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 I’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 don’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 don’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.

Can Abortion Be Justified?

Last night I dined with a friend. He’s the coordinator of one big international humanitarian NGO. We worked in a very different field, but somehow it is still connected.

Over wine, we got talking about the kinds of things we see in our places of work. On why expatriates like us are discouraged from being in insecure locations such as inside the settlement to spend the night, let alone live every day.

I said I would not do it. I am done with my cowboy days but I am sure young humanitarian actors will push their luck and try the adventure. But is it an adventure to live with the refugees if you represent oppression and reason for them being displaced? Maybe not, but that’s a story for another time.

On a more serious tone, our conversation gravitated on the subject of abortion. Since both of us work in the health sector, these are subjects we know are sensitive, and talked on hushed voices, and never blurted out in daylight, but we know it happens, and justified.

You see, without blaming anyone or any agency, we know that rape happens in the settlement or camps. People are in an insecure location and vulnerable situation, and many are just vultures taking advantage of the case, and the people they think are below them.

Imagine my surprise to hear that not only women are vulnerable in such a situation. In one week, he said they got report of men being raped but women out numbered them. Reports of defilement is available at police stations, but whether or not perpetrators are apprehended is hard to tell.

So, what he told me why they do it – abortion to victims of rape, made me think twice about why I am doing what I am doing here in Uganda. I even have to agree to disagree with him based on my faith.

That’s why abortion is hush-hush is because it’s the last resort. He said the best is still to have more robust policies on the protection of women and men against sexual exploitation and abuse, and stronger enforcement from the authorities. But when that system fails, there should be a support network that will catch these women victimized by their vulnerability, in a place where they thought they are protected but are not.

Being a victim is a hard pill to swallow. The psychological trauma it brings to the victim makes it hard for them to think straight. The fear of being discovered, labeled, and eventually ostracised in a community where you’re supposed to get your strength from to go on each day is tremendous.

What happens when the rape resulted in pregnancy?

That’s when another cycle of psychological trauma happens. Being pregnant from a rape always remind that person of what happened, of how she was not able to avoid it. Blame herself for bringing it to herself. The fight internally gets intense, making it hard for her to fight back, and often, the psychological trauma wins over the rational way of thinking, which can lead to many difficult decisions, including abortion and the worst suicide.

The mental health support system is as complicated as it can get. Not everybody understands what they are talking about, and when in such a complicated situation, often, the victims are left to fend for themselves. Making it hard for women to feel they had someone on their side. My friend told me that even he doesn’t like that program they have on abortion, but after seeing women getting into such a situation, he knew it has to be done. But he also told me that its the last resort when all support fails, and if they don’t do it, women will also find a crude way to get rid of the pregnancy that will also put their life further at risk.

So for us not to get there, as a humanitarian actor, we have a lot of responsibility for the people we serve.

First, when we design policy on protection and prevention of sexual violence and abuse, don’t let it on paper and pretend that action will magically materialize. No, it never does, that is why we should put weight on it and enforce it. We are making sure something or someone answers for the atrocities received in the hands of perpetrators.

Second, empower the support groups. Avoid the victim-blaming that often happens when rape is discovered. Nobody wants to be accosted and violated. Notably, no one should take advantage of a vulnerable situation to exert power over women and men.

Third, regardless of faith practices, we have to find solutions that best serve the many. I am not endorsing abortion. Like my friend, I am against it and will never advise it on anyone, but if all else fails, make sure that the solution identified will serve best the person and allowed to believe that s/he is not a victim but rather a survivor.

Fourth, as a person, we are our brothers and sisters keeper. We look out for each other and support each other by making sure that we all are equitable. God never wants harm to come our way, He wants us to live in harmony, but the world is crazy now. We become selfish and self-centered to the point of destruction.

The life where I live now is never easy. We make do of what we have, take advantage of the simple pleasures where it is merited. My friends here and I take our jobs seriously, that’s why our after-dinner subject was something that resonated in my head long after the wine wears off.

The road we travel to reach our workplace

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.

The Shoe That Fits

I for one is not a fan of fashion but I know a good brand when I wear one, and I am willing to spend if I know I can use it for years.

Since I can now walk without any assistance, I try very hard to get back to my normal self maybe even more. Well, walking and I are not very good friends, people that know me can attest to that, but I like to wear nice shoes like every woman does (do I need to elaborate?).

After my doctor consults last week, I was out trying to find good therabands or similar products that I can use at home. Unlike in my projects, we don’t get take-home therabands from my rehabilitation center even if I have to shelve $ 20 per session. In my last project, we allowed the partners to give away at least 1 meter of bands depending on the color they need, and our services are for free, thanks to our donors!

Anyway, so I went to this sports shop and inquired about what I wanted to buy. All around me are sports gears including shoes, and it got me thinking about the different shoes I have at home — I have lots, but all are not made for my current condition.

