Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Deadly Combination--A Documentary about TB in South Africa

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Eyes Have It

"With eyes that look'd into the very soul-- . . . . Bright--and as black and burning as coal."
Lord Byron

Some of the best sourvenirs that I acquire in my travels abroad are the pictures that depict the heart of a land--the people. The differences and the similarities of two peoples on opposite sides of the globe are great studies into humanity. I see hard working men and women trying to make a living for their families, continuing and breaking traditions, believing and worshiping in their faith, laughing and joking about their neighbors and their politics, and proud of their country but frustrated about their government. I also see conditions I would find unlivable where these same people not only survive, but live and grow.

It has been such a privilegde in my life to visit a place and not come as a tourist, an outsider yes, and see the inner workings of a culture and environment. The famous landmarks and attraction are nice to behold, but the most wonderful treat is to meet new acquaintances, eat great food among friendly hearts, and hear interesting stories about another's reality.

On this recent trip, I returned to Kisumu, Kenya and the Karemo District, known for the violence following the Kenyan elections and the birthplace of Obama's father. Kenya is becoming a familiar stop that I become a little more intimate with each trip. One new tidbit I learned was that you may find people in this western part of Kenya more welcoming than in central Kenya where there is more suspicion and less openness because they had a lot of their land stolen. Also, some tribes are known by very interesting traits--the Masai acquire or steal tires to make these sandals that are known for their durablity and at one time was a fad. The Kamba tribe are known to sell tires and no matter what city or town you go and find a tire store, it will be a Kamba there.

The pictures I love most are of children. During one of my visits to a local primary school where the mobile field station for our study was located at the time, the school children spotted my camera and surrounded me with pleas for me to take their picture for which I gladly complied.

It was quite funny later on as I moved toward my work that they would pass in twos or stand and sit in a pose that I might capture them on "film". I love the eyes of children, for in them lies so much depth, potential, dreams, and hope.

On a humorous note while traveling to the KEMRI/CDC field station, the driver would tune to a morning radio show host similiar to Tom Joyner who would take calls and input on a question that was submitted. The questions were wild:

  • Wife wants forgiveness for cheating once on her husband who has cheated numerous times even bringing one and two women at a time into marital bed--should he forgive her?
    How to tell man that he is lousy in bed?
  • Future mother-in-law wants to train husband in bed matters? (This was a little weird, we weren't sure what that actually meant.)
  • A woman financially supported a man for 10 yrs, and is tired and decided wants to cut him loose. He has run up much debt. Should she cut him loose and should a woman support her man financially?

There were others, but those are the ones I remember. I also find that I find some interesting fare on the T.V. as well. During this trip I saw a movie about a call center girl in New Delhi, India, who connects with a rich music producer in the UK handling his bank account. There was conspiracy to kill him by his wife who he was divorcing and all this was garnered from his bank account. He falls for her and eventually visits India and of course they end up together happily ever after.

In addition, I learned that a large majority of hair extensions come from India in two different ways. The cheaper lower quality hair comes from the hair balls that children gather from the hair from the brushes and combs of their mothers. These hair balls are collected by hair dealers who take them to factories where women work for pennies to tease, treat, and prepare the hair for commercial use. This lower quality grade is used for stage and costume wigs. The premium hair often comes from the practice of Hindu women (and men) of sacrificing their hair (sometimes the only thing they have to give) to their gods. This is carefully removed from the scalp and the temple allows (for a price) the hair dealers to come and take the hair for processing. Much of this hair is shipped to China who is the number one processor of weave in the world although their supplies from Chinese women have lessened because of the trend of shorter cuts. It kind of makes you look at weave in a new light.