Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UPDATE - April 24, 2009

April 24, 2009

I met a girl from the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Her name was Dia. She was so happy to see me that she hung around me a lot that night and even introduced me to her boss. She works for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

I was in a hip part of Silver Spring, MD on Friday, and one of the young teenagers spoke to me by saying, “Excuse me, sir.” I believe that I detest such an address. In theatre, I can still play an age range from 18-39. Though I must admit, I was looking rather dignified that night. Maybe it’s my “fault.” I have had people tell me they know I’m African royalty because of my posture, stance, and walk. Ridiculous, I know, but it’s true.

D.C. (government) Lingo

Drinking from the fire hose
Acronyms, galore, so many that some parts of the government don’t know acronyms from another part

I think I know what they all mean, but I don’t use adjudicate and stakeholders much in my language. I do use the words appropriate and gap.


Hello, from the States. I was traveling last weekend from Thursday, so I didn’t send an update. I’ve had to travel to the State for Round 4 of those AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships I told you about.

I could say a lot about D.C., but I’m trying to make these updates shorter. I will say that the best part of being there was when I saw a van giving food to the homeless in the park. Then I felt the city had some kind of different sense, a sense of reality or something. The government often seems like an impersonal machine, almost very similar to a large corporation. And many of the homeless people in the city are ignored. So I rather enjoyed seeing this. In fact, on Saturday (the 25th) I saw it again. This time the group doing the feeding was an Asian church. I sat in the park for awhile and watched them not only feed, but talk to the homeless in groups of 7 to 9. They prayed and sang and talked. Even though I think they had too many people for each homeless person, I did appreciate that they met physical needs by feeding, and that they related to the people. That was nice. I saw another group in the park, a group of young to middle-aged African Americans who were holding hands in a large circle. They may have been praying. Afterwards, they hugged and laughed. I enjoyed it.


I think it’s so funny. People who receive the updates consistently ask me questions about these job interviews showing me they haven’t read it which is ok except it takes a long time to explain it all. I won’t re-explain the previous stuff, and it’s probably ok if you don’t understand the organizations or the processes. I will start from where I left off.

So this week, we all arrived in D.C. for “Placement Week” to hopefully find a placement and funding. There are four program areas:
Health, Education, and Human Services (HEHS)
Energy, Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (EEANR)
National Defense and Global Security (NDGS)

And remember that NDGS (defense, my area) is the only area with less placements than actual finalists since the FBI is not offering this year (remember CIA and NSA don’t offer defense science advisorships).

Well, the number of NDGS finalists increased from 13 to 15 because 2 current fellows are re-entering Placement Week to find a new post for their renewal year. There are still 6 dual finalists they may choose their other area. I don’t know.
Two NDGS finalists asked the associate director and director if they would allow Defense fellows who did not find a match to take a post with the State Department (the State Department has more than enough positions/placements for the Diplomacy finalists). They both said no because we would be bypassing the diplomacy selection process and were not selected by the Diplomacy selection committee to be a finalist.

The process this week is like this: we have already been pre-selected by some potential employers to interview. Then, usually, you can spend the week calling the remainder of the list of potential offices/employers in your area. In my area, NDGS, you can actual interview with all 10 because it’s so small. But with other areas like Diplomacy or EEANR you can have 40+ people and even more possible placements. So offices pre-select to ensure they are able to definitely interview the people with whom they feel there is a match. But in my area, you have enough time to schedule 10 interviews within a week. Still 2 offices never responded to my e-mails or calls. And another 2 offices said they were too busy with other interviews to interview me. So I saw a total of 6 offices.

By Thursday next week, all the finalists must rank their top 2 choices (you may rank more or all). The placement offices in different government agencies must also rank all the candidates they interviewed. Then AAAS matches them, either 1-1, 1-2, or 2-2 typically. They usually do not have to go further down the ranking order than that. But this year is full of surprises, so we’ll see.

To make a long story short, no position really jumped out at me. That’s a bit scary. They want you to choose the best one based on interviews and talking to former fellows, but the truth is you won’t know what the placement/position is like until you are actually there. Moreover, many potential employers didn’t even know what the fellow would do in his/her office once the fellow arrived in September. Some potential employers weren’t sure they would offer the position. Some offices were still waiting on political appointments that would change the nature of the job or the priorities on the job. So it was a mess.

Not only is it hard to tell if you will like a position, but the positions truly represented a full range, none of which I thought these “science advisor” positions would be. In other words, I had a false image of what we would do based upon our homework assignment and presentation as semi-finalists in the Round 3 interview in March in D.C. The Defense fellows were asked to writing a briefing memo about a policy from the previous administration associated with defense that they recommend for change listing the technical aspects, policy aspects, pros, cons, and bottom line in their policy suggestion. The EEANR semi-finalists had to write a briefing memo to the president outlining the top 3 EEANR issues facing the country today. Diplomacy and HEHS semi-finalists had similar “high-level” policy-recommending briefing memos to write.

Well, most of these positions are not recommending policy. At most it is communicating or coordinating or analyzing policy. In a sense all jobs are implementing policy. So this week has been learning about a broader definition of policy. AAAS holds just such a broad definition. So if you are doing program management (most of these jobs are such) it is, in some ways policy, because policy dictates which programs are important, which are kept, how a program is managed, etc. And they also told me having a budget is policy work because you appropriate the budget to various needs. Money is policy, they’ve told me while laughing. It’s true in some sense. So the jobs were in the range between program management to somewhat policy to very scientific. I’ll go through the Defense offerings.

I will say I was actually excited (still not completely sure) by the last interview.**

Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Policy Development This was the most policy-orientated position. The Office of Policy Development is a sub-office of the Office of Policy which is under the DHS. What the job would entail is not quite clear as its mission may be a bit different in September. But it was the most enjoyable interview, and we talked easily for an hour (he is also a natural introvert who can function as an extrovert like me). But again this is not policy advising or policy recommending. This is intra-agency (DHS) policy coordination (that’s what is meant by development) and inter-agency policy coordination. For instance if there is a disease outbreak in Mexico and Canada, Health and Human Services might have protocols about what to be done but they don’t have people who run the borders. Customs and Immigration are offices of Homeland Security so DHS would have to help in the coordination of such a task. In fact DHS is a hodge-podge of many different groups and elements.

Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate, Chem Bio Division (didn’t see these people)

**Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate, Chem Bio Division
This was my last interview, and it was possibly one of the top 2 most exciting ones. He said he could tailor the job in any direction I wanted. He could make it more technical where I work on a segment of a chemical-biological detection product, or I could manage a program (like running solicitations for research proposals, reviewing them, choosing the best and making sure the winner does the research we need throughout the year), or I could do a tiny-bit of policy but more like analysis. He loves his job and after retiring around 45, he decided to come to government and do civil service. A very interesting guy, and he can talk forever, but working for him might be quite exciting. He also didn’t scare me with saying 80 hours of work. We’ll see. One of the former fellows in his office is the one who is offering the scary job in the Pentagon that could have weeks of 80 hours.

Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Acquisitions, Technology & Logistics,
Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense and Chemical Demilitarization Programs (didn’t see these people)
Department of Defense Office of the Secretary of Defense, Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics, Cooperative Threat Reduction Policy (didn’t see these people)
Department of Defense, Pentagon Force Protection Agency, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Directorate
This one seemed very technical. The fellow would work on air flow modeling to see how biological and chemical bugs that enter the air flow outside the building or inside the building travel throughout and how we can stop that flow and force that air out of the building. Another third of the job is testing and validation of these detection devices and the entire Pentagon Shield (autonomous system used to detect and eradicate chemical biological bugs entering the building). And then final third is program management working with performers (researchers whose proposals we have accepted to do research to develop products for us). It did seem somewhat cool. But due to the testing, the job requires weekend work. And she said that some weeks would be as high as 80 hours a week with an average of 50 hours a week. Honestly, this is where she lost me. To work such long hours you have to be passionate about the job, and at this point, I am not passionate as this week has been a reversal of my framework for these fellowships as I understand these are not technically policy advisor positions. So that scared me, really. I want to have a balanced life, and such work doesn’t define me. So I don’t know. But the D.C. culture is like that. The work seemed cool, but that’s a large negative.
Department of Defense, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Office of the Chief Scientist
I would work with the Chief Scientist and the Deputy Chief Scientist. They like me because of my Air Force research, and this position would mostly be about figuring out if the Air Force is investing the right amount of money in the correct areas for basic research that would eventually benefit the Air Force (for instance, they are not interested in funding basic research to find a cure for cancer). So it doesn’t have to be applied research but it must be in going past answering known unknowns and finding what the unknown unknowns are that might benefit Air Force Scientific goals in the future. The second part of the job is if the money is properly appropriated and budgeted in to the right areas in the right amounts, justifying this to the government. So it’s a lot of literature surveys and reading. They expect you to be very independent. And there is some travel.
Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department
This is the Human Social Cultural Behavioral (HSCB) Modeling Program which is 1 year old. Here you would help with the program in terms of sending out solicitations (calls for proposals) and getting scientists to propose needed research projects and fund them and manage the funding and manage the project. They are looking for products that help in determining the human factor for the military: what is offensive in this new culture, what are the values, what will aggravate them against our country, what will not, etc. It’s a new area and so there is much to do. The Director of the program, Ivy, is a young person who is in her first year after her 2nd year of the fellowship program. She expects a lot, expects you to work very hard, and does prefer having someone who is a social scientist which makes me feel that she would not rate me highly. But the fact is they don’t have enough social scientists who are excited about it, and they don’t have enough social scientists period/full-stop. But since they try to do 1st and 2nd choice matches, I think it would be bad to choose her since she wouldn’t choose me. She scares me and makes me feel like I would have to work too much. And for me, work doesn’t define my life. She said because she is junior, then when cool opportunities come up (like travel or testifying to the Senate or House) she would probably take those because she is still trying to make a name for herself.***
Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, Code 341, Warfighter Performance (Deals with cognitive science—didn’t see these people)

