Cuba, si

The mural of a handsome Che Guevarra greets us at the Plaza de la Revolucion, with the inscription “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (“Until victory, always”). Everywhere there were photos, murals, paintings, slogans, etc. celebrating Cuba’s victory in the revolution. However, as I began to explore Havana, I wondered what the revolution really achieved, at least for the common Cuban. The city was depressed. Poverty was ubiquitous. And the future was not hopeful.

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Despite the negative situation, Cubans went about their daily activities with a positive outlook. In most restaurants and cafes, and even in small convenience stores, there was either a live band or a speaker hooked to an iPhone playing salsa music. Cubans were always quick to gyrate to the sexy beat of Latin music.

Tourism is a big industry in Cuba. Travelers from around the world pump hard currency direct to the economy. In Havana, Cubans are used to the presence of tourists. They come in various shapes, forms and sizes. Despite the boom in tourism, it was disappointing to note that very few Cubans spoke English, or at least attempted to. I noticed that most of the TV channels and radio shows were in Spanish, so it didn’t come as a surprise that there is a huge communication barrier for tourists who don’t speak Spanish.

My friend Ronaldo and I capitalized on the fact that a lot of words in our mother tongue, Filipino, contained Spanish words so we used those words to attempt communication with the locals. When words failed, signing also helped. We only met a couple of Cubans who spoke good English – one was a salesman in a souvenir shop and another was a tour guide. Even my Spanish translator app on my iPhone was useless there. When you are communicating it is a nuisance to be searching the app for the idea you can’t translate to Spanish. I wish they’d invent an app where I record my message in English and play it back in Spanish. That would really be convenient.

The scenery was nostalgic – it felt like the city was trapped in time in the 50’s and 60’s – and the presence of vintage vehicles in the Central Park, used as taxis, authenticated the feeling of being in a time warp.

I imagined women in their Maria Clara outfits and men in their suits, smoking cigars while walking the streets of downtown Havana. But instead what you see is a contrast of men and women, Cubans and tourists, wearing colourful shorts and sleeveless shirts, with young Cuban men sporting David Beckham’s H&M commercial hairdo.

There were a lot of hustlers and panhandlers in downtown Havana, especially at Central Park. This was the part of my vacation that was annoying and upsetting. Locals who did this wanted a quick buck from an unsuspecting or gullible tourist. The scams run the gamut from a woman with a child to an old man being pushed in a decrepit wheel chair. All of them were asking money for food. The worst were the able-bodied drunks who had empty liquor bottles in their hands, breath that reeked of alcohol, who tried to scam you with money so they can get more booze. Those who approached you on the street had different stories and strategies but the same goal in mind – to earn a quick and easy buck.

Cuba has two currencies – the Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC, which tourists use, and the Cuban Peso (CUP), which locals use. The CUC converts to 1:1 against the US dollar. As a tourist, it is seldom that you have to deal with the CUP. When you buy in the local shops and pay with CUC, you can ask them to give you change in CUC so you don’t have to bother converting currencies. One CUC is 25 CUP so it can be cumbersome dealing with two currencies.

Food was a disappointment. Obviously, McDonald’s and KFC don’t operate in Cuba. Although I’ve known about this during my research pre-trip, it was still disappointing to find the limited food choices in Havana. Being a foodie, I wanted to indulge while on vacation. The best we had were steaks but even those don’t compare to the ones we enjoy in North America.

Until we discovered Chinatown.

Thanks to my friend Ronaldo who managed to introduce himself to a Chinese national named Terry, who was in Havana on a work-study program from his employer in China. We were looking for the souvenir shop near the Yara Cinema and couldn’t find it and Ronaldo asked Terry for help. We found the souvenir shop and asked Terry for a recommendation to a good restaurant. Terry gladly showed us Chinatown! This was on our fourth day in Havana, and to me, Chinatown was like an oasis in the desert. We feasted on delicious Chinese food and we kept coming back until we left Havana. The place was just fifteen minutes from our hotel but it was out of the usual path we took when strolling. Morale of the story: when pressed for good food, look for Chinatown!

Terry also taught us to haggle. During our first two days we didn’t really care much. Whenever we went to Central Park, there were all sorts of hustlers offering taxi rides to wherever you wanted to go. The standard rate was 5 CUC. We found out later that we were being scammed because most of the places we wanted to go to only cost 2 CUC and not 5. Thanks to Terry we started haggling with taxi drivers. Rarely did they ever turn down a 2 CUC fare because there will be three or four drivers who would grab the opportunity. Supply of taxis overwhelmed demand so this was good for tourists.

