Monday, November 05, 2007

Paul Farmer...an interesting article...

Many of you will know that the man Paul Farmer is somewhat of a hero for me (in the medical world). An anthropologist and doctor who spends half the year working from a clinic in rural Haiti, and part of the year working in Harvard, teaching in their medical school. He has been a voice for international health justice and helped get the WHO to support more just system of TB treatment. He also began the international medical development organisation Partners in Health. This is a small excerpt from an article he wrote for the University of Notre Dame magazine. Click HERE to read the full article.

If we fail to act
by Paul Farmer, M.D.




As a physician who has battled infectious diseases in Haiti, Rwanda and elsewhere, I know we are in the midst of a staggering wave of killing, one that brings to question all notions of moral values. The numbers alone are telling. Even if we consider only the big three infectious killers -- AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- we are faced with tens of millions of preventable deaths slated to occur during our lifetimes. A recent document from the United Nations suggests, for example, that more than 80 million Africans might die from AIDS alone by 2025. A similar toll will be taken, on that continent, by tuberculosis and malaria. Adding other infectious killers to the list, the butcher's bill totals hundreds of millions of deaths over the next few decades.

Have these numbers lost their ability to shock or even move us? What are the human values in question when we hear, and fail to react to, the news that each day thousands die of these maladies unattended? Where, amid all these numbers, is the human face of suffering? What values might guide our response to such suffering?

These are rhetorical questions, but not ones without answers. Much can be done to avert these deaths. Allow me to offer the example of Joseph, a patient of mine. On the afternoon of March 17, 2003, four men appeared at the public clinic in Lascahobas, a town in central Haiti, bearing a makeshift stretcher. On the stretcher lay a young man, eyes closed and seemingly unaware of the five-mile journey he had just taken. After the four-hour trip, the men placed their neighbor on an examination table. The physician tried to interview him, but Joseph was stuporous, so his brother recounted the dying man's story.

PhotoJoseph, 26 years old, had been sick for months. His illness had started with intermittent fevers, followed by a cough, weight loss, weakness and diarrhea. His family, too poor, they thought, to take him to a hospital, brought Joseph to a traditional healer. Joseph would later explain: "My father sold nearly all that he had -- our crops, our land and our livestock -- to pay the healer, but I kept getting worse. My family barely had enough to eat, but they sold everything to try to save me." Joseph was bed-bound two months after the onset of his symptoms. As he later recalled, "My mother, who was caring for me, was taking care of skin and bones."

Faced with what they saw as Joseph's imminent death, his family purchased a coffin. Several days later, a community-health worker employed by Partners In Health, a charity I helped to found, visited their hut. The health worker recognized the signs of tuberculosis and HIV and suspected the barely responsive Joseph might have one or both of these diseases. Hearing that their son might have one last chance for survival, Joseph's parents pleaded with their neighbors to help carry him to the clinic, since he was too sick to travel on a donkey and too poor to afford a ride in a vehicle.

Joseph was indeed diagnosed with advanced AIDS and disseminated tuberculosis. He was hospitalized and treated with both antiretrovirals and antituberculous medications. Joseph told his physicians, "I'm dead already, and these medications can't save me."

Despite his doubts, Joseph dutifully took the drugs. Several weeks later he was able to walk. His fevers subsided, and his appetite returned. After discharge from the hospital, he received what is termed "directly observed therapy" for both AIDS and tuberculosis, and was visited each day by a neighbor.

Joseph now speaks in front of large audiences about his experience. "When I was sick," he has said, "I couldn't farm the land, I couldn't get up to use the latrine; I couldn't even walk. Now I can do any sort of work. I can walk to the clinic just like anyone else. I care as much about my medications as I do about myself. There may be other illnesses that can break you, but AIDS isn't one of them. If you take these pills this disease doesn't have to break you."

What sort of human values might be necessary to save a young man's life? Compassion, pity, mercy, solidarity and empathy come immediately to mind. Thinking about Joseph's experience, and so many others, leads me to reflect on injunctions, first heard as a child instructed to read the Gospel according to Matthew, about "the corporal works of mercy." I'm sure I didn't pay much attention then. But three decades later, these injunctions -- feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick; visit the prisoners; bury the dead -- strike me as worthy goals for those seeking guidance in diminishing suffering, whether due to disease or to violence. As important for a doctor concerned about the right to health care, the corporal works of mercy are a reminder of the radical nature of the values necessary to promote basic human rights. We need the tools of our trade -- in this case, laboratory tests, medicines, health care workers -- to save lives. But we also must have hope and imagination to make sure proper medical care, a corporal work, reaches the destitute sick.....

...Human rights and corporal works of mercy

For millennia now, philosophers and theorists have sought to understand why violence occurs and why we fail each other in the face of unnecessary suffering. Anthropology and other social disciplines have also grappled with these questions. Such reflection takes on urgency in many of the places in which I've worked. In Haiti, Rwanda and even Boston, service to the destitute sick reveals the sharp limitations of what can be done to allay misery without a broad understanding of why some people have so little while others enjoy a peculiarly modern surfeit. Without a right to health care, for example, modern medicine and public health become commodities to be bought and sold. Such arrangements will never suffice if our goal is to relieve premature morbidity and mortality -- the primary obligation, surely, of a physician.

I have seen the utility, but also the limitations, of a human-rights model. Conventional human-rights frameworks, only a couple of centuries old, have focused on civil and political rights, and human rights advocates may point with pride to certain victories. But defeats are as common, and they're more glaring now than ever.

A young Haitian man lies dying of AIDS, but without a right to antiretroviral therapy, what hope is there for his survival? What hope is there if he obtains the necessary medications but has nothing to eat? Writing from rural Rwanda, or from Haiti, leads me to reflect on the corporal works of mercy. As I've confessed, I didn't pay much attention before. But I now know that these injunctions -- again, feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick; visit the prisoners; bury the dead -- strike me as worthy goals for those seeking guidance in diminishing suffering, whether due to disease or to violence.

There are spiritual works of mercy, as well -- reconciliation, forgiveness, comforting the afflicted, and praying for the living and the dead, to name a few. Cynics might argue, in the inelegant language of our day, that these are not readily "operationalized." These debates will go on, no doubt, indefinitely. But in the 21st century we cannot argue honestly that it is impossible to develop effective strategies for works of mercy. If we fail to link new human rights understandings to a broader movement for social justice, we will have no shortage of dead to bury. In that case, perhaps that is the only corporal work of mercy we will deserve to claim as our own.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Toilet conference opens in Delhi
By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi


A World Toilet Summit has opened in the Indian capital, Delhi, with more than 40 countries taking part.

The four-day meeting will examine solutions and technologies that can be used to provide a basic need for nearly half the world's population.

According to estimates, 2.6bn people around the world lack access to a hygienic toilet.

The United Nations hopes to halve this figure by 2015 as part of its millennium development goals.

In India alone, more than 700 million people have no access to toilets which have proper waste disposal systems.

'Familiar sight'

"It is as important an issue as anything," says Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh International, an NGO that promotes the use of low-cost toilets in India and is joint organiser of the summit.

"It is mostly the Asian, African and Latin American countries that lack basic sanitation. So that's what we will be discussing at the summit," he adds.

It is a sight familiar to anyone travelling around India by train.

Early morning, many Indian villagers head to the nearest railway track and squat by its side relieving themselves.

Others use their fields, the forests or any piece of open land that they can find.

Women are particular badly off - they either have to head out before dawn or in the night when it is relatively more private, but it means they are vulnerable to disease or even sexual assault.

The UN wants to remedy the situation by 2025.

But the problem is that it is quite expensive for most countries in the developing world to set up western-style toilets and sewage systems.

But there are alternatives.

Anita Jha, vice-president of Sulabh International explains, "We have several models of traditional Indian-style squat toilets. These range in cost from 700 to 3,000 rupees ($18 - $75) and also use very little water."