Department of Defense, Director, Defense Research and Engineering (DDRE) , Office of Deputy Under Secretary of Laboratories and Basic Sciences, Office of Basic Research & Office of Laboratories

The Director of Basic Research and the Director of Laboratories are both new. The former has been in the position for 9 months or so; the latter, 1 month. So they are not exactly sure what I would do. Not to mention, the Deputy Under Secretary for Laboratories and Basic Sciences hasn’t been appointed; neither has the DDRE head been appointed by the new administration. So those appointments would direct the priorities of the AAAS fellow working in the office. His most important question that he wants the fellow to help answer is should the DoD be investing in basic research at all or should they leave that to NSF. If so, what constitutes basic research and how do you determine if DoD research dollars are being used for “basic research” versus applied research since grant receivers and program managers disagree. It’s not really well defined, and they’ve never had a AAAS person before, but they would like one. The most enjoyable conversation in the office was with the executive assistant. She was quite wonderful and gave me advice on living places in the D.C. area.

Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) (didn’t see these people)

*** And that’s the awkward thing. I’m not really into making a name for myself. I think that motivation is misguided. I think it’s more about service, civil service, service for the people. I don’t like the culture she is a part. In fact, the entire D.C. government machine has a certain culture, and I’m not sure it’s my culture. There are some countercultural people here, but they are few. It’s a bit funny. I don’t mind wearing suits; I like to dress up. But I like doing it because I want to. To be required to wear both a jacket and a tie is different and new for me. But beyond that superficial thing, you actually have a lot of people in, for example, the State Department who are not passionate at all about their work. It’s simply a job. So they are removed from the politics of it and also removed from the issues. So if you are in the State Dept (remember I am not a diplomacy fellow so I was not eligible for any of these posts) and you were interested in working on international water issues, you may work with people who are just there working on it to make a big name, not necessarily because they care about getting access to clean water for everyone in the country and the world.

The hardest part about the entire process is that I was a bit misinformed, in some sense. Or let’s say I misunderstood. Because I imagined the actual positions to be actual science policy advisor positions doing the type of work we had to do for the Round 3 interview assignment (policy recommendation briefing memo if you read those updates), I mistakenly thought we would do the same thing. Since it’s not the same thing, one of the two reasons for doing this job is now gone. I wanted to do the job because, unlike other friends who work in government especially State Dept and Foreign Service, instead of having to represent the government and communicate, implement, or promote US policy even when you personally disagree, you are a separate entity. As a science policy advisor you are asked your own personal and scientific opinion about what path (policy) is best to take in a given situation. You are acting at the point before policy is made, helping to actual carve, shape, write it. That’s redemptive work, that’s integral and integrity-filled work (or can be). But we actually won’t be in that position, funny enough. We might be in that position for intra-office policy (like maybe we should write more specific words in our research solicitations or “calls for proposals” – ha ha). So we’ll see.

But it’s still a blessing. A AAAS fellowship is a huge honor, and it’s a good opportunity to get in there and see what happens. I think they should better advertise the positions and be more true to what you would actually do. The website doesn’t properly frame the opportunities to be understood for what they actually are.

You also make connections and can “climb the government” ladder as people who want to make a name do. The most interesting thing is that all these career civil servants are supervised by temporary political appointments which, many times, come from outside. So to be at the highest level of some of these offices—a secretary, a deputy secretary, and under secretary, or an assistant secretary – you are usually appointed as opposed to rising up from the bottom.

It’s been an interesting week!


Being in the U.S. for a few days allows me to see the Somali pirating issues is big news, especially with the capture of Captain Richard Phillips American ship, the exchange of Captain Richard Phillips for the release of his crew, and the final rescue by the U.S. Navy of Captain Richard Phillips who is now safely back home, lauded as a hero. With only one sole survivor among the Somali pirates who captured Phillips’ ship, I initially thought it was a mistake for Somali pirates to ever hijack a U.S. ship. But even France has rescued some of its own citizens, recently saving four (including a 3-yr-old boy) on board the hijacked Tanit, a yacht on which one captive was killed. So it’s not only the U.S. that is taking strong measures to take its own people back. The question is whether it is enough. Is a deterrent?

The problem has been going on for awhile before it has arisen in prominence in Western media, and there are currently 15-20 ships being currently held by pirates. With 111 attacks in 2008, Somali pirates have attacked more ships than the number in the previous year. Hopefully the number will go down in 2009, but now are unsure.

The lack of a stable government in Somalia is still present, and combined with the busiest shipping lanes in the world, it still creates a environment conducive for such piracy. So it seems any piracy solution must address the instability of government within the country. With such a large sea and tons of suggested solutions, as of now, most ships must resort to defending themselves through the vast area of water in the Gulf of Aden and beyond. But the situation does point to the continued fact that one problem in one part of the world affects us all. And the development, stability, growth, and peace of developing countries do affect us. It is our problem.

The biggest news in Africa, is the South Africa elections. So South African news can have continental importance. In fact, much of the world is watching. The elections were yesterday (Wednesday, the 22nd of April), and Jacob Zuma stands poised to win. By the time I e-mail this, he may already have done so. But why does it matter? South Africa, in a simplistic sense, leads the continent in many ways (economically, militarily, etc.). Why would people prefer he not be president?

Well, when apartheid ended, we thought things would immediately get better. But the “new South Africa” vision gave way to realism. We’ve seen many societal indicators and statistics go in the wrong direction. For instance, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. Unemployment is extremely high (I’ve seen projected figures as high as 40%). And though I talk much about such statistics worsening, a lot of good has been done: 2.7 million houses have been built since 1994 (though we need much more), 60% of 5.7 million HIV-infected people are taking anti-retrovirals, welfare is given to over 12 million people (it was 3 million in 1996), etc. So some things are improving, but the task is completely overwhelming and there is so much more work to do. The question is will it continue with Zuma is he fit to lead.

People are worried about him because of corruption (remember those charges were only dropped because the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] felt the timing of the charges were politically motivated) and competence (he is very popular but is he savvy or intelligent enough to lead well; remember the HIV fiasco after sleeping with a girl who considered his niece and claiming he’s ok because he showered afterwards?). Here is an article on the elections from which I got a few of the statistics above:

Perhaps the most important thing for him to welcome is actual opposition. Having a multiplicity of heard voices is crucial for a democracy, and right now it’s one-party rule for the most part. I do believe in 5 years the ANC may have viable opposition, but for Wednesday’s election this week, not yet.

And as of today (Sunday), he’s won.


April 25th is World Malaria Day.
And currently there are 109 malarious countries in the world. Many of them are in Africa. Malaria is still a problem in South Africa, but only in certain regions, as we have benefited from development and what it brings.

The Gates Foundation has donated over 20 million to Oxford University and WHO to create Worldwide
Antimalarial Drug Resistance Network (WARN).

There is a global malaria action plan in which you can take part. To read about it, first go here.
Fighting malaria is also connected with the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and 2010 targets set by Secutary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
The eventual goal is complete eradication; mid-term goal is elimination from humans; and the short-term goal is reduction. So we are hoping to reach the first milestone in 2010 and the 2015 MDG of elimination.

Here are some Malaria sites to check out for more information.


Have you seen this movie? I think it’s hard to make Holocaust movies because there are so many. How do you do it with originality? Is it politically incorrect to say that there are too many such movies? Are there any new stories? This is a new story that I have never heard. Daniel Craig, of course, always seems super-hard and tough.

