Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

My Superwoman complex

Me! I will save the day! I can do it! Me! I’ll fix it! I’ll make it! I’ll do it! Let me!

Every so often, I see a thing/person/situation that needs fixing or helping and my mind goes into overdrive. I’m convinced that I’ll be able to fix it and save the world.

The situation will often involve me needing skills I do not currently possess. But I am not to be dissuaded! No, not me! I shall not let little things like this stop me from saving the day.

An example of this was a few years ago, when I went to the Philippines to visit a little girl called Kimberly, who I sponsor out there. The whole sponsoring thing is another Superwoman thing – I will save all the children of the world via £12 a month!

So I’m visiting Kimberly and I noticed her younger sister had a limp. The family told me that she’d been given too much medication for something when she was a baby and now the left side of her body didn’t work properly.

Inevitably, this situation brought out my Superwoman complex. I fussed over her and photographed her and generally tried to make her feel part of the gang. Then when I left, I was like, “I’m going to save her! Me! I’ll save her from her limp! I’ll fix it!”

I started making grand plans to get her seen by a paediatrician. Given that there is one nurse per five islands in that area of the Philippines, I was obviously aiming a bit high, expecting that a) there’d be a local paediatrician and b) they’d be able to drop everything and run to see her.

There are two children’s hospitals in the whole of the Philippines (which is made up of over 7,000 islands so you see the numbers are against me here) but one of them was close-ish. In my mind, I had taken her to the capital city myself, found this children’s hospital, pleaded with the doctors to do whatever you do to fix the problem (the idea that there might not be a cure was not on my radar, my Superwoman complex does not allow for ‘no’ as an answer), they had responded favourably and been like, “O yes, Laura, we will do that because you are Superwoman and we will do whatever you need us to.”

I had also found a kind soul to give us a room in their splendid mansion (people have mansions in Manila, right?) and I would stay with her until she was well again and running around all carefree and well and healthy, like her sister.

I didn’t see a flaw in my plan. There was no reason why it wouldn’t work, of course there wasn’t!

There was only, you know, the fact that I was in the middle of a university course and didn’t really have the time/money to just move to the Philippines for a while and hadn’t the proper visas or whatever to stay there for any length of time. There was also the fact that, although I had been sponsoring her sister for a little while, I was, essentially, a stranger, and how likely was it that her family would just hand her over to me to run off to another part of the country with. There was also the fact that the organisation that I sponsor her sister through would mostly be like, “Um, you know you can’t just turn up to visit your sponsor child and run off with her little sister, right?”

Instead, I did the most appropriate thing, sent an email with my concerns to the organisation, they had a nurse assess her and do a medical report and promise to keep an eye on the situation and inform me of what action they might take if it didn’t correct itself as she grew up.

This seems lovely and fabulous, this helping.

But my Superwoman complex has always been a little disappointed that I didn’t take more direct action with Kimberly’s sister.

It can kick in at anytime, this Superwoman thing. I don’t even realise it’s happening til I’m elbow deep in a toilet bowl with a rudimentary unblocker thing that I’ve made out of a wire clothes hanger, going “Don’t worry! I’ll fix it! Me! I’ve got it! I’m doing it!”

It all sounds very nice, doesn’t it? Being a superhero. Fixing things. Helping people. Saving the world.

But, boy, the disappointment that inevitably comes with the times I have bowled on in to fix something that I have no idea about and not been able to. I’m sure most people would be like, “It’s no big deal. I don’t have any skills in that so of course I couldn’t do it.”

My main issue is that in my mind, I’m like a stealthy ninja. I am capable of things people think are impossible. In the words of Team America’s Kim Jong-Il, “I’m the smartest, most crever, most physicry fit.” I can rescue people from danger, successfully operate on life-threatening brain tumours, outsmart baddies, answer every difficult question (even about things I’ve never heard of, that’s how clever I am), lift really heavy things, bake the most delicious cakes anyone has ever tasted and just generally astound and amaze those around me. I’m also beautiful in an au naturel, beach babe type of way.

I’m an eternal disappointment to myself that none of the above is true.

