THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Thursday, 31 January 2008

The twist continues...

It was already 3 pm when I finished running some errands around town yesterday and so I thought I might as well go straight to the bus-station to wait for Lin. I told her earlier that I should be free after 2.30 pm and Lin promised she’d inform me once she reaches the bus station. Although she didn’t call yet by then, I didn’t want to get back into town. There’s always traffic jam in Ipoh town centre whenever it’s nearing Chinese New Year and the past few days were no exception.

So I just went straight to where we promised to meet up, got myself a parking space and waited in the car. Lin sent me a text message about 3.20 pm. I got down and walked to the nearby taxi stand where she promised to wait for me. Lin was surprised when I came from behind her as she was actually looking elsewhere expecting to see my car.

As I said, I didn’t want to get caught in the traffic jam in town, so we just walked to a nearby restaurant. Just like the first time we met, Lin simply ordered exactly what I ordered. So yesterday we had rojak pasembur and milo ais kurang manis

This time Lin was even more relaxed than the first time she met me. I felt more relaxed too… we got along really well like we were old friends whereas we only got to know each other a month ago and this was just our second meet.

Lin works as a helper at a restaurant. She has never worked before this but this time she simply had to work because her ex-husband, Mr. Romeo Darling, is not consistent in giving money for the children who are staying with Lin. At the most he’d give the 4 children a total of RM300 for the whole month. Sometimes when they ask from him, he’d give only RM50. He always complained about not having enough money to give them. Hmmm… wonder where his salary usually goes to...

Now that he knows Lin is working, I bet it’ll even be harder to get any money from him. But as of yesterday, Lin had not got her salary yet. Hopefully by today she’d get it.

Actually originally it was Lin’s eldest daughter who applied for and got this job. But right when she got the job, the offer to continue her studies in a nursing college came. When she asked the employer if someone else could replace her, the taukeh simply said yes although Lin was initially not too confident about it… the person who got the job in the first place was a young lady half her age. Frankly I think Lin was the better person for the job… she had to wash the dishes, clean the kitchen, etc so she’d probably stick to the job longer. A younger person would probably quit soon enough to find another job. Lin may not be as young and energetic as her daughter, but at the same time she’s not too old either. Heck, she’s just 2 or 3 years younger than me and I am NOT OLD! Mature maybe, but not old. (Sebut betul-betulMATURE… not MORE-TUA!)

As we were gossiping… oops… I mean chatting… naturally the topic of Mr. Darling came up. Recently Mr. Darling got ill and you know lah how some people can become so manja whenever they’re ill. Mr. D was no exception. He called his children asking them to take care of him at his mother’s house. Lin’s 3 older daughters are actually angry with their father for causing the mother to be infected with HIV, but Lin managed to convince them that no matter what happens, they still need to respect their father. And so yes, her eldest and 3rd daughter went to take care of him (her 2nd daughter is overseas). But these girls, who are so supportive of their mother, went back (after their father got better) and were giggling away telling their mother what their father told them. And what did their father tell them?

“Sebenarnya bukan tak ada orang nakkan abah ni, tapi abah masih sayangkan mak kamu.”

Haha… yah, right… I know the person who wants him so much but he’s the one who’s trying to avoid her… I’m sure you readers know who too, yah? ;)

Anyway, somehow Lin and I did end up talking about “this other woman” Mr. Darling had been seeing. Lin knows I know about her ex-husband and since she heard this other woman also has HIV, she figured I knew this other woman as well. But she’s not at all bothered. Except for the financial problems, Lin actually feels a lot better without Mr. Darling in her life. When I suggested to her that this other woman (I didn’t mention Yah’s name) was probably feeling lonely and enjoyed the attention given to her by Mr. Darling (at first lah), Lin agreed that her ex-husband is a soft-spoken person and THAT was probably his strong point in winning women’s hearts.

After some time, I decided to send Lin home so that next time I know how to get to her house on my own. The town she’s staying in is not that far from Mr. K’s place, so the next time I visit Mr. K’s family, I may visit Lin’s family too.

Lin and her children stay at her father’s house in a nice kampong environment. So at least she doesn’t have to worry about paying rental. Her only problem is that the house was transferred to her eldest brother’s name some time ago by their father (who now stays elsewhere with his new wife). Their father thought it was best to transfer the house to his eldest son whom he thought would be the best person to handle the family’s properties. Although the brother did not say it openly, he did confess to another sibling that he’d sell the house once his father dies.

Lin simply didn’t want to think that far ahead. To her, if need be, she’d just have to move out and look for another place to live in. Hopefully, if that ever happens, by then Lin would be more stable financially.

Judging from her character, I’m not worried about Lin’s reaction if she ever gets to meet Yah. I’m not sure how Yah would react though… apparently she’s still heads over heels over Mr. Romeo Darling…

Yep, I do have some updates on Yah after all… she has got herself a job too. Yah works as a helper at a restaurant.

JANGAN BETULKAN COMPUTER SCREEN ANDA.

You read that right. Lin works as a helper at a restaurant. Yah works as a helper at a restaurant. BOTH Lin and Yah work as helpers at restaurants. How much more coincidental can things get?!

But thank goodness they’re not working at the same restaurant. Lin works at a restaurant near her house while Yah works at a restaurant in Ipoh.

Yah actually have not told me yet that she found herself a job in Ipoh. I guess earlier on when she called me to talk about her problems with Mr. Darling, she was probably expecting me to advice her on how to find ways to get hold of him. I instead gave her a short lecture. I told her that if Mr. D changed his phone number he probably wasn’t interested in her. I told her she must think about her children’s well being. When she started going out for karaoke sessions and taking taxis instead of buses to travel out of town, and then sent me text messages telling me that she ran out of milk powder and diapers for her toddler, I decided to put the onus back on her.

I know for a fact that other than the monthly welfare aid she gets, an anonymous donor has also been banking in a fixed amount into her account every month. And since her 2 older daughters had gone to an orphanage since the beginning of this year, she has 2 less dependents. So I told her that the money banked in by the anonymous donor is meant to buy her children’s necessities and as such she should use the money to buy milk powder and diapers instead of asking from me.

The good thing that came out of it is that Yah has now found herself a job. But why did she specifically look for a job in Ipoh? Further away from her children? Her 2 older children had already gone to an orphanage and now she left her 2 younger children to stay with their grandparents?

As I said earlier, Yah had not told me about her new job. Ever since the lecture I gave her, she did not call or SMS as often as before. She knew I was upset with her. So how did I know about her latest development? Well, she started to call/SMS a male colleague of mine instead. This colleague of mine is the person in charge of our clients’ welfare and so he had been helping Yah with her welfare application earlier.