Quantum of Solace
I didn’t see Casino Royale, but the action and fighting in this movie actually seems real, but it’s so quick, hard, and fast-paced/frantic. I’ve never seen fighting scenes like this and don’t usually associate such a style with Bond films. I didn’t see Casino Royale, but it’s definitely a new style. Bond seems different in these movies. Daniel Craig just seems hard (tough) to me, not as smooth, yet.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua
What? I think it’s supposed to be just a fun movie. Ha ha!

I went to the Cape Town museums last week, and I’d like to say that I really enjoy looking at and learning about Rock Art. And we have it around the world, in Europe, Asia, the Americas. But it’s really cool to see it here, rock art from South Africa.

I went to an exhibit (well the lobby of the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS] ) of the covers of Science magazine. That was really cool to see the intersection of art and science as cover designers seek to illuminate science in an engaging and attractive way.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

UPDATE - April 10, 2009

Hello. Things are somewhat quiet here. I had a nice choir rehearsal this week. I had one of those Black South African experiences when I had a music gig (Yayy!) at a junior girls school (elementary/primary school up to grade 7). It was a guitarist and I. It was run by a mother of a grade 7 girl in my church’s children’s ministry. Additionally, this mother is the landlady of a newlywed couple I know and at whose wedding I sang. I was with the couple out-of-town planning their wedding when someone broke into the building, so we had to race there from out of town and meet with this woman. On top of that, she auditioned for the choir, so she’s met me ample times.

When arrived, she asked who I was. She guessed that I might be related to the other musician. “Oh are you Wes’s friend?” Wow.


I thought it was great that though we were doing a series at my church called “Just Walk Across the Room” based on a same-titled book by Bill Hybels (senior pastor of Willowcreek Church in the Chicago area), my lead-pastor found time to include race in the talk which is rarely mentioned in my church. “Just Walk Across the Room” is about personal evangelism without “Bible-bashing” and how most Christians personal stories are too long, involve too much Christian-ese, too vague and fuzzy, or too boring.

With all the racial issues in the country, it is nice to recognize that such issues also exist inside the church; it’s not perfect. And walking across the room might just be what is needed for some blacks and whites to get to know each other and befriend each other and break down some walls. So he talked about white people needing to get out of their comfortable white circles. All the blacks (in their minds) were excited by this and thinking “Ja, ja!!” (like “yes” or “yeah”). I believe this was happening because when he was done telling the white people what should be happening outside the church (though he should have said in the church, too, but the context was befriending non-Christians) he said, “And for all the black people who are thinking “Ja! You tell him, pastor!! They need to hear that!” I have a message for you, too. This resulted in uproarious laughter. It’s the kind of laughter that says “how did you know?” or “you got me!” So he also put a challenge to the black people saying there are many white people who want to have black friends but don’t know how to initiate. Maybe you should think about initiating friendships with some of these people. And he began to describe some of the student stereotypes of whites who would like to befriend black people and everyone started laughing.

It wasn’t the focus of the sermon but it was nice.


I was told that I hadn’t spoken about my new service “work” that started perhaps in late February/early March. I thought I did talk about it at the beginning, but it’s been about a month, so perhaps not. In late January I was trying to encourage my life group to do some service work. The reason, as Shane Claiborne says, is that theology and ideology is not very sustaining. This was confirmed when I asked my life group “How many of you changed your life majorly after any of our Bible studies or discussions last year?” No one said anything. I believe in the power of service to change people and teach lessons (orthopraxy informing orthodoxy; though Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament Bible, might say orthodoxy informs orthopraxy; it just doesn’t seem to happen that way much). Often my life group would get stuck on theological issues and we could never get to the application part of the study (at least when I was leading). So I wanted them to live out what they were “learning.” I wanted us to spend 50+% of our time on others because I saw us as pretty selfish, though others I the group would disagree.

I planned for us to meet one Wednesday, serve the next Wednesday, meet the next, serve the next and continue alternating like that continuously. But I wanted the group to take ownership and feel it was there idea. By throwing out a bunch of ideas (including service) I was able to get them to suggest doing more service and then for them to suggest a frequency of once a month. So I had to actually initiate the specific idea of every other week. The group took it up, and so it seemed like it wasn’t me at all which is what I wanted.

Now the problem was what service. The two most popular areas of service among our group were spending time with sick (terminally ill preferred) children in hospitals and homeless shelter work. Tim, one of the leaders, and I were ok with just choosing an option and sticking to it, but many wanted to service shop. Well, most people didn’t do their research assignments of getting a service opportunity for the group in a particular area (hospital area, homeless shelter, community clean-up, for instance).

So I found our first service which was non-relational; in other words, we would not work with people but we would be packaging food and making baskets to be delivered to homeless families and individuals. The non-profit agency is called the Warehouse and they are located near my house. Because it’s difficult to get life groups, in general, to do something (even if service) outside the normal life group meeting (unless food is involved) I wanted them to use our life group Wednesday time to do the service. This is why we were alternating Wednesdays, so there was no extra time commitment. And, to me, doing service is part of what life groups should be concerned. It’s part of what a life group is. However, trying to do service on Wednesday nights is difficult because the opportunities don’t necessarily abound. The Warehouse, for instance, allows you to participate in deliveries interacting with the homeless people (and their many other programs) only during weekday daytimes and on Saturdays. That was out for us. So we, instead, were to do non-relational food packaging on Wednesday night.

The day for our first service came, and the woman who runs the volunteer program called me to tell me she had double booked, so she could not have us that evening. I had to find a replacement and fast. So I did research and found a list of homeless shelters for children (combining the desires to work with sick children and homeless shelters). And it’s relational! Guess what? As is usually the case with volunteering, it’s hard to actually do it. People always say they need people but then they won’t take you. I called place after place. They required us to come in for orientations, to do weeks of training, to turn in resumes, etc. There was no place that would let us just come. The other problem is that the person to talk to was not in.

I was near the bottom of the list and I called a place called Percy Bartley, founded in 1951 in Woodstock, a tough part of Cape Town. The woman greeted me nicely and I explained why I was calling. She miraculously said that they had been looking for someone to come in and lead a Bible study with the boys and help them with homework. I asked when we could start. She said anytime. I hesitantly prodded “Today?” She said, “Sure.” And that was that. No overhead, no administration, nothing. We arrived that day, and as is the “problem” with relational work we were attached!

This was all done last minute on the day of our life group meeting, so I had to organize everything on my own. I planned a Bible study lesson which was just an ice breaker, followed by breaking up into small groups to read a passage and answer some discussion questions, followed by a drama (I used some of my life group members for it) and a talk interspersed in the drama. It was about identity, and I used the story of Cinderella. I’ve since decided to make it a chapter in a piece I’m working on.

It was a hit. After the meeting as we were leaving, most boys asked us when we were returning. Many of us said “In two weeks,” after which we immediately thought “Oh wait, I need to check with my life group first because I don’t know if we’re coming back.” But since everyone had similar experiences and everyone fell in love with the boys (it’s a boys home), we all agreed the following week to stay with it. So we never service-shopped!

It’s been great. We’ve met with them three times already and this week was to be our fourth meeting, but we had yet to do anything social with them. On top of that, it was Easter Vacation week for them (being in school) and us studying at the university. So one of the members of my life group, Jade, a 1st year teacher, decided to organize a week’s worth of social activities.

On Monday morning we did a hike up a popular mountain called Lion’s Head. Monday evening was a movie night. We watched Drum Line. They loved it. Tuesday morning they made collages/posters of themselves with their names at the top and cutting pictures and words from magazines. Tuesday afternoon into late evening was spent at the museum, doing a walk through city gardens, and experiencing two shows at the planetarium. Wednesday afternoon was spent at the aquarium, and Wednesday evening was a games night at the church that we organized. Thursday morning and early afternoon were beach days, and Thursday evening was a movie night again (Madagascar II). We’re tired, but it was exciting and worth it.

I even got in trouble. A church staff worker and friend saw me on Thursday at church before a choir rehearsal and said that they (she and the children’s pastor) were upset with me about this kid’s program. I said “what did we do wrongly?” She said she couldn’t talk about it because she would sin (I interpreted this to mean she was so angry about it, but I was told this could mean she considered gossiping sinful; who knows). She would let the Children’s pastor talk to me about it. So I pre-empted the talk and apologized for the fact that one of the kids broke a light covering (the light still works) in the room we used and for using sports equipment without asking and borrowing tape and 3 sheets of paper. I didn’t know what else they were upset about, but I thought it was about that. But now, as I wait for this “talk” I realize they might be upset that we were doing work with kids who don’t go to this church (my church is very strict and uptight about such things due to liability and responsibility and behavior; but they do it to the point of putting such issues before people or sometimes they express these things to kids (without parents at the church) in a poor tone). It just occurred to me last night that perhaps this is what I’ve done wrong that has angered them against me. This is new to me. I’m usually in the good books with the children’s ministry, but I’m learning to let it go even before they let me have it, for whatever it is.

