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)
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Monday, 31 December 2007

Goodbye 2007... Hello 2008...

2007 had been quite a hectic year for me when it came to my HIV related voluntary work.

There were a few deaths amongst my PLWHAs and their family members this year.

In April, one of Zana’s twin babies died due to complications which were not HIV related.

In May, Lily died after being warded at the Ipoh GH for dengue.

In October, on the 3rd day of Aidil Fitri, Hana’s husband, Rashid passed away. Just 2 days later, another client, Rina followed suit. Both Rashid and Rina succumbed to HIV related illnesses.

This year too, I was assigned 5 new clients. One of them was Rina, who died within the same year. I only got to know her just about a month or so.

Hana too was just assigned to me this year. I have been in touch with her even before she was confirmed HIV positive as she needed help with her husband Rashid who had been diagnosed positive earlier.

Ani too was assigned to me this year. She was infected by her first husband, and she in turn, unknowingly infected her present husband. But her present husband has been very supportive so Ani so far doesn’t really have any problem emotional-wise.

Although I became Fuzi’s buddy since 2006, her son Ijam’s HIV status was only confirmed this year and so he’s the other new client assigned to me.

One more new client was an elderly lady whom I never had the chance to meet and until now I don’t know her whereabouts. Remember Makcik Minah, the 74 year old grandma? Well, my calls to her house were never answered, and since she had also been missing her hospital appointments, even SN is unsure of Makcik Minah’s whereabouts.

I have not included Lin in the list of new clients as I have yet to meet up with her. She will probably be my first client of 2008.

There were also cases whereby I wasn't assigned as the buddy but the PLWHAs would still call me for help. One of them was Zali, whose wife left him and his 2 girls.

It was also this year that I had to handle one case of someone who wanted to kill himself because he THOUGHT he had HIV. Well, Mr. X had been “naughty”, and when his private part began to feel itchy, he was confident he was infected with HIV. He even bought pesticides to kill himself with, much to the horror of his wife who forgave him despite what he did. This one was a tough one to convince. Despite one by one negative blood test results, he insisted he was probably infected. Oh well, after so many tests, he finally accepted the fact that he wasn’t infected and now both he and his wife have moved to another town where he has got himself a new job.

Guess who called me the most in 2007? Well, Yah Ah Ngau wins hands down! From a very strong and determined lady, the moment she got to know Mr. Darling and got bitten by the angau bug, she changed for the worse and is beginning to get on my nerves with her calls. While previously her calls used to be for updates on her children’s wellbeing, of late her calls were more to confide me about her lovelorn stories. Her story is still ongoing, so do stay tuned for more of Yah’s blockbuster mollywood stories… I am sure there will be a few more sequels in 2008.

And if you want to know who the raja SMS is amongst my clients, it has to be Mrs. K. When I say raja SMS, I didn’t mean she got the most number of SMS votes. Mrs. K was the one who would SMS me every time she needed something. And her SMSes are usually very lengthy. Like for example, if she wanted to tell me that her children’s bus fares were RM55, the SMS would include details like “Along tanya kawan dia, drebar bas kata tambang RM55 sebab harga minyak dah naik dan sekolah pula jauh, kalau tak sanggup bayar banyak tu drebar tak nak ambik” etc, etc, etc. I would prefer if she had just gone straight to the point so I could easily figure out what the total amount was…

Most cheerful client would definitely be Jah. She always makes the people around her laugh.

Speaking of cheer, our 2007 Family Day which was held at Lost World of Tambun was a lot of fun. Hmmm, I wonder where our destination will be next year. Other activities include the International Aids Memorial Day in KL and our Deepa-Raya gathering for the HIV infected ladies and their children.

Ah well, goodbye 2007…

To all reader’s of Pi’s TWIST, here’s wishing you all a very happy and blessed 2008, and hopefully our lives will NOT be as twisted as the lives of some of my clients whose stories I’ve been posting on this blog.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Oh what a twist!

I know in my previous posting I said I’d be telling more about Lin later after I meet up with her.

Well, no, I haven’t met her yet. But I can’t wait until I meet her to give you some updates. So, here goes…

When I got some basic info about Lin during our first telephone conversation, things didn’t quite register. I just took note of the info given, that’s it. My thought then was that I’d be getting more info about her when we meet face to face.

But after a while, the bells started ringing. No, not Christmas bells.

I began to link one story to another, and somehow the pieces seem to fit in very well.

Lin has 6 children? Ah, rings a bell! I’ve heard about one particular guy with 6 children.

Lin’s eldest child is 20 years old and the youngest is 10? Ah, rings a bell! This other guy also has children about the same age.

Lin and her husband are separated? Ah, rings a bell again! This other guy and his wife too are separated.

Lin stays in this particular town? Ah, rings yet another bell! This other guy too is from that very same town!

Lin’s husband works at a particular government agency? Aha!! Rings the bell yet again! This other guy works at a particular government agency too.

So when I went to my NGO center today, I took out the “Buddies Not Required” file. The file consists of contact reports of clients we meet during our HIV clinic duty; but these clients are not assigned any buddies to them as they themselves specified they didn’t want a buddy.

I browsed through the file, looking for info on the guy whom I thought would fit the above description. I couldn’t find it in the 2007 file, so I browsed through the 2006 file instead. I still couldn’t find his info, but instead I found Lin’s first contact report.

Lin’s contact report was dated August 2006. The report showed she was still with her husband then and even the address given was different than her current address (but still in the same town). She wasn’t prepared to be assigned a buddy then and so she requested that she’d call us when she’s up to it. I wasn’t on duty during that clinic but my colleagues who were on duty thought she’d feel more comfortable talking to me, so they gave her my phone number.

Hmmm… it took her more than a year to make that call.

Anyway, as I looked down further that contact report which had the column of spouse’s particulars, I saw the name of her husband… and yep, my suspicion was confirmed, this is the very same guy!!

OK, what’s so interesting about that?

Well, for your information, Lin’s husband (or ex-husband, am still not too sure) is…

Jeng! Jeng! Jeng!

Ready for this?

M R. D A R L I N G !!!

Actually I’ve never met Mr. Darling. But Yah was the one who has been telling me about him… his job… his children… his wife who left him… where he stays… So when Lin told me about her husband, somehow after a while it occurred to me that the story sounded so similar. And the husband's name in Lin's contact report confirmed that this is the very same person.

Oh what a twist on Pi’s Twist! This is beginning to sound like a Hindi movie! Just when I thought Mr. Darling’s story would end soon, the plot suddenly thickens!!

Hmmm… maybe I should just quit my office job and start writing movie scripts instead…

Oh wait, wait… maybe I should just play dumb and introduce Lin and Yah to each other without telling them about each other’s “link” with Mr. Darling. Let them find out for themselves. That would make my script more interesting… MUAHAHAHA!!!

Seriously, with both Lin and Yah becoming my clients now, there is always a possibility that they will meet each other in the near future. Then maybe Yah can come to her senses and realize what type of a person Mr. Darling really is.

But then again, maybe not… what if the scene turns ugly?

Oh dear me! I wouldn’t want to be caught in that scene.

I guess we will just have to wait and see…

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Back to school: house visits and shopping!

This week is the “back to school” rounds for me. Despite not having any children of my own, somehow there are so many children’s educational needs I have to look after. Thank goodness the welfare of Hana’s children is being looked after by Pat, a fellow volunteer who stays in the same town as Hana.

My first visit this week was on Monday to Mrs. K’s house. I dropped by their house after settling some things to do in another town near their place. Although the main reason for the visit was to bring this month’s supply of diapers, milk powder and groceries, I also needed to make sure the children’s educational needs are met.

They have yet to buy the necessary school necessities. Mrs. K said she wanted to go after Christmas. Since I didn’t have the time to bring them out to shop for their uniforms etc, I gave Mrs. K some money first and told her to get the necessary receipts when she buys the schooling necessities.

Mrs. K’s second child will be in form one in 2008, so she definitely cannot use her old uniforms. When I asked for the list provided by the school for things to be bought at the school co-op and fees to be paid to the school, what was shown to me confirmed my doubts when the budget was announced earlier about school fees being abolished. I knew all along that amongst the fees that needed to be paid to the school, only a small amount consists of “school fees”. And so that means only a small portion need not be paid this coming year, the rest are just the same.

Included in the list of “compulsory contribution” were fees for the school’s internal exams, Majlis Sukan Negeri, co-curriculum and school magazine. In addition there are workbooks and sports attire that must be bought from the school co-op, not from anywhere else. So Mrs. K’s daughter’s list totaled to almost RM100. And while it’s true that certain fees/contribution need not necessary be paid if they can’t afford it, in reality many children do get pressured by their class teacher to pay up even the so-called “derma” PIBG. True, the school can’t do anything if the students don’t pay up, but when the children get pressured by their teachers, don’t you think they will become reluctant to go to school?

Well, I do hope Mrs. K’s daughter will get more understanding teachers… unlike the teachers at her brother’s school who kept pressuring him last year.

My next visit was to Shila’s house on Christmas day. Shila had been unwell and the visit was mainly to find out how she was doing. Initially Shila thought she had measles. While her fever subsided, the so-called measles did not. When she showed me her legs, I knew it wasn’t measles. It looked reddish here and there and some blue-black here and there. It was either some side effects from the HIV medication which she just started to take about 2 weeks ago… or she may have some other blood related problems. But no, definitely not measles. Her appointment at the HIV clinic will be some time in January 2008 but I told her to call SN the very next morning to get an earlier appointment. Shila’s mother actually suggested that Shila stopped taking the medication but I told her to consult the HIV clinic before she takes any action on her own.

