Tuesday, May 27, 2008
It was also announced yesterday that SADC would be sending in a large number of representatives to monitor the June Zimbabwean elections more closely.
Both of these are incredibly good news if they pan out.
This morning, Alica and I accompanied one of our friends (Jeremy) to Elthembini Service Center, a senior citizen center in one of the Grahamstown townships. We spent a lovely morning and afternoon gardening with Mr. Modolo, cooking with Connie, picking out beads for one of the ladies to make AIDS pins, and just hanging out with the seniors. The first picture is Mr. Modolo, showing off his moves. The second is Mr. Modolo again, watering the dirt we had just weeded. The third is Connie and me - she wanted the picture to show how much she was enjoying the food she had just cooked, and the fourth is several of the seniors who wanted their picture taken outside by the garden.
My favorite part of the afternoon was weeding and chatting with Alicia, while Mr. Modolo serenaded us with the same song over and over, occasionally stopping to compliment himself on the quality of his singing - usually something to the effect of "No one can sing like Mr. Modolo, he has a song of his own." I agree :)
Happy Birthday EBEN!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
It was incredibly touching, in many ways - first of all, they read off all of the names of the people who have died in Grahamstown from AIDs in the last year- and the number was utterly staggering. Name after name was read off - it truly put into perspective the enormity of this problem - not just in general, but right here in our own community.
Second of all, it was inspiring to see the numbers of people out there - people dressed in red, people in HIV positive t-shirts (like the one I am wearing in the picture)... in short, people committed to putting an end to this disease. We held a moment of silence, but the women broke it after a minute or so and broke into song, which carried on for several minutes. The man sitting next to me said that the songs they were singing were the same songs they sang when they rallied against apartheid - songs of freedom, but this time, it is directed at AIDs.
I should start out by saying that I am certainly no authority on this, so I am just going to share what I have heard people say.
First of all, Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader running against Mugabe, has been in South Africa for the last six weeks. During this time, there have been several reported death threats and against him, as well as threats that he will be charged with treason upon his return to Zimbabwe, which supposedly prolonged his stay in the South Africa . While he was here we saw him on the news often, especially when the attacks started happening against Zimbabweans around Johannesburg. On the news, I saw him give a speech to Zimbabwean immigrantss who had fled their homes because of the violence, and his message was to go home to Zimbabwe - that together, they would build the nation again.
However, he returned to Zim this weekend. Here is an article about the current events going on there: http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=340082&area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__africa/.
After a LOOONG delay in the releasing of any results about the Zim election that happened at the begnning of this year, it was finally announced that neither Mugabe or Twvangirai had won a clear majority of votes (though most people here doubt the truth of that and think Twvangirai actually did receive a majority), so there will have to be a run-off election. Supposedly this will take place in July. Most people I have talked to about this think that Mugabe will 'win' this run-off election. There have been wide reports of voter intimidation/violence which is suspected to influence the results of the election, as well as suspected corruption with the counting of the ballots. For the record, African Union election observers deemed the initial election as fair.
Meanwhile, South Africa's response has been very mixed. President Mbeki, who is now more or less a 'lame duck' because Jacob Zuma has been elected the president of the ruling party (the ANC), has been widely criticized within South Africa for his lack of a response to the Zimbabwean situation, and for his denial that there is a crisis going on there. (Zimbabwe has something like a 600 thousand percent inflation rate. To put that in perspective, Iraq, which has the next highest inflation rate in the world, is at 60 percent.)
Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma, who (unless if something drastic happens) will be the next president of South Africa, has been speaking out about the Zimbabwean situation internationally. Some of my South African friends think he is doing this as a strategic political move. He is currently under investigation for corruption charges, and if he is convicted, could lose his place as president of the ANC. Some of my friends think that he is trying to appeal to the international community over the Zimbabwean situation so that he can garner international support for his ascent to the presidency. I don't know how accurate those perceptions are.
Needless to say, most people's perceptions here about what is going on in Zimbabwe are very grim and cynical.
HOWEVER, I, who inherited my mother's eternally optimistic genes, still have hope for Zimbabwe. My hope is that the voters will speak out, despite intimidation and whatnot. My hope is that more intense election monitoring will be allowed in for this next go-around of voting. Several of my Zimbabwean friends who are studying here have shared these hopes with me. It is amazing in the first place that such an opposition was allowed to form against Mugabe in the first place, and perhaps that signals that changes are in store. Mugabe is, after all, 84 years old.
Vic has been working with his church to find accommodation for those being evacuated from their homes. I'm ridiculously proud of him for rolling up his sleeves and doing what needs to be done.
read more about it here.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I thought I should send out a quick note in light of the international exposure of the violence in South Africa right now.First of all, I am completely out of harm's way - it has mainly been taking place in the poorest townships around Johannesburg, which is very far away from me. It is comparable to saying that I am in Burley, Idaho and riots are happening in Los Angeles.