We felt safe the whole time. There was a visible police presence in the tourist areas. They are smart to protect the tourists, who bring in money to their economy. One unfortunate incident involving tourist safety can have adverse consequences to their economy. Common sense will go a long way as in any country you visit. Keep your valuables hidden. Don’t stray in dark streets especially late in the evenings.

Smile and be polite but also be firm with the hustlers and panhandlers. Hola was a good icebreaker. Gracias and por favor were also handy.

There weren’t a lot of places to shop and even the few malls in downtown Havana had very little items on display. There are souvenir shops but you need to haggle there too as the prices are sometimes unreasonable. I wanted to buy an apron to use here in Toronto. There was a Havana Club branded apron that was selling for 10 CUC. I could go to a Dollar Store in Toronto and probably get an apron for two dollars. I did buy a Che Guevarra t-shirt, though.

Havana was a great experience! It was unhurried and relaxed. Great for those vacations when you don’t really want to do anything. Will I go back? This is the debate I continue to have with Ronaldo. Probably not. I have a limited travel budget and there are so many other countries on my bucket list, so instead of spending money on a return trip to Havana, I might as well use it to go to Athens. But then again, Ronaldo may convince me to go back to Havana. We’ll see.

Back in Toronto, as I put my Che Guevarra fridge magnet in my refrigerator, I thought of the warm and friendly Cuban people I met during my trip. I remembered the salsa music. And the taste of a cold mojito on a warm, sunny day. At Central Park in Havana, tourists and panhandlers go about their daily business. It’s another beautiful day in Havana. Viva la Revolucion!

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Three Conditions for Unsolicited Advice

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Many of us listen with the intent to advice or provide information. We have a lot of “been there, done that” stories to share that we often overlook the fact that the person we are having a conversation with may not be looking for advice, but for a listening ear. We sometimes feel good knowing that we have more information or know a subject better than the other person.

I had a former boss whom I consider an excellent listener. He never cuts me off to give his advice. He listens intently, looks me in the eye, nods for understanding, and asks the occasional question to clarify a point. He is there 100% of the time – no checking of smartphone, no glancing at his watch and no unnecessary interruptions. He understands the human need to be listened to. Whenever we meet, he always gives me a precious gift – his undivided attention.

When I need his advice on the topic being discussed, I have to ask for it, he never volunteers it. And when I do ask, he intelligently and unreservedly gives it to me, no holds barred. His ideas are always thought out, smart, and relevant. After every conversation with him I feel good. He makes me feel respected and relevant. I always look forward to our occasional meetings. I wish I could be more like him.

I am the complete opposite. I listen to advice or provide information. I want to share my wisdom, experiences and knowledge with people. I also have the bad habit of cutting people off when they start rambling. I get impatient when people have difficulty expressing their thoughts. I am aware of these flaws and am working to eradicate them.

Ironically, when I encounter people who listen with the intent to advice or provide information, I tune out very quickly. I don’t need information, I have Google for that. If I need advice I’ll ask for it. Sometimes all we need is human connection to affirm our relevance in this world.

This brings me to another former boss who told me never to forget the three conditions for unsolicited advice. He said when people start advising you about what to do with your life or how to deal with a current situation, you need to ask yourself if they fit into any one of three conditions:

1. Do they put food on your table?
2. Do they put a roof on your head?
3. Do they put money in your pocket?

If you can answer yes to just one of the above conditions, then they have earned the right to advise you. If not, then you can politely excuse yourself from the conversation.

I should give this advice to myself and resist the urge to advise others. If I do this, I will be a more effective listener and communicator. People are generally attracted to good listeners. With the overabundance of information from technology, the world is a noisy place. Sometimes all one needs is a person who genuinely listens, a person who cares.

Why I Said Goodbye to My BlackBerry

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I have been a BlackBerry fanatic since 2007. I love the keyboard and enjoy messaging my friends via BBM. The sleek black interface, the red dot notifier, and the short, classy sounds make my smartphone experience smart!

Being on the go all the time, I relied on BlackBerry’s sync feature where I can make changes to my calendar, contacts, and tasks while mobile and was confident that all changes will be reflected on my laptop after the sync. And vice-versa. I could be working on my laptop and changes would be ported to the smartphone via sync.

I felt like my life was in sync!