Recently Yah said she needed some help from this colleague of mine and so she wanted to meet up with him. And guess what? She somehow managed to get Mr. Darling’s new number (hendak seribu daya!) and when she met my colleague she gave him Mr. D’s new number and asked my colleague to call him to ask how he was. Mr. D had met my colleague before during one HIV clinic and so they knew each other.

Mr. D didn’t know that Yah was right beside my colleague when they were talking over the phone. My colleague just pretended like he didn’t know anything. Mr. D did ask if my colleague had met Yah. With Yah right beside him, my colleague just answered with either yes, no or I see…

No, Mr. D did not ask about Yah because he missed her. He actually told my colleague that he didn’t like Yah and asked my colleague if he could arrange to introduce him to other HIV positive women. He really needs a wife but Yah has been blacklisted!!!! Ooh la la… isn’t this the same guy who told his daughters he didn’t remarry because he still loves their mother? Oh boy! Now he wants my colleague to introduce him to other HIV positive women?

My colleague didn’t say anything much then, but when he related the story to me later, he said no way he was going to play match-maker!

Not long after my colleague’s call, Yah herself called Mr. D direct. I guess our romeo simply didn’t know how else to avoid her. Changed his phone number, she somehow managed to find ways and means to get the new number. Don’t ask me how. Maybe she hired a private investigator? Haha!

Initially it was Mr. Darling who proposed to Yah before even attempting to get to know her better. He called her in the middle of the night… calling her darling… bringing her for karaoke sessions… spoiling her rotten! Now that he realized he didn’t like Yah, it is Yah’s turn to stalk him! Should I just say PADAN MUKA? Muahahaha…

Whatever it is, I am still upset about the negative changes in Yah. Now that she’s staying alone in Ipoh, and all her children are being taken care of by other people, she’d probably be enjoying herself more. There’s a reason she specifically looked for a job in Ipoh without even attempting to look for a job at her hometown. I suspect she wants to get nearer to Mr. Da…da…da… daarrliiing!

Aiyo… apa mau jadi?!



Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Another postponement

Last month Fuzi thought she’d be able to legalize her Narathiwat marriage cert when the guy who was helping her out (but asking for all sorts of payments from Fuzi) told her to go to the Mahkamah Syariah on a certain date. It turned out that day all Fuzi had to do was to meet up a particular lawyer who was supposed to help her out. She was then told that her case would be heard on 28th of January 2008.

That was yesterday. Since Fuzi had to go to the Mahkamah Syariah in Ipoh yesterday, her eldest daughter, Wani, 13, had to miss school to take care of her youngest sibling, 20 month old Iwan. But Iwan was not feeling well yesterday and was crying all morning. That caused Fuzi to be late and only managed to get ready after 8.30 am. Worse still, since there was no public transportation at her kampong, she had to depend on teksi sapu to get to town before she could take a bus to come to Ipoh. And there was no teksi sapu in sight when she needed one.

By the time Fuzi reached Ipoh, it was 9.50 am. She was supposed to go together with the guy who had been helping her out, and while she thought she was already late, he came even later than Fuzi. So off they went to the court and by the time they got there, it was already 10.15 am.

They waited, and they waited. One by one case was called up – mostly divorce cases. After some time, Fuzi’s name was still not called. The guy finally went to enquire, and was told that Fuzi’s case was called at 9 am! Since Fuzi wasn’t there, they postponed her case to end of next month! So another month of waiting for Fuzi before she can find out if she can legalize her marriage cert!

I told Fuzi to book a teksi sapu before hand for next month’s court appointment so she won’t be late again!

On another note, Fuzi’s eldest daughter Wani has joined the police cadet for her school co-curriculum activity while Fuzi's 3rd child, Hafiz, joined the boys scout. Great! But what was not great was the fact that the teacher in charge told Wani to get her cadet uniform ready by this Wednesday! At first she was told that she could buy through the school, but later she was informed that she had to buy one on her own. The uniform’s not cheap, and worse, there is no shop in their small town selling these uniforms.

So yesterday afternoon, I brought them to Ipoh to buy the uniforms. Fuzi’s children have already been identified for our Education Sponsorship program; and as such the money for the co-curriculum uniforms can be reimbursed from this fund.

When I got to Fuzi’s house, the children were all ready. Only Wani and Hafiz needed to buy uniforms for their co-curriculum activities, but all 5 kids were excited about going jalan-jalan in my car!

The first shop we went to didn’t have ready made uniforms for police cadet and scout. Theirs were made to order and the uniforms would only be ready in 2 weeks time. When we asked if they knew of any shop selling ready-made uniforms, they all acted as though they didn’t know of any.

We just left the shop anyway, got back into the car and drove off… only to find out that less than 100 metres away, there was another shop specifically selling ready made uniforms!! Surely those at the earlier shop would have seen this shop before???

But if Fuzi had gone by herself, she wouldn’t be able to pay for the uniforms. The complete set for both the police cadet and boys scout uniforms including the shoes and whatever else needed, came up to more than RM250. Thank goodness I will be able to claim the amount later from the sponsorship fund!

I didn’t have the time to take the children for some makan-makan yesterday. It was getting late and I had loads of things to do. So after getting the uniforms, I immediately sent them home.

But Wani and Hafiz were happy enough to get their uniforms while the other 3 kids were happy enough they were able to jalan-jalan somewhere. Initially they thought they were only going shopping at the small town where they live in. So when they found out they were going to Ipoh, they became excited! It is so easy to please them.

Tomorrow I will be meeting up with Lin. Her appointment is supposed to be this Thursday but since Lin had asked SN to change her appointment to Wednesdays (that’s her off day from her newly acquired job as a shop assistant), SN could only manage to slot her name in for the middle of February. But since tomorrow is her off day, Lin will still be coming to Ipoh anyway just to see me.

If you expect to see an update after my date with Lin tomorrow, don’t expect too much, okay? I don’t think I’d be able include any updates on Yah yet. (But I just had to include this one liner… hahaha!!)

So yeah, the title of this posting doesn’t only apply to Fuzi’s date at the Mahkamah Syariah, it also applies to updates on Yah.

Don’t you just love the suspense?? *chuckle*

Friday, 25 January 2008

Various updates...

I haven’t been receiving any news on Zana for quite some time. Remember Zana? The problematic young woman I sent to a shelter home in 2006? When I received a text message on Monday from an unfamiliar number, it came as a surprise to me when I found out that it was from Zana. She changed her number for the umpteenth time. No wonder I could not get hold of her earlier. (Zana would at least mention her name in the message… unlike Yah who assumed I would know who the sender was just by saying “Kak, ini nombor baru saya.” *rolls eyes*)

I was quite worried at first. Usually when my clients call or SMS, it’s either they are in trouble or they have a favour to ask. But no, all Zana wanted to do was to ask how I was doing and to give me her new number. Hmmm... surprising really. I remember the last time she was quite upset with me because she wanted to leave the shelter home and I didn’t (I couldn’t, really) help her out then. Even the last info on her came from Kak Hawa, the person in charge of the shelter home, who told me that Zana had started work as a security guard. That was before Raya last year.

