Friday, October 31, 2008

Pics from our last safari

What, you say? Another safari? Why yes! And just look what I spotted - A baby giraffe!

Yay! I caught it! I'm taking this one home!

Uh-oh, he doesn't look too happy about that plan.

Give it time, kid. You'll warm up to me.

See! I'll be a great giraffe-mommy, I promise! I'll give you lots of leaves to eat, and put you in nice fuzzy turtleneck sweaters when it's cold.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

The training looks like it's finally going to happen, so next week I'll be up North, out of the office. Because I'm breastfeeding, I'll be commuting - an hour each way - instead of staying at the training venue. It's going to be a long week, I can tell you.

Unfortunately, today I seem to have come down with a cold, so that is going to make training a bit more difficult. Milo has also been sick, and not sleeping well as a result. So it's been pretty tiring around here lately.

I do have some good news though - success on the cake front! My first chocolate cake attempt, last weekend, didn't work out. The cake tasted good, but it just fell to pieces when I tried to cut it. But this weekend I made a strawberry cake with fresh strawberries. Nummers. So I'm 2 for 3 so far. Next up: red velvet cake. I love my new hobby.

Also, I managed to get out of the house last night and go to a party. Had too much wine, stayed up too late, and sang very loudly. So really, a great night. I'm paying for it today though!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hello everyone. I’m still not at that training. Who knows when it will happen now. Ah well.

One of the things about living in a developing country is all the aid vehicles. If you’re in a conflict or disaster setting, you see UN cars everywhere – big landrovers with UN plastered across the side. In a nice peaceful country like Malawi, it’s trucks with aid organization logos. Out of every ten cars I drive past on the road, it seems like 1 or 2 is an aid car.

So the other day I noticed a new one: a nice shiny white truck with “Jehovah’s Witnesses” printed on the side. It reminded me of a story Jorge told me when we first moved out here.

At the time, Jorge was volunteering up in the refugee camp about an hour north of Lilongwe. His job was basically to keep a group of teenagers out of trouble during the school holidays. They watched movies, talked about girls, hung out in the market…

One day Jorge saw two Jehovah’s Witnesses ride by on bikes. He asked the kids “Are there more of them around here?” They said, yes, these people were frequently in the camp.
“They always wear white shirts and ties, don’t they?” He asked.
“Yes!” they responded, surprised that Jorge knew this.
“And they ride bicycles?” “Yes.”
“And they come and knock on your door, and you try to hide from them, right?”
“How do you know these things?” The kids asked in wonderment.

Jorge just smiled mysteriously, basking in his omniscience.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A little lesson in inequality

Every year, almost 10 million children around the world die before the age of 5. Do you know why most of them die?

If you don’t, you are not alone. If you think it’s HIV or Malaria, you agree with the majority of Americans. And you are wrong. Sixty percent of Americans incorrectly identified these illnesses as the leading causes of death for children. In actuality, malaria and HIV only account for 11%.

What is really killing kids? The simplest of things: pneumonia – 36% of child deaths; malnutrition – directly or indirectly leads to 35% of deaths, and diarrhea – 18% of deaths. Every year some two million babies die within their first month of life. That’s equivalent to all the babies born in the U.S. in a year.

The saddest thing is that most of these deaths – about 6 million each year – can be prevented through simple, cost-effective interventions like rehydration salts and antibiotics. This seems like something we as Americans should do something about, wouldn’t you say? I mean, who can argue against saving kids?

Well, do me a favor and tell that to your congressman, OK? About 4 billion dollars a year are spent on child health programs worldwide, but 12 billion dollars a year is needed if those 6 million kids are to be saved. For its part, the U.S. appropriated 450 million dollars for child health programs last year, but funding has generally stayed flat for the last 10 years.

I guess that sounds like a lot of money in these troubled times. But consider this: the U.S. government spends five billion dollars a year on HIV programs alone, and HIV only accounts for 2 million annual deaths worldwide. We have the money folks. We’re just spending it elsewhere. I read today that the Bush administration has spent a billion dollars on abstinence education despite no evidence that it works. Doubling our child survival funding each year would only cost an extra $1.50 per American resident. Imagine what we could do with an extra five dollars, or ten dollars.

I’ve seen too many sick kids in Africa, and I hate knowing that they die for such stupid reasons. Can you imagine an American kid dying of diarrhea? So I am appealing to all of you, start getting active on this issue. The U.S. Coalition for Child Survival is a great place to start for information on how to help. And there are many great organizations out there that you can donate to.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween must be getting near...

Well, some good news today: My heart is in good working order. I tested it.

I just went to the ladies room at my office. Used the facilities, went to wach my hands. No soap. Grr. Went to turn on the water anyway - a little rinse is better than nothing - and stopped myself just in time. Because there was a TARANTULA IN THE SINK DRAIN. (I know, it sounds like the sequel to "Snakes on a Plane")

Sorry, no camera on hand. You'll just have to believe me that it was the size of Shelob and was staring out at me over its horrible hairy pincers [shudder].

I swear, my heart just about stopped, but I managed to survive.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

For Miriam

My sister Miriam, bless her heart, requested recent photos of Milo, and who am I to say no? So I brought some in today to post. But first you have to sit through one my life updates...

Well, the office is back up and running. There are still a few problems; the fridge is kaput, which is a problem because I keep Milo's milk in there. But otherwise I am impressed with how quickly the Ministry of Health got everything fixed.

