Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Retrospective 08: Electricity & Running Water are Overrated

Right now I am procrastinating. Instead of doing one of the many things on my to-do list prior to May 15! It has also been a while since a post for me, despite many promises otherwise. I don't have much to say about the current situation in Burkina Faso. There are many news articles out there. You can read them, but also do some research, too. The commentary around the actual fact is exactly that.

My romance with the simple life

So, people often make a big deal about how I lived without electricity and running water for over 3.5 years. I worried myself, considering I don't camp and do enjoy cushy modern conveniences. I even found an essay I wrote in middle school about how I wouldn't enjoy living without them at all. In reality, this much simpler lifestyle, while physically stressful, wasn't terrible at all. I enjoyed it, and still miss it (except maybe washing sheets and towels by hand). As I rediscover these modern conveniences slowly but surely, I realize more and more how much the dearth of said conveniences impedes the productivity of nations like Burkina Faso. At the same time, great strides have been made during my short time there.

Peace Corps, even in Burkina Faso, is not camping. I had walls and a roof over my head and owned furniture and multiple matresses. I had a deep pre-dug hole to use as a toilet. My camping gear: my giant backpack, a sleeping bag, and a screened tent (Bug Hut II). My giant backpack traveled all around Burkina with me. My sleeping bag kept me warm during the cold season (anything <80° requires long-sleeves and <70° a blanket or many layers of clothing). My screened tent protected me from mosquitos. If I had to recommend one thing, it would be a screened tent to keep the mosquitos out, but let air in.

Water and Fire

I lived a few courtyards (read: lots/parcels of land) away from one of several pumps in my village. I woke up early each morning to beat the rush, and was usually the first one there... I often had to wake up the guy with the key to unlock it several times. I would pump the 40L of water that I might use over the course of the day and bring it back home (on my bicycle, I'm not that hard core). (I often used only about 20L, unless there was laundry, many dirty dishes, or I took a couple extra bucket baths that day due to the hot season). Pumping water each morning as the sun rose, was one of many physical activities that kept me fit.

I used this water for everything. The Peace Corps provided a filter to prevent the many diseases communicable by water. I took at least one bucket bath a day, as many as five during the hot season. My first bucket bath in Burkina Faso was at Yaneth's house in Komsilga during our Stage. We had biked out about five miles, and I bathed under the stars for the first time in my life. It was at this moment that I knew village life would be good for me. I heated the water for my bath during the cold season by leaving one of my giant jugs of water in the sun. Nothing compares to the stars in a country with virtually no light pollution.

It might surprise people to find out that our filtration/purification process did not incorporate boiling the water. Yes, this is a great option, if you have a good hot stove readily available. In Burkina Faso, the cost of propane has increased dramatically. In 2007, there were exorbitant rate hikes in food staples (e.g. rice, bread), fuel (e.g. gasoline, propane, wood coals, wood, etc.) as well. The majority uses wood or wood coals to cook. More inefficient in time and energy.


Candles and kerosene lamps lit my home my first year, and my headlamp was my best friend for quick jaunts to the latrine. I paid twenty cents to have my phone charged at a little place down the way from me. It didn't matter much anyway. I had so little cell phone reception, that I had to hang my phone in a tree to send and receive text messages... most of which didn't go through. I kept it off mostly to conserve energy. At one point, my family called Peace Corps worried that they hadn't heard from me in several months. I guess my text messages had been lost, and back then it cost over two dollars per minute to call back home to America. Now, it's only thirty cents (half the cost of a domestic phone call in 2007)!

Afterwards, I bought a car battery to run a small flourescent light bulb (which they often called néons or reglettes). This increased my ability to work at night astronomically. As romantic as it is to read by candle/lamp light, the amount of light generated is actually very little compared to the amount of heat. My headlamp ran off of several AA/AAA batteries, which don't last long in heat. (This is due to science. I haven't charged my camera batteries since I left Burkina Faso, but they work without any problem. In Burkina, they would last a few weeks at best before draining.) My battery was not powerful enough to run a fan. Unfortunate, since the oppressive temperatures of the hot season leave you listless and on the verge of dehydration. The sweat dries so quickly that all that is found are traces of salt on your skin and clothes. At night the temperature drops siginificantly. While it is still hot (often >100°), the temperature is bearable and the power of light, increases productivity!

