thoughts on the last working day of the year


Businessman Sitting Top Cliff Rock Mountain

[ Note : Sorry if we haven’t been getting together too often Precious Reader.  But beyond my quit-smoking post on Nov most years, this is the blog that I try not to forget, the count-your-blessings post.  Thanks 123RF.com for the pic, and thanks everyone for reading! ]

WE ALWAYS work in pairs, but halfway in, my shift partner had to go home early.  So I finished my last 2016 shift alone, although there were packers on the other end of the work site.

Surprise, surprise, everything worked out well just there and then.  Everything clicked, and product was churned out ton after ton, like it was the most natural thing in the world.  More important, it went straight to packing, nothing saved, nothing wasted, probably straight into a waiting truck into bakeries, restos and supermarkets.  It was THAT urgent.

Of course there was the shift partner (gone hours ago) who helped me set up the machines and raw material, the veteran who warned me of specific issues and situations to avoid, and of course the packers who checked in on me in the production area every now and then, but in the end, after half a shift of working alone, I turned out 31 tons of product.  Working on my own.

It was then when I felt, for all the trouble, training, dramas, stresses and sore legs, arms and unending fatigue, that I liked my job.  In fact, I liked my situation, and in sum, I liked my life.

I’m not being boastful, exemplary or trying to make this a teachable moment.  One person’s survival is another person’s perfect situation.  Perfect situation being :  you have a decent job, you have a little money saved in the bank, you are in reasonably good health, and you live in a country that respects human life, liberty and property.  Not a bad-looking list, especially using the eyes of someone in Africa (almost anywhere in Africa), or someone in the Middle East (almost anyone or anywhere in the Middle East) or someone in Syria (anyone, anywhere in Syria.  Except for that guy making it miserable for everyone else).

Decent Job.  It’s not a dream job, but I get paid better than minimum wage.  In New Zealand, that means you have money for the basics, and a little left over.  The job involves a little physical labor, and moving about, but so what?  It keeps me fit, and being fit at my age is a definite bonus.  To work my job, I need to be fit, and working allows me to continue being fit.  So it’s a gift that keeps giving.

Money saved.  This is where it gets tricky.  While the going is good, money coming in, and the sun is shining, you just don’t see the urgent need to save and put aside blessings now for blessings in the future.  BUT, believe me when I say this, this is important, you won’t be earning the same amount of money all the time, and all through life, your earnings may or may not go up, but your needs will never go down.

Just to be able to save a little money, by choice, is a pure luxury for me.  And that’s what I’m doing now.  A bit late, but better than never.

Good health.  This is my ace in my sleeve.  My last physical, said my doc who felt me in places too awkward to mention in a general patronage blog, said I was, for my age, job and stress levels, in very good health.  Meaning, my numbers were good, tests looked good, and the remainder of my life, against all odds, looked promising.

Promisingly good.

Let’s all count our blessings, happy new 2017, and Mabuhay!

towards an unspoken code of flatmates and flatting


[ Note: To kabayan going home during Christmas, have fun, spread the wealth around, but please take care.  Cliche-ish, but it’s no longer the same Philippines you left.  Thanks for reading, and thank you for the video ABS-CBN! ]

PRIOR TO Mahal arriving and joining me here in NZ, I was a flatmate with kabayan two out of two years.  Then after Mahal and I went flat-hunting and finally settled on a flat (apartment) we liked, we found a flatmate, then a flatmate, then a flatmate.  It was initially out of necessity, then we realized that as long as the flatmate was reasonably easy to live with, we liked living with flatmates.

We did this, knowing the usual caveats when seeking out and getting accustomed to flatmates: DON’T be flatmates with your best friends (you will always disappoint each other).  DON’T be too close with flatmates.  DON’T generalize and expect behaviors from flatmates according to preconceived notions based on regions (for example, Ilokanos are frugal, Pampangos are boastful, etc).  We based our tendency to look for flatmates on economics,  but also because we knew that Pinoys, for all our faults, liked to help each other, especially Pinoy migrants in the initial stages of settling in New Zealand.  Paying it forward, kumbaga  (so to speak).