It doesn’t stop me doing the Superwoman thing though. And you’ll be pleased to hear that I did manage to unblock the toilet.

When not to fall asleep (and a little bit of Joan Rivers)

Back to my gap year today for some handy hints on how not to behave when in a position of importance.

We ran a newspaper, Lucy and I, which was the only town newspaper. It was important that we reported all the local events as people in the town were quite proud of their little local paper. I can’t tell you how many HIV/AIDs workshops we went to. Everything that was happening, we were at.

So the biggest and best event of the year had arrived. Independence Day! Everyone had been looking forward to it for months. Plans were under way, the kids from the local schools had fantastic little routines organised, the mayor would be there, the country’s national football team would be there. It would be AMAZING.

The day before we had been at the local Crayfish Derby, which was massive fun. But it was quite a way out of town and we had had to leave midway through to walk back into town for a meeting about youth empowerment and small businesses. After the meeting we had then walked back out of town, quite a trek, to the Crayfish Derby to finish reporting on that. Walking under the sun is quite tiring.

The next day, we woke up early to go to the Independence Day celebrations, which were just at the bottom of the hill we lived on. Easy. We arrived, found some seats in the stadium and waited. It’s quite normal to wait a while for most stuff but it takes a little bit of getting used to when you first go there. They played a bit of Celine Dion, they loved her there. Some kids did some dancing. We waited. The sun beat down on our faces. We feebly made notes in our notebooks. And kept waiting.

And then we made that fateful decision. We needed some water, we were far too hot, we were going to faint, it was urgent! We left our seats and saw a good friend arriving. He looked puzzled about why we were walking out, not in. We explained that we’d be back in a mo. We just needed some water. We were far too hot. See you soon!

We staggered up the hill, gasping. When we got home we gulped tons of water and sat down for a second to stay out of the heat until we had recovered…. And then we woke up, disorientated, and ran out of the house, and looked down the hill. And the celebration was over! Oops! We’d been asleep for the whole day!

We had to write about it for the newspaper though. Everyone would be expecting it. And it had to be front page, it was the biggest event of the year. Damn.

We had about three photos of the kids dancing before the celebrations had started. We blew them up really big so they took up loads of space, meaning we didn’t need to write as much. We worked in a few of the local schools so we knew they had been organising a special dance routine, so we mentioned that. We had a fairly good idea of what the mayor had probably said, given that we had sat in on a lot of speeches she had made. We talked about people who had been there, like the football team and a few others we had seen before we left. And summed it up by saying it was a great day and loads of fun! Then put it on the front page and hoped no-one would notice. Loads of stuff must have happened that we didn’t mention. Thankfully they didn’t notice but I still wonder how we got away with it!

The moral from today is = Don’t fall asleep when there’s something of national importance happening and you write the most popular newspaper in town.

Feedback from yesterday’s Getting Excited mission, which was to celebrate all things Filipino by wearing red and blue (two of the colours on the flag) and saying Hola to greet people (NOT how they say hello but there’s a Spanish connection and I figured people would at least know what I was talking about) and by having fish for dinner (I remember eating a lot of fish in the Philippines). So in my not-very-spectacular way, I did all of these things and, while it didn’t cause any great variation in my day, it did make me think of my friend who’s birthday it is every time I did something. And that was nice. Because she’s a nice friend. It was nice to be more conscious of reasons why the day was different to the others, instead of being all same-old-same-old.

Today I have two things to get excited about. One is that I’m going swimming when I’ve finished writing this… twice in a week after years of not even owning a swimming costume! I’m doing well. The other is that it’s Joan Rivers’ birthday today. (And the world’s smallest man, but I can’t do very much in terms of getting excited about that. I’m already quite short.) So Joan Rivers it is. On my way back from the swimming pool, I’m going to stop in the library and see if they have any of her books and I’ll spend some time this afternoon being excited about Joan Rivers’ birthday by reading a book she wrote. Maybe I’ll get plastic surgery in honour of her as well….

The worst date ever? (and more getting excited)

This isn’t really about the actual date, although it was pretty bad. It’s more about my reaction to the date.

