Monday, March 24, 2008

UPDATE - March 21, 2008


March 21, 2008

Hi! This is Victor.

UPDATE

Today is Good Friday but was also Human Rights Day. So South Africans were confused: Should I be an activist or a Christian? Can I be an Christian activist? Apparently Good Friday and Easter Monday are public Holidays, but this year both days are double public holidays. Easter Monday is also Family Day (this might be normal here, not sure). The bigger problem was Good Friday. Good Friday happened to also fall on Human Rights day this year. This conflict had been established for sometime. But it wasn’t until Maundy Thursday (yesterday—the day before Good Friday) that they decided to move Human Rights Day to May 2nd. So we don’t have to decide to be a Christian or an activist. The funny thing about the move to May 2nd is that that week now has three public holidays—Monday, Thursday and Friday. So Ryan and his friend are going to drive to PE (Port Elizabeth) for that weekend on Wednesday or Thursday. I might do that as well to go visit Rhodes; splitting gas two or three ways is cheaper than a bus which is cheaper than flying which is cheaper than driving alone and paying for the gas (I think that’s the right order). After that week in May and winter break in June/July, there are probably only 2 or 3 more public holidays for the rest of year.

Very sorry about the pictures in the last e-mail. Beautiful friend Jen told me that the links in the last update didn’t allow you to view it without being on Facebook. I hate that. And I never send pictures where I require you to sign up for the service. So that was my fault. I sent the wrong link as there is a way to do it without that requirement. I believe the links below do work without any requirements.

These are January and February and March pictures mostly of Jeannie and Haley who usurped my photo-taking abilities.



http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=3003514&k=33FYQ3SRS3TA6CCHRE3Y

http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=3003514&k=Z2G6P2R4Q35MYBEGYAX6T

http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=3003514&k=ZZL5Z364W34MYBEGYAX6T

http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=3003514&k=Z5L626UZ4X3MYBEGYAX6T

In South Africa, companies like banks will say that you cannot have an account with internet banking unless you have a cell phone. All of this is untrue, but people will say this. I’ve done fine without one for a long while. But. . .

I also got a cell phone. Everyone has complained for 7 months that I need one, I must have one, I am dead without one. Everyone tells me how they are going to start a Get-V-a-cell-phone fund and campaign across the country, how they’ll pool their money and just buy me one with a plan. No one, not one has ever done it—other than my mom who sent me a US phone and Hales who brought the phone my mom sent to South Africa.

I had the phone since January and asked a cell phone shop owner if I could use it. He said I must bring it in. I hadn’t brought it in for a month and a half. Then two weeks ago Wednesday, I missed my life-group meeting during which I was in charge of teaching some new songs. I missed it because they text messaged the meeting location and I went to the old location. The next day I went to the shop to see if they could activate it for South African use. People here (students at UCT) don’t use e-mail and don’t check it. Some don’t understand it. They don’t use it as much as it is used in the States. Even a task such as notification of audition results isn’t done through e-mail. So I must go in person down to the drama campus to see the rehearsal times.

All of a sudden, people, who acted like you didn’t have a home phone or a work phone, now call you up for social things (many people will tell you they couldn’t reach you when you were sitting RIGHT NEXT to a landline). Interesting.

RESEARCH

I actually feel like I am finally moving with things. I am working on the artery project each day. I am still slowed down by the courses I must teach as I need to do significant catch-up for one that requires 4-5 hours of relearning/review per topic for 10 topics before I begin my first lecture in about 20 days. So if I do a topic a day I’ll be ahead, but that does not always happen.

I had a dilemma with the conference coming up because I haven’t been able to start on the work for it. So I will present a related research project that builds to what I was originally going to present. Since it hasn’t been accepted for publication, it’s totally fine. If accepted I’ll site the conference publication as the journal version is a much longer paper (the conference papers are to be no more than 8 pages in Word—remember that includes equations and introduction and abstracts and results and pictures). So I’m just going to enjoy myself next week at the conference. This will be the first of 4 conferences that will be at a different venue for me—the BOE Conference Center. It’s a Bank.

Instead I’ll use the paper I wanted to present as another journal submission.

I’ve also resubmitted all papers that were returned to me. There is only one paper (out of the four) that I have not received back, so we’ll see what happened to it. I decided to submit to a journal that my ex-advisor sits on. I simply asked the head editors not to sent it to him. If they felt they must, I asked them to return it to me to submit elsewhere. So we’ll see. It takes so long to get these papers back.

My supervisor is not happy about math tutoring, but it seems he doesn’t mind if the extra non-research work is from his group or department. So we have been asked to mentor or supervise undergraduate 4th year projects. So I suggested some projects from flow around a missile to HIV work to hydrocephalus modeling to object-oriented programming. So we’ll see what happens. I didn’t go to the meeting with the potential supervised students because it was placed at a time that would have had me running between 3 meetings. I decided to live life slowly so I didn’t go to this meeting (1 o’clock meeting, 1:30 meeting, 2-4 meeting; I skipped the 1:30 meeting).

I just read an article in Nature (January 24th weekly issue) that said the rate of duplication, co-submission, and plagiarism is on the rise since the 1970’s in the statistically sampled field of biomedical sciences. I think you can broadly generalize the results to many fields. The article is titled “A Tale of Two Citations” if you would like to read it. It stated that duplication (where you write a paper that someone else already wrote), co-submission (submit the same paper to multiple places), and plagiarism (duplication where you copy your own work [self-plagiarism] or copy someone else’s work and duplicate it and then submit it without citation) have risen. In 2002 an anonymous survey found that out of 3,247 US biomedical researchers 4.7% admitted to repeatedly publishing the same results and 1.4% admitted to plagiarism. So the US National Library of Medicine says that less than 1,000 cases of duplication occurred since the 1950’s. If the anonymous survey is true, out of 17 million papers, you would expect something closer to 800,000 cases. So it’s very possible all these cases are not being found in the Medline (the primary biomedical citation index). It’s interesting, but the article goes on to use automated computational software that scours through paper listings and abstracts and shows a higher number of duplications, co-submissions and plagiarism than is caught by the Library of Medicine. It makes me realize that would I had thought happens in science really is happening. And this is just the blatantly unethical practices. Many people don’t feel they are plagiarizing but often slightly change one thing that someone did so they can then publish it. Professors I have worked with do this or change the name of a method that someone else did and publish it. People become famous through such techniques. And it really points to the undue amount of pressure on American researchers (especially) to “publish or perish.”

I’m applying for an HIV grant later this year, so I’m reading about 5 papers a week or so as I seek to see if anything has been done and what the limits of current thinking are so that I can think unlimitedly. I suppose I already am thinking that way. So it’s not fully necessary for the reason of creativity.

ZIMBABWE


I was thinking about them this week because March is almost over and that means their election is soon. There are three candidates like I’ve said. And Mugabe would definitely lose in a fair election against his two opposition guys. The problem is that it most likely won’t be fair.

The media (government controlled) is against the opposition. The registrar-general is another Mugabe-man. And the voter list which is run by registrar-general contains dead people who still vote) and incorrect names. The head of the electoral commission is a Mugabe former general. The one day for voting is not enough for rural people to travel to polling stations; there are not enough urban polling stations for people; Zims outside of Zim are not allowed to vote. Ballot box stuffing (with fake votes) happens frequently because the opposition doesn’t enough people to man all 8,212 polling places. The list goes on and on. The police head, army head, and prison head have all said they will not let Tsvangirai win (he’s the opposition guy who has been opposing for 9 years, the one with greater amassed ground support than the new opposition guy, Makoni).

