Friday, August 29, 2008


My friend Hasan is funny. He’s from Sudan and he mistakenly substitutes the wrong word sometimes. One example is below.

Transform for transfer (make sentence sound funny)

He says that Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have the same eating requirements. The same halaal food that he eats, Jews and Christian eat, too. Halaal meat is meat for which the animal’s head was cut cleanly in order to kill it. The animal is not allowed to be dead before cutting off the head; it must die from the head-cutting. And it must be quick and clean so that the blood can spill out and so that it doesn’t cause pain to the animal. He says Jews, Muslims, and Christians all eat the same. I wondered about that. Maybe he means in his part of the world.

He also said that he heard that Christians don’t read the Bible. He asked me and my friend Karl (a masters student in my lab). He said “You know how Muslims read the Q’ran. I heard Christians don’t read the Bible. Is that true?” Karl (perhaps what you call a nominal Christian) said “Yes, that’s true. None of my friends read it.” I laughed.

He asked if a white South African girl in my lab (Helen) was Jewish. She asked why. He said her ears were large (enough to take flight).

Recently he told me about foreign eating practices:

Some Africans are crazy because they eat monkey. “Don’t they have enough cattle or sheep. Are there no goats around?”

Some Asians are crazy because they eat dog. “Dog! Dog. How can you eat dog? They especially eat the fat ones and the small ones!”

The Chinese are crazy because they eat anything. “I had a friend who went there to study. After two months he had to leave because he couldn’t take it. They even eat dogs!”

July 30, 2008

The Africa I am building is an Africa with a golden platter full of many good things of which there is a stream coming out of Africa that will bless the nations of the world. The Africa that I am building has a golden platter in front of it that will never be empty and has the ability not only to feed its own people but to feed the nations of the world.

These are the words that sit at the front of my church. They are beautiful words, inspiring and pushing me, and I am constantly reminded of that as I work here and every time I go to church to worship God. I guess I can actually worship God through the work I do, if you can imagine. To see a “picture” of what my “church” (not the building) looks like, you can check out our new website below. We’re building that golden platter.


Quiz Corrections (Lettuce)

First things first. I have been told that lettuce is sold steamed and with cabbage in the Middle East. Well, if it’s sold with something else it doesn’t count because the question is asking about processing you do to a vegetable before you sell it alone as that vegetable.

Then someone said that lettuce is chopped and sold in salad. This also would not count. The vegetable must be sold as the vegetable. In other words, lettuce would have to be sold as lettuce, with the label lettuce. If it has the label salad, then it doesn’t work as an answer to the question, even if the only component of the salad is lettuce. However, my friend Credell (middle school counselor with an amazing singing voice and mean tennis backhand who keeps in touch with you religiously) said says that she has seen chopped lettuce sold as chopped lettuce. So lettuce would not work. I did not make up this question and that was the answer given for it. A second friend, Mark, also wrote me back to say lettuce is sold chopped and labeled lettuce.

The same friend then wrote me that dweeb came from the 1980’s. Perhaps I said I wasn’t sure when it came into being. I wasn’t exactly sure what question he was answering or if it was just for my knowledge.

Lately when asked where I’m from I say the US. It feels natural, anyway, but the problem is people don’t believe it because of the non-US accent. People who have heard me long enough think I have a strong US accent. So it’s a bit of a mix. A beautiful Mauritian friend of mine who came back to Cape Town from winter vacation introduced me to her Cape Town friend who speaks French. I asked where she was from thinking it was some Francophone country (she’s from South Africa). And then she asked me where I was from. I said the US. She said “No way.” My Mauritian friend, Emilie, said “But you can hear his US accent.” The other girl said no. So finally I said Nigeria and the new girl was happy. To be fair, I probably had a thicker accent during the introduction (comes when you hang around a lot of South Africans in a friendly, joking, loud atmosphere) then when Emilie would hear me in choir rehearsal (some of the choir members asked where did I get my accent from because they didn’t know).

Then some days people think I’m from SA. I was in one of those friendly, joking, loud places—a birthday party a week ago at a restaurant/bar called Faurries (I don’t know how to spell it). And I was asked by a South African where in South Africa I come from.


We have a new dog. I’m not in to dogs; I’ve never had any pets. And I have had bad experiences with dogs in which neighbors guard dogs accidentally get loose, but that’s another story. Strangely enough, our house is a very small space, one not suitable for a dog that needs space. But Anna and Radesh got one—a border collie. Someone told me it’s the type of dog that needs lots of space and is used for sheep herding (shepherding). I don’t know if that’s true because I don’t know dogs. But it did seem strange to me that Radesh (who came up with positive reasons to get the border collie based on it being the “most” intelligent breed of dog) did not know this about space. So we’ll see. Right now it’s small, 7.5 weeks, and has urinated in the house. It just got it’s shots today (Tuesday, the 29th).

Other than that, Anna’s mother is still visiting. They both went to Joburg with Radesh to visit his family. And Ryan’s girlfriend may have gone back to Port Elisabeth for studying. I’m not sure, but I haven’t seen her for a few days.

Now, today (Tuesday, August 12, 2008) Anna’s mother has left. But I wasn’t able to clean the kitchen (it was my week) due to all the stuff in the house. I had a conversation with someone in the house saying how it’s difficult for this person to clean because of all the stuff left out or in the way or left in the sink. So it becomes a bit of a large question as to what do you clean in the kitchen on your turn when people have left messes. Is that part of your job?

