The Hong Kong (Mis)Adventure

Assalamualaikum my dear readers,

Alhamdulillah, after passing my CASC exam, I had received a lot of inquiries for tips on how  to pass the CASC exam. And the answer is….

…..I really don’t know. Haha. Really!

Because there were certainly a lot more candidates who were much better than me but did not make it anyway. I have several practice buddies for CASC exam, locally in Alor Setar as well as in other places and let me tell you, sometimes who ended up passing and who didn’t make it surprised me too. Some who I personally know are so good, did not make it. Some who I feel are okay (not excellent, not bad, but average) made it.

This is a real puzzle for me when it comes to CASC. (In paper A and paper B … it is different. If you study, if you know what you know… and if you answer the questions based on what you have studied… chances are you will make it. The outcome largely depends on YOU yourself, and of course, also by the will of Allah).  We have had some candidates who were very good… some of them were so motivated that they took BOTH the master pathway and the parallel MRCPsych pathway. Some of those who made it in the master pathway with no record of failure during their master exams had to sit for CASC 3-4 times before they finally passed. So please don’t think that the MRCPsych exam is easier than the master exam. It isn’t. Likewise, I also don’t think the master exam is easier than the MRCPsych exam. They have different criteria and system in grading their candidates and regardless of which pathway you choose, you must find ways to beat the system in order to pass. It’s like playing two games with different rules. You cannot expect to win in one game by using the strategy employed in another different game. Get it? Even though I made it with CASC, but who knows whether I would pass if I took the master exam instead.  So, kudos to those who took BOTH exams… you guys are really awesome!

You see, I am the sort of person who has a very internal locus of control (and this is not necessarily good, either). I believe that, Insya Allah, your success in life depends on you MOSTLY… with some minor external factors minimally influencing the outcome. But I must admit that when it comes to CASC… my locus of control really shifted. Big time!*LOL*. Because I could not explain how come some outstanding and experienced candidates from other countries who are already a consultant in their own countries could not make it in CASC. It really puzzled me.

And I put it down to rezeki and fate. At the end of the day, it really is!

Just pray HARD for a miracle…. for things to go smoothly for you during the exam. Just pray HARD for a miracle… for you to be struck by an epiphany of wisdom while performing your task in the CASC station. Just pray HARD for a miracle… for the examiner to suddenly perceive you as outstanding, nice, likeable yadda yadda yadda.

My Chinese friend Dr. C was my study and travel buddy for this Hong Kong CASC, and had been a witness to my 5 prayers per day routine while travelling. Like me, she had an attack of post-exam anxiety after we went out of the exam hall (because the exam was a bloodbath of trickeries and ambiguities in how they set the task in each station, I tell you!). So she started to say “I think I will go to Temple while waiting for my CASC result”. *LOL*. And another friend of mine teased her by saying “Oh, only now you remember God, is it?” *LOL* (Muslims pray as an act of worship, 5 times a day. We do not necessarily pray for something specific while worshipping. Even if we had perceived ourselves as sufficient in everything, we would still pray 5 times a day for the purpose of worship. God is to be worshipped…. not only when you need something from Him but especially when you don’t. It shows sincerity when you worship Him anyway even when you are already satisfied with whatever He has given you. But yes, even Muslims would pray much harder and more frequently during exams. I am guilty of that too…Haha. May Allah forgive us for whatever conflict of interests is going on in our mind while worshipping Him. And may Allah guide us to worship Him with better sincerity in the future. Well, just to clear that up.)

This shows how very MUCH the candidates’ locus of control would shift when it comes to CASC. Those who don’t pray would suddenly feel like they should visit the temple, LOL. And those who don’t believe in any deity would suddenly invoke the name of God they don’t really believe in.

And me? I just pray even harder.

25 candidates were successful at the MRCPsych CASC Examination in Hong Kong held in October 2019. A total of 46 candidates sat the examination. So, the overall Pass Rate is 54.3%

All in all, I had passed 14 stations out of 16 stations. The passing mark was set at 63.7%. And Alhamdulillah, I obtained 70.8% in the exam. That is the miracle I was praying so hard for and I am so grateful that Allah had granted it for me. Allah has been Most Beneficient and Most Merciful towards me for granting me this happiness. And trust me, dear CASC candidates out there… just do your best and pray hard! Ask your parents and loved ones to pray for you too. Pray for each other. And Insya Allah, you will make it. (And just some tips… it is better to do your CASC in the UK straightaway. Invest a bit more money and just get it done once.)

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Alhamdulillah… it is official!
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The morning CASC stations results
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The PM CASC station results

 

But let me tell you, my dear readers, there were a lot of misadventures that I had to go through before Allah gifted me with this happiness. As my sisters would know, I had created a hashtag #RanjauSepanjangJalan to describe my Hong Kong CASC Journey. Haha (So, if you think you are going through a hard time now, the harshest of storm precedes the appearance of the clearest sky. Have faith… your turn for happiness will come, my fellow comrades. It is just a matter of time. Believe it… and PRAY HARD!)