And all the other problems are still going on with Zimbabwe. Inflation is 100,000%. There are still two markets, the official and the black. Food is scarce as well as everything else you would find in the stores. Racist laws still take land from pre-1980 benefactors to pre-1980 victims (in other words, taking land from whites and giving to blacks). The only problem is that little of that land has gone back to blacks and it’s not a very Obamaesque/Mandelaesque way to forge ahead. So the white population has dwindled. And everyone waits with bated breath for the next election.

COMO SE DICE? COMO SE LLAMA?. . .OBAMA. . .OBAMA



We have heard here of New York’s new black governor and the resignation of its former governor. We have heard the results of every presidential primary as it occurs on our national news. So it was no surprise that we heard that Obama made a speech on race.

But I wasn’t allowed to hear it just from South African media. People IM’ed me, e-mailed me, asked me in person if I had heard this speech. One person contacted me while it was happening (I think). The world seemed abuzz.

When I heard that the speech was about 40 minutes I wasn’t even going to bother because it’s hard downloading things like that here. It takes awhile and I’m sure the speech wasn’t that important. But when my roommate/landlady Anna mentioned it, she said that I “must” watch this speech. Even though Anna thinks Obama is soo “beautiful” and would have two husbands if Obama proposed, I decided to trust her judgment.

At first I thought people (on one end of the spectrum) would be upset for condemning the words of his former pastor. Outside the US if you say that the US has had a role in the anger of those people who have attacked us on 9-11, no one would disagree. In fact it is quite normal when someone attacks you or wrongs you to say “What did I do to enrage the person” or “What could I have done differently.” It doesn’t mean the person transgressed or broke the law or did something inhumane. It’s just recognition of the role you played in incensing the people or at least examining your actions to see if that occurred. It doesn’t excuse the actions of evil perpetrators at all. But then I actually saw some of the other comments. And then I understood. I mean they were uncomfortable. And as Obama said the comments (two of the ones I saw) were not really constructive but divisive. And I never want to do that with any comments I make. I think the main problem is that all the comments seem to be taken out of context. So I would encourage anyone who is really interested to read the entire speech from which those phrases are extracted. Context changes everything. If, with context, you decide they are still inflammatory and destructive, then ok. I’m a bit confused here in SA because I get different stories about what he said, and I’m still not really sure of what comments were put in the media over there. And it seems some of the quotes come from a part of his speech in which he was quoting someone else (I don’t even know if that’s true). Regardless, there are some who have made worse speeches, and it’s important to understand the tradition and experiences that form the environment from which they come. I do wish the spin doctors were more diverse and that they would have at least sat in a service or been a member of the church. But Obama did well. Perhaps I have high standards, but it is the first speech that made me agree that he speaks well. Previously, it seemed average to me for my concept of how a president should speak. Perhaps it takes trying times to test the mettle of the speaker-leader.

The only way I can explain his speech from a South African point of view is with these words: Thank you. You see, some South Africans never felt that Mandela really did anything, that after 14 years the country is worse. I’ve spoken about why this is believed as complaints have come from coloureds, whites, and even some blacks. But I still hold that the most important accomplishment was unity. The country could have erupted into civil war at worst, or riotously attempted genocide at least, but neither happened, not even one act of retribution against a white person (I’ve heard). And much is due to him. Mandela’s work is what Obama’s speech was likened.

You see we need that HERE, in South Africa. Yes, we’re analogously somewhere in the 70’s of US racial history, perhaps. But even at this earlier point in history for us, such a speech is what we need here. Would someone South African get up and say that to our people here? Would someone come out and say the Obama-words that need to be said here? Can we at least say them?

And do you know who was the last person who said something similar to what Obama said? It was Mandela.

OBAMA PLUS McCAIN

I actually don’t mean to talk about Obama all the time, but people here don’t really talk about McCain. And Clinton rarely comes up. The talk and craze centers on Obama. But I know someone, a friend of mine who receives my updates, who thinks Obama is an America-hater who wants to take over and ruin America. So I’m really just sharing topics; all the topics in my update come from actual events and conversations that happened during the week.

I also think McCain and Clinton don’t put out music videos. But surprise surprise! Someone sent me a McCain video; although, when you see it, you’ll know it’s not pro-McCain. I was also sent two youtube videos of MadTV sketches. One was very racy; the second I liked better because it helps explain the ambiance in the states. Hillary was speaking at a Woman of the Year event and Obama walks in and draws all the attention. And the antics begin. People keep interrupting Hillary to make Obama sing or do impressions. It’s really quite funny. Finally, they decide to give the award for Woman of the Year to Obama. They got a lot of the facial looks, posturing and gestures. And they made comments that gave me insight into people’s views of Clinton and Obama.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=bzd5nLzZjcc&feature=related or

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gwqEneBKUs

It’s a spoof on the Will.I.Am video for Obama.

TWO OCEANS



We just had the Two Oceans Marathon, and I went to watch. I have never seen one in person before. On Friday (Good Friday and Human Rights Day) they had the 5k and the 8k marathon. There’s even a 500 meter run for little kids. And one 4-year-old had seriously trained to win! Easter Saturday was the 21k and the 56k. The 56k is called an ultramarathon since it’s longer than a normal marathon (42k about 26 miles). It’s one of the two big races in SA. The other is the Comrades Race on the East Coast of SA between two cities (ends in Durban). It’s 96k!!! Something like that, maybe 94.

It seems (as I’ve been told) that the running community is more of a community here than in the US. Though it happens in the US, I’ve been told that you’re less likely to find runners with ipods or some other equipment that closes her off with fellow people. And people become friends, good friends on these runs. Some get married. I’ve even heard of two kids being born during these runs. There are people who are called pace runners (I would like to do this) who are trained to run the marathon at such a steady pace that they are guaranteed to reach the finish line within a few minutes of a set time. For the Two Oceans the top 10 get highest honors (gold medals), and 11th place through the last person to finish within 6 hours—all get silver medals. So it can be dehumanizing or discouraging when the pace runner (they have these big flag things that go up from their back above their heads saying 6 hours) runs ahead of you and the distance between you two increases. It’s especially hard when this is near the finish line. The finish line, by the way, was on campus which was easy access for me.

When I was young, I was told I was always out of shape. I couldn’t run. I used to run the mile in PE at the back of the pack. I was with the last group of boys and the first group of girls. The top girls were ahead of me and their might be one or two boys behind me. After people told me how out of shape I was over the years, I finally believed it. It wasn’t until later that I found out I had exercised-induced asthma. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but my bronchial tubes close up with more and more mucous as I play any sport. This might have been why I never played any sports. I’ve very competitive and I would always keep playing and playing as my airways closed up. Thankfully, I have never gotten to the point where they completely closed, but I’ve been close. I usually must undergo an uncomfortable hour after the game is over and my passageways gradually open. But it’s slow and hard. I got a doctor to give me medication once, but I never liked it because it has the side effect of increasing your heart rate. I don’t like that at all.

Anyway, getting back to the marathon, you have to be registered with a running club to join. I was invited to start running, in general. [I think I’m mentally tough enough, I suppose. I remember I decided to be tough one time and run the mile without ever stopping, and I did; it was horrible but I did it as a kid.] I’ve also been invited to join a yoga club. Lots of invites this week.

