Adjustments to the realities of war and violence

Note: This blog post has been published in https://mydecadelongtravels.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/adjustments-to-the-altered-realities-of-war-and-violence/

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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

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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Signs of Times: A Summary of My Two Decades of Experience in International Development

The world has changed since I set out to conquer it two decades ago. Progress has reached most of the countries I worked with and new challenges had risen overriding perineal problems of poverty, accessibility to basic services, human trafficking, joblessness. With the rise of populism, strongman syndrome, and complete disregard of humanity in war-stricken countries (Syria and Yemen) and man-made disasters (Plight of the Rohingya) that targets us humanitarian workers and civilians especially women and children.

We still have a lot of things to do.

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Screengrab (Link embedded in the photo)

Many airports have improved from the list of countries I visited, it was my sign of progress. I used to experience eating “fish and chips” for breakfast in a 1-hour flight in Cambodia flown by Russian pilot I was having smashing drinks the night before. Or travel 12 hours by road in the pot-riddled hi-way going to the north and only after 4 years, public buses started to ply the paved road and the 12 hours going to Siem Reap reduced to 4 hours if the driver doesn’t decide to sleep before continuing.

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Screengrabbed: Google Image

I had the exposure to life and situations I wouldn’t have known if I stayed working in the hospital in the Philippines even if the people I am helping are those that would rather buy food than to go to hospitals to seek medical attention.

I worked for a long time in the disability sector. My training in school didn’t prepare me for the training I learned in the field. I learned how disability is created and become part of the big and dynamic disability movement advocating for the rights of the vulnerable and the marginalized including people with disabilities. I was immersed in the sector when the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities was launched in 2006, a significant treaty that made history – it being signed by over 100 countries when it was launched in March of that year. Many laws and treaties followed, and new goals were designed to continue to support the most marginalized sector in the global society.

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Screengrab (Link embedded in the photo)

I trained a lot of people. I told my friends I teach in classrooms with no walls. In return I learned a lot from them too, I become self-conscious that I am just one tiny person in the vast world of issues that matter.

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Community Training in Bo, Sierra Leone (Dhidhak Collection)

The problem doesn’t get solved. There are still countries willing to fund wars and fund terrorist and pretend to do actions against them. I was in France when the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and the year after the issues of cluster bombs was discussed in Paris, and the Convention on Cluster Munition was launched much later. The organization I worked the longest (www.hi.org) actively advocated on banning the use of landmines and cluster munition during a war. Sad to say, some countries producing them won’t agree to stop because there is no livelihood alternative for them (Billions $ invested in producers of globally banned cluster bombs) to do. But what is sadder is the collateral lives affected by the use of cluster bombs and landmines … especially children (The human impact of cluster munitions) long after wars has ended.

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Signage like this are found all around Cambodia (Dhidhak Collection)

I was exposed to the consequences of war. I lived in the biggest outdoor prison called Gaza Strip while I enjoy the perks of drinking alcohol in the land stolen from them by their oppressor across the border. I also lived in the most reclusive country in the world that is already opening up (latest news: North Korea changes its time zone to match South). But they are not comparable.

I got stopped at checkpoints and lied to get my way out of a bind. I escaped narrow death coming down slippery slopes in places where the road is an imagination. My drivers are my best friends in all my mission, including taxi drivers.

I lived with people who otherwise I will not encounter in my life. I worked with a lot of French people but never learned the language but adapted their accent for better understanding. I sometimes return back to the American accent I am always mistaken to have, but I guess that’s just my Filipino accent muddled with all the language I have stored in my head.

I tried to impose self-gag because sometimes it is the right thing to do. My actions, my words and maybe my thoughts (out loud) can have consequences. You never know but what I do know is that Big Brother is always watching.

Join me as I continue to be an active observer in this crazy world of ours and try to be chill with it accepting that we live in an imperfect world.