Charging my battery was an ordeal, and after two years, I succumbed and bought a solar panel. This actually allowed me to be much more productive my third year. I could even run a laptop off the battery if I wanted, and ended up charging many people's phones and batteries for free. Battery maintenance overall was necessary as well. The acid from the battery quickly evaporated. I had to regularly add filtered water into the system to maintain the acid levels, and on occasion, new battery acid. It's amazing how easy it is to buy a couple litres of H2SO4 in Burkina Faso.

Glass Windows

These conveniences, nonetheless, should not be the only consideration when one looks at "modern" cushiness. Windows are amazing. Especially, soundproofed and tripleglazed! Why are windows amazing? They keep out dust. I'm sure you've seen the pictures of our homes and seen the shuttered windows of the majority of BFPCV homes. They are not really shuttered windows, they are shuttered holes in the walls. There is no glass on the other side. Granted, Peace Corps regulations required screens to be installed over the shutters to prevent death by mosquito. However, there are no requirements for actual glass windows because of a combination of cost and also, the fact that it sets you apart from the rest of the community. The screens and shutters don't do much to keep out the dust.

Why is this a big deal? To maintain a spic and span home, one must sweep morning, noon and night and also mop daily. Dishes must be washed not only after use, but immediately before use as well to remove layers of dust. Clothes draped casually over a chair become dirty within a day. Sheets and mosquito nets and other linens become horribly disgusting as well. A casual shake of the sheets reveals more dust than critters. If you had windows, then your home would naturally have fewer of these critters anyway. Dust storms would be something to scoff at, instead of one of two other options: cover your face (optional) and go about your business OR hide under a sheet and hope the thread-count is high enough to keep out the majority of the dust.

You can read the Wikipedia article on windows to discover more about this fantastic modern convenience that saves people from many additional human hours of cleaning each day!


I wouldn't mind living without electricity and running water again, but only if I were guaranteed some glass windows and solid doors that kept dust and critters out of my home. Kudos to the Romans and all of Europe for their development of this modern convenience. I'm pretty sure that it is with this development that they soared ahead in development in the latter half of the second milennium, leaving Asia (where paper windows were popular) and Africa, quite literally in the dust.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Culture Shock 06: News + Waste (Again)

I apologize for the hiatus. A life-defining decision is upon me. Since I've received this information, I have pretty much been incapable of doing much other than weigh the possibilities between a wonderful socially rewarding career AND the careers in the so many other things that I get excited about doing. I must decide by April 4th the course of essentially the next three years of my life or to go out on a limb and adventure. I noticed a lot of hits from my false post. I was half asleep and meant to hit save not publish! I know incoming PCTs are probably curious, too. So, without much further ado (because if I put off posting any longer this will turn into a book)... more speculation with some facts and plenty of editorializing!

In the news Monday from Burkina Faso... primary and secondary school students returned to schools across the nation, except in the Koudougou region. University students were supposed to return to school on Tuesday following talks between the government and union leaders, but they didn't, declaring another strike. In addition, over the past two weeks, the military has been acting up enough to warrant press in English news sources in both Ouagadougou and Fada N'Gourma. In small villages across Burkina, people find themselves crowded around radios trying to find out more about the developing situation across the country. Further military unrest has also occurred in Gaoua and other cities to support their fellow troops in Fada and Ouagadougou. School had started normally, and in more rural areas, it continues without a problem. Unfortunately, yesterday school ended early in Toma possibly due to some ridiculous rumors flying around, but Yaba was fine. The country is on curfew from 9PM to 6AM as of yesterday. The curfew does affect certain services that used to happen at night, and basically shuts down the entire capital.