MOVIES




10,000 BC

I was invited to go to the movies, and I saw this film. I don’t know if it was great, but I liked it because to me it was African history told in a very nice historical fiction format that seemed like fiction.

From what I could tell the movie seemed to start in the Uganda/Kenya/Tanzania region in the mountains. I was unsure why the people there seemed to be Asiatic, or, to use the old anthropological broad classifications for race, Mongoloid. Many of the actors in this Mongoloid tribe were Caucasoid in real life (the main characters). But they did a good job in making a lot of the tribe look Mongoloid. They were good at keeping everything pre-Iron and pre-Bronze; this was the Stone Age (maybe middle Stone Age). I did think I saw a metallic spear at one point in the movie belonging to a member of a Negroid tribe as the main character followed the Nile downstream. But then I didn’t see it again, so I thought I made a mistake. When the main character reached the end of the Nile, he made it to Egypt and they had a great mix of peoples there along with the rulers (10,000 BC is pre-unification so Egypt is in two kingdoms).


The film makers decided to show that the pyramids were built by slaves and mammoths (those pre-historic elephants). The building of the pyramids is a great mystery (I’ve even heard someone suggest that men (back then) were much taller, larger, and stronger which supposedly answers the question of how those structures could have been built).

The Sahara at this time became less dry and cooler and this incited people to push northward (as the main characters were doing for different reasons) and the North African peoples began to move and mingle southwards as the raiders were doing in the movie. (There was a 2nd “wet” phase for the dry Sahara we know today; it was green and full of life say around 5500 BC – 2500 BC). And I believe the filmmakers chose this date of 10,000 BC because this is when the last of Neanderthals had died off in the geological record and you only have hominids that are directly ancestral to man (evolutionarily). It’s also the end of an ice age.

So with a nicer Sahara, not only were African mingling but there were people moving in from different neighboring lands. People start burying their dead. The movie even showed some of the famous rock art from this time (rock art goes even further back as well).

So it’s interesting to watch some of this in the movie. There was a guy from a Negroid tribe in Eastern Africa. He seemed to understand everyone’s language as they traveled downstream to Egypt. I was surprised when they arrived in Egypt and he understood the Emperor’s language. Perhaps the Emperor (or his spokesperson) was speaking a language (a Berber language) that this guy understood. He was sharp. The other surprise was that pyramids were even built in 10,000 BC. I think that’s a mistake, but I could be wrong. If it is I’m sure the filmmakers knew it and did it on purpose to make the story better. I don’t think the Egyptian civilization was developed that far at 10,000 BC.

When I saw all the slaves used in building the pyramids in the movie, it reminded me that someone was telling me how she thought I thought that slavery and discrimination were equated. I don’t think they’re equated but it’s important to understand that they can be related. Racism (which this continent has seen its fair share) doesn’t need to be based in just pure racial dislike or disgust. It can have political or economical motivations and still be racism. Racism just means that some active power is used in discriminating based on race (borrowing from the philosopher who feels you cannot be racist if your people don’t have power). Prejudice doesn’t seem to require power. So, for instance, Hitler (I believe) never grew up with some deep seated dislike of Jewish people. He chose them as the perfect method/mode/scapegoat for his people to gather and rally around. They were an easy target for whom he had no care. But his motives were not racial. Yet it was a racist act. Moreover, it fueled racism. Similarly, this happened with the Jewish slaves in Egypt.

I was also told that because Africans were complicit in the slave trade themselves this might suggest that racism was not present. (Remember that before European influence there was slavery, but it probably is not appropriate to use the term slave trade until this was explosively propagated by Europeans; and much of slavery before this say 15th century, was indentured servitude) Before you sold your own family or tribe, you were trying to sell of competing or rival tribes. In other words, the slave trade fueled tribalism. Sometimes tribalism confuses Americans because we don’t realize it’s the similar to racism. It’s not exactly the same because it’s not based on skin color or there are necessarily linguistic differences (at most a different language, at the least a different dialect). But it’s socially functionally the same. The idea of race like you have in the States is like the idea of tribe but people are the same color here. Anyway, it’s just interesting that the slave trade not only caused racial tension between Europeans and Africans but fed racism/tribalism between tribes. The tribes in this movie worked together against the dynastic power of Egypt.

There Shall Be Blood

Day-Lewis is excellent.

ARTS



I was offered a part in the play Twilight about the 1991 LA Riots surrounding the beating of Rodney King. We’ll meet next week, so I’ll tell you what I think.

I also spoke with Dillan the UCT music student who is taking a break this year and contemplating a move to Egypt. He may no longer be going and he is keen to start a music group—male vocal a capella. So we’ll see where that leads.

Chicago opened on Tuesday. I’ll go next week during our Easter Vac (though not a vacation for graduate students like me) hopefully before the conference starts on Wednesday.

We have a lot of bands in town for the traveling concert called My Coke Fest. Paris is here because her boyfriend is playing in it. So she made the paper as SA people went crazy over her. The Fest has now reached Cape Town (Joburg is the other site).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

UPDATE

March 11, 2008

When I call my voicemail here through Telkom (the government phone company [landlines and public phones]), it gives me this option

“Press 1 to listen to your messages.”

When I press 1, it then says

“Press 1 to listen to your voice mail messages.”

I thought there was some mistake so I decided to let ALL the options play out so I could see between which options I was choosing. And this would illuminate the seeming mystery. So I waited to hear all options.

“Press 1 to listen to your new messages.

Press 3 to change your voice mail options

Press 0 to disconnect.”

So I press 1 sure that I would be given several options on how to listen to message or which messages to listen to. And then came the next words of the pre-recorded operator.

“Press 1 to listen to your new messages.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(blink). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(blink). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I guess there aren’t any more options. I’m till trying to determine why I must press 1 twice to listen to messages.

What happens if you touch a person’s toothbrush after using the restroom a second time and this time your hand rubbed the bristles?

I had this next story happen to a “friend,” so help me give advice.

Imagine your husband coming home (boyfriend of fiancée for some of you) and you see him without the ring and you ask


“Where is your ring?”

“Oh, sorry. Yesterday all of a sudden I developed an allergy so I don’t where it anymore.”

At this point do

A) Actually believe that and continue with business as usual (which should be love)

B) Get out of that relationship AS FAST AS POSSIBLE because you’re with the wrong person

C) Dump him before he dumps you (he just forgot which wife’s house he was at)

D) Take him to the allergy doctor to diagnose his special condition, and then make him pay for it

UPDATE

I am asked to pray for people and their request a lot. In fact, it’s a burden. I don’t take it lightly and I don’t want to say “yes” and then not pray for people. So I have a list in my journal and I go over it when talking to God. So I wanted to take a moment and give thanks because many of those have been answered as I’ve heard from friends.

  • My friend Zendre (college friend who loves education) was accepted to every school she applied (Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Emory) for a doctorate in education. Woohooo!
  • Joy Green (my education compatriot and the girl who was accepted as a missionary teacher in Haiti at the same school as me) was accepted into a ton of law schools (I’m sure it is every school she applied as well).
  • Kelli Charles (teacher extraordinaire) will not be a principal as she won a Leaders for Schools Fellowship to either open up a new school or principal an existing school in New Orleans!
  • Bonnie (bestest friend) has a brother who just had a new red-haired baby boy.
  • Jane (up and coming IT specialist and my sister) got a new job with an HR firm doing actual hardcore IT work.
  • Lanese (graphic and generally amazing artist) has a sister whose health episode disappeared!
  • Elisa, a crazy girl, was accepted into an international 1-yr volunteer program with/through her company and will follow Haley (if she gets her choice) to South Africa.

