Magandang umaga kaibigan!
Good morning friends!
Entering my second month at my internship in the Philippines, I’ve learned a lot: about the city, new skills, a little bit of Tagalog. But most importantly, I’ve developed some strong relationships with the people that I’ve met. I have gotten quite close with my fellow interns, the barangay health workers, and the tuberculosis and oncology patients.
One of my favorite experiences as an intern this summer was this past Monday. We make our weekly trip to the Philippines General Hospital (PGH) to make arts and crafts with the oncology patients. Going to PGH is always one of the highlights of the week. The patients there are so positive and resilient, despite facing their terrifying diseases and undergoing tiring chemotherapy treatments. I have also come to see how important our presence and activities are for them – a distraction from thinking about their illnesses; a break from the mundanity of the four walls of the hospital room.
This past week though was particularly special because of one patient: Zhan. Zhan is a 21-year-old patient currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment. I never had the guts to ask him how long he has been there because I didn’t want him to think about his current situation, but he has been there for a while and before we arrived. Since the first day I met him, I’ve been visiting him every week. Although it was a bit awkward at first – neither of us knowing what to say – we gradually became more comfortable with each other. And now after five weeks, I feel like we can call each other good friends.
When I visited him this past Monday, I greeted him with my usual large outburst and he responded with his usual shy but excited smile. I asked him if he wanted to make a rosary, knowing fully well that he would say yes because he always makes rosaries. I ragged on him a little bit like always, asking him who he was going to make the rosary for this time and if he was going to give it to his mother (the first time we made rosaries together, he gave one to his mother, but then his mom gave it back – so now we joke about it all the time). We played some music and hummed and sang along. We did the usual stuff, but it was a little bit different this time. Instead of it always being me asking the questions, he started asking me questions: “How was your weekend?” It was a simple question, but I was a bit taken aback. I was also happy – that Zhan was feeling more comfortable with me, enough to make the conversation more two-sided.
We talked about each other’s weekend and he told me all about the hospital gossip and the rumor about a ghost wandering around the halls. He then told me that he was finally going back home in a few weeks! I could see the excitement in his eyes – to finally return home to his friends and family. We talked a little bit about what he was going to do first when he arrived home: surprise his friend on their birthday and distribute the wealthy collection of rosaries he has acquired.
That moment was one of my favorite experiences as an intern for multiple reasons. One being that Zhan and I finally built up a strong relationship and reached a stage where we were comfortably talking with each other. Another being that Zhan was finally going home! I am so happy to have gotten to know him better and will be sad for us to part ways. But I am also extremely excited for him to be reunited with his family and for all the amazing things that are in store for him.