"That makes them very useful in countries with a water scarcity problem," she says.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7070494.stm

Published: 2007/10/31 07:17:29 GMT

© BBC MMVII

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday midnight update.....a non-philisophical post

(So I guess before I start, I'd just want to encourage anyone who reads this to keep thinking and praying about Burma, and keeping what's happening there in your conversations with others. The people who are working towards freedom desperately need international opinion to be with them.)

So today, as with most saturdays, I used the morning to catch up on the sleep that i'd missed during the previous week. This enables me to sleep only 4-5 hours a night mon-friday, and has pretty much been the system I've used for the past 5 years now....it's probably not the healthiest but it works.

After getting up and helping (just a little bit) to clean up the house and my room, I decided to get on my bike and find a garden centre. I'd been given directions by Dave from my church and I'd got them mixed up the saturday before, so this time, I was a bit more confident (armed with even more specific directions). I found a great big one at the top of this extremely large hill about 20 minutes cycle from my house. I'd been so focused on getting there that I really hadn't put too much thought into how I'd get what I bought back. I bought bulbs to grow garlic and onions (trying to experiment a little with this growing your own food stuff) but then also had to buy compost and a big enough pot to plant them in. The smallest and cheapest bag of compost they had was 25L, which in case you don't know....is REALLY FLIPPIN HEAVY!!! especially when you've got to carry it on your back on a 20 minute cycle ahead of you.

Not only that but I had to balance this 2 foot wide, 1.5 foot deep pot on the bar...let's just say I must have looked quite the sight (my friend Emma commented that just seeing me cycle in the first place would have been quite the sight enough.....thanks Emma). But I did make it back although slightly dripping in sweat and was glowing with pride as I arrived back to my house. My housemates obviously didn't recognize the enormity of my achievement as they didn't all stream out of their rooms to applaud me when I got home, as I was thinking they should ;)

Anyway, planting day will be tomorrow, so I'll let you know how that goes...I've been reliably informed that it's almost impossible to mess up growing the varieties of veg that i've chosen, so I'll take that as a challenge.

Tonight, the big event was the England v. South Africa final of the Rugby World Cup. I wasn't really interested in the match itself, but I thought it's a good excuse to hang out with people, and when England started falling behind by an ever increasing amount close to the end I actually felt a soft spot for them and could cheer them on. I didn't escape the night though without having loads of abuse about the Irish referee thrown my way. In all fairness he did make a lot of dodgy calls and missed a couple key ones as well. At one point, when the ref missed what seemed like an obvious foul on England, my friend asked sharply "why didn't the ref see that?" I said, "It's probably something to do with 500 years of occupation". Couldn't resist.

Anyway, it was a good day overall. School has been hard in some ways to get back into the swing of things. We're doing our Neurology course at the moment, which is really interesting, but also pretty challenging for being just back from the summer. We've had "Stroke" week, "Spinal Cord Injury" week and coming up this week will be "Multiple Sclerosis" week (we learn about a lot more than just those conditions, but the idea is that those topics give a broad and clinical context to what we're learning).

Friday, October 12, 2007

So did anybody else have a little chuckle when they heard about today's announcement of Al Gore's new Nobel Peace Prize? I have to say, this is more than a little disappointing. Not that I don't believe that the issues his recent campaign cause of Climate change isn't extremely important, it'll probably end up being one of the most important issues in my lifetime, but Al Gore? It's no where near April, so I don't think this is a joke...

Let's take a brief look at some other Nobel Laureates, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Theresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Muhamad Yunus.....Al Gore? I guess my problem is more that Gore hasn't been at his current gig very long. The others on the long list of laureates seem to have been committed to their causes for quite some time, often giving the majority of their lives, if not giving the ultimate sacrifice. Gore stopped being Vice-President 6 years ago, and he wasn't championing Climate Change much back then. Even Jimmy Carter, another recipient, had to work in Humanitarian work (in health charities, and Habitat for Humanity as well as others) for 20 years before being awarded his.

Most of the Laureates are true peacemakers, people who are required to sacrifice, to make unpopular decisions, decisions which put their careers and often their lives on the line. What has Al Gore had to give up? Has he championed his cause so much that he has given up his mansions to live in smaller more eficient more environmentally friendly settings? Has his life become harder in any way? Politically he has only strengthened his position, in what many of his critics think of being a far too "calculated" way (although I'm not THAT cynical..but close). Why not award the prize to someone in greenpeace who has given their lives to this cause before it became popular? or even to a leading scientist who is championing the search for evidence in the face of skeptics? Why give it to a politician who has given far too ambiguous an answer to whether he'll run for president or not? Why give it to some guy who was just behind a documentary? I'm sure Al Gore is a great guy and great politician in many ways, but this was just the wrong choice.

If Al Gore were to make clear that he doesn't have personal political ambitions as the motivation for his work, and if he was to truly reach out to the political right, to help them understand and put aside other differences. If he would make sacrifices and risk his reputation with his usual constituency, then maybe he could be in the running, cause this would be what a peace maker should do, right? Instead, he has gone about his work producing more controversy, and less peace....sorry, but someone made a huge mistake here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Burma Petition, worth your time.....

These guys are close to reaching 1 million signatories for their petition. Once they get 1 million they will be taking out advertisements in major newspapers, trying to perhaps shame the Chinese government into accountability, sign up and help them out if you have a second.

Stand with the Burmese Protesters
After decades of military dictatorship, the people of Burma are rising – and they need our help. Marches begun by monks and nuns snowballed, bringing hundreds of thousands to the streets. Now the crackdown has begun, but the protests are spreading...

When the Burmese last marched in 1988, the military massacred thousands. If the world stands up and supports their struggle, this time they could win. We're in a race against time-- targeting the dictatorship's main backer China in a global advertising campaign, delivering the petition to the UN secretary-general and sending the Burmese our support via radio--


To Chinese President Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council:

We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed.


Click HERE for Petition.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'm here now safe and sound in England. I got here two days ago and spent today in the first of a two-day conference on Law and Ethics in medicine. An interesting subject, but I have to say they really could have put forward the ideas in a more interesting and engaging way, they did try though, and perhaps it's just that this is our first day back from summer, so it is a bit hard to sit and concentrate through a 9-5 lecture day.

I just saw that a friend of mine posted this on her facebook. It's really interesting so I thought I'd post it to pass it on.

Click on the link below from the New York times. It's a selection of quotes that a human rights worker has put together from Iranian Blogs which all discuss the Iranian president's recent speech at an American university. It's quite interesting to see the diversity of opinions, especially considering iranian blogs are highly regulated and people suffer intimidation (and worse) for putting up politically divergent posts.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/opinion/30parker.html?ex=1348804800&en=08865f976f371cfc&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Friday, September 28, 2007

Latest News From Myanmar/Burma

The following is an excerpt from an email written by an NGO worker in Myanmar/Burma this past week.

From Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Dear Friends

It is with a heavy, crying heart that I write you from Yangon, Myanmar
(formerly Burma). (Don't worry about myself: I am fine and safe.)

I have just listened to CNN (which we can still receive here - emailing
is now difficult; I hope I'll manage to send this later on tonight)
showing the bloody response of the junta government to crack-down on
peaceful protesters.

Apparently, on Sunday, almost 100,000 people - lead by monks - were on a
protest rally. On Tuesday, the crackdown started. Even though the
government
killed about 3000 protesters during the crisis in 1988, the people
decided that they will not follow Monday's order of the government to
stop protesting. The non-violent protests of determined and courageous
people continued. On Wednesday, the government's response became more
violent (from the part of the soldiers and police) and today things have
apparently become worse. Several or even many people were killed,
hundreds wounded or/and arrested. All the Buddhist monasteries here are
now being watched over by the Army - the monks are effectively being
locked inside.

The protests started when the government stopped subsidies on fuel which
caused a massive increase in fuel prices (quadruple or even five times I
have been told). Food prices rose as a consequence. For instance, one kg
of rice cost Kyat 500.- in August. Now 1 kg of rice cost Kyat 650.-. One
chicken egg now costs Kyat 100, up from Kyat 25.- last month.
A factory worker earns around Kyat 20'000.- a month. He needs about Kyat
10'000.- per month for rice only (for rice for himself only, not
including his family). In other words, many, many, many people are
starving these days.

