What I See In Your Photos With “Poor African Children”

1. I see someone who was lucky enough to travel to a magnificent continent

And we welcome you. We welcome you to feel in your bones the wealth of our loam soil. Listen to the stories whispered by our winds. Immerse yourself in our skies. We welcome you to open your heart – and your eyes – to see that our narrative is more than one of suffering.

not tourist attraction
Base image by Stephen and Melanie Murdoch, click for their Flickr Photostream.

Continue reading “What I See In Your Photos With “Poor African Children””

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Land of the Disability Grant

Despite my love of clinic days, Orthopaedic Clinic Days are proving extremely demotivating.

On a clinic day we see more than 200 patients. We are an extremely stretched department but we try extremely hard to keep our patients functional. By far the majority of South Africans are reliant on their hands and feet for their daily work, and so it is important that we preserve their ability to make a living. And we make a massive effort to do so.

Susan Dorothea White, "Right Hand" 2010
Susan Dorothea White, “Right Hand” 2010

And yet on clinic days every second patient tells me that they want a Disability Grant. A measly grant that brings 1,1 million South Africans at the most ZAR1,400 (USD112) per month. Hardly a worthy income. Continue reading “Land of the Disability Grant”

Hypothesis: South African Sights for South African Vision

While I was in beautiful Cape Town for my leave (wow, that was a long time ago), my sister and I mused about how we have access to this gorgeous country simply by virtue of being born here. “Just think,” she said, “people pay thousands of rands to see Table Mountain, and here we are, just walking around and seeing it as much as we want!” She was quite right, of course – at the same time, the MV Explorer was docked in Cape Town.

But for a long time, I’ve been thinking how not all who are born in our country have access to these attractions on a very basic level.

Virtually everywhere I have traveled, foreigners pay more than locals to see attractions. I saw this for the first time in China in 2011, where foreigners are very clearly divided from locals wishing to visit the Huanglong caves.

china foreigners Continue reading “Hypothesis: South African Sights for South African Vision”

Paired Reading: Refugees and Displaced Persons in Africa

While on holiday in Zambia I read two absolutely breathtaking books. I bought both of these books myself and was not asked to review them, but I feel the need to share them with everyone.

A prelude: The number of displaced persons in Africa is huge. We have many refugees and many internally displaced persons and in South Africa, the supposed land of milk and honey, many foreigners have been victims of xenophobia. This year especially has seen flares in violence against persons perceived to be foreigners There are a lot of politics underlying the whole story, and it’s not something I necessarily understand well enough to explain in simple terms, but it is tangible in this land.

Abandoned Somali shop, Makause, East Rand. By Richard Poplak. Click for link.
Abandoned Somali shop, Makause, East Rand. By Richard Poplak. Click for link.

Continue reading “Paired Reading: Refugees and Displaced Persons in Africa”

For Healthcare Workers: Turn Their Pain Into Power

A short post to share a song you probably already know:

I first heard Superheroes by The Script sometime last year and it pretty much had me in tears. Granted, it’s probably the combination of the Sowetan setting of the music video and the absolutely heartbreaking plus uplifting subject matter (how’s that for messing with your emotions?). Continue reading “For Healthcare Workers: Turn Their Pain Into Power”

Reviewing “Ebola” – and can we just admit that we don’t have a handle on this?

I read Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen. There is hardly a more current book on the matter and I am getting so many questions from friends and family that I figured I might as well inform myself a little more.

In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host animal. And until we find it, Ebola will continue to strike.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with the literature (or you’re a student or professional in any of the medical sciences) you might not learn too much that you did not already know.

“The current scientific understanding of ebolaviruses constitutes pinpricks of lights against a dark background.”

Continue reading “Reviewing “Ebola” – and can we just admit that we don’t have a handle on this?”

Visiting Haiti through “Because We Are”

Ten-year-old orphan Libète has been hardened by the daily struggle to survive in Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most infamous slum. But when she and her best friend, Jak, discover a young mother and her baby brutally murdered in a nearby marsh, it’s unlike anything she’s encountered before. Though initially shocked, the adults of Cité Soleil move on quickly from the event; after all, death is commonplace in this community. Undaunted, Libète takes action with Jak in tow, plunging herself into a dangerous, far-reaching plot that will change her irrevocably and threaten everything she holds dear.

It seems I’m on a streak of reading thrillers that don’t entirely conform to the genre – although my ‘fraidy pantsness is not exactly complaining. Continue reading “Visiting Haiti through “Because We Are””

Book Review: Broken Monsters

Broken city, broken dreams

In Detroit, violent death – along with foreclosure and despair – is a regular occurrence. But the part-human, part-animal corpses that have started appearing are more disturbing than anything Detective Gabriella Versado has ever seen[…]

[…]Broken Monsters lays bare the decaying corpse of the American Dream, and asks what we’d be prepared to do for fifteen minutes of fame, especially in an online world.

Lauren Beukes is pretty much on my auto-buy list (I mean, if I had the means to have an auto-buy list). I own most of her books, including her out-of-print Maverick, and Broken Monsters will soon be added. Continue reading “Book Review: Broken Monsters”

Armchair BEA: More Than Just Words

I’m joining Armchair BEA for the first time this year by participating in a few discussions. My dream is one day to attend the real deal… but till then, this will suffice. Today’s discussion is about books that are “more than just words”, and to this end I’m sharing three mini-reviews for books I recently received via NetGalley. (Links click through to longer GoodReads reviews.)

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

I was a bit worried about reading this because I’m not a gamer and I feared that not understanding the culture would hinder my enjoyment. I need not have worried. In short, Anda is a bit of an awkward, seemingly unhappy teenager in a new town, who gets introduced to the world of Massive Multiplayer Online Games, where she joins an all-female guild and becomes known as a kick-ass player. But she also encounters “gold farmers”, a very real occurrence in MMOs. It becomes her mission to “kill” gold farmers, until she befriends one gold farmer from China and realises that most of them are playing long hours just to make a living. Continue reading “Armchair BEA: More Than Just Words”

For Mother’s Day: A Rural Story of a Mother’s Love

I have amazing women in my life – a wonderful mother, grandmother and aunts. I have written about them before, so this Mother’s Day I am sharing a story I have told them, and I know they won’t mind it as a tribute to all mothers.

My rural Family Medicine rotation earlier this year was not just rural – it was classified as DEEP rural. The majority of the people living in the area had no water or electricity. Many of them had pulmonary disease, despite never having smoked – the so-called hut-lung disease. The nearest referral hospital was more than two hours away and was reached by traveling roads with near-dongas as potholes.

Most of our patients were unemployed, or otherwise self-employed as subsistence farmers who struggled to subsist. Almost none of them had cars, and so when we did refer them to the “nearby” hospital they were sent with patient transport vehicles that were chronically overfilled. Patients who had to go to even larger hospitals with more specialised abilities had to find their own way – although the doctors often helped them out with bus fair using their personal income. Continue reading “For Mother’s Day: A Rural Story of a Mother’s Love”