Saturday, April 26, 2008

World Malaria Day - April 25th

Thankfully, I am living in a malaria-free area of South Africa. However, there is a good portion of South Africa which is not, nor is the vast majority of Africa. In fact, 90% of malaria cases worldwide occur in Africa. This summer, all of the students and teachers who accompanied me to Ghana had to be on malaria medication, in case we were bitten by a malaria-infected mosquito. I will also take malaria medication when I travel this summer to countries surrounding South Africa.

Malaria is a HUGE, HUGE problem. More than half a BILLION people are infected with malaria each year, and out of those, over a million die. The incredibly frustrating thing is that malaria is completely treatable and preventable. First, there is medication - both in helping to prevent the serious illness caused by malaria (such as the medication I take when travelling to malaria-infected areas), and that can be taken as treatment once one is infected by malaria. Even in areas where medication like I was able to take is unaffordable, there are simple precautionary measures such as bed nets and mosquito repellent or insecticide. It is just a matter of making such preventable measures available to people and setting up community education programs to spread the word about ways to prevent the disease.

This year, World Malaria Day was celebrated for the first time ever, with a call from the Secretary General of the UN to rally around goals to put in the measures to drastically cut down the number of deaths caused by malaria each year. I was so excited to see my inbox flooded with information about World Malaria Day yesterday, and I hope everyone will take a couple of minutes to read up about the monstrosity of a problem it is and what can be done about it. :)

"UN launches drive against malaria

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked World Malaria Day Friday by launching a fresh campaign against the disease, which continues to kill more than a million people every year, mostly children. The new drive aims to help provide all African countries with sufficient supplies of mosquito nets or high-quality household sprays by the end of 2010, in addition to more health clinics and special treatment centers for pregnant women." -

Read more about UN efforts to end malaria deaths here, or here.

the vagina monologues

Last night a bunch of my friends and I went to see the "Vagina Monologues" - a series of monologues written by Eve Ensler, about... well... vaginas. I had heard they were really well done, but I was truly amazed. By the end of the show, the audience, which through the first couple of monologues had been laughing nervously, was literally jumping out of their seats and cheering. It was especially poignant as it took part of a week long campus focus on rape awareness, and in general a cry for the end of gender-based violence in South Africa. With some of the highest rape statistics in the world, this is a problem very on the minds of most South Africans.

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend going to Youtube and watch a version of it. Its crass and crude and honest and angry, and powerful.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Explaining the US elections...

The first few months I was in South Africa, I hardly had a conversation with a South African without having to discuss the American elections. They wanted to know... Clinton or Obama? Who am I going to vote for? Is America ready for a woman president? A black president? Could a Republican win again? I explained the primary situation over and over... and over and over.

Now I'm starting to think that maybe even I don't have that good of a grip over what is going on. Those of you in America, help me out! WHAT in the world is going on? I hungrily opened the news this morning hoping to see... I don't know what.... about the Pennsylvania primary, and instead, all I am seeing is a ridiculous amount of the exact same thing. What are your thoughts? Is this going to be decided before August? Is anything progressing over there or is it as confusing as it is over here? Help!


This is a map showing Zimbabwe in red. Zim is one of South Africa's 'northern neighbors.' For quick facts on the country, click here.
Putting my internet woes into perspective... while I have been waiting rather impatiently for my internet to be put in, all of Zimbabwe has been waiting to find out what the future of their country will hold. All of us in South Africa are also holding our breath, praying that the situation will resolve peacefully and justly.

Just a little background: Zimbabwe held its presidential elections on March 29, 2008. For years and years it has been ruled by Robert Mugabe, who led the country to independence, but then never gave up his power and has become a full on dictator. Under him, Zimbabwe has gone from one of the 'gems' of Africa with one of the best economies on the continent, to have the highest inflation int the entire world. It literally takes millions of Zimbabwean dollars to buy a meal. There are dozens and dozens of other problems as well within the country, but I am not qualified to say much about them, so here's a quick excerpt from Wikipedia. :)

"Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election on March 29, 2008.[1] The three major candidates were Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic ChangeSimba Makoni, an independent.[2] The election was expected, because of Zimbabwe's dire economic situation, to provide President Mugabe with his toughest electoral challenge to date. Mugabe's opponents have been critical of the handling of the electoral process, and the government has been accused of planning to rig the election; Human Rights Watch said that the election was likely to be "deeply flawed".[3]

No official results have been released; the failure to release results has been strongly criticized by the MDC, which is seeking an order from the High Court that would force their release. An independent projection placed Tsvangirai in the lead, but without the majority needed to avoid a second round. The MDC has, however, declared that Tsvangirai won a narrow majority in the first round and has refused to participate in any second round.[4] ZANU-PF has said that Mugabe will participate in a second round if one is necessary;[5] however, ZANU-PF is alleging that some electoral officials, in connection with the MDC, fraudulently reduced Mugabe's score, and the party has requested a recount.",_2008

Needless to say, the country is in a terrible, terrible position. Based on polls and such, the opposition won about 60% of the vote, but the Zimbabwean government has not release the results. So since the elections, everyone has been essentially holding their breath, seeing if the government will declare Mugabe the winner, which will almost certainly lead to riots by supporters of the opposition, hold out indefinitely, which will surely at some point lead to a collapse of the system in some way, or find a way to allow Mugabe to leave - if that happens, no telling what the outcome will be.

n the meantime, China has been exposed for attempting to deliver a ship full of small arms to Zimbabwe. The international community has been outraged over the fact they would sell weapons to a country so clearly on the brink of violence, and when the ship tried to land in South Africa, it was turned away. It then attempted Mozambique, and was turned away. Last I read, It was headed to Angola, but the U.S. State Department has stepped in and asked ALL African countries to deny access to the ship.