When my friend Autumn visited for a few days, she couldn’t take a shower the first time because of painting going on in the bathroom. I had hoped it would only be one day to minimize the wait time. So her second day (Saturday the 2nd), I had to take her to Melissa’s house to bathe so she could be clean. I went three days (Wed night to Saturday night) before bathing again. Then rules were finally put up on the door of the bathroom allowing only short showers after first testing the paint and removing all soap/shower toiletries from the tub area. So as you can guess, it’s been interesting. We were asked to pay more for electricity and water because everyone had guests. Anna’s mother was visiting. Ryan’s girlfriend visited for two weeks, and I had Rachael, Lindsay, Kate, Haley, and Autumn at different times.


Whew! After Adrianne (Audri) left, I had a week and then Kate, Rachel, and Lindsay arrived. I cannot say enough about these three teachers who I admire. They teach at YES Prep in Houston and are really giving of themselves to input into the lives of these kids and build them up. In the process they are being built up though that’s not their motive.

What amazes me is that (most likely for all three of them) they will not end up in teaching as a final career (or at least it won’t be their only career because two of them might do it combined with another passion), and yet they are willing to take some time to truly and really give. It’s hard not to enjoy such meaningful work even when you don’t enjoy it, if you can understand the paradox that defines them. They are hard workers and they were just in town for a break.

Their break amazes me, too, (sorry in constant amazement) because these three with Haley have some weird kind of symbiotic love for each other, a love so strong that those three get up and travel to Haley wherever she is. During Haley’s first year from YES in 2007 at the University of Denver, the girls went up there to go mountain slaloming with moose. And then they met again to come out all the way to South Africa to hang with Haley. Now, people say that they have seen me and came out to see, but let me be honest: no one that I have seen in South Africa came to South Africa because I was here or came for the sole or main purpose of seeing me. This has happened for Haley time and time again. And let me say, if you can put yourself in a position where you have and can experience love like that, do it, because it is a wonderful thing. My guess is that they probably receive from her as much as they give to her. But it is a definite blessing to give of your time and presence, to travel here just to be. It’s beautiful.

So Kate (very passionate fireball whose connection with kids has grown and grown), Rachael (a natural born counselor blessed with many options growing in strength and courage every time I see her) and Lindsay (also a counselor with an amazing ability to listen and through that gain and give wisdom beyond her realization) came into town. They stayed with me for a few days and braved the Cape Town winter which tamed itself for them. But they received hot water bottles and extra bedding to keep them warm. Haley came into town to pick them up as well (she came in from Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC). Both Haley and KateLindsayRachael missed flights to bring them to Cape Town so I went home the first day with no one. The next day (the 17th of July Thursday) they both came in. Yayy! And the adventures began.

Unluckily for them Table Mountain Cable Way was closed. But they were still able to do a lot – Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island, the Penguin Colony, etc. Haley left Sunday to get back Monday to turn in a paper which the girls graciously gave time between Thursday and Saturday for Haley to write. And the girls stayed with me one more night before renting a car to take along the beautiful Garden Route (a coastal interstate with similarities to Route 66 in the U.S.A.) They went to Stellenbosch and did wine and cheese tour (Stellenbosch is Cape Town’s suburb full of vineyards that grow well here due to the “Mediterranean” climate, then to do whale watching in Hermanus, and then on to Wilderness (I think; city on Garden Route) and Knysna (voted best city to live in South Africa for multiple years). They drove all the way to Haley in Grahamstown after seeing an elephant park. Then all the girls hung out with her and went to some of Haley’s service projects like a home for the elderly (most Xhosa people) and a township school. Then they went deeper into the Eastern Cape (Haley’s Territory/Province/State) and stayed at a hostel while mountain biking, sleeping under the stars, and discussing boys like giddy schoolgirls. I think they did some other stuff but my head was stuck in thinning arteries (read later). PLUS I had a birthday to plan.

Before that, while the girls were gone, a high school friend of mine arrived—Autumn. Autumn has a special personality that is guarded if she doesn’t know you well but is pure theatre. She is an actress (a good one) and was accepted in a masters program in drama therapy at NYU!!!! I was so excited when I heard. She had a year’s fellowship with the Alley Theatre Company in Houston where she discovered drama therapy working with kids. And now she’s going to use drama to help people! The fellowship includes travel money which brought here to check out South African arts and drama therapists. She had an excellent time hanging out. She was just a bit cold and a bit sick. But she used the heating fan and the hot water bottle the first night. There after she just used the heater. But we had a good time. And she accompanied me on Saturday (Aug 1) morning to kick of my new tutoring program with kids from two townships, even though it was my birthday. My birthday!

This year I decided to celebrate my birthday on August 2nd. [My mother reminded me of this decision with a wake-up call at 5 in the morning my time (she was in Trinidad). Thanks, Mom! Thanks also to my dad and sister for trying to reach me though I was out most of the day.]

The thing is this: some Americans and a lot of South Africans kept asking me what am I going to do for my birthday. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I never do anything. I come from a culture where even if you don’t do anything, people do things for you. They ask “What would you like to do for your birthday?” That’s the question. They are asking because they are going to make it happen. Even if they do ask what you are doing, they are asking to participate. The people here were not doing that; they were asking just to find out and then think “that’s nice” and then change the subject to more important matters. Just to have something to say, I decided to just have a Latin dinner with a live band. So Autumn and I searched at four places. The nice thing about our search is that I now know all the places to go for salsa music during Thur-Sun and whether it’s live music or someone playing CD’s. Autumn and I chose the best place, and I called a few friends who were asking what I was going to do so that they could participate. I told Autumn the hats the waiters wear are cool. She asked about purchasing it and the waiter laughed in our faces. I wanted to wipe my face but refrained from communicating that his saliva was blocking my view of his faith. He sais it was too expensive, but that he could arrange a hat for me. “We’ll make a plan,” he said.

