Tuesday, April 15, 2008


(april 15, 2008)

i am trying something new, it is called Thinking Positively. i understand your shock and horror at the revoluntionariness of this idea, i approached it in quite the same way. (trepidation and anxiety? oh yeah)

i just finished a job application for a job that i really want, partly because it is what i want to do (or what i think i want to do) and the other part because if i could get a position like this, it would open up doors for all time (or at least that is how i see it from the outside). and partly (because who are we kidding, this stuff is important), it would allow me to afford a car (with red plates).*

besides, who can argue with protecting the refugees? and i do love me a refugee.**

the newfound positive part comes from being quite confident in my application and deciding to send this one out to the universe with some positive energy. and that i no longer have to stress that i am a University Graduate (and grad school at that) in my cover letter and by the sounds of my application i am actually able to Do Something. not that matters much in this field; there are a lot of people who i have been as yet unable to ascertain What They Do.

and, i nearly forgot, you will soon be able to google my name and come up with more than that photo that makes me look like i am pregnant (seriously, try it – and if you think that is bad, you should see the FULL PAGE version that appeared in the magazine) as my name will appear in published research. yay. unless you are a stalker and then, not yay.

could this newfound positive energy come from the impending trip to south africa, you might find yourself asking. and yes. it does.***

*yowsa, that is a lot of (), lo siento pero es muy facil a leer, no?

**wow, that is wildly inappropriate and makes me reconsider my public sense of humour. yet, i leave it.

***remember when your grade 7 teacher told you not to start sentences with And? well, she was wrong.

bisphenol A sounds delicious

maybe i should ditch my bright pink nalgene?

and we wonder why instances of cancer are on the rise... could it possibly be all the chemicals floating around our bodies. this bisphenol apparently mimics estrogen. nice, more worries for the ladies.

3 days to go!

Monday, April 14, 2008

5 days!

(april 13, 2008)

in no more than 5 days i will be in south africa and i am sooooooooooooooooooooooo (for lack of a better hyperbole) excited! i have been counting down, writing the numbers of days left until my arrival at the bottom of the pages of my daytimer, for 63 days (since february 15th, if you must know).

it has been rather difficult not to get obsessed with how long it would take for time to pass, but it has and now i just have to wait 5 relatively short days until i get to leave on a jet plane and arrive at the oliver tambo international airport and have one of those embarrassingly tearful and obnoxious reunions.

no right answer

(april 13, 2008)

it’s a sunday morning and i am sitting in my flat listening to canadian jams (City and Colour and Tegan Sara are repeating on my playlists at the mo) enjoying my coffee and reading the guardian weekly, which is sort of like heroine for this expat – it satisfies my craving for good journalism and my withdrawal from international news coverage.

there is an interesting article by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (of Half of a Yellow Sun fame – read it, read it!) about the proposed bill in nigerian parliament that would legislate women’s dress (ri-dic-u-lous), but the part of the article that got me thinking and put a recent experience into perspective is the author’s challenge to debate what ‘culture’ is.

often, i hear people say elements of daily life in kenya are not part of the kenyan ‘culture’ and are imports of the colonialists, the un, the missionaries, etc. while this could be historically accurate, i think things get dangerous when you start to decide which parts of a culture are organic and which are imports, because it dismisses the reality of the dynamism of culture.

it is also the means by which someone could dismiss select cultural imports while simultaneously accepting others. in kenya, this is particularly clear in the widespread acceptance of protestant christianity as part of modern kenyan culture, clearly an idea originally imported from the west by someone once upon a time.

the glorification of pre-existing culture begs the question of when did this ‘culture’ start and how could we possibly identify culture in its purest form, assuming it ever existed as such?

on the other hand, i recently had a discussion with someone about the common practice of using phrases such as ‘negative cultural practices’ to describe the root of societal ills such as sexual abuse and domestic violence. it slips off the tongues of many development/humanitarian workers and has become part of the vernacular of this world-saving business. but a cultural practice such as wife inheritance does not lead directly to sexual abuse as easily as is often assumed.

for example, in somalia wife inheritance was a protective measure for those women who were widowed and ensured their livelihoods were maintained and their children would be cared for. to claim that it is one of the causes of sexual abuse is forgetting that such a cultural practice is not inherently negative and especially in a culture that has suffered near complete breakdown and disintegration of cultural practices due to 17 years of violence, is it the negativity of that practice or the inability to maintain culture that is at the root of the ‘problems’ we attempt to solve?

