Why is it hard to take R&R during a mission?

Everybody who knows the kind of work I do knows the value of “holidays.” It is the much-awaited time-off, planned at the beginning of the mission to fit within the whole year calendar of the post assigned.

According to me, the supposed rest and recreation (or recuperation) or simply R&R is not really that restful when planning for it.  Don’t get me wrong I am one of those who looks forward to it but very lazy to plan ahead because unlike some people traveling, it takes more effort for me to plan than it should be.

Because …

  1. I always have to plan ahead (which I don’t like) to get a visa if places I want to visit requires one for my nationality. And to do that I will need requirements that are sometimes complicated to gather when you’re out of the country to even be granted a 15-day pass.article-0-0B3FB5B800000578-178_468x315
  2. I try to be thrifty, but with advancing age and the kind of adventures I like nowadays, I will need to shelve a little more than what I used to do. Now, I prefer to enjoy a little luxury and comfort when traveling. Top-10-Luxury-Travel-Trends-and-Predictions-for-2013
  3. Related to number 1 and 2, I always try to go to places where I don’t need a visa to visit, and I visited most of those countries. I had my shares of backpacking and sleeping in shabby places. Now those places that remain to be visa free are in other continents that will require some serious savings both for the airfare, board, and lodging and of course shopping, so they are not for R&R kind of holidays! rlytdimje6ozs66xsnpcj5ssh9vnqlyk-xlarge
  4. The work gets in the way. Always felt that as it nears my break work seems to pile up. Because I don’t manage people I have no one to endorse work and leave without being tempted to check on things, worst to cancel holidays. 
  5. To avoid all those problems, the last option is to visit “in-country” where I am assigned. But that defeats the purpose of R&R right? Although I did it more that I could count depending on the context and security situation of the country it is always best to do R&R in another place – preferably another country!

But then again there is the last option that defeats all the points I mentioned above … go home and truly rest. Be in touch with people, places in your hometown. Or simply enjoy time with family and be grounded until it’s time to go back to work and start over again!

Returning to the Fold

For a couple of years, I was so eager to put something on paper, publishing and generate attention from my small friendly followers. I wrote anything and everything of what I had been doing since we entered the millennium era. Although I was dead set to tell you all about my work for people with disabilities, over time I got my thoughts all over and I lost sight on the prize of being a good storyteller.

Who am I kidding? Myself I guess.

I missed the momentum of writing daily and freely. When I returned to work in the aftermath of the great big earthquakes in Nepal. I thought I will have lots of stories to tell but at the end of each day, sleeping under the elements inside a tent rendered it impossible to even get myself to lift my arms to write reports let alone blogs because I was so tired. I did manage to post some stories, photos and a little bit of poetry but it was not enough – I was not able to tell the stories of the life I had there and of the people I encountered. Guided by ethics, I have to be careful what stories I tell and photos I post.

It got more complicated when I moved to Gaza, oPt. Social media was welcome by the Palestinian but not by the Israelis who were in charge to give us work permits to help the refugees in the occupied Gaza and West Bank. I was discouraged to write anything because everything will be taken out of context and of course be seen as bias even if intentions were not. Like in Nepal, I managed to post something but not much to tell you that I had a wonderful time living and working with the people not many of you know are being oppressed every day at this age and time.

Now I am residing in Turkey, not far different from the other context within the region. I wanted to say I am working here, but dare says not, I am touring the country and giving advice along the way.  I am enjoying my time here and inspired to write mentally but physically impossible because I was consumed by other priorities than to write. Inspirations are everywhere, I just need to get myself back on track and start over.

I will not have the #illusion when I begin blogging again, although have to say, those blogs I followed when I started have gained lots of thread and I still enjoy reading their stories. Hope this time I can stick to what I say I will do and eventually become the good storyteller I want to be.

Foça

In the end I am alone

Alone with my thoughts.

Thinking how life had evolved.

In the short time I am embraced.

By your cold heart.

Now,

I am here.

Wanting to be love again.

Nurtured.

Caressed.

By the warmth of your summer breeze.

Next to the sea.

Teeming with life.

That I feel I belong.

An Appeal for Help

There is this little girl in my neighborhood that was born without an esophagus. She’s fed via a PEG directly to her stomach by a diet meant to let her gain weight and be healthier. Her neck has a hole to help with breathing and speaking.

She’s seven years old and in grade one. She’s always teased and felt deprived of the food she sees in people’s table and the stores. But in spite of she’s a lovely and lively little girl.

I sought help from friends on how to help her until I landed support from a local television to showcase her story and let people know about her condition and eventually appeal for help. The local charity office funded by lottery gains acknowledged her situation and offered to foot the bill for the initial hospitalization and surgery to reverse her condition (called Esophageal Atresia). But the family will have to raise funds to support costs for medicines and other needs during hospitalization and recovery.

The surgery was successful, but she’s still in ICU and battling complications of bacterial infections and fluid in her lungs. The doctors are doing their best, and now she’s stable and hopefully recover fully.

