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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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Clinic duty, dinner & final round of shopping

Yesterday being the fourth Tuesday of the month, I was in Taiping again for my clinic duty. I didn’t bother to go too early as usually the cases are referred to us quite late. I reached the hospital at 10 am and immediately headed over to the doctor’s room to inform the nurse that I had arrived. According to the nurse, there were supposed to be 3 new cases but none of them were there yet.

So I just waited at the makeshift counselling room (it’s the prayer room actually).

taiping clinic

I always make it a point to bring along my netbook computer and usb modem, so at least I have something to do while waiting for cases to be referred. Meanwhile I texted Jay to tell her I would be at the counselling room until 1 pm. She replied saying she wanted to see me, but she had some work to do, and so she may come after 12 noon.

After a while, somebody knocked and opened the door. I saw a familiar face, but couldn’t remember who it was. I was expecting Jay, but the lady I saw wasn’t Jay.

Kak, bulan lepas akak ada suruh saya bawa surat beranak anak semua kan?”

Ah yes! Then I remembered, this was the lady who came with her husband. Her husband was the one who was diagnosed HIV positive, and from what I gathered, his condition is quite bad although he can still walk around. Seems his liver is in real bad condition. His wife, Shima, had been tested negative, alhamdulillah… so no worries about their children.

Anyway, I told Shima I’d need to visit them at home for further assessments. She had no problem with that. However, they don’t stay in Taiping, so I’d have to make another arrangement for the visit.

Jay came in when it was nearing 12.30 pm. I told her I couldn’t consider her children for sponsorship as there were many families worse off than her. Jay was however, thankful enough that she’s getting help under our Children Education Fund for their back-to-school expenses. The monthly expenses, she can still cope.

12.30 pm? No cases referred yet? That would probably mean the new cases didn’t turn up. I went over to the doctor’s room to be doubly sure, and the nurse confirmed none of the new ones turned up. So, why should I wait any longer, right? Off I headed home.

After maghrib, I headed out again. This time to our centre for our year-end dinner. Since we’re just a small group, we just decided to order some food and had dinner at the centre. 17 turned up, all but one turned up in red as our theme was red. One volunteer turned up in blue. I’ll just take it that he’s colour blind… :)


This morning, I went for one last round of back-to-school shopping for the year (hopefully lah, there’s only 2 days left). This time it was for Yah’s children. It had been quite a while since I last took them shopping. Not that I didn’t want to, but at one time Yah was bitten by the “angau” bug, and 2 of her children were sent to an orphanage. I had to make it clear to her that I wouldn’t accept any nonsense from her if she wanted our help. She knew I was angry with her, and after a while, when she finally got back to her senses (I hope!), she told another colleague of mine that “Saya dah baik sekarang.” Hehehe…

Anyway, the last I saw the youngest girl, Aini, was when she was still a baby. I used to visit them at home, bringing along milk powder, and her late grandma always told the girl, “Tengok, mama datang!” (referring to me as the mama because I was the milk supplier – ni yang orang kata lembu punya susu, si Pi dapat nama)

Well today, when I saw the 4 children, my my they have grown! Except for Abang Chik, the hyperactive boy who still looked very much the same, the others have changed. Kak Ngah is bigger than Kak Long though. Kak Long will be in form one while Aini, the youngest girl, will be 5 and going to pre-school already! I thought it was just very recently that I was delivering the milk powder for her. Now she’s already going to pre-school? Aaargh! I’m getting old ain’t I??!

Thank goodness this family was the last that I brought for shopping. With Abang Chik, the ADHD boy around, it wasn’t easy controlling him. He simply grabbed the uniforms etc and put them in the trolley saying he wanted them all. Thank goodness, he still listened to my stern NO and put them back when I told him to. Then he just grabbed another one without even looking at the size. Finally, the only way to control him a bit was to grab him and tried out some uniforms on him, at least he knew that I was going to get him some uniforms. There weren’t any problem with the girls though.


And oh, Kak Long by the way, obtained 3A 1B 1C for her recent UPSR. The C was for her English. I noticed most of these children have problems with their English. If only they are all staying in Ipoh, I can probably give them free tuition…

Monday, 27 December 2010

Serial shopper strikes - 7

I’d usually avoid shopping on a Sunday. I prefer to avoid the crowd, especially during the school holidays. The part I hate most? Queuing to pay lah…

However, I had to make an exception when I went shopping for the schooling needs of Rosnah’s daughter. You see, Rosnah has to work on other days, and so the only other choice she had was a Sunday.

So I agreed to meet up with Rosnah at 9 am on Sunday, in front of the hypermarket. The moment they got there, Rosnah headed straight to the toilet. Her daughter, Huda, who sat for her UPSR this year and obtained 3A 2B, will be in secondary school next week (next year lah tu!). While waiting for Rosnah to come back from the toilet, Huda asked me what we were shopping for. Lerrr…. mak dia tak bagi tau ke?

Baju sekolah dah beli belum?” I asked.

Belum lagi,” she replied.

Ni nak beli baju sekolah lah ni.”

This was the first time I took them shopping, so Huda didn’t expect me to come along with them to buy her schooling needs. Last year Rosnah bought the things first and claimed later. But this year she said she didn’t have enough money and asked for an advance, if possible, and she’d pass me the receipts later. I make it a point not to give them cash advances. Who knows, I give them the money for uniforms, they may end up using the money for some other so-called “emergencies”. I’d rather go with them, pay for the stuff and immediately keep the receipts – even if that means I have to do so on a Sunday morning.

Anyway, shopping for Huda wasn’t difficult. Even though there weren’t too many choices left, we still managed to find the right sizes for Huda. We didn’t have to buy her a school bag as her aunt had already bought one for her. But she needed both black and white pairs of shoes, so we had to buy 2 pairs. When we got to the cashier, Huda got a shock when she saw the grand total.

Dekat separuh gaji mak!” she exclaimed.

Well, at least now she knows how much those stuff cost, hopefully she’d appreciate them more.

After shopping, I brought them to a mamak shop. I ordered roti sardin, Rosnah ordered roti telur and Huda ordered “roti canai, satu saja”. Rosnah was surprised, usually one piece was never enough for Huda.

Apparently, the girl wanted to have a taste first. When Rosnah’s roti telur came, she tasted a bit of that. My roti sardin came, she tasted a bit of that too. Then her roti canai came, and before the waiter went off, Huda immediately ordered, “Roti telur, dua!Hah, ambik kau! Tak padan kurus!

