Summer mood 5: joy

Cloudcatchers

– Karessa Ramos

We lie on the sand,

on the grass, on the ground

while watching clouds

as they glide,

as they drift all around.

Everything turns

suddenly astounding.

 

We walk fast

we walk slow

we walk barefoot

feeling the wind blow.

I catch your smile

and your dimpled chin.

Nothing is ever as sublime.

 

Who cares

about forever?

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Summer moods 3 and 4: nostalgic and very nostalgic

Nostalgic

I know this place

I’ve been here before.

So beautiful

like milk froth

and comfortable

like soft rain.

And easy

like child’s play.

 

I was here before.

This place, familiar.

But this is somewhere

I can’t belong.

I don’t belong.

And so I won’t be here long.

In this easy place

with the beautiful rain.

***

Very nostalgic

Is it the light?

Am I the moth

Dazed with the fire?

Is it the sound?

Are you the siren’s song?

Am I spellbound?

 

Perhaps it’s not as easy.

Is it ever simple?

What part of this is reality?

Which one is but a memory?

Smokes and mirrors

haze my view.

How to tell the rest from the you?

If it’s just the lights,

if it’s only the sound,

I’ll get over this in Vegas.

– Karessa Ramos

Summer moods 1 and 2: gratefulness and empathy

Gratefulness

It’s not hard to be

grateful when you clearly see

others’ misery.

***

Empathy

The truth about you

here and now, is that we are

similar, we two.

 

We have feelings, we

build walls and defend. Not much

different, are we?

 

Sympathetic when

the other cries. But glad it’s

not us, torn inside.

 

When the other wins

we celebrate, we cheer, yet

we wish it was  us.

– Karessa Ramos

 

Personal Interview

It was a fine Monday morning when a dear colleague from Human Resources approached me quite excitedly. I honestly thought she was going to ask or share some tips about child rearing, as we are both first-time moms. Never did I imagine that she would ask me if I wanted to be interviewed for the official, internal blog of the Foundation where I work.

Clearly at this stage of my life, I have already had various interview sessions both as the interviewer and the interviewee. However, this is the first time I got interviewed with the aim of sharing the content (ergo, my thoughts) to the public! I had to pause with disbelief. I’m a very opinionated person but then I thought, “Who would want to bear with me and my craziness on purpose?” I mean, would you dare, dear reader? If you would, then without further ado, let me share with you the translated version of the said article. (For those of you who wants to read the original version in Spanish, just click the following link: Entrevistamos a Karessa Ramos, Comunicación y Relaciones Externas _ Nos-otros)

-*-

We interview Karessa Ramos, from the Communications and External Relations Department

DSC_9470

L-R: Leo, Carlos and Karessa, taken along the Coulée Verte (Paris 12ème)

Briefly tell us: how would you describe yourself?

According to me, I’m flexible. According to Filipinos, “Marunong makisama” which roughly means someone who knows how to get along well with others. Lastly, according to my family and friends, tenacious.

Imagine that you could only have one hobby. What would it be? and why would you choose it?

Cooking and baking. I love the whole process, from going to the market to buy the ingredients, to tasting the finished product (of course). I don’t know exactly why I like it. Perhaps it’s because sharing food is vital within the social life of us Filipinos.

How did you come to work at the BBVAMF (BBVA Microfinance Foundation)?

I started out as an intern, hired to work for a few months in Bancamía (the Foundation’s entity in Colombia), with the Finance Department in 2010. Luís Germán Linares was still VP for Finance at that time. (Did you know that I got an offer to work for them?) When my “apprenticeship” ended and I had to return to Spain, I consulted  whether there was any vacant posts I could vie for in the Foundation. It turned out that a vacancy just opened up at the Finance Department and that was where I started: collaborating in the elaboration of the Annual Consolidated Financial Report, with my first mentor, Ana Nogueras.

Come on… Tell us a funny moment you’ve had in the BBVAMF.

It was during one afternoon in the office and I was checking some PPT templates. I had my headphones on and was listening to ’80s songs and when Kylie Minogue’s song played, I started singing without realizing it, and my officemates started to stare. I suddenly saw some of them turn their heads down smiling, or maybe they were laughing. Later on, I understood that it was because I sounded like a cat… Well, for me it was funny, but maybe for the rest it was annoying, hehehe! (Let’s ask Victor H.)

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The lessons I learned are my greatest achievements. And among them, I really treasure having learned to be more assertive and empathetic (although a lot of work has yet to be done). If I may add another thing: I am also very proud of the relationships I’ve established through the years. I’m surrounded by good, kind, intelligent and trustworthy people. They help me think, they laugh with me (and at me, I suppose), they cry with me, eat with me… they offer excellent company and I learn a lot from them.

What has been your happiest moment?

When I survived my son’s birth in France. There was a moment when I was actually thinking of leaving final instructions to my husband because I already accepted I wouldn’t last for very long. So when the doctors announced that they could solve my issues, I felt really happy. Most of all, that wave of happiness came when I started realizing I was going to live for at least another day!