The late Joy Irving, my first mentor as community worker and educator told me “we cannot change the world all at the same time but we can make a difference alone one brick at a time”

And that is what I am doing. I will continue to stack my bricks to create the foundation to support all that I and like-minded people want to achieve in our lifetime.

Harry Styles – Sign of the Times (Audio)

It’s Time to Get Those Feet on the Sand

Yesterday I talked to my so-called boyfriend and revealed to him my emotional state. He told me that I would feel much better if my leg completely healed and I completely recovered. I cannot complain on his answers or what was lacking in the way he said it. But he is telling the truth because I am slowly getting out of the rut every time I notice something different, focusing on the positive.

He didn’t reveal anything similar happening to him when he had his ankle accident. He very much knew my physical condition; he also had ankle injury when he was serving in the Turkish military back in the days. But I guess that’s where the similarity of our condition ends. His accident happened when he was very young, and from what he told me when he got better he continues to be sporty and changed careers. He used to be a boxing champion for his weight division until ten years ago, and he kept his form up to this day while honing his creative genius in fashion design.

Similar advise given to me by my sister. She also broke her ankle bone (medial malleolus), and a wire was also used to fix it.  It was from climbing Mt. Banahaw* with her students. I was out of the country when it happened so I didn’t know what happened during her recovery. It took her three months to 6 months to fully recover.

She told me she was using the wheelchair all the time and wheeled herself to her classroom. She didn’t use a walker, crutches, and cane nor wore plaster or used a boot to keep the ankle stable – she didn’t get out of her chair unless she needed to, like showering and going to bed. But I guess she was occupied, busy and had a purpose – which was teaching that there was no space to be emotional. I am also sure; she offered her pain and any problem she had with God and continued to be her good natured self.

But my disability journey was different.

When I thought I was recovering faster than usual, I was pulled back by pain in my foot, and my emotion went down with it (My Road to Recovery Is Bumpy, Now that I Am Thinking of It). Hearing what Hajj has to say about it made me realized that there is truth to what he told me. And since I am not my sister, my take on my emotion is very different but knowing she’s there ready to catch me gave me assurance enough to stop whining and complaining.

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Right now I busy myself with writing and catching up on some online courses that I can use when I am ready to find work again.

I am reaching out to more friends whom I haven’t heard for years. I am sorting my photos and trying to see which ones good to showcase here and which ones worth keeping. With all the travels I’ve made and all the parties I attended imagine how much digital photos I had accumulated in my hard disk and sorting them out requires full attention.

Looking at my photos made me laugh out loud, made me remember people and places and good old times. Of course the array of food photos dictates that I entered a new decade, it means the millennials had all grown up and dictated a new trend that I was happily subscribing to.

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I guess there’s no more room for drama in my life now. I am almost ready to go back out there. Find new adventures with my new scars.

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It’s time to get up now and see the bigger picture (I am with my friend in the balloon overlooking Goreme Valley at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey/2017)

I am not wearing a boot around the house and not anymore using any of the assistive devices I accumulated over the 3-months and if you didn’t know you will not anymore notice the swelling that accumulates in my foot when I sit here too long.

I’ve repeated this track of post for a while now, and I think its time to let go and see what this month would bring me … a looser ankle, a sexier ankle, a better gait or all of the above.

Battle Marks … Scars Define How We Lived Our Lives

“Give credit where credit is due”

The words my doctor, let’s call him Dr. G, told me praising my perfectly healed surgical wounds. According to him because he took my crazy stitches out early, the wound healed according to how he wants it. Since he didn’t do my surgery, it was done in another place by another doctor; he had no control how my wounds were closed. That was the best he could do so I don’t end up with ugly scars.

Just so you know …

The one I showed you in the Happy Scar post is found on the inner side of my ankle. I had pins and wires inside used to attach my bones, and I have a smiling scar to remind me of that. The other one is on the outer side of my leg; it’s as straight as it could be. My therapist even said it looks like a vein only it is outside. I had a metal plate inside to attach them securely and take up some of the load when I started putting weight on my leg. I plan to have it tattooed with leaves and sunflower to match my smiley one.