While eating, Rosnah told me that she finally broke the news to her family. All the while only she and Huda knew about her HIV. Recently there was a family kenduri, so all her siblings came back (Rosnah stays with her mother at their family house), and so Rosnah decided it was time to tell all of them. All of them were okay about it. However, it was her younger brother’s future wife who suggested that Rosnah should move out of the house.

Waaa… banyak cantik lu punya muka! She’s not even married to Rosnah’s brother yet! Tengah sayang punya pasal (sorry folks, bila marah ni mula cakap bahasa rojak), her brother somehow “agreed” to his fiance’s suggestion and even offered to pay for the house rental if Rosnah moves to another house. Rosnah herself was about to give in, she didn’t want to argue with anyone. But it was Rosnah’s mother who didn’t agree.

“Mak tak setuju. Mak tak takut. Mak ada tengok TV, mak tau macam mana sakit ni berjangkit.” There you go! Caya lah makcik!

After all, Rosnah is the one who takes care of her mother. Her other siblings stay elsewhere. If they insisted that Rosnah should move, who’s going to take care of their mother?

So yes, Rosnah and Huda are staying put.


Saturday, 25 December 2010

Sudah baik dengan bini ka?

Remember Zali? The guy who was (still is) on methadone treatment and whose wife left him and their 2 little girls? I first wrote about him here; and then there were a few follow-up stories here, here, here, here and here.

Initially I believed all that he said about his wife. While I understood why his wife left him, I couldn’t for the life of me understand how the wife could have the heart to leave the girls just like that. I mean, even if she could no longer stand their marriage, the least she could have done was to take the girls with her. Surely they’d be better off with her. After all she has a secure job with a goverment department while Zali himself was (and still is) not working and dependent on methadone.

The last time either the doctor and SN asked if I could do anything about Zali’s case was in April this year. The doc was quite concerned because Zali had not been compliant in taking his ARV and his condition had worsened. But since I never got the opportunity to speak to his wife, I couldn’t really find his wife’s version of the story. All the while Zali made it sound as though his wife was the one who didn’t care about the kids, but when asked for the wife’s number so I could speak to her, he always came up with all sorts of excuses not to give me the number.

I did wonder what had happened to Zali and especially his children. My main concern was of course the 2 girls. Although I had his house address, I couldn’t simply visit them at home without permission. I don’t have the authority to check on them.

So when we had the appointment with the state Welfare director and a few of her officers last Wednesday, I took the opportunity to highlight his case to them. They immediately agreed that they needed to interfere if indeed the 2 girls are not being well taken care of. At least they have the authority to check on the family.

Yesterday I was at the welfare department again, for a meeting. The moment I walked in, the lady officer in charge of such cases told me that they had gone to visit, but it seemed the house was in orderly manner. Zali wasn’t home but his 2 girls were there with 2 maternal cousins of theirs. The officers did speak to the children and were told that their mother was staying with them (but she was at work). Children don’t usually lie, and especially in this case when they weren’t even expecting any welfare officers to come and visit, surely nobody could have taught them what to say, right?

However, the officers did get the mother’s phone number from the girls, although their first attempt to call their mother was not answered. They then called Zali, and Zali did answer the phone. He did admit to them that at one time he was a very irresponsible person but he claimed that he has now changed for the better.

The lady officer told me they’d still be monitoring the case. She wants to speak to the mother first to get her version of the story.

If indeed the wife is staying back with them, good for the children. My guess is earlier on it wasn’t that the wife didn’t want to take the kids with her. It was Zali who refused to let them go. He did mention to me once that he was still trying to coax his wife to return to him. After all, the wife had always been the breadwinner and Zali was the one who’s with the kids most of the time, so the children had grown attached to him, even sometimes tagging along with him to the methadone clinic.

The only thing I’d like to know now is, is the wife really able to accept Zali back into her life? Or is she only doing this for the sake of the children?

Whatever it is, I am glad I highlighted the case to the welfare officers. At least I know they are monitoring the children’s well being.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

All in a day’s work

I was getting ready to go to the hospital this morning (again??) when I heard the MI ringtone on my handphone. Sofie had called me a few times yesterday and so I thought it could be her again. But when I looked at the screen of my phone, it was Amy’s name that appeared.

Remember Amy? She’s the daughter from Ramli’s first marriage. Yes, Ramli, the guy who had 4 wives but all of them left him (one died of HIV related illness) when he became sick. Some of you may remember from my earlier posting about Ramli being sent to a shelter home as Amy could no longer cope – she just got married a year ago, she got to take care of 3 of her half-brothers (from Ramli’s second marriage, the wife not only left him, she left 3 of her kids as well, taking only her eldest son), and she got to take care of a bed-ridden father as well.

Despite sending her father to a shelter home, Amy still took over responsibility of her half brothers. Therefore I arranged to get some funding from MAF for the boys. I had asked her earlier to send me a copy of her IC and bank account details. This morning however, Amy called to inform me that her young brothers (all still schooling) are now at an orphanage. Not 3 of them, but 4. Apparently after a while Ramli’s 2nd wife sent her eldest son back to them as well!

According to Amy, a neighbour lodged a report to JKM saying that the boys were uncared for. Actually Amy stays with her husband in a different home within the same kampong. The boys stay at their father’s home, together with Amy’s older brother. Amy just goes to visit on and off. With the older brother sometimes suffering from depression, I guess the neighbour thought he was unfit to take care of the boys. Or maybe, who knows, the boys could have been naughty going around the kampong and so one of the neighbours thought they would be better off at an orphanage. And so the JKM people came over to visit, and decided to send all four of them to an orphanage. They still asked Amy to visit from time to time though.

Well, at least Amy was honest enough to tell me about it. She could have just kept quiet about it, letting me submit her application for financial assistance for the boys and getting the money for herself. She did not, and I respect her for that.

Anyway, back to the hospital. What was I doing at the hospital again when I was already on clinic duty yesterday?

Remember the 15 year old orphaned HIV+ girl I mentioned before? The one I’ve been trying to get hold of but to no avail? I had once before waited for her at the hospital on her appointment day but she didn’t come for that appointment. I got a male colleague of mine to try calling the uncle (it was the only contact number we had) but my colleague was not entertained by the uncle. We couldn’t visit without prior permission from the families and so visiting was out of the question.