Now Zana works at a nursery. I’m not really sure if she meant children’s nursery or plants nursery. And her baby (now 1 year plus) still stays at the shelter home. Again, I’m not really sure if she left her son there for good or if it is just a temporary measure. I was quite busy at the office I didn’t call her then. We just exchanged a few SMSes and so all I could get was just a little info. By the time I tried to call her later that night, my call didn’t get through. She must have switched off her phone. I will have to try and call again later… hopefully before she changes her number again!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yesterday was Fuzi’s appointment at the HIV clinic. Apparently last year when her appointment date was fixed, the staff at the clinic had not got hold of 2008 calendar yet. As such they were not aware of the public holidays for this year. So Fuzi’s appointment was fixed on the 23rd January, which was on Thaipusam, a public holiday here in Perak. If Fuzi hadn’t asked me earlier, she probably would have just gone for her appointment on the 23rd. In fact, she prefers her appointments to be on public holidays so that none of her older children would have to miss school to take care of their younger sibling. But what’s the point of going to the hospital if the clinic is closed?

Since a lot of reshufflings were involved, there were so many people at the HIV clinic yesterday. Fuzi got to the hospital at about 10 am but only managed to see the doctor after 1 pm. Then she had to go for blood tests which involved another round of waiting; and then to the pharmacy to get her supply of medication. Yes, Fuzi needs to start taking medication now that her CD4 count has dropped quite drastically.

By the time Fuzi called me at 2 pm, she still hadn’t got her supply of medication yet. She said she wanted to have her lunch first as she was already very hungry by then. I told her to call me when she’s done so I could fetch her at the hospital. Meanwhile off I went to the bank to settle some things for my NGO’s bank account. By the time I fetched Fuzi it was already after 3 pm. I just took her to my NGO centre for a while to get some supplies of groceries for her family before I sent her home. If she was to go back on her own, she’d probably only reach home after 5 pm.

On the way, Fuzi said she wasn’t even sure if her children had lunch. She didn’t expect to go back so late and as such did not cook before leaving for the hospital. But according to her there were some leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, so if the children were hungry, they could eat the leftover food. When I heard that, I decided to stop by a stall to buy some food for the children. Oh the poor kids… it may be already too late for lunch (it was already 4 pm by the time we reached Fuzi’s house), but better late than never I guess…

Anyway, Fuzi’s date at the Mahkamah Syariah (to legalize her Narathiwat marriage cert) will be on Monday. Understandably, right now she’s feeling so nervous. There are so many things on Fuzi’s mind right now. The marriage cert thing… her PR status… her children’s nationality… her son Ijam’s HIV status… her youngest son Iwan’s birth cert (with “Maklumat Bapa Tidak Diketahui” written)… wow! She sure has a lot of problems. But she’s still going strong, all for the sake of her children.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today I received a call from Mrs. K. The moment I answered the call, she immediately passed the phone to Mr. K. I heard over the phone Mrs. K telling her husband, “Ayah lah cakap, ibu tak reti!”

What they wanted to tell me was that their 13 year old daughter was offered a place at a residential Agama school. The problem was that they only received the offer letter today while their daughter was supposed to register yesterday! They called up the school to inform them of the problem and were told to register today, by hook or by crook.

Hmmm… this is a residential school we’re talking about – surely they’d have to prepare some things for their daughter to bring along to the school. I told Mr. K to just go and register her first so that she would not lose her place (the school is not that far from their town) but if possible to ask for permission from the school to bring her home after registration and send her back on Sunday so that they could at least have some time to prepare whatever necessities for the girl. That way at least I’d be able to go over this weekend and help out whichever way I can.

They are supposed to call me back after the registration. I’m still waiting for their call. It’s raining cats and dogs now in Ipoh… I wonder if it’s raining there too.

I guess I will just have to wait.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Why so kay-poh?

I know in the comments of my previous posting, there were quite a number of kaypoh people who wanted to know the sequel of the Yah-Lin episode, but just in case any of my blog readers terasa, let me stress that the title of this posting is not meant for you… hehehe...

Have you ever had those moments when people would ask you what you’re doing when whatever that you’re doing is already obvious?

Like you’re hanging your clothes outside and a neighbour asks, “Jemur kain ke?”

Or you just came home from work and someone asks, “Baru balik kerja?”

Or you’re having lunch at a stall somewhere and someone asks, “Makan?”

Aren’t you just tempted to answer, “Taklah, tengah tidur!” :)

The above are actually just some people’s method of starting a conversation – ask the obvious. If you are ever asked as such, consider yourselves lucky. It’s nothing, really.

But when the questions asked are not just to start a conversation but more to answer the curiosity of some kay-poh people, the people who gets asked the questions may become embarrassed… and end up not knowing what to say.

A PLWHA once complained to me that quite often when he went to get his supply of HIV medication from the pharmacy, the person handing over the drugs to him would ask, “Why are you taking this medication?”

Obviously that person knew that the drugs were for HIV. So why ask?!

A fellow volunteer who is also a disabled person (he uses crutches to move around), whenever he sees any clients of ours having to wait for quite some time to get their supply of medication, sometimes offers his help. He’d take their prescriptions, go to the special counter for the disabled, and he’d be able to get the medication for them faster. OK fine, but there was once, he was asked by the person manning the counter, “Dah macam ni pun dapat HIV jugak?” Aiyo… so sarcastic! And so mean!! That was a double insult! The person was looking down on my friend whom he assumed did something “naughty” despite being disabled.

My friend, who is not a PLWHA, simply walked off without saying anything. He didn’t even bother to mention that he was not the infected person.

And when the PLWHAs are trying to hide their HIV status from families and friends, there are bound to be awkward moments. Most common amongst the HIV positive women with babies is of course the question of why they don’t breastfeed their babies. Then they get lectured about the advantages of breastfeeding. Oh, if only people knew how much these women WANT to breastfeed but simply CANNOT for the sake of their own children…

Then there are those, who, whenever these PLWHA families get visitors, like us Buddies for example, sooooo kaypoh want to know why so and so came to visit. Which is why, in our voluntary work, we always ask for permission from our clients before we visit them at home. And even when we do get permission, we’d have to find out some background first. Sometimes when neighbours ask who we are we’d just say we’re friends or relatives or sometimes when the neighbours themselves ask if we’re the children’s teachers, we’d just smile.

We also have to maintain a low profile during our visits. There was once when another charitable organization went to visit a particular PLWHA family to be considered for financial help, the organization representatives went in such a large group, the neighbours actually gathered outside the family’s house to find out what was happening! I guess in this case we can’t really blame the neighbours for being so kaypoh. The representatives of the charitable organization should have been more sensitive and not make their visit so obvious!