Anyway, Shila had already bought Laila’s schooling needs and showed me the list provided by the school. I reimbursed Shila (and my NGO will have to reimburse me later) a total amount of RM220. And Laila’s only going to be in standard 2…

Then last night, at midnight while I was asleep, a text message came in on my hand phone. Being the light sleeper that I am, I woke up at the sound of the SMS tone. (My hand phone is on 24/7 in case of emergencies.) With my blurry vision (especially so when I was just partially awaken from my precious sleep!) and without my reading glasses anywhere near, I could only figure out it had something to do with joining the Buddies. I just went back to sleep… if it was an emergency that person would have called.

This morning when I was fully awake, and with reading glasses on, I read the message:
“Saya xxxx (name of the person). Saya nak tau macam mana nak join the buddies.”

I wasn’t really sure what this person wanted. To join Buddies as a volunteer or to seek our support services? So I replied her message asking if she wanted to join us as a volunteer.

Her reply came when I was at my office this morning:
“Tak… saya ada hiv… saya dapat dari suami yang tak bertanggungjawab… saya rasa tertekan sangat…”

I told her I’d call her later today. I was pretty busy in my office this morning with calls coming in and my staff consulting me with lots of things, so there was not enough privacy to talk with a depressed HIV infected person. The lady told me the best time to call would be between 3 to 4 pm.

Anyway, I promised Fuzi I’d bring her and her children to go shopping for schooling needs today, so after lunch and after my zuhr prayer, off I went to fetch them. They were already waiting outside their house when I got there. House already locked, all set to go!

While in the car, Fuzi told me she met up with Yah at the hospital a few weeks ago. Yah told Fuzi that I was upset with her. Hah! At least even with her lack of focus, Yah noticed I was upset with her! Fuzi told me that once Yah even called her asking if she could sleep over at Fuzi’s house. Not knowing anything, Fuzi just said yes. But Yah didn’t call again later, so I guess she slept over at somebody else’s house.

Even Fuzi noticed that Yah seemed to spend a lot of time elsewhere instead of at home where her children are. And one thing Yah never dared tell me was that some of her out-of-town visits were not really necessary. She went karaoke-ing!!! She has 4 children at home… she gets welfare help… her 2 older children wants to go to an orphanage… AND SHE WENT KARAOKE-ING????!!! And then asked Fuzi if she could sleep over at Fuzi’s house? Is that her way of trying to get Mr. Darling out of her mind?! Sheeesh!

Anyway, let’s forget about Yah for the moment. Let’s get back to Fuzi’s children. Brought them to a hypermarket, and let them choose their needs. It wasn’t an easy task when you have to buy schooling needs for 1 secondary school child, 2 primary school kids and 1 more going into kindergarten. The one for kindergarten needed shoes, socks, stationeries and school bag. The rest needed uniforms, shoes, socks, stationeries and school bags.

While waiting for them to find the various sizes for themselves, I decided to go to a quiet corner and call the depressed lady. I just needed to find out some basic info first and then follow up with her later.

Lin is a 41 year old lady with 6 children – ranging from 10 to 20 years old. She got my number from the HIV clinic. She is no longer staying with her husband. (She said dah berpisah, but I’m not too sure if she meant divorced or separated – cannot drill her with too many questions just yet) Lin was a full time housewife, so after her separation, she and her children had been staying with Lin’s 70 year old father. Her husband gives them money once in a while, as and when he likes… as and when he has money.

Since Lin stays in another town, and I am a bit tied up for the moment to visit her at her house, I asked if she’d be coming to Ipoh anytime soon. She is supposed to come for her blood test some time in early January, I asked her to call me then so we could meet up. It is much easier to talk face to face rather than on the phone.

So, more about Lin later after I meet up with her…

Back to Fuzi and her children… again…

After getting all the necessary schooling items, plus diapers and milk powder for little Iwan, off we went to the counter to pay. Today being a working day and after Christmas, the queue wasn’t too bad. And the bill… came up to… a whopping RM600 - for Fuzi’s children alone… and we haven’t included the amount that needs to be paid to their school yet!

Then I took them to the food court for some makan-makan and minum-minum before sending them back home. And before I went off, I left Fuzi whatever necessary amount that’s needed to be paid to the school.

I think this weekend I should be able to relax a bit… or at least I hope so…

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Over the weekend...

I had so many plans for the weekend. I had shopping to do, I had weddings to attend, and I had PLWHA clients to visit. But so many things cropped up, I had to cancel my plans to visit the PLWHA clients.

On Saturday morning, I received a text message from Yah. She was coming to Ipoh that afternoon to attend a wedding (no, not hers lah… hehehe) and if possible wanted to get some things from me the next morning. Since I didn’t reply her message immediately, just as I was about to go to the kitchen to cook for lunch, she decided to call me. She said she’d wait for me at Medan Kidd the next morning. I told her to be there at 9.30 am as I needed to pass her some things for the children.

There was a wedding for me to attend in the afternoon at my kampong but I still had to cook for lunch as my mom no longer go to kenduris due to her knee problems. As I was cooking (the menu yesterday was gulai asam kepala ikan) another call came in. No, it wasn’t the James Bond ring tone for my PLWHA clients, but this time it was the Beverly Hillbillies ring tone, the assigned ring tone for my fellow Buddies volunteers. (I assign different ring tones for different groups of people to enable me to easily identify the incoming calls.)

The call actually came from Pat, a fellow volunteer, who updated me on the needs of the poor clients at her area. I had earlier called her up to tell her that the Children Education Fund had been approved for the few children of our clients there and sought her help to get the full details of the amount needed. Pat promised to fax me the list on Monday. Yayy!! So I don’t have to worry about Hana, Pushpa and Valli. Pat will take care of them and submit whatever claims to me later.

I still needed to shop for some things but since I had another appointment on Saturday, I simply didn’t have the time to go shopping. And since I’m the type who hates to go out at night (unless I really have to), I didn’t go shopping on Saturday night even though I had no other plans that night.

Like it or not, I had to go shopping this morning. Luckily the supermarkets open early so by 8.30 this morning, off I went to shop for some babies’ needs and also some groceries for the poor families. I had promised to meet up with Yah at 9.30 am, so I had to shop earlier.

As I was pushing a trolley full of baby’s diapers and milk powder, I bumped into a kampong folk of mine. Imagine the shock on her face upon seeing the loads of diapers and milk powder in the trolley. As expected, the first question she asked was, “Siapa yang pakai pampers ni?!” As far as she knew, there were no babies at my house. She probably wouldn’t be as surprised if I had bought adult diapers since she knew I have a bedridden grandma. (But just for the record, my grandma refuses to wear diapers so we have to carry her to the toilet every time.) Anyway, I just told her the things were for poor families. I didn’t mention anything about HIV though – the story would have ended longer if I had brought that topic up.

After loading everything into my car, off I went to Medan Kidd as I promised Yah. Usually she’d say she’d meet up with me at the bus station (which is across the road) but since this time she was the one who specifically mentioned Medan Kidd, I thought she may have had her own reasons to wait there instead. And it is easier for me too as there are ample parking space there. When I got there, I couldn’t see her anywhere. So I called her to ask where exactly she was.

Yah: “Kat Medan Kidd lah.”
Me: “Medan Kidd ke atau stesen bas? Medan Kidd ni yang kat seberang jalan ni.”
Yah: “Kat stesen bas lah, tempat akak selalu tunggu tu.”

First she said “Kat Medan Kidd lah” then she said “Kat stesen bas lah”. All I can say is WHAT LAH!! And she always assumes people would automatically understand what she means when she says anything. Aduuuh… her lack of focus is beginning to drive me up the wall…

Sabar Pi, sabar…

I handed over some diapers and milk powder for Yah’s baby, and some books for her two girls who did well in their last exams.

Anyway, I was supposed to go elsewhere this morning and on the way to visit Shila as well. Shila had not been feeling well for the past week. She was down with measles and she was also having very high fever. Since I had to cancel my plan, I called her up to find out how she was doing. Thank goodness she said her fever had subsided, although she has yet to fully recover from her measles. I will try to visit her within this week, not only to check on her but also to find out if her daughter’s schooling needs are settled.

Tomorrow I have some business to attend to in another town, and I will be passing by the small town where Mr. and Mrs. K live. I will drop by their home on my way back. And so when I go to my office tomorrow, my car will be full of diapers, milk powder and groceries.

I also promised to bring Fuzi’s children to buy their schooling needs on Wednesday. I purposely chose a working day as I can imagine the horror of queuing up to pay if I go on a public holiday. Oh no, no, no...

Another busy week it will be...

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha

Wishing all Muslim readers, Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha!
Those taking long holidays (until Christmas maybe?), happy holidays and have a great time...

Monday, 17 December 2007

New number, lost phone and Annual Dinner...

I was in front of my home PC on Saturday morning trying to update the Buddies’ monthly accounts (I’m the treasurer) when I heard the SMS tone on my phone. Had a look, and the message read, “Kak, ini nombor baru saya.”

Huh? It’s someone’s new phone number, and I was supposed to automatically know whose number it was? HELLO???!!

I knew it couldn’t be any of my friends or relatives – the sentence simply didn’t sound like it came from any of them. It had to be one of my PLWHA clients… but which one? Fuzi? Maria? Hana? Yah? Jah? Shila? Ifa? Nuri? Ani? Mrs. K? It could have been any one of them!

So I sent a short reply to the message – “Siapa ni?”

A few minutes later, a call came in from that same number. No James Bond ring tone as the number had not been registered in my hand phone yet.

“Saya lah kak!” was what the caller said when I answered the call. Again no names mentioned, but the moment I heard her voice, I knew it was Yah. The tone in which she said “Saya lah kak” was like implying that… takkan itu pun tak tahu! When I asked her how I was supposed to know who sent the SMS without her mentioning her name, she just kept quiet. Maybe she thought she was the only person in the world who had ever sent me any SMS. Duh!

We didn’t talk much as Yah said she was on her way somewhere to attend a kenduri. So I don’t really know why she changed her phone number. I hope it was because she was trying to forget Mr. Darling and she was making sure Mr. Darling would not be able to contact her when and if she succeeds in forgetting him. (well, I can always hope!)

About half an hour later, another call came in on my hand phone. It was from a fixed line somewhere up north. To my surprise, I heard the same voice on the phone. It was Yah again. This time she was asking me for HER new number. HUH??! Biar betul perempuan ni…

Apparently when she called me earlier, she was in a taxi. She then LEFT her hand phone in the taxi (Still thinking of Mr. Darling maybe?). Since it was a new number which she had yet to remember, she asked me for the number. I guess I was the only person which she had given the number to. Yah was actually hoping to call that number, get the taxi driver to answer the call and eventually return the phone to her.

Frankly, I don’t know if Yah managed to get her phone back. I’ll just have to wait until her next call.

Anyway, Buddies had our Annual Dinner on Saturday night. Oh, nothing fancy. Just a simple dinner at a halal Chinese restaurant in Ipoh. There are not many of us anyway, so we just booked two tables. We always love any excuses to gather and makan-makan, so the year-end annual dinner is one of the items in our must-do list.

Nothing formal… everyone came just as casual as ever, had some good food and made lots of noise. I forgot to take any photos when the food was served, so the only photos available here are the ones before anything was served, half way through dinner and after the food was finished by the hungry piranhas at the next table. (My tablemates did not eat so much – so we sent over the leftovers at our table to the next table where all the big eaters were!)

Posing before dinner was served.
The food... halfway thru dinner.

They may not look like big eaters, but these are the piranhas!


Oh, if you're trying to look for me in any of the pics, well, I was BEHIND the camera...

Anyway, the annual dinner was our last fellowship activity for the year. As for my own activity for this year, there is something I have yet to do… I haven’t gone shopping for the children’s schooling needs yet. HEYELP!!!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Cure for angau needed, fast!

From the title of this posting, I bet you can already tell who the main star of today’s story is.

Yep, none other than Yah Ah Ngau…

As I had told you earlier, Yah was supposed to come to Ipoh GH for her blood test on the 13th of December. Due to the alarming results of her viral load test, SN sought my help to get Yah to see her on that day. SN wanted to find out if Yah had been taking her medication correctly and regularly.

Yah reminded me a few times that she wanted to see me on the day. She said she had some problems which she wanted to talk over with me. I told her I’d only be able to see her after 1 pm. It is a hectic time at the office now with deadlines to meet.

I was actually expecting Yah to call yesterday. So the moment I heard the James Bond ring tone, I assumed it was from Yah I didn’t check the name of the caller. But when I heard the voice at the other end, I knew the sweet voice I heard was not Yah’s. It was Asiah, who happened to be at the GH for her blood test too. Asiah is not my client but seemed comfortable talking to me. She called just to find out if I was at the hospital. Since I was busy at my office, she didn’t insist on seeing me… unlike the angau someone else…

About 11.30am, Yah sent me an SMS saying she was done with her blood test and her session with SN was also over. I told her to wait and that I’d pick her at the usual place at 1 pm. I was not about to leave my office early just because a PLWHA client wanted to see me unless it was a real emergency. And I don’t classify angau as an emergency case (unless it is a life and death situation… but hopefully Yah’s angauism will never reach that stage!)

Off I went to the hospital to fetch her at 1 pm. I had to go elsewhere at 2 pm so whatever she wanted to discuss with me would have to be discussed in the car on the way to the bus station where I was sending her. After all, when she insisted she needed to see me, she did mention she wouldn’t take any more than half an hour.

So there I was waiting for her to say something. She didn’t say anything. I guess she didn’t know where to start. I had to start off the conversation by asking about her children. Kak Long and Kak Ngah will be going to an orphanage at the beginning of next year as per their own request. Although there is no black and white yet on this matter, I was told it is almost as good as confirmed. And according to Yah, the people managing the orphanage told her that she need not bring anything for the kids. The orphanage will prepare everything for them. So, for the moment I’m taking out their names from the list of recipients of our Children’s Education Fund. However I told Yah to inform me if there are any changes.

Abang Chik too initially wanted to join his sisters, but knowing him, he wouldn’t last a day at the orphanage. Besides being a hyperactive child, he is also so manja with his Tok Wan.

Since Yah still did not mention anything about the problem she wanted to discuss with me, I asked her direct what the problem was.

Yah: “Apa lagi kak, masalah itu lah.”
Me: “Masalah itu tu apa? Pasal xxx (Mr Darling’s name)?”
Yah: “Ha’ah.”
Me: “Kenapa, dia kacau lagi ke?”
Yah: “Tak, dia dah tak talipon saya dah. Tapi sayalah yang tak boleh lupakan dia. Asyik teringat kat dia je. Cuba talipon dia tak dapat. Dia dah tukar nombor talipon.”
Me: “Kalau dia tukar nombor talipon, dia saja mengelaklah tu.”
Yah: “Saya cuba tanya kawan dia sorang tu tapi kawan dia pun tak tau nombor talipon baru dia.”
Me: “Laa… dah dia buat macam tu gi cari nombor talipon dia lagi buat apa?! Cuba-cubalah lupakan dia!”
Yah: “Habis macam mana saya nak buat ni kak? Saya TAK BOLEH lupakan dia.”

Adoii… kes parah! I had told her earlier not to layan him but Yah was stubborn. Her daughter had voiced out she didn’t like Yah befriending this guy, but Yah was stubborn. Now she can’t forget this guy, she expects me to come up with a solution?

I immediately switched to “ustazah” mode. Yah just looked down and kept quiet as I gave her a short lecture. I asked her to seek help from God and that she must not expect other people to solve her problem when she was the one who knowingly got into it in the first place. I told her she’s the one who must try to overcome the problem. I told her that when she seeks help from God, it must come sincerely from deep down inside her. She can’t expect me to wave a magic wand and then…. whoosh… she forgets him!

Just to be sure, I asked Yah again, what actually took place the night she slept over at the home of Mr. Darling’s mom.

Yah: “Nasib baik dia tak dapat apa dia nak.”
Me: “Dia nak apa?” (Playing innocent… kasi chan lah!)
Yah: “Dia nak tu lah.”

Oh okay, for those of you still playing innocent, Mr. Darling wanted to have sex with Yah. But Yah refused. Or so she claimed.

Hah! I had suspected from day one that Mr. Darling just wanted Yah to fulfill his sex desires! That’s it! Nothing more, nothing less. That was why he proposed to her the moment he found out Yah was a widow. I bet he would have proposed to any single PLWHA lady he met! He didn’t really want to get married; he just wanted to have sex! If he was really serious, he could have pestered Yah again for her hand in marriage. But no, since Yah refused to have sex with him, he didn’t proceed further! He instead changed his number so Yah could not contact him. I bet even if Yah did give in, he would have still disappeared after getting what he wanted. Cheh!

I am pissed off not just with Mr. Darling, but also with Yah. After all that, she still wants to get in touch with him. What the heck for? Obviously Mr. Darling didn’t really want her but now she’s the one who can’t get him out of her mind.

Out of sight, out of mind? Yeah, when he’s out of her sight, she’s out of her mind!! DUH!!

Anyway, on another note, Yah’s brother asked Yah to help him run his newly opened food stall in KL. Part of the working capital came from Yah’s EPF money. Yah’s mother is not too keen on the idea of Yah moving to KL.

To me personally, since she already has a share in it, she might as well help to run it as well. Hopefully with something keeping her busy, she can try get her mind off Mr. Darling. If she does decide to join her brother in KL, the 2 younger kids will not follow her. They have been staying with their Tok Wan since small, so Tok Wan will not let them go.

Frankly, the way Yah is behaving of late, I think it is best that the 2 older sisters go to the orphanage and the 2 younger kids stay with their Tok Wan.

Even as I dropped Yah off at the bus station, she told me she was not going home. She was sleeping over a female friend’s house in another town. “Runsing balik rumah!” so she said.

Oh dear, is this really the same Yah, the tough lady I knew earlier? Somehow she’s beginning to sound more and more like a troubled teenager.

Where have I failed?!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Clients, bloggers and MRT

Monday, 10th December 2007:
As I was trying to clear some work at my office before going on leave the next day, a call came in from Fuzi. She was nervous at the thought of having to go to the Mahkamah Syariah the next day to get her marriage cert legalized.

