Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Homesickness

by Darlene Joy San Felipe

My major homesickness happened when I was in my first year of stay in Abu Dhabi, UAE, a few months after my first Christmas abroad. I was not able to eat as I used to and I lost a lot of weight even without exercise! And I looked so sad. There was also an instance when I encountered a strong sandstorm when I went walking with a colleague one evening. I had severe dry cough because of that reason which was an added burden. I was asthmatic as a child so that could be the reason why it turned really bad.

I tried looking for another job through the net with a higher monthly compensation and something which has also humanitarian or social services.. It's hard to find those kinds of companies in UAE or I wasn't just lucky. Maybe it is not what God wanted for me. Then I found Sheikh Khalifa Medical Center (SKMC) Volunteer Services. SKMC is a government owned hospital in Abu Dhabi. I became a member after a series of interviews and orientation. I was made to choose which area I would prefer to work. My very limited free time was only on Fridays after the 12noon Tagalog mass at the church which usually ends at 1:30pm. They chose for me the Abu Dhabi Development and Rehabilitation Center since the unit is almost always open to volunteers at any time. I'm not sure with the complete name of the unit now but it is called ADRC. The patients there are mentally and physically not capable. You have to help them eat, drink, sit, lay down and some in play activities although usually, you just have to talk to them and touch them and even hug and kiss them and make them feel loved because that is all they need. Most of them were abandoned by their parents and families since most of them have stayed there since they were diagnosed to be retarded. They're just lucky to be supported by the UAE government. I made friends with the nurses who are mostly Filipinos. Only few volunteers like ADRC for obvious reasons, among others... One girl patient there always stayed close to me and would even hold my hand tightly and wanted me to help her eat although the nurses objected because she can do it with little difficulty. They have to do by themselves whatever little task they can as part of their coping activity. Whenever I say goodbye, she would always ask me to come back and I would smile at her since I'm not sure if I can. I went there for several Fridays and also went to visit the ICU for normal kids until such time that I became busy with some activities which also helped me cope with my homesickness which was also accompanied by depression. Then my life and emotions became normal. And I became busy and wasn't able to visit ADRC for a few months.

When I was about to spend my second Christmas in Abu Dhabi, I suddenly thought of making the 25th a special day so that I decided to visit my ADRC friends! I brought some chocolates for them and for the nurses as well. The nurses informed me those who are not supposed to be given any kind of food. I forgot her name but that same girl patient who kept holding my hand tightly told with me utmost clarity upon seeing me, "You came back..". I almost cried.. She was thinking of me all along.. That was one of the happiest Christmas gift that I ever had - the joy in serving the least, those who cannot give back. How I wish I'll have time to visit them once again.. Soon..

No comments:

Post a Comment