neat handouts, including a reading light slash laser pointer that was short in supply and the envy of all who didn't get their hands on one. Apparently there were a number of draws for prizes too that I did not know about and hence did not sign up for. At one particular booth they had a bunch of spongy skeleton pieces that were supposed to be put into place like a jigsaw puzzle. I picked up and inserted a leg bone commenting to the friend beside me, "Hooray, I got the tibia." The person at the booth exclaimed, "Hey, good job!" I could tell from their voice that they were a little bit impressed that I knew the term "tibia" and I couldn't decide how I felt about that.

I left a bit early so that I could shower and get ready for the evening gala. The dinner and dance venue reminded me a lot of the locale for my high school prom, complete with picture slideshow (although since it was medical students only, virtually nobody had a date). The food and the deejay were quite good, and a bonus was that there was a live band opening up the night.

I picked up an interesting fact while I was at my table though. Apparently, because the fourth row in lecture where I sit is occupied almost exclusively by East Asians, we've earned ourselves a particular nickname, which is the "Great Wall" [of China]. I have decided to take this positively and actually remain pretty amused by it. It's kind of neat to be part of something so infamous.

I really enjoyed the dancing after the dinner, which was extremely packed but highly energetic. My friends are a lot of fun to dance with, despite the fact that a couple of our usual number had decided to skip out on the gala altogether and go home. I have to admit though that after the night of serious dancing, I went home today and spent a few minutes dancing in front of a mirror to try and determine if I had made a complete fool of myself the night before by letting myself cut loose.

After the dance my friends and I went back the hotel and played cards for about an hour before packing it up and sorting out what time we were planning to leave in the morning.

Day 3 - Sunday

Back to reality. We caught the 10:30 AM GO Bus back to Union Station, where I picked up a couple of Chicken McNuggets (fulfilling the McDonald's prerogative from Friday). Things felt a bit strange once I made it home (completely beat), and even though I didn't take a nap it really felt like I had been in Hamilton yesterday rather than earlier today. I guess travel can have that disorienting effect.

Now if you don't mind, I have to go back to watching anime studying for my Embryology exam next Monday.


Anonymous said...

"Immediately after the girls set off, one of my friends started complaining about how lame the environment had become now that only us four guys were left"

hey we did have some intense guy bonding... had our intimate guy-guy talk, shared our dreams for the opposite/same sex, along with all those moments of emotional upheaval... we'll never forget those 2 nights man...u know what i'm saying, brother?

"The floor by the end of the night was completely and somewhat disgustingly adhesive."

don't you just love it when some asses of unknown origin rub against you? the key is to either not think about, or fantasize something

"It was more geared towards hip hop, with most of the clientele wearing baggy clothes and baseball caps with that punkish swagger and scowl that made it look like they were going to knife you at any second."


janice said...

SORRY ABOUT THE DRINK SPILLAGE. glad you had fun overall.