But last month Dr Ker asked me to look into this case again because she really felt I needed to see this girl, Nalini, to assess her needs. And since her appointment was today, I went over to the hospital, just to see her.

By about 10 am or so, I was already at the hospital. I headed straight to the doctor’s room, asked the nurse if Nalini was already there. She wasn’t there yet. Oh no, I thought, please don’t let her miss her appointment again! As I was talking to the nurse, a call came in (the ID clinic line). The nurse picked it up, and then I heard her say, “Ni ha, Kak Afizah memang ada kat sini. Nak cakap dengan dia?” It was actually from Yah, who called to ask the nurse for my phone number. You people remember Yah right? The one who once had an affair with Mr Darling and then after that out of vengeance went on to sleep with one man after another to pass the virus to them?

She knew I was mad with her and so every time she called my colleague, she told my colleague “Saya dah baik dah sekarang ni!” Hehehe… well, I do hope she has changed. She is already working now at a factory, and with all her kids back home (before this she sent her 2 older daughters to an orphanage), she wouldn’t have much time for “extra-curricular” activities.

Today she didn’t expect me to be there when she called the nurse. I asked her if she had changed her phone number again and how come she lost my number. “Talipon yang sama kak. Entahlah, nombor akak hilang sendiri aje!” Waaa…. magic like that! Her children had been asking her if Makcik Afizah would be coming to buy school necessities for them. I used to do that before, but stopped doing that after she sent her daughters to the orphanage. Now that the girls are back staying with her, they’re already asking why I haven’t been visiting. The 2 girls are doing quite well in school and every time they got their results they’d always ask their mother to call me and inform me of their results. I haven’t seen them for quite some time, they must have grown! I will probably arrange to visit them next week.

Back to Nalini, after I ended that call, the nurse came over saying that Nalini had just arrived with her aunt. So straightaway she sent them to the counselling room to enable me to have a chat with them.

Nalini, whose father disappeared, and whose mother was a drug user, had been taken care by her grandma since she was still a baby. The grandma had been overprotective of her, and as a result, the girl is not independent at all. Although the family knew of Nalini’s mother HIV status, none of them brought Nalini herself for tests, as she looked so chubby and healthy, and the grandma said it was impossible that Nalini was infected.

It was only after her mother died last year that the aunts decided to get her tested, and that was when they found out she was HIV positive. Nalini herself decided to quit school since then and the aunts and uncles couldn’t say much as the grandma was on her side.

Now Nalini stays with her aunt so that her aunt could supervise her to ensure she’s compliant with her ARV medication. Since Nalini was no longer interested to go to school, I asked if she was interested to take up a short course to enhance her skills in whatever she was interested in. At least she’d have some basic skills which she could one day use to generate income for herself. Her aunt obviously agreed with me but Nalini herself just kept quiet. After coaxing her for a while, she finally said she’s iinterested in sewing and cooking. So okay, at least I know what to look around for.

I also got the aunt’s permission to visit them at home. In fact, although she doesn’t mind us visiting at her home, she suggested that for the first visit, we visit them at the grandma’s home so that we could talk to the grandma as well. Great, I thought that would be better too! I took down their address, and the aunt’s phone number. I told them that most likely a Tamil speaking volunteer will be calling them to arrange for the home visit.

I left the hospital immediately after meeting up with Nalini and her aunt. I wasn’t on clinic duty, so there was no point waiting for any other new cases.

I got home this afternoon, thinking that I’d just stay home for the rest of the day. But at about 2.10 pm, a call came in from JKM Perak. I actually had the opportunity to meet up with the state JKM director and a few of her officers yesterday, and today’s call came from one of the officers I met yesterday. He asked if I could come over to JKM today to fill up and sign a form to apply for NGO grant from the JKM. He said they had some balances of funds for this year which is ending soon and the director suggested to her officer to give the grant to us. But I would have to follow the procedures of filling in the form and submitting a few basic supporting documents. And since the final meeting for them to approve the grant for this year is tomorrow, he asked if I could come today to submit the necessary.

So off I went to our center to get the necessary documents… copies of our registration cert, constitution, last financial statement, latest bank statement and report of our activities. Not a problem at all, all those are easily available at our center. I just had to photostat them and then off I went to JKM to see the officer.

While filling in the form, the officer told me that the director was keen to give us the grant as during yesterday’s meet, she was quite impressed with the things we do.

Funding? Without much hassle? Hey, I’m all for it! It doesn’t matter how much we get. People want to give, we’ll take it!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Another day at the hospital

Today being the 4th Wednesday of the month, I was on clinic duty again. Ever since I started freelance work, I’ve been taking the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays for my duties in Ipoh GH.

The moment I got to the main gate of the hospital, I knew I was going to have an extra hard time looking for a parking space… there was traffic jam within the hospital compounds! And it so happened the car in front of me was driven by an Ah So who was driving sooooo slow, my speedometer hardly moved! I went straight to my usual parking space some few hundred (a few? A lot more I think) steps away from the specialist clinic. Even the usual parking space was full. I was just lucky that the moment I got there, one car got out so I gladly took over that space.

I passed by the Forensic Department when I walked over to the specialist clinic. There were quite a number of traffic police, cones were placed by the roadside so that people wouldn’t park their cars there. I also saw some cars with Thai registration numbers. Yep, this was due to the bus accident at the Cameron Highlands – Simpang Pulai road on Monday.


Anyway, first thing’s first – I went to the doctor’s room to notify the nurse that I was already there and to ask if there were any new cases. I was told there were supposed to be 2 new cases but neither one of them were there yet. I also asked if the nurse knew anything about when Ina, the pregnant orang asli lady is expected to deliver. The nurse didn’t know anything. She herself was waiting for info from the relevant sources.

I then went to the counselling/support service room and was surprised to see quite a large group of pharmacists there. Apparently other than the usual faces, they had student pharmacists there doing their training and so they were given some briefing by the head pharmacist there. There was still one chair available though (kerusi empuk, unlike the kerusi kayu at Taiping Hospital…:)) so I just sat there and while waiting for cases to be referred I decided to call Ina, the orang asli lady.

Well, no, not Ina herself… she doesn’t have a phone, but the last time I went to visit, her neighbour cum good friend was there and since the friend had a handphone, the friend gave me her phone number in case I needed to contact Ina. And so I called the friend who’s always the one accompanying Ina to the hospital for her appointments.

