Tag: volunteering

Life before T

Long before T was born, I worked as a volunteer (Media Communications Officer) in a small NGO in Tamale, a town in Northern Ghana, West Africa.

This was my home:

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We didn’t have much.  VSO, our organisation gave us a few essentials/furniture.  The rest we had to buy from our meager allowance.  I bought a small electric  fan, cutlery, plates a few pans and other kitchen utensils.  I also felt the need to liven up my living quarters and so bought some sarongs in cheerful yellow/orange colours and used them as curtains/table-cloth.

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See that brown tie-dyed cushion covers with the turtle design? I brought it back with me to England and is now prominently displayed on our couch.

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It took awhile for VSO Ghana to provide me a wardrobe (which they did with other volunteers), so I had to make do with a makeshift one – I hung my clothes on a string which I tied between two windows.  But in the end, had to keep my stuff in my suitcase because it was so dusty.

Oh my word, the dust!

Some days the dust would be so thick, the moment you finished sweeping, your floor will be covered in dust again, especially when the Harmatan came.

My house was across a mosque and at dawn, I would be awakened by the sound of prayers.  Then at lunch-time, when I heard the call to prayer, I knew it was almost time to go back to work after my break.  Then again, the sound would come in the early evening.

Of course, one cannot think of Ghana without remembering the heat.  I would welcome that kind of heat right now, even for just a day.  The kind that makes you want to take off all your clothes and no matter how much cold glasses of water you consume, your thirst is never quenched.

I remember the days felt longer and life seemed slow.  My placement was a bit of a disaster, but in spite of that, I have very fond memories of Ghana and the people there.  My Ghanaian colleagues and I (because of the lack of work), used to while away the day by talking about reggae music, Bob Marley and his life, football and about life in my country.   Of course, they were curious about where I came from and wanted to know more.  And when our secretary went on maternity leave, we all visited her at her place.  Her daughter must be in first grade right now.  It feels longer than that, way longer than that.

This post is linked-up with PODcast’s What’s The Story

Hope everyone has a lovely week ahead of them!

April Chat with a Mom: Melissa Queyquep

Melis and I met on our first training as volunteers before being sent to Africa.  She was one of those people whom you meet and instantly get along with and you know that the friendship will always be there no matter what.  I was then sent to Ghana as a Media Communication’s Officer in a small NGO and she – to Malawi as Continuing Professional Development Facilitator also an NGO.  Then life happened and now we are both mothers – which we both consider the most important role in our lives.

Tell us something about yourself, your little one (age & sex)

I am a teacher trainer working for a non-profit in Arusha, Tanzania called The Foundation for Tomorrow. I was born in Manila but spent most of my growing up years in Pangasinan. I am currently based in Tanzania with my partner and young son. My son, Kahlil North, is 4 years old. His favorite activity is drawing—I spend about 30,000 Tanzanian shillings each month for pens and paper—and in return I get gazillion pictures of cars, trucks, steam engines, trains falling off a cliff, and portraits of him, his dad, and myself. He sleeps with his pens and paper and these are the first things he looks for upon waking up in the morning. Recently, he has discovered the joys of swimming and so we go swimming every weekend now.

North and Mum 1 Your child’s birth story:  What was it like?

It started really easy. Unbeknown to me, I was already 4 cm dilated when I went to my OB for my “routine” check-up. I was already a week overdue and so prior to the internal exam, my doctor and I were discussing labor induction and setting a date for it. So it was a laugh when we found out I was actually already in labor then. I even managed to go to the mall to do some last-minute shopping before I checked in at the hospital. But then after 8 hours of easy labor, it stopped progressing. My doctor intervened and had to burst my water bag. And then the pain came. It was horrible. I seriously thought I’d die. In the delivery room, I was crying like a cow asking my doctor to please, please just do a caesarian section on me because I can’t take the pain anymore. Fortunately my doctor didn’t listen to me. I never heard North’s first cry and didn’t remember anything about “releasing” him. I think they drugged me too much it was all a blur. J

But there’s a funny story here. My sister (who was in the delivery room with me) told me the doctor and the nurses were surprised when North came out looking fair and with straight hair. Kennedy, my partner, is Kenyan and so the people in the hospital were excited to see their first “African baby.” So it was a big surprise and I am sure they were thinking I have a lot of explaining to do to my husband. Two weeks later, North’s super straight hair started becoming curly and his complexion also started to darken. It was amazing this transformation. I later found out that it is really like that for African babies.