But sometimes no matter how hard you try to be discrete; people still tend to find out. Somehow they’d be able to put 2 and 2 together. Worse still, these kay-poh-chees put in additional herbs and spices to their stories.

Nuri for example, prefers to meet up in town instead of at home for fear the neighbours may find out about her HIV. But from what I found out from Ani (another client who stays in the same kampong as Nuri), the kampong folks were already gossiping about Nuri being HIV positive, without even having us visit her at home.

And as I’ve mentioned in my previous postings, sometimes I tend to bump into my kampong folks whenever I’m with a PLWHA at the hospital, I always get asked who the PLWHA is. My standard answer would be “kawan” but the problem is when further questions are asked. That’s when I need to apply the art of avoiding the answer by asking a question instead…

We can’t simply tell people not to jaga tepi kain orang, because some people may be in trouble and need our help. Sometimes we do need to be kaypoh a bit, but of course, in addition to being a bit kaypoh, we’d need to be caring as well…

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Clinic duty: 16/1/2008

Today was my first clinic duty for the year. I went a bit early today as I had anticipated I may take up some time finding myself a parking space. I was right – I had to go 2 rounds before I could find a spot. Even that one was quite a distance from the HIV clinic. The walk would be good exercise, yes, but earlier in the morning I was mowing the lawn at home, so I actually had enough exercise for the day!

When I got to room 9, SN was there, about to explain to a female PLWHA about her medication which the patient was just about to start taking. The other 2 fellow volunteers were not there yet. According to SN there were a few cases she wanted to hand over to us today, but since all the new cases for today involved Chinese speaking patients, we figured we’d better wait for my colleagues to arrive. Not all these patients can speak well in Malay or English, so I’d rather wait so we’d be able to explain ourselves better. When we draw up the duty roster for the volunteers, we make it a point that for every group, there’d be Malay, Tamil and Chinese speaking volunteers. All the volunteers can speak English, so no problem in that department. But not all are that fluent in Malay, especially if the patients we deal with speak certain dialects like the Parit dialect. That's where I may come in handy. As for patients who speak only Tamil or Chinese – you can count me out for these ones!

The first case handed over to us for today was a couple – both HIV positive. No buddies were assigned to them as they travel a lot and so they didn’t see the point of being assigned a buddy. Well, at least they have each other’s support, so I too think they could do without a buddy. Nevertheless, we still gave them our brochure just in case one find day they may need our help. The couple spoke Chinese most of the time during the session, so I don’t really know what the conversations were about. All I did was to jot down the required details from the medical files to our contact report. You see, whenever a case is referred to us, SN would give their medical files to us to enable us to get the necessary particulars. Once we’re done, we’d send back the files to SN before she’d call the patients into the doctor’s room to see the doctor.

The next case referred to us was a patient whose spirit and positive attitude I truly admire. When a guy in his late 40’s came into the room, I thought he looked healthy enough. Since the conversations were sometimes in Chinese and sometimes Manglish (oops, nobody spoke proper Malay or English, huh??), I could understand and join in the conversations.

You know, this guy whom I thought looked “healthy”, was actually already on HIV medication and in addition to that, also has cancer and still needs to undergo chemo treatment. Yet he was so lively and could even joke around with us. His wife, who came into the room a bit later, told us her husband had actually gotten over the initial depression. His positive thinking helped a lot. As a matter of fact, he even asked about our voluntary duty. He said he may even consider helping us out once his chemo treatment is over. I think if he does become a volunteer one day, he’d make a good one – especially in providing peer support.

The next new case was a young lady of Thai origin who married a Malaysian. Oh, none of the volunteers knew how to speak the Thai language, but luckily this lady knew how to speak in Chinese (she married a Malaysian Chinese), so at least one of the volunteers could converse with her with ease. Me? As usual, when I didn’t understand the conversation, I’d just write down our contact report.

This lady, who is 10 weeks pregnant, will be moving to Johore soon to stay with her husband who works there. So her case will be referred to JB and as such we didn’t assign any buddy to her.

SN had wanted to refer another new case to us today, but there were so many patients, SN was so busy that by the time she wanted to refer another case to us, the said patient had gone back.

Anyway, in between SN moving around, walking to and fro the doctor’s room and our room, she did manage to enquire if we were in touch with a few PLWHAs who had missed their appointments. One of them, Helena, never bothered to come for appointments, and worse still, didn’t even bother to bring her kids for tests despite being reminded by the doctors many times! One of my colleagues even went to her house a few times to coax her to at least bring her children, but she was reluctant. To her, it’s better not to know at all rather than finding out they’re positive. Sigh!

And remember Miera, the young Malay lady who specified she didn’t want a Malay buddy for fear she may be looked down upon by fellow Malays? Well, she too had missed her appointment. And since she had already started her medication, missing her appointment meant she must have stopped taking her medication as she would have finished the earlier supply by now (if she did take them in the first place!). SN was rather mad with her, which is understandable, really. Here we are, so concerned about their well being, and yet they themselves are not bothered to take care of themselves!

I also asked SN about our dear Yah Ah Ngau. The moment I mentioned Yah’s name, SN giggled. Yah came last week for her appointment and SN was amused with the changes in Yah. “Aduuuhhh… bukan main lagi sekarang, pakai baju macam orang muda!” And better still, according to SN, the same day last week, Lin (Mr. Darling’s ex-wife) came to the clinic too! I asked SN if Lin and Yah actually met each other. Well, no they did not, but even if they did, I doubt they’d know each other’s link to Mr. Darling. Unless of course, they start conversing with each other, and Lin talks about her useless ex-husband and Yah talks about the romeo who proposed to her! And maybe somewhere along the line, their stories start to ring a bell somewhere…

But don’t let our imaginations run wild… this blog is supposed to highlight true stories about the lives of HIV positive people, not cerita rekaan semata-mata… hehehe…

Sunday, 13 January 2008

House visits: Sponsorship assessment

When my NGO’s sponsorship committee set up the procedures for the application and approval for our Sponsorship for Education program, one of the requirements is that at least 2 members of the sponsorship committee must conduct a house visit to the homes of the children recommended for sponsorship to assess their situation. This is to ensure that the recommended families really deserve the sponsorship.

Well, we simply couldn’t find the time to do the house visits earlier, and as such we couldn’t finalize the list in time before school reopened recently. But not to worry, we used up our Children Education Fund to cover for their initial needs. Well, we have almost used up our Children Education Fund; hopefully the sponsorship money can start coming in soon to enable us to reimburse the funds.

So today, 3 of us went to do the house visits for this purpose. I had yesterday already stuffed up my car with groceries for 4 different families to be brought along during this visit.