And a plan he did make. When we arrive he had a hat for me, and I was dressed Cuban style similar to the male waiter. Everyone came—Jeannie, Craig, Monique, Melissa, Ross, Takalani, Autumn, Anna, and myself. But then during the dinner before we ordered drinks, Haley, Kate, Lindsay, Rachael—all walk in!! What a surprise! I told Haley on the phone that I was going to cry myself to sleep [ people were worried that I was having my birthday in another country]. You see, I expected Kate, Lindsay, and Rachael to arrive back in Cape Town to fly out to the States in another week. I even felt immediately bad thinking they cut their vacation short to come and surprise me.

It was SOO amazing. And that’s not it. Melissa and Monique gave me a card and a huge embarrassing button to wear that lets everyone know I chose to celebrate my day that day. But their card was so touching saying something about how I don’t know how I’m touching people around me. It was nice and meant the world.

Haley gave me a card that said something ever-precious. And then she and Jeannie gave me a small gift box. I was SOOO super excited because I thought I was going to have my first proposal. I’ve been waiting so long for a woman to step up; it can make a man feel a bit insecure. Well, I shook and though it felt like cubic zirconium I was happy. I mean they didn’t support the black diamond trade. I open it and it’s a guitar pick. ImMEdiately I knew what that meant. And I just kept thinking “no, no.” You see I was even shopping that day for guitars at the Waterfront. I really liked these electric guitar “township” guitars made from Castrol Oil cans for the guitar body. Well, they commenced to take out a HARD-body case of a steel-string acoustic-electric guitar with spruce wood top and graphic equalizer. I mean these girls were not playing around. It’s a pretty guitar! But the reason I loved Haley and Jeannie’s gift (thank you Jeannie and Haley) is because they give gifts in line with my heart. I love when people do that, when they know me enough to give a gift like that. I’ve been starving here spiritually (musically) because I have no instrument at home, so I’ve been saving for a guitar but wasn’t sure yet because of some US bills to pay back home. And then, in my misery (understand that in the US unless my father has locked the piano) I play and/or write each day. It’s just part of living, part of my day. So it’s been difficult. The university doesn’t give access to the building to non-music students at night. So I can only go during the day. So the gift was huge and made me emotional . . .and almost cry (just for the pictures).

Then dinner started and it was wonderful. There was a guy singing Frank Sinatra tunes ruining the Cuban vibe and salsa music played during his breaks. He gave me this kind of pink angel feathers or cabaret singer feathers to wear. And he kept referring to me and singing to me(?) during his songs. He needed me as much as I needed him.

I danced with Haley and Monique. It was funny. Haley is good at following especially when we make up a type of step to go with the music. It was a good night. Afterwards we went to the beach to a place with salsa music allegedly. It had a private party with 80’s music or something so we just went to a cafĂ© and went home.

Kate, Lindsay, and Rachael left Monday. Then Autumn left Tuesday morning, and Haley left Tuesday evening. Before leaving, I took her to Bo Kaap a Muslim community with colorful houses, amazing views, and sloped streets as it sits on the slopes of Signal Hill. It was glorious. I wanted her to meet the 8 people doing the communal living (Shane Claiborne-Simple Way style) in Bo Kaap.

Autumn had an AMAZING time. She was overjoyed and just happy to have a friend here to show her around. I wish I was there in Joburg to show her around there. She is part of a program called couch surfers. If you’re interested and must travel and want a couch to sleep on, check out the website:

When the girls left they left me a card, the contents of which are unknowable. No, it was just so special. They were very appreciative, grateful, humble, and expressively touching with their words. Great girls. The card is beautiful and sits in my office. It speaks of friends coming together as they cook and share food from a pot. And I feel they were saying we are friends. THEN they bought me a Michael Buble CD. I really enjoy it. It’s nice. I was looking for Mrs. Jones. But I think he must have two albums out because it’s not on there, but it’s good. His team (A&R, producer, himself, etc.) picks out great songs for his album, great songs. They are good for ballroom dancing as well. And they left a whole lot of money for these parts, especially as they wouldn’t take my American change and loose dollar bills. Strange, but their gift was nice and accepted. They were an honest joy to have.


We just had the XVIIth International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, and I feel I should say a bit about it. Many are excited because the number of AIDS deaths is down by 200,000 from 2.2 million in 2005 to 2 million in 2007. And this is big news. As a statistician, though, I am trained to be wary of such figures without looking at lurking variables and correlated variables (world population, HIV prevalence rate, infection rate, AIDS population, etc.). But as of today we still face many challenges.

It looks as if we won’t make the 2010 deadline of having all person with AIDS on ARV’s. In fact, here in Sub-Saharan Africa and even just in South Africa we still have a greater number of new infections per day than the number of new ARV treatments initiated per day. The second problem is both the cure and the vaccine. Someone the other day asked me if we were close. I put it like this to her: if close means eliminating possibilities (assuming there are 200 things to try and we tried 138 of them), then yes; if close means actually one step away from making the vaccine work or finding the cure, then no. I told you about the trials that we were doing at UCT (I was not a part of it) in earlier updates last year. Nothing good to report. Even with microbicide trials in the final stages—we have got nothing. The Economist reports that three microbicide trials, two genital herpes-suppression trials, and one diaphragm trial have all failed (genital herpes is a means of increased risk of contracting HIV and you may know what a diaphragm is).