Fuzi: “Saya takut kak…”
Me: “Takut apa?”
Fuzi: “Takut nanti kena penjara!”
Me: “Kenapa pulak nak kena penjara?”
Fuzi: “Orang yang tolong saya tu kata saya mungkin perlu bayar denda seribu lebih, Wangnya masih belum cukup lagi kak… nanti kalau saya tak bayar saya kena masuk penjara tak kak?”

I told her not to worry. From what I understood earlier, most likely she was just supposed to discuss certain things with a lawyer first, not straight away go to court. Anyway, I told her if she needed anything she should call another colleague of mine as I would be in KL the next day.

Then I remembered I had not informed Yah that SN wanted to see her when she comes for her blood test this coming Thursday. I immediately sent a text message to Yah. Immediately she replied to say she’d see SN after her blood test and after she meets up with me. I didn’t bother to reply.

Anyway, I was hoping none of my PLWHA clients would be calling me these 2 days. I was actually going to KL to send my sister, brother and sister-in-law off for Haj the next day.

As I was driving at the PLUS expressway, 2 text messages came in. I didn’t bother to check. I’d need my reading glasses to read text messages on my hand phone and I was not about to do so while driving! But after a few minutes, a call came in from Maria. Apparently she was one of those who had SMSed me earlier asking for SN’s phone number which she had lost of the umpteenth time! When she didn’t get any replies she decided to call me instead. I told her I was driving at the expressway and I’d send her the number once I reached my destination.

When I reached my brother’s house in Damansara Jaya, I checked out the messages I got. After giving SN’s phone number to Maria, I checked the other SMS which I had not read. It came from Yah Ah Ngau. Since I didn’t reply her message earlier in the morning, she REMINDED me that she wanted to see me on Thursday. Sheeesh! I told her if she really wanted to see me, she’d have to see SN first as I’d only be available after 1 pm on Thursday.

Tuesday, 11th December 2007:
We woke up early in the morning as we were supposed to leave the house after subuh to send my siblings to Kompleks Tabung Haji, Kelana Jaya. They were supposed to report to Tabung Haji by 7 am. It was public holiday for Selangor and it was still very early in the morning, so the road was clear.

Since I so happened to be at my brother’s house in Damansara Jaya on a Tuesday, I took the opportunity to join this week’s MRT at Kak Ton’s in Kelana Jaya. I had actually made earlier arrangements with Raden Galoh to meet up with her first before we’d go together to Kak Ton’s house. Usually if I needed to go to unfamiliar territory in Klang Valley, I’d get the address before hand and open up my KL and Klang Valley Street Directory to do some homework first. But since Raden Galoh only know how to use her fingers to point me to Kak Ton’s house without knowing the address, we just decided to meet up somewhere first.

I had earlier told Raden Galoh that I may need to leave early to drive back to Ipoh, so we promised to meet up at 9.30 am at a particular kedai mamak first. Thinking that traffic wouldn’t be so bad, I left my brother’s house at 9.15 am. It would usually only take about 10 minutes or so to get to that place. But as I got to KDU (used the same route earlier in the morning to send my siblings to Tabung Haji), I got stuck in traffic. Raden was already SMSing me at 9.30 am to ask me where I was. I had to call her to inform her I’d be a bit late.

Being stuck in the jam reminded me why I simply didn’t want to come back to KL to work after moving back to my hometown in 1992. I prefer Ipoh traffic… :)

Anyway, I finally made it to the kedai mamak by about 9.45 am. Raden was already having her breakfast as she was too hungry to wait for me. Thank goodness she didn’t wait. I actually had nasi lemak for breakfast earlier at my brother’s house so I just ordered coffee for myself. Although it was just my second time meeting up with Raden, we were chatting like we’ve known each other for so long.

After quite some time, we left the kedai mamak and headed for Kak Ton’s house. The house was quite easy to find, really. No wonder Raden didn’t bother to get the address, it was much easier to show the way using her fingers than to remember the address…

We got to Kak Ton’s house at about 11.30 am or so, but when Raden gave the salam, the house seemed quiet. I was actually thinking… aik? Maybe no MRT today? But after a while, Kak Ton came out to greet us. As mentioned in her blog, she had just finished cooking her mee rebus and had to excuse herself to take her bath first. My first time to MRT and I had the opportunity to see the “before and after” version of Kak Ton – before bathing and after bathing… hehehe…

Being early had its own setbacks. For one thing, Abang Roslani, Kak Ton’s other half, had the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions – from my HIV/AIDS voluntary work to my company secretarial office work. Puaslah kena interview...

Anyway, I shall not mention much on the MRT as you can get the stories/photos from Zawi’s Life As I See It and Kak Ton’s Tok Mommy. But I would like to take the opportunity to thank the gracious hosts for entertaining this “orang Perak yang peghak…” and it was great to have met the other bloggers too.

By 2 pm I had to make a move as I needed to go back to Ipoh. I had a peaceful morning as none of my PLWHA clients called…

But when I was back at the expressway on my way back to Ipoh, I heard the James Bond ring tone from my phone again. It was Maria (not Kak Ton lah... a different Maria) again asking questions about her medication which she should be asking SN, not me. You see, she tried to call the HIV clinic to talk to SN, but SN was not around and the other nurse who answered the call was “sombong”, so Maria claimed.

Adoii…. like that also want to complain to me, ah??

Saturday, 8 December 2007

The HIV/AIDS Exhibition

When Community AIDS Service Penang (CASP) invited us to join them for an exhibition in Ipoh in conjunction with World AIDS Day, we simply couldn’t say no. I mean, if they were willing to come all the way from Penang to do the exhibition in Ipoh, we have no excuse whatsoever not to join them as we are based in Ipoh!

So yes, we joined them for the exhibition today at Kinta City. I volunteered to man (or should that be woman?) our booth during the first shift, so had to drop by our centre first to get our brochures and buntings. When I got to Kinta City, the CASP people were already there.

I’ve given talks at schools before, and I’ve also manned the HIV/AIDS booth at a university before. Students show a different kind of response to the kind of information we disseminate to them. It’s either they stop by to ask questions or they just walk by without showing any interest.

Today, we did our exhibition at a shopping complex, dealing with people from all walks of life. As our exhibition was at the entrance to the supermarket there, people who wanted to go to the supermarket would have to pass by our volunteers. And today, I saw all sorts of responses from the public to the kind of information we try to disseminate to them.

There were some, who’d politely take the brochures that we hand out to them, and then they just move on.

There were some, who showed more interest and asked us questions before they moved on. Some were kind enough to put some money into the donation box.

There was one guy, who never knew that a support group such as ours existed in Ipoh. He has some HIV+ friends who felt isolated and he himself admitted he never knew how to react whenever he met them. After our explanation, he felt much better and promised to get his HIV+ friends to contact us.

There was one boy, just about 7 or 8 years old, who proudly wore the red ribbon we handed out, and insisted he wanted our brochure so he could read it.

There was one young lady, who suddenly just stood there in front of me, whose face looked rather familiar. Aiyo… Daphne Ling leh… no wonder lah look familiar… ;)

On the contrary…

There was one guy, who was watching the powerpoint presentation prepared by CASP, when approached by a volunteer to be given a brochure, quickly said, “No! No! No!” and then he quickly walked off. He was probably afraid people may think he has HIV if he took any of the brochures or if he talked to any of us.

And then there were some, who didn’t dare come near when they saw the word HIV/AIDS. And particularly more, when the CASP volunteers wore posters which said, “I have HIV/AIDS. Will you hug me?”

Sorry, pics not clear. Taken using my handphone camera.

Actually the volunteers donning the above posters DON’T have HIV. They just wanted to show the public that there’s no harm coming near an HIV infected person.

There was one family, when approached by the volunteers, frantically said, “Jangan ganggu kami, jangan ganggu kami. Kami tak mau!”

One of the volunteers from Penang told us how during one exhibition elsewhere, one lady who had just finished shopping; was pushing a trolley full of goods. As she was leaving, she was approached by a volunteer carrying the HIV/AIDS poster. The moment she saw the volunteer, she actually RAN! And because she ran, she lost control of her trolley and everything just fell on the floor!

Just shows that many people are still THAT scared of HIV/AIDS.

And oh, I forgot… there was also one young guy, who came over to me, and asked, “Sini boleh bayar saman ka?”


Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Clinic duty: 5/12/07

It has been quite some time since my last clinic duty. The last time I was supposed to be on duty was immediately after the Hari Raya Puasa holidays but that particular clinic was cancelled.

When I got to room 9 (where we carry out our HIV counseling sessions), I took a peek outside to see if any of my clients were around. There wasn’t a single familiar face. Later when my colleague took a peek, right outside the door was Zainab and her daughter! I haven’t seen her since Raya. We called her in for a while to have a chat. Her daughter is still on medication for kidney problems. As a matter of fact, the girl’s face looked a bit bloated. But the girl has not been complaining of any pain at all.

Before we could talk much, SN came in with a new case to hand over to us. A Chinese guy was wheeled in, accompanied by his father and younger sister. I like this family. They seem very loving and very supportive of each other. Despite this guy complaining about having lots of pain here and there, the family seems to have a very good sense of humor and could still joke around and laugh. In fact, the sister, who is the main caregiver, seems like a very caring caregiver! This guy is very lucky indeed. Oh okay, maybe he’s unlucky to get HIV lah… but still lucky with the care and support he gets from his family members!