Where would your ideal vacation be?

In my hometown, in the Philippines.

If you could learn something new, what would it be?

I’d learn how to ride a horse.

If  you could transform into another person, who would it be and why?

I would like to be transformed into my grandmother, and experience how it is being my own mom’s mother, HAHAHAHA! Seriously now, my maternal grandmother was the first enterprising woman I’ve ever met. She was strong like no other: she separated with my grandfather, taking charge of her four children with a teacher’s salary, she learned how to cook many kinds of plants so her family wouldn’t go hungry… when she retired, she improved her cooking skills and started a catering business so she wouldn’t depend on her children for her expenses. Furthermore, as a teacher, she would stay until late in the school, tutoring the students for free and she wouldn’t go home until they caught up with the lesson. I would like to be a woman like her: committed, intelligent, creative, generous and with the desire to transform her environment. The reason is because I’m seeing the legacy she left behind, the values and principles my cousins and I possess. And I also see how we are trying to pass them onto our own children.

A dream?

I wish for women’s situation to be normalized. That is to say, for us to stop feeling pressured to prove ourselves as valid as men; for us to fearlessly express our femininity whichever way we want to; that our happiness, value and aspirations not be measured with masculine metrics; that we stop judging ourselves and the competition that supposedly exists among us be converted into solidarity and cooperation.

While we’re dreaming… What would be your super power?

I would like to have the power to teleport. Is that how you say it? I like traveling a lot and that would cheapen the fare, hahaha!

Anything else you want to share about yourself?

I love eating. And you know it!

The former interviewee would like to ask you: if you could travel to the past, where and insist period would you have liked to live?

I would like to travel to the Philippines during the precolonial era.

.

To the employers that have turned me down

Dear sir/madam employer,

THANK YOU!

Thank you so much for not hiring me, for not counting on my services in your company’s projects. Thank you for not believing in my talent, thank you for your biases and thank you for your fears and insecurities about hiring a young mother. I really can’t say “thank you” enough!

True, the moment you declined my recruitment, I felt discouraged and even started to doubt myself. It is true too, that I felt crushed when I asked for an explanation and you did not give me any feedback that I could use for future job applications.

Undeniably, I spent many a day wondering what turned hiring teams away from me. I remember asking people for their assessment and among the dozens I received, I would like to highlight a couple:

On one hand, the most helpful of all clearly said, “It’s very tough for a young woman your age, and a mother at that, to find a strong foothold, professionally speaking. They just wouldn’t hire fertile females at the height of a possible reproduction stage!”

On the other, the most bizarre of them all was from one of the interviewers (perhaps it was you!), saying, “The roster of candidates presented really high profiles”. I must’ve sounded pathetic when I asked for further explanation. Was it that I was competing with people bearing PhDs? Or perhaps they had done super-cool internships or have worked in uber-fantastic companies beforehand? Because as you know from the CV I sent you, my background is not bad at all. In short, the person I was talking to simply rephrased the same sentence. And it was months after I realized that “profile” not only refers to one’s recent professional history- it also relates to one’s educational and why not, social background.

I only mention them for the purpose of expressing my amazement. But I suppose none of this surprises you…

Please allow me to get back to the original thought and main content of this letter: gratitude. I would like to show my long-overdue appreciation for not hiring me because had you trusted in my capabilities, had you given me a chance to collaborate with you, I would not be where I am now. May I also add that I am utterly blooming right where I am now? I deliberately used the term “blooming” because of the future promise it paints in the reader’s mind. This is the very reason I am being very grateful for the turn of my life’s events.

For the first time as an employee, I truly feel the opportunity to learn, grow, contribute and be an active part of a team. For the first time, I am under a leadership which sets an exquisite example of excellence and humanity. Likewise, I belong to a group of strong, intelligent and kind people where my voice is heard and my flaws, courteously mended. This healthy balance, and the chance to grow in this newfound career are worth all the wait. I wake up each day, inspired and eager to go to work, knowing that I am productive. I look at myself in the mirror and feel good, knowing that I’m doing my part to elicit positive changes in people’s lives.

Had you given me the chance to work with you, I would not be living this dream. So sir/madam, thank you very much for turning me down. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors and I also wish for you the same professional happiness and fulfillment that I feel at present.

thank-you-gratitude

Sincerely yours,

KR

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices”- Edward R. Murrow

How true!

And how this quote changed me! because ever since I read it, I admit to start being more mindful of my thinking process.

I must disagree with Mr Murrow, though, because in my opinion “thinking” is a general term that could be specified into “analyzing”, “examining”, “criticizing”, “remembering”, “taking mental notes” and even “rearranging prejudices” (among others). For me, thinking is the mental activity that could be executed in various ways. This could be likened to when somebody mentions “exercise” and each one of the listeners would think “jogging” or “weight lifting” or any other form of physical exertion to stay fit.