The Economist goes on that there are currently three options people are looking to explore: giving ARV’s to people as microbicide (kind of like using it as contraception

Because ARV’s tend to concentrate in the vaginal tissue), giving ARV’s to uninfected people as prevention, and increase treatment in those infected since treatment lowers the viral load and the infectiousness.

There really are so many issues going on with this and I’ve realized how important the social scientists are in the fight who reveal our attitudes, the politicization, the biases—all social aspects of this. It’s important because since cures and vaccines seem very far off we need to change our attitudes and behaviors in order to fight this thing. Doctors without Borders list as their biggest issues today

A shortage of healthcare workers (big here in South Africa-BHSA)

HIV-TB co-infection (BHSA)

Access to needed drugs and diagnostics (BHSA)

Program indicators of quality and continuity of care (not sure about this one)

Pediatric care and prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (BHSA)

And I’m sure the 4th one is big here in South Africa, too, and I just don’t know. I have a friend named Elisa who is in a continual process of discovering herself which I appreciate. She plans to work on the 4th problem in Kenya volunteering for a year to help build up their health information systems to better aid the fight and epidemiology especially for our most affected populations.

I’ve another friend named Suzanna who encapsulates passion. Suzanna is a medical student at Baylor who took a few months and did AIDS research in Switzerland learning about biostatistics and public health (something I recommend for all good doctors or aspiring doctors). She actually went and presented her work at the conference in Mexico City!! I am so proud of her especially because she used words like sero-discordant and meta-analysis and cohort. Here is a link to her talk, followed by a link to other talks (they include video).

The Africa that I am building has a golden platter in front of it that will never be empty and has the ability not only to feed its own people but to feed the nations of the world.


Before I leave you I have two AIDS-related announcements. Tomorrow on Wednesday, August 13, 2008, assuming I pass my counseling mock-session, I will be certified as an HIV/AIDS counselor and will later work on my crisis pregnancy counseling certification. Yayyy!!!! Wish me well. It’s been a long time. The class dragged on since April because it was only once a week and no weekends. So now I get my Wednesdays back at work.

Secondly, I have e-mailed people to get 2D image slices of the HIV virion (particle) so I can reconstruct a 3D image to do work on. We’ll see. You know how e-mailing people for help on research goes (you may remember my pleas earlier last year that just ended up with me working on my own anyway; isn’t it strange that when you have someone who is willing to volunteer and work there is no one willing to give the opportunity or you can’t find the person who is).

Lastly, in South Africa as you know, you never have to pay for two things: a condom and an HIV blood test. This week is our semesterly week when they offer free tests. I’ll be getting tested so I can encourage younger people. Sometimes I don’t know why though. One friend, Ross, says that he wonders about getting tested because it gives his students (he’s a teacher) the impression that he is sexually active. Ross is a person that believes in saving sex for marriage and since he is doing that knows he is not at risk. Simultaneously we are truly trying to build an HIV-free society and raise an HIV-free generation. And to do that we must cultivate a culture of testing around the entire country. It’s imperative. Again, wish me well! Though I don’t need it; I don’t like having my finger pricked, though. Ouch!


The Africa that I am building has a golden platter in front of it that will never be empty and has the ability not only to feed its own people but to feed the nations of the world.


HAPPY Women’s Day and Women’s Month!!!! (Aug 9 and the month of August)

Last Saturday was Women’s Day, and the entire month of August is Women’s Month. These are both important due to strong place that gender roles hold. For me, specifically, I have been looking at its effect on AIDS. Men don’t feel like men wearing a condom, they need flesh on flesh; men don’t feel like men when the women tell them to wear one. Men feel a lack of trust when asked to wear one. It’s ok for men to have multiple partners but it’s not ok for women. A man is like an axe, he is meant to borrowed (Botswana). Your boyfriend doesn’t love you if he doesn’t beat you. Etc. I could go on.

Female condoms were supposed to empower wives and women whose husbands/partners have the virus but they are large and noticeable. Microbicides were supposed to help with this but they have not yet been approved for use.

So these things are touch. Women (young women are especially vulnerable to HIV) need to be empowered in so many ways. I just talked about a few of the troubles related to HIV and gender. So I welcome Women’s Day and Women’s Month and was saddened that I was not able to speak (Ross and I talk to women about their concerns, issues, and problems; Herma, a woman who works at the church wanted me to speak at the women’s tea. Most girls at Jubilee (my church) laugh at this and start saying “Why would I want a man to speak to me about women’s issues or speak at my women’s conference?” I just say “But when you hear us speak, women change their mind because (I start snapping in rhythmic way) we just start speaking truth and something stirs in the heart of a woman.” We all laugh at this. But Herma really didn’t schedule me for the Women’s meeting last weekend. So maybe the next Women’s Tea.

Anyway, there is a phrase here in South Africa:

Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo!

you strike a woman, you strike a rock

When I first heard this I didn’t know it was an actual slogan or renowned phrase. Well in 1956 on August 9, women in Pretoria marched to the Union Buildings to leave petitions with over 100,000 signatures protesting an amendment to the pass laws (the laws that required that people carried a pass [similar to your passport in size] stating where you could go and where you couldn’t go in the country and province) of 1950. Those 20,000 marching women stood silently for 30 minutes and sang a protest song: Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo!. Since then it has stuck, and Women’s Day commemoration started in 1994 with the end of apartheid.