After picking up 2 fellow committee members at about 10 am, off we went heading south of Ipoh, to start off our visit. There’d be a few stops along the way, so we figured we might as well use the Federal road instead of the PLUS expressway.

First stop was Shila’s house. All 3 of us had been to Shila’s house so the visit wasn’t really necessary but other than being a formality, we thought we might as well just drop by since we were passing that way anyway. At the same time we could also deliver some groceries to the family. We called Shila just about 15 minutes before we reached her place to make sure she was in. Yes, she was in, and the moment her daughter Laila knew we were coming, she kelam-kabut had her bath…

Next stop was supposed to be Pushpa’s house. All three of us had never been to her house. By right, the buddy involved should accompany us for our house visits, but since Pushpa’s buddy was in KL, we just went ahead without her buddy. Pat, her buddy, had earlier given me directions verbally without giving me the actual address of the house. Frankly speaking, I too may not remember most of my clients addresses. Oh yes, I do know how to get to their homes, I just don’t remember their addresses…

Anyway, the problem with the visit to Pushpa’s house was that nobody answered the phone when we called. When Pat tried to call a few days earlier to inform Pushpa's guardians of our visit, there was no answer either. So, while we managed to find the housing area, we simply couldn’t find the house. Ask around? Well… yeah… that would be a good solution… but the problem was that Pushpa is an HIV positive orphan who stays with her grandmother and uncle – and believe it or not, we didn't know the uncle’s or grandmother’s name!! We tried to call Pat to get more info, but Pat didn’t answer her phone either.

So okay, never mind, since our phone calls went unanswered, probably nobody was home anyway. I will have to arrange for another visit when they are around, and this time, I’d better make sure Pushpa’s buddy is available to accompany us for the visit. At least now I know the housing area where Pushpa stays.

We moved on to our next stop – Hana’s house. I’ve been to Hana’s house once before, so I should know the way. Her house is not easy to find if just based on the address. I was lucky that during my earlier visit, Pat was around to show me the way, so this time, although not 100% confident; I managed to find her house without getting lost.

As we were climbing up the hill to get to Hana’s house, I heard her daughter shouting to her, “MAMAAA!!!” Hana was actually sleeping. It was about 11.30 am. Oh no, she’s not the type to wake up late. It was her sleeping time. You see, she so happen to be on night shift this week, so she has no choice but to sleep during the day time.

We didn’t stay long. After getting a few details from Hana and reimbursing her for the amount she had to fork out to pay for her children’s schooling needs, we headed on to our next destination – Valli’s house further south.

Valli is also under Pat, and again, none of us had been to her new place. And again, no proper addresses were given by Pat, just directions. But Valli had already been informed that we were coming and the low cost flats she stays in was quite easy to find. Nice place, I might add.

Although it was our first visit to the house, we had already met a few times earlier as Valli was one of our earlier clients and had been with us for some time already. Her boys had joined a few of our Family Day outings so we were already familiar to them.

The boys (14 and 12) had even wanted to prepare some drinks for us but we told them not to prepare anything. It was already lunch time by then and we were planning to have lunch outside right after that.

So after getting the boys’ details and reimbursing Valli for the amount she had already paid for their schooling needs, off we went for lunch. There’s one famous spot in that town people love to go to for lunch, so we thought of having lunch there. And yes, other than freshly cooked ikan bakar, there were lots of choices of lauk-pauk there.

There was one more house to go to, and although this house was the other way ie slightly north of Ipoh instead of south, we thought we might as well finish our visits one shot. So, yes, after lunch, we took the Plus Expressway and headed back to Ipoh before moving on to Fuzi’s house – the house I regularly go to on a monthly basis, so of course there was no problem at all finding her house. I am Fuzi’s buddy, so the visit was just to ensure that 2 other committee members had visited and assessed her family. Both my colleagues thought that amongst the families visited today, Fuzi’s family was the one most deserving help.

But we’re approving the sponsorship for all the families visited today anyway. While people like Hana and Valli have jobs, their income may just be enough for their household needs.

So yes, we went to 5 different places today but only managed to visit 4 families. We started our visit at 10 am, and by the time I got home, it was 3 pm.

Total mileage = 178kms

Quite a day I must say, and I am pretty amazed that despite having to be the “driver” for today, I am not at all exhausted.

At least now I feel a bit relieved that the house visits are done! (ok, except maybe to Pushpa’s house, but just one more to go… not too bad lah)

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The children, the fees and the food...

Today is 1st Muharram, 1429 Hijrah. It’s a public holiday and here I am parking my butt in front of my home PC after coming back from visiting Fuzi and her kids.

School reopened last week and I thought by now matters concerning schooling fees (oh okay, bayaran tambahan if you insist) would be settled by now. But no, I am still unable to finalize my list to enable me to claim whatever amount from my NGO’s Children Education Fund. Yes, I can claim part by part but isn’t it so much easier to claim everything together under one list? Sigh

Apparently some schools have yet to give the full list to the students. Maybe because of the hoo hahs or maybe the school and the respective PTAs couldn’t come to an agreement. I don’t know for sure. But it’s sure making my life more difficult as until now I still cannot finalize the whole list.

I had already given a certain amount to Fuzi when I brought her children out to buy their uniforms and other schooling needs earlier. But last week she told me the amount was not enough to cover the fees for her 4 children, including Ijam, the HIV positive boy who just joined kindergarten this year. Since Fuzi had spent so much money to legalize her Narathiwat marriage cert, she couldn’t afford to pay first the shortage, which is about RM150.

Having seen in the news our Minister saying that those who can’t afford can opt not to pay (oh, he even said those who had paid can claim back if they want to – as though it’s as easy as that!!), I thought at the very least the school teachers would give the students some time to pay up. But no, yesterday I got a text message from Fuzi to tell me that Wina, her eldest daughter was instructed by her class teacher to pay up by Friday. Maybe for the more educated parents, they’d dare argue with the teachers. But for people like Fuzi, even to ask simple questions, she’d hesitate.

And how come it looks as though the schools are given the freedom to decide for themselves how much to charge the students for their so-called FREE education? Fuzi’s primary school children had to pay RM58.90 each for the workbooks and exercise books, another RM30.50 for their “bayaran tambahan” and an additional RM15 as DERMA PIBG. (Hmmm… derma? Derma shouldn’t be a compulsory amount, should it?) That’s slightly more than RM100 each.

Another primary school child in another town had to pay a total of RM81.70 to the school while another primary school child in yet another town had to pay a total of RM210!!! Oh wow!!

For the ones in secondary school, let’s just compare 3 children who are all in form one in different schools in different towns.

Fuzi’s daughter had to pay a total of RM140; Mrs. K’s daughter had to pay slightly over RM100 while Lin’s son had to pay RM195.