in this case, it is not the dynamism of culture that is denied, but the forces that have contributed to a breakdown of cultural values or practices that seems to be forgotten.

yet another element enters the debate when practices such as female genital mutilation (fgm) is considered. i cannot imagine any justification that could be given for me to understand or accept such an activity that has well documented health complications, including that it is an accepted cultural practice in some communities, including much of somalia and parts of kenya. does defending something as cultural mean that it should not be legislated against or condemned? as far as fgm is concerned, my answer is no. but there are other more contentious practices defined as cultural where i cannot be so sure of my answer.

there is surely no right answer nor even just one answer. but at least it got me exercising my brain on a sunday morning (demonstrating my sometimes questionable ability to exercise restraint and moderation on a saturday night!).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

a real must see

i watched the move War Dance last night and it was so incredible that i have to write about it and insist that you go out and find yourself a copy.

perhaps i out the one who is out of the loop here, because apparently it was nominated for an oscar. and so it should have been.

the movie is timely too, as there is great hope that the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, in uganda will sign a peace agreement with the government of uganda in southern sudan today.

but back to the movie. it is fantastic. i cried. but the good kind of tears. the happy kind. the real kind because the people in the movie, Nancy, Dominic, and Rose are still kids kicking around northern uganda, living with the circumstances of being children of a warzone, but also finding joy and healing in music, dance, and theatre. sounds trite, but the movie is not.

it is just so good.

it is also a peek into life in africa and life in a displacement camp. celtel advertisements, jerry cans, matatus as the form of transport. a lot of this has just become so normal to me, but i think it is a good glimpse into real life in africa and not just the wars and exportable tourist stuff. it is not negative, it just is.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

oh great...

i hope this is just the media stirring things up and not really as bad as it seems it could get, but there are already reports about riots in the slums in nairobi and tensions throughout the country, whatever that means.

Monday, April 07, 2008


(april 4, 2008)

this is how my day began:

i walked out of my flat and saw my askari who would topple over if you even sneezed in his direction. then i saw him giving the two guard dogs water near their dog house and remembered the guard puppy that was following him around last week.

me: habari

askari who would topple over with a sneeze: fine fine

me: where is the tiny puppy?

askari who would topple over with a sneeze: dead

and that is one of the longest conversations i have had with him.


(april 4, 2008)

i am going to punch the next naysayer in the mouth. i am sitting in a place of great change, great uncertainty, and great hope. and often, when i have told people about potential choices regarding my career or about my relationship or about my plans, they find it difficult to understand or to appreciate why i am about to make the upcoming changes. and some people reply with only the perceived negative aspects about how things will be difficult, things will be expensive, things will be irretrievable. and if you know me, you know that i have thought of every possible downside to making these decisions. and then some. i am already getting sick of hearing such negative attitudes and doubt.

if i decide to tell you what it is that i think i might do or not do next, do me a favour and do not tell me the first negative thing that pops into your mind. think of one positive thing to say and then we can get to talking about the nitty gritty and the challenges inherent in any decision and address them constructively. but at the very least, can we start that conversation with one positive phrase?


Thursday, April 03, 2008

sick day numero dos

(april 1, 2008)

i am at home again today. i am actually feeling guilty about it and have debated going in for a half day, just to contend with the emails that i know are waiting for me after being out of the office last week. but then i reminded myself that i am allowed to be sick and i am allowed to get better before i go back to work.

i feel a lot better but am still coughing and am mostly afraid of giving this to my officemates like i did last time. funny that the thing keeping me out of the office again today is the fear of getting others sick rather than the need to get healthy myself.

i need to learn how to be sick. and how to be healthy.

at least this gives me the opportunity to gently coach my interim housekeeper on how not to ruin more of my clothes and break my dishes. did i just write that sentence? yes. and more importantly, i meant it.

sick day numero uno

(march 31, 2008)

i have a backlog of posts, so these will be posted at strange times, if you haven’t already noticed.

i am having a sick day today. so far, i have gone to the bank, gone to the post office, gone to one cafe that has wireless until that wifi (or weefee as one european woman called it, which made me giggle) conked out, then came to this second cafe until this wifi conked out. and now i will head to a market to get some fresh veg then home. not a bad way to spend the day. especially a monday.

but seriously, sick again? this is getting ridiculous. i didn’t go to the doctor this time and just self-prescribed a steam inhalation as that is exactly what my doctor would have stressed anyway. i must say, it worked quite well. but the sheer amount and colour of the stuff coming out of my head is disgusting. i am hopeful it is nearly over. but if not, i could handle another sick day...