Having had a fab experience with the Curve, I got drawn to the Bold 9000 because of its bigger keyboard, which was welcome news to my thumbs (the Curve’s keyboard was a bit cramped). It also had a bigger screen, which was welcome news to my eyes. This was the model I stayed the longest time with, and if not for the fact that I can no longer download apps because of a very limited memory, I wouldn’t have upgraded to the Bold Touch 9900.

There will never be a time when you are perfectly happy and comfortable with your smartphone because when that time comes, a better model of the same brand or competitor’s would come along. This better model would rob you of your perfectly happy and comfortable feeling. For the Bold Touch 9900, it was the better, nicer keyboard; the touchscreen; the bigger memory; and the overall sleeker, slimmer, more elegant body that did it for me. Being last in the Bold line in the old OS, BlackBerry certainly knew how to create the best. Kudos!

For a few months I was in smartphone utopia. My 9900 was the best. It did everything you ever hoped a smartphone could and it synced perfectly with my Sony laptop. My personal productivity was at an all time high. I was happy and comfortable. Life was good.

Until I replaced my laptop with a MacBook Air.

My smartphone didn’t sync with my laptop. Gradually, slowly, painfully, like waking up to a nightmare, I saw my smartphone utopia being shred to a million little pieces. I was desperate not to fall into a depression. How can this happen?

A big part of the problem is my assumption that these devices would sync and “communicate” with each other. Had I spent a little time reading the chat forums I would have learned of the connectivity issue between the 9900 and the MBA. These big companies don’t play nice with one another, much to the customer’s detriment.

Because I was stuck with these top-of-the-line devices I had to cope; I really didn’t have any other choice. Even though I had my smartphone and laptop with me most of the time, it was easier to update items on the 9900. I can easily add a new meeting schedule, a new phone number, or a task I suddenly remembered had to be done. Without the connectivity all these updates resided on the phone but not on the laptop. But there were times when I would be working on the laptop and had to update information there, usually from websites or emails. Likewise, the updated information stayed on the laptop only.

My life was no longer in sync. I was working from two devices and sometimes I was looking for information on one when I saved it on the other. It felt like walking two parallel streets at once. Frustration was an understatement. My smartphone utopia has come undone!

Shakespeare once said “Parting is such sweet sorrow…” I had to make a choice. I needed sync and utopia to be part of my life again.

Goodbye, BlackBerry Bold 9900.

Hello, iPhone 5.

Now I don’t even have to sync, iCloud does everything for me. Once I set up my calendar, address book, tasks, reminders, mail, etc. to iCloud, all I need to do is sign in using the same account on my MBA and iPhone, then voila, the sync happens over-the-air. When I add a new calendar entry to my phone while at work (with my laptop at home), I don’t have to worry about syncing devices because when I turn on my laptop, the calendar entry is already there. I love Steve Jobs!

I know some friends who have been really good BBM buddies will miss me there but hey, there’s WhatsApp, Skype, YM and Viber. Friends who are already on iOS will welcome me on FaceTime or iMessage. There is no dearth of messaging channels on the Internet.

I miss the BlackBerry keyboard and am still learning to type on screen. The letters are smaller and I make a lot of typos. I don’t know if I can make the letters bigger for my eyes. I miss BBM too, but life has to go on with or without BBM.

Now I understand why these big tech companies are not friendly with one another. It’s all about the money. In my experience, Apple won because I was forced to ditch my BB for the iPhone. Had my 9900 synced with my MBA, no issues. I even bought Office for Mac 2011, hoping that the sync can happen via Outlook. Negative.

My dream is to see the day when everything is interconnected. Apple syncs with Microsoft, BlackBerry and what-have-you, and all documents are saved in one platform but accessible through all channels. A day when I can save an Excel spreadsheet on Google Drive in Toronto; send a copy of the same spreadsheet to a friend’s BBM in Manila using iMessage; have two other friends (one in Dubai and another in Paris) work on the same spreadsheet using their Android and Windows 8 devices; and have all changes happen on Google Drive in real time. A day when consumers don’t have to get frustrated that a Windows app doesn’t work on the iPhone or the Mac; or an Android feature is not supported on iCloud. A day when syncing is no longer an issue but a given.

Now that would not be smartphone utopia; that would be technological bliss!

(P.S. I checked the BlackBerry 10 devices before going for the iPhone 5. Likewise, sync issues.)