I was busy working on blood flow problems in human arteries that suffer from thinning instead of out celebrating. Normally in your home country you may not worry about but because I’m here temporarily I try to go out and do all the national events and talks because I may not have another chance and I love to discover and learn about the people here.

In other news, Jacob Zuma, the president of the ANC (strongest party, the liberation party) is now closer to prosecution. You may remember when I arrived the NPA (like the DA or actually like the Attorney General’s office) was working on the case against him to charge him. Well they have finished. And if he is convicted he may not be able to serve as president. The election is next year in April, and South African politics and governance is in shambles, honestly. Just to brief you quickly, Zuma was relieved of his duties as Deputy Vice President by President Mbeki in 2005 amid corruption allegations against Zuma. You see, Shabir Shaik, Zuma’s friend and financial advisor, was tried and convicted of corruption and fraud (bribery) due to extraneous spending on Zuma’s estate, a Durban waterfront development, and the purchase of German-made South African naval surface ships (this is the big one). The problem is that if Shaik is guilty, there’s a high chance that Zuma was, too. I’m only speaking of probabilities. Zuma was already being investigated before this but the case was dropped due to insufficient evidence. Zuma was a key person mentioned in Shaik’s trial and he was implicated. After Shaik was sentenced to prison for 15 years starting at the end of 2006), the judge commented about the relationship between Zuma and Shaik. The NPA ten went on to pursue this but the case was dropped from the list when the prosecution applied for postponement (I’ve read them claiming that Zuma has not been forthcoming with material. Ha!). Well, they’ve finally got their case together and charged him. In the past two years, though, Zuma has tried to get a permanent stay on the proceedings so he could never be tried. This failed. And now, today, after being formally charged, Zuma and his lawyers are trying to get the courts to throw out the charges or case. He had over 3,000 people/supporters outside the courts as he attended court to ask for the dismissal of charges. He appears to have a majority of the country behind him as poor people, war veterans, apartheid sufferers, and ANC members. I think the strategy is to keep challenging and appealing to delay court proceedings until after the election which he would probably win. This would give him much more power.

Now the president Mbeki himself has been implicated (not yet charged) in the arms deal of which Zuma was supposed to be a part. The media is reporting that someone has gotten hold of documents showing Mbeki received R30 million from a German company, Ferrostaal. Imagine if Mbeki pushes legislation through to protect a sitting president. Well Zuma could then use that to his advantage when he becomes president (conjecture but it’s probable).

The politics here are a mess. Corruption is a huge issue. And now the ANC has succeeded in disbanding the Scorpions who were investigating corruption among ANC leaders to name some of their high profile cases.

Other than that, SA is

Looking at ways to improve the status of women and empower them

Confused about whether white women should fall under Affirmative Action

Discussing price-fixing as some want to outlaw it

Discussing the Zim crisis

Bemoaning high food and fuel prices and energy shortages

Lamenting that as of today (Wednesday, August 13, 2008) there are no SA Olympic


And that reminds me. We only watch highlight reels here. It’s like someone edits out commercials and any dead/wait time. And they cut out the waiting periods between different athletes. After the last person competes, it cuts straight to the medal ceremony which only shows them standing with the medals and then moves on. So we are not watching the actual event in real time. It’s much shorter as it switches from highlight clip to highlight clip (we have only 4 regular channels nationwide—3 are governmental). If you have M-Net (5th pay channel) or satellite TV you may watch more of it on your own time.

People are complaining here because of the lack of even one medal. And so they asked (at least the news has) the South African Olympic team heads what the problem is. The coaches and heads of the South African team blame the lack of medals on a lack of government support and interest. They say the government has politicized sports and you cannot do that and expect to win. The athletes and their concerns and needs must be first. I wonder why this didn’t come up before the Olympics.

The traveling of the Olympic athletes from around the world reminds me of a couple that traveled here. Did I ever tell you the story about the couple who came to visit a friend in Cape Town. This friend was one of the speakers for my AIDS course. The couple was told by everyone NOT to go to SA because they would get raped, carjacked, and get AIDS. It wasn’t safe. They were unsure themselves. In the end, they decided to try it. They came, and the speaker showed them ALL of Cape Town. They saw the poor parts, the townships, the Cape Flats. They were able to volunteer and do health work with the people. They developed a heart for the people. They took in the totality (if possible) of Cape Town and decided that they liked it. They would love to come back. They were sad to leave. But, alas! It was time to go and they traveled back. Their hearts touched by HIV and AIDS in Africa as much as it was, they decided to go give blood (after returning back in the US). Well, the nurse asked a serious of questions. One of them was something like this.

Have you been to sub-Saharan Africa?

Uhhh, yes.


South Africa

I’m sorry.

What do you mean?

I’m sorry. We don’t want your blood.

Oh, no, you’re mistaken. We did not engage in any risky behavior or have sex or use needles for drugs or anything like that.

