My fabulous weekend

by Eliane

elianeLast Sunday I was in the train on my way home, my eyes fixed to the screen of my smartphone, like many of us do in public transport. And elderly lady sat opposite me. She had a smartphone too. Her phone cover was bright pink with bling-bling.  Funny, I could just imagine her taste when she was a little girl.

A young woman with a camera entered the train. She introduced herself as a student, working on a project on people using phones in public transport. Taking pictures of them listening to music or checking Facebook or WhatsApp or playing games. She asked me if she could take my picture while looking at my smartphone, assuring me that only her teacher would see the pictures. Well, why not helping this young student preparing her future. So, I gave her permission and she took a picture.

Then she turned to the elderly lady with the same question. But this lady understood it as if she was supposed to pose in front of the camera. I explained her that she should keep her eyes fixed on her phone while the young lady takes her picture. She said: ”It is all new to me, I am learning how everything works!”  I encouraged her: “We are never too old to learn. Every day we learn new things in our lives.” She smiled at me and confirmed this! When the photographer finished, she showed the picture. The lady smiled again and said: “It is nice, I like it!”

We continued our conversation and she shared with us how lonely and unhappy she feels after losing her daughter three years ago because of cancer. ”My daughter probably thinks I am having fun, from where she is now.” I sympathized with her. My sister died of cancer and it took me a long time to let it go. I could really feel the pain the lady was going through. The photographer and I were both listening to her. The photographer had no words and visibly felt awkward. It was heavy for her.

I told the elderly lady that wherever her daughter may be, she would not like to see her mother unhappy, or sad. She would love her to continue celebrating life. I was talking from the bottom of my heart. I lost my sister 3 years ago and it hurt so much, but I have a special place for her in my heart now. It is awful to lose a child and it is equally awful losing a mother a very young age, like it happened to me. I am a grown up now, I use my mother’s wisdom. In our lives we lose people we love and a new generation stands up. We all know this is the path we will travel someday. That is why it is so important to live our lives to the full, but without forgetting the ones we lost. “Give your daughter a special place in your heart, she will be happy.” The old lady smiled: “You are a wise woman, thank you!

Next stop she got off the train after giving me a hug.

The photographer said: “You did well to comfort her!” I told her that she did as well, being a good listener. We both listened to her story attentively. Somehow I felt that telling her something about my life experience could help at that moment. We continued talking and I shared that this kind of listening was one of the exercises I did today in my training on peer-to-peer counselling. She was interested to hear more, so I told her that I am HIV positive I am in a training so that I can support someone who just heard that he or she is HIV positive, by sharing my life experience with HIV. She looked at me in surprise and said “Really? I would have not known if you did not tell me.”

She asked where I do this training and I told her about the Hiv Vereniging. I also explained that there are only a few people I know that speak openly about having HIV because of the stigma around it! I pointed her at the website hivuitdekast for more stories about people living with HIV. When she got off the train she thanked me for information and also for helping her with her project. We exchanged numbers and will keep in touch.

We can only fight stigma when we choose to be visible. People then won’t have a word to say because we look fabulous! These were great moments in the train topping up an already great weekend. First I spent an evening and night in the Citizen Hotel Schiphol with my husband before he travelled to Lebanon. On Sunday morning I was full of energy to go to Hiv Vereniging for the training peer-to peer counselling. We were twelve people from different backgrounds. What an inspirational day that was and already I look forward to our second day of training. And then this beautiful encounter in the train.

I had a fabulous weekend.

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10 2016

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  1. Farida Howldar #

    Weldone dear…i am so proud of you…xxxx

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