The funny thing is, that the military and the students are essentially protesting about the same thing: corruption. In contrast to the students, the military are upset about the collapsing culture of impunity, protesting over the imprisonment and loss of military status for a rapist in Fada and a group that had a scuffle with a civilian... involved with the wife of one of those in the group. Maybe these individuals were actually innocent, but proven guilty under pressure to fight any corruption (even if it is imaginary). I don't know. However, the violent reaction of the military is maybe not as unexpected as one might think.

Once upon a time, people only had to take a test of physical fitness to join the military, no formal education was necessary. The minimum of a CEP diploma (primary school) is now required to join the private ranks. Of course, higher ranks require more education. Consider now that reasoning and logic are not innate skills, learned from educators (whether teachers or family) and best improved through experience (getting older and wiser?). The military has a right to protest. Especially, since many may have seen their superiors getting away with the same things or worse, without being punished for their actions. The culture of impunity is starting to crumble, but it's always the bottom of the pyramid that suffers first. This military "temper tantrum" is justified, after all, why do the superiors get to have all the power abuse, and not them? Or, vice versa, why do the superiors not get punished, like them? Either way, there are people upset in Burkina Faso and they have guns... lots of them.

Are their actions logical? Does destroying property and injuring people send or freeing convicted rapists and agents who abused their powers to hound and beat people send the right message? Is there a flaw in the judicial system (which is on strike because of the military firing on their offices), were they under pressure to convict for fear of seeming to endorse corruption? Will a lot of whistle-blowing follow this?

Granted, their actions certainly garnered a lot of attention. After two weeks, Mr. President has publicly addressed the nation and has met with and intends to continue to meet with key players in the military unrest. The students protested for over a month and didn't get that same treatment.

Is it comforting to know that youths across the world react similarly? While some are drawn to positions in the armed forces (police, military, etc.) out of the desire to serve and protect, many others are there for the power of the weapons and the uniform.

Is this related to the incident in Koudougou? Is this related to unrest elsewhere in Africa? Either way, this is not the first time the military has acted in an unbecoming manner... thinking back to late 2006. Though, the events in Koudougou may have led to a series of reactions and actions that influenced all of this hubbub.

So, I have theories about lots of things, but I'll let your brains do some of the heavy lifting, too. Though, the military says there is nothing to worry about.

So, in a slightly lighter topic. I am revisiting wastefulness, particularly with food. For those of you who are out in the great unknown (e.g. not my Facebook friend), one of the most terrible shocks as a BFRPCV is the excessive waste of Americans. Originally, I started a post on discrimination, but then seeing as that is such a deep and personal topic and since I'm reading this very excellent book called American Wasteland, I thought I'd revisit the topic of waste.

Of course, as I write this, I could really not have the heat turned up so high or have as many lights on in my room. I am just as guilty... now that I've started to readjust just a little bit to being an American. However, the thing that still bothers me, now that I am officially starting my third month back in country (incidentally, the longest I've been in my family's home in the past decade) is the food waste that I can see.

Luckily, my family is okay for the most part at home. We eat leftovers, the next day, and repurpose food (e.g. leftover dishes and rice get mixed together to make fried rice). For the most part, very little food goes into the trash due to spoilage. Even if roots, onions, and garlic start to sprout or do some funky things, we just scrape off the bad parts and use the good. Our unintentional waste may only come from the couple of food scraps that don't all make it into the pot when chopping leafy vegetables like cabbage. And of course, my stove-popped popcorn doesn't get 100% return for all of the kernels. So a few shreds of cabbage and maybe a dozen kernels of popcorn for a week's worth of food waste (excluding peels, that dry wrinkly part of onions and garlic, etc.) doesn't seem too bad.