That and the fact that the church was not nice in giving Jade access to the van (not a clear answer, not a timely answer to allow her to plan, etc. So I had to intervene and talk to the operations manager at the church to get the van and still it wasn’t given to us for the full times we needed though it wasn’t used the entire time) were down points. But even those things cannot quench the joy and bonding that occurred this week. The highlight for me was the beach. If you didn’t know it, in Cape Town we get a circulating ocean current that comes up from Antarctica. The water is icy sitting in the 9-12 degrees Celsius range. It’s difficult to swim, and most people go to the beach to play on the sand or sunbathe. Many people go to the Indian Ocean parts of South Africa to get slightly warmer waters. The farther east you go from the Cape of Good Hope the warmer it becomes. If you’re really close it’s not that much warmer. But to South Africans used to freezing water, they can tell the difference and it feels significantly warmer to them. Well, some of the boys had never been to the beach, and the novelty of it was amazing to them. They LOVED it! So they would jump in the water and freeze; they didn’t care. It was about the freedom and coolness of the beach and the waves and the water and the sun. It was grand.

The boys, by the way go from age 5 all the way to 18/19. There are about 15 or so of them (it changes all the time). And they are either South African or Zimbabwean, all black and coloured boys. Most boys are in the 11-16 range.


Ok, I was asked again, so I will try to write it out and explain what I’m doing in Washington, again. But I won’t put the links this time.

There are 30 U.S. scientific organizations that have been given the power by the government to appoint 1 or 2 science advisors to U.S. senators/representatives (Congressmen). This, of course, is in the legislative branch, and these appointments are called Congressional Fellowships for a period of one year. Each science advisor would be on the staff of a Congressman as the science advisor to that senator or rep. Each scientific organization is specific, i.e. GSA-Geological Society of American, OIA - Optical Institute of America, APS - American Physics Society, etc. One of the 30 is the AAAS--American Association for the Advancement of Science. This is an umbrella organization as it contains scientists of all types and is the largest science organization in the world. In addition to 1 or 2 Congressional Fellowships, they also offer 15-25 science policy fellowships in the executive branch (under the president) of government in 4 different areas—National Defense and Global Security [NDGS] (Dept of Defense, FBI, Homeland Security, etc.), Diplomacy (USAID, Dept of State, etc.), energy/environment/natural resources [EENR] (EPA, Dept of Energy, etc.), and health/human services. These fellowships are also for one year but instead are in the executive branch and there are more appointments in each of the 4. I applied with the AAAS (I applied for a few others but didn't get those) for defense and diplomacy as you are only allowed to apply for two. In Round 1 they shortlist the candidates (quarter-finalists). In Round 2, still looking at the same applications, they shortlist again. This new list of names is called the semi-finalists list, and the semi-finalists are flown for interviews in D.C. (Round 3). From this pool AAAS chooses who they want to work in government; Over 50% of the semifinalists in Round 3 go are chosen and become finalists. The problem now, of course, is that they've (we've) been chosen by AAAS but we still have not been chosen by the government directly and we've still no exact, particular placement within government (I gave examples of executive branch agencies in the four areas). So Round 4 is a week's worth of interviewing at different agencies within your area to find a placement.

They always say that it is not definite and subject to availability of funding and finding a placement. In other words, the number of finalists that AAAS has chosen doesn't always match the number of possible spots the government has in that area. Additionally, AAAS does not fund the executive branch fellows (non-Congressional fellows). The funding comes from the government agencies directly. So for me to get the job, I must find an agency that both wants me above others and has the money for me. Though, in the area of Defense for the past 5 years, all finalists have been able to take an appointment if they chose to take one (though not necessarily their first choice). This happened due to a merger of offers from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). So though everyone who wanted a NDGS appointment could have one, this year is different. There are considerably less openings in science defense policy for AAAS NDGS finalists. The CIA and NSA don’t offer positions. The FBI, who usually offers positions, is not offering positions this year (this is the change). This leaves only the DoD, DHS, and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at the Department of Energy (DoE). Should all 13 of us want placement in defense we would not get it. Why wouldn't all of us want placement in defense if we're interviewing? Well, some of the defense fellow finalists are also finalists in another area, so if some of them take a placement in another area it will ease the competition a bit. As it stands, who knows? I just know now that there are not enough placement spots for us all. AAAS is working hard to get the government to offer a few more, but it still will be short. So we will see. I should definitely pursue other job opportunities even as I go for this final round of interviews!

The Associate Director of the entire AAAS program has encouraged fellows who are finalists in two areas (including NDGS) to consider taking the other area if they offered a job or in deciding before an offer comes. This would ease the competition and be more secure for that person. NDGS is the smallest area of the four offering the least placements. The Associate Director does hope to add one or two more placements before Placement Week (the interview week) begins on the 20th of April. We shall see.


With our election less than a week and a half away, it still sits as the most important topic on our minds today. For a majority of Black South Africans issues of housing, education, and health are the most important. So even though the front-runner party, the long-standing, liberating ANC party, has a presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, who has been charged with corruption and bribery charges, he will most likely win. This suggests that such issues of corruption and the law are not the most important factors in this upcoming election. Still, the big question is what happens to a convicted president, should he win, and should he even still be running.

Well the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had a decision to make. Should they continue the case against Zuma or let it go. And their final announcement came on Monday the 6th of April. In what I believe to be a historic decision, the charges against Zuma were dropped and many South Africans were happy (I’ve talked to some).

Strangely the NPA’s acting head Mokotedi Mpshe, and his team did not dismiss the charges because a fair trial would be impossible (as Zuma claimed), or such a trial would tarnish or ruin South Africa’s image abroad, or trial evidence had been manipulated. It wasn’t even dismissed because they believed Zuma to be innocent. It was dismissed because they felt the “legal process” had been politically “abused” according to Mpshe. The charges were dismissed because the NPA believes the (most recent) charges were levied back in December 2007 right after elections for the presidency of the ANC perfectly timed to do the most damage to Zuma and give the most benefit to the former president Thabo Mbeki.

So the NPA felt that if it pursued charges, the public might feel that they condoned malpractice by law enforcement officials. On the other hand, the NPA thought if it dropped charges, the public might view the NPA as condoning crime or at least not addressing and failing to protect the public from such crime.

So it was a lose-lose situation according to the NPA. Still, they came to a conclusion and made a decision which has angered some and encouraged others. Regardless of the fact the Economist reports that a majority of South Africans believe Zuma is guilty, he is now no longer to be tried. Zuma still proclaims his innocence, though the NPA makes it clear that the dropping of charges is not an acquittal or presumption of innocence. This is due to legal malpractice.

So now the stage is set, and the road is clear for the 22nd of April elections in which Zuma will likely become the next elected president of the Republic of South Africa.


The news of the charges of Zuma being dropped is big news around the continent. Many doubted he would ever be indicted and convicted if a trial began, but for those that thought it possible, this means he will most likely be the acting head of the country for at least a full term with no worry of criminally-related removal.

Somalia’s off-shore pirating has increased in the past week. It is now rated in the top two worst countries in the world for aid workers. Afghanistan is the other country. 2008 was listed as the worst year ever for aid workers with 260 being attacked and 122 killed around the world (according to a London-based research institute). Somali pirates seized 6 ships this past week.



I’m excited that the IMF is up for some reform. They’ve mostly been marginalized in recent years and its role was being questioned, but the G20 summit leaders decided to increase its bankroll from $250 billion to $750 billion. Now, from where the extra $500 billion will come is still up in the air. There are some pledges but it’s not enough for the extra $500 billion. Still it’s quite exciting. There have been a number of things wrong with the IMF. I won’t go into some of the problems I’ve spoken about before. But here’s a brief list. In general, poor countries resent it as they don’t have much of a voice or say in its policies and to whom it lends. Rich countries don’t resent it but it’s somewhat unimportant or non-impacting. That is to say they may not feel they get anything from it and somewhat ignore it.

The first problem is who leads it. Yes, it’s multilateral or international, but different countries have voting shares. Guess who has the largest? Yes, the U.S.A. which makes sense (they give a lot of money to it), but the US has 17% voting. Since votes required 85% agreement, then the use can veto any vote (100% – 17% = 83%). So the first change recommended in Trevor Manuel’s (South Africa’s Finance Minister) team’s March 24th report is to cut the 85% requirement down to 70-75% which removes veto power from the U.S. The G20 leaders did not say anything about this, so this may stay as it is for the time being.

People are talking about vote/quota reform in general. One idea is to decrease everyone’s voting shares by 20% and take the extra 20% and sell them to countries that want them the most.

Another is to vary up the IMF leader’s nationality more so that it’s not just Europe-led (the way the World Bank always has an American leader). In other words, the appointment should be an open process where non-European leaders have a fair change to head the IMF. The G20’s leader’s resolution implies this will be the case.

