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:
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