It doesn’t matter. We do not take blood from anyone who has been anywhere in South Africa in the past year. [maybe she said 6 months, I don’t remember]


Lastly, you remember the horrific xenophobic attacks that started 3 months ago. Well, the situation is trying to come to a close. The government plans on closing the temporary refugee shelters in Johannesburg. Some of the refugees (foreign nationals who were in-country refugees running from xenophobic attacks regardless of if they were already refugees from outside countries) had went back to their country. Some have moved into the city. Others have resettled back home (in the townships from where they ran). I don’t have number or statistics on percentages. But many are still not comfortable going back home, and they want the government to do something about. The government claims it is doing something or has been. But people feel it is too soon as many do not yet feel comfortable. Particularly troubling is the strong anti-refugee anti-foreigner sentiment endemic here. It’s something we must address—no resolve, replace. . .with love.


The refugee situation is particularly bothersome to me because history repeats itself, and we must learn from the past. When you don’t treat refugees in your country well, you not only mistreat humanity (for we are all human), but you set yourself up for future clashes with those same people. Can we look at a case study?


[Many people are confused about if the Hutus and Tutsis are actually different groups or if they were artificial. The Belgians definitely did measure skull sizes and facial features in order to classify Rwandans as belonging to one group or the other but that was just added categorization on two already existing groups. My guess is that it put mixed people in one or the other category and miscategorized some as well. Tutsis were taller, lighter, and more “European-looking” but those, again, are tendencies.

Ok, I’m going to skip all of details in the history just to focus on the refugee part.]

The Hutus arrived in the area of Rwanda first. The Tutsis were people who came down into Rwanda from Lower Nile (lower meaning lower in elevation but more north) or Ethiopia. By the 15th century they had organized themselves into states. Fast forward again into modern times—well, the 19th century before all the world wars. There was a Tutsi king called a Mwami under whom were Tutsi officials and chiefs. But due to intermarriage, there was relative peace between Hutus and Tutsis.

After the turn of the century (or 1897) German colonists favored Tutsis because they were taller, lighter, assumed to be of Hamitic (you remember Ham, one of Noah’s three sons) descent, etc. They put them in charge (governmentally, administratively) over Hutus. After WWI (Germany lost), Belgium took over and reinforced Tutsi rule increasing the economic/identity/social divide between Hutus and Tutsis. It was the Belgian that did the head/face measuring you saw in “Hotel Rwanda” in the 1920’s.

WWII came, and some reforms were made by the Belgian which some Tutsis saw as a threat to their rule. Regardless the Tutsi king (Charles) in 1940’s abolished the feudal system and started distributing land as the Hutus began to develop a consciousness movement.

Anyway there was more land distribution to all in 1954 which led to his assassination in 1959. The Hutus then revolted against his son King Kigeri V and he was overthrown. He fled to Uganda and Tutsis were killed by the tens of thousands (20,000-100,000). And there were 150,000 Tutsi refugees in nearby countries. This is where I pause.

At this point, if the Tutsis were treated well and welcomed, embraced, and loved in their new countries of residence, it is quite possible that the Rwandan genocide of ’94 would have been avoided. Instead they were not treated well just as the refugees in South Africa are not treated well. And guess what refugees (and really 90% of non-white foreign nationals) tell me, “I can’t wait to get out of here.” “I want to leave as soon as possible.” Instead of finding a home, a family, a community, the hate and resentment against people in your own country is fueled by the hate you receive in this new country and instead of healing and forgetting you plan your return to Rwanda. You plan your payback. You plan your revenge. Hate begets hate, and with the hate you receive in a new place, you grow and nurture your hate.

After the Belgian encouraged the overthrow, independence was declared in 1962 and the few Tutsis remaining were excluded from power. The new president used ethnic ID cards to discourage mixed marriages (BAD IDEA). He was overthrown and there was military rule fro 1973 to 1990. The whole time both groups are holding on to memories of killings or domination in the past. Watch this.

The Tutsis in exile (mostly in Uganda) invade to resolve issues of now half million Tutsi refugees who have been waiting on unfulfilled promises of reintegration. Hutus took this as an ethnic attempt for power. Then in 1994, the president (and the Burundian president) was shot down in a plane. And the Hutus began the genocide we know today. That genocide as well as the past ones were all fueled by what? Fueled by offenses, yes, but they weren’t quenched due to the lack of healing. And neighboring countries like Uganda could have played a part in that. Remember, why were the Tutsis complaining? Their conditions as refugees stunk. They wanted a better life and they did not find it where they were.

Notice that I mentioned mixed marriages. Can I say something briefly on that? When Zambia gained independence in 1964, Kaunda became the first president. He was not perfect but I would like to say that the lack of any strong current of tribalism is quite a wonderful thing. What was the main tool he used? Marriage. He encouraged intermarriages, mixed marriages. He repeated we are one country, one people. He tried to rid the country of tribalism. When appointing governors or officers over the country he made Man from Ethnic Group 1 (EG1) governor over people from Ethnic Group 2 (EG2) in another region. He mixed cabinet members having representatives from all tribes (I know that this acknowledges tribes but perhaps he was trying to start somewhere). He mixed things up. And I think this helped.

(Info from Wikipedia and Zambian friend)


I don’t want to write too much as this is already quite lengthy and you’ve seen the news. I’ll just say that the negotiations did not end by the two week deadline a week and a half ago. And now in the 4th week, they are still working on it though Mbeki reports that they are closer. News reports speculate that the hang up is the concession of power or the splitting of power between the two men. I don’t think it’s speculation; it’s an educated guess. I know Mugabe doesn’t want a purely ceremonial role so there must be some power sharing between the prime minister and president if Mbeki wants to get a compromise to go through.

