05 December 2008

Why blog about Africa?

Lova tagged me to produce a magnum opus on why I blog about Africa..... naah just kidding, he was hoping I'd go twitterific on him and use just 140 characters :)

1. I am African. Well... not officially... I spent 6 years in Zambia growing up... then left to study... then came back to help with the HIV situation... so I feel African even though I'm here as a guest of Mr Banda's government. The old saying applies here, "You can take the man out of the bush but you can never take the bush out of the man."

2. Before I met my amazing son and my incredible wife (yes, in that order,) my concept of "home" was tied to Lusaka. Of course, when in Lusaka, home magically changed to New Delhi. When in New Delhi, home changed to Kerala. Now it's a bit more complicated, I have to add, home is where the wife and son are.

3. Non-Africans still don't know that Africa is not a country. Seriously... it's a continent, with many countries, and it has the greatest amount of genetic diversity between people. Zambia, which has a land area about the same size as South Carolina in the USA, has about 80 tribes with as many languages. So there's this knowledge gap about Africa that bloggers such as myself try to fill.

4. I love the natural parks here where an existence without much human intervention is still possible. It's great to see things almost the way they were before people started enforcing their dominance. The Mosi-o-Tunya (the smoke that thunders, also known as Victoria Falls) is spectacular, with or without water. On the Zambian side you can see it almost as David Livingstone did back in the day. Now they've added some 'viewing areas' and such... but it's still fairly untouched. Zambia - the real Africa.

5. Now that I've gushed on about the beauty here, I'm going to do a shameless plug for my photo site where there are lots of photos from Zambia. (Reload this page to see different photos).

mosilager - View my 'Zambia' set on Flickriver

6. Ubuntu... not just my favourite computer operating system... you can see the spirit of ubuntu here - people believe "I am, because you are." No conversation starts off without enquiring about the other's health and well being and people are very polite. Incidents of mass violence are non-existent. The last time I remember something like this is back in 1991 or 1992 when there was no food in the provinces, people were literally starving, so they stood by the side of the road and threw stones at cars. There was a government change very quickly and things settled down. Even during the previous two elections, when one major leader was using an anti-foriegner platform to garner votes, there was no violence after the results were out. Congratulations, Zambia!

I'm not sure if this is a manifestation of ubuntu, but random people will come up and ask for sums of money for a particular purpose... "I need 2 pin for talk time," is a common one I've heard... of course the classic "how about my weekend" or "what about christmas" is ever popular. My policy is that if they've helped me I pay up but otherwise I say I'm broke (which I usually am... postdoc after all). I haven't yet tried to go up to somebody and ask them for money for something... maybe I should.

7. The region is reeling under the effect of HIV. Thanks to President Bush and the USA, there's a lot of money being pumped in to provide free antiretroviral therapy to anybody who needs it. Based on what I've seen here, the epidemic is spreading by going from husbands to wives and wives to children. Women's empowerment is the only way to stop the spread. They have to be able to say "no" to their husbands. Because that is going to take a long time, other options such as anti-HIV creams are being tested. Hopefully something will come in time.

What will happen if the USA decides to pull out the money it's spending on healthcare for Africans? As far as I know, the people who are on therapy now will stop getting medication and the whole system will fall apart. Governments here have to find some way of financing treatment and / or increase effective prevention mechanisms. So far I haven't seen any government initiative to address this important question. After all, especially with the financial troubles now, how long are US citizens going to let governments fund the health of people abroad in countries that they probably can't even place on a map?

Well... so if you feel like taking up the tag, consider yourself tagged... if you don't blog about Africa, then just answer the question, "Why blog about the place where you live?"


milieu said...

Good Post.
I think Africa has so little talked about in media that most people are happily ignorant about it. But things will change if the efforts of education and health care achieve their objectives.

Surprisingly, I have heard from others too that this is one of the good things that Bush has done in his presidentship. So maybe as we leave, we should remember him for Africa rather than Iraq.

Well as for me, right now i say that my home is the place i am standing/sitting. Though that keeps you a bit rootless which isnt good.

lova said...

hear hear about moveable home and Ubuntu.

Instead of the anti HIV cream. Did you hear the Nobel winner speculating that a vaccine will be found in 5 years ?

milieu said...

Yeah I read the headlines. Do you think its possible? I don't have any idea on these matters.

lova said...

I think Montagnier is quite optimistic there. Many conspiracy theorists claim that the remedy is already out there. I will just say that if anyone had a decent lead, it would have been thoroughly scrutinized already.

Mosilager said...

sreekumar thanks!

lova I agree... there might be something within 5 years, but I'm not aware of any approaches right now that would make it possible.

I think the answer eventually will be to train the immune system to NOT respond so much to HIV.

Anali said...

What a beautiful post. I'm a bit choked up. As an African-American, I'm always aware that I don't know which country my ancestors came from, only the continent. We African-Americans have always have that sadness of not knowing in our hearts. I may take up your tag.

Amrita Rajagopal said...

Thanks to your blog Mosi. And Lova's too. I learn something about Africa every time I read you guys. This is only fanning my already existing interest in the continent.

I like your reasons for blogging about Zambia. Especially Ubuntu :)

Cheers! And yes, i'm alive.

Anonymous said...

So much of the world is in a desperate state. We, all of us, have to find a way to pitch in to make things better. You are doing important work.

shilpa said...

Wonderful post..thanks for including me on it!!!
Being here...is an experience..each day!Its heartening to see the impact that Pepfar has had on the life of people here...but saddening to know that while people still know of the causes of HIV, they don't really save themself from it!