You may also notice that I am posting when I said I would not. The training I was meant to facilitate this week had to be postponed until next week. Really, the reason is government bureaucracy, but don't tell my colleagues I said that. So I'm here in Lilongwe for the week. Tomorrow is a holiday (Mother's Day) so I get to stay home. And here's the exciting bit - Milo turns 6 months tomorrow, and I'm finally going to let him have a bit of solid food! Deep down I'm kind of hoping he rejects it, and looks at me as if to say, "But mommy, your milk is so much better than this crap!"

Everyone we know went away over the weekend - there was a big music festival, the Lake of Stars, out at the lake. It's one big weekend-long party with lots of music and camping and beer. The kind of thing that is a lot more fun without an infant who goes to sleep at 7. (Milo's such a party pooper). So we stayed home like the squares that we now are.

In other news, I have a new ambition: To become an expert cake-baker. I already hold the titles for Best Brownies in Malawi and Most Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies. Really, there have been multiple challengers, but none have even come close. But some occasions just call for a nice cake, and I have never really excelled at cake-making. So this weekend I started with a basic butter cake with buttercream frosting. Yum. Next week I'll do a chocolate cake. Maybe someday I'll try a jelly roll or sacher torte, but let's not get too crazy here folks. But I am open to suggestions! What do you think I should learn to bake?

And this brings me to my other project, which is in direct conflict with the great cake bake-off: Losing the rest of the baby weight. I have just ONE POUND to lose before I get back to where I was before I got pregnant! Then I suppose I will have to get rid of the insulation pounds I put on in preparation for pregnancy (Gotta have that cushioning for the baby, you know. It's what all the super-moms are doing.) But still, Yay!

OK, onto the pics:

So here's Milo, almost 6 months old. And still no hair.
Seriously, is he not just the cutest child ever? How on Earth did I create such a being?
Already excited about soccer.
But more excited about chewing.
He likes to knock over the blocks, if only he can reach them

Thursday, October 9, 2008

You know it's bad when the printer is smoking

We had an exciting day yesterday at the office. I was working on a project with the Program Manager when we heard a strange humming noise and looked up. It seemed to be coming from the phone switchboard. Suddenly, the switchboard started crackling and popping loudly. It sounded like it was going to explode. I briefly considered ducking for cover. Then, with one last loud BANG, all the power went out.

At first I thought, "Oh crap, we are so getting kicked out of this office." You see, we are in a priveleged position - technically, my team is employed by an NGO (that's non-governmental organization for those of you not in the development loop), but because our project is jointly run with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry has provided us with government offices to use. For a moment I thought all our fancy NGO technology had burned out the rest of the office.

But then I heard a lot of commotion in the hall. Everyone was going around to see the damage. It turns out the office equipment throughout the building had gone through the same demon possession. Our printer was smoking. The surge protection unit had left scorch marks on the floor.

Apparently a few power wires had gotten knocked loose and let out a major power surge, blowing most of the electronics in the building. My laptop was spared, but the power cable is fried, so I'm running on borrowed battery time here. The power is still out at my office so I am working from a colleague's office.

The electric company came out yesterday and said they couldn't do anything about it. Even though they supply the power that killed our appliances, they did not, as it so happens, erect the power poles and string the lines. The Malawi government did that (which probably explains the shoddy workmanship). So it could be weeks before they correct the problem. And then, of course, there is all that equipment to replace. It will be an interesting month.

I'll be away next week anyway - I'm helping to facilitate a national nutrition training - so probably won't post again until around the 20th. Think of Milo on the 15th - he will be 6 months old!

Monday, October 6, 2008

More photos

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts and prayers for Godfrey and his family. He and his family traveled down to Mulanje for the burial this weekend, and he is returning this week. I don't know yet what the plans are for the children, but I'm hoping the littlest can come to our house during the day because she's just so darn cute. Jorge spoke with Godfrey on Saturday and said he sounds a bit better. To lose your spouse when they are still quite young is not an unusual thing here, unfortunately, and he's coping as well as he can with the support of friends.

Since I have them here in the office, I am taking the easy blog option and posting some pictures from our last week in Seattle. Jorge's brother came to visit, and one day we drove off to Deception Pass, on Whidbey Island. It's a beloved place where I spent many summer vacations camping as a child.

Don't you just love Milo's outfit?

Milo napping with his Uncle Ed

Yep, that's Milo being stoned. Just a few second before he decided to roll over and try to eat the rocks. We're good parents.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Very sad day

We got very bad news last night. Matthew, the son of our housekeeper Godfrey, called and told Jorge that his mother had died. Then the phones cut out.

When we were able to get a hold of Godfrey, we heard the story. His wife had been complaining of headaches and backaches, and suddenly started feeling much worse. They went to the hospital, but apparently were told that it was nothing serious. On their way home from the hospital, she died.

We were able to help him get her taken to the morgue, and he is hoping to transfer her body to their family home in Mulanje, 6 hours south of here, for the funeral. I wish I could go to the funeral, but we still don't have a car, so it doesn't look likely.

I am mourning mostly for her four children. Godfrey has three lovely daughters and a wonderful, bright son. The youngest is 5, and the oldest is 17.

Sometimes I just hate Africa. The life expectancy in Malawi is only 38 years. 38 years! It's so unfair, and so heartbreaking. If you are the praying type, please keep Godfrey, and his children Christina, Matthew, Ethel , and Deborah in your prayers.