Dusty Road

It’s the dry season, and I am back in the southwest visiting projects implemented here.

As expected, it will be very dusty.

The streets are parched. The rain that falls barely kiss the ground before it is dry again. The trees turn into different colors catching the specks of dust from the air every time a car passes by.

You can see that the whole journey is like going back in time from the movies of the Wild West, that anytime soon a guy with guns holstered on his waist will start calling out for a gun sling competition.

Snow Covered Kilimanjaro and Sunny Dar es Salaam

I intended to see the majestic Kilimanjaro. The mountain I heard so much about from friends who had no problem climbing mountains. It was once in my list of mountains to conquer, when the knees, the weight, and the heart are still in their prime.

Anyway, I had a good time at least, watching the brothers when my plane from Nairobi passed over the mountain, exposing its snow-covered top in the early morning of July last year.

At the Nairobi airport watching the sunrise as our plane gets ready to fly to Dar es Salaam and begin my journey

Kibo peak appeared, and I got excited

It feels like Tanzania is just a dream, and Kilimanjaro is an illusion since I visited the country six months ago.

Zoomed
The Kilimanjaro range is seen from the plane
Kibo (the higher peak on the far end) and Mawenzi (the more rugged smaller mountain) brothers

It will take me two days before I can go to where it is located.

Meantime, I enjoyed the warm days on the beach of Dar Es Salaam doing nothing but watch the sea, read, nap, eat, and drink, taking in all the sun I could bear.

Azure Boutique Hotel was a haven. A welcome respite from the heat of Arua in the north of Uganda, west of the Nile river.

The pool outside room 113
Azure
More huts
The gazeebo
The beach
Hallway
The hallway lights – seashells by the ceiling
View from the terrace
View from the terrace slash restaurant
Walkway to the beach from my room

Even the crab fascinates me.

After a good rest, good food and a good night’s sleep. I was excited to plan my next destination and see more of Tanzania.

Home for the Holidays

Ten months after my recovery from an injury in 2018, I accepted a job to support the refugee crisis in Uganda. By mid-November, 2018, I found myself changing continent once again, and psyching myself to live up north, west of the Nile river. 

Uganda, like the Philippines, is mostly Catholic. They have the same faith practice as us, though we are more into the fanfare, colors, and traditions. Theirs from my experience is mostly tradition and loud music.

When December came, instead of me planning to take my holidays outside of my new country, I decided to spend it with the locals. Thinking that since it’s with a family, I’ll get to experience “holidays a la Uganda.” Of course, I had a bias coming from the Philippines where Christmas season begins the moment the months’ last syllables end in “ber.” 

It was not the same. Instead, I get to live and experience, central Uganda way of life, especially on food and experience my good friends family’s faith practice without the fun-fare, lights, and colors I am used in my country. 

That’s why when I was asked to stay for another year, one of my conditions was to be allowed to travel home and spend my collected leave in my home country. 

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As always, the Philippines did not disappoint. 

I arrived with music and decorations fitting to my expectations. The airport was alive with live music from a chorale while families and friends are eagerly awaiting their loved ones. 

At my home, the motif was blue and silver with LED fairy lights. My dad’s little yellow house is like always on fire when the tree is lighted. Food, of course, was what I missed – the traditional rice cakes and the pork dishes I only imagined back in Uganda. 

Meeting friends was inevitable, and it is still fun catching up on what has happened since we last met, also going back to our kindergarten life. 

I got sick, of course. The change in the weather and long travel made me weak after Christmas, so New Year was a little subdued, but still, nothing beats an hour of fireworks display before I return to a slower welcome to 2020. When I welcomed 2019, I was in bed before midnight, and we don’t have the big table of food and pastries that are served to welcome the year, and I was not part of our family’s welcome photo. But this year, our yellow motif was punctuated by me wearing my yellow and black Ketenga cloth wrap dress. 

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As I continue to enjoy my seven weeks break, the Taal volcano, which is 50 kilometers away from where my dad lives, erupted. One moment was still planning to make a road trip; the next thing I knew, all the places we planned to visit is covered in ash. 

The momentum change. I cannot be idle while on holiday. I was avoiding to work, but I cannot let my friends down. I helped in any way I can. 

Two days after it erupted, I had my eye surgery. A minor operation, but very sensitive. It prevented me from going to ash-laden provinces and be at the forefront. Instead, I used my connections to help mobilize support to the most vulnerable people in times like this – the people with disabilities and the elderly. Pretty much the same as what I am doing in Uganda.

I am glad I have friends that are present on the ground and providing specific support to people with disabilities in the evacuation centers. And those, making sure funds received are provided to those that needed them the most. 