Even at kindergarten level run by the same organization (KEMAS) the charges at different places differ. While Fuzi had to pay RM87.50 for Ijam, Zainab had to pay RM101.70 for her daughter.

I still have no idea how much Hana, Pushpa or Valli had to pay. They are all staying in the same town and my NGO sponsorship committee, which I’m coordinating, will be doing our house visits this weekend. Hopefully by then, I’d be able to settle everything.

What’s obvious to me is that the ones who benefit from the “abolish school fees/free text books” budget are the rich ones. They no longer have to buy text books, so there’s a lot of savings there (although to the rich, the amount may not be so significant). For the poor who had already been given free text books previously, the only amount abolished is the school fees of RM4.50 each. But the so called bayaran tambahan seem to be much more than it had ever been (I still keep last year’s list so I know…).

Wouldn’t it be better if the amount used to buy text books for the rich be utilized instead to cover for the workbooks, exercise books and whatever hidden fees for the poor children?

If you remember, I had been a sceptic since day one. I even posted an entry here right after the budget was announced.

Anyway, since we’re going for our house visits this coming weekend, guess what I did yesterday? Shopping lah! As much as I dread it, I still had to do it. I went to buy some groceries so when we visit the families, we won’t be going empty handed. I even had to pay separately for my own household needs so that I wouldn’t mix up the money. I bought rice, sugar, flour, milo, milk, canned food, biscuits, etc. BUT there was one thing I wanted to buy for them but I simply couldn’t – cooking oil! Since I could only buy one bottle – that had to be just for my own…

When I went to visit Fuzi just now, I also brought along some bread and peanut butter. And you know what? Fuzi’s children (even the one in form one) didn’t even know how the peanut butter was supposed to be eaten. I had to teach them to spread the peanut butter on the bread.

And here we are, taking so many things for granted…

Monday, 7 January 2008

2007 takeaways: My take

Zawi of Life As I See It tagged me. I’m supposed to write about 3 takeaways for 2007.

3 takeaways? Here goes…

1. KFC
2. McDonalds
3. Pizza Hut

Betul lah kan?! I went into the respective fast food outlets, ordered some food to bring along when I visit the PLWHA families, and when asked if I wanted to eat in or take away, I said “TAKEAWAY”!

Huh? That’s not the takeaway I’m supposed to write about? Aiseh… and I thought I had just finished doing the tag!

Anyway, I was tagged supposedly because Zawi’s instincts (oh really?) told him I’d have many things to share.

Well, the stories in my blog may indicate I have many things to share, but if all I can talk about is the stories of the PLWHA families and the lessons learnt from them, then isn’t that considered as ONE takeaway? Darn, I still prefer the fast food takeaways lah!

Here comes my attempt:

No. 1: BLOGGING: When and why?

2007 was the year when I started my blog. Although I was introduced to blogging earlier in 2005 when Kak Ruby asked for my favour to set up a blog, all I did was help set up the blog and that was it. I wasn’t interested to start a blog for myself as I didn’t really know what to blog about. At that time, I just got confirmed in my voluntary work and there were not many interesting stories to tell yet. Blog about myself? Naah… I never was the type to keep a personal diary, and creating a blog to tell of my personal stories was simply not me.

Somehow in 2006 more and more clients were assigned to me, with all sorts of interesting and complicated stories. The real life stories of the HIV infected/affected families really made me more thankful for the things that I have and don’t have in life.

By early 2007, it did occur to me that I should share these real life stories with others – not only to highlight the trials and tribulations of the PLWHAs, but also to create more awareness amongst readers.

But I still had my reservations. Many things played in my mind. Is it okay for me to tell their stories? Will they mind? What about the issue of confidentiality? Ah, in the first place, who would want to read my blog? Siapalah saya?!

It was only in March 2007 that I finally made up my mind to start a blog – with the intention to share stories of my PLWHA clients. My main rules were not to mention their real names and not to post their pictures. My first short “intro” posting on what this blog was all about was on 4th March 2007 followed by another short posting on how I started getting involved in this voluntary work. I informed my TKC old girls yahoogroup about this blog so that those interested to know more about the lives of the PLWHA families could visit the blog when they wish. No point posting the stories if nobody but myself was going to read them.

To my surprise, by the time I posted my 3rd posting on 6th March, which was also the first of my PLWHA stories, even a few Malaysian Aids Council people were already visiting my blog. Apparently, they had a meeting and MarinaM who was also in that meeting did some sort of a promo for me. Wow… without even checking to see first if the stories in my blog were worthy enough to be read, she went ahead to promote it. I sure hope I didn’t disappoint her!

During the 10 months in 2007 that I blogged, I had a total of 129 postings – most of them HIV related. There were only less than 10 postings that had nothing at all to do with HIV – particularly the tags which I dreaded so much. (Somehow in this particular tag I still get to write on HIV.)

Ahh… this blog is HIV related. So what? There are many HIV related websites out there, aren’t there? Probably better constructed too! But the difference between my blog and the other HIV related websites is that while other websites give HIV facts, figures and stats, my blog concentrate on the personal life stories of the HIV infected/affected people – just the way I see them – from my own hands on experience.

Hopefully through the stories that I highlight, people will understand more about the PLWHAs. Ah well, the gossip-like stories are far more interesting than the facts and stats, aren’t they?


No. 2: MY VOLUNTARY WORK: What Have I Achieved/Learnt?

Hmmm… somehow point 1 and 2 are inter-related although I put them under different headings. The reason for my no.1 2007 takeaway is my no. 2 takeaway – my voluntary work! If not for my voluntary work, I wouldn’t be able to know all the stories that I posted on my blog.

By 2007, I had handled even more PLWHA families with all sorts of different stories and different problems. Family problems, monetary problems, attitude problems, yep, even angau problems! Yes, being the person the PLWHAs talk to whenever they have problems can actually make my blood pressure rise, but the fact remains that I learn a lot of things from them. I learn to become a more grateful person. I learn that there are many unfortunate people out there much worse than me. I learn how lucky I am to be born into such a loving family as mine. I learn that it takes all kinds to make this world and we can’t apply the same solution to every person facing the same problem.

And I do get great satisfaction whenever I see any improvement in the life of the PLWHAs under my care. Of course, there are times when I get frustrated if they in turn change for the worse (like you know who lah…) but we can’t expect everything to go the way we want them to be, can we?

So, yes, while at times I may complain about feeling a bit stressed out, I am actually blessed to be involved in this voluntary work. No, never once did I regret becoming a volunteer.


No. 3: MY PERSONAL LIFE: Any improvement?

Frankly, there is not much difference in my personal life. Life had been just as routine as it was before. But after being involved in no. 1 (blogging) and no. 2 (voluntary work) above, I have more friends – my blog friends and my PLWHA friends. While I have not met most of my blog friends, their friendship mean a lot to me. And it touches me when even those who have not met me in real life, trust me enough to the extent of giving contributions to the poor families through me. Aren’t they afraid I may just be another scumbag?

