Adjustments to the realities of war and violence

Death is the ultimate price to pay in war or in any situation that involves violence.

But what if you didn’t die when exposed to the cruelty of the world? That person ends up disabled changing the dynamics of his or her life and of the lives of the people around them. Especially those closes to him or her whose coping with the change also affects their being starting from their psyche.

I call it the ripple effect as a consequence of trauma.

The impact of disability, which brings change to the person himself is too much. It is life changing, altering everything he worked all his life for. Everything that they know is normal is altered forever. In their mind, more often than not their lives are over, and with that thought, it is often difficult to convince people of the alternatives. that life continues with some accommodations to start over and build a new reality.

Like in any situation of trauma, people with disabilities undergo the process of grief and acceptance. No one can do it alone, help should be available when traumatic events happen in one’s life.

The assurance that “you are not alone” should be there to see the person through the initial shock of the new reality of being alive and of being different.

The difference should be a part when the person learns to accept that it does not change anything more than the appearance. His or her mental health should be considered immediately to allow reality to set in with less dramatic effect on his understanding of his or her new person. Accepting together with him or her would be the closest people in his life because, like rearing children, acceptance of change is a “village”.

Not knowing what is there for him or her, and for them further traumatizes the person’s mind and body that is why it is important that during emergencies, psychological first aid – counseling is available and accessible to all.

Mental health support is for all the people that surround him or her as it will buoy them over to the new reality of their lives and prepare for their environment. This is accompanying immediate medical and physical support to get the person back on his or her feet and start to follow the process until a new life, an accepted reality is reached empowering the person himself and those around him into continue living because at least that they can do something about it.

No one support is more important – be it physical, medical or mental health support. We have to look at the person and acknowledge that what s/he needs is a holistic approach to allow full and complete recovery and continue to be part of the environment with the support of the people around them, equally able to adjust to the new life brought on by senseless war and violence in our world.

#NoMoreWar

Advertisements

Oh Dear It’s Been Six Months!

What would you do if someone come and complained she doesn’t understand what her team is doing when they go to the field and she’s in her job for 6 months now?

This is a serious question.

I get this far too often these days, and I don’t know what to do with the person asking. She’s been hired as a program manager with only 2 people under her supervision which should be easy and we all started at the same time, 6 months ago!

She’s claimed to have worked in the community before joining the team and knows her way around management, so there should be no problem. But there is, and I am getting tired of the same old question and complaints. To think that I have no direct relation with this person made the issue even more annoying and compelling at the same time.

To think that I have no direct relation with this person made the issue even more annoying and compelling at the same time because they all come up to me and ask, complain and whine (for the others involved).

I don’t want to come across as someone very nasty, but sometimes, I question our hiring process – why do we hire these kinds of people? That after 6 months on the job still seems like they just started – doesn’t know anything even if I am aware of the fact that she has all the information.

This is not very progressive, and it’s making me angry.

WhatsApp Image 2017-07-03 at 9.07.28 PM.jpeg

In my line of work, I come across all kinds of people. I am mostly patient and tolerant because I was a newbie once in my life so I know how it is to venture into humanitarian work. It can be like “pressure cooker” but only if you let pressure gets to you and this project, it shouldn’t be one of those.

That is why I am confused … maybe you can help me.

 

Life Goes On: Remembering My Time In Nepal After the Earthquake of 2015

When you’re away from your normal environment your tendency is to adapt to that new context – to the people, the weather, the food, and the culture.

That is often the case when I go to a mission. I call it a mission because I have a particular purpose why I accepted to live away from the comforts of my home and live with in another place even if I know there will be challenges.

I’ve been doing development work for over a decade until I decided to try working in a more insecure environment – emergency. The context is different, depending on the kind of emergency, but the end goal is the same as in development – to try to restore a semblance of life people had before the emergency happened except it is done at a faster pace and in a less organized but in a way efficient kind of way.

How can you be disorganized and efficient at the same time?

I realized that when working in emergency, goals are set short because new goals will have to be set more frequently than when I am working in development. Situations change quickly either for good which is always the ultimate goal or worst, which is something anticipated as a risk when in this kind of mission. That makes it efficient – to be able to achieve them and make new ones leading towards the main reason you’re there in the first place.

When goals are short, there’s always a good rate of success of achievement therefore satisfaction is also high. It keeps me motivated to continue and look forward to the time when we are ready to transition to development, and more sustainable solutions are put in place and eventually better prepare the community to be more self-reliant in the event of another emergency.