A colleague who lives here told me today that these days many
children are being fed rice water only, since the families have run out
of rice and money. Of course, during these days of violence, finding
food is even more difficult. Starvation is increasingly become a fact
here.

Yesterday we were in the new Government capital, a new-born city with
huge beautiful roads (with almost no cars on them) and large buildings
where the various ministries of the government are housed. The government continues to pour in millions of dollars to expand the new capital. The main reason for having a new capital is to be more secure against popular protests that are always strongest in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). The dictatorship junta is extremely rich. They lord over a country that is considered to belong to the three most corrupt and most
oppressive countries in the world.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm leaving for southampton next monday, so things are really starting to speed up here at home. We had a small birthday dinner for my mom tonight, it was good to have the whole immediate family together even if everyone was exhausted like we were.

I passed my drivers theory test today, got one question wrong (I don't know which one, they didn't tell me), but I was happy with that, so I should have my provisional soon enough then.

I've been thinking about loads of things recently, Burma and everything happening there has been on my mind a lot, I listened to a podcast from a conference in which a guy from the simple way community and another guy from camden house were discussing a Christian Ecology in Seattle Pacific University (if you want to listen to it, go to Itunes store and search for "shane claiborne" it's the only free thing that comes up. It's been making me think about the implications of the gospel in challenging the consumeristic nature of our society which is in a quiet marriage with our capitalism. I don't know what the answers are economically, but I know, as the two speakers tried to say, that although the problem is a societal one, it begins with a personal problem, greed and the desire for growth, to consume ever more. It inspires me to want to learn more about community gardening and growing our own food and other supplies.....and/or living on seasonal fruit and vegetables grown locally (not that I eat much fruit). I'm still not sure what I think the answer is. In a rapidly urbanizing world, can we really all grow our own food? With population growth increasing at a phenomenal rate is that sustainable? I really believe that the current system is broken, but I also believe that God can "redeem the city". I'm constantly struck at how in the Christian metanarrative, the opening image is one of a garden while the closing one is of a city, it seems to be the progression of human civilisation, but the city at the end, is a place of justice and dynamic peace, much unlike the cities that we know today.

I'm still thinking, and not acting nearly as much as I should.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It's been a hard and long week, and i'm happy to be at home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Friends who are gone...

I'm writing this from a house in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was in Chicago for the past few days and came out here to visit Benjamin (my roommate from college, and Sam, who did the HNGR programme with me). Yesterday (and I can't believe it was only yesterday), I received a phone call as I was touring around with Sam and Benjamin which informed me that another friend of ours had committed suicide the night before. This was hard news to take. I knew this friend wasn't doing well, and had tried to take his life before, but i wasn't expecting this now. This has hit me after learning of the death, again through suicide, of another of my friend's at the begining of summer. I can't explain why these things happened. And I don't think I need to, but it's still hard. Both these guys were great people, who made me laugh and forced me to think harder about certain things. I've changed my plane ticket to fly home to Dublin a little later so that I can stay here and be here for the funeral service. Please pray for comfort for his family, who have been through hell these past few months I'm sure, and for all his friends who loved him so much, who he left behind.

Ironically, I guess, but the email I received giving me the news I put in the post below about Angola and Bishop came from this friend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

i'm alive and well

I'm alive and much has happened since I’ve last posted, and I won't try and cover it all.

Recently I received an email from a friend that has really lifted my spirits. Some of you may know that I spent time in Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, LA. If you've seen my wallet, I bought it from an inmate there who made it in his free time.
I spent a week there during spring break my 2nd year of wheaton, and then went back for several days during mid-term break the autumn of that year. Both times were incredible experiences for me. When you enter this prison, in many ways you feel that you are entering a monastery rather than a prison. The prison is currently renowned for its rehabilitation of inmates and also surprisingly and what made me want to visit the prison in the first place is that the christian community among many of the inmates there is vibrant and growing. There is even a full-time seminary on the premises (not run by government funds of course) that inmates can attend (as one of different educational options). I went as part of a group from wheaton who went under the chaplaincy office. Many people I told that I was going assumed that we were going to "minister" to the inmates there, but this was far from the truth, we were going there to spend time with brothers of ours (it's an all male prison) and most of us felt as we were "ministered" to by the men there.

What we found there was truly indescribable. I've rarely seen such christian community, men serving each other and showing each other such care. It's by no means a perfect community, and has many of its own problems with personalities, prison politics and the like, but there is an undeniable work of God going on there among these men. Many of these men are the worst of the worst criminals and have no hope of ever leaving Angola. I'd previously believed that men only "found God" in prison to try and show good behaviour before they appear before parole boards, but many of these men didn't think focus on leaving too much and were desiring how to seek out and serve god there in the prison community.

Angola is partly so incredible because of it's past. It did not used to be such a shining example. It was known as one of America's deadliest and bloodiest prisons. Many people were killed while inside, often brutally. One man who lived through that time is a Man now referred to as "Bishop Tanniehil". This man of God, experienced Angola in its dark days and now in its lighter times. He is one of those old southern speakers, with a deep Louisiana accent that I must admit was often incomprehensible to me. I've rarely seen someone light up a room the way he does. He is now well into his golden years and is recognised both by inmates, guards and wardens as a man of great standing. When he preaches everyone (guards and all) listen and respond.

The email I received was a press release received by a friend who was on those trips with me. This is what it said:

"The Bishop was "Met at the Gate"!

On Tuesday, August 14th, Eugene "Bishop" Tanniehill was pardoned by the Governer of Louisiana, released from Angola Prison, and met at the gate by Terry VanDerAa and Pastor Bert DeJong. After serving 47 years of a life sentence, the Bishop is the latest to receive a warm welcome by "the Church outside the prison walls" through the Meet Me at the Gate® program.

Terry brought the Bishop to the Koinonia House® National Ministries office and together they had what Manny Mill called "the biggest ALELUYA ever!"

Manny Mill is director of Koinonia House Ministries which assists former inmates in the crazy, and extremely challenging transition from prison life to life on the outside.

As strange as all this may sound to many, and i must admit Angola is an odd place, this is some of the best news i've heard recently. If there's ever a man deserving of a pardon it's this man, although most of us never expected the governor to approve this (he has been denied countless times), this is a huge answer to many people's prayers. I'm sure Bishop Tanniehill would appreciate your prayers for him in this time as he's moving out into the "real world" where he hasn't walked in 47 years.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Life goes on...

Well not to say that Dan Chen doesn't still rock my world, but I guess it's about time to put up a new post. I'm writing this from my Aunt and Uncle's house in Ventura, California. I had my surgery last Thursday and all things considered it went well. There's a long process of healing to go, but the pain is managable and i've been taking it easy. It's nice to not have too many responsibilities.

You may have noticed that the past month or two i've had a picture of a journalist at the side of my blog. This was Alan Johnston who has now been released by a terrorist group holding him in the Gaza strip. This is great news.

I'm now looking for a job, but it's hard to imagine anyone hiring me here in california as i'm only here for 7 weeks, but who knows i may strike it lucky.

Its interesting being back in America. My mother has come with me, although she leaves in a little over a week. She's been back and forth to Amercia several times over the past year, and she and I have been talking about how difficult it can be to concurrently live your life in 2 countries (3 in my case). It's strange feeling somewhat at home in 3 very different places on the earth. It forces you to develop 3 different personalities. Maybe that will help me relate to patients when i'm doing my psychiatry rotations, who knows. I do know that going through this surgery will definitely help me empathise with people going through what surgeons consider 'minor' surgery.

Anyway, i'm alive, all is well. I passed my first year exams which is a huge relief, but i've realised more being here just how little i know. My uncle teaches Anatomy and Physiology at a local highschool and he keeps asking me questions and casually quizing me, it's embarassing how little i know. So that's one of my plans for this summer, learn all of anatomy. Plan 2, watch as many episodes of House as possible (already finished series 1). Thanks for those of you who sent birthday cards and facebook posts. It means a lot.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dan Chen Rocks My World!