According to the friend, Ina’s next appointment in Ipoh will be next week, during which they will know when exactly Ina will need to be warded for her delivery. I was also told that Ina had already opened up a bank account to enable me to submit together with the PAF application form. The last time I told them to open up a BSN account, they went to open up an ASN account!

By 11.30 am, there were no referrals yet, but we had to leave the support service room as the room needed to be used for some sort of function there. I went back to the doctor’s room to see the nurse… and was told that one of the new patients was already there. Since I didn’t have any private room to talk to the patient, the nurse told me to use the room next door, another doctor was using that room for HIV cases as well, but there was just enough space for me to talk to the new patient.

The new case, a Chinese guy in his late 50’s came in with his wife. Wife has been tested negative, children all grown up and working and all of them knew of his HIV status. No problem at all. But when I asked if he’d like a buddy, the wife welcomed the idea. She said although basically the family has no problems about his HIV, he himself sometimes kept thinking that he was dying etc. She has been giving support to him, but yeah, as usual, she’d get the “you wouldn’t understand” reply. So the wife thought maybe he’d listen better to someone who’s not family. I told them I’d assign a Chinese guy around his age to be his buddy.

The other new case didn’t turn up. So I only got to see one new case today.

However I did see 3 familiar faces today…

First familiar face was Valli’s. She’s not my client but we’ve met a few times (during our sponsorship assessment visits and our annual Family Day outings). Her 2 boys are under our sponsorship programme. Valli had been on ARV drugs for some time already but today the doctor suggested she changed to a new combination of ARV drugs as she suspected Valli’s swelling arms may be due to her medication.

The next person was Hana. She is not on ARV yet but the doctor has started her off with vitamins. They are usually given the vitamins as the “practice run” to ensure they take their medication on time. With people like Hana especially, it is important to make sure she fully understands how she is supposed to take her medication before she starts taking the real ARV drugs. Hana can sometimes be so slow to understand instructions given to her. The first time the nurse told her she was HIV+, she told me the nurse said she wasn’t infected. In the end, I had to tell her straight in the face she was infected (no ayat berlapis!). Anyway, Hana’s children are also under our sponsorship programme and so I told her to give me whatever receipts for anything to do with her children’s schooling.

And finally, guess who else I met? I met Jah, the used-to-be live wire! Yep, I said used to be, because she used to be super cheerful and super talkative. Whenever I called to invite her to our Family Day, or to ask if she’d like to follow me on any of my house visits, she’d never say no. But ever since she remarried, it was a different story altogether. I couldn’t even get hold of her by phone.

Today when I met her, she was still cheerful and talkative, but simply not as cheerful and talkative as before. I asked her why I hadn’t been able to get hold of her by phone.

Phone rosak, kak. Tak ganti-ganti lagi.”

Rumah takde phone?”

Takde kak. Lagipun rumah susah sikit kak. Mak mertua saya sekarang tak best macam mak mertua dulu.”

Ahh yes, I remembered when Jah would fondly talk about her first mother-in-law. She was so manja with that MIL, even after her first husband died. I asked if the new MIL knew of her HIV status. Jah said her MIL knew before their marriage.

Habis tu, dia tak bising ke? I asked.

Bising lah kak. Sekarang ni pun dia suka buat bising tapi saya pekakkan telinga ajelah.”

Frankly, when Jah first told me she’d remarry, my first concern was whether her boyfriend (then) and his family knew about her HIV. Jah did mention they knew about it, but the way she said it then, it was as though there was no problem at all about it. Or maybe at that time, all Jah saw was that “dunia indah belaka” without thinking of the repercussions.

Today was the first time I met Jah after her new marriage. I could sense she’s not as happy as before. And it seemed to me as though this marriage was more like Jah’s “lost of freedom” instead of the dunia indah she had envisioned.

Not much I could do. She has my number if she needs to call me. But of course, first she’d need to have access to a phone to be able to do that.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Survey on Domestic Violence

UKM’s Gender Studies Department is conducting a survey on Domestic Violence to find out how people perceive domestic violence in this country and to get a better idea of how people experience such abuse themselves.

Why don’t you participate? The more people participate, the more realistic the results they get. The survey is anonymous, for both men and women, and in both Bahasa Malaysia and English.

Click here to participate.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Another positive child

Remember Selvi, the homeless lady whose case was referred to us from Taiping Hospital before we started our support services there? She had been hospitalised for a few months when we visited her, and when we asked where she’d go when she’s discharged, she told us she had nowhere to go.

Selvi has 5 children. The 2 younger ones, aged 5 and 6, were sent to an orphanage run by an NGO, while the older 3, aged 11, 12 and 13, stayed at a different shelter home.

When Selvi got discharged, it became a problem for us to get hold of her.  A fellow volunteer who works in Taiping Hospital took the address and phone number given to the hospital by Selvi before she was discharged. The address was that of her sister who stays in a nearby town. But calls to the number given never got through.

After a while, Selvi herself called the volunteer, saying she was not staying with her sister, and gave an address. Supposedly, the house was empty house belonging to a friend who wanted her to take care of the house.

When the volunteer tried to look for the house, there was no such address. Adoi, how lar?

Then we were told that her 6 year old daughter was hospitalised. But how were we to inform her about it when we didn’t even know where she lived? She had defaulted her hospital appointments again and so we weren’t able to meet her there either. Not much we could do.

Today a call came in on my hand phone from an unfamiliar number. It was a welfare officer from the district where Selvi’s 2 younger children stay. The lady officer was asking if I knew of any homes which would take in HIV+ children as there was a child who had just recently been diagnosed HIV+ and the people at the home where the girl stays now is scared to take care of the little girl. So they referred the case to the welfare department and the lady officer who called me was the one who was assigned to handle the case.

When she mentioned that the orphanage was a private home run by an NGO, somehow it just clicked in my mind that this could be Selvi’s child the officer was talking about.

Me: “Budak ni maknya ada lagi kan?”

Welfare Officer: “Dengarnya macam tu lah, tapi tak dapat dihubungi. Nama budak ni *Becky.” (*not real name)

Me: “Oh kalau yang tu saya taulah. Kami pun memang tengah mencari mak dia.”

Anyway, the officer asked me if I could tell her where she could send the child to. I wasn’t able to answer off hand, so I told her I’d have to call her back. She immediately gave me her personal mobile number so that I could easily get in touch with her even when she’s out of the office.