I arrived home one week after I had my surgery in Tunisia. The doctors there did a wonderful job of fixing my bones and closing my wound with very tight stitches according to Dr. G.

I had extra wounds too, but they didn’t need stitching and again not necessary according to Dr. G. Those extra wounds were from the drain tubes they attached and kept for several days after the surgery, that’s why I had the dimples in my smiley scar.

So after I was seen by Dr. G, in the emergency room two days after I arrived from my 24-hour journey, he declared he would take out my stitches in one week or two the most to promote faster healing and for me to end up with nice looking scars.

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Dr. G taking my stitches out

Two weeks later, I am out of it, and with little TLC, the wound finally closed, the last dead skin fell off, and I am left with shiny new scars — my new battle marks!

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I am not new to accidents while away for work. I guess it’s part of the deal when you accept to live alone and do everything yourself. But most of my accidents were injuries from the kitchen — nothing traumatic and obviously not life-threatening. Like when one time I was baking and the hot baking dish landed on my thigh, and I developed an unsightly and very painful second-degree burn. Or when I accidentally cut off the top part of my nail because I was pretending, I can do what professional chefs do when cutting onions. I thought I lost part of my finger when I saw the blood. Good thing the nail grew back.

Whatever happen scar doesn’t just appear. All wounds heal if we take care of it and it can leave a beautiful mark. But if we don’t, it will fester until it gets out of control, it will leave an ugly mark.

Whatever mark was left, it is there because something significant happened, a mark giving us a choice to not do it again or to continue to be strong. It is there as a reminder that we are vulnerable, that anything can happen and we will have something to show for it.

Like in life.

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Happy Scar

Must be wondering what happened to me since my last post Am I Lucky at 7?.

Well, my doctor gave me more thumbs up.👍👍👍👍👍👌 It means my bones have completely healed and I graduated from partial weight to full weight bearing when standing, walking and even climbing stairs. It was a natural high, I was elated until I crawled back under the rock and stopped doing exercises at home.

While my physical healing is improving every day, my emotions are like a roller coaster. Most of the time I stay at the base than up there looking at the blue skies and happily shouting coming down.

I am still trying to figure out why I am having delayed psychological reaction to my accident … maybe it’s not even delayed, it is just manifesting now. I have no answers yet.

When I do I will let you in my discoveries … watch out!

For the meantime, I am taking advantage of the high and blogging and taking a cue from my smiley scar.

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At least my scar is always smiling

I went to bed happy.

The last thing I did was publish my last post and turned off the lights. I guess I was tired because most nights I don’t sleep before the witching hour of 3 am the following day so sleeping before midnight was a real treat! But whatever time I went to la la land I always wake up the same time, before the rooster even which tells me I must be getting old 😄. Who cares anyway? Definitely not me!

Anyway, fully awake now I checked my phone and saw the little WordPress, WhatsApp and Facebook icon giving notice that people actually read my post. Well the WhatsApp message was something else but I am pleased with who I saw, and read and I liked them. Especially in Facebook because these are people that I personally know and knows me back.

The first three women who liked my FB post are the three women that I admire myself.

We encountered life and work together and actually a fourth even reached out to me privately when I posted my poem Falling In The Cracks. She offered to listen but all I could reply was “Thanks Amel” because I know even without telling she knows what I am feeling.

Then I saw this quote fitting tribute to the friends I made over the years.

It is not really the number of friend you have that matters its the quality and the bonds you made together.

It doesn’t matter how often you see or talk to each other its the feeling that you know they are there no matter what.

There is always that invisible tie that binds friends together and its truly great to know that the binds are made of gold thread that is priceless like that of families.

Shout out to my friends 🔊 You know who you are!

Lets to friendship! Even virtually