Hey I just wanted to give a plug for my ex-floor-mate's website www.chennergy.com . Dan is living and working in chicago and has a passion for working with the homeless. He does photography to "pay the bills", but his talent is crazy. Even his wedding photos are pieces of art. You should definitely check out his portfolio online.....quality stuff. It's guys like Dan and Banksy (who i mentioned in a previous post) who are restoring a respect and passion for art in my life.

-for a personal update-

I had my last day of classes yesterday, and now it's a study week before our first two exams, then another week off and then our clinical exam. One cool thing coming up in the next week though, is that Stina Kielsmeier a friend from Wheaton, who's been studying for a year in Cairo, doing a masters in refugee studies (or migration..?) is flying through London and has a killer 16 hour layover, and so hopefully, flights and everything going to plan, I'm going to meet up with her next friday and hang out in london till her next flight. It'll be cool to hear all about her experiences, and to get a break from studying. I still can't believe this will only be my 2nd trip to london since moving here....not cool, but with 30 pound return tickets for only an hour train journey....i can't go up there every weekend like I had imagined i would....ah well, I should enjoy the chances I do get though.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Day of Fasting for Darfur

A friend of mine, Devin Goulding, has organised today as a day of fasting and prayer for the people targeted in the genocide of hundreds of thousands in Darfur, Sudan. I'm sorry I'm posting this late, but please take a minute to pray for the people of Darfur. And take a second to look at one of the websites below on how to get more involved in trying to seek an end to this.

Below is an email that devin sent out last night:

To read more about Sudan and the genocide in Darfur go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/africa/2004/sudan/default.stm

Breakfast
Read: Isaiah 58
Ponder: How might I be able to make today’s fast more than just a day without food? How can I live the rest of my life as a “fast” for the poor, oppressed, and hungry of the world?

The following statement was written by a human rights activist from Darfur who is also a native of Darfur. She risked her life on several occasions to help further the work of NGOs, to attempt to seek justice for women and children victims in the conflict and to raise awareness in the international community of what is happening. While currently seeking asylum in the United States, she continues to be a voice for the suffering people of her homeland.
For more information on an organization that she is currently assisting, go to www.darfurrehab.org

Since the year of 2003, the Sudanese government and its para-miltias of Janjaweed have launched its scorch-earth policy of genocide in Darfur; brutally attacking innocent civilians and completely destroying villages and looting their properties. The massive killing has resulted in over 400,000 deaths and 2.7 million people have been displaced. Among IDPOs and refugees, 80% are women and children. An unrecorded number of women have been raped and raping continues by the Janjaweed and government forces. Gang rape and cruel acts of violence against civilians, especially women and children, happens everyday.
The UN has described this as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world ever since the beginning of the conflict. There have been many UN resolutions, but nothing has been implemented! Therefore we are urging the international community to assert pressure on the Sudanese government to accept peacekeeping forces to put an end to the suffering of our people in Darfur, as well urging the security council to issue a new resolution with Chapter 7, ensuring protection of civilians without permission of the government of Sudan.
We are also appealing to the United States government to exert pressure on Sudan and countries who opposing any tough measures against Sudan.

All the best
and God bless all

Pray:
-For God’s strength for yourself and the others fasting today
-That God would speak to you about what action he might be calling you to
-For peace in the Darfur region and protection for those that call Darfur home
-For the woman who wrote the statement and her requests

Lunch
Read: Habakkuk
Ponder: Do I cry out about injustice that I see like Habakkuk did? When I hear about Darfur and other similar situations is my response to move on with life, call out to God, change the way I live, or something else?

Pray:
-That the international community might begin to act in ways that bring justice to the region of Darfur
-For healing for all the women who have been raped, children who have witnessed it, and that it would stop
-That God would move in the hearts and minds of those in power in Sudan to change their ways

Dinner
Divest from Sudan:
http://www.sudandivestment.org/home.asp
Take the time to pull out your investment documents and enter in the stocks, mutual funds, etc. that you are investing at this website. If any of your investments are tied up in money that flows to Sudan it will let you know and you can call your investment firm and move that money to a different investment.

Pray:
-That China would use it’s political power to pressure Sudan to stop the genocide
-For peace in the region of Darfur, Chad, and Central African Republic.
-That food, water, and medical supplies would be able to get to those who need them


Two more websites for information on Darfur and what you can do about it.
http://www.darfurgenocide.org/
http://savedarfur.org/

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I had to steal this Kierkegaard quote from my brother's blog

"Christendom is an effort of the human race to go back to walking on all fours, to get rid of Christianity, to do it knavishly under the pretext that this is Christianity, claiming that it is Christianity perfected.

The Christianity of Christendom...takes away from Christianity the offense, the paradox, etc., and instead of that introduces probability, the plainly comprehensible. That is, it transforms Christianity into something entirely different from what it is in the New Testament, yea, into exactly the opposite; and this is the Christianity of Christendom, of us men.

In the Christianity of Christendom the Cross has become something like the child's hobby-horse and trumpet."

- Kierkegaard, "The Instant" 5, 2-3

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May is here and the heat is Gone!

So I noticed something tonight, something was unusual as I sat here working on my computer....the difference was that my arm wasn't burning. Due to the random way my room is set up (with built-in unmovable furniture) I would usually spend the evening trying not to rest my arm on the burning hot radiator as I typed. Thankfully, it's May 1st and they've finally turned the heating off (I'm sure i'll be complaining of the cold soon enough...it's always the way).

This week on the course our learning has been structured around the topic of Anaemia. Who knew there were so many different types and causes for it, and how serious it can be.... interesting stuff, although I can't really see myself being a haematologist. At least I can take one residency field off the list. (My latest thought of residency, doing a combined 5-year programme leading to certification in both Family Practice and Emergency Medicine).....I hate the way I'm so enamoured by the future, it's a real vice. I've been this way all my life, when I was 9 and wanted to be an 'animal trainer for the movies' I had already researched the career path and knew which university I wanted to go to (Moorpark College by the way).

Today brought the reality of the importance of the 'hear and now' to life. We had our mock OSCE exams. OSCEs are Objective Structured Clinical Exams, that basically are clinical practicals. They test us on everything from communication skills, establishing rapport, to ascertaining diagnosis, skills like taking blood pressure or doing a cardiac examination, or even teaching someone how to use their inhaler properly for Asthma. They're nerve racking enough. I had difficulty getting this woman's blood pressure reading because I was so stressed that all I could hear in the ear-piece of the stethoscope was the sound of my own pulse racing inside my head. The practice was good though, and I think it has made me more prepared for our exams (just 4 weeks away now...).

Summer is here, essays are done, the end is in sight, and life is good.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

just taking a break from an essay.....just one break...honest

So I'm in the middle of an essay on the myeloproliferative disorder polycythemia vera (it's absolutely fascinating....I had to pull myself away to write this)....when I took a break and went over to the CNN website. I like the CNN website cause it lets you watch video clips for free.... and since I'm without TV at the moment, it's a welcome distraction (also I've been on a YouTube fast since lent so that hasn't been an option- otherwise i'd never get anything done).

Anyway, one of the "most popular videos" was a story about how several churches across America are giving sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. It's interesting. How do you feel about it? The woman who they profile is a mexican immigrant whose young son was born in America and is a US citizen. She has received a deportation order. She isn't hiding where she is and forwarded her new church address to the immigration authorities, but now she is permanently living in a church with her son, and trying to campaign for legalization of undocumented workers. Part of me, the part who looks at the human situation, loves the story. This is what the Christian church is meant to do, following from the many biblical commands to take care of the alien among you, to give them justice. It's good to see that the church is participating in civil disobedience because it helps to remind people that the church's positions should never be coopted by the political state in which it finds itself.

There's the other side of me too though, the big picture side, that knows this is not a permanent solution, this is temporary relief to a few, from a massive issue. It highlights yet again that the US based church needs to committ itself to helping alleviate poverty in the countries surrounding it, so that people don't feel they have to become uprooted, leave the families, countries and lands that they know and love, and make often dangerous journey's in search of hope, often a false hope. Anyway, I'd appreciate your views if you have any.