HEALTH CARE & DEBT

HEALTH CARE & DEBT


When I was younger, I thought the US was the only place to be, and I was thankful to have lived life there. Now, I know that there are other nice places around the world, but I’m still thankful that I lived life there. There are so many wonderful things about the country, and I’m so thankful. At the same time, I want to help improve the country and address some of the many problems still plaguing it. It scares me, here in South Africa, when I see people say things like “Well, in America, they have so much debt,” and “But look at the American system for presidential primaries.” And they use us as a measure. The problem is that we’re not perfect nor do we do everything in the right way or in a good way. So people sometimes mimic our bad behavior as well.

Here we have 16.9 million people in debt. A news reporter said in response to this, “But don’t Americans have a lot of debt?” I wanted to shake her very quickly and then smile. It’s not a good thing. On top of that, there are only 16 economically active people in South Africa (the population is about 45 million). So that’s a huge percentage (6/16 is under 19 percent). They passed a law/act here that makes it harder for lenders to recklessly pursue bad loans from people. And it places some liability on the lenders. It doesn’t make it impossible, though. Moreover, the greater problem is the backlog of loans before the act took effect. And so there are many people economically paralyzed due to the situation and predatory lending.

Over here such mimicking scares me. I see it happening with health care. I really wish that we (ZA) did something similar to the UK or France. It would be hard here as the hospitals could be overwhelmed (especially directly after apartheid), but I love the practice with medical doctors here: after 6 years in university and getting your medical degree, you have a year of internship and a year of community service in which you are assigned many times to rural areas around the country. Instead the US system has taken root and health care is out of the reach of too many South Africans.

(SICKO)

In the US, about 1 in 6 Americans don’t have health insurance or health care. And the situation is sad. I know a lot of people don’t like Michael Moore; the say he’s one-sided and he exaggerates. Personally I think measured middle-of-the-road people like me don’t really incite people enough about certain situations. So it’s good to have some people who present one side. Plus, he’s allowed as he does not represent the media (who should be even-handed). He’s propagating his view or, some would say, the facts. Some would say exaggerations. I think this is his least controversial (best because of that?) film.

The very thing that makes us great—our free market or supercapitalism, our hyperentrepreneurship. It has made us a leader all over the world. Since the world runs on corporations (am I allowed to say that?) our influence is felt in almost every country as our influence spreads through globalization. It is the same area in which we are losing our edge and lead, and others are gaining in number of businesses and pace of technology (like China and India or Japan). But as I have seen, sometimes the system comes above people or the institution becomes more important than the individual. I’ve seen it in institutions of higher education. And I’ve seen it in our system.


I’m not sure why a little help from the government scares people (well, I do know why), but capitalism unchecked is chaos or anarchy. It just doesn’t work. It needs help and direction; it needs a conscience. It needs a hand.

People say the normal things. “Oh he shows how bad it is in the US, but he doesn’t show the issues with health care in the UK and the long lines.” Though most people who talk about the long lines in places like Canada or the UK are not Canadian or British, it is true that you can wait longer. And it’s true UK people complain about the wait, and they actually have the option to pay for private health care if they don’t want to (a friend of mine could get an x-ray to prove the absence of tuberculosis in 10 days or he could do private and have it done in 2 days; remember only ONE isolated example, but just to give an idea). I would like to point out (just thinking matter-of-factly) it is better to receive care after waiting than none at all. So point taken: if you are rich it is better to live in the US. But it scares me when we have a system that favors the rich. I want to be part of a people that cares about the least of us, the least among us. It should work for even the poorest.

The stories in the film are moving and true. But I don’t just speak vicariously or from watching; I, too, have experienced issues with health insurance. It’s the simple problem that arises—a conflict of interest—when the person who is supposed to make decisions about your care and health is also a person (an organization) trying to maximize profits. The two need to be separated. It’s clear from the US system. It’s why I had an operation deemed necessary by my doctor that my insurance viewed as unnecessary and wouldn’t fund. I’m very picky about money and, on my own, would not have had it. But I got advice from friends. They suggested it was better to go into debt and be healthy than to stay out of debt and not have something that was important. So I did.

But I know how it important, I know how people in the US have died from refusal, I know how it is not fair, I know how some people who want coverage cannot get it, I know how Medicaid/Medicare doesn’t cover everything and is not enough many times. I know it. And I hope that it is something that is changed by the next president. But in all honesty, I would prefer a more extreme change than any suggested, not universal health care due to lower prices, universal free health care or universally accessible health care. It can be done and there are examples around the world. It is what is needed here as the situation is dire. There are too many without anything.

People attack Michael M. a lot. And I know he presents one side. But the reason I like him is that he fights for "the least of these," as Jesus would put it. I have no idea his faith, but that spirit is wonderful. He is using the film and website to help and publicize the cases of people who are dying. Do you remember John Q? It’s the same thing, just less controversial to opponents when an argument is presented in fiction or story form. Let me just mention one thing he did in the film.


There is an unnamed vitriolic attacker and critic of Michael Moore, and this gentleman runs a website. Sadly, this gentleman’s wife became very ill and the price of her medical bills/treatment was above what he could pay. In order for her to receive treatment he would have to shut down his anti-Michael Moore site because he would need the funds used for that site. He would need those funds to pay for his wife’s health care. In the film, Michael Moore says that he (Michael Moore) believes no one in the US should have to choose between health care and their right to free speech. So after discovering the cost of the wife’s medical treatments/procedures, Michael decides to send the guy an anonymous check to cover the expenses of his wife’s operation/treatment/procedures. He of course had to send it anonymously. After a long while, the critic wrote back apologizing for his delay in sending thanks to the anonymous person. The delay was due to the fact that he did not believe that the money was real. But he finally checked into it, and it was real. He was so thankful and so appreciative and so gratefully relieved. And now his site is still running with increased fervor and invective (some vulgar) used against Michael Moore. I’m sure the guy did not know Michael paid for the bill, but after viewing the movie, he does now. Some might call it a stunt and not real care on the part of Michael Moore.

I'm just thankful she received care.

CRIME

So I came to South Africa “unprepared.” I didn’t study on it, read on it beyond what I already knew. Haley and Jeannie came more prepared, and it’s good to be like them (don’t be like me). David and Adrianne read Mandela’s book. I just came. So people are the ones (not South Africans) who tell me that I’m going to die or catch AIDS or someone will rob me at knife point or gunpoint.

My neighborhood is special. When Jeannie and Haley just arrived and Rosa came from Grahamstown, the three of them stayed at my place. I didn’t have the nerve to tell them that my corner neighborhood store was robbed at knifepoint (can you say that) in broad daylight at 4 in the afternoon. Anna asked me today which neighborhood street I use to walk to the busy road with all the taxis. I said Rosedon. She said don’t take it because her friend Neil was robbed at gunpoint at the end of the street (the same place I walk to before taking the steps up to the road) at a dead-end. Neil also carries a laptop bag when walking. The other day I passed by a block of flat in which I was considering living. I probably would have done so if I had somehow missed the real estate agent. Well, there was a shooting outside of it, and it’s a good neighborhood, too.

