At the sound of hello, I quiver holding the telephone connecting me to a voice from the land of aborigines, kangaroos, and koalas.
Koalas. Seventy-five percent of a koala’s day, they say, is spent on sleeping. There’s no way you can say hello to them while they’re up there with their arms looped around branches, dozing. Cuddly sleeping furballs.
Sleeping. I always like to sleep at work, but I can’t do it all the time.
My job is to write stories. I write news and feature articles about health, ageing, nursing, education, and technology. These stories are relevant to people in New South Wales, West Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Victoria and Canberra (yep, that’s just about all the Australian states and territories).
Believe it or not, I was clueless about Australia’s geography until the first day of my Manila-based work. Did I get an orientation or training on the culture, territory, or history of the state-continent? No. This was a problem, I mean, having to teach myself about this country while working on the stories.
Believe it or not, I used to know only two cities there: Sydney and Melbourne. Please forgive my ignorance. At least now, I know: laidback Perth is far in the west, Australian Capital Territory (Canberra, in the southeast part) has no Premier, and nurses in the Northern Territory are being abused and harassed.
My least favorite part of the job is calling people. I totally understand how important this is in my tasks because – how can I get quotes if I just sit there and google; emails are sometimes not an efficient way, especially if I have to interview high profile persons who are forever in meetings, or, if I need comments from state ministers and premiers. But I shake and palpitate whenever I have to phone someone. Anyone. It’s almost like anxiety disorder.
When I start talking to the sources, usually I am drawn to what they’re telling me through words and silences. I am calmed.
One day, somebody told me about the violence and aggression that health workers face. They get punched in the face and assaulted, while others are bullied. Another day, somebody told me about billion dollar cuts to universities, which by the way the government itself has been grooming for a global market. Another day, somebody told me about pain management: Life is hard, don’t pretend that it’s not (I liked that).
My favorite conversation is the one I had with 86-year old Heather Lee who joins walkathons and other walking events – and wins! She said she’s been living an active lifestyle since she was young, something she carried on and her body allowed. Her breakfast would include a banana, blueberries, milk, and other fruits. She’s a happy sounding competitive old lady, Heather Lee.
Times like that, I sit still by the telephone, listening with a child’s enthusiasm, as if in awe of a machine that can tell stories from the kingdom of far, far away.
But to be honest, I still quiver at the sound of hello, when I pick up the handset or before I dial a number.
These are some of my experiences at the sound of hello. Many times, my mind is in a floating state because of so many stories that need to be written, and so many people to be interviewed. But, what do they say about pressure?
No pressure, no diamonds.
Sometimes though, I just want to be a koala.