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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Saturday, 21 July 2007

Communication problems

The other day one of my staff had some queries about the accounting work she was doing for a business client…

Staff: “Tahun ni tak payah masuk kut ren ke? Tahun lepas ada.”
Me: “Ha? Tak payah masuk apa?” *confused*
Staff: “Kut ren.”
Me: “HAA??! Apa benda?” *even more confused*
Staff: “Kut ren.”
Me: “Apa benda engko cakap ni. Tengok jap file tu!” *couldn't bear it any longer*

Took the file, looked at the P&L, and finally I figured it out, “Ohh, QUIT RENT!!”

Not only her English pronunciation was bad, she also tends to swallow her words; making it even more difficult to understand when she speaks, especially in English. Which is why I usually don’t dare give her answers when she consults me on the phone as I can’t be too sure what she really is talking about unless and until I see for myself the documents she’s referring to. Otherwise there tend to be miscommunication, she’d end up doing things wrongly and at the end of it she’d just say that I was the one who told her so… (Yeah, sure!)

Miscommunication can also occur when dealing with my PLWHA clients. A few weeks ago Yah needed to come to Ipoh GH to see the doctor and to get her supply of medication. However on the day of her appointment, the bus drivers at the small town where she stays went on strike and she couldn’t get a bus to come to Ipoh. So she called me to say that she had to take a taxi “sampai bus station” and asked if I could fetch her at the bus station as she was already late for her appointment. I just said OK as she must not miss her medication. She didn’t specify which bus station she meant, and not expecting her to ask me to wait for her at town B (usually she’d have to take 2 buses to come to Ipoh from her place), I went to wait for her at the Ipoh bus station. It didn’t occur to me then that if she had taken a taxi to Ipoh, might as well the taxi driver send her direct to the hospital. So there we were, the 2 dimwits - I was waiting in Ipoh while Yah was waiting in town B.

After a while she called me (I couldn’t call her as she didn’t have a hand phone) and then only we found out that we were actually miles apart! Finally she took the express bus from town B to Ipoh (the bus drivers in town B were not on strike); she didn’t have much money left after having to pay for the taxi earlier. She made it just in time before HIV clinic closed.

Yah had earlier misunderstood SN’s instructions on how to take her HIV medication. SN had actually given clear instructions… she even drew a table on how and when to take the medication – just to make sure Yah understood. Yah looked so confident after SN’s explanation. But 2 weeks later SN found out that Yah got it all wrong! I can understand the stress SN has to go through trying to explain things to patients. At the same time I also understand that it may not be easy for the uneducated poor people to comprehend whatever that was explained to them.

It gets even harder when there is no communication at all. Like Zainab for example who couldn’t come for her appointment because she was on morning shift at her workplace and she couldn’t afford to take leave. Well, I can understand that she can’t afford to apply for unpaid leave, but the least she could have done was to call SN and inform her about it so SN could fix another appointment.

And then there was Rashid… the wife once called me asking for help to get her bed-ridden husband to be warded at the hospital. I did help her out by getting all the referral letters etc but apparently after her husband was admitted, she never visited. The nurses at the ward needed a family member to sign some consent forms but nobody visited Rashid. The wife didn’t leave her phone number either so the nurses couldn’t communicate with her at all. Gosh, I wonder what’s in the wife’s mind right now. Is she abandoning the husband for good or what?

We Buddies too sometimes have problems communicating with our PLWHA clients. Some of these clients tend to change their mobile phone numbers without informing their assigned buddies or even SN at the HIV clinic. After some time if we are still not able to contact any of our clients, we’d usually reclassify them as “inactive” clients. We’ve got quite a number of those by now… especially the guys who needed us earlier to help them apply for their EPF withdrawal. After they got their EPF drawings, they went missing in action. It's like… “Hey, I’ve got money now so I don’t need you any more.” Their money usually don’t last that long… one of the PLWHAs under this category was later found to be homeless and sleeping under one of the staircases at the hospital. Now we don’t even know where he has gone to as he is no longer found under the staircases and he has also missed his hospital appointments.