Without further ado, here are the do’s and don’t we have accumulated while living and co-existing with flatmates in New Zealand:

DO help with the chores around the house.  On paper, flatmates  only need to clean up after themselves and look after their own junk.  But in practice, it’s always common sense to put yourself in the shoes of the owner / landlord/ flat mate-in-charge, and do whatever is needed for the betterment of the flat. You needn’t go all out, just do a little vacuuming, sweep around the place or water the plants / feed the pet if there’s a garden or house pet. A little effort goes a long way.

DO be sensitive with special needs and situations of flatmates.  If a flatmate is on night shift at least once a month, the week/s he or she is on the graveyard shift, sleeping times are obviously inverted, meaning when you’re awake, they’re trying to rest, and when you’re sleeping, they’re up and about, or just about to come home.  That means we need to be a little quieter around the house, and realize that when we’re ready to be off to work, they’re trying to sleep…

A flatmate and his/her group conducting Bible study / prayer meetings Tuesday early evenings?  Just for that one night (in fact, just for a couple hours), vacating the living room to give them a little more privacy and focus in their godly activity shows not only that you respect their faith, but that you can accommodate people with as much tolerance as possible (as long as it’s not TOO much or abusive na ha, use your own good judgment).

DO be sensitive about shared facilities, particularly toilet and bathroom, kitchen, TV viewing and computers (if the latter is part of the rent).  In most flats, there is only one toilet, and one bathroom.  It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that where there are between four to six users of such toilet, usage must be distributed equally and sensibly according to need and the different schedules of flatmates.

The need to understand and appreciate the complexity of this reality, the reality of shared use of toilet and bath, is nearly always underestimated and neglected, to the detriment of the flatmate relationship.  For one thing, the call of nature is something that can’t be ignored or delayed, and yet because we fear loss of face, we just can’t tell someone to get out of the toilet because we just HAVE TO let our bowels or bladders loose.  This dilemma and insensitivity on the part of the current toilet user, shallow though it may sound, may later escalate into major arguments that lead to flatmates parting ways.

Use of laptops and desktops are nowadays not so much an issue because of iPads, tablets, phablets and smartphones, but there are still flatting arrangements where the flat sharing fee includes use of a common computer, especially for messaging and emailing.  Which means, the time we get around to messaging and emailing our loved ones in the Philippines, assuming our flatmates are kabayan, are roughly the same.  So you take turns using prime time.

DO recognize that activities or habits that you may consider normal may not be so for other kabayan.  This is primarily why the classifieds and notices for flatmates specifically ask whether the owner/primary flatmate minds smokers, drinkers, socializers, etc.   Pinoys in my experience are generally more tolerant and circumspect about these things but it’s always good practice to ask.  Just ask yourself:  would  non-smokers mind tobacco smoke in the flat?  How much alcohol consumption is too much, and what is considered reasonable?  A good balance of tolerance and rulemaking, being aware of the sensitivities of your flatmates, and managing your own habits is key to being a good flatmate.

DO treat your flatmate/s as decently as you would your friend, relative or co-worker, as if you’d be flatmates forever.  Let’s be honest.  “Flatting,” or renting with flatmates, as it’s called in New Zealand, is at best a temporary arrangement, a relationship of convenience designed to fill gaps, scratch an itch, keep everyone happy until better things materialize.  But it’s not like, let’s just try to co-exist and after this, we’ll never see each other again.  It simply isn’t true.  While we may not be flatmates forever, flatting and being flatmates can be the foundation of a friendship that can last a lifetime.

This becomes possible when you do the simple thing and observe the golden rule.  Do unto your flatmates what you’d want them to do unto you.  Basic things like cleaning up after yourself, keeping quiet when you know flatmates are resting, staying out of the way when flatmates are entertaining visitors, and going out of your way to do household chores, are things that will create comments like, “that Noel?  yeah he was a pretty decent flatmate before he got married,” or “Noel for a flatmate?  we could do a lot worse!

Yeah, I wish I could get comments like those.  But you get the idea.  Be a good flatmate, and ultimately, you will get good flatmates.

You won’t see any of these rules, and you won’t find flatmates talking about it.  But here they are now.

