That Little World with my Sisters

Being the first born in an Asian family means a lot of responsibilities. I am the eldest and I have two sisters. We were all born two years apart from each other. I remember, when we were kids, one of my main responsibilities is to teach my sisters. My mom expects that I will help them with their homework, teach them how to read, write and help them with their maths. Whenever my sisters do not know something about a topic in school, my mom would always say “paturo ka sa ate mo” (ask your eldest sister to teach you). I hated it because when you are a kid all you want is to play outside or watch TV but unlike other kids, I am there acting as my sisters private tutor.

Me and my sisters 16 years ago. I (middle) was 12, Lady(left) was 10 and Chevy(right) was 8.

One of the things, that my mom is so obsessed with, is for us to be together ALL THE TIME when we were kids. There are so many occasions when I wish I can go to school and go home with my friends like most students do. But I never did. Mom wants us to go to school together even it means getting to school late because one of us doesn’t wake up on time. After school, we always wait outside each others’ classroom and ride home together. If there are school activities, my mom always says that we should accompany each other and I should be looking out for my sisters while at school.

Funny story about this photo is that me and Lady is already late to school but Mom still wants to take more photos of us so she can use all the film before sending it to photo shops to be printed. We both came late to school. Our teachers aren’t happy. But I guess, that is a memory now where no one cares anymore but this photo still brings us smile.

My mom also hates it when we fight. She always scolds us and blames me most of the time when I fight with my sisters and tells me that I’m the eldest so I should be patient, understanding and giving to them. One thing she does for us not to fight over certain things is to buy us similar stuff, especially me and Lady since our ages are closer to each other. We both grew up having same clothes, same bags, same shoes, etc. If we are lucky we can have it in a different colour otherwise it is very much alike. That is why some people thinks we are twins. One day, we went to school but grabbed each others bag instead. We only found out when we opened the bag and saw each others names on the notebooks. When I found out about it, Lady is already outside my classroom, frowning and annoyed while carrying my bag. This story cracks us up every time we remember it.

I grew up sharing same bedroom with them. So we always sleep together and talk about things happen in school or about this show we watched on TV. We always laugh a lot before we sleep but sometimes we end up fighting. We were always asked to share each others stuff because we are sisters. I used to think that if I don’t have sisters then I do not need to share things with anybody and I can have my own. I wished I’m an only child.

As we grow up, things changed little by little. Our fights became lesser. They started to read and study by themselves that I don’t have to teach them every time. We eventually had different school times so that we have to go to school and go home alone or with friends. We started to have our own stuff. But one thing is left unchanged: we still sleep together in one bedroom, just with three different beds. We still talk about how our days have been or what mom and dad fought about that day or who has the period and used all the tampons. But because we were used to being together all the time, our closeness did not change. I started to enjoy hanging out with them and and wait at home until they finish school and eat dinner with them. We always laugh about crazy stuff, sing and dance like we are in a concert and nobody’s watching or can hear us. We still fight sometimes like who is much better, Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift or the K-pop music. Ha.

Taken 10. years ago during Christmas Eve

Our parents are poor and can only give us what they can. I remember whenever we want something that my parents cannot afford, they always tell us to study hard so we can get good jobs and get good salary and be able to buy and do anything we want. That is why we always dream of finishing school so someday we can buy all the things we want. The three of us started to dream together. We dreamt that someday we will be able to eat out in a fancy restaurant, that we will be able to go out on vacation together and ride a plane and stay in a fancy hotel.

I built my dreams with my sisters and they were there when I was starting my nursing school until I finished it. I remember times when I asked them to help me study and ask me questions about a certain chapter in the book. I asked them to pray for me when I was taking my nursing exams so I’ll be able to be a Registered Nurse so I can work abroad. I still think up to this day, all their prayers helped me passing those exams.

Our holiday photo taken last year in Palawan.
All of us are adults now and have our own jobs. We can finally go for travelling, eat in restaurants, stay in fancy hotels like we used to dream when we were kids.

Of all the people I know the ones who know me the most will be my sisters. Whenever I think about those old times when we fight and cry and hate each other, all it brings back now is laughter. I might have hated having sisters when I was little but now I am very thankful to have them. I felt like they were one of the best part of my childhood and life will be so tedious without them. I thank my parents, especially my mom for always bringing us closer together and now I understand why she did that.

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.

-Isadora James

Now that I am living abroad, far away from them and have my own room and stuff like I always wished, I often miss my sisters. I miss sleeping with them and having those late night talks. I miss going out with them and planning the weekends. I always think my life abroad will be so much better if they are here because I know they are the family I will always have no matter what life brings. The bond I have with my siblings is always an irreplaceable one.


Efficiency Across the Board

In light of recent events, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how we arrived at the current situation. I don’t believe anyone truly has the answers yet so here are a few questions to ask instead. There will be a few posts coming covering certain questions to inspire you to not only think about the world but also to go out, try to understand it and dig deeper than the first answer.

We have all now seen the effects that the current pandemic has had on the world. The topic for this is efficiency and how it has lead to a complacency in every country.

Are We Too Efficient?