So, it’s everywhere, and it’s anytime of the day. But to be honest, nothing has happened to me. And I have met people who have not experienced anything their entire life. Let’s face it, it’s still one of the most dangerous countries in the world. And Joburg and CT are two of the most dangerous cities in the world (with Joburg being moreso than CT), but, Victor, does it FEEL like it?

That’s the weird thing, I don’t feel it. Yes, I pass by people who walk really close to me or have their hand in their pocket or turn down my street after seeing me, and my heart beats faster and I get prepared. But it’s only because what I have been told. It’s actually not natural for me to think those things (or it hasn’t been my experience). But it’s been input into me, so I feel that when I pass by people at the wrong time of night.

What I’m saying is that they crime rate and the way foreigners talk suggest that many of those people should have done something to me. But I don’t experience the crime rate by incidents that happen to me. The only thing I notice DIFFERENT in how I experience or “feel” the crime rate is the number of times I hear of a friend whose car is stolen or broken into. I was trying to describe what it’s like to Jeannie so that you understand. The closest thing I can think of is the amount of times someone might say to you “I have a dentist appointment.” That’s probably as often I hear of something happening to someone’s car. Carjacking is very common. I can perceive that. Otherwise, it’s hard for me to perceive or experience.

HOME & CRIME

Actually, two weeks ago after returning home to the US, I was cleaning my room which looked like it hadn’t been lived in since 1850. Spiders, slugs, and friends had squatters rights, and I had to evict them. So I’m doing my normal cleaning routine and I hear someone screaming at another person. It sounded like the neighbors telling a burglar to get out of there and the burglar must have been running. I naturally didn’t think anything of it (I’ve been told I act calmly in these situations) and I continued listening while in my room. Well, then Anna bolts out of her room (our doors face each other about 2 meters apart from each other). . . . . . .compLETEly naked. She he is headed straight for me from a three-point American football stance, and I’m scared that she and all her flying appendages will both hypnotize and assault me adding to the crime statistics. Now, naturally in my calm state, I didn’t think anything of it. I just assumed she was running in fright and in a fright, it didn’t matter if she was tackling me naked.

She screams “Someone’s got a gun and he’s trying to get in!”

Or “Someone’s got a gun and he’s trying to shoot us!”

At this point I figured I was mistaken and was trying to remember who I had not told I loved. “I told my mom and my dad. Oh! I hadn’t told my brother. . . .but he would know anyway. He’s cool. He wouldn’t be offended. But there is that one---“ You start wondering how much a bullet actually hurts (TV and movies downplay this by the way but hormones can suppress it temporarily), and then you wonder how long it takes to write a will. All the while, Anna’s flying appendages are looming closer and speaking in multiple voices with one of them in a really low bass.

I shake myself enough to stop the hypnotic trance, and I turned the lights off of my room and duck down, closing the door to keep from a second hypnotic state. Anna, for some reason, turns right before hitting me and heads naked to the living room appendages flailing and still speaking, waking Ryan up (he stays in his room through anything).

Anna calls the police frantically.

I wait and . . . . . . . . . .nothing. The gunman doesn’t try to shoot me in my room through the barred windows or the barred doors. Nothing. I hear Anna and Ryan talking. So I finally come out. And everyone’s talking about the gunman who tried to kill us. Anna says she saw a gunman in the window trying to get in. Ryan said he heard a commotion and heard the people out front (my room faces the back yard; Ryan’s room faces the front yard). So we look out the back yard window and see what looks like police. .. . . . .police?

POLICE!?? Wait a minute. What is the gunman was a .. . . . . . . . .POLICE OFFICER?!!

You’re right, Anna. It was. In fact, Anna figured out the scenario before the police officer arrived. At the back of our house, our back dividing wall separates our house from another house. And there was a policeman taking a fag (a smoke) waving to all the neighbors (it’s pitch black outside by the way) letting people know it was ok. So Anna realized it was a raid on that house.

In fact, come to think of it (Anna’s thinking) the gunman did look like he had a black police coat, and it did look like a policeman if she had thought about it. Knock, knock, knock. The police had arrived. And it made sense that they arrived so quickly since they were right on the other side of the back wall (on the parallel street). He explained or confirmed what Anna already figured out. They were just raiding the house connected to us at the back. This is when Anna revealed what that place was---a harem.

Anna believes it’s run by the Triad (an international crime syndicate). Don’t ask me how she knows that or where that comes from. I just know that the people there rent the house from the owner, and they are Chinese. When the police raided the place, someone tried to run (I don’t know if it was a customer or a worker). This person jumped over the diving wall into our yard and came straight by my window (I face the back yard) with the policeman chasing. Then he passed by the bathroom window and Anna’s window (there is a small alley in our back yard going from my room passed the bathroom passed Anna’s room to the closing gate which leads to the front). This is when Anna looked out and saw the gun and thought we were going to have to bequeath our belongings to our younger siblings. The policeman got the man, I believe in the front. And that’s the commotion we heard.

So I’m safe. Later Radesh (Anna’s boyfriend) was messing with the dogs in that yard because he thought no one lived there after the raid. Well, someone did though their lights almost never come on anymore (I have only seen it once—last night Monday). And a woman appeared as if to check what the commotion was. This is when Radesh heard angelic music and heard God’s voice. The woman appeared made up more than he would expect of an actor in a movie. He said she was perfectly dressed as a geisha wearing a kimono. She spoke no words as she could not understand his English. And as quickly as she had slipped to the door to see what was wrong, she slipped away unnoticed. Strange.

RELIGION

People have asked me about this, and I have forgotten to write a bit about it. Like I said before, the region of the world most foreign for me be it religiously, linguistically, ethnically, etc. is Asia. Here there are many things to which I am used. This includes religion. Christianity accounts for about 80% (79.7%). Islam is 1.5% while Hinduism is 1.3% (2001 Census). There is Sikhism, Judaism, Jainism, and the B’ahai Faith.

So though most people blame the Dutch Reformed Church for apartheid and others say that it wasn’t the Afrikaners but the British, you have to remember that there are many Jewish people here that feel remorse. And the sentiment is strong that says anyone who stayed here and did nothing is culpable. So it’s a strange country with implicit tensions and explicit reconciliations that counteract and interact constantly. The Jewish people feel it especially I’ve seen because they know what it is like to be oppressed and to seek God for salvation and exodus and liberty and promise. And the system goes against what they believe and practice, as well as their heritage (look at their practice of Jubilee).

Today you will still see (at least in Cape Town) people going to the synagogue. There are Jewish schools even in South Africa. They cannot discriminate based on that, but if you choose to go there, you cannot complain about receiving a Jewish-based education and taking religious classes.

We do have religious tension here but it is not like in other countries where Christians and Muslims actually violently collide. Here the tension is in prejudice or dislike, and the tension is not held by everyone but it does exist. For instance, I have not experienced any recognized ill-will toward me. So it’s peaceful as in Ghana, but charged unlike Ghana. I went to the evening service at my church last week, and people kept turning around to look at me as if I had my cell phone on. The audible noise during a very powerful and soft part of the guest speaker’s talk was the call to prayer by the Imam in the neighborhood. He was singing loud and blasting it through some speakers or megaphone or something. Actually if people weren’t annoyed with me and I didn’t get crazy looks from people and the speaker (no, he didn’t notice), I would have enjoyed listening to the style of singing. [Though the country has a very small Islamic population, I live in a part of the country with a relatively high Coloured population and so the percentage of Muslims is higher where I am. My mall, Kenilworth Centre, looks like Little North Africa.]