Trevor Manuel’s team also recommended a supervisory council of central bank governors and finance ministers. This would provide a means for coordination (badly needed) and economic strategizing which is needed to stabilize the global economy. In other words, we need coordination between the IMF and political leadership within countries. The G20 leaders did not explicitly speak about this in terms of measurable steps though they want “greater involvement of the fund’s governors” in providing direction for the IMF.

Lastly, there’s a stigma with getting money from the IMF. It’s like going bankrupt for instance. You feel your country has failed and is being bailed out. So countries are reluctant to go to the IMF and only do so as a last resort which reinforces the stigma. Countries like China have built up huge reserves to avoid doing just that.

So the IMF has now started a line of credit without the normal “strings attached” as opposed to the normal bail-out loans with the normal policy requirements and “attached strings.” They are trying to become a viable credit line for the world, in a sense. Mexico is the first to take the IMF up on this Flexible Credit Line (FCL). Mexico is asking for $47 billion under the FCL, and we’ll see if it actually happens and if others will join in. This is one reason why the IMF needs more money as this is a huge portion of the $250 billion dollars (some of which has been used).

The G20 will allow the IMF to also draw up quasi-currency called Special Drawing Right (SDR) to help ease liquidity. And a cool thing is hopefully the IMF will feel better about telling rich countries honestly when they have harmful policies to the global economy. Previously this has been hard to do with rich countries and mostly done with poor ones.

Update - April 3, 2009

We don’t bequeath the earth to our children, we borrow it from them.

I am sitting in a movie theatre with about 90 chairs. I am with two other friends sitting in the middle of a middle row. There are 3 people in the 45 seats in front of us and about 3 people in the 30 seats behind us. In the sea of that empty theatre, a couple comes up to us, and the woman announces rather succinctly that we are sitting in their seats.

An anatomy PhD student comes up to me and asks how many paper publications I have. I say 4, immediately realizing that I need to downgrade that to 3 because one was rejected after 1.5 years in provisional acceptance and editorial changes. He heartily laughs and says “I have four publications JUST from my time as a master’s student and none of the four were even connected to my master’s thesis.” More laughter.


Funny. It seems like so much is going on and so little. I’m preparing to leave, but things are kicking off.


I was at church on Sunday preparing for the Sunday School lesson. I was giving a joint talk (we call it tag-team talking where two people take turns speaking, going back and forth) in which I was engaging all the learning modalities and all senses in telling the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. For instance, they could feel the type of rope or chains that held him; the children could see the whip that whipped him and read the sign put above Jesus head being amazed at Greek, Latin, and Hebrew letters and words. They could taste the kinds of grapes that Pilates servants would have fed him (one kid said “This is the best grape I’ve ever eaten in my life!” made me laugh). They could hear the sound of the Chief Priests saying “Death, Death” when Jesus admitted (both explicitly and implicitly) who he was (and believed himself to be) and the sound of the crowds screaming Barabbas. They could smell what it must have smelled at the foot of the cross—blood, urine, feces, sweat. It was an interesting lesson and it captured the attention of those Grade 1-3 scholars (normally 15 minutes is too long to speak to a group of kids but with all that stimuli it was great!).

In the midst of preparing for that, I bumped into the graphics designer of the church (young guy in his 20’s) and the head church administrator who were talking about the “emergent” church and explaining the problem with it from an authority perspective. They said when you meet in a coffee shop and you need to tell one of the “church members” that he shouldn’t be living with this girlfriend there is no proper authority structure set-up to allow for this. The church member can just say to the other person (the person leading the discussions analogous to preaching in a church building) “Hey, you have your church and you do it your way, and I have my church and do it my way.” My church administrator and graphics designer were right (they’re both friends of mine): if you don’t invest authority in a leader than a “leader” cannot tell you what to do or give a directive. But the problem also might exist in a church. It’s still up to the church member to decide whether or not to follow it and continue investing the authority in the leader.

More importantly they were using the wrong label. They are describing emerging churches which are not theologically different than traditional churches; they just use different methods. They are practically different, like meeting in a coffee shop or night club. Emergent churches are the ones, regardless of how they might meet or look, think differently theologically (in their study of God they think differently than traditional churches).

I don’t know what I am. I just live life and enjoy it. Label me how you wish.

But it does remind me of lots of friends who send me e-mailed testimonies or tell me their testimony of how God came, just in the nick of time, and provided them with money. Many times, these people decided to hold out and not rely on family structures or friends for funds because they didn’t want to keep doing that. So in the end, God did something miraculous and money was produced, someone gave them money from their heart, they received a gift, etc.

In my understanding of God, I agree that God can provide money “supernaturally” or someone can give you a timely gift, but I don’t think I would ever neglect my family and friends and how “supernatural” they are. In other words, I think friends and family can be gifts from God. I’m not sure I would ever get to a point where I wouldn’t allow myself to ask and borrow from them. To me, that is “supernatural” provision because God works through people, through others who know him. And having resources available like that is actually a blessing. I counseled a woman recently who had only a few family members left and none would help her. So if you do have family members that would give you money, that’s a blessing. I’ve also seen people on the street here in Cape Town that don’t have ANY family or friends. So when I see this, it’s really difficult for me to discount the blessing of having people that I can go to or turn for money and loans to help me out in my time of need. Far from it going against the hand of God, I think God’s hand is providing for me through them.

There was a church group recorded by a 1st century historian-doctor named Luke. This group (after the death of Chris) practiced redistribution (this concept is also in the Torah; look up the year of Jubilee and what happens every 7th year as well as the 7th 7th year (the 49th year)). So they laid their tithes and offerings at the apostles feet and instead of this money going to buy a bigger building or fancier screens it was redistributed to help all those in need. It’s a beautiful story of how Jesus lived. And we often neglect such things in our reaching and striving for the “seeming supernatural” not recognizing that there are ordinarily supernatural things amongst us all the time.

I went through such a time for over a month. Long story short, the university overpaid me last year, so we made a plan for me to pay back the overage in monthly installments (the bank limits the amount you can electronically transfer to another recipient at another bank or the same bank). What the university or National Research Foundation failed to realize is that the university itself would have a problem registering me this year when this debt hadn’t cleared (the academic year starts in February but my 10 month repayment would be completed much later in May 2009). So when this year started, I was de-registered (this also happened to me last year) and my card would not give me access into buildings anymore. While they were trying to fix this mess, I was not paid. And the UCT administrators took their time because they were not thinking of the fact that I didn’t have money and was waiting on them.

First they had to realize there was a problem, then they said they had to sort out all payments since 2007 and figure out what happened (this didn’t make sense because we did this in Aug/Sept 2007 when we made the 10 month plan). Then they had to send this to another department. Then I had to re-register and refill out all these forms. Then there was a problem with my visa because it had the word “studying” and it is not supposed to say that for postdoctoral researchers because the government charges tax if it does, etc., etc. , etc.

During this time, they never offered me an advance, and my own research lab is not very good at this either. I’m always paid for my lecturing after the fact instead of being paid while lecturing like I was when I was TA’ing (tutoring) for the math department (my supervisor made me stop this).

So during this time I had no money. I had no problem asking people around me for money. I did just that and they gave. And I know it’s a blessing just to have people that I can ask. Not everyone has that. On top of that, I was amazed that people who owed me money paid me back (people I didn’t even remember). Reimbursements due to me were paid back to me (some reimbursements I had forgotten). One friend (from whom I asked to borrow money) gave me 66% more than I asked. One friend (from whom I asked to borrow money) gave it as a gift and not a loan (this is a friend who I try to take care of). Both friends were really sweet. I almost never get taken out for meals. I am usually paying for people. I was unknowingly taken out for meals (they didn’t know my situation) 5 times. It was quite amazing. It’s a nice circle. When you take care of people, people really take care of you, I’ve found. It was an amazing month of redistribution and love. I enjoyed it.

Oh, the university finally paid me last Saturday (3rd of April), but they took out a chunk for late fees. They realize it’s their fault my registration was late, so they will recompense me for those fees, but it will take a week. So fun times. Remember, I was also not paid for over 4 months from Sept 2007 to Jan 2008. When I was paid, I received two semesterly payments within a week. I thought nothing of it, thinking the first was for the end of 2007 and the second was for the first half of 2008. I didn’t know they actually pay me for exactly 6 months, not for semesters. So the first payment was for Sept 07-Feb 08and the second was March – Aug 2008. So they actually were not supposed to pay me the second payment in January (I didn’t know this). So I misappropriated the extra money due to false information. This makes me two months of pay off, thinking the first payment was all for 2007 when my rent was 40% of my monthly salary. So having to pay off 2007, pay my own ticket back to the US with South African money twice [my mom required me to go home for Christmas], purchasing a car, spending more than the price of the car on maintenance and taking care of people, I am living on less than before. In registering me, the university decided to just settle it all and take out the remainder of the repayment from my current 6th month payment. So I have a little more than half (minus the late charges which they will return to me) of what I usually have. Still, I am doing quite well and live comfortably.