The problem is when you go outside. Though I've come back to America multiple times, I've hardly gone grocery shopping during those times. Since I was involved in the cooking and shopping for my first month back for my family, I started to pay attention. In all honesty, I was very surprised. Granted, produce in Burkina is seasonal, but for the most part, you can find produce the equivalent size of what you would buy in America... or at least what I remembered you could buy in America in 2007. Now, the reality is 2011 produce is apparently very different from what I can remember of 2007 produce. I could be wrong, but produce today seems much bigger, more symmetrical and cleaner than it used to be.

American Wasteland seems to support my cursory observation on the matter. Apparently, the "ugly" produce is culled multiple times before reaching the display bin. What happens to the majority of this culled food (fresh vegetables and fruit, dairy products, meat)? It's tossed into landfills, producing methane (one of those greenhouse gases) and much less often is donated to food recovery groups who then redistribute to soup kitchens and food pantries. Food may be replaced as often as every 3-4 hours with the undesirable stock being tossed into a dumpster.

After almost four years in Burkina, you can imagine my outrage at discovering this! For someone who had no refrigerator and had to figure out a way to preserve my fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy in 120+° F temperatures for at least five days at a time, the idea that food is being thrown out because it has been sitting out for a few hours seems incredulous. Granted, my food was farm fresh, and would naturally have a longer shelf-life if it were stored in a refrigerator compared to the run-of-the-mill food found in supermarkets which may be 1-2 weeks old by the time they are bought. I guess people don't realize how long food can actually be kept without refrigeration if proper care is taken to reduce exposure of the food to bacteria and fungi. I'm sure I was just as ignorant my first year. However, I figured it out through trial and error. Something that I lost through carelessness one day, would not be lost the next.

The problem, eloquently stated by Jonathan Bloom, is that many people have lost touch with their food. They have no idea what the original plant looks like, nor do they have any idea the amount of time and energy required to grow, harvest or process those plants are. Worse yet, is the fact that commercial farming rarely has >50% yields! Much of the produce that is harvested is tossed, because it is not pretty enough by commercial standards. The rest is not harvested because food pickers work quickly since they are often paid by the amount harvested (weight). Food is cheap compared to all of the work that went into it. Food, like many other things, is less appreciated when you don't have to work as hard for it.

In Burkina, I think people would keel over if they knew what happened in commercial food production in America! Of course there is food loss in the production process in Burkina. This is unavoidable since there are no perfect systems. However, in general, very little is wasted. Unwanted food is often given to the less fortunate (this is not exclusively beggars, a whole other topic that warrants its own post). Food scraps are fed to livestock. The entire animal is used in food preparation and if the skin is in good condition, it is can be used to create leather goods. I have eaten my share of soups and other dishes made from head, feet, organs, and other body parts (even before getting to Burkina!). In the fields, everything is harvested by hand. I know that people don't leave something behind just because it is too big or too small. They eat it all!

In America, you will rarely see a child be excited to eat a carrot. In Burkina, children are just as excited to eat any vegetable as they are to eat a piece of candy! The food is financially inexpensive (of course, this depends on your socio-economic status, but if you can't afford to buy it, then you are more often than not a subsistence farmer), but physically expensive. Growing seasons are short and water is limited for dry season farming. Food is a valuable commodity and a lot of care is taken not to waste it (of course, occasionally food falls on the floor, but if it can't be salvaged, there is always a dog, cat, chicken or other animal ready to eat!).

Most of those who live more modern lifestyles in Burkina have not forgotten their roots and are very ashamed when food does go to waste. In a country where you are culturally expected to invite someone to join you when they see you eating, how could you justify throwing any food away?

Ashamed. That's how I feel now every time I see a buffet area or leftover restaurant food going back to the kitchen. By American health codes, those are the foods that can't be donated. Everything else can be donated. There are even laws that protect a donor from liability for donated food as long as the person doesn't knowingly donate something that is spoiled. Unfortunately the majority of that food is going to landfills instead of being donated, but that's a different battle.