BIOLOGY

I love the flora fauna here! It’s amazing. It’s the third most biodiverse country (after Brazil and Indonesia). And the Cape floral kingdom (floristic region) is where I live in the Western Cape and is one of the 6 floral kingdoms in the world. The Fynbos (whose leaves are used for honeybush and Rooibos) is the largest plant “kingdom” in the world, and I have swum in the rivers at its banks. It’s a wonderful place to be.

I have tried to volunteer at both the Aquarium and the Observatory but I told you that it’s hard to volunteer though there are so many opportunities that abound (in general in any country). So it’s always a strange paradox. The Aquarium won’t do another training until August. They told me this last November! Oh well. It still looks fun.

If you turn the globe upside down so that the South Pole is that the top and you draw a circle around it, you’ll see something. If you increase the diameter of the circle and draw bigger and bigger circles, you’ll see the circles start to touch land. Finally, if you increase it a little more, your circle will touch the tips of South America, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and a small tiny piece of Namibia. You will have circled all the countries/regions that have penguins (there are no penguins in the Northern Hemisphere like there are no Polar Bears in the Southern Hemisphere). So we have them. And my favorite are Rockhoppers or the African Penguins that grow to be as tall as my 7-yr-old. When I saw Happy Feet commercials, I didn’t know there were actual penguins with the blonde surfer-dude hairdo. But there are.

Here we are as cognizant of the delicate balance of life as you are in the US. That movie Lion King makes me think the awareness could be stronger here, but with all the hunting that is popular in Africa in general, people have learned the importance of conservation and moderation. For instance a number of years ago (in the 90’s), we saw a sharp decline in the number of abalone (these are large sea snails which they call perlemoen (Afrikaans word, I believe); they don’t have swirly curved shells, they have large ear-shaped shells). After studying the tie and the data and the populations of other related animals, scientists discovered just before the decline in abalone there was a sharp increase in the number of rock lobster. Now, why would that matter? Well urchins are part of the diet of rock lobsters. Urchins are also the place that juvenile abalone find shelter during that phase of life. All the rock lobster started eating up the urchins and this decreased the abalone since they had fewer dwelling places as juvenile abalone. But you can even go further. Scientists found that rock lobsters flourished because their predators were overexploited. Today, the rock lobsters are almost gone. There was a time when you couldn’t step on many beaches without feeling the prickly needles; now there are few of them. Red Roman and Red Stumpnose are among fish that are protected because they are endangered.

It’s the same with plankton. In our aquarium here, it’s really cool because they have a microscopic bubble window on one of the displays so you can see the little zooplankton (zooplankton are the animal plankton while phytoplankton are the plant ones). Phytoplankton are responsible for over half of the world’s oxygen through photosynthesis. But as the ice caps have been melting (I’m not getting into the controversy about why that is happening), the homes of much of the phytoplankton in the Arctic. Krill (very small shrimp-like creatures) feed on phytoplankton are at the very bottom of the food chain for marine life; many animals (including whales) eat them. Their decrease means the decrease of many animals in the food chain. So you can see the interconnection of it all. It’s rather interesting. Some say you can do anything you want on the earth because we’re all going to die as the doom pronouncers or doomsdayers are supposed to be saying. Others say we must protect what we have and be good stewards of what we’ve been given.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ART


Ikhwezi

I went to a theatre festival called IKHWEZI. I was very proud to see it. There were 19 different plays by many different township theatre companies. It was GREAT!! Sadly attendance was low at least at the one play I saw (I’ll see more this week), and they didn’t list the plays on a website. Instead when you go to the ticket window and ask to purchase a ticket they ask which one. You say you don’t know. She says which one. You say whatever is playing tonight. She says which one. You say you don’t have a list of the plays (the funny thing is that ticket window person acts as if you do). So she sends you (or sent me) to the information window where they had a list of the plays and the timetables. But when I got there, I asked if I could take it and the information windowperson said no because there is only one copy of both the list of plays and the timetables. So the informational organization was poor. But it was good to see theatre companies out and about in the townships performing in town. And it was wonderful to know it was the TENTH anniversary. Congratulations, Ikhwezi!

Sicko

I wrote on it in the health and debt section.

The Savages

Did you ever see “Mystic River?” Laura Linney is good in most things. She had an evil character there and I didn’t like her so much, but she does excellently again here in this movie with Phillip Seymour Hoffman who I really like but is now very well known. It sometimes seems like when someone becomes very well known it’s harder to be taken away or mesmerized with them because you begin to know their tricks, their ways, etc. I felt like that with Cate Blanchett; for the longest time I could never get a handle on her personality even how she would normally sound talking. Then I saw “Notes on a Scandal” and for the first time I could picture her at home being normal. It takes the mystery from it. But excellent film. It’s not blatant comedy, but a little more witty. Still good. I hope I am never in a situation where I must take my parents to an assisted living place and explain where I’m taking them.

Othello

So I was not allowed to take any theatre courses. And the one that they would possibly let me in if the professor and the department agreed was denied me by the tutor. Well, the tutor (a drama prof at UCT) decided to redo Othello from last year with the drama department. He hired an outside professional for the role of Othello and cast the remainder with students. The actor playing Othello was ok; I thought his voice would be more commanding or something. He seemed a lot like an authoritative upper-elite (he wore tuxedo a lot) though he did seem strong. Ineluctably, you begin to compare the production you watch to the production you did (I was part of an Othello production before). I didn’t believe he was married to his wife. And the girl playing his wife—Desdemona—had a very motherly feel to her or at least womanly. I picture Desdemona as more girly. It was very interesting. The director had Desi shout back at Othello sometimes. I hadn’t thought of that or seen that. So it was interesting. She had some fire to her instead of being fear with other suppressing emotions. The director had some physical fight moves that made Othello seem much stronger than the way we do it. I liked that. But the star of the show was Iago of course. And the student playing Iago is excellent. He is very good. It’s a wonderful character to portray. Othello is very difficult in my opinion because you have to be an amazing actor to make the audience believe that you really flipped like that with so little evidence and accusation. Even good actors don’t succeed in that; the audience just knows you’re flipping out because you’re supposed to do so. Iago, though in this show, was very believable and he made his character go through a fully breathing range of emotions and brought subtle nuances to the flattest of prose (if you can call Shakespeare’s prose flat). He was really good and he has won theatre awards here on campus. I enjoyed the play over all.