It's sort of interesting to compare this situation with a similar one in Dublin last summer where 41 Afghan assylum seekers held themselves up in St. Patrick's Cathedral demanding that the government look at their cases. In this case, it was more the traditional model of sanctuary that the Afghans were using, the church leaders hadn't encouraged them to do this, but protected them none the less and tried to seek for a swift and peaceful resolution. In the American situation, church leaders are actively inviting people into this. This seems like more of a living church model than the traditional because it is active, reaches out to others, like Christ did for us.

Here's the link to the video:

http://www.cnn.com/video/partners/clickability/index.html?url=/video/us/2007/04/28/acosta.immigrant.sanctuary.cnn

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vineyard weekend away....



I had a great time away this past saturday and sunday with the good people of Southampton Vineyard whose community I've joined since moving here. It was a good time of getting to know new people I hadn't met and getting the know the few I had better. It was also good to get out of Southampton (even though we were only half an hour away).

click on the link below to see more pictures of the weekend
http://soton.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2015152&l=557b8&id=187702307

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cambodia on the mind....

So for some reason or another, God has really been putting Cambodia on my mind recently. Over the past few weeks I received a couple good emails from friends in my community updating me on their lives and the lives of my friends and host family in Phnom Penh. It's been Khmer New Year recently and i know it's a time of great joy and celebration for the entire country, one of the celebrations people look forward to throughout the year.

Craig, who was my mentor with Servants while I was there, was in Cambodia with his family recently to help with the orientation of some new Servants workers, attend Servant's 25 year anniversary in Thailand, and oversee some work with an organization he began in called Big Brothers and Sisters of Cambodia, where young adults from Cambodian churches take on a child orphaned by AIDS as their little sibling and bring them on outings and help mentor them as they grow. One of my good friends and my host mother's niece Serey, is now helping to run the organization. Craig sent me an email with some updated pictures of my community there. It's brought back a lot of memories.

Some great news is that Teara my roommate in Cambodia, and his sister Sunti, (both who lost their parents to AIDS) have now taken on their own "little brothers and sisters" to help share some of the love that they've received with others. It's amazing to see them wanting to give life to others after they've had so much taken from themselves, they're both a constant example to me.

It's been great to email Cambodian friends (one great thing about globalisation), and keep in some sort of contact. I still don't know when and if God will bring me back there. I'm planning on doing a medical elective next summer for a month or so, and am trying to see if God would have me go back to Cambodia, to continue relationships and learning, and gain some valuable medical experience, or if God's calling me somehwere else.....I don't know, but i know he'll make it clearer and that i don't need to know just now.... Anyway, I could ramble on and on about Cambodia, so i won't.

Here's some pictures that Craig sent me:



This is a picture of the big brothers and sisters group in my community, in our church. It's so great seeing all these youth from the community, supporting these AIDS orphans, also from our community. Serey, is second from the left in the back row. Teara, is 2nd from the right in the the row just in front of the back row, beside the girl in the green shirt.



This is just outside my house. That's Craig and his wife Nay with their daughter Micah in hand. Sunti is sitting beside them and then Heurn, my host mother is the one standing (wearing a great Calvin and Hobbes T-shirt).


This is Teara sitting on the bench in front of Vi, our next door neightbour,'s house. He's sitting with Vi's mother, who i only know as Yeay (grandmother). Yeay is one of those people who will just make you feel amazing spending a few minutes with her. She was probably one of the most welcoming people in the community to me when I was first in Cambodia, and struggling to learn the language, her patience at my poor grammar and lack of vocab and willingness to have a conversation, were huge blessings to me. It's good to see she's still doing well.

Monday, April 16, 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDMA!!!!

This post is dedicated to my wonderful Grandmother, Francis Kingsley.

Today my grandmother turns 80 years old! I wish I could be there to be with her and my grandpa but it wasn't meant to be this year. My dad is an only child, which makes my brother and I the only "official" grandkids (although they have many "adopted" grandkids who they have shown huge love and generosity to over the years), so it's harder that my dad and I can't be there for the occasion. However, my mother, brother and Hailey are able to be there and I'm sure they will be celebrating in style.

Even though my brother and I grew up thousands of miles away from my dad's parents we were blessed by them being able to spend huge chunks of time with us in Dublin, they would often come over and spend 2 months around christmas time with us, which means many of my childhood friends on the road got to know them as well.

Grandma is a very special woman, who loves God and people, and continues to share that love with others being very involved with her community and church in California. Both she and my Grandfather have been huge examples and encouragements to me all through my life. I really thank God for them.

Happy Birthday Grandma!




Shooting in Virginia

Wow, it's shocking to hear the news of those brutal killings in Virginia Tech. How can these things happen?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Back at School

Happy Khmer New Year!

I'm back in Southampton now since last Tuesday, I came back early to try and get some work done, but although I was able to finish some things I found it difficult to do as much as I'd hoped. It's okay now that friends are back on campus, it's always nice to have human contact. Also my mood has much improved from the depression of last week especially now that the weather has turned out so good. I feel as if i'm in Southern California, weather wise.

I was able to spend 2 weeks away from southampton. The first I spent in a small town called Bormio in Northern Italy (if you ever catch me saying I've had a hard life, please shoot me). It was such a good time to be with my parents, matt and hailey and the kids. I love my nephew and niece so much. Eoin is so cool, and has started calling me a combination of Uncle and Michael which comes out as "Mongol." I'll take it though, cause he's so cute. And Moia, still only 8 months old, but is absolutely gorgeous, and for some reason she likes me ( i.e. i can usually get her to stop crying).

I then spent a week at home, and probably one of the highlights was being able to meet up with loads of school friends who I haven't seen in years on my last night there. Well done Emma for organizing that.

Over break I was getting caught up on the news, and saw a CNN report of a woman interviewing students at Baghdad's main university. Over a hundred of their professors have been assassinated in recent months and car bombs going off on campus are a daily occurrence. Each day when these students get up for school they know they could easily be killed (targeted for trying to get an education) or that they could return home to dead or wounded family members. Yet they still press on. The courage of these students and the determination to get an education so that they can make things better for their families and their country was truly inspiring. How little I appreciate the security that I enjoy everyday, and how 'easy' it is for me to go about my studies.

I wonder what my generation in the West would be like under such circumstances. We're a generation that on the whole has known nothing but peace and prosperity. "Normal" life for us means being in "control" of our destinies and having "rights." This is actually abnormal life, most people do not have it this way. I wonder how we'd do. Would we react the same as those interviewed iraqi students, or would we have given up long ago? I wonder if some day we'll be forced to find out?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Easter thoughts....

Today at church, we were reflecting on 200 years since the end of the trans-atlantic slave trade. So one of the things we did, was look at slavery today, and how most of us benefit from it.

Especially as we're coming up to Easter, I thought it was poignant that my pastor decided to do a presentation on the chocolate industry and slavery. An estimated 15,000 Malian children work as slaves on Ivorian cocoa plantations. Cote D'Ivoire supplies 43% of the world cocoa to the main chocolate producers in Europe and America. Chances are the chocolate that you will eat this Easter, much of it will have been at the cost of forced labour and beating of children.

I'm sure this isn't shocking to most people as this made big news back in 2001. Then there was supposed to have been a voluntary code set up by the Chocolate manufacturers to ensure that child slavery was ended on cocoa farms by 2005. Sadly this hasn't been met. Here's a excerpt from the american Global Exchange (fair trade) website:

"In 2001, this unacceptable practice caught the attention of the media and the government, and the American public began to voice their abhorrence of the use of child slave labor in the production of one of their most beloved treats: chocolate. In response, the US chocolate industry agreed (via the Harken-Engel Protocol) to voluntarily take steps to end child slavery on cocoa farms by July of 2005.

Unfortunately, this deadline has now passed, and the chocolate industry has failed to comply with the terms of this agreement. As a result, Global Exchange is spearheading a campaign that will provide an opportunity for communities nationwide to voice their concerns about the chocolate industry's abuse of children's rights."