Furthermore, rearranging prejudices could simply be a result of combining different forms of thinking. An observation had to have been made, followed by an analysis, then perhaps some memory searching and criticizing, to finally arrive at having one actual prejudice. This process has to have been repeated a number of times for a person to generate more than one prejudice, which he could then arrange and rearrange as he wishes.

Wouldn’t you agree? Rearranging prejudices could be considered thinking.

Nevertheless, I suppose that I “get” what the quote is supposed to mean: it warns us of our tendency to exercise more prejudice-creation than observation, examination and analysis. It’s easier, after all.

It implicitly recommends us to strike a balance among exercising different forms of thinking. Allowing ourselves to excessively fabricate prejudices will only lead us to the habit of rearranging them, instead of grabbing the opportunity to learn and discover something new, something perhaps even useful to us. If we stick to our analogue: should we spend most of our time creating prejudices, we would only be stretching one side of our bodies.

I read about how prejudices are formed and the first step is to form an opinion without sufficient knowledge. In fact, Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “prejudice as”

an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge

The problem with this is that we normally don’t have the access to “enough” knowledge which would allow us to form a non-prejudice. We can’t even know if the knowledge we possess is sufficient for all our intents and purposes.

So my conclusion? ALL OF US are in fact rearranging our prejudices whenever we “think”. At least now, pedants and know-it-alls could go down their high horse and not act all high and mighty. For we are all prone to bias. That’s humane, actually.

Sorry Mr Murrow…

 

Sources:

  1. The Economist
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prejudice

Adulting and Money Management 4: The Money that They Owe You

 PayMe.Candle.qkx

Image courtesy of: http://www.luckymojo.com

This article is inspired by several Facebook posts pertaining to the irony that it’s the money lender who feels shame when asking their money back, instead of the other way around. Especially when it comes to following up a late payment.

At first, after a talk with one of my friends, I thought that the main problem lies in assertiveness, or the lack of it. And then I thought that perhaps certain cultures encourage assertiveness, more than others but it really is not the question. I didn’t do the numbers, but it’s clear how what I thought was a cultural aspect in lending money, is actually a very personal choice of each son of a man. That is, the choice whether to “donate” or “collect” the amount of money that was lent.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because even before a payment could be followed-up, there must have first been a pledge to do so.

I myself have rarely lent money to anyone, perhaps because I give the impression of being riff-raff (hahaha!). But whenever I did, I made sure both parties understood and agreed that the money being exchanged was a loan, and not a gift. And in the case where the money were a gift, I also made that very clear.

Risking to state the obvious, the difference between a loan and a gift is that the former has to be returned to the money lender at a given time, with a given interest rate. The latter is simply to be graciously accepted and appreciated.

Now, the problem with some people is they are easily caught by surprise and instead of thinking twice before lending money, they immediately agree to “giving” something that is to be returned “in the future”, “without haste”. In 98% of these cases, no payback ever takes place.

In the world of adulting, taking time to think before acting is basically lesson number 1. In the more specific town of adulting and money management, this moment for reflection becomes as necessary as breathing. Every cent counts, whether it be a past, present or a future cent of a currency. As thus, lending money means sacrificing having the “cents” today with a guarantee of getting them back in the future. In the case of giving, the former sentence would end after the word “sacrificing” and that would be it.

Personally, what I usually do when asked for a loan is to:

  1. Ask how much they need
  2. How urgent they need it
  3. When can they repay me
  4. How will they procure the money to repay me

If I’m satisfied with the answers to the former questions, I tell them that I’d think about it. Afterwards, I ask myself:

  1. How will lending a certain amount of money affect my budget until it gets repaid?
  2. Will I be alright if I never get to see that money again?

If, after analyzing my own situation, I still choose to lend my money, I make the following very clear when I finally decide to go ahead with the transaction:

  1. I make sure they understand that the money has to be returned
  2. I make sure that we both agree on the date of repayment (with or without interest)
  3. I would make them understand that although I don’t need that money now (and that’s why I can lend it to them), I would need it in the future.
  4. Depending on how much I trust the borrower, I would make him sign an agreement including a clause which mentions a possible collateral

(Are you still wondering why people don’t borrow money from me?)

You might be asking: what if, at the agreed date of repayment, the borrower refuses/cannot/does not return the money?

This is where the importance of assertiveness comes in. Being firm in reclaiming what is his own actually helps achieve the goal. And in the case they still refuse to pay you, then this is where a signed document would be useful.

In some instances, no amount of assertiveness can ever get a borrower to pay up. No matter how many touching, beautiful speeches are delivered, they wouldn’t budge. Because the truth is, the list that I wrote above- it’s just me. In real life, and depending on many other factors, the things I just said would be easier said than done.

So what is best advice I could give? be wise, and before you lend an important amount of money, make sure that your finances are sound enough in case you don’t get it back.

Happy lending!