One Last Night in Hong Kong

June 16th, 2014 by Calvin Sun

The wanderer is alone. He is but a single leaf drifting in a forest, relishing in the anonymity granted by the countless cities that shelter him.

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- At time of posting in Hong Kong, it was 86 °F -

Humidity: 79% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

5 Hours In Macau

June 14th, 2014 by Calvin Sun



Today I arrived in Hong Kong around the early afternoon and decided to take a quick day trip into Macau. I won’t attempt to outdo Lei here as he did a much better job covering Macau.

From my hotel I took a cab to the Hong Kong Ferry Terminal where I went up a few floors to get a ticket.

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- At time of posting in Macau, it was 82.4 °F -

Humidity: 84% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

18 Hours In Seoul

June 14th, 2014 by Calvin Sun

Gangnam Style just got served


New friends meeting each other for the first time, but then finding out we’re more connected than we think…read on!


I found out 2 days ago I needed to go to Hong Kong for a last minute trip with my brother, so I figured to include a 18 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea because:

  1. I’ve never been before
  2. The flights ended up being $600 cheaper

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- At time of posting in Seoul, South Korea, it was 66.2 °F -

Humidity: 84% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: mist

Proof I Was A Medical Student (My Graduation Speech)

May 29th, 2014 by Calvin Sun


I started this blog 4 years ago, exactly at the time when I also started medical school. In a way, my journey with The Monsoon Diaries would not have been possible without my parallel journey through medical school.

And after about 60 countries with The Monsoon Diaries, I’ve also been conferred my medical degree in my very home of New York City. Therefore, I figure it would be appropriate to mark the end of my 4 year journey of medical school by posting my graduation speech here on The Monsoon Diaries, because again, one couldn’t have existed without the other.

Thanks to Lei Zhao for all his guidance in how to write a good graduation speech.



SUNY Downstate College of Medicine Commencement, May 28, 2014.

I’m feeling nostalgic right now, this moment already becoming a memory. And I’m feeling nostalgic for the time when I was applying to medical school, the day when my pre-med advisor told us: “Look to your left, look to your right. Chances are, neither of them are going to be doctors.”

I’m feeling nostalgic for the day when I told my friend, a fellow pre-med, how I had been studying for the GREs. I remember when she furrowed her eyebrows and shook her head at me, telling me I was studying for the wrong entrance exams. This friend then got me a spot on a volunteer program in Emergency Medicine, which would become the specialty I would love and match in a few years later.

This selfless friend, Sonia, however, never got to go medical school. Something happened in the applications process that gave her no choice but to re-apply the next year. By the time the next cycle began, Sonia died from an aggressive form of breast cancer. She was 24. A vibrant, beautiful person, the very reason why I’m standing here today, was taken away from us.

Sonia‘s life and legacy remind me how from the very beginning I wouldn’t have been able to do this by myself. She was with me every step of the way. Especially when I felt most alone, I would need her the most. And everyone graduating today knows in some way what that feels like: When medicine may feel daunting, overwhelming, and at times even impossible, we must remind ourselves of the countless people who believed in us more than we did. So we share this achievement, as well as the responsibilities, with people like Sonia.

And responsibilities, there are many. The obvious one is that I hope we as superb doctors will practice superior medicine. But I also hope that we have the courage to follow our gut when something makes us feel uneasy. In memory of Maya Angelou who passed today, I quote: “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.” Medicine is a noble practice, but it is not perfect. It can be good, but it is not always fair. We must remind ourselves of this as we labor to improve our shared practice. Hippocrates himself would accept nothing less than a continuous desire to expand, deepen, and transmit our knowledge as healers. 

And as we continue to grow and learn as doctors, we will confront situations that force us to think of the world in terms that aren’t simply black or white, right or wrong. We thus must strive to find beauty in the gray area, and revel in the nuances and complexities that make medicine an art. It is never simple, but simple is not what we signed up for.

So while in medical school they’ve taught us to think like doctors, I hope we also don’t forget to think like human beings. Because in the end, the practice of medicine is a deeply personal and human experience. It is a delicate and demanding art where the end result of medicine practiced well Is a renewed life for our patients, free from the pain, suffering, fear, and anxiety that any illness may burden us with.

I also hope we will feel it incumbent upon us to treat even the non-biological issues of the world, identifying ourselves not only as doctors after today but also as activists, peacemakers, statesmen, ambassadors, innovators, philosophers, or engineers. And above all, that we become artists, always pushing the limits and our dreams of what medicine can accomplish.

And I never thought about how dreams could be made real until I met people like Sonia who shared in that dream with me. As we celebrate the fulfillment of another dream today, I know that we will carry our achievements onwards with the everlasting support of others. Our achievements are theirs. And on that note, our achievements are also each other’s.

To my classmates — “Look to your left, look to your right”: we’re all doctors today because we did this together.

And with my speech already a memory, I salute my colleagues here on a bright future of making a difference at every level of society.

Let’s go make this world a better place. Congratulations.


2014-05-28 15.20.26


- At time of posting in New York City, it was 53.6 °F -

Humidity: 30% | Wind Speed: 4km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

A Road Trip Through Jamaica

May 13th, 2014 by Calvin Sun


Anderson and I arrived into Kingston, Jamaica at around 4pm in the afternoon and we only had about 16 hours here before our flight home the next morning. What was there for us to do?

A friend that I had met during residency interviews a few months ago (and whom would end up being matched to the same residency program as me!), Priya Ghelani, originally was supposed to join me for the big trip last week but decided to stay in Jamaica the whole time. Our plan was to meet up with her because, why not? 