This is still an important issue! In the words of one Malian child slave, "Tell your children that they have bought something that I suffered to make. When they are eating chocolate they are eating my flesh." (this quote come s from Stop the Traffik.org)

Okay, so is there anything we can do about it? Pray, that's a good start. When you see easter eggs for sale in the shops (or chocolate bunnies if you're in america) stop and pray.

But there's more that we can also do, sometimes I think we use prayer as a way to take away personal responsibility, I know I do, but there is a lot that we can actually do.

Antislavery.org doesn't recommend boycotts of buying chocolate, as this often does more harm than good, hurting already poor farmers who don't use slaves, and encouraging more farmers to use slave labour as the demand for their goods (and their income) falls.

Instead they recommend supporting fair and ethical trade initiatives. Although I don't think Fair Trade is a viable long term solution, as it is too controlled in terms of market forces, for the moment it seems a good way to guarantee, and encourage fair working conditions. If the world was free and equal, then free trade would be the way to go, but without common respect for human rights (and general love of neighbour), free trade leads to exploitative practices with increasingly lower wages and higher profits. Buying Fair Trade on the other hand, guarantees good fair wages for those who have produced and sees them through times of market fluctuation. Although the fair trade component of Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa production makes up only 1.3% of the market it is growing. The more larger producers see the rise of Fair Trade chocolate sales the more they will be be compelled to look at their own buying practices in order to retain their share of the market.

Other than that we can support Ethical Trade Initiatives, by encouraging your family to sit down this easter and write a letter to one of the chocolate producers, encouraging them to increase their efforts to guarantee just labour practices. (I've put a few addresses at the end but local ones shouldn't be too hard to find.)


On Easter we choose to celebrate the crux of our faith, there is victory over death and the destructive pattern that we are part of in this world will not prevail. Let's continue to try and live that way now, and in God's power (through Christ's ressurection) we know that it's possible.



Addresses:
Corporate Affairs Manager
Nestlé UK Ltd.
St. George's House
Croydon
Surrey
CR9 1NR

External Relations Department
Mars Confectionery
Dundee Road
Slough
SL1 4TS

Terry's Suchard/ Kraft Foods
Consumer Care
St. George's house
Bayshill Road
Cheltenham
GL50 3AE

Consumer Relations Department
Cadbury Ltd.
PO Box 12
Bournville
Birmingham
B30 2LU

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bored of essays already....

One of the funniest articles I've read recently was today in a link from the Drudge Report.
It's entitled "Global Warming: Moving Towards Metrosexuals" (click here to read it).

Basically the author feels outraged that methane produced by cattle is being targetted by Global Warming activists. He feels this is part of the "liberal" attack on all things masculine as this would mean we now want to criminalize eating charcoal-grilled Steak. Here's an excerpt or two:

"So now, steaks and hamburgers are classified as instruments of destruction, along with large vehicles, lawn mowers, and charcoal grills. It can't be much longer before cowboy movies, cigars and hockey are held to be enemies of the earth as well."

"This has got to be the most blatant assault on guyhood since ABC moved Coach to the same night as Roseanne, and turned Hayden Fox into Phil Donahue. It's a wonder that liberals don't cut to the chase, by simply claiming that global warming is caused by testosterone. Then, they could make public school nurses siphon the offending fluid from the boys during health class."

He may have a point.... I'm always up for a good conspiracy theory. But besides from being well written polemic, it does raise some interesting points about this guys view of "guyhood". What's sadder and probably more an affront to masculinity (rather than global warming activists) is the fact that the manhood this guy is holding on to has been completely emasculated. His paradigm of masculinity has no substance, no balls.

Basically manhood in our day and age boils down to believing what the ads tell you to. Men have yet to recover from years of feminist ideological domination and so hold strongly on to whatever images they can. This means the XL-Whopper at Burger King, or bigger fuel-guzzling engines (with "Like a rock" playing in the background), pure aggression from the 6-nations or March Madness (although even basketball is a bit iffy cause women do that too...right?) American Football...that's a man's sport. I love that the author described other affronts on masculinity in terms of moving TV programmes around. Isn't the fact that most Western men spend their evenings sitting in front of the TV more the affront to manhood? Testosterone can't do much when we're sitting on our asses.

Basically, we've lost the battle already. We've got no concept of any sort of healthy manhood, so we play into two feminist imposed expectations and roles: 1) man as uni-dimensional brute aggressor, or 2) man as metro-sexual image conscious wanna-be sex-icon (when in history were so many guys so concerned about having rock-hard abs?)... i guess there should be a third category often seen in media and real life....3) man as completely apathetic self-absorbed couch-potato/internet junkie....(i've got a lot of this in me).

Something to think about....not saying that the feminists (do you like my stereotyping...and I do mean "ALL" feminists) were wrong, they've done well. And most were probably ignorant at the effect they were having at emasculating society. But since us men put up no fight of our own, maybe it's our own fault.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patricks Day to everyone! I'm still sadly in England for the moment, needing to do some essays before I can officially enjoy the easter holidays, but I'll arrive back in Dublin a week from Monday.

Just an update... the course is going well enough. Some weeks I feel like i'm getting a handle on things and other weeks (usually) I feel like I'm just keeping from drowning. I know that's how you're supposed to feel in medical school, but it does keep the stress level a bit high. Anyway, the summer is looking ever more in sight, meaning both exams and freedom. Dreading the exams, but the freedom is seeming to diminish my fears.

We've just finished our 4 week Respiritaory course and our 4 week Cardiovascular course. We had a random week on gerontology and now when we come back from the holidays we'll be studying the Locomotor System. Fun stuff.....in a way. Anyway, that's my life for now. I'll post again soon when there is something worthwhile to say, or (more likely) when I get bored of writing my essays.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Congrats!

So we've finally done it! After years of maintaining peer pressure, the government ensuring that there's nothing better to do, and a healthy dose of advertising by Diageo...we've finally secured the top spot of the EU's most binge-drinking nation.

Aparently 34% of Irish people replied in a survey that they binge drink (more than 5 drinks in 1 sitting- hardly "binge drinking" if you ask me) regularly. We beat Finland with 27% and the UK with 24%. Not bad. Well done to all those involved in making this such a success.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

addendum

addendum: I realize in my last post, I refer to Arafat's trademark scarf as the Palestinian headscarf. This is not strictly the case. Although the black and white scarf in this pattern is mostly associated with the Palestinian people (both still in Palestine or refugees throughout the Arab world and beyond) the scarf is also presently in use in other Arab countries.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A day of thoughts....

So today was one of those days that was full of thoughts. This morning I spent at a global health conference put on by MEDSIN which is the global health awareness group in most UK medical schols. We had a couple good speakers and a couple so-so speakers. But as my dad is famous for saying about conferences he goes to, I mainly went to see if there were people I could collaberate with and learn from (i.e. networking). And to my delight I think I did find some. There's a project in the work that is seeking to form partnerships between UK medical schools and Medical schools in the Global South, and that's something that I really want to get behind, so watch this space.

Okay so one of the things that I've been wanting to rant about recently, actually since I got to the UK, is the way that our global society has comodified things that used to hold meaning, and made them into commercialized symbols of chic fashion. An example of this that I've noticed especially since I came to the UK was the Palestinian Hatta or Keffiyeh (as seen on Mr. Yasser Arafat to the right). It would be an odd day in southampton to walk around and not see this scarf being worn by at least 3 or 4 fashionable young women. I recently asked two of my coursemates who also wear this scarf (well one actually wears a sylized hat made from the same colours and pattern) what they thought about the whole palestinian situation. They both revealed that they were not wearing them out of political motivation, or a human rights statement. One of the them didn't even know it had any palestinian meaning. The other told me her scarf was her mother's from the 70s when she used to campaign.

I don't have a problem really with the people who wear it without knowing its deeper significance or really caring, but it just saddens me that our society is so set up that may symbols quickly lose any meaning. People wear Che Guevara t-shirts without knowing who he was or what he did (or if they acutally would agree with him). I don't know, it's also evident in how some people wear religious jewelry (although this is meaningful for many people). I just wonder if any symbols can last anymore? Or if our society cares about anything more than the lates fashions and looking good?

