oh-hohoho…you think you’ve been frustrated recently? lemme paintcha a picture:
last week i had arranged a meeting with R, who we met whilst house-hunting in cagayan de oro. he is a community health nurse in a barangay (like a neighborhood with its own local government – equivalent of brixton in london) called carmen, and while he was showing us the place, i happened to mention that at organization C we’ve been having a hell of a time getting free vaccinations for our children and young people, particularly for hepatitis b. he says, no worries! he does it for his community – surely they will do this in barangay 15 (where we’re located). anyway, i agreed to meet with him yesterday so i could get all the details.
so i arrive at his center, which is such an experience. i already know that R is well-respected in this community – when he showed us the house he was renting out, which is in the same neighborhood, everyone knew him and said hello. the first thing i notice upon arriving is just how many women are there – two female community health workers outside at tables, presumably taking appointments, and roughly 15 women outside, as well as a few men and lots of kids. i introduce myself and explain that i’m there to see R; one of the workers goes in to let him know and comes back for me. the building is oldish, but not ancient…what’s most noticeable is that it’s very ramshackle in its construction – it’s a building, but feels more like a portable cabin. there’s a small waiting area in front of two offices, the first of which is closed. the waiting area is a long, narrow corridor with a single bench running along it, the composition of which i could not tell you as it was covered from one end to the other with pregnant women waiting to be seen by R – probably 25 of them. i pass them all to enter his office and i have to remind myself that i’m there for a very good reason, and i shouldn’t feel horrible for cutting in front of them!
R’s desk is covered in papers waiting to be organized. i joke that he should have a secretary and he replies that she’s away on an emergency as her son is in hospital (he has a secretary!). R asks me to refresh his memory on what i needed, and then he sends a text, writes down the names of the people i’ll need to see, and sends me off to the town hall in barangay 15, and i leave him to return to his seemingly endless appointments. off i go – jeepney to multicab to motorella – and arrive at my destination, where i’ve been instructed to meet J, a community health worker in our area. J introduces me to a midwife, and i explain the situation. she informs that free vaccines are only provided to infants as this is all that the government requires. i explain that these children have not received their vaccines as infants, due to the fact that the government has not ensured that their parents are properly educated on the importance of vaccines, let alone the existence thereof. she informs me that this is because the government doesn’t know that they exist (!). ok – well, i’ve been given the name of a different nurse – V – and ask if i can speak with her. nameless midwife sends me off with J and E, two workers who will accompany me to the office from which nurse V is working. we take another motorella to this new office, in barangay 17 (there’s an overlap between 15 and 17 that i don’t yet understand), and i go right in and again state my case. V informs the same as nameless-midwife, except she states that they cease to provide said free vaccines after age 5. still i press – surely this is a human rights issue, and these children do not cease to be human simply because they pass age 5. V informs that i’ll need to speak to her superior, doctora B. V advises me to go back to barangay 15 at 1:30 pm (3 hours later) to meet with J and E, who will then accompany me to city hall, where dra B is based, and i can discuss the issue with her.
now, i’m due to leave the next day (today) for cameguin, an island off the coast of mindanao, for a big important meeting with organization B, and we’re set to leave here by 8:00 am, which means that i need to be at the seaport by 7:00 am, and i’ve yet to finish the presentation, for which i am solely responsible, and there’s loads left to do. but this is important. i’m happy to work all night if it means that i can get this sorted. so i agree.
i return to the office of organization C and explain the situation. i rush off to get some lunch and come back and eat, and then sit down and try to get a little more done on the presentation for organization B while i wait. at exactly 1:30 i return to barangay 15 town hall. J is not there – i’m told ‘wala,’ meaning simply ‘not here.’ E is, but she points to the chair and says, ‘for a while,’ meaning, ‘wait.’ the chair she directs me to is in front of the desk of nameless midwife, who pulls out her cell and informs that she’ll just text one of her nurses to find out where dra B is. i remain patient, but ask, ‘so no one has yet contacted the dra?’ ‘no, ma’am.’ ok.
nervous laughter from nameless midwife – she’s out of load (as in, she needs to buy credit for her phone)! i suggest she can use my phone – could she not just ring the secretary of the dra directly? she doesn’t have the number! seriously. i start to think about becoming irate – ‘listen, if she can’t meet today, that’s not a problem, but i’ve waited 3 hours now only to come back here and be told that you don’t even know where this dra is! can you please contact nurse V who advised me to come back in the first place?’ again – no load, and mind you, no land line! boy-oh-boy. i’m not happy, and i make sure that i’m very explicit about how ridiculous this situation is and what a tremendous waste of my time it has been. she gives me the number of the secretary of dra B (I THOUGHT SHE DIDN’T HAVE IT???) and suggests i ring them next week.