When this gentleman asked me out to dinner, it was one of those out-of-the-blue, I-don’t-really-know-you-very-well, this-is-a-surprise things. I thought he might be nice so I said yes and he immediately gave me his phone number on a piece of paper. He’d obviously planned ahead.

On designated Dinner Day, I turned up and we walked to the restaurant. Not a lot of chat going on but I thought we’d get talking when we sat down. We got to the Japanese restaurant and got menus. The waitress came over pretty quickly and he said he was ready to order food. He ordered a bunch of stuff and then the waitress left so I realised he must have ordered for both of us. I was a vegan at the time and just knew he wouldn’t have ordered anything suitable. Anyway, when the food arrived, I managed to nibble on a vine leaf or something. This was all happening relatively quickly and the food was a good topic of conversation so I didn’t notice the main problem until we went for a little drink at the pub. We got a drink each and sat down at the table…. And I started up a few conversations… And nothing… Nothing! He had nothing to say! Disaster!

Now I’m quite a chatty girl. The type you have to shush if you want a turn at saying something. I can find something to say about most stuff. But this was ridiculous. I was expected to conduct the entire evening like a monologue because he didn’t have a thing to say!

Sample conversation:

Me: “So where did you grow up?”
Man: “Alaska.”
Me: “O that’s interesting! What’s it like there?”
Man: “Nice.”
Me: “…Um. So when did you move here?”
Man: “Two years ago.”
Me: “… Um. I grew up in Liverpool. It’s really nice there, yeh. I moved here a few years ago, to go to uni. I really like it….. etc etc…”

One word answers. And no conversation starters. Every time I asked a question, just a single word answer and no return questions. I ended up just asking myself questions and then answering them, for the sake of there being some conversation. He told me one thing, about a scene in The Simpsons where they made a joke about a computer and emailing. He really laughed. That was the high point of his conversation offerings for the night.

Suffice to say, I scarpered as soon as possible and ignored his ‘I miss you’ text sent the next day. ‘Of course you do,’ I thought, ‘You live in a world of silence. Of course you miss someone who’s talking to you.’

So I forgot about it and moved on… Until one day I was at work. I worked in a little coffee place in a train station. The customers could see inside most of it but there was a part just out of sight where the stock room was. As I was leaving the stock room to come around to the front, I looked up and saw The Man From The Date approaching. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I stopped dead and ducked down. There was a bin next to where I was standing so I crouched behind it. It wasn’t a very big bin, mind you. If he had looked over, he would definitely have seen me. After he left, my colleagues were looking at me strangely. I pretended to be searching around for something.

It happened the next day as well. I was standing next to the coffee machine, in full view and I saw him approaching from the left. So I just ducked down and stayed still. Ridiculous. When the other person on shift saw that I hadn’t made the drink, she came over to make it, so I had to move out of the way. I crawled (that’s right, crawled) across the open space into the stock room to hide. It was a pretty open-plan place. All he had to do was look slightly to his left and he would have seen me crawling across the floor. How stupid is that?

Why didn’t I just stay standing up and say something normal like, ‘Hi’. I could have done it in a detached way, to let him know I was just being polite and not inviting any interaction. Not that he knew how to do that anyway. But for some reason, I just kept hiding from him. It happened one more time, and I leapt over to the bin to hide again. I then didn’t see him for a while until he arrived a few months later, with a girl in tow so I stopped hiding behind bins then. How silly.

The moral of this story is = don’t say yes to a date before you’ve ascertained whether it’s possible to converse with the asker.

On a completely different note – in my quest to get more excited about stuff, it’s my friend’s birthday today. She’s Filipino so I’m going to embrace everything Philippines for the day. Their flag is red and blue mainly (I’ll whip out the jumper and coat I wore to get excited about the Jubilee) and the Spanish were there so I’m going to say ‘Hola’ instead of hello to everyone today (yes, I’m aware that they don’t say hola, they say ‘Kamusta’ but people won’t know what I’m going on about if I say that). I’m also going to have fish for dinner because I remember eating a lot of fish when I was in the Philippines. I’ll report back tomorrow.