African-Carribean Cultural Night:

I went to the African-Carribean cultural night tonight. It's put on by the African-Caribean Christian Fellowship here in Uni of Southampton. It was an interesting night. I managed to convince 3 friends that it would be a good event to go to and give support to. The first half of the night was a bit strange and I think especially uncomforable for my friends. The night was advertised as a night to celebrate African and Carribean culture, but the second half of the 1st half they had this all-white southampton teenage "urban dance" troup. They did a few songs including Michael Jackson's thriller (in full zombie gear, quite freaky). They were very intense, and sort of were a complete change from the hearfelt and genuine acts shown before (such as a medley of Amazing grace to celebrate 200 years of emancipation). I felt very uncomfortable during this group, we weren't really told why they were performing and they're intensity was really weird. This was just too much for my friends who sadly left after the inter-mission...although I couldn't really blame them.

The second half was much better thouh, it was full of drama, singing, poetry, dancing and even a fashion show (not to mention free food at the end...good stuff). The drama and poetry dealt with issues of diaspora life such as the brain drain, longing to return home, the homeland longing for its children to come back. There was drama about elders and poetry about things I wish I could understand. But mostly it was celebratory. The president of the ACCF, a medic, got up towards the end to explain why there was need of such night. She talked of how the vast majority of things we hear in the media about Africa and Africans are negative and how if you ask people what the first things they think of when you say Africa, the response you get is usually war, famine, AIDS. She said that although these are part of the story they are not the things that she thinks of. She mentioned so many wonderful memories, sounds, smells and people. She was a really elegant and gifted speaker and I thought her talk was maybe the best part of the night.

Anyway, I wish my friends could have known what was coming in the 2nd half cause it may have convinced them to stay, but honestly I probably would have left in the first half as well if I hadn't told myself that I would stay because of the 7 pound cost of the ticket for the night. I'm glad i did though, it very much made me miss being in circles of people with a wide diversity of life experience, with open expectations and understandings of what's important in life.








Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ireland 43 - England 13....yeah that feels good.

So with the result of this past Saturday, last week's defeat against France drops into obscure distant memory amidst loud choruses of "Fields of Athenry"....

After having been scolded by my flat-mate Siobhan (from Belfast) because I haven't yet been to O'Neill's Pub in Winchester, I decided that's where I'd go to see the big match. It worked out well cause I'd just spend the day working on a course-mate of mine's house that he's rebuilding (he lives in Winchester). I had been lead to believe by Siobhan that there would be loads of Irish there for the match, and although I rarely have been to Irish pubs while abroad I though if there ever was an occasion to be with other Irish people for a match, this was it.

The days leading up to the match, people kept asking me "what's the big deal about Croke Park?" If I'm stuck for time I'll usually just remind people that the last time there was such a big British contingency present in the stadium was a day now known as "bloody Sunday." If you've seen the film Michael Collins you'll remember this portrayed in the scene where the British tanks break into the middle of the pitch and open fire on the players and crowd.

It's even more than that though isn't it. Even for myself, someone who's barely picked up a hurley except for in P.E., never been to a GAA match let alone in Croke park, and a child of immigrants, there was an odd tension in me at the thought of hearing "God Save the Queen" sung there. Croke Park and the GAA which owns it is a remaining symbol of Irish independence. The GAA didn't used to allow its members to play other "foreign" sports such as football and rugby, so there were many mixed emotions leading up to this Ireland - England rugby match. I seriously thank God, for everyone's sake, that Ireland won.

When I walked into O'Neill's pub, I was sadly dissapointed, yet not terribly surprised. It was jam packed with England supporters drinking Guinness. There was a small Irish group, dressed in green and crowded in a corner. We did break into a few choruses, and managed to make the best of a greatly diminished atmosphere, but there was really nothing that could wipe the smiles of our faces that night. I have to say, isn't it slightly ironic that a foreign-English sport, that used to be outlawed by the GAA is now the only international sport that we play where it represents a united Ireland? I love it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mary is Dead

I got the word from Benjamin a couple of days ago that our long enduring and faithful friend, Mary, my old jeep, has finally given in and passed. It's a sad thing losing one's first car. When I left her to Benjamin I didn't feel that I was losing her because she was in such good care and I knew that I would be able to see her if I ever wanted to. I got regular updates on how she was running and sort of felt that she was still here with me sometimes. However, this time it's more permamanet. In fairness Mary has done us well, many people well. She was already second hand when she first came into my sister-in-law, hailey's, hands, and then on marriage became my brother's posession also. She got passed down to me and I passed her on to Benjamin.

If you're wondering about the name, well you'd have had to seen this ad (click here to watch then press PLAY AD). It's a Mr. Kipling's Mince Pie ad, but you really have to see it to understand. Joeseph keep's screaming "Come on Mary!" and basically that's what I had to yell at my jeep every morning to get her to start, and she always did.

I've had many a good memory in that car. A 4 day road trip with my dad, pulling a giant trailer of my brother and hailey's stuff before starting my first year of university. My first time skidding off the road when driving in snow. Lifts for good friends who were car-less. Late night runs to Los Burritos....mid-day runs to Los Burritos.......morning runs to Los Burritos......good times.

According to Benjamin she had 210,473 miles on her when she died, not bad. On a more serious note though, Mary deciding to give up at this point now leaves Benjamin without a car to drive to his new job in the subarbs of Minneapolis. His job is really car-dependent, so this is quite a big deal. Please pray that somehow he'd be able to find a replacement, cause he really can't afford to be without this job at the moment. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

........spot the memories......

So, since most of you haven't got the chance to see my room....being that not too many people have come to visit me so far.....I thought I'd share with you the one shelf of stuff that I seem to take everywhere with me no matter where I'm living. It gets added to all the time, and is about the only colour to be found anywhere in my room....so let me take you through some of the pieces (wow this sounds cheesy, which it is....but who cares).

I've got sort of two rules when I get "souvenirs" from places i get either stuff that is just for normal common use in the place i'm visiting (such as bottles or signs..) which will remind me of the life I had somewhere or I get something that I can use later on (like a t-shirt or bracelet) that will remind me of where I've been after i'm gone whenever i wear it.

Probably the oldest thing up there in my list of memories is the mini-"Animal" the rowdy drummer Muppet which was randomly given to me one day by Rob Browne a good friend and ex-youth leader of mine........that's been to Chicago, Cambodia and back with me now to England....

moving on we got probably the next things are the diet coke and pepsi cans....these are going to make me BIG MONEY in the future (REALLY....) as they are still full cans of the dark stuff that went out of date before the turn of the millennium...that's how old they are....i have no reason what first compelled me to keep them back when I was a teenager but for some reason i still have them and well, don't quite want to give them up....

Next we got that familiar sign in the background with Iarnrod Eireann plastered on to it. This was a gift from Aprile Kavanagh....you know you've got a good friend when they'll steal for you.

Next the Egyptian bookmark was a gift from Jessica Hoffmeier who lead a bible study group for some of us students in Chicago. She'd done a degree in Near Eastern studies and was doing a masters in Archaeology (I think but probably wrong) as well. Let's just say that we got seriously in depth and she would spend time translating each passage fresh for us each week....that's commitment.

Directly to the right of the bookmark and under the pepsi bottle you can kind of see what looks like a glass eggcup. This I got at the famous restaurant Ed Debevics in Chicago...a restaurant where the staff are meant to be rude to you (don't ask me why). Anyway apparently this was the "world's smallest Sunday" and it came with a free glass holder. It was the only thing I could afford on the menu so that's what I got. It was from our first "big-sibs" outing to chicago during orientation to Wheaton....such a long time ago.

The silver Jameson flask was a gift from my brother for being in his wedding....hasn't gotten much use, but I'm sure that will change someday.

Next comes a bunch of stuff from my time in Jordan. All the glass bottles are all in arabic and the bracelets would get us some respect and friendly looks when we wore them around Amman.
That's where the money is from too.

There's a couple of other things my "70's" style sunglasses hanging at the back reminding me of California where I got them in a thrift shop.....The card at the side written to me by two friends from different parts of the world who ended up living almost next to each other (Laura Robinson, a friend from Ireland and Megan Hamilton, a friend from Wheaton).