In the end, my holidays turning out to be very enriching. I don’t celebrate the hardship people have now because of the Taal volcano erupting. I celebrate the people that heed the call for help, and the Batangueno affected for trying to help each other out. 

I celebrate those behind the scenes, helping in any way they can to support the efforts on the ground. 

I have a couple of weeks left before I go back to Uganda, but before I do that, I will celebrate my birth month through our yearly feeding program. Isang Bata Isang Tasa (One Child One Cup) started 13 years ago, as a way to thank God for a new year by sharing my blessing to the children in my community. 

We give special attention to children under five and children with disabilities to encourage them to live healthier. We also educate their caregivers – mother, father, sisters, grandmother, etc. on how to continue to live a healthy lifestyle, in body and mind. 

Once done,  I will plan now for the 14th year, looking for sponsors and additional activities to make sure that we bring this service beyond my village and help more kids appreciate growing up healthy and clean all the time. 

Until the next celebration!

This article had been published in World Pulse

https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/coolasas/posts/93687

Thatch

Home away from home.

For most people in the settlement, this is what they call home.

When before they live freely, roaming the streets without fear.

Finding everything they need.

Where children can play. You hear laughter like no cares in the world.

Now, they live under protection.

Because some people decided a life for them.

Where fighting becomes normal everyday life.

Men become greedy with power.

That they forget that the world is not only for them but for all.

Out of fear.

They run.They fled. They cry.

That one day, their life will be back to the way it was.

In their own home.

In their own land.

Look for the Glitter

Every day, every morning I receive an email from one religious organization – a message designed to be from God and they called it God Whispers. Telling me his thoughts about me and about my life, my dreams, my past and what could be my future.

They are encouraging words at times when I am confused or at a lost for words to describe my day. Or they can be random that I cannot relate to it until after days and there are times I completely forget them.

Yesterday God whispered these words to me

Dear Dhidhak

In a gold mine, you’re surrounded by gold. The problem is that you can’t see the gold because it’s covered by darkness, dirt, and danger.

Look for the glitter,
God

P.S. Dhidhak,  do you have a lot of problems today? The more problems you have, the more gold you have. 

But couldn’t relate it to my life at that moment until after I reviewed how my day was before going to sleep.

Towards the end of the day yesterday I received a letter of rejection from the fellowship I applied last January.  

The application was hanging over my head even before the accident. I didn’t give it much thought because I was busy moving between Turkey and Tunisia and continuing my remote technical support to people in the field until I had the accident.

When it happened, I felt I needed to do something to keep me relevant because I know how long it will take to recover. I decided to finish the application, asking friends and colleagues to give me a reference to help propel it and waited to know if I will have a future with them. My focus changed and applying for the fellowship and hopefully getting it would be a good plan at the time when I was not certain what my future would be.

So yesterday afternoon, for a brief moment I was stunned by the letter.  I will be a hypocrite if I say I didn’t felt bad, and a bit insulted having been told my life’s work is not impressive to a group of people who decides who can join the program and be the best leader after the training. Of course, I did, rejection fuels different emotions – hurt, pain, it lower self-esteem and it is one reason we have a very confused world now. But then the more I think about it, I am more challenged than rejected. Challenged to strive harder.

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Once the initial reaction subsided, which didn’t take long, I sent messages to my friends who sent me the invitation. If not for him, I wouldn’t know about it and to those who gave me professional references. I regret a little bit not getting in the program because it could be a good platform to promote my advocacy and put disability in the forefront rather than an afterthought in so many global discussions that affect our society now.

I also left a message with my sister telling her the news and what I think it means to me. As always she has the right words to say at the right time, putting me in my place, placated my feelings of rejection and any other negative thoughts that formed around it and went to bed at peace.

This morning, reading what had God whispered re-affirmed my reaction to the letter yesterday.

I realized that there is so much gold around us, around me, and in me. But gold doesn’t come from the ground glittering and glowing the moment you see them.  Like any gems and precious metals, you don’t know them unless you know what you are looking for — they come covered in dirt, in between rocks or found in the darkest part of the earth.  It takes time to get to the part where it glitters, and value appreciates.

Maybe that is how I came across to those that reviewed my application among the hundreds of applicants. It didn’t glitter to the luster that attracts attention enough to offer me the opportunity. But its’ okay, I don’t need to be glowing and glittering to serve and to lead. I may not have a fancy title attached to my name, but I know that at the end of the day your title doesn’t earn you the feeling of fulfillment knowing that you found gold in others and that they see the gold in me.

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