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I appeal for two things, first to think of this girl Sharie and include her in your prayers or utter a short prayer of healing and second, for your money. I am not asking a lot, though; any amount will help but we are raising close to $900 per set of medicine, and I don’t know how much more sets she needs to recover fully. 

I hope I can count on you …

To find out more about her story and update on her conditions and on how to donate, please visit Sharie’s Operation Fund page.

You can also watch the video of her appeal (in Tagalog) here 

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor 9:7

Colorful America … Where Will Progress Be Heading?

The waves of the recently concluded US election reached far and wide. Everybody has their opinion on the campaign, what happened during the election and now on what’s going on in and around America.

It was the ugliest election campaign I witnessed. I thought to watch the Brexit campaign was bad enough, the one in the US was worst.

When you appeal to one set of people and make them superior to the others, you’re feeding their ego to think that indeed they are better than their black neighbors, their Hispanic co-worker, and the middle eastern decent bodega owner. You fueled and stoked the embers of hate in people’s mind, and heart. The hate that was fought long and hard by the forefathers of American history when many realized that to be great they have to work together for it. That is why many people believed America is great, a land of milk and honey, a place where everybody can live out their dreams and live a life different from theirs.

Filipinos went to America because the grass was greener over there. I have lots of relatives, schoolmates, friends living there now, more Americans than you could ever imagine (by now) and I am sure when they tell their stories on how they carved their niche over there you will be amazed at how much they endured. Stories of having to make ends meet by having two jobs instead of one, some will have three and meet up with families when they are both free to gas up. The Philippines suffered from brain drain to invest in America in return they send off green bucks to families back home, and it was a good deal both ways. Where they are now, they provide good life and future for the second generations of immigrants, who I think are not any more “immigrants” because they had assimilated in the web of Americal culture – the language, the thinking, the dressing and the way of life. So they are more Americans now than they are Filipino. However, each one of them will defend that they love their countries of origins and America should be grateful.

The same stories go to most people I know other than my countrymen who dreamt of going to America and managed to set roots there. However bigot some people are or expensive life is the appeal of the word America is alluring, and I don’t know if it will ever lose its luster to attract those wanting to strike gold. Because whatever we say most people who dream of living in America are those from countries with fewer opportunities, are thrown into wars they didn’t ask for or are enslaved by traditions that the only way to break free is to find a way to get to America. Again America should be grateful.

The very fabric of America comes not from one kind but from many from all over the world. The quilt called America would be boring if it only has one pattern — from its Native Americans to those that claim to be the real White Americans and the majority of immigrants makes it alive, vibrant and meaningful country to be.

Are you ready for America to be PLAIN? I hope not. 

Now with the new president elected, this will test the luster of America. The questions mounting and fear is gripping not only people of different color or race or religion or tradition but of people who live differently than what is perceived normal.

  • Will the problems of the past still be an issue of the future now that more people think America is WHITE? 
  • Will people constantly have to look over their shoulders to see if someone is following them, waiting to shove them off the pavement or call them names no one deserved to be called? 
  • Will the ugliness of the past, believed to be bolted and keys melted, be resurrected just because someone elected in the helm ready to do every dirty trick to get noticed in the guise of leading? 
  • Have we not learn about values, grace, companion and mercy shown to the young people by those the new president is replacing, taught in their very home or carried from the other countries?

America is great as it is, but it can be greater still without reverting to the ugliness where it started.

We people of the world, not just Americans or British should stand together and keep pushing our agenda of INCLUSION, tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness.

Stop the hate … LOVE, start with yourself before you can love others and that should start from the one they just put on the pedestal to lead America in the next four years.

Postscript:

I am not living in America nor been there, and I cannot say I am attracted to its luster, but I believe in what America represents in the world. Reason why I hope Americans realize they are already great as it is and can even be greater if they accept the reality that it is indeed a colorful country.

Stuck

I wanted so bad to live up to your expectations, but it seems like a force is pulling me back from making sure I get to the end of it.

I am trying to find ways to juggle life – work balance but the pressure, the stress seems too much that I find myself sometimes stuck, unable to move forward.

The mind is willing, but my body does not budge to get me moving and doing what I should.

That is me living here in Gaza.

When I thought I am tough enough to endure living in a foreign land and meet new people for almost two decades now, I met my match being here. It’s hard to explain because, on the outside, I look fine, sometimes I feel fine, and recently felt at home in Gaza I wish to stay longer. (Read here)

Strange how that may sound but that is how I feel, and I am trying to figure out where my problem lies  – is it the place? The people? The work? I don’t know!  I don’t want to blame where I am for my feelings in the last six months, nor the people and especially the work for the love of what I do.

I have seen good things here in spite of the history of the country and the recent crisis they endured, and somehow I empathize with their being unable to move freely out of Gaza. Not that I can’t move out from here, being an expat working for an international organization gave me some freedom to shuffle in an out at least every three weeks and be like everybody else. Unlike most people I know and work with they will need permission from Israel to go out for a limited time only, which is not given readily and benefits only very few.  In my case, it may not be the same as for most people, but my being closed off from where I live somehow gives me a little understanding of the people’s lives in occupation.  Not being able to go out and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea across my room can be frustrating. Not being able to walk around town and catch a glimpse of life or experience it does not allow me to live my time here actually.  Creativity in my case is boxed online – I see the world like most people here via the social media.