A Prayer For Death

Have you ever prayed to God to take back the gift of life from someone you love and care for?

A week ago I received a text message from a nun friend asking me to pray for God’s intervention in her chronic father’s situation, so he doesn’t suffer for long. In other words, a prayer for God to take her father back into His loving arms so he can rest in peace. A prayer for death. I felt very sad after reading her message and quietly said a prayer for her dad.

This brought me back six years ago when my mom was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. My family decided that she was too old for chemotherapy and it would likely shorten her life instead of prolonging it. Not to mention the cost and discomfort the therapy entails. So we opted for alternative, herbal treatment which really didn’t do much for her. It was a waste of money.

Three years after diagnosis, my mom’s situation deteriorated to a point where she could no longer stand up and care for herself. What made matters worse was her refusal to hire help to assist her in day-to-day activities. Only when she was completely bedridden did we finally succeed in bringing in a relative to help in her care.

I was working abroad when this story unfolded so I can only imagine how my mom’s quality of life worsened. She was a proud woman but her condition was really humbling. There was no dignity in her situation; there is no dignity in being sick and helpless.

My prayer to God was a prayer for death. I prayed for Him to end my mom’s suffering. She has lived a difficult life for the most part and to see her suffer in her last days was almost too cruel. Without the dignity of living, what’s the point in life? For me it was more comforting to know she was with God instead of wallowing in her disease. Perhaps it was my way of ridding myself of the guilt of not being there for her during the moments she needed me the most. Perhaps it was my way of having closure.

Some of my very close friends and relatives were shocked when I shared my prayer with them. They just couldn’t understand how I would rather have my mom rest in peace than live in a miserable state of disease.

When I finally learned that my mom passed on, I said a word of thanks for an answered prayer. I was sad at my loss but relieved that her suffering has ended.

I am not sorry for my conviction, regardless of the disapproval of my relatives and friends. It was the humane thing to desire – end suffering sooner rather than later. She wasn’t going to get better anyway, why prolong her agony?

To get a text message from a friend asking for the same thing is, in a way, validating. This is especially relevant because my friend is a nun.

My mom is at peace now, resting in God’s presence. I miss you mom. And I am sorry for all my shortcomings.

Today, September 1, 2012, I received another text message from my nun friend advising me that her dad passed on. Another answered prayer.

I hope you don’t ever have to pray the death prayer. But if you do, may it bring forth the peace you wish for your loved one and closure for you.

Professionalizing Recruitment

The recruitment process is never straightforward. With ever-increasing costs associated with finding the right person for the right job, not to mention the cost of a bad hire, companies are hard-pressed to get recruitment right the first time, and cutting costs in the process.

It is estimated that recruitment mistakes can cost one to five times the annual salary of the jobholder. Several factors affect the final cost: position, salary, length of time served, training received, recruitment and replacement costs, etc. So if we are talking of a manager making an annual salary of P500k including benefits, we are looking at a maximum cost of a bad hire at P2.5m.

Why, then, is recruitment assigned to over-worked, untrained assistants? Why are hiring decisions based on nepotism, political or personal favors, or gut-feel likability of candidate? Why are recruitment tools like occupational assessments shrugged off as pricey? And when the recruitment mistake unravels, management shakes its head, wondering why it cannot hire good people nor keep them long enough on the job.

What can a company do to strengthen its recruitment process and attract the best candidates?

 1. Professionalize the Process

Even sans an HR department, setting a professional recruitment process has great rewards. It helps to identify key positions that need to be staffed at all times. The management team knows which positions need to be filled and which ones can be delayed in case business performance warrants same. It also helps to have standardized job descriptions. So when an employee resigns or is promoted, management knows what steps to take to fill the vacancy, and can act immediately. Recruitment takes time, so it is in the best interest of the company to act efficiently and effectively in this process.

A professional recruitment process creates an ideal touch point with candidates you want to recruit. Since this is most likely the first time they have an interaction with your company, it bodes well to show your best.

2. Train Hiring Staff

Equip employees involved in the hiring process with proper skills like competency-based interviewing techniques. This assures that time spent in the interview is not wasted. Evidence in support of or against recruitment is obtained and the interview is not downgraded to a chitchat. Without proper techniques, countless hours are spent interviewing when the interviewer has no clue what he is looking for.