Then a Malay guy in hospital clothes was called in. He was brought for his appointment in an ambulance as he had been warded for the past 2 weeks at the hospital in the town where he stays. Since he had a bad case of TB as well, he was forced to wear a mask over his mouth/nose. After looking at his file, I noticed his address looked rather familiar. This guy actually stays in the same kampong as Hana! Hmmm, maybe they do know each other. Or at least he may know Rashid, Hana’s late husband.

Anyway, since SN was busy handling other cases, not many new cases were referred to us today. But I stayed on anyway, waiting for Zainab and her daughter so I could send them home. I know Zainab usually has to walk quite a distance from the bus stop to her house; and since Zainab still hasn’t had any rest after getting home from work this morning (she was on night shift), I know how tired she must be.

Since there were no more new cases, I waited outside at the corridors and had a chat with Zainab, while waiting for SN to pass her all the necessary documents for her next blood tests and checkups. Just then, the ambulance driver who brought the Malay guy earlier came over. He had brought Rashid before so he recognized my face. From him I found out that the Malay guy (who was referred to us today) and Rashid actually knew each other. As a matter of fact, they were from the same gang of junkies – and for all we know, may have gotten infected from the same needle!

As I continued chatting with Zainab and the ambulance driver, a call came in on my phone. To my surprise, the call came from SN! Now, why would SN call me when she could easily come out of the doctor’s room and find me outside?? As soon as I answered her call, she asked where I was. And the moment I said I was just outside, she came out of the doctor’s room, giggling! Apparently she went looking for me at room 9 through the corridor on the other side and when she didn’t see me there, she thought I had gone back!

SN wanted to discuss with me about Yah Ah Ngau. Huh? Who’s that? New client? Heck no! This is the same Yah, the Malay lady I’ve been talking about lately. I just changed her blog name to Yah Ah Ngau ever since she got bitten by the ANGAU bug… :)

Apparently the results of Yah’s viral load test just came back and it was not impressive at all! With very low CD4 and very high viral load count, Yah is in a bad position. SN is confident Yah had not been compliant with her medication. And I believe SN. Yah may always tell you she takes her medication on time, but with the happenings that had taken place lately; I wouldn’t be surprised if she forgets to take her medication from time to time. She herself admitted that of late she couldn’t get Mr. Darling out of her mind. This is no longer just a case of tidur tak lena, makan tak kenyang… but also a case of ubat tak makan… oh dear…

SN asked if I was in contact with Yah and if I knew when she’d be in Ipoh next. I told SN Yah is coming next week for her blood test. So SN told me to get Yah to come up to the clinic to see her.

Ah, so much of takut kena marah! Yah Ah Ngau is going to get it from SN this time…

Anyway, after Zainab got all the documents needed, I brought both Zainab and her daughter out for lunch first. Despite being quite a big eater, when the girl suddenly realised it was 2 pm, she quickly said she was full despite not finishing up her share yet. Her mother knew she was rushing for something. Since we both had finished our food, Zainab just packed the leftovers in the little girl's plate.

I sent them home immediately after that. The girl had an important business to attend to at 2.30 pm. I managed to send them home by 2.20 pm.

What could be so important for the little girl? Oii, got cartoon series on TV at 2.30 pm she simply cannot miss lah!!

Monday, 3 December 2007

RM20,000 cash prize!

You never took part in any competition.

You never bought any lottery tickets.

You were never told that there would be any kind of lucky draw or anything of that sort when you topped up your prepaid phone line.

Suddenly you got a text message saying that you just won RM20,000 in cash through your SIM card!!! Oh wow, durian runtuh!! So much money without doing anything!! Would you actually believe it?

Yep, that was what happened to Fuzi. She got a text message today, supposedly from Celcom, saying that she just won RM20,000 through her SIM card. She was then asked to call a number, purportedly Celcom’s care line number. So she called the number, asked if that was Celcom, and the guy at the other end said yes and verified that she had indeed won RM20,000. Fuzi was then asked to give her full details, including a Maybank account number to enable the organizers to bank in the amount into Fuzi’s bank account. Fuzi got all excited. Imagine the many things she can do with such a big amount.

The only thing that was stopping her was that she didn’t have a Maybank account. She was told that she needs to give all details within 1 day to be entitled to the “winnings”. Thank God she didn’t have a Maybank account. Because of that she decided to call me to confirm if this was for real. If I said it probably was true, then she would probably seek my help to open an account with Maybank. It seems, it is not easy for a non-citizens to open a Maybank savings account.

The moment Fuzi told me that she had won RM20,000 in cash through her SIM card, I knew it was one of those scams. You don’t get money that easily. Even to win a lottery, you’d have to buy a lottery ticket first! I told Fuzi that was probably just a scam; but Fuzi said, “Betul kak, dia tulis ini nombor Celcom Care Line, dan saya sudah cuba telefon dan orang tu kata memang betul saya menang wang tu! Namanya Aziz.”

When I argued that she may end up losing money instead of getting any, she said, the guy she spoke to just asked for her details without asking her to bank in any money anywhere. But of course… they don’t ask for your money straightaway. It would have been too obvious!

She did feel a bit unsure after listening to me, but sought my help to call the number just to make sure. I asked Fuzi to give me the number given that was purportedly Celcom’s Care Line number. I know the actual Care Line number. So, Fuzi forwarded to me the number… it’s 006281543128914. No way was I going to call that number. I told Fuzi straight away that was NOT the care line number and that she had just been duped. Fuzi argued, “Tapi kak, dia tulis sini ini nombor Celcom Care Line! Betul kak!”

Aiyo… so bendul this woman… a conman wouldn’t give out business cards saying he’s a conman, would he?! Can you imagine a man coming up to you saying, “Maafkan saya puan, saya ni penipu. Puan baru menang hadiah wang RM10,000.”

Actually if all the emails informing me that I had won a certain amount of cash just from my email address were true, I am already a multi-millionaire by now! The prize winnings that I had been notified of were never anywhere below 1 million USD!

Thank God Fuzi didn’t have a Maybank account. If she did, she would have probably already been conned.

I can’t really blame Fuzi for believing. She is not highly educated and for someone who most of the time stays inside her house, she’s not really exposed to the “outside world”. In other words, she’s an easy prey. I’m just glad God protected her this time.

Now… where’s that email I got from Africa saying that I’d get a 50% share of a USD20 million inheritance if I help them out. I can do lots of things with my share of USD10 million…


Friday, 30 November 2007

The Dreaded SMS

Wednesday, 28th November 2007:

I was in my office when an SMS came in from Shila, asking if I was busy. She was at the HIV clinic for her appointment and so happened to bump into her good friend Jah as well. So they thought it would be a good opportunity for them to meet up with me. I promised to pick them up at the hospital and bring them out for lunch.

Apparently it was quite a busy day at the HIV clinic because appointments initially scheduled for 29th November was brought forward to the 28th November as all the staff needed to go to KL the next day to attend the 1st National AIDS Conference beginning friday, in conjunction with World AIDS Day on 1st December. So when I got to the hospital, Shila just came out of the doctor’s room and both Shila and Jah had yet to get their supply of medication. Since there were so many patients waiting for their turn to get their medication, we decided to go for lunch first. Shila’s daughter Laila, also tagged along. After lunch, I had to send them back to the hospital so they could go to the pharmacy.

What’s that? Was that the dreaded SMS? Oh no, no, no… Shila’s SMS was not the dreaded SMS. Buying them lunch was not a problem at all.

Just as I was relaxing at home that evening, I heard the James Bond ring tone on my phone. It was from Yah. She said she needed my help as she was supposed to get her supply of medication on the 29th but she couldn’t find the slip. Just last week she asked me what day was the 29th of November. She must have held the slip in her hands when she asked me that question and then forgot where she kept it. How to remember the medication slip if all she remembered was Mr. Darling??

Anyway, I told her there was nothing I could do if she lost the slip. I’m not a doctor and I cannot write her a new one. And guess what? Yah had actually wanted me to call the staff nurse (SN) to get her a new slip because… ready for this? “Saya takut nanti kena marah!”

Sheeesh! She lost the slip and she’s scared the nurse would scold her?! All the while before this she was willing to face so many things without fear, yet this time she’s afraid the nurse would scold here? It seems she’s beginning to behave like a child ever since the angau bug got to her. I sternly told her she’d have to call SN herself. Besides, I had to attend 2 meetings the next day so I wouldn’t have the time to make all the calls. And knowing SN, even if I did call on Yah’s behalf, SN would probably just tell me to get Yah to call her herself.

Then I told Yah that most likely on Thursday nobody would answer the phone because everybody at the HIV clinic was going to KL. Yah then asked me what she was supposed to do. How on earth would I know what to do? The only option was for Yah to keep on looking for the slip until she finds it!

Thursday, 29th November 2007:

Early morning after my morning gardening routine, there was a text message on my phone. It was from Yah, telling me that she had found the slip and was already on the way to Ipoh. There… all she needed to do was to concentrate harder. She knew she didn’t have any other choice but to find the slip and so she did. Duh!

I had 2 business clients’ board meeting to attend that day so I set my hand phone to silent mode. Although I had already told Yah I had to attend meetings, who knows, she may not have really digested everything that I said and still call me when she gets to Ipoh. I wasn’t about to let the James Bond ring tone disturb the 2 meetings.

No, there were no missed calls. So I thought Yah was doing fine.

Friday, 30th November 2007:

After washing my car this morning, I went into my house and noticed there was a text message on my phone. Yep, this time it was the dreaded SMS. It was the kind I was actually expecting to come but deep down inside me I was hoping I would never get.

