A Girl Named Angelina

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

I was meant to finish writing our itinerary for our trip to Italy in August but I don't think I can let this day pass without sharing my rather interesting experience this evening. As cliche as it may sound, things really happen for a reason.

Whilst I was anticipating dinner with my former colleagues to go on forever as I haven't seen them in quite a long time, something happened that made me leave early. Feeling tired from socialising all day, I tromped through the Golden Jubilee bridge on my way back to Soho. The 20-minute walk seemed so long because of the humid weather. I felt so unfit climbing up a few steps to the bridge. Although the sudden cool breeze on bridge made me feel better, I still couldn't wait to go home. It was only quarter to eight and I was ready for bed. 

As I continued to walk towards Northumberland Avenue, I noticed a girl walking seemingly by herself, barefoot and clutching a cash register toy on her chest . I looked around to check whether someone was following her or ahead of her, but I couldn't see anyone. I stopped and spoke to the girl. I asked her where her Mommy and Daddy were. She pointed towards the direction I was going, but I couldn't see anyone who could potentially be her parents. The girl has Down's Syndrome so she was not able to express herself very well. I took her to the side while I tried to make sense of what she was trying to tell me. People were looking at me, probably suspicious of my intentions but I knew I shouldn't leave the girl by herself. After few minutes when I realised that no one was actually looking for her because otherwise, someone would have shouted her name, I decided to call the police. The girl left her toy on the floor, telling me through hand gesture to just leave it there. I reassured her that I was going to bring her back to Mommy and Daddy but I just needed to call the police to let them know. She nodded her head as if she understood everything that I said.

I was put on hold for at least 10 minutes. Apparently, the police were busy dealing with emergency and there could be a long wait, so I decided to google the nearest police station in Charring Cross instead. I found one just about 6 mins walk from where we were. I offered my hand to the girl and she held it without any hesitation. I picked up her toy and told her we were going to the police. 

It felt surreal walking hand in hand with a girl that I actually didn't know. I never had this experience before and I didn't know how I was feeling at that precise moment. I imagined her mother going frantic because she probably thought she has lost her baby girl. I wondered if she had a Daddy, a brother or a sister. I wondered how she got lost. Was she deliberately left on the street? That was horrible, I thought. As we continued walking on the busy street of Strand, the girl touched my hand (with her free Right hand) as if to say thank you and then she looked at me with a smile. I asked her again which way did her parents go, but she pointed to the direction that we were heading to. She was making wave-like gestures with her right hand, so I thought she meant a boat? I wasn't sure. The thought of someone potentially losing their child pierced my heart's core. That would be the worst thing that could ever happen to a mother or a father. I should know. I have been there - although in different circumstances.

When we finally arrived at the Police station, we had to queue. There were two people in front of us. The lady being served was complaining about a wallet that she has lost earlier. She wasn't sure how and where she lost it and therefore, she was sort of dismissed. Then a policeman came out of the door. He asked if we were okay. I informed him that I found the girl alone in the street. He immediately took us through a double door and ordered two gentlemen out of the room . One of them had a cast on his right arm but perhaps they have dealt with him so he was okay to leave.

The policeman then instructed us to take a sit. He asked if I knew the girl's name. I remember her telling me "Athena" when I first asked her, but I wasn't 100% sure if I understood it correctly. The policeman was convinced that the girl was not British. I initially thought she was Italian so I asked her, "Come si chiama?" to which she replied with a hint of irritation, "Athena". The policeman gave her a piece of paper and a pen and asked her to write her name. She only managed to write A and N. We thought her name was "Annie". And then her toy caught my eyes. It had numbers on it. I started counting "uno", pointing to number one. She continued counting from two to ten in Spanish. I asked her what the table was called and she said "mesa". Then I showed her photos of spoon and fork to which she said, "chuchara" and "tenedor". Between us, the policeman and I were able to figure out what language the girl spoke.