The choir started yesterday (15 March 2009) to raving reviews. People loved it. People asked for it to occur every week (but that is up to the worship leader). The elder over us (the elder/pastor whose portfolio includes worship; in other words, he’s the pastor that the worship leader reports to) came up to me, called me Kirk Franklin and said both that we need more mic’s for the choir (THANK GOODNESS) and that he has songs for me. Everyone was going crazy. You see at my church the sound is not good, according to my preference. The elders/pastors here operate under the philosophy that the sound should be soft enough so that you can hear the people next to you and around you singing. A better one (opinion) is that it is loud enough so you don’t hear the people around you so you are not self-conscious and you just let go and sing and praise God through music. Either way, when people recognize a song they know from a CD or a concert, they immediately realize how dead it sounds, how different it sounds. The songs lack something. You cannot really feel the thump of the drums nor experience the vibration of the bass player. The keyboard isn’t heard at all. And background vocalists come in and out. You hear the worship leader and his guitar and the lead electric guitar moreso. So the addition of the choir turned everything up a notch. And the worship leader (Wes) finally could relax and didn’t have to always sing the melody to lead the congregation. I was scared they wouldn’t be heard, but thankfully you could hear them (the sound is not great in the church or I don’t agree with the way it’s done like I said). But they also led visually and really encouraged the people. They danced and danced and danced. And you know the music here is a bit different and the style of dance. So we just had a blast. Remember central heating is nowhere to be found except in malls or office buildings, but in homes or other businesses or organizations (like my church) we don’t have it. So I had to keep handing out tissues to choir members who were sweating up a storm in front of everyone. We had a good time, and everyone was encouraged. They sounded great! And many have never sung before.

The choir sings again this weekend (28th of March) for the second time. Easter will be the third time.


Today (Monday the 16th), I saw a woman who really came for medication from the clinic. She had four children in the lower 20’s but one (a twin) hung himself. The other twin boy and a third boy don’t know their mother is suffering, and the daughter came out of the house just to give the mother two dresses and said she had to go (mother did not go in the house). She had tightness in the chest with a possible infection. She professed to be suicidal (I didn’t believe her or let me say I don’t think she was going to really do it any time, she just would like to stop living), but she kept saying she wish she had the courage to kill herself. It was all somewhat sad. She had a faith in God at one time, but right now she has no idea where it’s at. We talked with her, took her details, prescribed and gave her medicine, made a plan of action for further hospitalization (somatic and psychiatric) and just to get some rest and meals.

But it’s a lot I guess. I’ve been studying about adoption lately in my abortion counseling certification process (I’m certified to do HIV/AIDS counseling and becoming certified for abortion counseling). I wanted to share two letters I came across. The topic has come a lot these days because in February abortion had been legal in the country for 12 years (much less time than some countries). That was very close to Valentine’s Day, so a lot of people thought about the connections and a few women who had abortions wrote letters. One is from a Christian woman, and I will look for the second to share next time because I can’t find it right now.

TO MY CHILDREN (from Christian Living Today magazine)
I guess this has taken a long time, twenty plus years. In my heart I feel you are a beautiful young man and young lady. Maybe you both have fair hair. How awesome it must be to be raised by your Heavenly Father. You must be the most exceptional young people.
Although we have never met in this world, I pray that we will meet and worship together for eternity. Since giving you both up in ways you should never have had to experience, you have never left my heart or thoughts. Your conceptions were not done through love, but abuse, and at the time of your removals I didn’t know your Heavenly Father like I know Him now.
I don’t expect you to ever forgive me, but maybe you might understand if I explain a little of how it happened.
Your earthly father was a woman abuser and I got sucked into his web. I allowed many things to happen, which I should have stopped.
When I discovered you were there, my first born, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be excited and happy… When I shared about you with the man (father) he put a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me and you.
I wanted to run away and have you, but he said he would search us out and cause so much trouble our lives wouldn’t be worth living.
I had to go home to my parents—your grandparents—knowing you were inside me, but not being able to share with them.
My second born, you were also conceived by my abuser. Again, I don’t expect you to forgive me, but maybe understand. You were on the way such a short time after your baby brother… I was so shocked. You should have been conceived in love, but I didn’t know what love was.
This time I couldn’t tell anyone about you, I kept you to myself, but I knew I couldn’t keep you—even if my heart was breaking. I let fear take over…
Please, please believe me, my children, that I love you and wish with all my heart that I knew you and that maybe, one day, I will.
I haven’t got much to tell you that is worth anything. You have a great brother and sister down here. They know about you and you are special in their hearts.
I know you’ll never see this letter, but I wish I knew you as you are now. What a great life you must be having with your Heavenly Father. He is the truth and the light and your sufficiency. It is a comforting thought to know you are with Him.
He has now forgiven me for what I’ve done to you both. I wish that I could forgive myself and I’m working on it. I want to be whole.
My darlings… what a wonderful Father you have. You know what—He’s my Daddy, too! I long to feel safe in His arms.
Please forgive me for failing you. I love you both. I guess you’ll never know that. I wish I could hold you both and tell you these things.
My heart’s love, Mummy xxx
In the same magazine I noticed Obama being criticized for his stance on abortion.
The interesting thing about abortion (whether the woman having the termination is pro-choice or pro-life) is that it has some adverse effect on the woman. I have asked people and friends who have had them and it’s the same. There is always some processing that must take place, something to come to terms with, to deal with. Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, an abortion is a loss, and it’s felt. For those who face and/or choose that option, motherhood is also a loss—a loss of freedom, aspirations, and the perfect life. Those who choose adoption (something my group here loves) can see it as a double loss—first the loss of self since you had the child and carried the baby to term and then the loss of the baby or the loss of being a good mother because you “gave up” or “gave away” your baby.

I’ve been lucky enough to even do some phone counseling where someone calls in and needs to speak to someone at that moment, not later at an appointment. I had my first one last week on Monday (30th of March). Counseling on the phone is a bit different than in person and the amount of quiet time (time where you don’t respond or say anything immediately) you allow (especially with someone in distress) is much different than in person. But she felt much better at the end of the conversation and probably didn’t realize that she made the decision to tell her partner and boss about a pregnancy. I just helped realize what she was already thinking and feeling.


I remember talking to her and we discussed the three options—abortion, having and keeping the child, and adoption. Adoption was the shortest because she was not considering that option at all. In fact, I have never yet met a woman who is considering that. Remember many women consider adoption two losses—loss of self (your life) by going through 9 months of pregnancy and having the child and then loss of the child (or loss of the identity of being a good mother) when you give it away to someone and feel you have not served the child well. Here were two writings I found about adoption in some adoption readings I’ve been studying.

Legacy of an Adopted Child

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other -
Once you do not remember:
The other you call Mother.

Two different lives
Shaped to make yours one -
One became your guiding star;
The other became your sun.

The first gave you life;
The second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love;
And the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality;
The other gave you a name.
One gave you a seed of talent,
The other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions;
The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile;
The other dried your tears.

One gave you up -
It was all she could do.
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears
The age old question through the years;
Heredity or environment -
Which are you the product of?

Neither my darling – neither
Just two different kinds of love.

To Give the Gift of Life

You had your eyes open a little while ago but now you just want to sleep. I wish you would open your eyes and look at me. My child, my precious, my angel sent from heaven…. This will be the last time we are together. As I hold you close to me and feel your tiny body warm against my own, I look at you and look at you ….. I feel as if my eyes can’t hold enough of you. For a human being so small there is a lot of you to look at…. In such a short time. In a few minutes, they will come and take you away from me. But for now, this is our time together and you belong only to me. Your cheeks are still bruised from your birth – they feel so soft to my fingertip, like the wing of a butterfly. Your eyebrows are tightly clenched in concentration – are you dreaming? You have too many eyelashes to count and yet I want to engrave them all in my mind. I don’t want to forget anything about you. Is it alright that you are breathing so rapidly? I don’t know anything about babies – maybe I never will. But I know one thing for sure – I love you with all my heart. I love you so much and there is no way to tell you. I hope that someday you will understand. I am giving you away because I love you. I want you to have in your life all the tings I could never have in mine – safety, compassion, joy and acceptance. I want you to be loved for who you are.

I wish I could squish you back inside me – I’m not ready to let you go. If I could just hold you like this forever and never have to face tomorrow – would everything be all right? No. I know everything will only be all right if I let you go. I just didn’t expect to feel this way – I didn’t know you would be so beautiful and so perfect. I feel as if my heart is being pulled from my body right through my skin. I didn’t know I would feel so much pain.

