The Earthly Map
It’s a bird's eye view
Through a window.
Unlike other times,
Exhilaration and fear
Sitting, afloat, on air.
A vague awareness
Do nothing to dissipate.
It is already night.
Street lights spark grounds
On a Christmas tree.
A slight ascent,
Enforces these lighted boundaries,
Are they tightening divides?
Or a lighted path?
The further up we move,
The more tarnished they become.
Dying albeit aligned ambers
And up, beyond the clouds,
They struggle to emerge.
Enshrouded and impenetrable,
They seem unable to surpass:
Trying, Chaotic, Translucent.
Even the dispersed clouds,
On this earthly map.
(Note: If you would like to listen to my reading of “The Earthly Map”, an Audio version is available on YouTube.)
This year did not go as planned. I was supposed to go to Palestine; but could not because it was considered level 3 on U.S. travel advisories, and the political tensions between the U.S. and Iran made things difficult. So, I tried to find other organizations that were working with the refugee community, but that proved impossible. I spent a month and change in London (which was supposed to be a short Christmas break) and applied to similar organizations in hopes of finding an opportunity to visit and learn. I crashed at Nina’s (a previous Watson fellow) and her partner’s place—thank you! I got the chance to assist a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on a paper dealing with STDs self-testing tools. Since things did not work out with finding another organization, I decided to move on and visit the Philippines. However, they were not ready to receive me, due to changes I had made in my travel plans.
I moved to France to cut down on London’s expensive hostel accommodation, after I left Nina’s; if you are a light sleeper, a hostel is not the best choice for a place to put your head even if you are on a budget. Imagine being unable to get more than 2.5hrs/night for 1 week+. In France, one of the good friends (Mu--thank you, and for the delicious food too) hosted me while I worked on analyzing results for a crowdsourcing contest I helped implement. And just about 4 weeks ago, I landed in Manila, ready to continue my project and visit local innovators who were working on unique projects including a robust boat transport system to help patients (particularly those in labor, across the islands of the Philippines, to main health facilities), to develop micro-payment health insurance system and a national telehealth program. It seems I somehow missed the virus by chance, leaving London right before February and France early March, before COVID spread its wings across Europe.
But here I am, at home (in NYC, the current homebase of COVID); under self-isolation, trying to figure out where things are (literally and figuratively, since I did not unpack my college life before departing for Watson), when things are very much uncertain across all of earth.
Please, let’s all continue to social distance. If you can, try to assist those who are most vulnerable now. Because indeed the virus doesn't care of your economic class, or social status when infecting...However, its effect is discriminatory (not withholding the fact that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk) because health injustices permeate all aspects of our society.
We should not just have realized, thanks to COVID-19, that health injustices have always existed in this country and across the globe. When many and their family’s health are at risk because they don’t have access to protective gear (including the homeless people I saw in Manila who were without masks); when paying for treatment if the virus is acquired is another ball game (when many are being let off jobs). Who is more susceptible and who has a greater chance of recovery/survival?
So, yes, the virus is very discriminatory.
Please take less t-rolls and hand sanitizers...from the supermarket. Don’t take drugs that you necessarily don’t need, take less medical supplies.. (i.e. face masks, gloves) so that our medical personnel are able to access them. If you have the resources, you can also assist by creating more face masks (click here to learn how) or volunteer at your local community, providing food and shelter for those who don’t have.
My Watson Journey, for this year, seems to have come to an end. But, I plan on completing it next yeaer.
Thank You (for living this journey with me) & Stay Safe.