Unfortunately, however, I had realized too late that she wasn’t in Kingston; she was actually 2 hours away in Ocho Rios (“Ochi”) with her friends.

Anderson and I researched around and discovered that all the buses weren’t running because it was a Sunday, and the taxi ride from Kingston Airport to Ochi took not only 2 hours but also cost $120 USD each way. While most people would give up and stay in Kingston, Anderson and I are not most people.

So we decided to do something neither of us have ever done before: rent a car for $50 USD and drive there, even though I don’t have a driver’s license (I’m from NYC!) and Anderson has never driven in Jamaica, let alone on the left side of the road, let alone this would be taking place in the middle of the night.


Road Warrior



The drive from Kingston to Ochi was not easy. There’s no simple stretch of highway that takes you directly there as you have to drive curvy and winding local roads along marshes and cliffs with no idea if a car (or truck) was coming around the bend.

Anderson, as good as a driver as he was, remarked it was one of the craziest things he’s ever done while traveling. I didn’t know whether to feel nervous or honored in that moment.



But after about 2 and a half hours of driving in the dark on roads we didn’t know, we safely made it to Ochi at around 8:30pm. We quickly checked into our hostel (Reggae Hostel) on the Main Road and headed to Sunset Grande, the resort where Priya and her friends were staying.

Because we got there only 3 minutes after their visiting hours ended at 9pm, Sunset Grande’s security wouldn’t let us (typical of all-inclusive resorts). We tried calling Priya’s hotel room but because she was supposed to meet us at 8pm in the lobby, nobody was picking up. We then returned to our hostel, connected to wifi, and Skyped the lobby of the Sunset Grande Resort. I then made the front desk yell out Priya’s name to get her to come and answer. Surprisingly, it worked.

After meeting back at the Sunset Grande, we took them back to our hostel where we befriended Christopher, the hostel’s manager on night duty. He’s an aspiring reggae artist and rapper about to move to Atlanta, GA, and was able to treat us to a small performance. In return, we asked him to join us at the afterparty at Amnesia Nightclub in a few hours.

And true to his word, he locked up the hostel and came out with us.




There was disappointingly a lot of standing around at Amnesia Nightclub, even when it was already way past midnight. To get the party going a bunch of celebrity dancers started a battle. Naturally, I wanted to join…






And I totally got served:



We ended up leaving the nightclub at around 4am, after which Anderson and I got in about an hour of sleep before setting off back to Kingston at 5:30 in the morning.

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- At time of posting in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, it was 82.4 °F -

Humidity: 80% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

Flight to The Bahamas

May 11th, 2014 by Calvin Sun


After the goodbyes, the remaining few arrived safe and sound in The Bahamas.



We waited a good hour in line to go through passport control since a deluge of flights arrived at the same time. That resulted in hundred and hundreds of Western tourists cramming into the airport. Countless American accents placed against a backdrop of jumbotrons selling big name hotels and resorts became overwhelming welcome signs of naked capitalism that we hadn’t experienced for a good 7 days. Ironically, culture shock would hit us in none other than The Bahamas.

After getting stamped in with no issues, we hailed a $50 USD van to take us all to the Hilton Resort over the local hostels since a few of us had status there and could get free rooms for the group.



And we just relaxed on the beach until sundown (or rather when a pack of mosquitoes chased us away inside).



We then stayed up watching videos, listening to music and enjoying each other’s company as a rainstorm raged outside.



The next morning we all headed to the airport where we said the last of our goodbyes. 



Anderson and I continued onwards to Jamaica.- At time of posting in Nassau, The Bahamas, it was 82.4 °F -

Humidity: 80% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: stormy and rainy

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part V)

May 11th, 2014 by Calvin Sun


Pictures courtesy of Vivian Trinh, Jan Ferrer, Susan Samol, Edmund Fong, and yours truly.

Press play. And then start reading.

“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown. You travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.” – Ella Maillart 


You’re going to miss waking up to a bus ride that will take you back closer to home, knowing that the return trip would be a bittersweet reminder that all good things must come to an end.




You’re going to miss your second, third, or fourth night tour of Old Town, stopping to play tic-tac-toe with the local children on the street, downing a glass of what tasted like frozen hot chocolate, and imbibing oversized beer at a oversized microbrewery on the eve of the country’s biggest holiday.



You’re going to miss waking up at 6am to be groggily handed a survival kit consisting of a sandwich, water and a coke, walking a few kilometers half-asleep to reach the May Day parade, being pleasantly surprised at the complete lack of anti-capitalist sentiment anywhere, and braving the sweltering heat before being swept up in a sea of such positive energy now expected from a community you probably already have fallen in love with.


The Chinese delegation


You’re going to miss the quick glimpse of someone kinda important waving at you from the distance.



Raúl C himself; Photo taken by Tom Peddle


You’re going to miss slowly recovering from the quick highs of just taking part in the country’s most festive event of the year, and the struggle of a hike through Old Town trying to be as polite as possible to your guide as he says stuff that — despite your best efforts — continues to go in one ear and out the other.



A good idea on how tired we were. Photo taken by Susan Samol


You’re going to miss wearing your nice clothes and meeting up at the main casa before our last official dinner together.





You’re going to miss the fancy dinner in one of the country’s most upscale restaurants, sitting where Jay-Z and Beyoncé had sat only a year before, admiring the photos of other celebrities that had been here, the brain teasers that would last the night, and taking the last group photo as if it was prom all over again.





Jay-Z and Beyoncé was here!




The Columbia alumni!




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