First thing was I got the fellow volunteer in Taiping Hospital to get more info on Becky’s condition. Then I called another colleague in Ipoh to ask him to find out if there are any homes in Ipoh willing to accept an HIV+ child. There definitely isn’t any home specifically for HIV children, but who knows, there may be those who are still willing to accept.

Then I remembered Becky’s younger brother who stays in the same home. It didn’t occur to me earlier to ask if they only intend to send Becky alone to another home, or are they planning to send both? They are already separated from their 3 older siblings, I certainly wouldn’t want these 2 to be separated as well.

I decided to go to the Buddies Center to get the necessary contact numbers, and I also asked my colleague (the one whose favour I sought to  find out if there are any homes in Ipoh willing to accept Becky). Before long my colleague in Taiping Hospital sent me her report via SMS. Becky has a CD4 of only 21! Oh dear! She had been on treatment since November. Her younger brother however, has been confirmed negative.

I then called the welfare officer.

Me: “Bukan ke ada adik *Becky sorang lagi kat rumah tu?”

Welfare Officer: “Ha’ah ada, tapi dia dah confirm negatif.”

Me: “Habis tu, yang nak dipindahkan ke rumah baru ni sorang ke berdua?”

Welfare Officer: “Yang positif sorang je puan, yang sorang lagi tu negatif.”

Apparently, the welfare officer thought the homes for HIV children are only meant for infected children. I told her that these homes would usually accept HIV affected children as well as the infected.

Oh, saya kalau boleh memanglah tak nak pisahkan budak-budak tu!” she said.

OK good, now that matter is clear. Place them together if possible. I asked if she could arrange for the transportation to send the children to the shelter home if the place is out of Perak. I told her we are all volunteers and so it would be a bit difficult for us to find the time to go all the way. The officer said she’d have to ask her boss first, but assured me there shouldn’t be any problem.

When my colleague arrived at the center, he told me he asked 2 homes in Ipoh, and both were not willing to accept HIV cases.

Frankly, after knowing that Becky’s CD4 is so low at only 21, I thought probably it would be in Becky’s best interest if she goes to a home where the caretakers have enough knowledge about HIV cases.

So I immediately called the lady in charge of a particular home in Selangor, specifically handling HIV cases. Usually for cases involving Muslim ladies/children, I’d be calling Rumah Solehah. This time since the clients involved are non-Muslims, I called up Rumah Jaireh. The lady in charge confirmed that she was willing to accept not only Becky and her younger brother, but also their mother if we manage to get hold of her.

After getting that confirmation, I immediately called the welfare officer again, but this time, there was no answer. So I sent her a text message, giving her the contact number of the lady in charge of the shelter home. If the welfare department is to send Becky and her brother to that home, then might as well, they deal direct with the home.

Meanwhile, I am still hopeful that we’d be able to get hold of Selvi, although frankly, I’m not even sure if she is still alive…

Monday, 13 December 2010

Take from the poor, give to the helpless?

When I was confirmed as a buddy, one of the first few clients assigned to me was Rose. Rose, a single mother with 3 children, also had cancer of the cervix and her condition then had deteriorated, she definitely couldn’t work. She was already getting monthly welfare aid then. However, at the time when I was assigned to her, I remember it was already March, but Rose had yet to get the monthly aid since beginning of the year. Her children’s school fees had yet to be paid, neither had their bus fares been paid since the beginning of the year. With Rose in and out of the hospital quite often, her children depended on sympathetic neighbours to provide them food.

That being my first time handling a case dealing with the welfare department, I found it hard to believe that the welfare aid would be 2 or 3 months late.

After asking around, I found out that it was quite a norm for welfare aid recipients to get their money late at the beginning of each year. The excuse was that the welfare aid budget for the year for that particular state had not been received yet.

Anyway, since it has become a normal thing, we always tell our clients to expect delay at the beginning of each year.

It is December now, and so welfare aid recipients should be prepared for delays for the coming few months, right?

Well, apparently, the ones we know (am not sure about those from other states) have not been getting their monthly aid for the past month or 2. The year has not even ended yet! Surely the budget for this year has been received, right?

So off our Buddies Clients’ Welfare coordinator went to check with the district JKM, and was told by an officer there that they had used up the funds to help out the recent flood victims, so recipients of the monthly financial aid should expect further delays until they get new funds.

Oh, so take from the poor and give to the helpless, is it?

Ahh… that way there’s no need to bother the rich!

Smart move…

Friday, 10 December 2010

Serial shopper strikes - 6

It was raining yesterday morning. But I had promised Fuzi earlier that I’d be fetching her and her kids at 9.30 am to shop for their schooling needs, and I didn’t want to be postponing things… and so the shopping had to go on!

But it didn’t rain too heavily by the time I reached their house. They were all ready, waiting outside their house, doors all locked. As with most of the PLHIV families under me, they always get ready before the promised time. Going jalan-jalan is not something they get to do often.

So yes, all 6 of them (Fuzi and her 5 children) got into my car. Fuzi and her youngest, Iwan, 5, at the front passenger seat, while her other 4 children aged 15,13,12 and 8 at the back. Thank goodness they’re all slim.

I had “Radio Indonesia” on all the way to the hypermarket. You see, Fuzi, an Indonesian, is very talkative, and so she talked all the way. I wish I could control the volume though… my, my, her volume was LOUD!

Anyway, yesterday wasn’t the first time I brought them shopping for their schooling needs. This was already the 3rd time, so they already knew what to look for when we reached the hypermarket – 2 pairs of uniforms, socks, 1 pair of shoes, school bag, stationeries and whatever other schooling necessities.

Iwan, not schooling yet, was quite a good boy. Despite seeing his siblings getting all sorts of things, and him not getting a thing, he wasn’t really bothered. He just enjoyed himself having his siblings push the trolley around with him inside. But at the stationeries department, he selamba-ly took a piece of cartoon sticker and put it inside the trolley. It was just RM2 anyway, so whaaaddaheck!

I then took them for lunch, and this time Iwan got to choose what he wanted. At the counter, it was Fuzi who ordered the stuff her children wanted. Imagine the look on the face of the guy who took the order when Fuzi, in her Indonesian accent, talked loudly and at a very fast pace, “Nasi goreng kampong satu! Nasi goreng USA satu! Nasi goreng paprik satu! Nasi goreng biasa satu! Nasi ayam satu!”