Want to know why #RanjauSepanjangJalan was chosen as my hashtag in describing my CASC journey in Hong Kong? Hahaha. It is a quite funny story, but it is not at all informative or illuminating in any way. So you guys can skip reading the contents below and do something more productive with your time (seriously… be more productive). I am just writing them as a personal record for myself, and if it benefits you, well and good. And if it doesn’t, well, you have been warned.

***

#RanjauSepanjangJalan: The Novel

My dear readers, are you familiar with Shahnon Ahmad’s literary work entitled Ranjang Sepanjang Jalan? Shahnon Ahmad was a Sasterawan Negara, as you guys probably know. (He was also famous as the writer of SHIT, around the era of Malaysian political turmoil in 1998.) When I was doing my IB studies, I had to do a literary analysis of Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan as part of my IB syllabus.

It was the most boring (but thought provoking) ordeal I had  to do as an IB student. Sorry Mr. Shahnon Ahmad…. I didn’t really enjoy reading your book at that time. I have always been an optimistic person and this book did not celebrate my values of ‘hard work begets success’. So, I positively hated it! I am the ‘happy-ending’ kind of person. I personally feel, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending (sure you can die in real life… but you still have the hereafter to look forward to where great things can happen and you get to enter paradise. Yes bad things like divorce can happen…. but it is not yet an ending. You can go on with your life and attain more success with or without your spouse! Nothing bad in your life is an ending! You decide, with  the help of Allah, to make the most out of  your life). In my books, good MUST prevail. It MUST! And I am quite rigid and autistic about it, LOL. Hard work must be rewarded! Struggle must end with success. Those are my values and I would NOT read any fiction that does NOT celebrate my values.

Unless it is an academic reading. And so, I had to do it. *LOL*

SYNOPSIS (my version)

Till the end of the book, the family of Lahuma and Jeha with their seven kids were filled with one trial after another. They were a family of paddy planters during the 1960s, which was around the time when the Malaysian government encouraged farmers to make use of modern farming techniques. But Lahuma and his family were persistent in using the traditional method of farming even though they hardly made ends meet. Lahuma passed away in the middle of the book from busung (can you believe it? Busung is like ascites, right? I could not remember Shahnon Ahmad describing the cause of the busung), leaving Jeha as the sole breadwinner to the seven kids. Jeha had some sort of mental disorder  (not properly described and thus, I could not come up with a diagnosis. Most likely, Schizophrenia) due to the stress of the trials that she had to go through after Lahuma passed away. There was one time when Jeha was traumatized by an encounter she had with a SNAKE ‘ular tedung selar’ at the paddy field (the snake is the decisive factor of why I choose my hashtag, LOL).  Jeha was even committed to Tanjung Rambutan at one point. It was so depressing and there was no happy ending!

Have I said that I hated it? So, I am saying it again. I hated it! Hahah

But Alhamdulillah, my version of #RanjauSepanjangJalan had a happy ending. Haha.

***

#RanjauSepanjangJalan: My MRCPsych Casc Hong Kong Story

Let me enumerate all my ordeals in a chronological order (because INTJs LOVE logical order):

Ranjau No 1: The Hong Kong riot

My two friends and I had already planned to take our CASC exam in Hong Kong in October even though we knew that there would also be one CASC exam in  the UK in September. The reason was financial in nature. I could not afford to go to the UK for my exam with the savings that I had at that time.

So I decided to do my CASC exam in Hong Kong. Even though I knew that there was a political turmoil going on in Hong Kong at that time (between the Hong Kong freedom fighters and the Hong Kong government who is subservient to the China mainland leadership; and it is still ongoing until now), I was hoping that the political upheaval would settle down by the time I would be going for the exam (yup, sometimes I am too unrealistically optimistic and it can be a bad thing. Haha).

Sadly, I was mistaken.

So some had advised me to cancel my plans to go to Hong Kong. But I had already paid for everything! So, I just decided to trust fate and go for it. In my mind, I was like “I can die anywhere. No one can escape death, right? You can die while you are in bed because your time on earth is up! So just go and hope for the best.” 

Some had suggested that I should just ask my parents for money to go to the UK. But I have never been the sort to do that. I was not brought up freely asking parents for money for non-necessities (and exam is not a necessity! I grew up during an economic downturn in 1997/1998 and I knew the value of money. I didn’t simply ask my parents for money as a child and I won’t do it as an adult). I used my own savings for all my exams… and if my parents wanted to sponsor anything, they freely offered it to me without me ever asking. I am an adult and I do not want to rely on their money. I made it a point to only spend on what I could afford myself (because I tak suka berhutang… even for credit cards)… but if they want to give me some money as a show of support for me, I will take it. But I don’t want to need it. It is a matter of pride and principle for me that even without their money, I could still take the exam with whatever I could afford myself. If I couldn’t afford something myself, I should simply adjust my needs and wishes according to priority.