After half an hour of trying to communicate through sign language and photographs, we finally received the good news that the police might have potentially found her parents. I reassured the girl that she will see Mommy and Daddy soon. A few minutes later, her family arrived. Her father was the first one to hug her. Her mother was still in shock. Her sister was elated to have found her little sister. Teary-eyed, her father thanked me and kissed me on the cheek. Her mother was speechless. All she could say was thank you. I asked them what the girl's name was and the mother said, "Angelina". They were apparently from Argentina. The parents spoke little English but the sister was kind of fluent. The sister introduced herself as Maggie. I thought she said her Mom was called Jemima. I briefly told them how I found Angelina and then the police asked for my details. After that, I was cleared to go.

The family won't let me go because they wanted me to take some cash so I could have a cup of coffee. I didn't take the money of course.  Instead, I left them my mobile number should they want to keep in touch. On my way out, Maggie followed me and begged me to take the money. I told Maggie I didn't need the money, and that it was enough for me to have brought Angelina back to her family. She said thank you once more. I hugged her and said goodbye.

Perhaps anyone would have done the same, but I feel special knowing that I have done something as rewarding as helping a lost child, keeping her safe and bringing her back to her family. 

It is not everyday that I get to play a hero outside my profession, so I will treasure this experience forever. I will try hard not to doubt myself ever again because honestly? after today, I know I have done something right in my life, at least once. At least today.


Virgin Sport British 10k

Thursday, 19 July 2018

After my successful run at the Vitality 10k last month, I decided to join the Virgin Sport British 10k last Sunday to keep the momentum going. Actually, I watched the race last year after my morning run and it inspired me to join because apparently this annual event is within our neighbourhood. Besides, it is a beautiful route as it passes through some of the most iconic landmarks in London. I thought it would be a real shame if I didn't join this year. So, I sacrificed my monthly shopping money and paid £44 to join the race instead.

However, on the day of the race, I was having second thoughts because I wasn't 100% feeling well. Basically, I had diarrhoea early hours of the morning. Perhaps it was from the delectable fresh mushroom salad that I devoured the night before. I wasn't sure if it was worth taking the risk considering that the weather was predicted to be a record high of between 28-30 degrees centigrade. But I was also preoccupied and needed to clear my mind, so despite feeling doubtful, I made my way to the race.

The start pen in Piccadilly is about 20 minutes walk from our flat. When I got there, it was barely 0930 and the warm-up was still ongoing. I tend not to participate in warm-ups because I want to save my energy and er, my bladder from getting full from all the jumping and twisting- because I hate portaloos basically.Besides, I didn't want to disturb my tummy too much that day.

Anyway, the almost 30-minute wait to the start line was a bit annoying because I was already beginning to feel thirsty. Unfortunately, the closest drinking station was at 3km. By the time I started to run, it was almost 10am. 

The first 2km took us along Regent Street (to almost Oxford Circus) then back to Piccadilly Circus down to Pall Mall. The route was confusing for me because there were at least 6 areas throughout the race whereby we had to turn around and take the same route back. I wasn't sure if I was meant to be motivated seeing other runners way behind me, but it slowed me down a little bit. I just never enjoyed running the same route in races to be honest. But regardless, the route was great as it was flat and well, it took us to the very heart of London. So, I shouldn't really be complaining.

At 5km, my face started feeling numb because of the heat. I knew at this point that I wasn't going to finish the race at my PB. It didn't help that I decided to run without any music on (for the first time ever) because apparently, there was entertainment at every kilometre. I actually had Keith's music on while I was still at the start pen doubting myself whether I could run the whole 10k or not because I was a little unwell. But as soon as his favourite song came on and I finished listening to it, I took my earphones away. 

I saw some runners stopping and walking as early as 200 metres into the race, then more and more from 3km. Perhaps it was due the very hot weather. After 5km, I was convinced that the day wasn't even about achieving my PB anymore. It was all about finishing the race without stopping and collapsing. I thought the Vitality 10k was tough, but this race was tougher. 

The crowd was not as enthusiastic as I thought, considering the route was Central London and we passed by many touristy spots. There were few high-fives which I enjoyed of course, but it was lacking the upbeat atmosphere that the Vitality 10k had, especially at the last few metres to the finish line.

More than anything else, I think it was the thought of Keith and seeing young spectators that kept me going. I didn't want to fail Keith and so I tried my very best to finish the race with a positive attitude. One of the kids who cheered me on offered me some sweets, which I gladly accepted. 

