Diary of 4 crazy weeks

I have been back in Indiana for 5 days now but I am still trying to get my head straighten out after the hurricane that has been my life the past month:

1) March, 17th: picked up the Rakoto family and made sure everyone is safe and sound. It turns out that some serious health concerns arose for one of the "Rakotos". That drastically put the whole "freaking-out-about-my-thesis-defense" thing into some perspective.

2) March 22nd: Begged my way into a doctorate degree.

3) March 25rd: Flew to Jo'Burg with tons of brochures in the luggages, video equipments and of course totally unprepared presentations for the new project. Perfect, I was off to a splendid start....

4) March 29th: 1st presentation: Totally bombed because I actually said a few passages from my defense instead of presenting the project. The people at UNAIDS south africa are still wondering now what in the world I was talking about. Oh well....
5) March 30th: Met Queen Mantfombi Dlamini of Kwazulu Natal, 1st wife of King Goodwill. Lovely person, very down-to-earth and action driven. We discussed the scourge that is the AIDS pandemic and swapped cell phone numbers.

6) April 1st: first case of turista (cute word for severe diarrhea). Talk about April's fool joke: 4 hours on the "petit coin" (little corner or throne). Why, o why didn't I bring Immodium ?
This seems to be the perfect time for a bit of poetry:

Le petit coin (d' Alfred de Musset pour George Sand)

Vous qui venez ici dans une humble posture
De vos flancs alourdis décharger le fardeau,
Veuillez quand vous aurez soulagé la nature,
Et déposé dans l'urne un modeste cadeau,
Epancher dans l'amphore un courant d'onde pure.
Et sur l'autel fumant placer pour chapiteau
Le couvercle arrondi dont l'auguste jointure
Aux parfums indiscrets doit servir de tombeau.

(I would love to translate this but it would lose its awesome comic appeal...)

7) April 2nd: Visited a VCT (voluntary counseling and testing )center for HIV in Umlhazi, suburb of Durban. The task at hand was becoming clearer and even more daunting.

8) April 4th: Off to Addis. I talked about Addis already so I won't say no more except that I have yet to start correction on my thesis write-up. A panic attack is now just around the corner....and 2nd case of turista :(. Hey, at least, I am losing my beer belly.....

9) April 12th: Off to Nairobi. 3rd case of Turista, I just cannot catch a break. On my way to the toilet, I mean-looking security guy stops me and asks: "are you with the delegation of the Prime minister of Malaysia ?" Me:" No, (unless I need to be part of the delegation to go to the bathroom. In that case, the PM is an old friend, and I am part Malay anyway) " :) ... people will say anything in desperate situation.

10) April 15th, Visit of the "Speak and Act" VCT center in Thika, Kenya. A Caregiver, Florence, introduced me to Amos, an 11 year-old kid who takes care of his 2 younger sisters because his bed-ridden HIV+ mother cannot anymore. Had the treatments been given months earlier, she could have carried on with her life and cared for all 3 of them. He is here to pick up his ratio of food boxes. "He probably won't eat though" says Florence "he usually gives his ratio to his mother and sisters".
I am thinking that Amos at 11 is already a better human being than I could ever be.

11) April, 20th: I am stuck for 2 hours in a 30 degrees Centigrade waiting room at Jomo Kenyatta Airport with 110 others passengers, waiting for the flight to London Heathrow. The Kenya Airways flight was supposed to take off at 11:00 pm. I reach for my only book "The last king of Scotland" and when I feel the urge to whine, the thought of Amos' situation stops me dead in my tracks.

12) Back in Chicago, finally. I cannot say that I am not pleased to see the lake Michigan and the sunny but comfy weather. Still, those stupid thesis' corrections are due soon and my boss will want to know if I got anything from the trip or I just went to an extended Safari tour.... I hope this photos will convince him:

Type rest of the post here


  1. You guyz !! What you are doing is aWWwWesome !! of course i read it all (ok well...I was starting to lose concentration at l.10 but the word turista awakened my interest...just kiddin')

    Dream team is about to save the world ! I mean 2 out of 3 cuz the girl part of the team is ...where she is again? montreal right....what is she doing there again? projecting....