I knew I could afford Hong Kong. And I knew I could not afford UK. It was a pretty straightforward decision, in my mind. My parents did offer to sponsor my flight ticket and hotel rooms … but by that time I had already paid for everything. Their money came as an extra I could replenish my bank account with. (Thank you, Mamita. You are awesome!)

So decisions had been made… and every day, my two study buddies and myself followed the news in Hong Kong, hoping things would settle down. But the situation persists until now.

Below is the picture of the Hong Kong police on standby in the MRT, preparing to deal with the riots. So yup, the Hong Kong riot was my first #Ranjau.

My Macbook screen cracked 

Just one month before my exam, my Macbook screen was somehow cracked and I could no longer use my Macbook to study. Unfortunately, all my notes and CASC videos were in my Macbook.

It was so stressful.

I checked the Swift store for the price of repairing or replacing the Macbook screen. I was heartbroken to find out that the cost was RM2100. That is almost the cost of a new Macbook.

At that time, I had just spent a large amount of money paying for my CASC exam, my flight tickets, and my hotel room and I had put aside some money for my expenses in Hong Kong. I could not justify spending more money that I didn’t have to repair my Macbook. There was an option of using my credit card… but like I said, I don’t like to do it. I am uncomfortable with unnecessary debts. I felt like perhaps, I could still study even without my laptop.

So I downloaded all the CASC videos into my mobile device (google drive app) and I just printed out my SPMM notes so that I could study without my laptop. The most amazing thing happened, my dear readers. I could focus better without my laptop to distract me. With my laptop, I tend to use more You Tube/ Netflix and social media. My brain no longer associated the usage of laptop for pure studying. Instead one can argue that laptop is now used more for entertainment than studying per se. Haha.

So without my laptop, I got more things done, Alhamdulillah. Sometimes Allah’s help comes in the form of calamity and we are without wisdom to know the reason behind what has happened. So trust Allah and do your best. Plan with what you have. It will never be ideal. If you can afford it, go ahead and buy a good laptop to help you study. But if you can’t, make the best of what you have. No one can say for sure that you would not succeed just because you lack certain material comforts. Just do your best with what you already have and pray that it would be enough. Remember that when things are difficult, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending, ok?

URTI at the start of my study leave

You know, I am very bad at being sick. I would be so lethargic and would only stay in bed during weekends. When I go to work while having URTI, my friends can actually notice that I seem lethargic, irritable and less animated than usual. Even though it is just URTI! (other people handle URTI with much better poise and grace, I must admit. Well, not me. But I would still go to work because I could not justify getting MCs for URTI. However, at work, my suffering shows on my face. LOL).

You see, I am allergic to Paracetamol and NSAIDs. I don’t take any meds when I am sick or in pain. I could take Tramal, I suppose… but Tramal makes me dizzy and groggy.

But the good thing is, Alhamdulillah, I rarely got sick. But when I do, it hits me harder because I could not take anything for it.

Of all the time to get sick, I got sick just when I was starting my study leave. And it lasted a few days during which time I was quite unproductive with my study. That was a few days of my study leave wasted, my dear readers.

So many stressful ranjau, huh?

Interrupted study time during study leave

Those who knew me knew that I am a social hermit during exam times. I simply can stay in my house for an extended period of time without meeting anyone when I am studying. And I have no problems doing that because I am an introvert. I feel okay doing things alone and being alone. In fact, I am at my best when I am in peace, away from outside noise and disturbance. My hobbies are mostly solitary; reading, writing, blogging… even hiking, I can do it alone!

But CASC is not the sort of exam that you can study alone, I am sure fellow candidates know that. And this is a struggle for me. For the CASC practice during my study leave, I had to take a shower, dress up and wear tudung and all… and then go out and drove to the clinic to our study room to practice with my study buddies… those activities took precious time AWAY from my studying and memorizing tasks! While I was doing Paper A and Paper B, I could cover a lot of topics because I didn’t have to take a shower until I was about to perform my Zohor prayer….I could study continuously without pause from the time I woke up until around Zohor time. There was no need for me to get out of my house at all because I didn’t get involved in any study group for Paper A and Paper B. And to me, I studied better that way. I don’t like interruptions in my task once I have gained the right momentum and have zoned out into the task. But with CASC prep, just when I was getting into the task, suddenly I had to stop my studying and prepare to go out for study group meeting. There were many frequent pauses instead of continuous studying. I don’t like that kind of pauses and disturbances.