ok – cool intact, i leave the office and head to the main road to get a motorella-to-jeepney to head to chris’ work, where i’ll work for the rest of the day. it starts to rain lightly, but it’s afternoon, and i know that the rain will start to pour soon. i transfer from the motorella to a jeepney to go to manresa, about 20 minutes away, plus a 20 minute wait ‘a las pono,’ which literally means ‘at the full,’ but uses the spanish ‘a las…’ which is used for time of day (3:00 = a las tres), plus the bisayan pono, which means full, to indicate that the jeepney will leave when it’s full. all in all it takes me about an hour to get there, by which time the rain is coming down in sheets. and i miss my stop because i’m too busy wondering if the conductor is going to give me my change. so i’m only just across the street, but i’ve got a laptop in my backpack and am worried that it’ll get wet if i try to walk back to manresa. i’ve come off of the jeepney at the mall across the street, and so – about to explode with frustration – take a taxi (roughly 4 times the cost of my entire journey to literally cross one highway-sized street and two minutes walk up the road) to manresa. i get upstairs to the terrace in the building where they’ve told us we can work – really a peaceful beautiful place, and start to cool down…ok…all is not lost…heart rate decreasing…inhale, exhale. get my computer out…get my plug – no wait…no…NO! i left the STINKING plug back at the office of organization C! AND IT’S STILL PISSING DOWN!!!
so. what can i do? i’ve now got to go back to organization B, but it’s raining so hard, and i’ve got this laptop, so that means i’m going to need to get a cab. i thought i was upset about spending money to cross the street! now i have to spend SEVEN TIMES that amount to go back to the office, get the cable, and go home.
so i get to work and don’t stop really until 11:00 pm – not completely finished, but should be able to work on the boat this morning. i wake up at 5:00…and then 5:20 and 5:40…finally drag myself out of bed and to the bathroom to wash up. chris makes breakfast (bless him) and i finish packing and am out the door by 6:30 am. boat’s not due to leave until 8:00, so should be fine. i try to ring N, director of organization B, to let her know i’m on my way, etc, but no answer. so i call P, one of the project coordinators, but she doesn’t pick up either. so i text P to ask where they are, as they’re coming from iligan to cagayan de oro for our departure.
ahem. THEY HAVEN’T LEFT YET. listen: i’m actually running late. i was told that they would leave iligan by 5:00 am, and arrive at the port by 7:00 am – it’s looking like i’ll get there for 7:30. but i’m too tired to think about what this means…essentially that if they left right then – right at that moment – they wouldn’t get there until 8:30 am…for a boat that’s meant to leave at 8:00…
so i arrive at the port – no big deal – there’s a waiting area and i’ve got a good book. but a man approaches my taxi and asks the driver if i intend to go to cameguin, to which my driver (with whom i’ve become chummy as he tries to convince me that 7th day adventists are sinning against god by taking the sabbath on saturday instead of sunday) informs that indeed i do. he gravely informs him of something in bisayan, after which my driver turns around and says, ‘no boats to cameguin today.’
i’ll need to go to agora station (bus terminal) to go to another port roughly 2 hours outside of cagayan de oro. i call P, who…ready for this? is FULLY AWARE that there are no boats out of the cagayan seaport! who only THEN realizes that no one has told me any of this. i’m told that we will leave from agora station, so i head to agora station, but upon arriving i realize that there is nowhere to wait, and no cafes or mcdonalds or anything of that nature. so i call P again, who advises me to go to limketkai, a mall nearby, and wait there. so. i hail a jeepney, which of course doesn’t leave until a las pono, and am on my way to the mall. and i then realize that the smallest bill i have is p500. the fare for the jeep is p7.
so we arrive at ketkai…and i try to pay my p7 fare with my p500 bill…and he doesn’t have change…so…HE LET ME RIDE FOR FREE!!! hooray! something not horrible happened to me!!!
thankfully there is a cafe here – bo’s – which has an internet connection. that’s excellent, because i have time to finish the leftover bits from my presentation to the board…and then some. i arrived here at 7:45, and it’s now quarter to 10. i’ve finished my presentation and written this blog. N popped into the cafe to drop off her bag with me and rush off again…no other signs of life or explanations of what to expect…and here i wait…i hope things take a turn for the better soon…i just keep reminding myself of my free ride…