 3. Employ Occupational Assessments

Ability and aptitude tests and personality questionnaires provide information about the candidate that would normally not be apparent even in an interview. In creating a recruitment plan, it is best to select the most appropriate assessments that would measure the competencies required by the job. For example, a candidate for sales manager should be assessed for sales skills. If the job has a leadership component, then leadership skills should also be assessed.

Once I was recruiting a sales manager. His personality questionnaire report showed a reluctance to do sales presentations, which is a key competency of the role. During interview I probed him on this and he replied, rather confidently, that he was comfortable giving sales presentations. So I asked him to come back the next day and do a presentation. He failed miserably.

Without the personality questionnaire report, I would have been convinced by his confidence about his presentation skill. After all, he is a sales professional and this is a standard requirement of the job. Because the report flagged this deficiency, I was able to probe and verify.

Although recruitment decisions should not be made solely on results of occupational assessments, the information gleaned from these instruments can be vital in verifying information and probing for evidence. Personality questionnaires provide a person’s preferred behavior at work. Used appropriately, a hiring manager can determine fit with the company and save all the hassle and costs when a suitably qualified hire fails to gel with the work team and leaves.

4. Create a Happy Work Place

It doesn’t matter how much you spend to professionalize your hiring process if your work environment is crappy. You may be able to attract the best but you will not retain them, and when they leave you are back at square one.

Creating a work environment where employees can be their best and providing them with opportunities for development are the key determinants of whether your stars will stay or not. If you want to safeguard your investment, you have to ensure that you have a happy work place.

The battle for today’s talent is fiercer than ever and a loyal employee is a vanishing breed. Everyone wants to hire the creme de la creme of the labor market. Employees will jump ship at a higher offer or a better work environment. Invest in your recruitment process, attract and select the stars, and ensure your work environment, employee benefits, and processes will retain them for good.

Then, take your profits to the bank.

46 & The Midlife Crisis

It usually starts in the dark. Your mind beams a spotlight inside your head and, like a slide projector, your life flashes back in front of you, frame-by-frame, angle-by-angle, slide-by-slide. What’s amiss about this slideshow is it only shows negative experiences; memories you’d rather remain buried in the deep recesses of your mind. Then the feelings would come flooding in: remorse, guilt, shame, inadequacy, self-doubt, etc.

You try desperately to distract the slideshow by thinking positive thoughts or by refocusing your attention. Although it works in most cases, your relief is only as good as the next encore. You will be alone again and the dark is sure to come. And the projector never runs out of battery!

In an attempt to explain my persistent feelings of melancholy, depression and directionlessness, I turned to the omniscient Google, and true enough, there is a term for it — midlife crisis. The fact that psychologists do not agree that such a crisis exists does not mean it doesn’t. And I am determined to investigate if, in fact, I am suffering from it.

Wikipedia states that “midlife crisis is a term coined in 1965 by Elliott Jaques and used in Western societies to describe a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the ‘middle years’ or middle age of life, as a result of sensing the passing of their own youth and the imminence of their old age.”

I know I am not alone. There are people reading this blog post right now who are going through the same feelings. For some it is just a phase to be outgrown. For others professional help or support from family and friends might be required. One lady I know says she is bored and believes she might be suffering from Night Eating Syndrome, a disorder characterized by binge-eating at night. Another lady suffers from Empty Nest Syndrome, feelings of depression associated with the departure of grown children.

I began to notice these feelings in me in 2003 in Canada, where I’ve lived for five years. I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), feelings of melancholy and depression associated with the lack of sunshine, usually during the autumn to winter months. As soon as spring came and the sun reappeared, the feelings dissipated.

When I left Canada for the Middle East, the feelings persisted and I knew it wasn’t SAD — it simply couldn’t exist in a place where the sun shines 13 months of the year! If you get depressed in the Middle East, something else is definitely causing it, not SAD.

Being a naturally jovial person I always managed to drown my melancholy with my laughter. I am the livewire in any group. I have a gift of making people laugh. Flatulence is a normal by-product of our get-togethers. We don’t do coy smiles or inaudible giggles; we do loud, boisterous, belly laughter that aches at the same time it relaxes. The kind that you want to stop but can’t get enough of. In making other people happy, I make myself happy, too. So the melancholy never has a chance to linger; the laughter always drives it away. But its persistent recurrence is a problem. This means something unresolved in my life is causing it to keep coming back.

Could it be that I have unresolved conflict or feelings of unforgiveness in my heart?

I remember a couple of friends who had bouts of serious depression. The psychiatrists they saw had a common prescription: Identify if you need to forgive or ask for forgiveness from the significant people in your life.

