Monday, April 1, 2013

New Home

Today Chienyen and her manager picked me up from the boarding house to drop me off at Saint Nicholas, where my work is. It was a few minutes ride on the other side of the island and in no time I was there. I was wearing a skirt that was appropriate (long, I mean) but Chienyen whispered to me that I should always wear pants because conservative women might look at me awkwardly. I brushed it off, of course. (The other day she asked me to try to pretend to be Malaysian, because the recent conflict with my country might invite abuse, to which I thought, No).

I know there is such thing as cultural sensitivity, but this isn't right. I don’t look at fully-covered women with condemnation, so I don’t think the way I dress should merit excessive look from anybody. To me, dress codes are a way of perpetuating the “judging the book by the cover”, among objectifying the person by letting the appearance be the basis of the character. Society has a way of telling us to present ourselves in a manner acceptable for people who are also trying to present themselves as acceptable. Who are we trying to please anyway? (k, sarreh)

I met my roommate Amanda, and everybody calls me Samantha so it fits that we are roommates I guess (the sound? You get it?). She’s from the Netherlands and really nice. Later at dinner she treated me and an Indian colleague Natasha to ice cream. Who wouldn't love anyone who would treat you to ice cream? Haha. I'm so lucky to have great roommates :)

During lunch time they called in the March and April birthday celebrants, and wouldn’t you know, I get to blow one last candle, and in Malaysia! It was a bit like school at the lunch table because our co-interns who are about to leave keep speaking in Chinese, somehow leaving us out haha. I'm going to make it a point to sit with different people.

Amanda then calls me to our room and to my surprise she started crying, confiding to me how hard it was to finish her research paper and that she is so afraid of failing. So I told her I’ll help her out. Anyway I am fond of research papers (wow rly) and the topic was good (CSR integration and online fund raising!).

I took a tour around the home, and here is what I’m confiding to you. At first (and maybe until now) it’s a bit traumatic for me. I haven’t been close to the visually impaired until now. The first time I saw a blind person walking across the corridor, I was surprised and saddened. They can’t see me, of course. But I wondered how many more have to live in such state with nobody to take care of them. There’s that feeling of helplessness, that I can’t do anything to them, which was the case when I saw a friend get sick. You feel for the person, but you can’t really “feel” what they feel and you can’t do anything about it.

Danny, the executive director that we got to chat with at lunch, said that at least 1% of the population are blind, and 10% considered visually impaired. It must be a lot worse in the Philippines where the population is bigger and I don’t really know if we have homes for the blind. It’s really a sad and paralyzing fact for me, but maybe that’s why I’m here and the 6 weeks will help me understand more and help me figure out what I can do to help.

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