So in a lot of ways, CASC was a challenge for me because there was a huge deviation in my study patterns.

Also, around this time, my parents went for umrah and left our cats outside their home in the cage. They had hired someone to come every day to feed the cats so that I wouldn’t have to go out of my house and drive to their house just to feed the cats. Unfortunately, due to frequent storms in Alor Setar (and thus causing electrical power outage), the automatic gate in their house got stuck a few times during my study leave, and I had to go settle the matter so that the lady my mother hired to feed the cats could enter the house and feed the cats. But when you think about it, I might as well feed the cats myself since I had to go out anyway to let the lady in. Adeh! Really… this was also an interruption for me.

These are the kind of  things that don’t bother most people. I know that. But it bothered me because I was not used to studying with this kind of frequent interruptions. I am the sort of person who plans my activities and I always have things to do. Unforeseen interruptions are mostly unwelcome to me. (Even when I am free, I have fictions to read. So I don’t actually have free time because whenever I have free time, my default mode would be to automatically pick up a book. That’s how I rest. Or I will sleep. Sleeping is also an activity…the purpose of which is to gain good rest for your next activity. So really… what free time do I have? None! So be honoured if I spend my time with you. If your plan is sudden but I accommodate you anyway, it must mean that you are important enough to me to the point that I am willing to alter my plans for you… otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it! LOL. I am the sort of person who is not comfortable with people saying “Let’s see how it turns out”, to explore what happens next. Adoi! I am more comfortable with “Let’s plan how this is going to happen” Hahha.)

But deep inside my heart, I wonder if this is probably Allah’s way of teaching me to be more flexible, to be more comfortable with sudden interruptions and to be less bothered by unforeseen circumstances. I mean, I have to grow as a person. And flexibility is my area of deficit and weakness. And maybe this is something I need to grow to be good at. (Well, that was what I told myself as I was dealing with those interruptions. It was actually a form of self-consolation LOL) All these while, my family and friends accommodated my needs for certain orders and I have no reason to change and be more flexible. To me… being on time is good. Having a plan is good. Why should I change? Convince me that your method of “no plan, no specific time, and let’s see” is better than my method. LOL.

So I have never had to be flexible. Because people adjust to me (and in their opinion, they were compromising. To me, they were not compromising… they were just doing the right thing. They were not following me per se; they were just following the right way and the efficient way of doing things. If they could come up with a more efficient and timely way of doing things, I would follow them too. Nowadays, I can be flexible with change of plans. But I am still very particular about time! I don’t think I will ever change in that!)

So it takes these kind of unforeseen interruptions to make me be more flexible. I could not blame anyone for electrical outage following a storm… so I simply had to adjust, right? Storms are natural occurrences. They happen through nobody’s fault. There is no specific time for storms to happen too. Haha! And if I am going to learn to be more flexible, I can only learn when something like this happens! Things that are beyond my control and NOT caused by someone’s lack of punctuality or someone’s lack of efficiency. Otherwise, I would never change. And Allah knows that. So He taught me how to be flexible in this way.

Well, as it turns out, I was going to need the lesson when I arrived in Hong Kong.

Luggage Lost In Hong Kong Airport

Okay, in general, I don’t trust Air Asia airlines. I have always been loyal to MAS. But my Chinese travel buddies (who were also my tour guide in navigating the Hong Kong MRT from the airport to our hotel at BlueJay Residences) preferred to book the Air Asia flight because it was cheaper. So I followed their plan (because I needed them since I could not speak Mandarin or Kantonese) and we booked the Air Asia flight from KLIA2 to Hong Kong.

But because I didn’t trust Air Asia, I decided to place all my exam stuff (the exam documents, some of my exam notes, my exam outfit, my exam shoes and some miniature toiletries) into my hand luggage so that if my checked-in baggage somehow got lost, I would still have the most important stuff with me.

See? It’s not so bad being a rigid planner, right? Part of being a rigid planner is anticipating bad things that might happen and make contingency plans for it.

Because my dear readers…yes, my baggage did not arrive with me in Hong Kong. Adeh! Even though I had most of my important stuff with me, but I also STILL needed some of the stuff in my baggage. I didn’t have any other change of clothes other than my exam clothes. My contact-lens solution was also inside my checked-in baggage. The books that  I had planned to read in the next two days before the exam were also in the baggage (even though I did have the more important notes with me in my hand luggage. Still, it was a bother!)  I also had my Brahim’s pre-cooked food inside my baggage… so, my source of halal sustenance for the next 5 days was lost to me. I remember thinking, “I am going to have to shop for bread… and hopefully they have IndoMie here. Takkan nak makan roti sampai 5 hari!”