Pelan, pelan… sebut satu-satu! Kawan tu nak tulis pun tak sempat!” I told her. The guy at the counter just smiled. Indeed, he was still holding the pen and piece of paper… nothing written on it yet…

Fuzi’s boys had always been the “wandering” type. It was Ijam and Iwan who made the “disappearing act” during our Family Day at Lost World of Tambun in August this year. This time, after they finished their food, they went wandering again. They even went up at the “going down” escalator. Not wanting any of them to make their disappearing act again, I got up and told them it was time to go home as I had other things to do.

Ah well, after 6 rounds of shopping so far, here are the receipts… worth well over RM3K of claims…


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Abused & Afraid

I was on clinic duty again today – so took a break from shopping.

When I went to the doctor’s room to find out from the nurse if there were any new cases to be referred, I was told there was one, but the patient had yet to come.

So, as usual, I just had to wait. And as usual too, I overheard (no, there was no need to eavesdrop) some of the conversations between the pharmacists sharing the room with us, and the patients. Not that I could understand everything though… some of the conversations were in Chinese.

After a while, a lady in tudung came in and so one of the Malay pharmacists spoke to her. I couldn’t quite hear what they were talking about because they were sitting at the far corner of the room but I did see the pharmacist at one point turning to me and asking the lady if she had seen any of the Buddies before.

Apparently this wasn’t a new case, but her first few appointments never coincide with any of our clinic duties so she was never referred to us. But this time, for the first time, the pharmacist was the one who suggested that the lady talked to me.

And so after the ARV counselling, the pharmacist then gave the file to me and whispered, “Dia kata suami dia selalu pukul dia.”

Ahhh… no wonder this time the pharmacist herself wanted to refer the case to me. Usually they’d just let the nurse refer whichever cases suitable. Probably the nurse didn’t refer this one because this is an old case and the lady never told her about being beaten up by the husband.

The lady, Shidah, then sat beside me and while taking a look at her file, I asked a bit about her background. She’s actually from a neighbouring country up north. Married a Malaysian Malay about 3 years ago. She was married before back in her country and was blessed with a child, now 7. Her husband died, and she then remarried… this time a Malaysian, moved to Malaysia, leaving her child under the care of her mother back home. Shidah calls her child from time to time but had not seen her for the past 3 years.

Shidah’s present husband had been tested twice for HIV, and both tests resulted negative. So it wasn’t him that Shidah got infected from, it must have been her first husband. When I asked Shidah if her present husband had any problem accepting the fact that she’s HIV+, she said there was no such problem.

It was when I asked if she had any other problems that she started telling me about her husband hitting her occasionally. When asked why he hit her, “Bila dia marah, dia pukul. Kakak mau tengok gambar?” She then showed me photos taken on her handphone. Her arms were all blue black! I asked if her husband became like that after she was diagnosed HIV+… “Dia memang sudah lama macam itu… cepat marah. Bila marah, pukul. Bila marah, pukul.

She had spoken to her mother-in-law about it, but even her mother-in-law couldn’t do anything about her own son. She just told Shidah to lodge a police report and go back to her home country for her own sake.

So why hasn’t Shidah run away from home or lodge a police report?

A few reasons she gave:

1. She doesn’t have access to her passport. It is held by her husband, and locked.

2. Every time immediately after her husband beat her, he’d lock her up in the house, to ensure that she wouldn’t be able to run away and lodge a report.

3. She doesn’t have much money in her hands. Where is she to go if she runs away from home?

Understandably, Shidah actually doesn’t really know how to go about. She’s afraid of the implications of her actions. As much as she is afraid that at any time her husband may hit her again, she’s even more afraid of the uncertainties if she leaves the house.

Shidah said her husband would beat her almost every month. Hmmm… I wonder what his problem is. Not PMS for sure. He must be a very bad-tempered person, because according to Shidah, quite frequently some stray cats around her house would be beaten to death by her husband. In fact, as far as she can remember, close to 30 cats must have died in his hands.

Whoa… this guy must be a sicko! I advised Shidah not to wait too long before taking any action. It may be too late by then!

After consulting a friend from Perak Women for Women (PWW), an NGO which deals with quite a lot of these cases, I advised Shidah to seriously consider lodging a police report and leaving the house before things get even worse. I gave her the numbers she can call if at any time she needs their help. I told her not to worry about money or transport to go back to her home country. As advised by my friend in PWW, I also told her to make sure she keeps important documents and some clothes handy, just in case she needs to get out of the house quickly. She may not have access to her passport, but she does have access to her marriage cert and some other documents. It will be harder if she runs out sehelai sepinggang and then later needing to go back to get her things.

Thank goodness she has her own handphone. At least I don’t have to go through her husband to be able to speak to her.

As for the new case that was supposed to be referred to me today… by 12 noon I checked with the nurse and was told that the guy didn’t turn up. According to the nurse she’s not even sure if the person is still alive as the last blood test showed that this guy’s CD4 is 0…

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Serial shopper strikes - 5

Today my shopping was for Nuri’s children. I purposely chose a public holiday as I knew Nuri would be opening her food stall on a working day and I didn’t want her to close her stall just to bring her children shopping.

Since Nuri doesn’t stay in or near Ipoh, finally today I went shopping at a different place. Her place is quite far, so we made a deal. We’d meet up at a supermarket in a town in between her place and mine. Not too far for her… and not too far for me either. Fair and square!

We promised to meet at 10 am in front of the supermarket. Turned out, we were both early. I got there at approximately 9.45 am, and within a minute or so, Nuri and her 3 children arrived. The supermarket opened at 10 am, so we had to wait for a while in front of the main entrance. We weren’t the only ones though… there were quite a number of people there already.

Nuri has an older daughter now in a nursing college. She wasn’t around today. But her 3 schooling children came – a boy, going to be in form 5 next year; a girl, waiting for her PMR results; and her youngest, Farah, the HIV+ child who will be in form one next year.

Anyway, I was the second customer to walk in once the doors to the supermarket opened. I don’t think that had ever happened to me before… :)

I let Nuri and her children choose their own stuff. Again, not much problem with these kids, they just followed whatever their mother chose for them… they were just there to make sure the sizes were right. However, like Norly’s son, Saiful, who’s so small despite going into form one next year; likewise was Farah. No problem getting her baju kurung as she could always opt for the sizes meant for primary school students, but to get a turquoise kain sekolah? No way. Nuri will have no choice but to sew for her little girl.

