>Olfactory memory

>So I was back in Kasr alAini med school for some business; I was walking down the sidewalk by the anatomy ‘mashraha’ –the morgue– when I was suddenly hit with the unbearable stench of badly-ventilated, partially decomposed, formalin-soaked bodies.

But instead of eliciting a powerful gag reflex, which it most rightfully should, the smell just transported me years back : to my first day of medical school.

I could, literally, feel 18 again! The black pants I was wearing that first day, the mauve taupe silk blouse I wore–and of course had to throw out because of the stench that wouldn’t get out– flashed back in my memory, uncalled and uninvited but most certainly welcomed.

The excitement and the rush of being a doctor, with my brand-new white coat dangling on my arm, was so refreshing. The premise that I might change the world, or at least the medical practice in Egypt, and the dreams that I will be saving lives each and every step of the way all came back to me.
What was strange is the happiness and sheer bliss that I felt. I was not disillusioned. I was not sad that none of that had happened. It was as if I was transported back in time, to that moment, and I was that hopeful, idealistic girl again. It was magical!

Before, I had never been a firm believer that olfactory memories can be so vivid, but let me tell you this belief is long gone…


4 thoughts on “>Olfactory memory

  1. >I love smell of formalin. I still remember my first day of college on September 20th 2005. I was wearing shoets (it was hot)and was the only person to do so. I was about to enter the lecture hall when one of the university guard told me that it wasn't a good idea and that the professor would make me the laughingstock of the university forever. I took his advice and left. I was later grateful when I found out that they viciously attacked (verbally) students wearing caps and slippers because it wasn't befitting of a med student. Lol.I was never the idealistic type, and I am easily disillusioned. It was all the more easier to lose hope in everything because of all the corruption that takes place inside the university and the poor state of Egypt's doctors. I can make more money writing a Guardian article than working as a doctor for 2.5 months. It is sad and frustrating. I'm doing pediatrics now and it's kinda fun and that glimmer of hope is back. Dealing with children and babies is actually fun, you just give them a lollipop or snap your fingers and they keep quiet and let you do whatever you want.I hope one day I am hopeful, idealistic and optimistic instead of my usual cynical self. I actually have a horribly negative view of doctors – I never visit one unless absolutely necessary.Are you specialized yet? I can imagine you are in your late 20s (my guess, from the baby all nighter post :P)I hope this comment posts!

  2. >Shorts??? In el Kasr Alaini you'd ve been laughed at by your fellow students too! It's just sad, isn't it.I WAS idealistic until 4th year, when we start the clinical rounds and see the state of the hospital/patients/staff.Speciality? tha's another looong story worthy of another post (or maybe my autobiography!) You guessed the age right though 🙂 Glad you like paediatrics. I didn't. I was just so miserable all the time because there isn't much I can do to help these poor kids and their mom, socially I mean. It's the poverty and ignorance that was putting me down– and of course the lack of resources!

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