It was around 6km when we finally reached the Embankment. My face was really burning, I had to slap myself a few times. I went under every water mist there was which I never did in my previous races. The only consolation I had at that point was the fact that I was  running my normal route which only meant that I was close to finishing the race. 

One of the bands played Despacito at 9km which was encouraging. It made me want to dance away to the finish line. I thought the finish line was in Trafalgar Square but it was actually in Whitehall, a few yards away from Downing Street.

It was a good finish I thought but I had no idea about my time because I didn't turn my running app on and I didn't get a text straight away unlike the Vitality 10k. 

Despite the earlier challenges and despite running at a slower pace, I was still proud of myself for even finishing the race.

Just before I reached home, I received a text message congratulating me for finishing the Virgin 10k in 1 hour, 1 minute and 41 seconds. Not my PB, but what matters  at the end of the day is the fact I completed the race with a huge smile on my face. 

I hope to be able to run again next year, so watch this space.


At 42: It's The Little Things That Matter

Thursday, 12 July 2018

A few weeks ago, I almost had an emotional breakdown. I was perhaps having birthday blues or I was just genuinely feeling down. I felt like nothing was going right in my life, although I knew that wasn't true. I tried very hard to be positive. To see the good in the bad. To be my old optimistic self. But I was struggling. At one point, I thought I was losing life's battles. For once in my life, after all that I have been through, everything seemed too much to bear. 

I had to desperately do something to combat those negative feelings because I knew I could do better. It took me a few days to finally realise what was missing and what was causing me to feel so weak emotionally. Then it dawned on me that it was indeed my lack of appreciation for the little things in life that precipitated all the negativity. I am a human being after all, because I almost gave in to life's pressures and the nearly impossible standards that the current world we live in has set for all of us to achieve- either willingly or forcibly. 

And whilst I can't deny that I often feel insecure because at 42, I am still not married, remain childless and not yet a home-owner, I take refuge in the fact that I am gifted with the three important attributes that I believe most people don't have: resilience, patience and wisdom.

Therefore, as I face another year of a blessed life, I made a promise to be more thankful, first and foremost, for the little things because they really are what matter the most.

1. The opportunity to spend everyday with someone who is a constant reminder that I have everything that I need in this life. 

2.  The couple of good friends in London who are always genuinely happy to spend time with me.

3.  A friend who calls me randomly only to remind me how remarkable I am as a person and how she admires my positivity, patience and strength. 

4.  A distant niece who never fails to checks up on me and whom I can share anything under the sun with.  

5.  My sister from another mother whom I may not get to talk to frequently, but has always been a constant in my life.

6. That one person at work I can share my frustrations with without being judged.

7. Those random motivational speeches I deliver in the middle of the nurses' station at random times that bring laughter to my staff and make some of them say, "amen".

8. That reassurance from my boss that I don't need to worry because I am doing great. 

9. That genuine appreciation from my deputy.

10. Being nominated "Team Player of the Month" twice in a row.

11. That I am able to walk to and from work, avoiding the very stressful "tube life".

12.  Having my own office despite being smaller than our bathroom.

13. Having a rented flat next to Chinatown.

14. Free coffee from our local cafe almost every weekend.

15. Having a good route for my morning runs.

16. The convenience of having weights, kettle bells and a barbell at home.

17. Eating good food.

18. Our bath being mould-free.

19. Cooking in my favourite pan from my dream cookware manufacturer.

20. Making fresh orange juice from my dream juicer.

And then there are the little big things of course:

1. J for being the person that he is.

2. My family- because despite being broken by the recent trial we had to go through, I believe we remain united.

3. My job- no matter how challenging it is to deal with some of the people I work with.

4. J's family for being so kind to me.

I know sometimes when we are faced with adversity, it often seems difficult to find anything that can help us overcome it. What I learned from writing this blog entry is that, actually, it is possible to draw strength from the mundane things we do and see everyday and there are a lot of them. In fact, I could have written more. All we need to do is to learn how to appreciate the little things around us- because no matter how small these things are right now, one day something will happen that will remind us that in fact, they were the big things.


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