The SMS from Yah this morning read:

“Kak, besok hari Sabtu kak ada kerja tak? Saya nak jumpa kak sekejap dalam pukul 3. Saya banyak masalah. Bukan masalah duit. Mungkin kak banyak pengalaman memberi jalan yang terbaik. Akhir sekali saya pohon maaf.”

Ooooooh boy!!! Lots of problems? Not financial problems? Yah did not mention what kind of problems she had but based on our last few conversations; I bet they had something to do with her relationship with Mr. Darling and/or her relationship with her own family due to her relationship with Mr. Darling. Honestly I had expected that coming.

And she mentioned that I may be able to help her out as I had lots of experience… hmmm… I wonder what kind of experience she meant. If she was talking about angauism, I don’t have even the slightest experience!

OK, I shall not jump to conclusions before I manage to talk to Yah. For all I know, it may be a whole different kind of problem. To find out for sure, we will just have to wait.

And oh, if you expect to get some updates this weekend, sorry folks! I told Yah I won’t be able to see her tomorrow. You see, I’ll be in KL this weekend for some family matters so Yah’s matters will just have to wait.

And you too will have to wait for the next episode of Yah’s story…

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Where and when to draw the line...

When many of the comments to my previous posting on Yah and her Mr. Darling, suggested that I should just let them be, my first thought was… aiyah, easy for you people to say lah! You’re not the ones Yah will call every time she lands into trouble! But yeah, I would have probably suggested the same if I didn’t know Yah and more importantly, if I was not Yah’s buddy. When you’re the one she’d end up calling every time, you too would hope she’d think twice before she does anything.

While previously whenever Yah called it’s probably just to tell me about her children’s well-being or any other problems which I could help resolve, of late her calls were more to talk about her own personal feelings. For these ones, I’d probably just listen without offering any solutions. She’d have to decide on her own.

When Fuzi needed a Malaysian citizen’s name to claim the ownership of the land her late husband left behind, she wanted to use my name. She could use her step-daughter’s name, but she trusted me more. But oh, no way was I going to get involved that deep! I don’t mind helping her out with the documentation and all, but to use my name? Sorry!

So, where and when do we draw the line?

Well, my NGO’s main activity is to provide moral and emotional support to people living with HIV/AIDS – not berkorban apa saja for them. We support them so they can become independent. If we help them in every single thing, they will become dependent on us instead, will they not?

When we join the Buddies, one of the guidelines given to us was that we must never bring our PLWHA clients to our homes. Imagine if my clients knew where I live, they may just come to my house every time they have a problem. Maria once sent me a text message at 3 am asking if I knew of a place she could go to as she just had a big fight with her husband. What if she knew where I lived and decided to simply come to my house? And then there was Zana who sent me a text message asking me if I knew of any shelter homes she could live in as she had been chased out of her house because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. What if she knew where I lived and just appeared in front of my house expecting me to provide her temporary shelter?

Oh no, bahaya ohh

This is, after all, voluntary work. We have our lives to live, and we have our own priorities. Whatever it is, our own families come first. Our cari makan work comes next. I cannot simply leave my office to meet my PLWHA clients whenever any of them call to say they are in Ipoh and need to meet up with me. The least they can do is to inform me before hand so I can make the necessary arrangements.

Then there are those who tend to think we are paid to take care of the PLWHAs. Ifa’s mother, for example, used to tell Ifa to call me every time Ifa needed to go anywhere. Ifa’s mother didn’t really understand when she was told I was just a volunteer. Only when I told her bluntly that I’m not paid for this job did she stop pestering Ifa to call me every time. Oh yes, Ifa would still call me from time to time to seek help, but only when she really needs to.

A fellow volunteer once received a call from her client telling the volunteer to fetch the client at the bus-station. Like it was the volunteer’s job to do so! And worse, the volunteer was at work. She simply told off her client, “Sorry, I’m not your driver!” At least if the client had the courtesy to ask for help instead of simply telling the volunteer to go and fetch her, the volunteer could have been less blunt.

Oh don’t get me wrong, not all PLWHAs are like that. Most of them are okay. But because of the one or two irritating ones, we volunteers have to take the necessary precautions to make sure our clients don’t take advantage of us. We provide our support services to them for free, but we are not their servants!

I guess we just need to know where and when to draw the line. Oh, we’ll learn how to do that somehow…

Friday, 23 November 2007

Oh my darling, oh my darling...

Remember the fellow PLWHA Yah met at the HIV clinic who asked Yah to marry him despite that being the first time they got to know each other? Didn’t read that posting? You can read it here.

Remember how the same guy tried to call Yah in the middle of the night and when Yah didn’t answer, he sent her text messages calling her “darling”? Remember the conversation Yah had with her daughter who disliked the idea of Yah befriending this guy for fear she may end up marrying him? And remember after the Deepa-Raya gathering a male friend fetched Yah, and I somehow suspected that the friend was actually this very same guy? If you missed all these, you can read the posting here.

Guess what? Yah called me this morning.

And guess what? All the things I was afraid might happen… HAPPENED!

Yes, my earlier suspicion that the friend who came to fetch Yah was actually this guy (oh well, let’s just call him Mr. Darling… *chuckle*) was right.

Yah: “Kak, 29hb nanti hari apa kak?”
Me: “Hari Khamis, kenapa?”
Yah: “Saya kena pergi Ipoh ambik ubat. Entahlah kak oi… sekarang ni saya dah tak ingat apa dah. Asyik teringat kat dia je.”
Me: “Teringat kat siapa?”
Yah: “Teringat kat xxx (Mr. Darling’s real name) . Hari tu yang lepas perjumpaan raya tu saya pi keluar dengan dialah. Malam tu saya tak balik pun, takut mak saya marah.”
Me: “Habis tu malam tu tidur kat mana?”
Yah: “Kat rumah mak dia. Balik dari situ lah, saya asyik teringat kat dia aje.”

WHAAAAAT??? She spent the night at his mother’s house instead of going home?!

Whoa… wait a minute! Did I get the wrong script here? Takut mak marah? Tidur kat rumah mak dia? Sounds like orang muda bercinta

I asked if Mr. Darling had kept on bugging her, causing her to lose concentration on other things. She said no, but her problem now is that she herself can’t stop thinking of him ever since their last “date”.

Remember Yah told her daughter that she’s entertaining this guy’s phone calls “saja seronok-seronok” but her daughter said, “Seronok-seronok lepas tu terus suka!” Well, looks like her daughter was proven right. And it didn’t take too long for that to happen.

Hmmm… I’ve heard of quite a number of opportunistic diseases related to HIV – hepatitis, tuberculosis and whatever else. But this time the opportunistic disease is of a different kind. Well, the opportunity arose when they met at the HIV clinic… so it is HIV related. As for the name of this opportunistic disease… I’d simply call it … ANGAU (lovelorn)!

Aduuuh… this was what I was afraid of. I was afraid that if she encountered any problems with regards to this relationship she’d come back to me. I’m not a counselor, but if anyone needs HIV counseling, I’m game. Try my hand at leterology (the art of berleter), I can. But angau-logy is definitely not my area of expertise!

Frankly I’m not sure why Yah told me about this. Maybe she just needed to let it all out. Maybe she just needed someone to listen and that’s it. No problem, I can be the listener. But on the other hand, maybe she wanted to hear me telling her to just marry Mr. Darling. Maybe she wanted me to suggest a way to make her family (particularly her mother and daughter) agree to let her marry this guy. No, Yah didn’t mention anything about marriage, but if she says she can’t stop thinking about him, what do you think is the next possible action? What am I supposed to advise her? See a doctor? Which doctor? Witch doctor? Which witch doctor? Oh never mind…

No, I’m not going to get myself involved in her decision whether to remarry or not to remarry… but if Yah and Mr. Darling does decide to get married, I will still have to advise them on safe sex despite them both being HIV positive. Oh boy…

For the time being, I am not going to crack my head thinking of what she should do.

On another note, and this had nothing to do with Yah’s buayafriend/gilafriend relationship with Mr. Darling, Yah’s 2 daughters – Kak Long and Kak Ngah, said that they want to stay in an Asrama Anak Yatim. Their reasoning? So that they will have a proper time table for their studies… so there will always be someone to help them with their studies…

Yah had told me about this earlier and I told Yah to have a slow talk with them to ask if this was what they really want. Now Yah says the girls insist they really want to go as they don’t want to burden their mother at home. As a matter of fact they had asked their teacher at school to arrange for them to be placed at an Asrama Anak Yatim and the teacher had already made all the arrangements. The girls will be going when school starts next year.

If that is really what the girls want, I guess there is no point stopping them. But I will try to visit them before the end of the year to talk to the girls myself to find out what’s really in their minds.

And what is Yah’s reaction to this? Well, she said, “Takpe lah kak, kurang sikit masalah saya kat rumah… dengan mak saya sakit… dengan Abang Chik lagi nakal…”

Yeah, I understand, she has lots of problems at home. But hey! What about Mr. Darling? Isn’t he going to be a problem too?

What do you think?

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Scared of unknowingly getting infected?