So little out of the ordinary activity is very much appreciated, like yesterday, being the last day of the work week, I was able to enjoy the morning with some of the people we support in the community outside, in the sun, harvesting olives in one of our beneficiaries farm — that was incredible! When asked by some people how I felt (being the only foreign in the group who obviously had not done olive harvest before) all I said was great. To be out in the sun and not see patients for the most of it for a change, and my colleagues with me are so much fun even if most of the time they speak Arabic.

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Now I am back in my apartment, being a Friday nothing much happens here so I am stuck to my computer and live out the day watching movies, catching up with friends online and talking on Skype to my family. That scenario made me somehow understand what most felt day in day out. The frustrations of the young people to be out and enjoying liberties other young people in other parts of the world enjoy. The dreams of parents to give the best to their children – good education, freedom to travel and to choose the life they want to live. Not the current life where everything has to be dependent on what the other person behind the counter say so — it can be too much.

I think that fuels the hatred, the fear and the tension in an already tensed situation since the 40’s basing on their history. The history is written for the Palestinian people by outsiders thinking that lives would be better if foreign people write it for them. And here I am years later, foreign, trying to understand what is incomprehensible because of the kind of work I do. Humanity comes first before politics, and often I am in no liberty to talk about politics (even religion), and I wouldn’t dare even if I want to.  Instead, I will continue bridging the gap of what the world failed to do for these people and support the best I can when I can until it’s time to say hati waqt lahiq (until later).


Being stuck may seem bad for the most of it, but that also gives one perspective of the life we have. To understand that life is not equal in many regions of the world and to experience it in a short time somehow allows me to speak about it. To live it out with these people gives me the profound respect for the resilience of the Palestinians I meet every day be it for work or the little leisure I have here.

My spirits lift when I can pen these feelings and hope those that reads this understands my whim and not take this as drama. Life as an expat may seem appealing for the most of it, but the emotional investment we have is sometimes more than what we can give if we don’t have ways to vent it out.

Now I have to get going … I have pending paper works to accomplish if I want to reach my destination.

It Starts to Feel Like Home

Its 2am, the power is out, feeling the breeze coming from the sea

Very dark outside, you hear nothing except the waves lapping at the shore,The weather is changing I can feel it, it will be cold soonNot sure if I am ready for it

Now, I enjoy the quiet of the night

I can see light from the horizon, from fishing boats waiting for the fishes to bite

And I am still awake, talking to myself, willing myself to write about

How I feel right now … how I feel at home in Gaza.

Of all places, I am here living a life of a hermit after 4pm

Not allowed to be me, to be at places I freely wish to be

Because of the danger – true or imagined

So I am confused why am I feeling at home?

Is it the place? Maybe I tell my dreamy self.

Gaza does not bother me, even though I know of its history

Even though I know of the rift that they have with Israel

Or the fact that in most people’s mind I live in a god-forsaken place

Governed by terrorist, mostly said by people who had never stepped foot

In the holy land, or in Palestine.

I am at peace here believe me, it is not what outsiders say it is

I should know, I am living here for a while

And when I am up at two, I am overwhelmed by the feeling of belonging at where I am

Forgetting I am far away from home and yet I am really sure this place

Has not the allure to make me feel this way

But will not be here for long, will have to go soon

Which is starting to sink in the more I think about it

I would stay if I could but that all depends on my welcome here

Until the time to go comes, I will enjoy the peace,

The solitude, and the overwhelming emotions

That I can call Gaza home even for a short time.

My Habibi

First encountered the word when I was in Sierra Leone, a call of endearment thrown my way by my then love of my life. It sounded very exotic, me having no understanding of Arabic word whatsoever, and I felt so much loved.

Habibi is an Arabic word directly translating as “my baby” or “my darling”; Habibti is feminine form of habibi, which means “my love”

Arriving in Palestine early this year, the first recognizable word I heard was Habibi, and I was culture shocked to hear it spoken between men — whoa! Only to be told I interpreted the exchanges wrongly (and maybe with malice) and should let it pass. I did, or so I thought, but I am not over it.

The word means my beloved, and in normal conversation, it is normally used between close friends of the same or opposite gender or between couples romantically involved.

For us non-Arabs, it can be (in English)  “my friend / bro / sis” when used among friends, or “my love / baby” when used romantically. In Tagalog, it can be “pare” for men and no idea what can it be for women 🙂

After being here for a while, I can let it rest and accept it as part of the normal conversations in taxi, offices, and meetings but I will keep the first impression and feelings I had when I first heard it nine years ago.


I discovered too that there are books of the same title that tells stories about love … from the looks of it, maybe I should get then and start reading about my love …

 

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Habibi bt Naomi Shihab Nye

The day after Liyana got her first real kiss, her life changed forever. Not because of the kiss, but because it was the day her father announced that the family was moving from St. Louis all the way to Palestine. 

 

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Habibi by Craig Thompson

Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

My dear habibti … hope you enjoy reading!

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