Friday

Last Thursday I got an amazing e-mail. I was e-mailed and asked to come in for an audition for a UCT drama production. Well, the next day, my supervisor did a switch; he said he doesn’t like that I’m TAing for the math department. He’s never really cared about things before (when you come, when you go, if you publish, etc.). And I gave in to the many pressures on me to have more money (to go home, to pay for bills back home, to travel, some say I don’t make enough, etc.). So since I missed the first week of lectures while in the States, I have been trying to desperately catch up with everything and be ready by the time I must guest lecture for two courses. And I have these new TAing responsibilities. So I haven’t touched the heart/artery project in 3 weeks since I’ve been back. He wants to move on it and he sounded disappointed or disdaining or discouraging or dis-something. It reminded me of graduate school where I felt like he was trying to control my time or say I wasn’t doing a good job just because he couldn’t reach me yesterday (TA session) and this morning (toilet) [this morning was Friday]. So he told me the primary goal or aim of the postdoc is research. I thought that was strange because he has us teaching SO much. I guess he doesn’t want us to add to that or teach in other people’s departments. One of the reasons I came here and liked it was that it wasn’t a pure or major focus on just research. But students were important. Anyway, I was disheartened; I felt bad. I went back and just worked. And then I realized my audition was soon. I went outside for the bus and realized the computer time was slow compared to the actual time but at least there was still one more bus I could catch to be on time. Well, it never came. It probably did come but not in time for me to get there on time. So I was really bummed out. I was looking forward to this audition and then my supervisor says something not so good and that causes me not to be super early (I’m would have been just early if the bus had come) for the audition. So I had to hike down the mountain to the main road and take a taxi to the taxi station in town and then walk to the drama campus. I was late for the audition. I called the director and let her know when the bus wasn’t showing up but she didn’t pick up. I also called her when I reached the campus because I didn’t know which building it was in. But she didn’t pick up. When I finally figured it out it was over an hour late (or close to it) and people were leaving the audition. I felt bad about it and couldn’t bring myself to go in at that time. So I just left. It was strange, and this update is too long already for me to go into it all. But I just left disheartened. Then I went to see Othello which was a wonderful joy to experience.

The director e-mailed me on Sunday and she wants to see me tonight (Monday, the 17th). We’ll see!

It’s a play about the LA Riots and Rodney King back in 1991—Twilight.

Here are some pictures:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2041161&id=3003514

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2041162&id=3003514

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2041164&id=3003514

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2041165&id=3003514

MUSIC


Josh Groban (sp?) and Celine Deon were last month while I was in the States, so I missed them. They gave individual concerts (not together). This month Brian McKnight is here; Friday night he was at Joburg, Sunday night in CT, and Wednesday he’ll be in Durban. I wish you could have seen the interview with the “Today Show” anchorwoman. She was dying! There were sparks jumping out of the TV screen, though I think Brian is used to it. She asked him to sing to her after the interview was done, but the camera was still going as they rolled out. They kinda used it for the credits. I think both the anchorwoman and Brian liked each other’s accents.

Obama-music http://www.diseducation.com/munity/?p=124

Thought it was interesting. I like the r-ton one. Has a salsa feel inside of it.

Patience,

Victor

Monday, March 10, 2008

UPDATE March 9, 2008

March 9, 2008

Ahh, school is back in session and fall is in the air. How do I know? The signs for HIV/AIDS testing in Jameson Hall in the main quad are up. Time for everyone to get tested? What are the letters again? ABC—Abstinence, Be faithful, use a Condom. It’s really important to use protection. Let me give you an example.

On my last visit to the States, my brother gave me something to protect my toothbrush. It’s like a little plastic, snap-close-cap that goes over the brushes-and-bristles end of the toothbrush. Now my toothbrush cup has five, count-‘em, FIVE toothbrushes. There are only three people who formally or legally live in the house. So I haven’t figured out why there are five. But they may belong to people who live there informally. Anyway, only 2 of the five have protection, one being my toothbrush thanks to my brother. So I’m in the bathroom and I’m using the restroom. I finish using the restroom and I try to turn the faucet on to wash my hands. The only problem is that the toothbrushes in the cup lean out of the cup at an angle and leave little room between the faucet handle and the toothbrushes themselves. Anyway, I finish using the services, and I go to wash my hand and as I try to grab the handle and turn it, my hand touches the head of someone’s toothbrush. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .uh-huh. Someone’s toothbrush. Do you

a) Go and tell the person, you touched their toothbrush with stained hands?

b) Pretend nothing happened and hope the person doesn’t get sick.

c) Go and buy another toothbrush that’s exactly the same and brush with it enough times so that it looks 1 month old.

d) Drop some disinfectant or soap on the handle so that after the next brush they weird taste makes her throw it away immediately.

I’ll leave you to guess what I did. Just remember. The temperature is really hot here: you don’t just sit, you sit and sweat.

The last time I sat down in one of the restrooms here, when I got up, I was surprised to see an ant crawling on the place where I was sitting. I was immediately scared because the last time I sat down with an ant, I was bitten (or at least I believe I was bitten) in such a way that I blew up and was green (Have you seen the Hitch peanut fiasco and the Incredible Hulk? Combine the two). No reaction this time. . . .yet.

UPDATE

Hey, this is Victor. That was just for those who said that I start every update with a bathroom story. The fact that those (above) stories stood out this time should remind you that you haven’t seen them in awhile. I can count at least 5 updates that didn’t start with such a story. So I’m very proud of myself. I didn’t write too much social commentary this time. Maybe you’ll like it more? I don’t know. It’s a simple update.

Things to look out for this time:

  • Section at end with e-mail from Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana who met with George Bush
  • The movie section (some interesting African titles)

SOUTH AFRICA


We have a sizable Indian population here and Bollywood films are popular here. Have you been to India? If you have or if you seen many Indians from various parts and families, you know the range of complexions is wide. Some might say that about the features as well. Do you ever notice the tendency for the women who play lead roles to look white or have white features? It is not every film or movie but many. And I wish the tendency wasn’t there to conform to a white aesthetic of beauty. But others have noticed this, so it’s definitely noticeable. I see it many of the films here. I want to start to watch more of the Bollywood films and follow it a bit more. The Bollywood film makers are starting to change the traditional style more as they make movies for wider audiences and new audiences and different film festivals.

We currently have an Iranian film festival playing, and a theatre festival Ikhezi (I think). I will tell you how both are. I found out about the Iranian film festival late, so it’s already been going for 5 days. So I can see something either Monday or Tuesday (10th or 11th of March). I’m also going to see Othello produced by the UCT drama department with some outside actor playing Othello. It’s directed by the UCT drama lecturer who (FINALLY answered and said his course (advanced acting for international students) is very full and he doesn’t have room for me. I asked way back in November, though. Maybe it doesn’t matter since I’m auditing (or wanting to audit). I’m trying to find the African dance lecturer and the photography lecturers who gave me hope. But I fear it will be the same. It’s ok, though.

I have a good friend named Terrell who is at the University of North Texas. He offered me a guitar. I’m not sure how useful that is, of course, but he knows that I want to have a keyboard or a guitar or something to have at home since I don’t have access to the music school after 5 and I’ve no instrument at home. That would help a lot.

Other than that, the normal things are in the news here. Remember that article to which I sent a link. It described the white students who did the Fear Factor with black university employees in which they unknowingly drank pet food with urine in it? Well, maybe you didn’t read that part nor click the link, but when I sent it I had heard nothing about it here in South Africa. Immediately when I return they are up in arms. And students are protesting around the country, and it’s discussed on the news. Honestly, I would not have thought anything of it (other than stupidity) if they hadn’t added the commentary at the end “This is what we think of integration.” I think that changed it all. But I don’t believe it’s indicative of the majority of students at Free State University. I do think it’s indicative of FF+ (Freedom Front Plus) a type of Afrikaners protectionist group that tends to stir up students at universities to protect Afrikaner interests.

Strange country, as I’ve said. Since apartheid ended, the Coloureds feel it is worse for them. The Whites feel it is worse for them. And the Blacks? Some of them think it’s worse as well. Strange. With all that’s going on including the power outages the rand keeps dropping relative to the pound/euro/dollar (dropping faster than dollar). So that helps incoming visitors from those places.