“A 10 year old boy, had eaten pineapple about 15 days back, and fell sick, from the day he had eaten. Later when he had his health check done... doctors diagnosed that he had AIDS. His parents couldn't believe it... Then the entire family underwent a check-up... none of them suffered from Aids. So the doctors checked again with the boy if he had eaten out...The boy said "yes". He had pineapple that evening. Immediately a group from Malaya Hospital went to the pineapple vendor to check. They found the pineapple seller had a cut on his finger while cutting the pineapple, his blood had spread into the fruit. When they had his blood checked...the guy was suffering from AIDS..... but he himself was NOT aware. Unfortunately the boy is suffering from it now. Please take care while you eat on the road side. Please forward this mail to your dear one.”

Have you ever received forwarded emails with contents of the above nature? If you have received such emails, have you ever forwarded them to anyone else?

Actually I saw the above posted in a blog, and this morning a blog reader forwarded the email to me. She suspected it was a hoax, but was not confident enough to reply to the forwarded email to say that it was indeed a hoax. So she sought my clarification before she dared reply to the sender and everyone else on the recipient’s list.

The above forwarded email has been in circulation for quite some time. And people kept on forwarding to all and sundry without checking its authenticity. Better to be safe than sorry, they say. I wonder… how come nobody asked about “Malaya Hospital”? Can anybody tell me where that is?

Other than this pineapple story, there is also another email about HIV infected needles being left on cinema seats on purpose so that those who sit on them will get infected. And oh… in vending machine coin returns too…

I usually concentrate on stories of HIV infected persons in this blog, touching more on the human aspect of it. My blog don’t usually touch detailed HIV facts. I don’t make it a habit to touch on the technical or medical aspects for fear of boring my readers to tears. Let the experts do that. Uh… no, I didn’t mean let the experts bore you to tears… I meant let them explain on the technical/medical aspect lah :)

I would like to make it an exception this time. While I’m still not going into too much detail, I would just like to touch a bit on the topic of HIV myths, which indirectly means I may have to include some facts as well. Well yeah, I can simply put the link here for you all to read for yourselves, but chances are many of you won’t do that. So let me just share with you some of the facts I got from the Malaysian AIDS Council website.

First, on the topic of getting infected through food, including pineapples, prepared or cut by infected persons.
If you have the slightest fear that the virus can spread this way, then your safest bet will be to not eat outside food. After all, how can you be so sure that the food you bought was not prepared by an infected person, huh?

The fact is - HIV is unable to survive outside its living host – humans. It does not spread or maintain its infectiousness outside its host. So, whether it is mixed in sauce or ketchup or pineapples, the virus will die. DON’T WORRY!

Next, on the topic of HIV spreading through needles being left on cinema seats or vending machine coin returns.

Think about it. How small is a needle head? And how much blood can be found on a needle head? The logic (and fact) behind infection through needles is when it is used together with a syringe. When you inject drugs or tattoo or pierce, some of your blood gets drawn into the syringe. And when another person reuses the same syringe and needle, the contaminated blood gets straight into this other person’s blood stream.

For HIV infection to occur, a great amount of HIV concentration needs to be directly allowed access into your body. When exposed to air, the virus weakens and dies – all within a time frame of 2 minutes!

Some of you may ask: what about mosquito bites?
Whoa… if HIV could spread through mosquito bites, imagine how many more people would be infected by now!

When an insect bites a person, it does not inject its own or a previous victim's blood into the new victim. Rather, it injects saliva. Such diseases as yellow fever and malaria are transmitted through the saliva of specific species of mosquitoes. However, unlike organisms that are transmitted via insect bites, HIV does not reproduce (and, therefore, cannot survive) in insects. Thus, even if the virus enters a mosquito or another sucking or biting insect, the insect does not become infected and cannot transmit HIV to the next human it feeds on or bites. There is also no reason to fear that a biting or blood-sucking insect, such as a mosquito, could transmit HIV from one person to another through HIV-infected blood left on its mouth parts. Two factors combine to make infection by this route extremely unlikely -- first, infected people do not have constant, high levels of HIV in their bloodstreams and, second, insect mouth parts do not retain large amounts of blood on their surfaces

Just remember, for infection to occur, three things must happen:

1.You must be exposed to pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, blood or breast milk
2.The virus must get directly into your bloodstream through some fresh cut, open sore, abrasion etc.
3.Transmission must occur, directly from one person to the other, very quickly (the virus does not survive more than a few minutes outside the body).

So the next time you get a forwarded email which says HIV spreads through ways and means which doesn’t involve the above 3 things mentioned, please do not simply forward it to all your acquaintances.

What’s that? No harm done you say? Well, no harm to you maybe if you keep on forwarding the myths. But imagine if everybody believed the myths, people will be afraid to come anywhere near an HIV positive person! How on earth then, are they supposed to make a living? All the stigma and discrimination will never end if we keep on spreading these myths.

From my postings, you would have noticed that I have confidently eaten food prepared by HIV infected persons, I have touched them, hugged them, even carried them in my car. If I had the slightest fear that the forwarded emails were in any way true, I wouldn’t have dared do any of those.

And while I previously used to get fever or at least some sort of flu almost every month, believe me, ever since I got myself involved in this HIV voluntary work, I seldom get sick. Honest! Somehow God has given me extra energy to carry out my voluntary work.

Maybe it’s because I enjoy what I do (it’s hard to enjoy my office work!). Or maybe it’s the prayer from all the PLWHAs whom I have helped. Or maybe it’s a combination of everything.

Just give the PLWHAs a break, will you? Please?

Now if you don’t mind, I wanna go google for “Malaya Hospital”… I need to find out where that is… ;)

Monday, 19 November 2007

The house visit, and the book sale!

Last Saturday I went to visit Mrs. K’s family. Their application to rent a DBI flat in Ipoh has not been approved yet and so for the time being they are still staying in the same house and Mrs. K is still working at the same place. Hopefully things will go according to plans and they will be able to move into the cheaper flat by the end of the year.

Anyway, when I got to their house, only Mr. K, Mrs. K and Tasya, their 10 month old daughter were home. Shah, the eldest boy, was in Ipoh for a football match while the other 2 girls were at the nearby Tadika helping out the teacher there tidy up the place. But all Mrs. K had to do was just stand at the front door and waved at them asking them to come home and within minutes, they were both home.

Tasya, despite usually being afraid of strangers, welcomed me with a smile… showing me her two teeth. She’s the direct opposite of Iwan, Fuzi’s 1 ½ year old boy who’s usually not that scared of strangers but would cry if any of his siblings purposely put him beside me. Do I look fierce? Or is it my dressing? I don’t know…

Tasya on the other hand would willingly let me carry her in my arms; even straight into my car without even worrying if her mother was tagging along. Waaaah… easy to kidnap lah like this! But no, according to Mrs. K, Tasya would usually shy away from outsiders. I was an exception probably because she sees me every month. (But then again, Iwan also sees me every month and yet he’s afraid of me!)

Nor, their 12 year old daughter, showed me the application form for form one intake to a residential Agama school in Perak. She asked my advice if she should submit the form. She has been hearing stories from God knows who about ghosts in residential schools and was afraid she may have personal encounters with ghosts if she enters a residential school! Duh! I told her I spent 7 years of my schooling life in a residential school and never once did I ever have any close encounters with ghosts. (Oh OK, maybe I was quite a “hantu” myself… but I didn’t tell Nor that part lah…)

So, yes, Nor will submit the application form. Whether or not she gets a place in that school, that’s a different story.

Today I decided to go scout for books to be given as gifts to "my girls" – Wina, Fuzi’s daughter and Nor, Mrs. K’s daughter for their commendable results in their UPSR; also Kak Long and Kak Ngah, Yah’s daughters who got 2nd and 1st in class respectively for their school’s year-end exams.

Off I went to Kinta City Shopping Complex, with the intention of heading to MPH there. But just as I entered the lobby of the complex, I found out there was a book sale there! Discounts, discounts and discounts… I so love them (the discounts…)! There were so many books to choose from I didn’t know what to choose. Just as I thought I found a suitable book and held it in my hand, I went over to another section and found another book which I thought was also suitable. Aiyoooh… this woman sooo fickle-minded lah!! I bet if I had brought the girls along they too would have had a tough time choosing.

But I had to decide and so I ended up with 2 books for the younger girls, 2 books for the older girls and 2 more books for the oldest girl of ‘em all. The 2 younger girls? Kak Long and Kak Ngah. The 2 older girls? Wina and Nor. The oldest girl of ‘em all? Who else but the one who bought the books… myself lah!

Oh, I just got some light reading materials for myself. I already face heavy drama stuff in my voluntary work so I was not about to go into heavy reading materials…

Friday, 16 November 2007

The children's exam results...

School holidays are here…

For the past 2 days I’ve been getting calls from a few of my PLWHA clients telling me of their children’s academic performance. I also need to start filling in the necessary forms to arrange for financial assistance for these children for next year’s schooling.

Yah was the first to call. She seems a bit more independent now financially and called me to say that she has bought milk powder for her youngest child. She was concerned that it may be rather troublesome for me to go all the way to her place to send her the usual household needs. At the same time her daughter had been nagging her to call me and tell me about the results of her year-end school exams. In the mid-year exams, both Kak Long and Kak Ngah got second in class. This time around, Kak Long maintained her second position while Kak Ngah… oh well… she was top in class!! Way to go Kak Ngah and Kak Long!! I must think of some sort of motivation for them. What shall I give them ya??

Fuzi’s eldest daughter, Wina, just got her UPSR results yesterday. She got 3A’s and 2B’s; the B’s were for English and Science. With most of the students in her school getting mostly 1 or 2 A’s, Wina was one of the better students. I am happy for her.