This of course has raised questions about the sovereignity of Zimbabwe - as a nation, isn't it allowed to buy as many weapons as it wants? Isn't China allowed to sell to whomever it wants? And at the same time, over the idea of human rights abuses - isn't the international community responsible for preventing small arms from going into the hands of people on the brink of a violent conflict?

It is a sticky situation, and well worth following. Click here to read more about what's has been happening with the Chinese ship.

On the ground here, people are tense. Thousands of refugees, fearing the outbreak of violence, are spilling over the northern border of South Africa every day (very far away from where I am, no worries). We have many Zimbabwean students at Rhodes, and my heart aches for them as they watch the unravelling of the situation. Most of their families are still in Zim. Read more about the fears of escalating violence here.

The South African government... isn't doing a lot. The public here is in general very upset at the lack of government reaction over the event. President Mbeki was even quoted as saying that there "is no crisis in Zimbabwe." On Friday, students at Rhodes held a protest over the lack of South African response to Zim labeled "Blood on our hands" - the students painted their hands red, showing that if we stand by and do nothing, we are going to be responsible if it escalates into violence.

If you are a prayer, pray for Zim. The country is on the brink of something huge, no matter what the outcome. And what happens there could very well affect the stability of the entire region.

Note: All three political cartoons are taken from on of my favorite South African cartoonests, Zapiro:

indeed too good to be true

the internet people have been coming to my house now... for 8 days. I asked them on the first day which day they would be done... they said tomorrow. I asked them on the second day which day they would be done... they said tomorrow. I asked them on the third day which day they would be done... you get the point. They didn't come back today, I don't know what that means. It really isn't a very big deal - I can walk to a computer lab easily. Almost nothing else about the different ways of working bother me at all - i understand when shops are closed for hours at a time in the middle of the day for no reason, or when the waiter suddenly disappears and takes 2 hours to bring our food... all of this is part of the experience of living in South Africa. The internet thing, though, is driving me crazy. I think its more because I keep expecting it to be installed and ready to go when I go home every day. Anyway, any of you who are waiting for me to have skpe... we're still waiting. Maybe we should just give in and buy a lot of phone cards. ;)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

could it be true?!?

As I write, the elusive internet is being installed at my house... is it too good to be true??? Highly possible... I became completely cynical and didn't even believe them a little bit the last 5 promises they gave us, but this morning, people actually showed up at our house with cable. So this might really be it....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lunch at the senior center

Last week, our Rotary 'dad' Geoff Antrobus took us to have lunch at a senior center in the township. It was such a lovely afternoon, spent chatting with the folks and eating. I sat at a table of women who had probably about 4 teeth between them, and was AMAZED as they out ate me double fold. At one point as I was slowing down, they asked if I was finished and ate the food off of my plate as well. :) I had a good time trying to use my Xhosa, which has become ridiculously rusty the past couple of months. I hope to return to the center soon to work on some crafts with the women. I was also reminded of the reality of life in the township--- all of the women I was chatting with had lost multiple children to disease and violence. However, they are a living testimony of hope, --- I was bought a knitted hat and scarf from the craft area, as fall weather is setting in. The woman who knitted my scarf had only one hand, but had learned to sew and knit despite her handicap. She did a BEAUTIFUL job - every time I wear it, I will remember her and all of the women at my table.

chilling in Grahamstown..

This is a picture of my roommates and two of the other Rotary scholars. Last Wednesday, we spent an evening being Eben's groupies as he performed at a local bar.

Too Close!

While we were driving around the park, we came upon a bit of a roadblock...
WOW! So we drove up a little closer.....
And soon, we were face to face....We were quite happy and excited until we saw this....
And realized that we were no match. FYI - if an elephant is making eye contact with you and flapping its ears, its time to GET OUT OF THE WAY. Fortunately, the Rotarians who were driving us knew what they were doing and got us out of there with no problem. Exciting stuff!!

Camping in Addo Elephant Park

This past weekend the other Grahamstown Rotary Scholars and I went camping at Addo Elephant park with the Sunset Rotary club. We had spectacular luck and saw somewhere around 75 elephants along with ostriches, water buffalo, warthogs, jackals, and pesky pesky monkeys (story above). It was such a great opportunity to get to know the other Rotary club better and to get to see such fantastic wildlife! I am continually amazed by the diversity and complexity of this world.

PS - check out the picture of the elephant crossing its legs (second picture on the left of the second to bottom row) Strange, no?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chuck Norris

Meet Chuck Norris -the toughest two-wheeled drive on the continent. This guy had a few problems - he got stuck twice (once we had to be pulled out), his bumper fell off when we bottomed out on a dirt road, and he lost a hub cap.... but he certainly never lost his dignity.

A couple words of advice: Unless you are driving Chuck Norris, rent a 4-wheel drive if you want to take a road trip through Namibia (note: there is only 1 paved road that we found in Namibia). Also, if your bumper falls off, a quick solution can be to sew it back on with household string. It will hold, I promise.


At long last, here are some pictures from my amazing road trip through Namibia. Four of us bashed and camped our way through the country. A ridiculous amount of stories need to be told, but those will have to come later.

The babboon got the last laugh...

On our way to Namibia we stopped through Cape Town and had the chance to hang out with Victor and Jeannie..... Victor and Jeannie AND the craziest babboon ever. This guy was just chilling with his family until some unsuspecting tourists (not us for once) got out of their car to take pictures. He then promptly jumped through the open window of their car, rummaged around for a bit, and jumped out holding their back pack. He then UNZIPPED (?!?!) it, looked through for something good to eat, found some toothpaste, and went to town. We all sat there in utter amazement watching the whole ordeal, and vowed to never leave our windows down when observing creatures that are pretty much as intelligent as we are.

Belated pics from Rotary Orientation in Cape Town