VISITORS





Speaking of visitors, Adrianne, my friend (little sister) who is a missionary in Joburg with her husband, was visited by her family, long time friends, the Showalters—Seth, her brother, and her two parents, David and Karen. It was super excellent to see them. I really enjoyed it. They rented a car (I offered to get one for them as it can be difficult to see Cape Town quickly without one). They spent a week in Joburg and a week in Cape Town and are now back in Joburg, today (Monday the 10th of March) visiting the Apartheid Museum there. They did Kirstenbosch Gardens, Table Mountain, Camps Bay, Hout Bay, Stellenbosch and the vineyards, the Waterfront, Century City and Madame Zingara’s, Africa Café, Simon’s Town and the penguins, the Aquarium, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Whew! They worked hard. David even read Mandela’s historical “Long Walk to Freedom” while here (wow!); Adrianne has been reading it (she always corrects inaccuracies with my e-mail; she’s a sociologist). Unfortunately when the day came for them to go to Robben Island, the Robben Island tour boat trips were canceled (the 9, the 11, the 1, and the 3 o’clock). It was super sad. I think they would have enjoyed that as a highlight of their trip because they were very interested in the social dynamics, history, and the human geography of this country.

My friend Mark Little, who classifies beard (beard toxicologist), would definitely call Seth’s beard 3-dimensional. He could tickle you from across the table and never lift a finger. It was good to see him. He has a new real estate company he’s running. And he’s looking for a good agent.

A(u)dri asked me to invite some friends because they had booked too many seats for Madame Zingara’s restaurant. I did. Little did I know that it was a dream come true for Takalani and Bronwyn. Bronwyn was just telling her mom that all she wanted was just to go out for an amazing time and eat some amazing food in a really nice restaurant. And then I called. Takalani couldn’t believe he was eating in a restaurant listed in Top Billing (TV show about fancy stuff) as one of the top 10 places to eat. It’s a cool restaurant, and I would love to work there with proper time and transportation. It’s like a mini-Cirque du Soleil with dinner held in a tent. The restaurant burned down about two years ago (I think), so with some help of friends and another company they created a tent, and this tent travels between Joburg and Durban. They were supposed to leave in January/December, but they extended the Cape Town part through May. So if you come, make sure you check it out while you can. So it was a great time with great food. Jeannie thought my breath was foul (it was this thick lamb sauce that sticks in your mouth I promise) so she gave everyone breath mints. I took mine with gusto relishing in the hint.




The acts were dazzling and one was comedic. It was fun. At the end it turned into a great big dance party. Adrianne and I went to the center for everyone to watch the Americans "show ‘em how we do it.” They thought I was Montell Jordan (is that his name?).

So the Showalters were very generous the entire time and included me like family when I could meet them up. So I enjoyed it thoroughly. We laughed SOOOOO much. And I always enjoy that and miss that when I’m with people that don’t laugh so much. I’ve included some pictures of our time.

RESEARCH & WRITING


Strangely enough, I was told by another fellow here that you can get anything published. You just have to send it to the right place as his PhD advisor told him. He also said the applied mathematician journals/editors are much meaner than the pure engineering editors/journals who are concerned more with the application. So he said try those. We’ll see.

I actually was following the advice of two reviewers who said to rewrite it and resubmit it, but I showed it to another colleague Andrew who was unsure whether I was allowed to resubmit a rejected article. So I e-mailed the editor and found out that even though the reviewers suggested rewriting and resubmission the editor declined it for publication period (present or future). So I cannot resubmit it to the same place. So next week I’ll have to find another place to send it. We shall see.

I’m also reading on HIV/AIDS at the moment. I was before. But I’m preparing to apply for research funding for a project, and I want to make sure the proposal/application is as tight as it can be, as well-presented as it can be, but, most importantly, as creative as it can be. I’m excited. It’s a move in the right direction and it’s a 5-year grant.

SERVICE & BOGO


I’ve been asked by a local school to come in some days and work with the kids. I’ll see what it actually entails but it might be very interesting. I’m excited. It will definitely be less time than I originally imagined because of the tutoring job I now have.

Also, I’m still preparing to speak at an HIV/AIDS rally in Limpopo in June. So I’m excited about that still. And I’ve found a site in Mozambique. There’s a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who is there at a site and he has a village with a school attended by many people who do not have electricity at home, so this would be excellent. I’m still without a US-based non-profit sponsor for my distribution efforts. So if you know of anyone, send her the last update with the info. We can still make it happen.

AFRICA


Mozambique is the site of some riots. It’s funny. In the US, when gas prices go up, what do people do? They pay more and keep driving. Some say they’ll ride bikes or walk or take park&ride, but on the whole, in general, people just pay it. Over here in South Africa, there were actually less cars on the road the morning after gas prices went up 60 cents (in MY neighborhood). This immediately translates into fare hikes on taxis. And if some can’t pay it, they walk. Look at Mozambique, some workers had to now walk 3 to 12 km into Maputo because of the transport fare hike. Other people, refusing to accept this, caused riots in the city protesting the fare hike. The juxtaposition of that picture with US reaction is such a strange thing to apprehend. But even here in southern Africa, we are experiencing gas prices increasing and the translation to fare increases is immediate. No trickling down over time.

The tectonic plates of the earth do take time (in our time scales) to shutter and break and quake. DRC, with part of the country already ravaged by war and disease and destruction of health infrastructure, now must deal with earthquakes that have killed many and disrupted aid work, as well.

THE FINGER OF GOD



Through all of the goings-on in other parts, there are some wonderful things (I don’t talk about these as much) going on. This is just one. I’ve said before that miracles are more abundant in the developing world than in the “Western” world, in the developing world churches than in the “Western church.” So it’s interesting to be here, though much of the white portion of South Africa lumps itself in with “Western” churches. But it’s still an amazing thing to see.

Lex is a guy at my church who goes around the world for visits and conferences and witnesses this first hand. I don’t like to say “goes and heals people” because he’s not one of those televangelist with a huge televised ministry that takes donations. It’s like a grass-roots thing; well, it’s more simple than that. It’s just him visiting places and things happening, not planned or anything. Anyway I do work in the church here, but it’s not why the government brought me over. But if I’m able, I would like to accompany him on his next trip overseas somewhere.


My favorite is this woman in Mozambique. I really like her, again, because she’s not like the TV people. She actually is big on the Jesus’s words that say “unless you become like the least of theses [like a little child], you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” So she travels around Mozambique (she speaks Portuguese) and she shows the “Jesus Film.” Lots of people do that. No problem. But tons of miracles follow her after the film is shown. There are people with serious needs and they come to receive prayer. So instead of just praying for these people, pushing them hard so they fall down and asking for money through the radio and TV, she has a group of kids (I kid you not) who follow and accompany her on these visits to villages. And she AND the kids pray for these people. She calls these kids who ACTUALLY BELIEVE that their prayer can do something (adults don’t really believe so much; it’s true for many adults; some would say most adults especially in the Western church). And bam—deaf people hear, bones are corrected, dead are resuscitated (I don’t like to use the term resurrection; I reserve that for “conquering death” as Christians and Jesus claim he did, not coming back to life only to die again).

I have not seen her in person. I saw her in a documentary called “The Finger of God.” Check it out if you have time. Even if you don’t believe what you see, it’s a wonderfully honest exploration of someone who doesn’t or didn’t think like that.

http://www.amazon.com/Finger-God-Darren-Wilson/dp/B00116495O

It is just interesting to me, because what is amazing to the Western Church is quite normal in parts over (or Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, etc.). The people of these regions have never felt that God has grown tired of them even in worse situations.