The current state of the world is an unusual one and one that many have not have seen in their lifetimes. Supermarkets running out of stock and having bare shelves; ventilators being in short supply; personal protection equipment that can’t meet demand; NHS staff being brought out of retirement to fill gaps in hospitals and a national call for assistance asking us to “help protect the NHS” (which I will cover in a separate post). Why did supermarkets, medical equipment and PPE providers / manufacturers run out of stock. I believe the answer lies in efficiency.

The current global market almost entirely relies on “just in time” manufacturing / delivery and lean processes. This effectively means the minimum amount of stock is held at any one time and is only produced and delivered when the demand is required. Looking back at my previous post “The Cost of Panic Buying” this just in time marketing plays a large part. As I mentioned, the more likely factor of a lot of people shopping more regularly and picking up a few extra items each time is more likely the issue. This is where “just in time” process comes into play. A rapid change in demand across all items from a large population can really change supply lines. If unprepared for such an emergency it is easy to see why shelves are empty and governments, globally, are pushing for ventilators. When systems are running at 95% capacity it doesn’t leave much headroom for error. Tiny changes in shopping habits result in a huge impact as 95% capacity becomes 105% as an example.

However, you might be thinking if they can see or predict an increase in demand why can’t they just change their order to bring in more stock within a few weeks. Enter “lean process”. Lean process is, fundamentally, similar to efficiency and describes the minimum amount of people (a resource) in order to produce a result (in this case products and services). For perishable items such as food or PPE masks (which do have expiry dates) this makes sense to minimise waste and stock counts in order to save money. The limiting factor here is the people. Without the right quantity of people the amount of raw materials is meaningless. This type of business works great in the good times but falls apart rapidly in the bad. In some cases Brexit may have helped in as large medical suppliers began stockpiling goods in the UK, at a cost, in order to protect against worst case trade deals. Depending on the capacity margin this can cause the problems that we have seen over the last few months of different severity. As soon as demand spikes even if there are enough resources to produce the required products there is often a lack of people available in order to produce the final products in time.

As all the products are still available the issue of capacity never seems to be a problem. We all assume we will have enough and this leads to complacency that these safety nets can be scrapped without consequence.

I hope you have found some of this interesting and it has questions you haven’t thought of or maybe inspired you to think of your own questions. So I will leave you with one final one.

Should we reduce efficiency if it means the impact in difficult times can be reduced? Perhaps holding emergency stock that can be sold and replaced before the expiration date is something we can take away from this crisis.

Stay tuned for the next post and sound off in the comments what you think!

The Cost of Panic Buying

In light of recent events, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the effects of media on the public and how misinformation or control of information can lead to disastrous consequences. I don’t believe anyone truly has the answers yet so here are a few questions to ask instead. There will be a few posts coming covering certain questions to inspire you to not only think about the world but also to go out and try to understand it.

We all have experienced (or at least heard of) the panic buying in the country over the last few months just as we are all aware of the totally irrational behaviour of doing so. But what leads to this state?

Did the media have an effect?

Looking back on the stories, published near the beginning of the year, it seems clear that panic buying was not being performed by the majority. It wasn’t until media stories highlighting the panic buying in other countries and, highlighting the smaller minority doing this in the UK that we suddenly saw a huge spike in demand at supermarkets. Naturally, this changed the mentality of the population who went from their usual state of buying food as usual for the week to feeling as though everyone is rushing out to buy food and if they don’t do the same they will be left without. This is one of the dangers of media. The embellishment of a story in order to pull you in (Commonly called “Clickbait”) unfortunately leads to the emotional response that these stories are designed to induce. Therefore, the more likely you will spread it to followers, friends and family members and react in unusual ways. It seems fair to assume that the more stories people read about the lack of essential items in supermarkets the more people will be willing to buy excessive quantities for fear of there being none the next day.

Once this idea has taken hold it is very hard to revert back. The government, experts, supermarkets and online stores have repeatedly stated that there is no need to overbuy as they have enough food for everyone yet none of these statements had any positive effect. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case.

  1. Some felt that the rest of the population wouldn’t comply so they chose not to either.
  2. The strength of social groups which is where stories shared amongst close friends / family members are more believable than those coming from external groups regardless of the experience or evidence.
  3. The necessity of food overruled the facts. People wouldn’t take the risk that these bodies could be wrong.

There is always the issue that the media publicises what it wants you to see. Although the media showed many examples of the extreme excessive buying it is likely that this necessarily isn’t the case for the majority. It is far more likely that people are shopping more regularly (due to the lack of products varying one day to the next) and picking up a small amount of extra items each time. This is something I will touch on in my next post regarding the problems with efficiency.

As of writing this it does appear that supermarkets are releasing statements noting a decline in these excessive purchases. Although some of the essentials might still be a challenge to get as stock supply ramps up. Is this due to the efforts of the experts saying there is no reason to panic buy? Is it due to the media publicising and shaming those panic buy? Or is it simply that those likely to panic buy have now filled up on stock?

I hope you have found some of this interesting and it has mentioned questions you haven’t thought of or maybe inspired you to think of your own questions. So I will leave you with one final one.

Should we hold accountable the media for what it spreads as part of a social responsibility or allow them to continue using free speech to make money?

Stay tuned for the next post and sound off in the comments what you think!


Photo by David Veksler on Unsplash