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?"