The key word here is significant. I listed four people: one relative and three friends. I wrote them emails. I listed my grievances, real or perceived, and asked for pardon. I also forgave them for any shortcomings, real or perceived. My relative was the first to respond. He had a long list against me — some were right, others weren’t. We had a few emails exchanged until everything was clarified and resolved. Apologies were made and received. We approached the exercise with a positive, sincere desire to reconcile. The experience was cathartic. No wonder psychiatrists charge an arm and a leg!

Of my three friends, one replied. She is now in the USA and was very mature about the whole thing. She said she never harboured any ill will towards me. She wished me well and is happy to be reconciled.

I never got a reply from the other two friends. I must have hurt them badly. I am truly sorry. But for me, the act of sending them the apology email was my closure. I have forgiven them. The ball is now in their court. They can choose to forgive me and move on, like I did, or they can choose unforgiveness and live with its consequences.

Do I have worthwhile goals to pursue — the type that makes me excited to wake up every morning?

Not really.

My last major life goal was to become a Canadian citizen, achieved in December 2005. My former boss already had a talk with me about this. When I ticked off “Become a Canadian citizen” from my bucket list, she asked me what new goals I wished to pursue. She admonished me to add new goals. Thomas Carlysle said “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”

Six years after I became a Canadian citizen and five years since I left Canada for good, I haven’t been able to articulate what I want to do next in my life. I drifted. I went back to Bahrain, the place where I had the most success in my life, fervently hoping for an encore that didn’t materialize. When health issues forced me to go back to the Philippines, prematurely, I stared at an image of me that was indecisive, insecure and tentative — the complete opposite of the real me. I was looking at a stranger in the mirror and it was painful to realize that the stranger was me.

The prospect of failing health, aging and hopelessness is at the core of the midlife crisis. It is a time when you reevaluate your life and see how much you’ve achieved. Regrets for failed relationships, wrong career choices and missed opportunities become recurring themes in your life’s slideshow. The challenge is to replace these negative thoughts with positive ones. Celebrate successful relationships, good career moves and bountiful opportunities. Life is a beautiful blend of good and bad. Choose to reminisce the good.

I resolve to change my thoughts. My first new mantra is: I will not give or take offense. Stephen Covey said “Between stimulus and response, we have a choice.” I empower myself to use this choice to be positive, peaceful and kind.

I will work toward achieving new and worthwhile goals. I will pursue my passions with a fiery enthusiasm. I will direct my resources to altruistic endeavours. I will validate the significant people in my life, including myself. I will not rest until I have vanquished the stranger in the mirror and see the real me again.

I want my life to matter. I want to make a difference in this world. I want to find my purpose. At 46, I am young and I am only just beginning. So this is a shout-out to the world: Watch out, here I come!”

Random Act of Kindness

Last night I was blessed by the random act of kindness of a total stranger.

I attended Fountainseeds Toastmasters club meeting at the Pioneer Centre in Mandaluyong. The meeting finished a little past 8:00 p.m. and after saying goodbye to the group I left to go home. It had been drizzling all afternoon with sudden bursts of strong rain alternating with soft showers, but rarely did the rain stop completely.

Chowking was the culprit – I couldn’t resist their spicy chao fan! The short stop at the restaurant made me miss my opportunity to commute and the rain started pouring like crazy again. You know how cabbies are when it rains – they morph into snobbish, choosy and greedy versions of themselves. My chances of getting a ride home were now slim at best.

I transferred to Jollibee next door and started reading a book, praying for a break in the rain. Then suddenly a cab stops in front of the main door. As I rushed to grab it, the lady passenger said that she’s not done with it and was only stopping for take-away. She asked where I was headed and reminded me that Chowking closes later, just in case I had to wait longer. And so the lady left in the cab. It was 9:30 p.m.

Twenty minutes later the restaurant’s guard asked me if I called for a cab. I said no. He said a cab was waiting for me outside. Then it dawned on me that the lady was kind enough to tell the cabbie that I was looking for transport.

As I sat in the cab on my way home, in the middle of heavy, pouring rain, I thanked God for His blessing, and realized that in spite of the rudeness we encounter everyday, there is kindness in this world. Like a flickering candle in a dark, stormy night, its light reminds us that there is hope for mankind.

I wish I could thank that kind stranger but I know I couldn’t. Instead, I will pay her kindness forward to the next person in need.