Mrs. K too has a daughter who took UPSR this year. The girl managed 2A’s and 3B’s. For someone who had to miss school quite often this year to take care of her younger siblings whenever her father had to be hospitalised, that was quite an achievement. And her teacher told her to fill in the form for application to one of the SMKA boarding schools in Perak. (The minimum qualification for SMKA’s is 2A’s 3B’s) When I heard that, I immediately thought of getting Wina to apply for the same as she wants so much to go to a boarding school, but then I remembered Wina is still having problems with her citizenship status (due to Fuzi’s marriage cert problem). Oh well, maybe she can try later for form 4 intake when Fuzi has settled that problem.

Hana’s 8 year old daughter (the one who had to walk to school) as mentioned in my previous posting, got 2nd in class. I am quite concerned that of late she had been quite reluctant to go to school.

These children seem to be doing quite well in school despite the non-conducive environment they stay in. If only they get the chance, I believe they can perform even better.

So yes, I must be very persistent in getting the necessary financial assistance for the children’s education! Aaargh… am trying to finalize the list of needy children as soon as possible but can’t seem to find enough time to do all the house visits for assessment purposes…

One family at a time Pi… one family at a time…

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

I am a Buddy Bear

Hello… I am a Buddy Bear.

Oh, please excuse my picture. The owner of this blog didn’t bother to bring me to a proper photo studio to get my picture taken. She simply placed me against the wall at her NGO centre and took my picture using her camera phone. She didn’t even give me the chance to put on some make up!!!

I am just a plain bear. There’s nothing fancy about me… and I am very unlike those big branded fluffy teddy bears. No, my friends and I are not even for sale.

You see, we were made with a mission. Our mission is to bring some cheer to HIV infected kids. That is why we are not for sale. My friends and I are given free to HIV infected kids around Malaysia and even overseas! Some of my fellow buddy bears have gone to China, Thailand, Cambodia and wherever else around the world where we are requested to go.

How are we produced? Well, the Buddies Society of Ipoh would buy the necessary materials and send the materials to a group of senior citizens in Ipoh who would then sew us into what you see in my picture above (and we come in various colours). And these senior citizens provide their services for free! They too want to play a role in giving some cheer to unfortunate kids.

I guess you can say I am an “olijinal Ipoh Mali tatak sombong” Buddy Bear!! (The owner of this blog oso Ipoh mali you know… but she’s not a bear lah!)

So, if you know of any HIV infected child or a group of HIV infected children who may need some cheering up from me or my friends, please do contact The Buddies Society of Ipoh. Their fax number and email address are provided at the side-bar of this blog.

But I’d like to repeat myself that we are only given to HIV infected kids and we are NOT for sale. We don’t mind going anywhere around the world… but again still subject to availability of cheap transportation. The Buddies Society of Ipoh depends on public funding so they can’t afford to provide business class transportation for me and my friends. Usually when we need to go overseas, we are sent through friends of Buddies who so happen to be heading the same way. Yes, extra baggage for them… but not to worry… we ain’t heavy, we’re buddy bears…

Hmmm… if only any of the courier services wouldn’t mind doing some charity and provide free or discounted transportation for me and my friends to cheer the unfortunate HIV infected kids…

Okay then, I’d better go now. I don’t want to take up so much space here. The blog owner may end up smuggling me into a Soyuz and send me to outer space…

Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Deepa-Raya Do

I was on my way to my NGO centre at 10 am to prepare for the Deepa-raya do for the female PLWHA clients when my phone rang. The call came from Yah.

I had actually informed Yah earlier that I’d fetch her at the bus-station at 11 am as I had promised another PLWHA, Kamala, around the same time. But Yah, as always, never seem to understand instructions. Not wanting her to wait at the bus-station for too long, I decided to go fetch her first and bring her along with me to the centre. So I told her to wait at the “usual” place.

When I got to the bus-station, I couldn’t find her. I called her to ask where she was and she said she was already at the bus-station. Again, I told her to come to the place where I usually pick her up and again she said OK. After 5 minutes, still no sign of her. I called again, and this time she said, “Saya kat bangunan DPMM ni kak. Tak apalah, nanti saya jalan sikit gi stesen bas.” Aaargh!! Yah… Yah…

Anyway, on the way to the centre, we had a chat about the PLWHA guy who had earlier proposed to her. Yah told me about how he tried to call her between 1 am to 3 am. When she didn’t answer, he sent her text messages. I burst out laughing when Yah told me the contents of the SMS, “Kenapa semalam tak jawab talipon? Darling pergi mana?” Oh my, DARLING??! He met her just once, proposed to her and now calls her darling?!

Yah then even told me about the conversation she had with her eldest daughter.

Daughter: “Kakak tak suka mak kawin lagi.”
Yah: “Bukannya mak nak kawin dengan dia. Mak saja seronok-seronok je.”
Daughter: “Seronok-seronok lepas tu terus suka!”

Hmmm… by the sound of it I think Yah is enjoying it, although frankly speaking, this guy gives me the creeps!! I just hope she won’t get into trouble with this guy…

At my NGO centre, since nobody else was around yet, Yah just had to wait while I set up the place for the function. Got all the lemang, ketupat, rendang daging, rendang ayam, fried mee, fried kueteow, and whatever kuih set on the table… arranged the chairs etc and then my phone rang again. This time it was Fuzi who called to say she was already at the bus-stop where I promised to pick her up. It was already 11 am and my colleague who was supposed to be at the centre by then was not there yet. I couldn’t leave Yah alone at the centre. I called my colleague and she said she was on the way and would be there in 3 minutes.

I left Yah with my colleague and immediately went to fetch Fuzi and her kids. Fuzi’s kids were already excited about the function weeks before. They don’t get to go for functions often and even a small do like this one makes them excited. On the way back to the centre, there was a police road block and right after we passed the road block, I jokingly said in Indonesian accent, “Pak, enggak ada permit, pak!” (In case, you haven’t been following her stories, Fuzi is an Indonesian). Fuzi’s son, who sat in front, just looked at me with that strange “why are you saying that” look while Fuzi and her 2 daughters were giggling at the back. Her 2 younger boys, Ijam and Iwan, didn’t even understand what was going on.

This time I really felt so sad when I saw Ijam’s face – that was the first time I saw him ever since he was confirmed HIV positive. But Ijam himself still doesn’t know heads or tails about his illness and so he was just as happy as always, with that cute little smile on his face.

Kamala then called to inform me she couldn’t make it as her mother came to visit her. OK, so I don’t have to rush to the bus-station so soon. After sending Fuzi and her children to the centre, I immediately went out again to buy KFC for the kids. Raya or Deepavali, I know the kids love KFC – something which to these kids is a luxury. Although there was a spread of food already on the table, they still love KFC, so KFC it is.

Just as I was waiting for my takeaway order at KFC, Shila SMSed to tell me she had arrived at the bus-station. I told her I’d fetch her in a while. So, right after I got my order of the family feast combo meal, I sent all the foodstuff to the centre (the KFC outlet is quite near the centre) and immediately headed out again to fetch Shila and her daughter Laila.

Yeah, lots of runaround to do…

By the time we got back to the centre, another PLWHA, Pushpa, and her daughter, Kavita, were already there. They came together with another colleague of mine. One more PLWHA, Miera, was also supposed to attend the function, but she never made it there.

Anyway, it was just an informal get-together for them to meet up, celebrate Raya and Deepavali and chat with each other. It was quite a small group but the noise made was as though there were so many of us there!

When they finished eating, I took out some toys (donated by a blog reader) and told the kids to choose and take all they wanted. They had a helluva time choosing! Even Iwan, Fuzi’s 1 ½ year old boy, chose a bagful of toys!

Another colleague of mine got to the centre around 12.30 (she couldn’t come earlier as she had to work) and had all of us burst out laughing when she asked for the “kuih bulu” (she meant bahulu).

It was good seeing them all mix around. PLWHAs… volunteers… Malays… Chinese… Indians… Since it was a closed function, the PLWHAs could talk about their HIV problems with each other without the fear of any eavesdropping ears around. The function ended at about 2 pm with everyone of the adult PLWHAs “tapau”ing some food back while the children had their hands full with toys and more toys.

Fuzi’s 2 daughters (12 and 11 years old) even helped to wash the plates without anyone telling them to do so. These girls are used to doing household chores, to them it was simply the right thing to do. My colleagues were impressed with their sense of responsibility.

By around 1.30 pm, a friend of Yah’s came to pick her up nearby (overheard the voice of the friend on Yah’s phone… sounded like a male… I wonder if it was the guy who proposed to her. Her boyfriend or her buayafriend, huh?)

My colleague sent Shila and Laila to the bus-station while I decided to send Fuzi and her children right to their doorsteps. With 5 children tagging along and each one of them with a plastic bag full of toys each, I thought I might as well send them home. I didn’t have to rush anywhere after that and their house is just about 20 minutes drive from Ipoh anyway. Within 5 minutes tired little Iwan was already sleeping on his mother’s lap.

Stopped at a petrol station on the way and filled up RM40 worth of petrol. Fuzi asked, "RM40 tahan sebulan tak kak?" Hmmm... I wish...

I didn’t stay long at their house. Fuzi seemed strong enough to cope with Ijam’s HIV status while her 2 daughters kept thanking me for the good time they had.

Hopefully next time, more PLWHAs will turn up.