Well, the expansion of the circle of friends that I have means I can learn a lot more about life. The more I get to learn about life, hopefully the more I will be able to improve myself.

And so the learning shall continue…


Oh, am I now supposed to tag 3 persons? Well, if you're reading this and you haven't been tagged yet, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Stressed!!

This has been another hectic week for me.

At the office, December and January have always been a peak period for secretarial and accounting firms. Clients’ financial reports to be written up and audited, annual returns to be submitted to ROC, income tax returns to be submitted to the IRD… Aargh! Deadlines to meet made worse by the inability of the old PCs in my office to cope with the heavy load on our computerized accounting system. There were times when I felt like throwing the PCs out of the window… but then I remembered if I did that, the PCs may hit my car parked down there…

In my voluntary work, by virtue of having the most children to look after, December and January are also rather hectic – shopping for their schooling needs; and when school reopens, their fees, workbooks, exercise books and other school requirements that need to be paid. Worse still, this year, the amount needed is only made known when school reopened yesterday. So, calls/SMSes kept coming in these past 2 days.

I am a bit stressed out this week. I think my blood going upstairs lah!! Yeah, I must always remember to de-stress from time to time. And how do you think I de-stress? What?? Go karaoke-ing like Yah??! No way! I may cause a thunderstorm!

To de-stress, I go blog lah!! No, no, I’m not a goblok! I go BLOG! I need to let it out of my clogged system!

So here I am blogging, despite having other things to do.

Remember in my previous posting, I mentioned about telling Yah to pay first and then inform me the amount and details of whatever that needs to be paid to Abang Chik’s school? Well, yesterday morning, she sent me a text message, “Dah bayar dah duit sekolah Abang Chik.” That’s it. Fullstop. No amount. No details.

I had to reply her message; asking for the amount, only then she’d give me the amount. Couldn’t she have saved the cost of one SMS by straight way mentioning the amount in the first message?!

Asiah too called me yesterday. With 4 schooling children, she had to borrow around some money first to pay for their schooling needs. With 2 in secondary school and 2 in primary, she had to fork out quite a lot of money every time school reopens. Being more systematic, Asiah had listed down everything and compiled all the receipts and asked if she could meet me today (Friday) to pass the receipts and all to me. She’s on leave until Friday and her next trip to Ipoh will only be in February.

Later when I was at the bank, banking in my mom’s pension, Fuzi called. Apparently, she had to pay more than anticipated. Worse still, her 12 year old daughter was NOT given the supposedly free text books by her class teacher. Reason given – her mother is not a Malaysian citizen. Whaddaheck?! Fuzi may not be a Malaysian, but her daughter’s birth cert clearly indicated she’s a Malaysian by virtue of having a Malaysian father!! Just because her mother/guardian is a non-citizen, she is not qualified to get free text books? And the children of rich people are given text books free?!

Funny thing was that her younger brother, studying at the very same school, was given free text books by his class teacher! What… same school, different guidelines? Oh come on!! I told Fuzi to go see the headmaster direct to clear the matter. I will have to check with her again later on the outcome.

Anyway, when I went to my NGO center yesterday, my colleague told me that Yah called him earlier to ask about her SOCSO application which my colleague helped to arrange. During that call, she told my colleague she was out in town with her “pakwe”. When he asked if she went home, she said, “Semalam balik.” Ayoma??? Semalam balik today tada balik ka??!

Looks like ever since I gave her that piece of advice when she sought my help regarding her angau problem, Yah is afraid to tell me what she does anymore, but is not afraid to tell others. She told Fuzi about going for karaoke, and she told this colleague of mine (a male non-Muslim) about going out with guys. And before you think she went out with Mr. Darling again, no, I don’t think so. As I had mentioned before, Mr. Darling had changed his phone number after Yah refused to have sex with him. And it seems Yah too has been out having fun in other towns, far from the town Mr. Darling stays/works in.

Looks like Yah took my advice to try and forget Mr. Darling. But that was about all the advice she took. I told her to seek help from God. I told her to find a job to keep herself busy so she can forget Mr. Darling. Yah, instead, has her own ways in trying to forget Mr. Darling. She goes out with other men to have some fun – something she had never done before!

Even Fuzi noticed the change in Yah – inside out!!

On the inside: from a tough, responsible and determined woman, she has become like a troubled teenager – rimas dok rumahtakut kena marahtidur rumah kawan. She’s acting like she has no children… except when she needs financial help for the children. I suppose she’s afraid if she has to pay so much for the children, she may not have enough to spend outside to de-stress herself. (Too bad she doesn’t de-stress like I do – maybe I need to teach her to blog? Or will that only lead her to spend most of her time at a cyber cafĂ©?)

On the outside: Yah used to be the typical “kampong girl” – with her baju kurung and tudung wherever she went. Even at the Lost World of Tambun when I myself transformed from my usual jubah and tudung labuh to a more suitable clothing to have fun around the park; Yah was still in her baju kurung and tudung. After she met Mr. Darling, it’s now t-shirt and jeans. Tudung also melayang already…

Oh ok, enough about Yah. Let’s go on to Asiah. Alamak, the name still rhymes. Please don’t get confused!

Today, Asiah came up to Ipoh. Initially she was supposed to come alone by bus. I promised to fetch her at the bus station. This morning, she called me to inform me that she was already on the way and that she came by motorbike with her husband. Asiah’s husband always tends to change his mind at the very last minute. Like the Family Day, initially he allowed Asiah to go with her children. (Her children are all from her late husband. She has none with her present husband.) Then, a day before the event, he said no.

For your info, Asiah was infected with HIV by her late husband. She later got remarried to an elderly man (used to kerja kampong but now no longer working), who’s also somebody else’s husband. In such a situation, with her HIV and all, I guess it’s no surprise that she has problems in her marriage. On the brighter side, Asiah thinks it’s good in a way that whenever people commented that she’s losing weight, she’d rather have them think it was because of her marriage problems, not because of HIV.

According to Asiah, her husband tends to be overly jealous at times. He’s an elderly man, while Asiah is not only young (she’s 38) but also beautiful. And I tell you she has got such a lovely complexion! No wonder the husband’s so jealous! He’s probably afraid many guys out there may fall for Asiah too just like he did after Asiah’s first husband died!!

Anyway, back to today, since she was not going to the bus station, we agreed to meet elsewhere. When I got there and asked where her husband was, Asiah said, “Dia segan nak jumpa akak. Dia tunggu kat motor.”

Alahai, segan? Ah, lantak dia lah! I still took Asiah to have a drink at the food court. Let her husband wait. He knew Asiah was meeting a woman, not a man. And he has met me once before at the HIV clinic when he accompanied Asiah for her appointment.