Family, friends, and other readers, I encourage you to:
• Finish your food.
• Pack up the leftovers (if you don't want them, give them to someone who does).
• Well, I don't really have a solution for buffets, but I don't really think they're worth as much as a single well cooked meal. (Though I have yet to revisit one in Las Vegas.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Retrospective 07: Bizarro Burkina... or Not?

In brief, the normally complacent country of Burkina Faso is now three weeks into its own social crisis. While there have been brief mentions in US newspapers like the New York Times about universities being shut down. Most of the anglophone coverage is brief, not exceeding two paragraphs. You can read more in English here about the situation as it develops (since I am no longer there).

Now, let us wander into hypothesis land where I may or may not sound like I make sense, but this is how I interpret the situation, how it's developed, and how it may or may not progress. Please note, that I might be grossly off base, but this is what I have put together with the things I do know from the dark recesses of my mind and some speculation. Please don't take any of the following as absolute fact.
---< speculation >---

The student named Justin Zongo passed away in late February, police claim the cause of death to be meningitis. Witnesses, family, friends and his peers suspect foul play, corruption and a cover up. Chaos ensues.
    Oversimplification and exaggeration of series of events:
  • Girl and Guy 1 don't generally get along (for unknown reasons, but I suspect unrequited love).
  • Girl says something to annoy Teacher.
  • Guy 1, class president, says to Girl that that was inappropriate.
  • Girl says something that annoys Guy 1.
  • Guy 1 slaps Girl.
  • Girl complains to Guy 2, her boyfriend, and a formal complaint is filed with the police.
  • Guy 2 happens to be a police officer and uses his police officer powers to incarcerate Guy 1, keeping him away from girl and also paying him back for the slap.
  • Guy 1 is fined 10000 CFA which he has no money to pay, each time he goes to the police station to ask for more time, he pays off his interest by being slapped around and being arrested.
  • Guy 2 accidentally kills Guy 1 in his rage.
  • Guy 2 claims that Guy 1 died of meningitis.
  • Country calls BS. Guy 2's bosses say it's true, deh! Country calls double BS.
  • Country implodes in protest.
  • Guy 2 and other people are fired/thrown into jail.
  • Girl is mortified by how stupid guys are.
This is not the first time someone has died in police custody in recent years. Last June, another youth died in police custody. This youth was a gold miner who was reputed for selling confiscated drugs on behalf of the police. Unlike the incident in Koudougou with Justin Zongo, this incident in Gaoua with Arnaud Somé only resulted in localized protests. Both cases involve police corruption and violence leading to death. However, the difference is social function (miner vs. student), timing (summer vacation vs. middle of school year) and also reason for arrest (drug possession vs. student fight). Also, Justin's last name is Zongo, which reminds many people of the journalist Norbert Zongo, an influential investigative journalist whose suspicious death (many believe assassination) occurred while researching the presidential family's ties to a murder.

Protests for the Gaoua incident were localized and pertained to the community. However, the Koudougou incident touched the country as a whole regarding student rights. A disciplinary issue that should have been dealt with by the school was blown out of proportion due to the girl's connections. Nationwide rioting by students led to destruction of government buildings, especially police stations. This combined with the overall frustration with government corruption and the potential for future government corruption by the same people has led many of the unions to support the protesting and to protest themselves this week.

To really understand where this is coming from, one has to go back to the rise of the current president Blaise Compaoré and take a look at his government. Prior to being president, he was a close friend of his predecessor Thomas Sankara who he helped become president in a somewhat bloodless coup d'état in 1983 (i.e., the deposed president is still alive). Many Burkinabè revere Sankara's philosophy (making the country self-reliant as opposed to relying on foreign aid for things that Burkinabè could resolve on their own through austerity); however, some of his policies were controversial (stripping traditional privileges from tribal leaders, tribunal courts, etc.) and led to his assassination in 1987. Compaoré placed himself in power after this coup and reversed the majority of the policies that Sankara had in place (most notably, lifting limits on government employee salaries and benefits and inviting foreign aid back into the country).