And to make matters worse, I had only very limited funds with me because I did not expect to have to pay for anything other than taxi fares. And Hong Kong is an expensive city.  In a lot of ways, I was really unprepared to deal with a lost baggage.

Below is a video of me walking around town searching for cheap clothes, only half an hour after I had reached the hotel. I was tired after the journey from Malaysia to Hong Kong…. I had wanted to rest and then get some study done at night. But instead, I spent most of the afternoon walking around town to replenish some of my supplies and then I slept that night without studying because I was so exhausted.

Thinking back, sleeping without studying when the exam was so near was a HUGE change of plans, for me. It was something I would never have done in the past. But I guess, I was finally able to be flexible about the whole thing. *A proud moment for me. LOL* Or maybe, I was just too tired to stick to my plan and thus to make myself feel better, I simply chalked it up to me being flexible. Haha.

 

Luckily, later at midnight, I received an email from Hong Kong airport service that they had been successful in tracing my baggage and I could pick it up the next morning. Dr. C was so nice when she offered to go back with me to the airport to pick up the luggage with me.  She was worried that I would get lost if I went out by myself. Again, we had actually planned to study the next morning…. but we had to pick up my baggage at the airport instead. Again… I dealt with the change of plans with as much poise and grace as I could. LOL. Throughout the journey to and from the airport, Dr. C and I practiced our CASC stations on the train. For someone who hate practicing or studying in a noisy environment, I have to say that I did quite well adjusting to it. *Proud Of Myself*

It’s good to know that at the end of the day…. I could still go back to my survival principle of “You have to do what you have to do. If you have to adapt, then you have to adapt and do it!” Alhamdulillah, Thank You Allah for letting me adjust to the whole drama of lost baggage with manageable level of stress. I don’t think I could have handled it well if I hadn’t had the practice during my study leave, courtesy of the storms. LOL.

Below is the video of me using a hair dryer to dry my clothes after washing it…because I really did not have any more change of clothes.

 

The whole experience taught me that indeed, I could live with less. We can always make do and we can find ways to deal with having less. In that short time when I was without most of my stuff, I realized that I could still survive with whatever I had in my hand luggage. I just had to be frugal enough in my spending, and only spend on cheap food for the next few days (I did find bread and IndoMie for dinner) and I just had to be diligent enough to wash my clothes frequently and use  the hairdryer. There was one point when I came to the conclusion that, “Yup, even if the airport service never found my luggage, I will adjust to this just fine. I just had  to put in more effort, that’s all. But I can do this.” (I was surprised that I could think this way. Previously, it would take much longer for me to snap out of any disappointment and to feel okay about an undesirable situation, given my ruminating tendencies. Haha)

Not one hour after reaching that conclusion, I received an e-mail from the airport service that they had been successful in tracing my luggage. Alhamdulillah. Perhaps – I’d like to believe – that Allah wanted to teach me a lesson about dealing with delays and interrupted plans in a calm manner. Perhaps He wanted me to learn how to make the best out of botched plans and still be okay about it. And having learned the lesson by coming to the conclusion that adjusting is not that hard, He returned my stuff back for me as a reward.

Alhamdulillah.

And here comes the snake to complete my #RanjauSepanjangJalan

On the day I arrived in Hong Kong, my brother-in-law went to my parents’ house to feed the cats because again, the automatic gate did not function and thus, the lady my mother hired to feed the cats could not enter the house. Before going to Hong Kong, I had passed over the job of dealing with the gate and feeding the cat to my brother-in-law (Alida’s husband).

While dealing with my luggage being lost at the airport, suddenly I received a Whatsapp message from my younger sister, Alida, telling me that her husband had found a snake on top of the cats’ cage. Oh my God.. I had just arrived in Hong Kong with a lost luggage, and now there was a snake posing a danger to the well-being of my beloved cats!

Could the day go any worse? I wondered to myself with a heavy chest.

Luckily, the snake did not yet had the opportunity to bite my two cats. Kuja and Ku-Ni removed themselves from their customary position at the top of the cage and stayed at the lower level of the cage. I have another cat named Ku-Shan but she was in another cage and was not in any immediate danger like Kuja and Ku-Ni were.

When I saw the picture of the snake lying on top of my cats’ cage, I felt my stomach drop. The snake was not exactly as big as a python but it was not small either! And I didn’t know what type of snake it was and whether or not it was a dangerous kind.

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I just told Alida to call abang Bomba because I really didn’t think it was safe for my borther-in-law to deal with the snake himself. At that time I was thinking…. wow… my CASC journey this time was filled with such tribulations from the very beginning, culminating in the appearance of a snake threatening my beloved cats. I had double whammy of worries to deal with simultaneously… lost baggage in a foreign country, limited amount of money to deal with the difficulties and the fear for the safety of my beloved cats. What else could go wrong? Hopefully, my exam will be something that goes right, I remember wishing. Please God, let this be the last #Ranjau, I had prayed hard. (But no, my dear readers.  It turned out that the tough exam was my last #Ranjau. Haha! Adeh.)

