We have organised quite a number of events involving our PLHIV clients – Raya gathering a few years back… male PLHIV gathering at our center one or to years ago… Annual Family Day… but all involving just Buddies and our clients. The only time that any of our clients attended events with other PLHIV would probably be just events in KL organised by the Malaysian AIDS Council, like the International Aids Memorial Day.
So when the doctor and nurses at the Ipoh ID clinic approached me to help organise a gathering for Perak PLHIV, I obliged. A medical rep had earlier approached them, wanting to sponsor the meet. But since they (the Ipoh ID clinic) needed help to organise the thing, especially in getting the PLHIV to come, they sought my help. So I got my volunteers to call their clients, inviting them to the gathering. But it being a Friday, many could not make it. Initially we managed to get 13 clients to agree to come (not including our 3 HIV+ volunteers), but in the end only 9 turned up, plus 5 Buddies.
But I also invited Pertubuhan Komuniti Intan (PKI) to send representatives, so they made up the numbers and in the end there were about 24 or 25 attendees.
I had promised Sofie and Fuzi I’d fetch them at home to come for the gathering. So immediately after zohor, off I went, first to Sofie’s house, then I brought Sofie along with me to fetch Fuzi and her youngest son, Iwan. Fuzi’s and Sofie’s children actually go to the same school, in fact Fuzi’s son Hafiz and Sofie’s son Saiful, had been classmates ever since Sofie moved from her old house further up north.
The gathering was supposed to start at 3 pm, and under normal circumstances, being the organiser, I’d usually be there before time. But since I had to go fetch Fuzi and Sofie, I only managed to reach the venue at 3 pm sharp. But there wasn’t really much to prepare on my part anyway, the nurses from the ID clinic had already done all the necessary preparation.
There were already a few people there, mostly from the Teluk Intan group. As always, those who stay further would reach the venue first… because those who stay in the same town always think it’s still too early to make a move… :)
Other than Fuzi and Sofie, my clients who came were Lin (who was a bit late, and she came with her daughter, who is now looking around for a job), Wani and Mr & Mrs K, who actually took leave to come for the gathering. Mr & Mrs K had initially wanted to bring their 4 year old daughter along (the one who underwent a heart surgery in 2009), but it was raining since morning and the couple came on their motorbike, so they decided not to bring the girl with them.
The gathering started off with a brief introduction by the doctor, on why we organised the gathering etc. Then I asked them to sit beside a person whom they didn’t know, gave them 5 minutes to get to know each other, then I got them to introduce their “new friend” during the get-to-know session. I just wanted to make sure they didn’t just stick to their own group of friends.
The gathering was actually just an informal session, for the PLHIV to get to know and to open up to each other. In the end, the PLHIV did ask quite a number of questions… to the doctor… the nurses… and the pharmacist who were also there.
Then it was makan time, and by this time they had all already mixed around, so they did have their own chat while enjoying their food. Food? We had mee goreng, kuetiau goreng, pulut udang, agar-agar, fruits and teh tarik. They couldn’t finish all the food, and although there was no problem getting them to tapau the pulut udang and agar-agar, nobody seemed to want to take home the mee and kuetiau goreng since they didn’t have any containers with them. Plus, some were simply too shy.
Then, remembering that in the goody bags prepared for each of them, there was a tumbler in each bag, big enough, I suggested to them to fill the kuetiau and mee into the tumbler so they could easily bring them back. At first they just giggled, and didn’t want to do it. The tumbler as meant for drinks, not food. But I just grabbed a tumbler from Lin’s goody bag and started filling it with kuetiau goreng. Lin and her daughter continued giggling but didn’t object. So I guess it was just a case of “mahu tapi malu”. I ended up filling the tumblers of a few others as well, who gave the same reaction as Lin and her daughter.
As we were about to leave, Lin pulled me aside, wanting to tell me something privately.
You all remember Mr Darling? Those who don’t know who I’m talking about, you can just search for the words Mr Darling, and you’ll be able to read stories about him and the women in his life. Just a short recap, Mr Darling had met Yah (another client of mine) during one hospital appointment, and the moment he found out that Yah was a widow, he immediately proposed marriage! Crazy! He had by then been divorced. Yah didn’t say yes, but did give him her phone number. And he started calling/texting Yah late nights… calling her darling etc (which btw, was how I came up with the nickname Mr Darling for him!). In the end, it was Yah who fell heads over heels (up to angau level) over him, and began stalking him while Mr Darling himself tried to avoid her after getting to know her better.
It was only later that Lin came in as my client… and what a surprise it was to me when I found out that Lin was Mr Darling’s ex-wife. Anyway, there were a few more twist and turns to their drama, and in the end Mr Darling married somebody else – someone who never came into the picture before.
Back to the story on why Lin pulled me aside to talk to me.
“Akak ada dengar cerita tak pasal xxx (Mr Darling’s real name)?”
“Dia rogol anak tiri dia, sekarang dah jadi kes polis, bini dia buat report.”
AIYO!! I had known all along that when he proposed to Yah and he coaxed Lin to remarry him, all he wanted was to have sex! But his 14 year old step-daughter? That’s way too much!
The girl must be traumatised as it is. I just hope she is not infected with HIV as well..