There's the cambodia stuff, the Angkor beer shirt (made into wall hanging...it was a little too big...given to me by friends in Cambodia), the key chain my brother Teara gave to me, and the chopsticks I bought in the market (now inside the Pepsi or should I say "bebsi" bottle).

Then we got lastly but not least my "save the whales belt buckle" that my brother got me for graduation cause I'm "into social justice stuff.." and then the Chinese money envelope that a Chinese student who goes by the name of Daphne gave to me for helping her, carry her bags from the bus stop to her room back in September...I didn't see her again until December when she stopped by to give me my gift...completely unexpected.....

So there you have it (if you've lasted...this has been one of my more boring posts), most of my life fits onto a shelf.....crazy stuff...

Ireland 17- France 20

I just finished watching the Ireland v. France 6 nations match....what a game. It was probably one of the best, most tense matches I'd ever seen which just added to the feel of the experience with the first ever Rugby match played in Croke Park. You'd have loved us to win it in the end, but it wasn't meant to be. The French try in the last minute was too much too late in the game for Ireland to do anything about it....at least it was one for the memory.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I've just finished reading one of the most disturbing articles I've read in a long time. It's about a Kenyan tour-company which has started offering tours of Kibera, known as the African continent's largest slum.

'"People are getting tired of the Maasai Mara and wildlife. No one is enlightening us about other issues. So I've come up with a new thing -- slum tours," enthused James Asudi, general manager of Kenyan-based Victoria Safaris.'

This just seems sick to me. It does to other people too.

"What is this fascination with Kibera among people who do not know what real poverty means?" asked the Daily Nation, a Kenyan Newspaper.

'"They see us like puppets, they want to come and take pictures, have a little walk, tell their friends they've been to the worst slum in Africa," said car-wash worker David Kabala. "But nothing changes for us. If someone comes, let him do something for us. Or if they really want to know how we think and feel, come and spend a night, or walk round when it's pouring with rain here and the paths are like rivers."'

"Visits by tourists, which reached a crescendo during the recent anti-capitalist World Social Forum in Nairobi, were testing the local hospitality culture to the limit."

I think this last quote from the article sums up just how wrong this whole thing is.
"Kibera is the rave spot in Kenya," wrote one columnist sarcastically. "For where else can one see it all in one simple stop?The AIDS victims dying slowly on a cold, cardboard bed. The breastless teenager. ... Plastic-eating goats fighting small children ... and -- ah yes -- the famous 'shit-rolls-downhill-flying-toilets'. It is unbeatable."

This is what happens when all that comes up in western media when 'Africa' is mentioned is poverty, injustice, and war. These are the thing people now most commonly associate with Africa, because of constant repitition. Not to deny that these things exist, they do, but Africa is so much more than that. The peoples on this continent, (where I have never had the opportunity to travel to but only to know people who come from there) have vibrant lives and cultures and form the oldest societies on earth, not to mention the unbelievable richness and beauty of the continent geographically. I'm not in anyway qualified to talk about this subject. But slum tourism is rediculous, and I think all too common. Might "short term projects" also be guilty of this?

If you want to read the entire article for yourself click HERE.



Sunday, February 04, 2007

Isle of Wig-ut (Wight).

So I've got this thing about pronouncing silent letter g's in words....for example I like to pronounce Tallaght as Tall-a-gut....and so with the Isle of Wight so close at hand, it's no exception. Granted, as you all know, i'm weird.

So a group of us from the BM4 medicine programme decided to go on a day trip to Wig-ut yesterday. Good times were had by all. Honestly though, I'm not exactly sure why the place is so popular. We spent the time and money to go over there and what did we do, well one group went shopping, another group went to watch rugby in a pub and yet another (that was the group I was in) decided to take a walk down the beach. It's strange though, I don't know why but somehow in my mind I felt I had an image of white sandy beaches and maybe a palm tree or two (just with how everyone always goes on about how idylic the Isle of Wig-ut is). What we found was just a normal rocky beach, and a sleepy town named Cowes, about the size of Blackrock, or maybe a little smaller.

Anyway, it's always the people that make the experience and we all had a good laugh. Ended up going out for a curry at night, which was an ordeal in itself, after somehow being verbally assaulted by two customers sitting near us (making us fear for our lives at provoking the wrath of the islanders), then after having the restaurant charge us almost 55 pounds more than they should have....David Rees and I, the more sober ones of the group, were able to argue them back down to what we were meant to pay. Anyway, let's just say there are plenty of stories and memories from the short day. I'll want to go back to Cowes and the Isle of Wig-ut someday, but I'll be okay if that's not for a while to come.


Meeting up at the Highfield bus stop. It's a beautiful day Rebecca (on right) using the occasion to sport her most trendy sunglasses. That's P on the Left.

Arriving into Cowes.
David and Kath.


Not a bad ending to a good day. (Kath, Pete and Tim).

Wheaton meets Southampton...

So I've been lucky enough to have a familiar face come visit me last weekend. Blake Sawicky who I knew during my Wheaton days, is studying for his masters in Marine Archaeology at UCL in London (a very good archaeology school). Anyway, last semester I had the chance to visit him for a weekend so this year, Blake has been able to spend a little time down here with me.....since Southampton is well...not exactly the tourist centre of the world, we did what I do with all the people who come visit me...i.e. go to Winchester. Winchester is full of all the history and architecture that you'd want to see, being the first capital of England and having one of the most well known Cathedrals.

Anyway, it's always good to have a familiar face around and some good conversation. Here's a few pics of our couple of days toegether.


This is blake. We're in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral where there's this suprising and reflective statue. We're lucky because it's been quite a while since the crypt has flooded enough to where the water relfects the light in the enitre room. When you're there it's really peaceful. I'm definitely going back.


Here's a better view.


This is the High Street, it was a bit random to come across a Native American busking group...but...yeah...what can you say.

Blake's dad has been telling him he needs to take more pictures of himself, when I offered to take one of him, he said he has to take them like this.....okay.....

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A blog that needs to be visited..

Hey everyone, sorry this has to be short and sweet. I'll do a longer update later. But I've just been over at my friend Chika's blog and I need to recommend it here. Her last few posts are really insightful, well written thoughts, that everyone could benefit from. So I'll put the link up here.

http://www.xanga.com/africansun06

Monday, January 22, 2007

Barack Obama

So I don't know if you've been keeping track of the American presidential campaign (I hope you're not because there are much better uses of your time....I however seem to be addicted to anything political.....). I don't know about you but i think if you asked most people in the US today, they'd probably rather have a new election tomorrow than spend another 2 years with the current administration. As it seems about time for a democratic president, and with now real strong republican candidates appearing (at this still early stage) attention has been given strongly to two people, Hillary Rodham-Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary (recognizable by simply her first name in many parts of the world) is a known quantity, which from what I read, is a good quality to have in US politics. People seem to be much more likely to vote for someone if they don't feel like they're going to be surprised by their actions. Obama on the other hand, is not very well known. However those of us who have lived in Illinois, do know him. I remember when he was running for the US Senate while I was at Wheaton. There was such a buzz around this charasmatic man. At that time I did a little bit of research on him and his biography was enough for me to set him apart in my mind. He was born to a Kenyan father and White American mother (from Kansas). His parents divorced when he was 2 and then his mother remarried an Indonesian man and the whole family moved to Indonesia, where Obama spent some of his childhood, before moving back to Kansas to be raised by his grandparents. In other words he was a Third Culture Kid (the type of youth that my brother and his wife work with).

Anyway, I've been reading more and more about him, and truly does seem a different sort of politician. Some of the comments he makes, cut through the intensely polarised, black and white understandings that are all too common in the US 2-party system and he is a politician that embraces that most issues are a lot more grey and require compromises along with difficult, unpopular decisions.

Anyway, I think this short video about his background and what even got him to this point is quite informative and worth a quick look.
http://www.barackobama.com/video/about.php

At the end of his speech on the video his rhetoric shows him to be a different type of leader, one perhaps who would be able to lead a now post-modern, pluralistic nation.