While telling my sisters in our siblings Whatsapp Group about my bad day, I joked with them that what I had been going through for the past few weeks reminded me of the novel Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan by Shahnon Ahmad. “In fact, there was even a plot involving a snake in that story,” I told them. They all concurred wholeheartedly.

And it was thus that the hashtag #RanjauSepanjangJalan was born in describing my CASC trials and tribulations.

 

***

After the exam, my friends and I were left dazed by the level of difficulties that we had encountered in the exam. We felt like some Asian actors in the CASC stations were not helpful and were withholding information despite us having asked plenty of open ended questions. We wondered whether their level of English was not sufficient to be able to provide us with a good answer when we asked for it during the exam. We noticed that the Caucasian actors were more helpful and forthcoming in giving information when we asked an open ended question. (Some of the candidates, including myself, had written a complaint about it to the college. We felt like the college should know about this so that it won’t happen again in the future. I will, Insya Allah, write about this in my next post. So stay tuned, yeah?).

We were quite worried about how our results would be. But what is done is done. It was time to hope for the best.

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Our worried face, after the exam

Right after the exam, we went sight-seeing at Aberdeen… not like there was anything much to see. It was just a fishing village, really. So, we simply went for a short boat ride, had our dinner and then went back to the hotel.

 

 

The next day, I went to Ocean Park which is a popular theme park in Hong Kong to reward myself after the crazy exam and to have a reason to shout on top of my lungs while riding the roller coaster. We wanted to go to Disneyland initially, but then we found out that there was probably going to be a riot there. So we had to cancel the plan. It was so sad because really, I have never been to Disneyland before. And I was so looking forward to it.

But again… I was getting better with change of plans these days. Hahah. So we improvised on the plan and went to the Ocean Park instead, which was also an enjoyable outing, Alhamdulillah.

 

I enjoyed the 20 minutes cable car ride.

 

I also enjoyed watching various species of sharks in the shark aquarium. I had never seen a shark before… so I told myself that this outing was also educational. Haha.

 

This one below was an insane ride. They turned us over 360 degrees up the sky. It was crazy fun! Greater thrill than the roller coaster! (By this time, you will probably know that I am a thrill junkie. Hahha. Which is quite weird considering that I am an introvert. But when I do decide to have fun, I REALLY do it! I just feel like, if I am not going to pass this exam, at least, I have had some fun out of my Hong Kong trip. LOL. Otherwise, it would truly be wasted money.)

 

I am glad that after all the misadventures and the #RanjauSepanjangJalan I had had, Allah gave me the happy ending that Shahnon Ahmad did not create for Lahuma and Jeha. Haha.

And for that, Your slave is forever grateful, Ya Rabb.

And to those who did not make it in CASC this time, Allah will give you your own happy ending one fine day. You will do well, next time. Keep practicing and pray hard for the best outcome. Do not give up. It is just a matter of time and you too will make it in the end, Insya Allah.

There will be times when you feel like nothing will go right and everything is always going wrong in your life. Hang on… pause for a minute. Exam is not everything, at the end of the day. It is great when you pass any exam. But not passing it is not the end of the world. There are OTHER aspects of your life that are equally important. And Allah certainly had taught me about that when I failed my first CASC attempt just a few months prior. So I do know what I am talking about. Some lessons must be learned the hard way… and it will make you a much better person, Insya Allah.

I do receive a lot of personal messages through Facebook asking me about MRCPsych and CASC. There were some personal messages from Master students too (not just in Psychiatry but in other fields as well). Some asked me practical questions about the exam which I always tried to reply when I had  time… but I did not always have the ability to reply to everyone. And I am sorry about that.

Some contacted me to ventilate about their difficulties and trials while pursuing their post-graduate studies and I myself could not help much because I did not know some of them who had contacted me through Facebook. I could not tailor my advice accordingly when I don’t know you. In psychiatry, there is no place for generic advice when dealing with contextual problems. And I regret that I really could not help much. Please seek professional help if you feel like you need support to go through your difficulties in life. I could not help you through Facebook, as much as I wanted to.

But know that whatever difficulties you had in your life, it will pass. You will learn a great life lessons out of it! It serves a purpose. Nothing that Allah does is random. Believe it!

So to those who are feeling hopeless while facing their difficulties, I created this post for you. I might not be able to respond to all of you personally, but I hope you can get some hope and motivation out of what I had written. I wish you would know that I had had my difficulties too and in the end, I made it by the grace of Allah.