At least by having a drink, we could still chit chat a bit instead of just reimbursing her with the amount she had to pay first for her children’s schooling needs. But I didn’t dare let her stay long. Before her husband bising, might as well tell her to go off. Otherwise next time he may not even allow her to see me.

We promised to catch up with each other when she comes to Ipoh again in February.

OK, now my blood no longer upstairs. I can sign off now... hehehe...

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Lin's story

As mentioned in my previous posting on 2007 recap, I didn’t include Lin as a new client in 2007 as she just contacted me at the end of year and I had yet to meet her. I also said that Lin would probably be my first client for 2008.

Well, true enough Lin is my first client of this year.

While I was in my office this morning, Lin sent me a text message, asking if she could meet me today. Initially we planned to meet next week when she comes to Ipoh for her blood test. But Lin just got herself a job (as a shop assistant) and her off days are on Wednesdays, so she may not have the time to meet up with me when she comes next week.

Since my office work is on a half day basis, I agreed to meet up with her after 2.30 pm. I told her to call me when she reaches the bus station so I could fetch her there. I also gave her my car registration number so she could look out for me. We have never met each other before so we don’t know how each other look like. I will have to depend on her to give me the signal when she sees my car.

Right after I gave the details (where & when to meet) via SMS to Lin, another text message came in. I thought it was Lin again confirming that the arrangement was okay with her. But when I read the message, it actually came from Yah. She wanted to tell me that she has to pay Abang Chik’s schooling needs herself. I replied her SMS telling her to pay first and then give me all the details so I could arrange for reimbursement. Unless she has finished all her EPF money on unnecessary things (like karaoke maybe??); she should be able to pay first. I don’t want my clients to think of me as their banker who’d simply give them money as per their request anytime.

What a coincidence that Yah’s SMS came right after Lin’s. Macam tau-tau they’re now both the main stars in Pi’s Twist… :)

I had estimated that Lin would reach the bus station about 3 pm. As I was driving just a few minutes away from the bus station, Lin called to say she was already at the bus station. Told her to wait at Medan Kidd across the road so it would be easier for her to look out for me, and for me to look out for a person who looks like she’s looking out for me… (ah, Pi with her typical twist!)

I then took her to a food stall so we could minum-minum and makan-makan while we talk.

Lin is a very pleasant person to talk to. Although in her first SMS to me she said she felt depressed, I think all she needed was someone to talk to. She looked relieved having had the opportunity to talk to me. She was not shy to talk about herself and I didn’t really have to dig for details. She just talked without hiding anything.

With the details given, I was doubly sure that her ex-husband is indeed Mr. Darling (yes, EX husband. They are divorced). And I got to know of Mr. Darling’s dirty little secrets since during his early marriage days. He had actually started going out having fun ever since the couple had 2 kids. Sometimes he didn’t come home for 3 nights without telling. Many times he’d come home at 3 or 4 am; smelling of alcohol and with lipstick marks on his shirt. There was once when Mr. Darling was caught red-handed in a lorry with another lady – by the lady’s family members. They threatened to report him to the authorities. Mr. Darling came home, admitted to Lin what he did, and had the cheek to ask Lin to say he was with her at home if anybody comes to investigate. As someone who never worked before and always dependent on the husband, Lin stayed on as a very obedient wife, taken advantage by the husband.

Now they have six children, and I must say I am impressed with the children’s academic performance. Her eldest daughter has just been called for an interview to further her studies at a nursing college, her 2nd daughter who used to go to a boarding school, is now overseas under a scholarship. She’s taking up medic. The 3rd daughter is waiting for her SPM results. This daughter too used to go to a boarding school but she couldn’t last long there and so went back to a daily school.

Her younger 3 children are the ones who need help for their educational needs. Their father gives them money from time to time but just enough for their daily basic needs, definitely not enough for their schooling needs. Knowing that her 2nd daughter (the one on scholarship) just got reimbursed with RM1,500 for her earlier preparation to go overseas, he told her to use that money for the schooling needs of the other children. Whaddaheck… he spends his money on women and liquor, and then wants to use his daughter’s hard earned scholarship money to be spent on the other children’s educational needs?!

And how did Mr. Darling and Lin get divorced? Lin - being lonely and seldom going out of the house, used to send text messages to her friends. Mr. Darling, not wanting his “hal ehwal rumahtangga” to be known to anyone else, told her that if she sent out ANY SMS to simply ANYONE on ANY subject, consider it as “jatuh talak”.

By then Lin actually could not take it anymore. Having been infected with HIV despite being a very obedient wife who seldom goes out, Lin simply has had it with Mr. Darling! She wanted a divorce. So she sent one SMS to a friend of hers. After that she asked Mr. Darling if he meant what he said earlier and told him about the SMS she sent. Mr. Darling then said, “Kalau macam tu kira dah jatuhlah talak.”

When the matter was brought to the Pejabat Agama, Lin had it easy because Mr. Darling admitted everything without much fuss. Truth is, if he refused to admit that he had divorced Lin, Lin would have probably brought up the HIV issue and he didn’t want the Pejabat Agama people to know about his HIV status and his extra-marital activities.

However, during the last Raya season, Mr. Darling did try to use his children to coax their mother to remarry him. His reason… “sayang nanti kalau abah kawin lain, pencen abah dapat kat bini baru.” Hmmm… didn’t he use the same pencen issue to coax Yah to marry him? I remember him telling Yah he wanted his pension to go to Yah instead of to his wife who left him. What? He thinks women are so hard up for his pencen, ah? Cheh!

Lin of course refused. She had had enough of him taking advantage of her.

Funny thing was, just about a week or so after he told his children to coax their mother to remarry him, the eldest daughter saw him in town with another lady in the car. Hmmm… remember Yah spending the night at his mother’s house after our Deepa-Raya do? Judging from the timing, I am quite confident the lady the daughter saw was actually our dear Yah Ah Ngau! Muahaha!!

Anyway, I promised Lin I will try to arrange for some education funds for her schooling children. Lin said once she gets all the details she’d SMS everything to me.

Just as I got home after sending Lin back to the bus-station, another SMS came in on my handphone. It was Yah again, repeating the same thing – that she has to pay for Abang Chik’s schooling needs herself. Didn’t she understand me the first time? I replied using the same answer, only this time, I added one more line – “Duit EPF hari tu dah habis ke?” I just asked her to pay first. I didn't say she won't get any help. Well, no replies yet so far.

When she first got her EPF money, she did say she’d keep some for her children’s needs. But then, when she got her EPF, she had not met Mr. Darling… she had not started karaoke-ing… and she had not been spending her nights at her friends' homes out of town, usually traveling by taxi instead of taking the bus...

Adoii… the 3 main characters in my mollywood movie now…

YAH… LIN… and DAH-LING…