We mourn what is happening in Georgia and what has happened between Georgia and Russia two very closely related peoples. My mother and father have both traveled to Georgia, my father multiple times. They are short-term missionaries with a heart for people all over the world. They both speak multiple languages (at least 4). Valerie, my dear multilingual international worker (foreign service expert) used to work in Georgia and speaks Georgian having served as an international observer of their last elections. So I have a few indirect ties there. And I can tell you in Africa we know the story going on between the Georgians and the Russians. It is an old story. And we had hoped such stories would end. But they continue.


The Africa that I am building has a golden platter in front of it that will never be empty and has the ability not only to feed its own people but to feed the nations of the world.

I finished a deadline of trying to finish modeling blood flow in arteries of patients with thinning arteries. And you can see how I like to frame the work for myself. I like to imagine myself helping people though I know full-well, I work in an environment that does not care about applying the work to people to help them. So I just tell myself and others “it’s for patients,” “it’s for patients,” and hopefully I will find a way to make it so. I’m trying to get a electron micrograph (really small) images of an HIV virion because I don’t have medical laboratory equipment because I’m working on my own with HIV research. And I need to get moving on that one regardless if the grant comes through or not. I’ve e-mailed people trying to get access to those lab images. So we’ll see.

So I will have results for the blood flow problem soon. In the meantime I wanted to share with you about some of the “exciting” research that went on at UCT this past year in 2007. The 2007 report just came in. As I was listing some things, I realized that many may not be comprehensible outside the field, so I simplified some of them.

*Measuring the environmental impact of sugar production in South Africa

Vegetation dynamics

*Age-distribution theory in Polymer research

*Gel Fuel Research—using ethanol gel in fuels for cooking in low-income homes (energy alternatives)

How international competition boosts SA car industry

**The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa

How academic staff learn to judge student performance

A National Benchmark Tests Project to see how new national curriculum prepares

students for university (esp. entry-level academic and quantitative literacy)

Research on use of information and communication technologies in transformation

A group found evidence of plate tectonic movement in Greenland dating back to 3.8

billion years ago (before known structural geological records of Earth)

Genes for Africa: Genetically Modified Crops in the Developing World (trying to

alleviate hunger

New set of tools to classify all the world’s land plants

First trial of genetically modified (GM) crop [they will test a GM corn carrying mutated

form of the maize streak virus; the plant has resisted infection consistently]

Population Dynamics and conservation of the African Black Oystercatcher

Mapping distribution of butterfly species across Southern Africa and finding challenges

over next 4 years

*Seaweed growth rates in “integrated aquaculture”

The Archaeology of the Coastal Desert of Namaqualand, South Africa: A regional

Synthesis – book

Digitizing Plant collections so people can see them online

Shelters for silvermine fynbos (plant from which you get redbush and honeybush tea in

the states) – checking how fynbos react to drought

New estimation system to clean up the data on exploding stars

***Freedom of association and trade unionism in South Africa: From apartheid to the democratic constitutional order

***Experiencing the Armed Struggle: The Soweto generation and after – about current

difficulty of life for those in the military wings of the ANC or PAC before the end

of apartheid

*Race, Body, and Language in Shakespeares’s Sonnets and Plays - Shakespeare’s

assumed take on the racial politics of his time

Our Director of the Fine Art School won a Doctorate of Literature from UCT for her

lifetime contribution to scholarly publications especially on the visual as a “site of

interpretation” raising questions on the relationship of text to image and object,

the definition of a book, and the potential of “knowing through making.”\

Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Working through Trauma – joint work by a lit

prof and a psych prof to offer victims of trauma hope for a new life

Uncommon Etudes from Common Scales – jazz professor’s book

Process and outcome evaluation of a school-based HIV/AIDS prevention intervention in

Cape Town high schools

Oral vaccines for HIV and other diseases due to the tendency of saliva to protect you

The South African Child Gauge 2006 – maps poverty in children

***Polyclonal antibodies that could be clinical markers for gastric diseases

Hidden Costs of Lung Disease on Miners

New Insights on key proteins in fungal infections

Knowledge Translation Unit at UCT’s Lung Institute working to teach nurses more (diagnosis/treatment of respiratory diseases) due to lack of doctors

Popular Hairstyles might cause hair loss – talks about how braiding and corn rows can

lead to permanent hair loss; also found that very short hair cuts made men more

prone to developing acne on scalp

Paediatric Trauma & Child Abuse

Study that shows exercise (at least in rats) could decrease motor function impairment in

fight against Parkinson’s

***Saliva prevents HIV transmission – study shows mucous glycoproteins (called

mucins) can block HIV-1 activity. The inhibition of HIV-1 activity by crude

mucus and purified mucin from saliva, breast mile, and the cervical tract of

normal subjects, HIV-positive individuals and patients with HIV-AIDS confirms

the suspicion that a macromolecular component in saliva traps the HIV virus

completely, making transmission impossible


*an award

**a Book that won an award


Lastly, I just wanted to let you know I’ve finally finished modeling the blood flow through thinning arteries. I will be performing some experiments to see how it looks and works and to see if the flow is acting like blood or incorrectly like some other less viscous fluid like water. It took awhile and some weekends working, but we’re moving. Maybe I can present the work at a biomedical or bioengineering conference. We shall see.