That said, it is a scary situation for the country. Not because I feel that any harm is going to happen to me or anyone I know, but because it represents the anger and frustration that is brewing in South Africa. As I have mentioned before, the economic and social inequality here is overwhelming. Unemployment rates are terrible and growing worse. Huge portions of the population do not have proper housing. And the terrible thing is, we are not nearly the worse off. South Africa is considered a safe haven in Africa - it is the place to which immigrants from all over Africa flee. Much like many see America, South Africa is seen as a land of opportunity. For this reason, thousands and thousands of Zimbawean refugees have fled here from the situation brewing in their own nation. Many South Africans fear that the Zimbabweans (and other African immigrants) are taking the jobs that they themselves need so desperately, and that the Zimbaweans are resposible for the staggering crime rate. They worry that their schools are being overloaded with Zimbawean children. It is these fears, compounded by dozens of other issues that I am not informed enough about to talk about, that has led to the violence.
In short, the situation is fragile here. However, the violence is being condemned widely. Protests are being held throughout the nation as people speak out against what is happening. Yesterday it was announced that President Mbeki would be sending the army in to quell the violence, and today the reports of violence were down. This is not dooms day for South Africa. I hear many people saying that we are the next Zimbabwe. I do not believe that is true. If this country is nothing else, it is resilient. When the world predicted mass chaos after the end of apartheid, South Africa held peaceful, free and fair elections that brought Nelson Mandela to the presidency. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to deal with perpetuators of the oppressive regime has been held up all over the world as a model of restorative justice. The country's commitment to human rights has set precident in global human rights networks.
The xenophobic attacks happening in Johannesburg are frightening and frustrating. My heart breaks for those who are losing loved ones, and the thousands who have been forced from their homes. But I will not believe that this represents the future of South Africa. This week we celebrate Africa Day. Please join me either in thoughts or in prayers for the future of this country, the resolution of this violence, the quelling of the anger and hatred that has brought them about, and most importantly, for the conversations surrounding these atrocities to bring out a discourse of ways that the country's situation can be improved - in short, for something positive to result from this.
Here is a link the the Mail and Guardian, one of the South African newspapers that I read daily. It has numerous stories about what is going on and will have updates on the situation: http://www.mg.co.za/
Much love. Thanks so much to those of you who have written notes of concern. Haley
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Much love to you all, keep your prayers going.
Read more about it here.
Monday, May 19, 2008
A) I'm fine.
B) There are much bigger fish to fry than whether or not I am fine.
Actually, right now I am very livid and emotional. I just went to a lecture on what I thought was going to be on the social determinents of AIDS... but when the speaker got up, she told us that she could not just talk about AIDS without talking about the context about what is going on in South Africa right now, and went on to explain exactly what has been happening over the last week around Johannesburg. Essentially, gangs of men have been forming mobs which have been attacking immigrant camps around Johannesburg, setting fire to shacks, gang raping women, killing men - up to 50 people have been killed so far, thousands and thousands have fled their homes looking for safety. The justification for the attacks: the immigrants (most of whom are Zimbabwean refugees escaping the violence in Zimbabwe) are the leading cause of crime in our communities, their children are slowing down our schools, etc. Concerns that are scarily similar to concerns about immigrants all over the world. Read more about it here.
And all of this in post-apartheid South Africa, a land purportedly committed to the equal rights of ALL people within its land. All of this in a place that could not have overcome apartheid if its refugees had not been taken in by neighboring countries and allowed to organize a struggle that eventually covercame an oppressive regime.
Even some of my dear roommates have told me that the attacks are in a way justified because of what the Zimbabweans have done to their country.
This logic is frightening, and perhaps hits close to home.
I am mourning today for those who are living in fear tonight - fear that their children may not be safe, fear that they may not have a place to live tomorrow - in Myanmar, in China, and in Johannesburg.
Monday, May 12, 2008
When I came to Rhodes, I joined SHARC, the student version of the South African Treatment Action Campain, which is committed to stopping the spread of AIDS and to upholding human rights. I elected to become a peer-educator, and to become certified on how to give informational talks to peers about HIV/AIDs, and safe sex. Tonight, as part of my peer-ed training, I am going to take a class on the biology of HIV. It is a fascinating virus - it is terrifying how 'smart' it is.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a course on how ARV treatments work, and it blew me away. I had no idea that some ARVs have much the same side effects as chemotherapy - (hair loss, loss of libido, etc. etc.) or that one of the possible side effects is lactic acidosis, which can be fatal if you do not stop treatments immediately. Learning about the side effects has helped me understand partially why President Mbeki and others have questioned the effectiveness and toxicity of ARVs. Though I still don't understand/agree, I am getting a better feel for their positions, or realizing they are not completely irrational. I am excited to learn about the virus tonight.
But - one very positive thing came out of it - since the sandwiches needed to be eaten, we decided to take them over to a local boy's shelter, Eluxuloweni (which means place of peace in Xhosa). The director's face lit up when we told him we had 100 sandwiches to give him.
The churches are no different. I have heard that in the United States, 10am on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. It is much the same here. While I have been here, I have tried to visit as many of the churches as I can to truly get a feel for the way that people are living and worshipping. I've been to all sorts - cathedrals, small little churches with only a small praise band, and so on. But yesterday was very special, because I was invited by a friend to visit a church in the township. We showed up at 9am (we were told it started at 9), and other than a 12 year old boy playing an electric piano, were the only ones there. Pretty soon, a couple of other people walked in, promptly picked up microphones that were all hooked up to one amplifier, and started singing at the top of their lungs. I was in shock that 3 people could first of all be that loud, and second of all, make it sound like an entire choir was signing. It was UNBELIEVABLY beautiful. I, again, immediately started crying, and they sung and sung and sung, clapped and danced. Over the next 2 hours, people started showing up and joining in the singing and praising, and after about 3 hours (yes three hours), the whole place was packed. My favorite was when about 2 hours in, a lady and her daughter came RUNNING to the front with bags spilling over with green and white plastic flowers, red organza and white table clothes, and proceeded to decorate the front of the room. We danced and danced, and the people in the front kept the music going throughout the sermons (yes, there were multiple sermons). By 12:30, we started to realize that it was JUST getting really going (they were moving into the second offering), and decided that we had to leave or we would miss lunch at our dorms, so we snuck out the back. It was such a wonderful experience and I am so glad that I went.
The picture is of the children singing to the women in the congregation in honor of Mother's Day.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Now that she's technically an empty nester, she has only picked up more involvement in the community and is now in the process of designing a new library for our hometown, as well as being the president of her PEO club and an ever active member of the Lions club, all while working full time.
I'm not giving even partial justice to the things that she does, but even more important is who is she is. She is a rock in our family. I have heard again and again from extended family on both sides, as well as from her friends - she is a source of strength and energy, and when you are loved by her, you have a champion on your side. I am lucky to have half of her genes.
Mom, you are truly an inspiration and I hope that I am able to give even a fraction of the love you have shown me to the people in my life. Happy Mother's Day!!!!!
I don't have a picture of all of them here, but I HAVE to share the amazing news!!!
- Keara (pictures far left) will be attending Harvard University!
- Erika (second from left) will be attending Texas State San Marcos!
- Mirna (center) will be an all-star junior in high school next year!
- Nicole (second from right) will going to Syracuse University!
- Leah (far right) will be going to Davidson College in North Carolina!
- Danielle (not pictured) will be going to Santa Clara University in California!
- JR (not pictured) will be going to Reed College in Portland!
- Alex (not pictured) will be another all-star junior in high school!
We had an amazing week last week with 3 public holidays all in one week!!!
For the occasion, Victor came to visit from Cape Town, and I had the chance to show him around the Eastern Cape.
The first night he arrived, I took him to our huge weekly 'community dinner' with a bunch of friends and anyone we see along the way (called 'taco night' because we attempt to cook tacos, which invariably become pancakes because of lack of Mexican food supplies) .
The second day, we spent an amazing day at the beach in Port Alfred with other Ambassadorial scholars and several of my roommates and friends, and on the last night, we celebrated Brenda's birthday with her (hence all of the dress up shots) For some reason, the picture theme of the night was to do a pouty "blue steel" face - at which, we found, I am amazingly bad. Brenda's party was ridiculously amazing - she cooked a NINE course dinner for us all, one of the most extravagant and great meals I have had EVER. Between each course she had us change seats so that we were constantly sitting next to new people. (Brenda is an ambassadorial scholar from last year who stayed at Rhodes this year to finish her Masters Degree) She's the one in the picture with no front tooth. :) This is due to a tragic accident on her 'real' birthday and not due to the boxing gloves in the same picture, thankfully. :)
It was SOOOOO unbelievably wonderful to have Victor here for a few days and get the chance to relax and have a good time and actually see him in PERSON for a while!! It was also fun to introduce him to all of my new friends here and get to spend some quality time with them as well. All in all - an amazing long weekend! Thanks to everyone for the good food, good fun and great company!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
My thesis is on the Politicization of AIDS in South African politics. Or, if you are really curious, here are the first couple of lines from my proposal---
“Explaining the Politics of AIDS: A critical examination of the South African state response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic”
I propose to examine possible explanations for the nature of the political response to HIV/AIDS in South Africa, specifically, the apparent inability of the state to exercise effective leadership and deal decisively with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and a continued adherence to inadequate treatment and prevention policies despite the alarming scale of the epidemic.
As I just read that through again, I realized I have a major grammatical mistake already. Oh my. I am REALLY going to need that luck!