how do you spell Misungwi?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

ghetto fab



PICTURES!!!
Top = children with weapons [see recent blog post]
Middle = me deep frying a vat of around 50 fish for transport into the interior of the country
Bottom = me, a young woman in a nearby town, and her son BRIAN. poor kid will have his name butchered his whole life, unless he shortens 'buhlayani' into 'bula' which is actually a common nickname...

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It rained this past week. Monday. For about 2 hours. That was glorious, first rain in I believe about 3 months. Provided much needed water, people were buying it for almost 500 shillings a bucket [20 liters or 5 gallons for 50 cents! expensive!] because one of the main pipes in town was broken. Anyways. It's hot again now.

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An interesting site, an interesting man, an interesting idea:
http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu/mvp/

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What is new. On thursday I did a fantastic seminar on nutrition for a group of about 30 PLWHA. They are more amazing everytime I meet them and talk to them. They chat, they laugh, they joke about their AIDS [the way you look so good today, no way you have AIDS, i dont believe it!]. And they EAT, alot. We spent the day talking about the food groups, balanced meals, using spices, and how to adjust diet when you are sick. And we ATE. Tea, egg, bread in the AM, then some yogurt. Lunch included: potatoes, rice, pilau, beef, one whole fish per person, beans, cabbage, spinach, salsa, 'kisamvu' which is very nice leaves cooked with peanut sauce, and a big slice of pineapple.

Boy did we eat. It didn't help either that we had planned for 40 people but only 30 were able to come, so we had leftovers [well, we SHOULD have had leftovers, but needless to say we didn't, we ATE].

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I have been talking a lot to students of mine. The other day I sat with a big group of them in a small barbershop hut and did a condom demonstration [using a cucumber, lots of jokes on how much the condom stretched, it was a BIG cucumber...]. Then I did another condom demonstration at my house for like 5 more guys. And I've been visiting a lot of them at their homes, helping especially the ones who are about to take their exams and graduate and most of whom probably will not continue on with schooling.

It's been a bit of an eye-opener to see how most of them live - they call it 'ghetto life'. Ghetto means that they rent rooms, each student has a VERY small room in a VERY not nice house, often without electricity or safe doors/windows. There are frequently 4-5 students all renting rooms in the same house. They clean, cook together, study together, and it is a pretty intensely routine life. Of course this life also puts them at risk [have I written about this before on my blog? it seems like EVERY aspect of life here puts people at risk for HIV infection]. They are newly self-dependent, newly free of parental controls, and hormoes are RAGING. I'm convinced there is quite a bit of unsafe sex going on, and am trying to convince them to knock it off, or at least put a box of condoms in the 'ghetto' for everyone to take from if need be.

I do like talking to them though, they frequently ask interesting questions, and every once in a while i have a geniunely interesting conversation with a student or two. I seem to run into them wherever I go, though a favorite hangout is the 'mangotree' bus stop on the road which is just a few hundred meters from my house, and where we often gather for some porrige [think like a smooth breakfast oatmeal that you drink] and to just hang out. I will be sad to see them go when they finish in October, though the ones that I really like, i.e. the ones that don't sleep in class and actually seem to give a damn, will probably [if they don't get HIV] go on to do some amazing things in their lives...

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Oh, speaking of 'just hanging out', I never understood why so many people just sit in the road until 8 or 9 pm not doing anything. Why not go home and rest? Oh yeah. Because at home there are 5+ kids who are all screaming their lungs out. I am still baffled why people here are shocked if I say that I might not have children. 'Why on earth not?!?!' they say. 'Dirty, noisy, smelly....' is typically how I begin the answer to that question.

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My aunt just recently emailed me a good question about HIV infection. I get asked the most random questions from all directions all the time, and have begun to expect it - i'm afraid i'll be a bit lost when I return home and am no longer the 'expert' anymore, the 'go-to guy', the 'guru'. Oh, and the 'doctor'. I got called that again today, and as I sit here writing in the internet cafe I have a bag full of 4 dollars of produce.

But one of my favorite yet most annoying questions is about HIV infection and tongue kissing, i.e. making out. I was at a school assembly at a nearby secondary school and they asked this, and it was probably the 30th time I've been asked, and I kind of lost it and got really sarcastic. I said something to the effect of this. HEY LOOK. Noone gets HIV by tongue kissing. OK it's true that if you have cuts in your mouth and your girlfriend has cuts in her mouth and blood is coming out and you decide to kiss each other you might get infected, but WHO THE FUCK KISSES PEOPLE when there is blood spilling out of their mouth?!?! Common sense here folks!! The real kicker, and I told them all this, is that people are so paranoid to ask me questions about using razors at the hairdressors or tongue kissing, but they seem PERFECTLY ok having unprotected sex at a rate that would shame even the noblest of rabbits.

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A new cell phone company officially opened up service in my area last week. They did it as any company looking to promote their merchandise around here does - they come with their big open bed semi truck, blast some local music, and have attractive men and women doing amazing and, to me, incomprehensible things with their bodies [mostly their waists and hips]. I have never seen a bigger crowd in Misungwi, and probably wont see the likes of it again. Of course very few who came to watch probably bought a cell phone card, but at least they got some good laughs...

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Time is up - hope to post some more pictures the next time I get a chance, and tell a story about one of my good friends who is, drumroll, an ORPHAN!!! Isn't that exciting and positive? Seriously though, while no OPRAH material he is somehow inspirational and somehow tragic. Will gather my thoughts on this topic before I write, as it is a serious issue here [I would say half of my friends my age, i.e. 25-30, have at least lost 1 if not both parents].

PEACE

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