Well, so far I’ve brought 14 children to shop for their school uniforms, shoes, bags, stationeries etc. Total spent so far RM2627.70 – and that doesn’t include their fees, workbooks and whatever else that needs to be paid to the respective schools when school reopens.

Manalah rupa orang yang sampai sedozen anak bersekolah? :(

Monday, 6 December 2010

Serial shopper strikes - 4

It was back to shopping for me again today. This time 2 young girls, aged 6 and 8, daughters of Zainab.

Since Zainab work on shifts, I had to check with her first, when she’d be working night shifts so that I’d be able to bring her and her kids out shopping for the girls’ schooling needs. Zainab told me last week she’d be on leave on Sunday and Monday (that’s yesterday and today), and since I wanted Sunday to be my rest day, I told her I’d fetch them this morning at 9.30.

Before I could even have my bath this morning, I received a text message from Zainab, asking if our date was on. She wanted to get the girls ready. I remember when I brought them shopping last year, I told them I’d be coming at 2.30 pm, they were ready by 2 pm and the older girl, affectionately called Kakak, was already asking her mother why I wasn’t there yet at 2.15 pm. The 2 girls seldom got the chance to go out shopping, so when they knew they were going shopping, they were of course very excited.

Likewise this morning, when I got to their house about 5 minutes before the promised time, they were ready. I just honked and out they came, all set to go.

I think over the weekend quite a number of people went to do their “back-to-school” shopping as well. Unlike last week when the uniforms were all still tidy and in place according to the sizes segregated by compartments, today we had a tougher time looking for the right sizes. The sizes were all mixed up, probably simply chucked by customers into the different compartments.

But we managed to find the right sizes for the girls. The girls weren’t choosy either. They just let their mother and myself choose the uniforms, shoes and other stuff for them. Even for the school bags and stationeries, they just followed our recommendations without any objections at all. So really, I had quite an easy time today.

Even when I brought them for brunch right after, they simply ordered the same things I ordered. None of those “Ibu, nak itu! Ibu, nak ini!” (they call their mother Ibu). Very obedient, well-behaved girls.

On the way back, I asked Zainab if her husband, Zaki had been looking for a job. Zainab had been the bread winner for the family ever since they (Zainab and Zaki ) were diagnosed HIV positive. Zaki had been finding any teenie weenie excuse to quit his job – first he was helping out to cook at a restaurant, then he quit because “takut nanti saya luka berdarah masuk dalam makanan, orang lain makan” (duh, so if he doesn’t have HIV it’s ok if his blood gets into the food?); then he got a job as a security guard, he quit because “tak tahanlah kawan sekerja dengan saya tu banyak songel” (seems to me he’s the one yang banyak songel!); then another security job and he quit again, “letihlah asyik kena kerja malam aje”; then he got a job as an assistant at a mamak shop, “tak sesuai lah kerja kat situ, yang lain semua bangsa asing”; oh you get the drift…

And Zainab’s answer when I asked her if Zaki had made any efforts at all to find a job?

Biasalah dia tu kak. Letih sikit, dah tak nak pergi kerja. Demam sikit dah tak nak pergi kerja. Kita ni jugaklah walau sakit demam sekalipun, pergi jugak kerja pikirkan anak-anak.”

Sigh… looks like some things haven't changed...

Friday, 3 December 2010

Serial shopper strikes - 3

Today for the first time I took Aini and her children out shopping for their schooling needs. Another Malay volunteer used to be Aini’s buddy, but that volunteer has moved overseas and so I took over Aini’s case. I didn’t have any problems getting along with Aini. While my other clients call me Kak, Aini is my age. And same wavelength.

Aini has 3 children – the eldest a16 year old girl while the other 2 are boys – 13 and 11. However today the 13 year old was not around. He went to his aunt’s place in KL for the holidays and will only be back in 2 weeks time. I couldn’t wait for him to come back before taking them shopping, so Aini agreed to just bring along his measurements to enable us to buy his uniforms and shoes.

Aini had warned me earlier that none of her children knew she had HIV. Knowing that, I made sure whenever the children were around, I wouldn’t mention anything about HIV or AIDS. Today, Aini herself, whenever she wanted to tell me something about her ARV or anything to do with HIV, she’d make sure she’d come close to me while the children were quite far behind, pushing the trolley. Aini has kidney problems in addition to her HIV, so the children just thought her regular trips to the hospital were all related to her kidney problems.

The children did ask her before, what sort of NGO we were. They never fail to join us for our annual Family Day, and they are also getting their schooling needs sponsored on a yearly basis.

Persatuan apa mak masuk ni? Persatuan ni banyak duit kan mak?” asked her daughter. Aini just told her we’re Persatuan Ibu Tunggal. Yeah right… we’re neither ibu tunggal nor banyak duit… ;-)

Well anyway, I had no problems whatsoever with Aini’s children today. Not too choosy, and as a matter of fact, whenever they got hold of something which suited them, they’d ask me first if it was within the budget. Very obedient, very disciplined. I like!

When we reached back at their home, I got in for a while to get their school exam results. The girl, who joined Sekolah Teknik after her PMR last year, is doing much better in school now that she is doing something she likes. She has applied to stay at the school hostel for next year. If approved, then there’s an even higher fee to pay, but there’s no need to pay for monthly bus fares.

The second boy hasn’t got his results yet, while the youngest boy, who will be sitting for his UPSR next year, does better in sports than studies. After looking at his results slip, I teased him, saying that he seemed to understand Chinese better than Malay… he actually scored better for his Bahasa Cina (pemahaman) than his Bahasa Melayu (penulisan)…

I’m taking a break from shopping over the weekend. Will continue next week. I’ve already made arrangements to bring Zainab’s 2 kids on Monday, then Nuri’s 3 children on Tuesday and then Fuzi’s 4 children on Thursday.

I hope the rest can buy the schooling needs on their own first before we reimburse them with either the Sponsorship amount or, for those not under sponsorship, will be covered by our Children Education Fund.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Serial shopper strikes - 2

I had initially informed Sofie that I’d be fetching them on Thursday afternoon to bring the children shopping in Ipoh for their schooling needs. Now that they have moved to a small town nearer to Ipoh, I thought I might as well bring them to Ipoh as there isn’t much choice near their new place. However, after I sent the message to Sofie, she called me to inform me of the trouble she’s having with Ika’s school transfer.

