The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm. ~ Swedish proverb
We all know that we cannot get through life entirely on our own.
Today is International Labour Day. This post is dedicated to the many and mostly nameless people who make my life easier. They do not just do their job, they care about the kind of service they provide. Their job, where I’m concerned, is about helping me. Yes, they are paid for their services, but salaries do not ensure that service is provided with caring or affection. I get this from my help at home, and I am blessed to get similar personalised attention from most of those I interact with, be it on a regular basis or once only encounters.
Below, I will share stories of two people who I am extremely fond of and another who … do not react, I’m being a drama queen … saved my life.
Isabella is our family cook. Her family and ours have been intertwined for three generations. Her parents were the cook and maid with my grandparents. Isabella has been one of the longest serving cooks for Daddy, Mummy, Big Bro, Big Sis and I. Isabella’s son is Mum’s back up driver.
Isabella is no maid to us, but a family member. She eats with us at our dining table (yes, I have to specify this because it is, uh, not the done thing around here) and she gets the same kinds of gifts that Mum does for Christmas and her birthday. We are just as comfortable at Isabella’s home.
Isabella was, and still is, one of the pillars of my family during my years away from home. She is one of the many I relied on to lend her time and her assistance when need arose, all without even being requested.
‘Thank you’ is woefully inadequate, Isabella, for all you have done and all you have been to Daddy and Mummy over the decades. If you were aware of my blog, this tribute to you and your photograph up here would fill you with joy, but you know very well how terribly I handle attention to myself. Most important of all, I know that you know how much you mean to your “Kate Baby.”
Thank you for being the blessing you are to my family, Isabella.
Dia is my neighbour’s maid. She has been with that family even before I was born. All the families in my neighbourhood are close knit. As a result, we are friends with the help in all the homes, too.
Dia has a special place in my heart because she has a special place in her heart for …wait for it… my tummy! 🙂
Dia knows that I love eating on the whole, and home cooked meals from scratch in particular. Like all those in our neighbourhood, she knows I absolutely love shellfish and pork. Every time she cooks my favourite variations, she will bring some across for me.
Dia in Spanish means ‘day’. How appropriate! Dia and I greet each other every morning when we’re both in our adjacent gardens. The first thing she says when she sees me is, “May God grant you a good day, Small Baby Madam!*” Then we exchange the customary pleasantries, share our planned programme for the day and carry on with our lives.
*Family members have titles based on our hierarchy in the family. Mum is Madam, Big Sis is Big Baby Madam and I am Small Baby Madam. Quaint and apt.
After dinner, once again, each steps out in the garden to bid the other a good night after giving each other a rundown of our day’s activities. Dia learned to say “Goodnight” from me when I was very young, but I couldn’t have been a good teacher because to date, she still signs off with, “May God grant you a peaceful sleep. Goo (sic) night, Small Baby Madam!” Aww. That “goo” night wish makes me go all gooey (in a nice way) each time she chirps it.
Dia, thank you making my day, every day of my life!
“Be nice to those you meet on the way up because you will meet them on the way down” – Author Unconfirmed
I learned that this statement applies even when the direction is reversed.
I will go into detail another time about my experience at the rice terraces in Batad, in the Philippines because it was a memorable one for me. Now, I will focus on Merlyn’s role in, uh, rescuing my life. (Thank you for playing along and not laughing in my face at that gross exaggeration.)
I wanted to get to the Tapplya waterfall which is on the other side of the rice terraces at Batad. Earlier travellers (who reported online) and locals recommended guides for this trek, but when doing my pre-trip research, I had read of a few instances where trekkers had attempted this stretch without a guide. Being a copycat, and a foolhardy one at times, I opted to go it alone.
It was cold (14°C/32°F) and misty that day, but mercifully, no rain that morning and early afternoon. It took me another 1.5 hours to descend through the terraced land onto the other side where I was to begin my third and final descent to the waterfall.
The trail was nothing like I’d experienced before. (I’ve not done a whole lot of trekking really.) No steps at all, just rugged path, which was now wet and slippery from the previous day’s downpour. There was no proper trail after another scenic point because very few tourists venture down to the terraces, and even less, to the waterfall. For good reason.
I walked sideways along cut-out paths as narrow as 30 cm (1 foot) with my back pressed against the wet, muddy mountain side. At other times, I literally hung on to shrubs and branches to steady myself or move ahead. I leapt across some scary crevices; not deep, but jagged enough to break bones. I held my breath and prayed frantically several times, but never was I too scared to move on. Instead, I was even more pumped. I felt like one of those adrenaline junkies that I’d hitherto scoffed at for being reckless and selfish. Although, after that experience, I began thinking of them differently having experienced a similar rush, Mum, you have no reason to worry. I’ve heard you say, “No parent should have to bury their child” often enough to not pursue extreme adventure. Cross my heart.
Cut to me going down towards the waterfall, coming to a downpour created impasse and turning around to head back up. Not so fast. I got lost. In the middle of a soggy, terraced rice field.
At the bottom right corner (the red arrow), is where I began my ascent through the fields. The tiny circle there encloses 2 adults. That will give you an idea of how high the terraced walls are. I did not expect that height or degree of difficulty to navigate through. Much wiser now.
On my way down, I had seen just 2 workers in the fields; two tribal women. I chatted with them briefly and learned that the chattier of the two was named Merlyn.
On my way back up, when I finally accepted that I was lost, I had no idea where they were. I scanned the fields, but did not spot them. Still, I knew my only bet was to yell and hope they were within earshot. I bellowed, “Help!” twice, and then, “Can you hear me? I am lost.”
I heard a female voice respond. Hallelujah. After yelling our locations and following each other’s voices, we finally saw each other in the distance. She was too far off for me to recognise her. She tried to give me instructions on retracing my steps to get to a path. The thought of going down a wall that was figuratively a wall as well, and jumping again across a terrifying crevice I breached once was … NO WAY! I refused. So she had to come to me; although, that being her turf, she did not have to tackle the obstacle course stretch I did in my earlier attempt.
I was pleased when she came into sight because I recognised her as Merlyn, the older one I had chatted with on the way down. Merlyn recognised me immediately, too. She knew I was going to the waterfall alone. When we met again, I asked her why she wasn’t surprised I was attempting that stretch without a guide and why she did not caution me. She easily replied that I came across as very confident and that I looked like I knew what I was getting into. Oh Merlyn, I’m a poseur!
Anyway, Melryn began heading towards a previously encountered and avoided “forest” (the blue arrow’d path), and I was taken aback, but she encouraged me gently to follow her. She was tiny, so she went ahead and tried to clear the branches for me. Most of the time, I crept forward on my haunches. At times, I hunched over double, but I enjoyed every moment of mousing through that other worldly secret passage. 🙂 40 minutes after we met, we arrived at the first of the handful of homes in the area. It was her daughter’s home, and I had spoken very briefly to her daughter as well on the way down.
It paid to be nice on my way down because it made coming up (for air) so much better.
Thank you, Merlyn, for saving me that unforgettable day four years ago.
“I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.” ~ John D. Rockefeller
To Isabella, Dia, Merlyn and everyone else who makes my life easier in whatever little or big way, know that I am grateful.
P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.
I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat!