Movement at the Time of Corona

When I can I compose my thoughts and put them in writing. After months of flying to commute between Kampala and my homebase I am back on the road. This time there are a lot of thoughts put into this time and I am sharing it with you.

I’m in the road pit stop #kabalega for the first meal of the day โ˜•โ˜•โ˜•

It’s been several months since I took the road to Kampala from my home in the West Nile. If not for the Covid_19 pandemic, by now I am in Entebbe via the small aircraft that lands in the same airport as all the other planes the come and go.

To reach Kampala I still have a good solid 4 hours plus or minus the traffic ๐Ÿš‘๐Ÿš’๐Ÿš“๐Ÿš”๐Ÿš•๐Ÿš•๐Ÿš–๐Ÿš˜๐Ÿš™๐Ÿšš๐Ÿš›๐Ÿš›๐Ÿšฒ๐Ÿšœ๐Ÿ›ต

My organization decided we should not mingle with undetected peeps in the airport since we pride ourselves to be both Covid free and Ebola free. It puts me and the others at greater risk since after the airport I will go in the mall for lunch like now and then to the office before I reach home.

While the world is waking up to the pandemic of ๐Ÿ‘‘ Corona virus, Uganda is living with the scare of ebola outbreak every day long before I came here. The borders are manned to make sure it doesn’t come here. The health center workers are trained to detect even a slightest symptoms and sound the alarm on suspected cases.

The country also gets a share of active cases of poliomyelitis, measles and even leprosy not because Uganda has them per se but the country host refugees from countries that because of the breakdown of health systems import with them long treatable and preventable diseases.

Am I scared? I guess not.

My country is on lockdown, and Uganda is just waiting to confirm it’s first case after all the countries around it is already dealing with it’s own cases. But I opted to stay here than go home to the chaos of the Philippines.

At the pit stop I met two girls I know in Arua, they are being pulled out by their organization. The same for my Aussie friend, after 3 weeks of deployment she’s returning to Australia before they lockdown the country. Soon my organization too will pull out it’s non essential staffs, we’ll be skeleton staffs to remain and I am one of them.

Am I crazy to stay? Maybe not.

Imagine this ๐Ÿค” if i leave here I will need to travel for over 24 hours and change cars and planes multiple times. To arrive in a closed airport and disgruntled people. I make myself vulnerable by exposure.

Then I travel to my dad’s place that is if I am found okay. And self quarantine myself in my old room. Family is ๐Ÿ’ž it’s impossible to not hug and kiss people you love.

What if after 14 days I got sick? And like dominoes the rest follows.

So no I am not crazy I am being practical. I have to be extra sensible and cautious until the first case and double the effort of self preservation once there is an active case identified โ€ฆ self quarantine and pray that the pandemic blows over and start the life back better and the environment cleaner.

Food During Quarantine: Rice and Beans

Who doesn’t like rice, but what about beans?
In Uganda this is staple across region.
If the quarantine continue, as long as we have these two in the pantry, I will not go hungry. Only, I donโ€™t really like beans especially eaten with rice. In the Philippines we eat beans sure, added to some dishes but I relish it when done as dessert, with crushed ice, milk and cooked to perfection.

COVID-19 is a Great Equalizer

I left the Philippines when the new virus started to affect Wuhan. That was the first of February. I went prepared, even brought with me masks and hand sanitiser. It was the only time I spent over 3 hours waiting for my flight. Then, I arrived in Uganda not having to get myself checked or quarantined, like it is now. I only have to show the usual yellow card to let the officers at the airport know I am vaccinated with yellow fever and Iโ€™m good to go.

Two months since, I am self quarantined in my little house up in West Nile after I was told I am a PUM – person under monitoring. 

I left KAMPALA just in time for the government declaration of national lock down, even private vehicles are not anymore allowed in the streets.  But I was there in Kampala when the first case was confirmed. The same day most expats with families are able to leave to go home fearing the worst being here. I got exposed from one of those under 20 people despedida, thanks to the many meetings we do trying to anticipate the arrival of the virus at Uganda doorstep. 

With the national lockdown, my organisation  has to stop our field intervention in the refugee settlement. Myself being in quarantine is relegated to work-from-home and had to endure Skype meetings to get something done for our projects.

Social distancing is already hard, being self-quarantined is harder. I donโ€™t envy those with families with them, especially young kids. The same time the office has output expectations while on it.  But hey, I am not complaining, just stating facts!

The virus is a great equalizer; it is a serious business. If we donโ€™t follow all the precautionary measures we put many peoples life at stake, and to be in charge of getting guidelines for our intervention in the failed, I have to set an example for all.

Stay safe everyone.

A Reluctant Overseas Worker

How many of you remember your first overseas sojourn outside the Philippines?

I am sure you were very excited with a mixture of apprehension of not knowing what to expect from the airport of origin to the new port of entry.