While short goals means quick achievements of it, there’s also a big chance that because of time allocated it also makes the organization a bit tight which on the other hand offered dissatisfaction. But in this line of work, I have to learn to accept that I cannot do everything the way I want it to be – I learned to adapt and adjust and celebrate the small wins I achieve.

At least I can say that when I joined the second wave of responders during the 2015 Nepal earthquakes.

I’ve lived and seen progress being made on a day-to-day basis. I’ve met people that are more willing to be part of the change without accepting defeat because nature decided to shake them up from their stupor. I’ve witnessed people’s faith in their gods amidst the destruction. I’ve gained friends and respect towards them and their lives before, during and after the catastrophe.

Since two years ago, I know that I have more to live for than just now.

Realizing that life, like a wheel, turns and when you’re up you see the world differently than when you’re down but as it rolls you learn to adapt to it and continue to live. And look forward to the destination when finally the wheel stops rolling and can say “it has been a good ride.”

Images of what happened two years ago.

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.

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.

sam_2170

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.

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 …

 

215693

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. 

 

10138607

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!

Memories that last … Nepal

Today I was reminded of where I was last year … in Nepal.

A video was made to chronicle the events that unfolded before, during and after the big earthquake by the people working for the different organization, including mine. HI team responded without delay to the catastrophe that was unfolding on the very soil they were standing as they were out on the field playing football.

Nepal 287.JPG

I still keep in touch with my former staffs now friends. Catching up on the development in the places where we used to go which with the enormity of needs seems to be slow. But believe me, a lot has been done when I was there and since I left November of last year.

Being part of the 2nd wave of emergency support means we arrived when most of the first batch of emergency support are flat out tired from the non-stop action, sleepless nights, traveling mostly on foot and maybe lack of proper meals.  It doesn’t mean that we have everything prepared for our arrival, no, we were merely taking up from what they had started … the colleagues we came to replace were laudable for really doing a good job setting up what we came to continue and improve.

I inherited a good team of physiotherapists, vibrant social workers, and energetic project officer and recruited some more including a data officer in a difficult situation. They had exceeded my expectation and was able to accomplish what were expected of us in the short time I was there – the rehabilitation services of people injured during the earthquake continued in the hospital after we folded the temporary tent hospital and rehabilitation center.

I have done many first in this mission … first emergency post and the first time in South Asia and first time to be in an earthquake zone.

When I arrived I was expecting chaos but no … arrived at midnight, went through immigration smoothly and then I saw the car.  At night you see nothing, but it has that feel and asks yourself “maybe I am in the wrong place” then I arrived in our lodging and met in passing all the rest of the crew. Then I woke up to two aftershocks of 6 magnitudes, 15 minutes interval and reality set in — I am in an emergency post!

What else do I remember?

Living in tents and sleeping either on the ground or the treatment table, shaky hotels and house in the middle of a corn field when it’s not a pond during the rainy season. Showering in a room under the stairs where you make a mental note not to sing in the shower, or you risk getting diarrhea the next day which you will not like to have being in the field.

IMG_20150619_071648

The blue tent is my room for the first three weeks in Nuwakot

I get to eat at the pit stop restaurant before getting to our final destination, where food was always good if not spicy and always the same – dhal bat with chicken washed down with nice cold coca cola.

Nepal 239.JPG

I like everything on the plate except the bitter gourd

I saw many hanging bridges and wondered how it feels to be on it. When I was actually on one, my feet won’t let me move, the phobia returned and only until our driver walked with me I was able to get to the other end otherwise, I will sleep in the car next to the river while my staffs are sleeping in the proper tent with mosquito net.

SamundatarSita (7)

It’s all smiles, but my legs were weak

But the best memory of all saw the Himalayan Range – even though I didn’t see the great mountain Everest, I got to spend a good time with the other peaks in the western part of the ranges – the Annapurna Range in Sarangkot and enjoy the company of friends while on that trip of a lifetime and the Langtang Range on my last visit to Dhunche in Ruswa district.

PokharaNPL (300).JPG

SAM_3569.JPG

Sunrise in Dhunche … Hello, Lantang Range!

In life we get to experience new things … live life different from what were used to … met people we will never get to meet again but somehow changed both of you forever … and these memories of the events that passed makes my belief in humanity even stronger.