Incidentally, in the area of computational mechanics (the very very broad subfocus [speaking paradoxically] I mainly work in here), we are having the first truly international conference in Sun City (some fake city—resort city in SA that a lot of international musician/performers boycotted during apartheid). My supervisor doesn’t have the money to send the entire research group to the conference as he has done for past Cape Town conferences, so he e-mailed me asking what I would present so he could decide. I didn’t like having to motivate why I should be chosen (I’m currently his only post-doc, the rest are PhD students, masters students, and 1 guy who is both a research officer and a PhD student which just means he makes more than me, a postdoc; oh he does have two lecturers as well). I didn’t like it all. So I told him what I would/could present but that he is free to take a younger student or someone he feels would get more out of it, that it didn’t matter that much to me. Well, that’s what he did. He has been unfairly upset at the slow movement on the artery project and disappointed (I had to stop TAing this semester), so I think he wants me to stay and do more work. He said that I could submit to another conference (biomedical) when the work was more mature. So we’ll see. One of his masters students told me she doesn’t know why she is going because she doesn’t have anything to present.

Starting next month, I’ll hit the job trail again. My (and my friend’s) application is in with NASA as I plan to apply every two years for the astronaut position until I get it. This would take me back to Houston for sure. I wouldn’t mind working for NASA as an engineer either. I think their work is rather cool. I wonder if I would feel like that after working day-in day-out for them. It’s nice not to have a desk job. One thing I will definitely be looking at more is international development jobs. And, unlike this year, regardless of whether I get something or not, I will still move on as this current position is a max two year fellowship/appointment.


The Africa that I am building has a golden platter in front of it that will never be empty and has the ability not only to feed its own people but to feed the nations of the world.

Because this is getting too long, I’ll mention this next time. No I’ll go ahead and mention it now, but I’ll be short. Different guests and friends have come through town at one time or another. And I remember one saying something that sounded offensive (though he did not mean it as such). He said that the people are very luck to have benefitted from the development brought by the Europeans who both came and stayed in the country through today. Being one who is studying African history, I’ve had to relearn or correctly learn about the amazing civil and civic potentials of African societies and nation-states past and the truth of the history of this continent. And being someone who works in development whenever I can, I began to question what is development.

Sometimes I feel like development means Western-style sociotechnological advances. The problem is that you can actually be “advanced” without having such technological advances. And it’s not a question of stupidity or inferiority but one of choice if that makes sense or even comfort (lack of necessity). Even today we have some tribes that still live a Stone Age type of existence in the Kalahari, for instance (pygmies). It has nothing to do with intellect.

And when you study African history from the Iron Age on (500 BC - ), even before you arrive in the “middle ages” you come across great civilizations—the Egyptian civilizations (north, south, the unified kingdom, etc.), Ancient Ghana (Ghana is a Soninke word for “war chief” and the Ancient Ghanaian empire reached its peak at the same time as the Franks were growing their empire in Europe) and Kanem-Bornu (Idris Alooma was the most “successful” West African monarch of his day, a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I, and having diplomats in Cairo and Tripoli while exchanging gifts with the Ottoman empire), Ancient Mali (rose to power after Ghana) and Songhay, etc. Egypt tops the list and in previous e-mail updates you’ve seen me talk about how Egypt was a truly African venture that would not have existed without its African-ness or African base though there was outside Arabic influence.

It’s definitely true that parts of Africa developed differently due to various factors (Check out Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”) like the plough which developed in the north as early as the 4000 BC (around then) but whose development in the south and central was troubled by the tsetse fly pest which has been around since earliest human habitation. So, as Professor Basil Davidson says, if mining materials proved useful to some parts of Africa, other parts had no such opportunity, and if kings and monarchies proved advantageous to some, it was useless to other societies.

So in the Iron Age period on, some Africans accumulated wealth especially due to position along desired trade routes (for instance with the high demand for West African gold and North African salt; that’s a good potential for trade just with those two commodities placed in different locations not to mention international trade routes). But for others it was undesirable or impossible.

The Dinka are an example. Some would have labeled them primitive (“undeveloped”). They lived in the Upper Nile where south of them were swamp wastelands of the early Nile and to the north dry, thirsty land called Kordofan. They themselves lived in plains of grasslands and forests that were flooded yearly by river and rain. So permanent homes could only be housed on little pieces of higher ground here and there. There’s no t—well little timber, no stone, no minerals (or lets say nothing of worth). Davidson notes Lienhardt as saying that “these people produce nothing of importance that lasts past their lifetime. One generation, by its labor, does not lay up a foundation for the next generation, that must then again take up the same work by the same process to make food with the same lack of materials under the same cruel environment with nothing changing” (my paraphrase). So as is common in inherently racist histories (thankfully have been rewritten) of Africa, these people were regarded as retarded or stunted in growth, little children who never grew. But we now know that the only way that people “living in nudity on the brink of starvation every year, manufacturing nothing that endures, and accumulating for inheritance only a few cattle and a few tools and ornaments” are actually an advanced people. It takes a lot to adapt to such harsh living circumstances without being wiped out as a people. It is an achievement in itself.

Even subconsciously attaching a notion of size in the definition of development is questionable. The size of a polity or administration does not relate to its efficacy or its ability to adhere a people and govern well. The village governments of Igbo in Nigeria showed great efficiency and economic adaptation and ideological identity. And a lot of the change and momentum in African development has started in the small groupings and small governments and small villages. It was the small villages that connected and solidified the duties of the individual with the rights of the community and “produced the specific forms of African egalitarian democracy.”



It’s a sweet nice film. It’s only rated PG and it’s a love story in some sense. I recommend it but don’t go if you want big splashes or big finishes or riveting plots. It’s a story about people and the choice for optimism or pessimism.