Tomorrow your mum and dad are coming to the hospital to pick you up, and you will start your life. I pray that they will tell you about me. I hope they will know how brave I have been. I hope I will see you again someday – I want you to grow up and be strong and beautiful and to have everything you want. I want you to have a home and a family. I want you to have children of your own someday that are as beautiful as you are. I hope that you will try to understand and not be angry with me.

The nurse comes into the room and reaches out her arms for you. Do I have to let you go? I can feel your heart beating so rapidly and you finally open your eyes. You look into my eyes with trust and innocence, and we lock hearts. I give you to the nurse. I feel as if I could die. Good-bye my baby -- a piece of my heart will be with you always and forever. I love you, I love you….I love you ……

Patty Harrisen

It reminds me that losing a child even if it’s through adoption and not miscarriage or death is hard for a mother. And many would never consider it.


It reminds me that, many times in life, people tell me “you don’t understand.” And many times they are right. But paradoxically it’s not always true that you have to go through a situation yourself in order to understand what it is like. You can understand what something is like (at the very least intellectually or philosophically) and be spurred to action because of it. Think of the many people who fought social injustices like child sweat shops, slavery, the degradation of women who were not children, slaves or slave descendants, nor women.

Moreover, I daresay I have met people who have an uncanny ability to empathize (now I’m speaking of experiential knowledge) with suffering people without ever having gone through the situation of the sufferers. My mother and my good friend Peter are the two prime examples in my mind. I think it’s a gift from God and it comes in handy with showing compassion and serving.

So many times people tell me “I don’t understand. You’ll understand when you become a parent.” It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t mean it’s true. You see, you can understand where a person is coming from. You can even understand why they are saying what they are saying, and at the same time, you can still disagree with it. I do this with myself many times. I know why I am thinking the way I am thinking. I know what is making me feel like this. I know where I am coming from, but I know my thoughts are wrong, bad, negative, malignant, unhelpful, and nonproductive. I know that. So disagreement or non-alignment does not mean you don’t understand. It means you go deeper. Now, disagreement COULD mean you don’t understand. But it doesn’t NECESSARILY mean you don’t understand.

The last time I heard this was in reference to my parents. A good friend’s mother was telling me I don’t know what it’s like. I have never had a twenty-something year-old child. Regardless I do understand the sentiments of parents. I know where Nigerian parents come from (different parenting cultures than American parents). I get it. And I understand the actions of such parents from where they come from. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with every action. I often disagree with stupid things I’ve done which were based on initial gut reactions or emotive impulse.

Especially in South Africa, I try to allow for the fact that though the person I’m talking to may not have stood in my shoes, he might have the ability to see things from my shoes. That’s quite possible.


I had to turn in my briefing memo on which I will be evaluated for that Science Defense Interview in D.C. It was due today (Friday the 27th). Hopefully it's too their liking.

Well, it WAS to their liking because the interview in D.C. in March went very well and they passed me on to the Round 4 interview in April in D.C.!!! Thank you very much! :D We’ll see what happens. I’ve tried to explain this many times to many people. And I find that if I spend the time writing the details of how this process works, people who receive this e-mail end up asking me again. So I won’t bother writing it again since I did write it once. So those of you who are actually reading this paragraph, let me say that if you followed what I read a month ago, AAAS has finished selected their group of science advisors. At this stage (having passed Stage 3 and moving to Stage 4), I am now called a finalist. The next task is to find placement within the government. Remember, I’m a Defense Fellow, so I would be a science advisor to an executive branch defense agency under the president, like the FBI or Homeland Security (DHS) (I’m not sure if CIA and NSA are taking placements) or Department of Defense (DoD). So we’ll see what happens. I wanted to be a diplomacy (Department of State or USAID, for instance) advisor, but this is still an honor, so we’ll see what happens. Now in this stage I must go back to D.C. for a week’s worth of interviews in government agencies trying to find my specific government placement. So the job is not achieved, yet. AAAS keeps reminding us in bold print that actually being offered the job is contingent upon finding a government placement (this Round 4 part) and availability of funding. I don’t know if it’s just an attempt to cover themselves in the small chance that you do not find a placement or if actually a considerable percentage of people who go to Round 4 do not get jobs. I am not sure. We’ll see. I will give you the links one more time for you to peruse.
On Monday (23rd of Feb 2009), I received a rejection for a submitted journal paper (I was not rejected, the paper was; this is important for identity). What was surprising is that it was provisionally accepted. 2 reviewers recommended it for publication; a third reviewer did not. So the head editor asked me to implement their revisions and resubmit. Some of the revisions I could not do because they required me not only to rewrite but to actually do some new research and I do not have access to the data anymore (long story). So I could only do the ones that asked for better explanations, more clarity, reorganization of content, etc. Well, you are allowed to put it on your resume when it's at this stage because they are usually accepted. The head editor sent it out to only 2 reviewers this time—the one who rejected and another (I cannot tell if it was one of the original two who said yes), and again it was split. The one reviewer still rejected, and the other accepted it. The editor followed the recommendation of the rejecter. So I actually had misinformation on my resume. Funny! :-) Anyway, I have resubmitted that paper to another journal, but those 4 published papers are down to 2/3. Two have been finally accepted for publication and both have just finished the copy editing and typesetting process. The third was just now provisionally accepted (they said they would have an answer in 3 weeks. It took 6 months).
Secondly, on Tuesday (when I'm writing this paragraph—24th of Feb 2009) I was able to get my blood flow experiments working and get some results! Yayyy! Now, it's not just implemented, but it works and shows us something. So I just need to get it working properly to predict the points of highest temperature and pressure in the blood vessel, but it’s giving results now. So that’s great! So we'll see what happens. But it means I'll be able to wrap up this project as well before leaving.


There is so much going on now. In Zimbabwe, a very sad accident between Morgan Tsvangirai’s car and a lorry caused the death of his wife. Mugabe visited Morgan in the hospital and said kind words about him.

Madagascar has had rather frightening developments. The country was on the verge of civil war, and the head of the army gave the President Marc Ravalomanana and the opposition leader Andry Rajoelina 3 days to settle their dispute. But pro-opposition forces forced the head of the army to resign. Rajoelina (the mayor of the capital Antananarivo), the opposition leader, then took over the government through an army-backed coup, and Rajoelina was sworn in on the 21st of March. The African Union (AU) and the South African Development Community (SADC) have denounced the coup which is in violation of the SADC treaty and AU charter. South Africa doesn’t recognize the government since it was not democratically elected. SADC has called on the AU and the world not to recognize Rajoelina’s rule and to press him to return Ravalomanana back to power. In fact, Mr. Ravalomanana has been invited to the next SADC summit on the 30th of March.

Qaddafi on the other hand (who gained power through a coup 40 years ago) called Rajoelina and told him he would recognize the new regime. After the call, though, the AU suspended Madagascar from the AU giving 6 months to return rule to the previous regime.

Rajoelina says he is clear of wrongdoing as the previous leader Ravalomanana (after his presidential palace was already seized) “voluntarily” gave power to a military directorate who then handed power to himself. We’ll see what transpires in the future. For now, Ravalomanana has taken refuge in South Africa.

Floods have ravaged Mozambique and Namibia and many of the people are suffering from the brutal weather attack which has ravaged homes and food supplies.

The Pope made a tour through African through countries like Cameroon and Angola. In Cameroon he made a statement that Africa has been disproportionally ravaged by climate change, financial problems, poverty, hunger. When asked about HIV and condom use, he said HIV would be defeated through chastity, abstinence, and right behavior. Though, I believe in applied concepts like chastity and abstinence, I know that condoms are helpful as studies have shown. I believe the pope and the Catholic church is probably more concerned about promoting extramarital (includes premarital) sex. The problem is that HIV is even passed within a marriage, and some cardinals said that should at least allow condom use in a marriage where one partner is infected.

In the report on the pope’s words in the Economist, the magazine connects this to an incident in Brazil in which a 9 year old girl was repeatedly raped by her stepfather and was now pregnant with twins. The church refused to condone an abortion and excommunicated the doctors who performed the abortion and the girl’s mother while the rapist himself was not excommunicated.

One of the biggest pieces of news in Africa is the issue of an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir. The problem is how is anyone going to get him to appear at the Hague before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC dropped the charges of genocide even though it can be reinstated with more evidence later. For now, the warrant reads that he has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for the violence that is happening in the Darfur region of Sudan. President Bashir told his critics they can take the accusations, dissolve them in water, and drink them. That made me laugh. The arrest warrant was issued March 4th.

And now, a month later he’s still well and free. Interestingly, there people in the country of Sudan who are not part of the persecuted tribes who dislike the President very strongly for failed promises and not doing enough in the country to help people. However even these people from tribes who are free from persecution yet dislike the president—even these people disagree with the arrest warrant.