Mabuhay, Maligayang Pasko sa lahat!

the bearable lightness of doing nothing (after night shift)


iron-man

with thanks to Pinterest and Google Images

[ Note: Advance happy birthday to one of my favorite aunts, Ms Emma Montenegro in Las Vegas.  Taos-pusong inaalay sa lahat ng kabayang uring manggagawa sa New Zealand, sa dairy workers, maggagatas, tagaalaga ng baka, tupa atbp, mga construction workers sa North at South Islands, mga obrero ng iba’t ibang uring trade work, at kung anu-ano pang mga industriya.  Mabuhay po tayong lahat! ]

(…Just got back from night shift.  I usually pick out a cold, cold brown bottle from the fridge, or half a glass of cheap Merlot, but I decided to spend it with you Precious Reader.   Charing!)

SHIFT WORK, among others, teaches me two great lessons: to appreciate the unit value of time, and to appreciate free time, even if it involves doing nothing.  Let me explain.

When you’re on afternoon or night shift, most of the time prior to work by absolute necessity is devoted to rest.  Rest to recover from the previous shift, rest to recover from aches, pains or injuries sustained during work, and rest to refresh both the mind and body for the work ahead.  Unlike a normal shift, rest will not come easily unless you deliberately and purposely lie your head on a pillow, remove all distractions, and knock yourself out into Dreamland.

*****     *****     *****

This is easier said than done.  If you’re like me, every little thing, from ambient noise, white noise, small movements, will distract your focus from relaxation.  Which, when you think about it, is actually a contradiction in terms.  You really can’t “focus” or spend energy relaxing, because relaxing is by nature NOT spending energy, a release from activity.  But you know what I mean.

So you spend a lot of time, at least half an hour to 45 minutes, getting into the netherworld between wakefulness and sleep.  So if you’re on a tight schedule (and I usually am), meaning you only have a six to eight hour window before you’re back on the road, even a tiny fraction of an hour can spell the difference between a good rest and a blah one that converts into a stressed workday.

On average, I do this five straight days every other week, and I’ve been doing so for the better part of a year now, owing to staff issues and the constant need for production.  Learning to sleep on demand at odd times and getting on with less sleep than normal is something I’ve learned to live with, but I don’t relish it, and I’ll never take sleep for granted.

*****     *****     *****

ON THE OTHER HAND, the last night shift, in fact the first few hours, minutes and moments after your last night shift, is a source of great exhilaration, because you are released from so many things.  Of course there is the weekend or rest days ahead (you will usually start late your first day back as a reward for doing night shift but not always).  But there’s also the exciting, exciting thought of NO MORE sleeping days, or afternoons, or stealing naps whenever you can.

More important, less than a few hours away, you will be able to sleep NORMALLY, that is, sleep at night, sleep in the dark, under the covers (it’s a little colder), and with no daytime noises inevitably interrupting your sleep.

But you can’t go to sleep at the moment.  The buildup to the end of your last hour of your last day of your last night shift has been so great, you’re still flush with a bit of adrenaline from anticipating the moment.

But what has it built up to?  Right now, right after work, right after earning your bread, you are actually idle, with nothing planned other than… sleep.  As if there was gonna be another night shift tonight.  Except that there’s no more night shift.

(Also, it’s early in the morning, when the sun is ablaze, birds are chirping, and the world is just starting to stir.)

But that’s perfectly OK.  You don’t mind.  You can spend the new day watching the news reruns from last night (if you can find it), read the newspaper, eat leftovers from last night, catch a McDo breakfast if you’re inspired enough, anything.

This is the bearable lightness I was talking about.  The infinite pleasure of doing nothing and everything.  The extreme satisfaction of doing nothing.

*****     *****     *****

It’s hard to explain, but doing night shift burdens you with multiple stresses.  The basic stress of work.  The stress of not getting enough sleep.  The stress of irregular sleep (when it’s bright outside).  The stress of having to prepare for the next night shift.

All these stresses disappear after your last night shift.  The unburdening is so great and so satisfying that even doing nothing is a nearly indescribable pleasure.

I’m not sure if I’ve been able to tell you how it is, but the bottom line is:  sleep is nearly as important as food and water on the list of basic needs in life.  

And you don’t need to go on night shift to learn that.

Thanks for reading!  Mabuhay po tayong lahat!