I repeat, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending. So, bersangka baiklah with your Lord. And you will get what you expect from your Lord. I am not saying these things out of my own mind… but this is Allah’s words in hadis Qudsi.

Aku mengikut sangkaan hambaKu kepada Ku, Aku bersamanya (memberi rahmat dan membelanya) apabila dia mengingati Ku. Jika mereka megingati Ku dalam dirinya nescaya Aku menyebutnya dalam diri Ku. Apabila mereka menyebut nama Ku dalam kumpulan nescaya Aku menyebutnya dalam kumpulan yang lebih baik daripada mereka. Jika mereka menghampiri Ku sejengkal, Aku mendekati mereka sehasta. Jika mereka menghampiri Ku sehasta Aku mendekati mereka sedepa dan apabila mereka datang kepada KU dalam keadaan berjalan, Aku datang kepada mereka berlari’

(Hadith Bukhairi & Muslim)

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Remembering The Grace Of Allah

I know. I know.

I know… that it has been more than 2 months since I last wrote in this humble blog of mine. For the countless times, I had broken my promise to write consistently, at least once per month. But, my dear readers… trust me…. I have some really good reasons for not blogging once per month as I had promised.

Reason No 1: My Macbook screen was cracked and broken a few days after I posted my last blog post in August. And I took my sweet time repairing my Macbook screen because the repair cost was too expensive for me, especially since I had just spent a lot of money to pay for my CASC exam. I just couldn’t afford to repair my Macbook screen just yet. (Very good reason, no?)

Reason No 2: Exam! (Enough said. LOL)

My CASC exam was held on the 18th of October 2019 in Hong Kong. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the hardest exam of my life. At the end of the exam I felt like crying bloody tears. There were 16 CASC stations altogether and we were allocated 7 minutes to perform the task in any particular station. My problem with CASC was that I always felt like I didn’t have enough time to perform the task to my heart satisfaction. So, there would be times when I covered enough depth… but not the range that was required to pass the task. That was what happened during my first CASC attempt. My study partners were always telling me “You tak payah tanya dah yang lain-lain tu. Cukup criteria for diagnosis, move on. Tak payah tanya everything. Banyak lagi nak tanya….past psychiatric history, family history, risk assessment, coping, drug and alcohol. Kalau tanya detail sangat, yang lain-lain tak sempat. ”

Okay, but that is my problem. I whiningly told my friends “Susahlah. Aku rasa tak puas kalau aku tak tanya bagi habis semua symptoms for that diagnosis even if symptoms yang aku dah dapat tu dah cukup untuk diagnose. Tapi mungkin dia ada more symptoms yang aku tak cover lagi, right?” I would still feel like I might have missed something. That was the OCPD part of me that was ugh!! really troublesome for me. I just didn’t have enough time to cover the task for each station to my heart satisfaction.

There was a time when I had to give myself a serious pep talk. “Afiza, this is not about your heart satisfaction. This is about the examiner’s satisfaction! Please get this into your head! Just because you have covered the depth that is required to make the diagnosis, you still wouldn’t pass if you didn’t cover the range of the marking scheme. Range and depth! Not depth alone! 7 minutes is all you have and you cannot be too detailed on just one thing. Prioritize! Come on!”

CASC is so different compared to Part A and Part B. In Part A and Part B, I could still indulge my OCPD-ness to a certain extent. For example, for each question in Part A and Part B… even if I already knew that the answer was E, in my head I would still go through my own method of reasoning regarding why A, B, C and D were not correct. I just had to check and double check each answer even when the correct answer was quite obvious already in the first glance. I did all that because… yup, I have some OCPD traits that just could not be ignored at times. LOL.

But CASC was a whole new ball game. I had to learn to think quickly and to not ruminate. I had to learn to cover just enough in depth and then quickly move on so that I could cover the breadth/range of the task. It took hard, intensive practice for me to overcome and suppress my obsessive tendency but Alhamdulillah… as the exam date was geting near, I was able to overcome the urge to dwell on one thing in too great a depth. But ah… it was hard. I am the ruminating type. When something doesn’t make sense or when a story just doesn’t have enough details to it, well… it bothered me. (Which kind of explains why even as a child, I had a lot of questions about anything that was taught to me especially in learning the religion. The same obsessive ruminating trait that was so bad in exam, was the same trait that allowed me to discover the beauty of having real faith and real conviction in my religion. Because I questioned stuff, I now understand Islam better and it was the best thing that could ever happen to me especially when I was in my early 20s. So yeah… I don’t always regret having this OCPD trait. But I must admit it can be troublesome in certain situations… such as in exams. LOL).

***

There was one time when I was so frustrated while studying for CASC that I felt like giving up. Seriously… CASC is the worst exam for many of us. The financial burden was huge! Some people had to borrow their parents’ money to take CASC exam one more time because they had already run out of all their savings courtesy of previous payments of past CASC attempts.

