Visiting Haiti through “Because We Are”

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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

Hell Week is Over. But I’d Rather Talk About SAS.

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I survived Hell Week. Not sure what that is? Check this post, right at the end.

I don’t really want to talk about it though. I’m pretty traumatised. Thanks to a huge amount of prayers and support and motivation from my family and friends, I survived it. I honestly did not think I would get past Tuesday.

My worst subjects, Surgery and Orthopaedics, went really well. My best subjects, Ophthalmology and Anaesthetics went REALLY badly. We only get our results in like a century though.

Exactly one year ago today, I disembarked Semester at Sea’s MV Explorer in Barcelona. I can’t believe it’s been a year. I miss falling asleep on the rocking ocean. I miss the countries – all of them. It was a great experience.

Watch this spoken word by Stephen Brown, whom I met in the Illness Narratives course we both took on the ship. I tear up every time I watch this. It is the best representation of that voyage. Transcript below.

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“Water, Water, Every Where”

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I live in a water-scarce country on a water-scarce continent. I grew up with a little ditty, “Kinders moenie in die water mors nie, die ou mense wil dit drink” – “Children, don’t mess with water, the old people want to drink it”. Parts of my country has had water restrictions in the years that I have lived.

And yet, I have never really wanted for water. When I open a tap, there it is. Cold and ready to drink, albeit chlorinated. Cape Town has some of the cleanest drinking water in the world. I could run through sprinklers as a child. I could swim in swimming pools.

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How I did Semester at Sea while at Medical School

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I have alluded to this before, but medical students rarely do Semester at Sea, and when they do, they are usually there for a short while. For example, the few medical students from the University of Virginia who spend a few weeks on the tropical leg of a Spring voyage; or inter-port students, like the Indian medical student who sailed with us from Myanmar to India.

The reason for this is three-fold: for one, SAS students are mostly undergraduate, and mostly from the USA, where medicine is a postgraduate degree. Secondly, the nature of medicine is such that it is very hard to leave temporarily to another institution – not to mention the difficulty in arranging to “miss” practical rotations. Lastly, I’ve not yet seen any SAS courses that are accepted for medical accreditation.

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Book Review: China Underground

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China Underground by Zachary Mexico was the third book I purchased on Semester at Sea. The book comprises a series of anecdotes of various Chinese citizens, whom the author met and interviewed while in China. These include sex workers, minority groups such as the Uighurs (a Chinese Muslim minority), art lovers, film makers, drug dealers (and users) and more. Their commonality is that they are outsiders, and that each sees their country and the world through a distinct lens.

The book is almost like a collection of short stories that can be picked up at any point and any time. There is something for everybody, although I would of course suggest reading the whole book. Continue reading

Africa Needs More Books

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I was walking through my home suburb (read:village) with my brother the other day. We went to the local library, sampled some books (slim pickings) and as we walked home, I asked about such-and-such a bookshop, and such-and-such a used bookshop. They were all closed down. Anyone wanting to purchase books needs to go to town (literally). A town which, incidentally, has only generic chain bookshops.

And I said to my brother, “This place needs more bookstores.”

And then, “Our country needs more bookstores.”

And then, “Africa needs more bookstores.”

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