Then there are those who don't have telephones - whether fixed land line or mobile. For these category of clients, we have no choice but to wait for them to call us when they need us. Oh yes, we do try to visit from time to time, but sometimes because we can't call them first to tell we're coming, they're not home when we visit.

As far as possible, I always make it a point to call or visit my clients at least once every 2 or 3 months for the non-problematic clients and more often for the problematic ones of course. Once I lose touch with them, it won’t be easy to get hold of them again…


Mat Salo said...

I suspect 99% of the problems in this world stems from lack of communication. What more, dealing with poor, sometimes uneducated patients with no landlines or mobiles. They have enough on their plate already. But I feel the hospital should also create a sub-dept to keep track of patients. esp, PLWHAs. After all they're their "clients" too. It seems to me your NGO will soon be stretched to the limit, if not already. Hell, admire your perseverance.. esp. with such limited resource, Pi.


Pak Idrus said...

Afi, first you are indeed doing a wonderful job, may I add a thankless one. But that is the nature that you NGO have to go, if not you would not be a volunteer like now. I know you have in your heart to help people and things get very difficult because of the problems of communication. I taught communication before and knows very well what you meant. Well, as it is you are doing very well indeed, Keep with it. Have a nice day. take care.

Pi Bani said...

Mat Salo,
It won't be easy for the hospital to keep track of patients, esp. those who are always on the move. A few of the doctors/nurses I know sometimes send their teams to the houses of these patients to make sure they come for appointments; but many of these patients don't see the importance of their appointments. Some, due to their denial (that they've been infected) while some, because they feel they're gonna die anyway, so why bother...

It's not easy educating them.

Pi Bani said...

Pak Idrus,
I guess the moment I got myself involved in voluntary work especially involving the poor HIV infected families, I should expect to face these problems.

But alas, each difficulty faced becomes a valuable lesson for me.

Thanks for visiting, Pak Idrus.

nyonyapenang said...

communication in itself is not always easy among literates, what more among those less fortunate and illiterates.
and of problems have arose due to miscommunication.

sometimes, i also tried too hard to make sure the other person understood what i was trying to say, and I end up repeating myself like a broken record.

Daphne Ling said...

Kak Pi,
Adoi! Kut ren jadinya...
At least the staff wasnt like one teacher who said "Egg-Jam-Pepper"!
What she meant?
"Exam paper"...

Pi Bani said...

Nyonya Penang,
Yeah, tell me about it... sometimes I have to repeat myself a few times too. And for the "slow" ones, I'd usually tell them to repeat what I just told them to be sure they got it right.

Pi Bani said...

Is your egg-jam coming soon? ;)

Margie said...

So very nice having you visit me at my blog....your kind words were very much appreciated!

I'm very happy to meet you!
You are a very special person!
Keep up the wonderful volunteer work you are doing!

Thanks for sharing this post!

Blessings to you!


winniethepooh said...

Communication at any level is never an easy task.

I remembered when we were in school, we played a 'passing the msg game' All of us sat in circle, whispering and passing the the end, never once did we ever get the exact msg from the first to the end person at the circle!

Have a great day Pi Bani

zaitgha said...

i can understand on this lack of communication...but talking abt english per se...i just read in the star yesterday how the 'serial killer' was translated for subtitle for a movie, it became ' pembunuh bijirin '....lagi sakit.....anyway i always like to read your posting...take care

J.T. said...

Communication is a two-way thing. You can try your best but if the other party does not respond, it ends there.
So many factors can be the reasons why one side stops communicating. I take my topi off to you for doing your best. :)

Pi Bani said...

Thanks for dropping by! I'm happy to meet you too... one more person to add to my list of blogger friends.

See you around Margie, especially at WUB.

Pi Bani said...

Yes, I've played that game before. From one person to another to another... cut here cut there... add herbs and spices here and there... end result totally different from the original!

Pi Bani said...