I finished a course in college where we are destined to be working overseas. My friends already had contracts signed for the US before they even graduated. They cannot stop talking where they will go, but not me. I didn’t find working overseas appealing until I experienced it myself.

A little backstory

I content myself working in a tertiary hospital 10 minutes walk from my house. The hospital was behind the zoo and next to the Manila Bay. The lion was my alarm clock, but I don’t need to rush to go to work. I eat proper breakfast, and I always get to attend the morning mass before I head to my department to prepare.

I was seeing an average of 40 patients every day and supervised at least six students. I was not obliged to attend any meetings, so all the time spent in the hospital was mostly patient care and supervision-training of future therapists.

And then I got bored. I got disillusioned with my chosen profession because being in a tertiary hospital; you don’t get much excitement regarding the type of cases to treat. We had the usual instances of strokes. Then there would be the occasional fracture, cerebral palsy, and plenty of arthritis.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to be with those people, but it just became monotonous and mediocre before I even knew that word exists.

Despite the department being the hub for cases that take forever to heal, the people I met and gave treatment to are the best people you will encounter in your life. The most grateful people. I was well fed with local delicacies because one of my oldest patients owns the biggest stall in the Paco Market, selling all local “kakanin” (treats). We met special people too, and they get attached to their therapist that sometimes it becomes a competition – a healthy one to who should go first.

Then I changed work. 

For a year, I became a secretary of one medical association. I can’t say it enriched my life except being organized. I discovered how awful some doctors are in real life at the same time I made friends for life.

I decided to quit for my sanity’s sake and took the ship to go to the south of the Philippines and discover General Santos and Davao. It was a good break, and it also broke the bank that pushed me to accept the first job offered by a competent doctor I met the year before.

I became a research assistant and bypassed the recruitment process until I can’t anymore. That stint enriched my life – it opened my eyes to a full new understanding of research and ethics. And of course office politics.

A blessing in disguise 

I can’t seem to get my laboratory to become a regular employee. After several attempts, I accepted that I would only work as a temp and wilt away in the lab with the monkeys.

Until I got a call from my brother saying he gave my credential to one international organization in Cambodia and should wait to be contacted. Eventually got the proverbial call, offering a short term job training local physiotherapists on the job. How hard can it be? Since I was already doing it, the decision to accept didn’t take too long to come.

I got hired.

The organization processed my paper immediately once I had all my documents in order, and two months after my birthday celebration in the year 2000, I flew out of the Philippines landing in Cambodia to start a new adventure, and I never looked back.

 

Remembering A Good Time I Had While In Gaza in 2016

ISRAELIโ€“PALESTINIAN CONFLICT NEWS

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I thought long and hard before I accepted the work in Gaza when I was asked late 2015. I just got home from a 6-month emergency response mission in Nepal when it was requested, and I made my decision to join the team on Christmas day of that year and completed all my preparations to leave by the end of January 2016.

It was not easy because of the story one hears about the Middle East and of Palestine. I followed the story of Yasser Arafat when I was younger, and I had vivid in my memory the image of him barricading himself with rubbles during the intifada and him shaking hands with other dignitaries to commit to a peaceful solution in the situation between Israel and Palestine.

I almost backed out when I was asked one document where I have to give proof of life messages in case something happened and when all the precautions were told to me, including turning off my Facebook account in fact I get checked in the immigration.

In the end, I am glad I accepted the post.

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I was met with resistance on all sides when I arrived.

One will think that because I am from the Philippines, I will have it easy in Israel, well it was not smooth as most Filipino I knew who had been in the country before because of my different situation, but it was still good comparatively.

I entered using a tourist visa, and I was told after waiting for some minutes in the side room that I  should get my work permit, or they will deport me. So you guess right, I got it in time and stayed in the country for at least a year.

When I finally crossed the border to enter Gaza, I was not welcomed by the national staff like I am used to in my other projects and by the technical referrent in the region. Eventually, the cold reception in Gaza thawed but not the one in the area.  But that is ordinary office drama, and I don’t very much care about that.

What I care about are the professionals I meant to work within the community and the people with disabilities they visit in their homes. That was more fulfilling and more worth my time because it gave me insights into the lives of people living in what’s dubbed to be the biggest open-air prison.

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Camels are welcome (Dhidhak Collections / Palestine 2016)

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Enjoying the afternoon under the blue umbrella (Dhidhak Collections / Palestine 2016)

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Day and Night view from my window 

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Out in the field 

Apart from work, I had the opportunity to experience a little bit of social life while there – horseback riding (and falling off the horse), olive picking, and some visits to restaurants where we are allowed to go.  I also learned to make one of my favorite desserts in that part of the Middle East – Knufe (spelling varies) from one of the best sweets makers in Gaza who happens to works with us.

 

 

 

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The mornings and afternoon in Gaza give me the hope that life is what you choose it to be looking at the sunrise and sunsets (mostly the latter as my room faces the Mediterranean seas).