First, the Sudanese people are somewhat disgraced by an international arrest warrant. In other words, they know there are problems, but they feel they should be the ones to handle it. To them, it is an internal issue. Even if person A, a Sudanese citizen, dislikes his president, he is protective of his president to the outside world. This is similar to the phenomenon between siblings while growing up where the older sibling fights with the younger sibling but protects the younger sibling outside the family.

Secondly, from talking to my Sudanese friend, even though what the government allows is wrong, the tribes outside the Darfur region (Muslim tribes) see the persecuted tribes as unrighteous or people who are living unholy lives in terms of living practices. It has never been stated in my presence, but it’s almost implied that this is what happens when people live badly.

Lastly, unrelated to Sudanese perspective, there are more people responsible for what is happening. I’m certain the ICC realizes this and it’s only an attempt to bring someone, the top person, to justice and bear the responsibility for what is going on. Some hope the warrant will deepen fissures in the government and force him out.

Now there are already warrants out for the humanitarian affairs minister and the leader of the government-supported “janjaweed” militias perpetrating the violence. The problem with a warrant against the president is that not every country agrees with it, and the ICC (like the UN) has no money, no military, no power on its own. It is completely dependent upon member countries. So the 108 countries that ratified the Rome treaty bringing the ICC into existence must bring President Bashir in. But even the Sudanese people are not going to hand him over. This is not that strange if you remember (from earlier writings) that even the US, stated in national security policy, protects its own citizens from prosecution in the ICC. And the US is not part of the Rome Treaty after the Clinton administration signed it because the Bush administration removed the U.S. from the agreement (neither is China, nor Russia; my guess is that if you’re not willing to join such a group and you protect your citizens from prosecution from the group, you may have citizens that have done acts that can be interpreted as criminal by such an international court). So it’s natural for countries to protect their own, but multilateral cooperation is necessary and important in such matters if any judicial and prosecuting work is to be done.

But now the African Union (AU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and even the Security Council on the UN is split over what should happen. They were even split about whether or not to pursue the president.

The tough part is that Sudan then threw out most of the Western aid agencies after the arrest warrant was issued. The question in people’s minds is “Is pursuing Bashir worth the costs?” Keep in mind that they do not even have Bashir in custody, and who knows if they will?

The ICC is independent of the UN, but he Security Council of the UN can refer cases to the ICC (especially when it falls outside of Security Council jurisdiction) and they can renewably defer current cases before the ICC for a period of a year (and so indefinitely).

But other international war crime cases do go on and with American support. Sierra Leone has completed all its trials and special tribunals except against former President Charles Taylor. Milosevic died before his trial was over and may have lost had he been alive. The Yugoslav court cases continue and they are down to a few more though they still await the surrender of two big Serb suspects (Ratko Mladic, ex-commander of the Bosnian Serbs is one of them). The Rwandan court still has left to tackle the cases against the supporters of the Tutsi-led Kagame Rwandan government. The Economist believes these will prove hard. Meanwhile, if Kenya doesn’t prosecute people who perpetrated the Kenya election violence in 2007, Kofi Annan will hand over a list of names to the ICC.

So justice is moving on. Remember, though, the ICC can only prosecute for four crimes—“aggression” (not well defined), war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. And the ICC can only conduct cases against individuals (not states) when no other court, region, or country will not or cannot do so. So those cases I just mentioned are not ICC court cases. The ICC has yet to win a conviction and just started its first actual case in January which had a major setback.

For more on the debate over the ICC and President Bashir check out humanitarian bloggers at the following links.


Well, you may have heard about the Sri Lankan cricket team that was attacked in Pakistan. Due to further security worries in the Pakistan-Indian area, the Indian Premier League chose to move their cricket tournament to South Africa. I think it may do well here (in terms of ticket sales) since South Africans love cricket. I think it was a good move since India’s government said it could not guarantee security for the tournament which was set to occur at the same time as Indian parliamentary elections. It starts this weekend (Palm Sunday weekend) with exhibition games, but officially kicks off Easter weekend.

A big shocker over here was that South Africa actually denied a visa to the Dalai Lama. Can you believe it? There is a planned Peace Event in Johannesburg that will take place alongside the 2010 World Cup; the event will use the World Cup to promote peace. And the Dalai Lama was coming to attend. But South Africa (possibly due to pressure from China) denied access to the Dalai Lama to enter the country. All the South Africans to whom I have spoken about South Africa’s decision, so far, think it was a poor decision.
The biggest piece of news is the election. Poverty, housing, unemployment, corruption, recession of the economy (only a matter for those gainfully employed or with investments or perhaps for those searching for employment). The election is only a few weeks away in April. And the front-runner, Jacob Zuma, is still facing a future legal battle for corruption. He will most probably become president and face trial while acting as president. But recently, there has been a change. The National Prosecuting Authority (similar to the Attorney General’s office in the U.S.A) is considering throwing out the case which would encourage some and enrage others. An answer should be coming out today (6th April 2009).

I just found out this week that I know two of his daughters. I’ve told you about one of his daughters who I went to church with and produced a show at my church at which the choir first performed last June. The other one was much nicer to me and always made me feel welcome. She called me Victor Hugo all the time but sadly moved to Joburg (there are more acting opportunities for Black South Africans there). She came to visit last weekend. She reminds me of issues of race that plague this country, even within the church (where there should be no such partiality).

"When I raped my cousin," one 14-year-old says, "I didn't know I was going to get AIDS, and I didn't know that it was rape."
I wanted to share an article about rape. The article, from which comes this quote, estimates the annual number of rapes to be in the tens of thousands. My actual estimate is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. I’m guessing tens of thousands probably means reported rapes. But with statistical extrapolation, my guess would be somewhere around 500,000 in a year. Just a guess. I do know not many are prosecuted. The article says maybe 24 in 25 rapists walk away with no punishment. So it’s a huge problem. Remember the country has only above 45 million.


My cousin Eka-Lisa, future doctor extraordinaire is studying at Warwick in the UK. She’s half Nigerian and half white English. And she cannot understand at ALL why I mention race so much. Growing up in England, one is faced with completely different racial dynamics than in many other countries, like South Africa, Israel, U.S., Brazil, India, Bosnia, Nigeria, etc. Though England participated in the slave trade including the transatlantic trade, for the most part they were not transporting slaves to work in England on the scale that was done in the Americas. The slaves mostly went to places like the current U.S., places in Central America and the Caribbean like Nicaragua and Haiti, and finally South America like Brazil and Guyana.

So England doesn’t have the same history lacking a considerable slave population that grew up disgruntled, fought for freedom, won it but then had to endure a different type of slavery—a legalized segregation without equality and lacking many basic civil human rights, fighting again for slavery and now again enduring more subtle issues of lack of opportunity, equal access to education (something shared by really all groups in the lowest socioeconomic classes), etc.

So she sometimes looks at these updates bewildered. Well, to be honest, race governs everything here. It is in the thoughts and minds of everyone all the time. White people tell me that they can’t get a job because they are the wrong color (due to Affirmative Action, but remember the AA is for a majority of the population since the percentages are reversed from the U.S.). Black people and coloureds still resent the past history. Some people are offended if you don’t bring it up in academic discussions. Some think sociologists bring it up too much and view everything through “the struggle.” Some want to forget and just embrace “the New South Africa” though most of the population still lives in the same socioeconomic conditions from the Old South Africa. Considerable amounts of white people left in the early 90’s because apartheid was ending. Life is still very segregated here. Most interracial relationships that I see here are between a South African and a foreigner. Some people disagree with Affirmative Action (people of all races). Many people say, openly, that Black South Africans are lazy (not black Africans, but specifically South Africans). They feel comfortable saying that. The list, comments, and thoughts go on. I can’t capture them all.

So to neglect to mention race and its impact is to fail to be comprehensive. It is hugely in the minds of the people here. Things are not yet equal. And we still struggle here. So it’s more reflective of society to mention it than to forget it. The same can be said in many countries. Remember, here, the amount of people adversely affected by issues of race is the majority so no one ever says “we talk about race too much.” Or let me say very few people say that. In some countries where the amount of people adversely affected by past racist policies and racism today is the minority (like the U.S.) you will hear many more people say “we talk about race too much” or “you’re living in the past.” So it’s interesting. This is not a comprehensive discussion and there are many differences between American and South African societies that break the analogy (more than just percentages). But it gives simple peek into this insight that race is still matters to people because they feel it still has an effect on the situation into which they are born and how they live.


I saw this amazing video on the economic depression on Haley’s (international development, supreme academician, and beautiful lady) blog. I think it’s amazing because it is quite simple and a much better presentation than I gave in these updates. Of course it doesn’t go super deep into topics (which I tried to do in a simple way) but it’s still mostly complete. Check it out.

And in general, one of my favorite group-blog sites is below. I put it in an earlier update but I don’t’ know if anyone checked it out. It’s written by a bunch of legal experts or law professors who are mostly young. Check it out.