  • My hiking boots and sneakers are out of commision at the moment because it feels tight even with loose shoelaces, my feet still swell when I stand for a long time 
  • My canvas sneakers don’t have the arch support I needed and will be too tight if I added an insole. 
  • My flats and of course my heels even with peep toe design doesn’t feel snug when worn, I have to crawl my toes all the time I am wearing them and of course balance. 

giphy

  • And ballet flats don’t really look nice on me right now although they are my staple when overseas., next to my Birkenstocks of course. 
  • My Birks are nice, I swear by it, but I am not comfortable walking in it for a long time. My heel and the ball of my foot would have pain at different stages of my gait. 
  • Last, I am avoiding flipflops unless I am on the beach and I will only use one brand (Beach Walk) — I slipped using (Bench brand) in my bathroom. 

Until I found my (shoe) match last week. I was trying different brands and model, in fact, I only have VANS in my mind because I only want something that fits but after trying several I decided to have a better objective to what kind of shoes I will buy.

I want to believe that these new slip-on Skechers Women GO Flex Walking Shoe were designed for me. Although I am not a fan of the style and design but this time I am choosing comfort over aesthetics.

I am not promoting the brand, this is the first time I am wearing this brand and this style, but I have to say, I am happy to have bought it. The moment I tried it on and walked, my stance and steps felt different. (I should know I am the one walking right?)

(Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)
My new ride … Sketcher Go Flex Walking (Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)

Not to sound too technical but when I do the heel strike (putting weight on my heels), the materials of the shoes accept the load with ease allowing good balance. And the loading on the ball of my foot when pushing off was comfortable, no feeling of pain even when I still have some limitations in my ankle. The cushioned footbed and the flexible outsole allowed for that comfort it makes walking easy.

I also feel comfortable standing for a long time even if I still have swelling from time to time, it means I can do my stretching and some standing exercises without getting tired quickly. Even standing from sitting too long writing blogs, I don’t feel pain on my ankles and knees. The shoes absorb the weight and provide good contact on the floor and balance is not compromised.

(Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)
Even my scar is happy … me resting after my morning walk (Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)

Must be wondering about the heat. especially now that we’re in the 40 degrees. Well, the material is water resistant, it has mesh upper that allows the foot to breath (you know what I mean!) so there’s good airflow depending on the amount of activity you do, your location (indoor or outdoor) and condition of your foot. If your feet sweat a lot, maybe it’s good to wear cotton heel socks both for hygiene and comfort and make sure to air dry them when not in use (and make it a habit to throw your shoes in the washer when you can).

So for now, I am walking around the house in these shoes (also keeps my soles baby soft). And in the future, if I am allowed to prescribe footwear, I will do it, because these shoes are made for walking.

The Heat is On

Ah, the end of the month … it means that in two weeks it would be the fourth month since I broke my bones and third month since I started my physical rehabilitation treatments.

**

My bones had set well and good. I was already given a full-weight bearing go signal by my doctor, and my therapist had been wearing me out trying to work more on my gait quality and endurance. Strength is not a problem for me, but I still have residual tightness and numbness which as I was told is usual with ankle injuries.

02192018_XRay-Mortise_JBandalan

Although, my therapists been telling me that I recover fast and is able to do active exercises faster than most patients they see in similar condition. And my doctor also said the same and mentioned that some patients love their injuries so much they don’t want to be moving on their own, I am the opposite.

I challenged the norm pushing myself hard before it’s time, and it fought back putting me in my place by letting me feel pain.

**

The weather in the Philippines been rising. I was still happy until the summer officially kicked in because the heat is also kicking us all indoors.

My doctor was right when he said “let’s not put you on full leg cast” when he saw me the first time in January. Instead, he prescribed for me to use an Air Cast, a type of boots that I put on myself with help at first, and adjust the pressure on both sides to control the movement of the ankle as I start putting weight on my foot while keeping the ankle secured and stable.

 

He said I will thank him come March knowing that the temperature will continue to rise, and I am thankful indeed. Since 4 weeks, after wearing the boots at least 12 hours per day, I am almost not wearing it at all. I walk around the compound in shorts, without an appendage and only has one when I go to the hospital or attend a meeting like I did last week.

Wearing the boots outdoors now is more a precaution and protection from bumps in high traffic area like hospitals and malls. Otherwise, I almost don’t need it anymore, soon it will have to be shelved until I need it when my wires are removed.

**
In spite of the positive remarks from my treatment team, I still feel I am not doing enough, and I still feel sad and depressed sometimes with my condition. That was one of the reasons I had by set-back that I wrote all about here Happy Scar, trying hard to fast track my recovery that I almost re-injured myself, at least in my mind.
I am counting the days within the time frame I set for myself which is by mid-June to see if my physical and emotional self will be attuned. For the meantime, I am trying to fight off the heat playing in the garden with my niece and the garden hose.

Cooling Off
Cooling Off