    Hjk case : I'm so inspirer but man...maybe a mini-brainstorming would be more useful than an "avalanche d'idées"


  2. ke de fotes dortograf laisse béton j'oze mm pas ecrir en françé....

  3. Sis :),

    My boss was in Montreal last week. :) I tried to convince him to take me with him but he thought that was enough traveling for now. :)
    How are you ? It's been almost 9 months since our improptu blogger meeting. Your turn to come here. You bring the family nad we will catch the chicago bulls in the play-offs :) What do you say ?

  4. Misaotra leroa amin'ny tatitra fa tena lasa lavitra mihintsy izahay mpamaky na dia tsy niala teto amin'ny seza teto aza :D

  5. Malagasy aty California11:49 AM

    Welcome back Lova!
    What's great about "opening our eyes" is that we are able to see the world, make our decisions and finally realize that our life is not as bad or boring...Thanks for the great pictures and Amos's story, they sure put a different perspective in our dayly concerns.

  6. Great travel and how useful for human being, Lova.
    Tu fais un beau boulot, et seras très bientôt un de nos célèbres professeurs! :) Well deserved.

    Côté turista, je me souviens l'avoir frôlé à Nairobi après avoir mangé du..zèbre. How come?? :)))

  7. Hi!

    I hope you are alright. I am enjoying your blog very much, in particular the last entry where you speak about Addis Ababa. I don't know if you know, but I am sending a student from the school where I work ( www.brockwood.org.uk) to stay with your mum there. This has been organised by your sister. Lucile, my student is incredibly excited about this, and we are both very grateful with your family.

    I am really sorry, writing to you to your blog. I am trying to find your sister. She called me a couple of weeks ago from your dad's place, but I wasn't here. I have been trying for a few days now, all her phones, but as I know she was going to end work, I am thinking now that she may have gone from Tunis. The last email address we were using is one from the bank, so I am a bit at loss as how to find her. Could you give me some details?

    I hope you are enjoying Spring. Here in the south of England, it has arrived very early and it is tickling everyone's noses.

    Warm regards

  8. Big Up pour ce beau combat mate, tu joue dans la cour des Grands man ;)merci d'avoir partagé cette aventure avec nous ... thanks Lova !

  9. >To,
    lavitra akaiky daholo isika rehetra :)
    >Thank you for the welcome back MaC,
    Truly "eye-opening". Amos just went about things in such a dignified manner, it was inspiring to say the last.
    > Tattum,
    Merci :), pour la turista, mon estomac s'est habitue helas au junk food US :D.
    > Celeste,
    How cool ! I am sure your friend will have a blast. The roads are a biy bumpy now in Addis.
    Here is another email you can try:
    you go rock the casbah there in Tanzania, mate ! Good luck with TED
    Say Hi to the Ndesanjo for me :).

  10. awesome, such a motivation to actually see who we are doing all this for. good job man. btw you have another compliment on my bbc post featuring you.

  11. Lova - If you, after doing all this impressive work with HIV/AIDS awareness, feel lesser of a human being than Amos, then I dont want to compare myself!!!

    People like Amos definitely put life in perspective for the more "fortunate" of the lot.

    Despite the triple turistas....you seem to have had an amazing experience! Great work! Really like the pictures.

    And congrats on the degree champ :)

  12. Thank you Amrita, I have poor picture-snapping skills but once in a while, the stars are aligned properly.

  13. Lova,
    Congratulations on becoming a Lova Rakotomalala, Ph. D!
    Loved this post of yours, had quite a few chuckles reading it.
    I am hoping to go back to blogging more often myself.
    Turista? I thought it was called Montezuma's Revenge? Though in this case, maybe call it Chaka Zulu's Revenge?

  14. Yellow, Sipakv :)

    Well thank you. I am guessing you are watching the SR-NS debate with strong interest.
    Chaka Zulu's revenge was potent indeed :). Maybe because Selassie and Jomo Kenyatta also joined in :D.
    Hope to read many new posts from you soon.