Compaoré ruled the country under a military regime until its first election in many years in 1991. In Burkinabè fashion, the election was boycotted by the majority of the people who opposed the bloody coup that Compaoré used to seize power. Thus, he won his first and second elections in 1991 and 1998. In 2000, the constitution was amended to reduce the terms to 5 years. Note that the term limits set in 1991 was two terms, and the term limits set in 2000 was two terms. The judiciary system decided that the amendment could not retroactively count Compaoré's terms despite the fact that under prior to and following the amendment, he should not be eligible to run (if one follows normal logic and reasoning, though the argument on Compaoré's behalf was that he had never served two five-year terms). Bizarrely grandfathered in as an incumbent, Compaoré was deemed eligible to run in the 2005 and 2010 elections, both of which he won.

Everyone knows that there exists corruption within the government, especially embezzlement, bribery and abuse of political status and privileges. Not everyone is corrupt, but many are. At the very top of this corruption pyramid is the president. Whether or not he is corrupt has yet to be proven in a court of law. However, one could argue that by turning a blind eye, he is not proving himself to be a responsible leader, and thus some may consider him just as culpable of corruption.

Everyone also knows that there is a high likelihood of Compaoré pushing through an amendment to abolish term limits or changing the term limits to two N-year terms (where the natural number N ∈ (1,4] ∪ [6] ∪ [8,∞), or more simply, N ≠ {5,7}).

Back to the current situation... These protests are no longer about one student's death and its subsequent cover-up. These protests are about the corruption that is prevalent in the government of Burkina Faso. These protests are a not-so-subtle warning to the president of what will happen if he tries to change the constitution in order to run for office again. Recognizing this, schools have been shut down at all levels, not just the university level as some U.S. news sources might have you believe. That means students will spend less than three days in March in the classroom... if and only if the protesting ends.

Either way, it's the students that lose.

---< /speculation >---

No morals of the story today, just thoughts:
Justin Zongo hit someone. Regardless of the situation, he should not have hit someone.
• If you have been following me, then you know that in December, all students had the opportunity to receive free meningitis vaccinations. If he did receive this vaccination, which I suppose would be easy to verify with eye witnesses, then something clearly doesn't add up.
• Three lefts might make a right, but many wrongs don't make things right.
• I wonder when (if ever) the Ibrahim Prize will be awarded to a Burkinabè leader.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Retrospective 06: Health & Education Working Together

Burkina News:
A lot of Burkina is still in a lot of outrage over death of student in police custody due to police-claims of meningitis and the subsequent loss of life in initial riots following his death. Major cities still have striking and rioting, including burning down police buildings and allowing prisoners to escape. Some pro-CDP areas (supporters of the President) have had little public reaction and students have started going back to schools.

I'd rather not get into opinions about politics because it just ends up making me angry. So, let's talk about what sparked this whole problem: the alleged meningitis.

Some people join the Peace Corps because they believe they can save lives. I was more realistic upon arrival (I hope). I believed that I could maybe change some people's lives. I would love to claim that I saved lives in Peace Corps, but as a Secondary Education Volunteer, I don't think I saved any lives because my students learned some math. I might have saved some lives in the long term because my students learned to think a little bit more critically and creatively and also the importance and proper use of using condoms.

Upon reflection, though, I might have saved some lives from meningitis and other diseases by just being there... emphasis on might. The advantage to being the Nasara is that people want to see you and want to be taught by you. The disadvantage is of course you are basically a celebrity. Some people want to use and abuse you. Also, when you're not actually white but considered white it can lead to an identity crisis... more about that later I promise (as I have for the last couple of posts, I know).

Why is the Nasara effect important in the classroom? It brings people in to events (including school) and people pay attention to you. Once they get over the initial glamor of being near you (imagine yourself in the presence of your all-time favorite celebrity in the known universe), they still hang on to every word you say and hold it close to their hearts to be repeated over and over again. Even the troublemakers who normally don't show up to other classes, will come just to be in your presence. If they cause trouble, as they are often bound to do, and are kicked out of class they do everything possible to stay in the classroom and be in the presence of the Nasara. As a good educator though, you must look beyond the promises of "I won't do it again" and be stern in the beginning. With time, the Nasara effect will fade, but if you have used it to your advantage, it will be replaced with awe-tinged respect (especially if you can kick any of the other teacher's behinds in logic).