How do you manage “me-time”?

Between running a household that includes 4 foster kids of varying ages, a four-year-old, work, and my studies, me-time is something that has eluded me for some time now. It comes few and far between so I take the opportunity in any form it comes when it presents itself—this could be in the form of a trip alone to the supermarket, the occasional foot massage, coffee dates with friends, and going to backyard sales. But I don’t know if it is just me or are all mothers like this, when I am away from my little one, I can’t really concentrate on having fun. I always wonder how he is doing, if he’s crying, etc. My favourite activity though is reading novels and the good thing is I can do it anywhere, anytime even with North around.

Any favourite anecdote about your little one?

While waiting for a football game to start at the local stadium, I told North I have to go use the toilet in a nearby restaurant. After the game, we went to the same restaurant to eat. Upon entering, my son announced for everyone to hear, “My mum made poo-poo here.” The people laughed. North was 2.5 years old when this happened.

 What is it about motherhood you love about?

Getting kissed in all parts of my face before going to sleep. It is my son’s and mine’s nightly ritual—we kiss each other not just in the lips. Our eyelids, nose, both cheeks, chin, ears, and forehead also get one kiss each before we finally say our goodnights and i-love-yous. North is my number 1 fan—in his eyes I am the prettiest woman, the best cook, best baker. My little man is generous with his praises. He was not even two when he first complimented me on a shirt I was wearing for work saying my “shirt is prettyful.

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If there is something about motherhood you dislike – what would it be?

The loss of my Sunday ritual: sleeping in and reading the Sunday paper from cover to cover in peace while having a cup of strong, black coffee. It is getting better though—North is less needy for attention now than he was when he 2-3 years ago. I reckon I’ll get this ritual back in 3 years’ time.

What’s a typical day for you and your little one like?

Now that he is attending school, a typical day means the three of us (me, him, and his dad) waking up early to get ready for school. We eat breakfast together and then his dad gives him a bath and dresses him up, while I prepare his lunch bag.  On weekends we usually watch cartoon shows on TV or DVDs, go out to eat, and decide which hotel with a pool in Arusha to visit for swimming

Best advice you’ve received about motherhood or mothering:

No one has given me any advice, or if it happened I must have forgotten it—which means it is not the best. Does my mum saying “Magiging nanay ka rin” (Someday, you’ll know what it’s like to be a Mum) when my sisters and I are teenagers count? Now I understand what she meant. 😉

If you could give yourself advice about motherhood before becoming one, what would it be?

There is no such thing as a perfect mother. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep calm and trust in the promise that it gets easier as your child gets older.

How do you manage your time between work and mothering?

You know what, it is a challenge, especially now that I am also taking a post-grad course. There are times when I feel like a rubber band stretched to its limits. But no matter how crazy my schedule gets, dinners are always sacred. We use that time to talk about his day in school. Bath time before bed and bedtime reading are also Mum-and-North activities that allow me to disengage from the demands of my other worlds (work and school) and give him my undivided attention. When he was younger and not attending school yet, I took North and his nanny with me to out-of-town work trips especially if it takes longer than 2 days. But now that he is 4, it has gotten better. I have started to relax and not feel anxious every time I have to leave him home. It also helps that his dad has recently gone to full-time consulting and his time has become more flexible so he has more time as well to spend with North.

Thank you Melis!