Some of the candidates were already consultants or specialists in their own countries… but they took this MRCPSYCH & CASC so that they could work in the UK. They were so much more senior than us…. what chance do we have in competing with these people?

There were also times when I felt angry at myself for not passing CASC the first time. Doctors are always hard on themselves when they don’t pass exams, you know. Because the experience of failure is so rare and far in between. Most doctors are top students their whole lives. When they got into medical school, then they realized that there were so many other people who were just as good and clever as them, if not better. Then they would feel overwhelmed by the competition. And if they actually fail, they would feel like the stupidest person on earth. Even though failing your professional exam is quite common, it is still a bitter experience for any doctor to have to undergo.

Alhamdulillah, Allah created me with an ability to self-motivate. I am a very optimistic person, in general. And for that, I thank my parents very much. My father always encouraged repeated efforts in order to gain success. The concept of putting in an effort was very prominent in my upbringing. “Kena usaha! Sampai dapat!”. And until now, I internalize that concept. And it is a very motivating concept. Because my dear readers, Allah sees your effort. And I believe it wholeheartedly and behave accordingly. I don’t believe that my effort guarantees anything. I just believe that effort is required to qualify for God’s help. And I need His help in everything that I do. And therefore I have to make myself qualified for His help. So I put in my effort, hoping it would be enough.

And it is true that it is in the remembrance of Allah that the heart finds rest. It is really difficult to feel bitter about not passing an exam when I know that Allah has blessed me in every other aspect of my life so mercifully… that it would be very stupidly ungrateful of me to indulge in endless self-pity. I was afraid that Allah would punish me for being an ungrateful slave. Very difficult to pity myself after that. LOL.

One of the ways I calm myself is by reading and writing, which is something that I am sure you guys already know about me. I love reading stories and seerah. I also love composing poems of religious themes because I think they are motivating, uplifting, always relevant…. well, Islamic poems are evergreen, no? Because Islam will always be relevant in our daily lives as Muslims.

So I wrote a poem to remind me to be a grateful slave of Allah. To always be mindful that I also have another test to pass. The test of patience and fortitude and the test of NOT despairing of Allah’s mercy. And the outcome of this test would only be revealed in the hereafter which makes it far more important to me than passing CASC would ever be in this world. It doesn’t even begin!! to compare!

So I moulded my thinking accordingly and asked Allah to forgive me. I wrote the poem below around 3 weeks before my CASC exam in order to gather my thoughts properly. It was the most therapeutic thing I had done in a long time. The title of my poem is Remember.

REMEMBER

Once upon a time,
I stretched my arms faithfully upward
Supplicating in silent soulful solitude
Hoping You would deign to look downward
And grant Your slave in prayer stood
All the wishes and dreams of her heart
to fly to heavens, a brand new start.

But the hand of fate was full of pain
Dreams of mine went down the drain
I wondered why my prayers were in vain
When You have the power to grant my gain.

Did I not to You faithfully worship?
That You had so forsaken me
Have I not for You a love so deep?
That You entirely shunned me
Have You withdrawn from me Your favour?
To bleed my heart all over.

But immediately I felt a twinge of shame
What You must think of me, I’d take the blame
As I imagined the response You exclaim
To this ungrateful slave that I became.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
When you prayed to me with outstretched hand
For things you thought I wouldn’t grant
Instead I bestowed you a better one
Gratefulness for Me you displayed scant.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Sins You committed I’d overlooked
Without you begging My pardon
Still your soul-cleansing I undertook
All that you lost I then returned.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
All the promises to Me that you broke
Hoping it would be of little concern
Still your heart purification I undertook
Your will and resolve I then hardened.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Good things happened you didn’t ask how
Glorious miracles you asked to allow
They happened without your bargaining vow
How could you forget all my blessings now?

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Did you suppose things happened in coincidence?
Did you not see the purpose in all happenstance?
Should everything go your way in every instance?
What do you suppose your reason of existence?

I remember now, Ya Ilahi,
And fervently I promise to do better
Pardon this slave, in need of Your favour
Forgive my sins past, present and future
Have mercy on my soul now till the hereafter
Only to You I place my worries, my fear
I accept Your decrees, doubts burst asunder
Whatever transpires, to My Lord I surrender.

-Afiza Azmee-
29/09/2019
6.00 pm

***

Dear readers,

Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, has bestowed upon me his blessing once again.

Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. A wave of happiness and gratitude filled my heart so overwhelmingly that my eyes teared up as I informed my parents the happy news. That I have passed my CASC exam.

I imagine that once upon a time when Allah had created the story of my life in the Luh Mahfuz, He had probably written “Today, Afiza will be filled with happiness for passing her CASC exam.”

Alhamdulillah, Ya Rabb.