Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Au revoir mon frère

At exactly 9.25 a.m. my brother will board a KLM flight bound for Manila. The litany of goodbyes will begin shortly before it. Gallons of tears would have fallen and the familiar goodbye will be said stabbing our hearts like it did when at the age of one he was also sent home to the Philippines.

It is the same situation now. It is for his future that he has been sent home. It is because he will have a better life there. And we will be watching him in pain as he leaves. We hope he will study well and find his dream – whatever it may be. We hope in the company of his elder brothers, he will become a better gentleman.

Our family has been apart more times than the common parting. It is not just weeks of vacation but of years of separation that plague our lives. It is for our own good. It is Gorby’s turn to go home for his future. He makes the trip alone, literally and figuratively, but knowing him, he would have made many friends on this flight home. He is called “congressman” here.

He is just that – a congenial young man, full of ideas with a bright future ahead. Exceptional and unique in his own right.

As the tears flow from its cask, a new leaf will be turned.

I will find my brother - a man - on our next meeting.

I will miss him. We will all miss him.

Au revoir mon frère. May God always be with you as you start a new chapter in your life. I love you. See you soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Imminent death

What would you do if you knew you were dying? What would you do if someone close to you is ill and you don't know if s/he will die? Would you talk to him or her even in their sleep? Would you give up all hope? Would you just sit there for death to claim him or her?

Isabel Allende's Paula speaks of such an experience. At the bedside of her daughter suffering from an illness that put her in a coma, Isable writes her autobiography, the story of her life and Paula's life and traces back their lineage so that Paula will remember when she wakes up.

I haven't finished the book but my colleague said Paula dies.

What happens to the book? How could a mother feel when her daughter dies?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Culmination of disappointment ...

Or blessing?

I received my answer last Friday. The Cantonal Office will not give my return visa unless my boss or personnel gives me a certification that I will have a new contract when I come back. "IN THEORY" is a word often used in the UN, so in theory, I am going to have a contract when I come back from vacation but nobody wants to sign the paper saying that I will have it. I don't get the logic. How hard is it to sign a piece of paper that says I worked from this and that period and will work again from this period to that period. It sounds elementary to me. ILO did it for me, I don't understand why the UN is so uptight. UNCTAD does it. So, what gives?

That same day, that Friday when a friend of mine from Milan was about to come for a visit, the long-awaited feared answer reached my ears. I remained numb or maybe I was just too jaded. Then later that Friday afternoon, from out of the blue, a colleague of mine from the ILO calls to ask would I come back if they would offer me a fixed-term contract. I said, "Of course!" That is my long-term goal after all. I cried from excitement and from a sheer overwhelming feeling. God was there. Then came the worry. What shall I tell UN who's expecting me back and my colleagues who I have come to appreciate? I didn't know how I could possibly smile when I met Joy. Good thing Nikki was with me to absorb some of my worry. In the end, the three of us shared a wonderful meal at Al-Ameer. The worry dissipated until Monday came.

Joy left on Monday morning. I was going to tell my supervisor about ILO's offer. I had to give ILO an answer. Work was piling up. I had a hangover from my coffee. Didn't sleep a wink. A bad aftertaste of Jazu's outburst. But it would soon come to an end.

Joy left, I felt sad. I told my supervisor, she wasn't pleased. She spoke to the personnel assistant which will try to extend my contract. I feel like I'm in a tug of war. My hangover was almost gone but left me breathless. My eyes were falling at every word. Jazu's outburst seemed like a distant memory.

Monday came to a close. Another workday completed. I have until the weekend to give an answer to ILO. I am pondering whether my not being able to go home at this time is a blessing. I have savings at least. I will probably go to Milan without a visa and spend my holiday with Joy. What am I supposed to learn from this experience?

A rollercoaster of yeses and nos. Of would'ves and could'ves. But now, the answers slowly come: No to Philippines, Yes to Vacation, No to Certification, Probably No to ILO, Yes to Prayers, No to bitterness ...

I am tempted to be very bitter. To wallow in the self-pity of my not being able to leave Switzerland. My household sister being stopped at the border because she didn't have papers. I felt like that.

I felt like a nobody, a nobody that no one wants to guarantee with a piece of paper that says I am working again with the UN, ILO or wherever.

Maybe there is something I am not seeing. Am I to feel the whole range of emotions that an OFW must feel? Is this a test ... is there a silver lining to this storm?

Perhaps ... it is a blessing in disguise.