Hahaha! From serial killer to cereal killer, eh? Aduuh... siapalah punya kerja tu? Too kedekut to hire a professional translator I suppose. Duh, can't they use some logic at least? Pembunuh bijirin... please lah!

Pi Bani said...

Speaking of two-way communication, it's always one-way communication for me whenever I have to speak to my grandma. She's 94 this year and now she's got hearing problems. To add to that, she doesn't want to listen... so no matter what kind of sign language I do (which may be mistaken for Saturday Night Fever steps...haha), it's very very hard to get the message thru... :)

Apandi Reviews said...

kelakaulah you pi...

Pi Bani said...

Apa lak kelakau nya... serious lah ni! ;)

Unknown said... first make me grin with that kut ren thingy...and then laugh with all the comments given by others...'d good for me...who just strike 40 last two days...laughter can make me stay young...hehehe iye ke?

I still salute what you are doing...and grateful for having you around my you are such a noble person...

Pi Bani said...

Laughter is the best medicine! (tapi janganlah sampai mengilai pulak, takut orang dengar...)

Just turned 40? Want to feel younger? As Mark Twain said,
"Age is mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Noushy Syah said...

Pi Bani...
Communication breakdown is a major disaster and it happens in our everyday life that causes misunderstanding...

Often as a result of either not able to express the right pronunciation or other could be simply misinterpretations.

Joke on misunderstanding

Source - Forwarded email

Caller : Hello, can I speak to Annie Wan?

Operator : Yes, you can speak to me.

Caller : No, I want to speak to Annie Wan!

Operator : You are talking to someone! Who is this?

Caller : I'm Sam Wan. And I need to talk to Annie Wan! It's urgent.

Operator : I know you are someone and you want to talk to anyone! But what's this urgent matter about?

Caller : Well... just tell my sister Annie Wan that our brother Noel Wan has involved in an accident. Noel Wan got injured and now Noel Wan is being sent to the hospital. Right now, Avery Wan is on his way to the hospital.

Operator : Look if no one was injured and no one was sent to the hospital, then the accident isn't an urgent matter! You may find this hilarious but I don't have time for this!

Caller : You are so rude! Who are you?

Operator : I'm Saw Lee.

Caller : Yes! You should be sorry. Now give me your name!! to Banji @

Pi Bani said...

haha... yes I've read that joke before. My friend had a similar real life experience recently. She received a call from someone. The following conversation took place.

Caller: Hello, is that Ms xxx?
My friend: Yes, speaking. May I know who's calling?
Caller: This is Dinah Saw here.
My friend: Yeah right. If you're dinosaur then I'm T-Rex...
Caller: Isn't this Ms xxx?
My friend: Yes I am!
Caller: I got your number from a brochure. My name is Dinah Saw. DINAH... SAW...
My friend: OMG, I'm so sorry...

kina said...

Kut ren pun kut ren la...

Can you guess what is a "toskin"?

Nnt I bagi tau... jeng jeng jeng...

Lee said...

Hello Pi Bani, You may not have saved a lot of money in your life, but you have saved a lot of heartaches for other people, you are a rich woman. Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless.
Whatever the communication or miscommunication, you will always be there.
Best regards, Lee.

Pi Bani said...

Toskin? Ni Melayu cuba cakap orang putih ke or orang putih cuba cakap Melayu? Or budak punya language? Tak boleh nak pikior le...

If you say I'm rich, I'll just accept that I'm rich... hehe...

Thanks for your kind words, Lee.

Mónica said...

Hi, nice blog.
Visit mine.
I have a translator spanich to english.
I'm from Uruguay.
Will see.

Pi Bani said...

How nice of you to visit my blog. Thanks! Will visit yours in a while.

J.T. said...

"My friend: Yes, speaking. May I know who's calling?
Caller: This is Dinah Saw here.
My friend: Yeah right. If you're dinosaur then I'm T-Rex..."

Hahahaha... Funny and embarassing too. :D

Pi Bani said...

Yeah JT, embarrassing indeed. Imagine having to meet the person face to face after the phone call...