Her old school had already earlier made the school transfer arrangements for Sofie’s children, but somehow Sofie’s youngest girl’s application got returned to the school. Apparently since Sofie is divorced, the PPD requires proof of Sofie’s right of custody over the child. Sofie doesn’t have anything in black and white. Even when they were still married, her husband seldom came home. He’d come home maybe every 4 or 5 months, then he’d leave again. The last time he came home was in July 2008, and after that when Sofie told him she was going to file for divorce, the last contact made was about 3 months later when he called to threaten Sofie that he’d kill her if she filed for divorce. Sofie lodged a police report and filed for divorce anyway.

Since her ex-husband never took care of the children and seldom came home, Sofie never bothered to ask for custody of the children. She didn’t see the necessity. She didn’t think there’d be any problem as even the ex-husband’s own mother doesn’t know where he is. She figured she got everything settled once she got her divorce papers.

That was until she moved to a new house in another town recently, and her children needed to be transferred to schools nearer to their new home. I don’t think it would have been much of a problem had it been the father who arranged for the transfer, but since in this case, none of the father’s documents were submitted, the PPD returned her earlier application because it wasn’t accompanied by proof of custody. Sofie was told to do a Surat Akuan Bersumpah.

Surat Akuan Bersumpah tu macam mana kak? Saya bukan reti semua ni. Saya pergi mahkamah, orang tu suruh saya buat sendiri surat, lepas tu bawak gi kat depa sahkan. Manalah saya tau nak buat surat tu?”

Understandably, Sofie doesn’t know how to go about. So, yesterday I called Sofie to find out some particulars and then I prepared a letter of oath for Sofie, printed 2 copies, and brought it along with me this morning when I went to fetch Sofie and her children.

Yes, since we needed to go to PPD Kinta to get the matter settled, I decided to fetch them in the morning instead of afternoon as planned earlier. I figured I might as well fetch them early, bring Sofie to a commissioner for oaths, then to PPD Kinta before taking them shopping.

There was one problem though… Sofie’s youngest girl, Ika, always suffers from car-sickness! She’d feel dizzy and this morning after a while she felt like vomiting. Luckily Sofie brought along a plastic bag with her. Ika had initially sat in front with her mother, nearer to the aircond, but I told her to move to the back seat so she could sit away from the aircond.

Anyway, I took Sofie to a commissioner of oaths whose office was at the ground floor. Sofie always had problems walking up the stairs and I knew she’d have no choice to climb up the stairs at PPD, so at least I’d save her from having to climb one more flight of stairs to see the commissioner for oaths. After paying the commissioner, we headed straight to PPD. While Azman and Saiful waited in the car, Azlan, the eldest son, came along with Sofie, Ika and myself to the office. Sofie was huffing and puffing up the stairs despite the office being only on the first floor. It didn’t take too long though. The lady at the counter, after looking at the letter, just asked Sofie to write her current address on an envelope, and told us they’d be posting the letter to Sofie within 2 weeks.

That settled, I brought them to a hypermarket to shop for their schooling needs. No problem with the 2 older boys, Azlan and Azman. But Ika had the same problem as Marlia, Lin’s daughter – choosy and fickle minded. I told her, “Kalau tak nak yang ada kat sini, tak apa. Tapi makcik takde nak bawak gi tempat lain dah. Kalau tak beli hari ni kat sini, tak payah beli langsung. Pakai aje yang tahun sudah punya.” It didn’t take long after that for her to find the ones she wanted… :-)

There wasn’t much I could do with Saiful though. If you may recall, Saiful is the one with the very thick glasses. He will be in form one next year, but he is just as small in size as his 8 year old sister. Not much problem finding him his school shirt… he could always opt for the ones meant for primary school children, but where on earth were we to find him green trousers for secondary school, small enough for him? Even the promoter told me, “Yang ni kena tempah kat kedai kak, takkan jumpa jual yang dah siap saiz kecik untuk dia.” (Yes, yes! She called me KAK, not makcik! Hehehe..)

So yep, I told Sofie to bring Saiful to a tailor, and I will reimburse whatever amount charged using the sponsorship fund.

I then brought them for lunch before sending them home.

Tomorrow I will bring Aini’s children shopping…


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Serial shopper strikes - 1

My usual year-end shopping spree begins!

Nope, not for myself, and not my money either. It’s for the children of the PLHIV families under our sponsorship or CEF programme. Someone did suggest that I bring them all together shopping and settle everything in one day. But oh, no thanks, I don’t think I can handle all the children at the same time! Pening!

Since I usually deliver sponsored groceries to Lin’s and Sofie’s families at the end/beginning of each month, I decided to start with their families first, so I don’t have to go to their homes twice in a month.

So yes, today, after getting the supply of groceries from the minimarket, I went over to Lin’s house. Other than Rahim and Marlia, the 2 sponsored children, Lin’s older daughter was also home. She is currently on study leave before her exam begins in about a week’s time. She came along with us to shop for her younger sibling’s schooling needs.

Rahim and Marlia are both in secondary school, so there shouldn’t be any problem. Or so I thought.

Well, there wasn’t really much problem with Rahim, except that he loves to tease his sister, but my oh my, we had such a hard time trying to find school stuff for Marlia, being the manja type (because she’s the youngest? Oh, I’m the youngest in my family too!). Too jarang, too keras, tak best, you name them! No wonder Lin insisted that her older daughter come along. Marlia wouldn’t listen to Lin, being an old timer (like me!), but at least Marlia would consider her sister’s suggestions.

I just kept quiet at first, but after more than an hour and after seeing Marlia being so choosy and fickle-minded, I finally told them I’d only wait for another 10 minutes otherwise they’d have to pay for everything themselves. :-)

It was 12 noon by then and I was getting hungry. Despite it being a working day, there was still quite a queue at the cashiers. The receipt for Rahim’s and Marlia’s schooling stuff came out to more than 1 foot in length (including all the small stuff).

We then went straight for lunch at the same shopping complex. Luckily this time Marlia wasn’t fickle-minded in her choice of food.

By the time I sent them home, it was already 1pm.

Tomorrow will be the turn of Sofie’s children – all 4 of them. Double today’s number, with one 8 year old girl in tow. I hope none of them are as choosy and fickle-minded as Marlia!