Thursday, August 27, 2009

Random Catch Up

It's been a while since I posted. Not a lot has happened. I continue to figure out what my job is and spend a lot of time researching things on the internet and editing various drafts of various plans and articles. I also sit in many meetings. It's hard sometimes to relate my work to what m2m actually does--the drawback of working in a head office and not in the field, but m2m is not set up so that I can do fieldwork as I did in Sierra Leone. Which is, of course, one of the biggest reasons why I like it: the program is community based and employs local, HIV+ new mothers as peer educators. But I miss my time "on the ground" in Sierra Leone, where I got to interact with our clients on a daily basis and was closely questioned in Krio if I did not show my face in the ward, even on Sundays: ousai you deh? you no well? why you no deh come yestaday?

It's also a bit weird, as I've written before, to be in a foreign place and yet feel divorced from the unfamiliar parts of it--I fit in, I speak one of the languages, much of the food is the same as at home, and South African poverty (and many black South Africans) are not a part of my everyday experience. If I knew nothing of South Africa and only saw what I experience on most days, it'd be very easy to assume that there is a very large white population in this country, most people are generally well off or at least not living in shacks, and the few homeless or poor that I do see are a part and product of the city life in all countries. But this is not the case, and I know it.

I was sick for a few days last week, luckily not with swine flu, which has swept the nation, if the news reports are to be believed. However, more people are dying of AIDS-related illnesses or TB in South Africa every day.

In other news, there have been continual strikes. The municipal strike I wrote about a few posts ago was not an aberration. In fact, there's a strike going on every day. Since that strike, students have stormed their own classrooms, telecommunications workers have walked off the job, the train workers have stopped the commuter trains, the minibus taxi drivers have stopped driving (and intimidated township workers from using other forms of transportation to get to work), miners didn't mining, and the police have fired rubber bullets at illegally striking SA soldiers, who retaliated by rioting and destroying 25 police cars with Molotov cocktails. This is all normal, apparently. Since it rarely affects me, I generally don't notice, except when m2m workers don't come in because transport has been disrupted by one group or another or all at the same time.

The biggest issue has been Caster Semenya, the 18-year old runner from a township in South Africa who won gold in Berlin at the World Championships and then gained worldwide attention when what supposed to be a confidential inquiry to determine her gender became public. It's all over the news here, though people at the office at least have not been very vocal. Mostly, I feel terrible for her and frustrated that the story became public. And very impressed that she's kept running--apparently there have been investigations in the past that most likely included coaches from other teams inspecting her in the bathroom, and she's always persevered. That's pretty impressive, if you ask me.

I only watch news in the morning before work and mostly for the weather (which is hopelessly wrong--the weather girl says it'll rain, it doesn't, she says it's cold and it's not, etc...I'm not sure if the issue is the weather girl or if it's that Cape Town weather is so unpredictable that no one can get it right. I carry around an umbrella at all times and always have a sweater and a scarf). It's an amusing morning news program, however, because I enjoy watching the anchors scramble to cut off over-talkative interviewees or to kill 2 minutes extra time with strained small talk. The egos and feuds between co-anchors are easy to see. It's great entertainment in the morning. But I'm not as excited about the soaps that run all day and all evening, punctuated by random music videos. The movies all come on at 10pm, when I'm heading for bed.

On the bright side, I've been renting movies from this place called DVD Nouveau, which has a killer selection--the Cape Town equivalent of Kim's Video in NYC (RIP), so not nearly as good but still awesome. Arranged by director, which warms the film nerd cockles of my heart. So, I've discovered The West Wing, which makes me sad that I'm missing Obama in office. I missed all of it--the end of the campaign, the election, the inauguration, getting Bo, Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. And yes, I'm still on the planet, and I did watch the inauguration live on TV, in Sierra Leone but it's not the same.

Since things have been pretty low-key in the past couple of weeks, there aren't any exciting photos or stories to share. I was hoping something illuminating would come out of all of this rambling, but I guess I've got things scattered all over the place that I'm mulling over.

I'll end with a list of women's names from South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, etc (basically from the countries in which m2m works), that I've started collecting because I thought they were interesting or unique:

Emmaculate (Emma?)

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