Yesterday, I attended the AIDS Memorial Day jointly organised by Mak Nyah PT Foundation and the Jabatan Kesihatan Perak. I received a forwarded message from a colleague who received the message from one of the PT people inviting us to attend the function. Then later on Monday last week, I received a call from the manager of PT's Mak Nyah programme, personally inviting me and Buddies to attend.
So yes, I extended the invitation to all Buddies and asked them to invite their clients as well. The only client I invited was Jah, who would always say YES no matter where I invite her to! I didn't invite Fuzi although I knew her children would love functions where makan-makan are involved. You see, her children are not quite exposed to Mak Nyahs, and with their "mulut tak ada insurance", I didn't want to end up being in an awkward situation if they end up saying loudly things they shouldn't be saying.
In the end, representing Buddies to the function were 6 volunteers and 1 client. That one client? Who else but Jah. She insisted I pick her up at the bus station as she didn't know where this hotel was, even though I told her it's at the nearby railway station. Yes, the function was held at the Majestic Station Hotel, located at the Ipoh railway station.
Actually, it is within walking distance from the bus station. Jah was just about to put on the seatbelt when I told her "Tak payah pakailah, dah nak sampai dah..."
However, first timers to the hotel may not be too confident trying to find the function room. A few people had to call their friends in the organising committee to ask how to get to the function room. I chuckled when I heard one of the Mak Nyahs, when giving directions, saying, "Alaaa... engko masuk je lif zaman Jepun tu, naik tingkat 3."
Indeed, the lift does look rather "scary" and "antique". The door is not automatic - it's AUTAmatic. You'd have to open/close it manually! Am not too sure if "lif zaman Jepun" gives the right description though - I wasn't born yet during Japanese occupation of Malaya so I don't even know how the lifts then looked like... if there were any in the first place!
Anyway, other than the usual speeches, we were briefed on the activities organised by the Mak Nyah PT Foundation, while the Jabatan Kesihatan people gave a talk on STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) showing actual pictures. We were supposed to watch a video called "Pecah Lubang" after that, but due to some technical problems, the organisers had to cancel the showing of the video. So we simply proceeded with food glorious food, much to Jah's joy.
During the function, one of the Jabatan Kesihatan staff came over to me and asked, "Dari Buddies of Ipoh ke?" I nodded. He had been trying to find our center to deliver a letter inviting us to attend a meeting called by the Pejabat Kesihatan Kinta. He couldn't find our center. So when during the speeches by both the PT Foundation and Jabatan Kesihatan reps, our attendance at the function was mentioned, particularly both the chair and vice chair; this guy quickly looked for me (the name Puan Afizah from Buddies was mentioned, and since I was the only Malay lady sitting in front, he knew it had to be me) to hand me the letter.
So I finally got the letter yesterday, and the meeting... was TODAY! The meeting was to discuss on the HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan (NSP) for implementation by the various agencies and NGOs in Kinta area. When I saw that amongst those called for the meeting was the principal of the home for problematic teenagers (which didn't want to accept Sharifah because she has HIV), I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to meet the principal herself to discuss the matter and maybe coax her to accept Sharifah. So yes, I made it a point to attend the meeting.
Since the meeting was to be held at the town where Lin is staying, this morning during my routine kerja kampong before leaving for the office, I looked around at the banana trees behind my house to see if there were any bananas ripe enough for me to give to Lin - for use at her pisang goreng stall. Found one, cut down the tree and immediately put the whole bunch of bananas into my car before I went in to have my bath. I didn't want to dirty my work clothes carrying the bananas only after getting ready for office.
The meeting was in the afternoon, and I got there just in time before the meeting started. The chairman of the meeting called out the agencies/organisations invited, to find out who was there and who was not. To my disappointment, there were no representatives from the shelter home I was talking about. Oh, Buddies of Ipoh was last on the list. When the chairman came to our turn, he pronounced the Persatuan Buddies as Persatuan "Buddhist". Of course, when he saw this one Malay makcik wearing a tudung & jubah raising her hand, he reread the letter and apologised, "Maaf ya, Persatuan Buddies, bukan Buddhist."
Despite the absence of representatives from the shelter home, the meeting was still a good avenue for me to expand my networking. So yeah, expand my networking I did.
Right after I got into my car after the meeting ended, it rained heavily. I tried to call Lin to ask where she was, but my call couldn't get through. So I just went over to her house, left the bananas right in front of the door, and then left her a text message to tell her about it. It was getting late, so I didn't bother looking for her at her pisang goreng stall. The bananas were still green anyway, I doubt any monkeys (of whichever kind) would get to it first... :)