I haven't really talked about this a lot except to my closest friends. But just so I could get this out of my system and truly start anew, let me put it down in words. I know this is supposed to be a photblog. But hey, it's my blog so I can do whatever with it.
In August I'll be leaving for Fordham University in New York City for further studies. I'll be taking up International Political Economy and Development (IPED). Even before joining JVP, I've always wanted to study in Fordham. It started out shallowly, of course. I think I was more attracted to the prospect of walking the streets of New York right below sky scrapers than the actual study. But throughout the years and my work in different development organizations, as my understanding of the complexity of poverty in the country deepened, so did my desire to study IPED.
You see, my undergrad course is Creative Writing. My genre of focus in college was fiction. I've always loved writing and thought I'd be spending days writing on yellow pads, winning competitions and joining workshops. But life, took a sudden turn and God brought me to where He wanted me to be. While I thoroughly enjoyed Creative Writing, it is obviously not enough if I wish to be a competent development worker, I need to at least have a theoretical grounding that can be applied in particular situations.
It took me 6 years, 2 NGO work and 1 corporate experience to finally apply.
The stress of applying began with the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) which anyone who wanted to study gradschool in the US had to take. Fordham had a required grade of 670 for the Math section to even qualify for admission. I studied for 2 months. And I barely reached 650 everytime I took a practice test. By the day of the exam, I still haven't reached my desired score. All I had was a prayer.
Then I took the exam. I almost wept thinking about all the sleepless nights reviewing, how it would all be put to waste. I didn't even pray to get into Fordham, I just wanted to at least qualify for application, to have a fighting chance. After all the effort, I was going to fail.
Several months later I received a letter from Fordham saying I've been accepted but without any scholarship - yet. I was torn between rejoicing and frustration. The letter said to wait for a couple of weeks for news on financial aid.
After a couple of months of painful waiting, I was offered financial aid, which fortunately and unfortunately, covered only my tuition. I would have to shoulder the cost of my living allowance which totalled to around 2000$ a month or around 88000 pesos. I was heartbroken knowing we could never afford that. Questions swirled around me - Why bring me to this point only to face an insurmountable wall?
But slowly something, it may sound ridiculous but in my mind this is how it really was, miracles began to happen. I never really wanted to tell anyone because I felt that it was no one else's problem but mine. But people began finding out and that's when miracles started happening. People started helping me find money and a home in NYC. They connected me with people who've been to NYC and could give me advice and assurance. Everyday it seemed more and more possible. Even more amazing, people were praying for me. I felt so undeserving and humbled.
But my fears could not be fully allayed until after the visa interview. I was deathly afraid that I would not be granted one. But in my mind, I told myself, even if the journey ended here, even if I don't go to Fordham, still I'm thankful. This experience has been heartbreaking in a lot of ways. But mostly it has been a blessing. I'm not going to mention names but you know who you are, you who have been there to support and believe in me when I couldn't believe in myself - you who filled up my recommendation, who edited my essay, who gave me advice, who gave me scarves for winter, who prayed for me - no, who stormed the heavens with prayers for me- , who saved money for me, who encouraged me, who hugged me when I was most down, who sent me texts of encouragement. Thank you.
One of the biggest graces from this experience, I think, is the rediscovery of my wonderful relationship with my mother. She was the one who told me that God brought me this far, he would not let me down now. She was the one who told me, Remember your name means "God is with us", He is with you, during my interview at the embassy. Her faith in God's goodness has amazed me to no end throughout all this. She was the one who said that she'd find a way to get me to NYC. She was the one who started selling her jewelry to add to my allowance. Jewelry which she has had forever, which she worked hard for. She even considered selling our house, the one thing she has spent her entire working life - literally, it was only fully paid after her retirement last year - paying for. I am deeply saddened that even now in retirement she still has to worry about me and take care of me. I know she's tired but she never shows it. Here I have an image of her feet bruised and ruined by all the walking she does to save on money so she could send me to good schools and buy me Jollibee after class. Her feet - both ugly and beautiful- have always been a clear symbol of a mother's love for her son, of her love for me.
For once, I understood why students in the movies always say that they're studying hard for their mothers. Well, this one's for you mom.
Thankfully my visa got approved. I can finally begin preparing. I know there might still be a lot of heartbreaks ahead. I know that in a way I face more difficulties than a lot of my contemporaries at the university. I would have to commute everyday because I can't afford an apartment near the campus. I don't have any strong Economics background. I will have to find a job to augment some costs. I won't be able to spend on good food and clothes. I will have to walk through difficult weather to go to class. While others focus on their studies alone, I will have to deal with issues of money and difficult logistics.
But today, I am less afraid and more hopeful because of the grace and gift of friendship, family and love I've received these past few months. You know who you all are, to me you are the face of God, always reassuring me of His immense love and goodness, alway egging me to go on and continue, forward always forward, telling me that He will make a way, telling me that should heartbreaks come along my way He will be there to remind me to always hope and never surrender. Please know that I am grateful.
I am reminded of this scene in the Sandman graphic novels where the dream King plays The Oldest Game against Choronzon:
Choronzon: Ssso, You know the rules, dreamlord? If you win, I will return your helmet.
If you lose, you will ssserve as plaything of hell, for eternity. Ourssslave.
Very well. I have the first move. I am a dire wolf, prey-stalking, lethal prowler.Dream: I am a hunter, horse-mounted, wolf-stabbing.
And I feel the grass beneath my hooves, the flanks between my legs.All is real. Nothing is real. Choronzon’s move.
Choronzon: I am a horsefly, horse-stinging, hunter-throwing.Dream: There are many ways to lose the oldest game. Failure of nerve, hesitation… Being unable to shift into a defensive shape. Lack of imagination.
I am a spider, fly-consuming, eight legged.Choronzon: I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed.
Dream: I am an ox, snake-crushing, heavy-footed.I feel the snake writhe beneath my hoof, its spine crushed.
Choronzon: I am an anthrax, butcher bacterium, warm-life destroying.Dream: A change in direction, but still an old gambit. I think…
I think I understand how Choronzon plays. How I can turn it against him.I think I will abandon the offensive.
I am a world, space-floating, life-nurturing.Choronzon: I am a nova, all-exploding… planet-cremating.
Dream: I am the Universe—all things encompassing, all life embracing.Choronzon: I am anti-life, the beast of judgement. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds… of everything.
Sss. And what will you be then dreamlord?Dream: I am hope.
Sandman, A hope in Hell