You can use your powers as a Nasara to discuss health issues (including sex!), something that the majority of teachers are unwilling to do. (I was lucky and had multiple teachers that were unashamed of talking sex, discrimination and other sensitive subjects at my school. Some were actually bashful in the beginning but transformed as they realized the only way to solve a problem is to talk about the problem and possible solutions. I would love to claim credit for their awesome, but the reality is that they are just awesome open-minded individuals.)

Back to meningitis and neglected diseases... if you play your cards right you can twist the arms of these adoring children into coming to class on Vaccination Day. Sure all students love to hear talk about sex, but who really enjoys being stabbed by a needle? (Masochists and drug users aside.) These vaccines and also chemotherapy (read: medication) against neglected diseases save the lives of people every day. This is important because few people use the health clinics, especially in rural areas. The tendency towards self-treatment and suspicion of "modern" medicine (I really hate this term) is still prevalent with the majority of births happening at home. However, as the enrollment rates increase, the ability for organizations like the World Health Organization (Organisation Mondiale pour la Santé) to turn schools into key disease prevention sites has also increased. Campaigns going door-to-door are also effective (especially for Polio which is nearing eradication, but that's the hardest part), but time-consuming and difficult if there is not enough humanpower. The key role of the educator at this point is not to do the actual vaccinating or the medicating, but to help the students understand why they are being vaccinated, and why it's important. And also, to make sure that each and every student is vaccinated and swallows their medication.

The exciting thing about meningitis is that it used to be an extremely expensive vaccine, but now it isn't and was distributed for free in December! Schools were used as vaccination sites, with priority to students and personnel first, but then people in the general community also lined up to be vaccinated. You can read more about it here.

Now, if we could only get a malaria vaccine, people would expect to live beyond the age of 60. The median age of Burkinabè would be over the age of 17. People would have less kids and at a later age because they wouldn't fear the early deaths of themselves or their children.

In the mean time though, any incoming PCT should know that you will find yourself in the face of death, especially those who will be working in Health. Sometimes, the life of someone very close to you will be taken unexpectedly. There is nothing that can really prepare you for the death of anyone in your life, but you should know that it is very unlikely for a PCV to leave the country without knowing someone who died.

May they all rest in peace and continue to be our inspiration to live and to serve.

Morals of the story:
• Always use a condom.
• Get vaccinated.
• I saved lives by glaring.
• You can't save everyone.
• Create a malaria vaccine and you will be a hero.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Culture Shock 05: International Women's Day (Continued)

This post asks @Google why only today is Pegwoman available? Sure they are doing lots of other great things and encouraging people to think about women and bridging the gap (quite literally).

I am thoroughly disappointed by the lack of coverage on International Women's Day by American news sources in the past 24 hours (yes, I did the search only about 320 hits for "women's day" + America in the last 24 hours, most of which aren't from America) as of this post very few of which were from American sources.

The key contributor is @The Huffington Post. While @Washington Post, @Village Voice, @Search Engine Roundtable, @Christian Science Monitor, @NPR, and @Forbes all have some commentary on it. I was excited to see an ABC hit, but then realized it was ABC Australia. Sure there will probably be more coverage as the day goes on, but really America.

I am very disappointed that this isn't even a blip for major financial newspapers like Wall Street Journal and other male-dominated industry papers. Fail since my parents actually subscribe to the WSJ and I looked thoroughly for the love.

Also a link to my buzz about some publicity from BF. Rock on BF for taking strides towards educating more girls. Frowning at American publicity stunts. Only after living there for a while and really with the people can you see how much some things are twisted to make Americans happy. I don't think that's the way to go.