Saturday, May 21, 2011

Notorious BRB

There's been a small drought of blog posts out of me lately. I know I promised a blog about work but it's surprisingly hard, after long days in the hot sun followed by reports about what happened on long days in the hot sun, to write blogs about long days in the hot sun. Even though I'm enjoying this job more everyday.

It's hard to take photos that would go well on blogs when I'm focused on taking detail photos of pumps and trying to fit whole gardens into my viewscreen, like in this exciting little number!

I'll try to sneak in some photos of farmers gardening or kids playing or something.

Anyway, more extra exciting things are happening at work and I'm so excited that I just might write about them. So don't worry about the title of this post, it's not that I'm taking a hiatus from writing this, all will come in its own time. Meanwhile, here's a short list of things on my radar:


In no particular order:

1. Lee Kuan Yew is "officially" out. I think this is a very good public step, albeit after firmly establishing the Lee Dynasty in Singapore government, and it's uncertain what he will do "despite" being out of office.

2. On a related note, Singapore just had its "most upsetting" election recently. I say "bout damn time". Everyone on "both sides of the government" is talking about how the political climate in Singapore is changing and that's a good thing. Singapore has a very uncommon but also quite nuanced political situation, and it's hard to recommend a good source that will describe the whole picture.

I found quite a few neat places to get very sharp, objective opinions and information about it, a couple of articles I really liked are here at molly meek and here at the online citizen. They might be a bit dense if you don't already know some about Singapore politics, but they get my super snobby stamp of approval.

Unfortunately, most Singaporeans would prefer to read utter drivel from Xia Xue (who I only just found out about before the elections). I wrote in a very polite comment to clarify five thousand factual mistakes she made but she predictably wouldn't let it go up, so maybe when it rolls around to "that time of the month" I'll write a heartfelt blog about why Xia Xue is the worst blogger in the entire sphere.

3. Since this has been so many words (and so much about politics!) and I have resolved to give more pictures and fewer words, I'll only add...huh, well maybe that was it. Well, this isn't news, I found out that the King of Thailand is a super amazing awesome jazz musician poet writer olympic sailor and apparently a really great guy to boot. And there's a huge controversy about the death of his brother (originally chosen to be king), and that Thai politics are quite brutal and sad but also very interesting and occasionally inspiring.


4. I'm also getting pretty decent at the guitar, learning about keys and intervals and chord structures as I learn how to play un-tabbed songs by ear and transpose them around. I think that this extra music knowledge might help me learn the piano again.

Africa is a country

Now here's a sensitive and controversial subject, also the name of a blog I enjoy reading, you might have noticed from my google reader shared feed.


Here's the issue:

A lot of people (most markedly, in my experience, outspoken white development workers) get upset if you say "Africa" carelessly, as if you were referring to a country ("have you been to Africa?" / "I'm going to Africa") rather than a continent. It's such a geographically and culturally diverse place, and actually has 53 countries (note that there would be MANY many more if Africans had drawn the lines on cultural and ethnic boundaries, rather than colonists on geographic ones).

Note2: saying "Asia" is just as bad --probably worse-- by the same logic, but people are much less bothered by that (I think it's because people 'think "Africa" is poor but "Asia" is not', which is also completely false)

I understand some where the frustration of outspoken white development workers (OWDW) comes from {probably ignorant whitefolk -- I use this carelessly. Here in Ghana, if you ain't black, you white. A fairer-skinned African-American is considered white(!!)}.

(As for OWDWs, perhaps I fit the bill, although I don't consider myself a development worker, don't like the word "development", do not believe in development aid and agencies and most NGOs, and usually outspeak about non-"development" things)

But, consider this:


There are some powerful trends and similarities across the whole (sub-saharan part, anyway) continent, and on top of that, in my experience black Africans are intensely patriotic about their mother land / continent, and their black skin, and the brother/sister hood they feel it gives them. Black Africans: Ghanaians, Tanzanians, Kenyans in my experience will say "Africa" and "Africans" carelessly, without blinking twice. Perhaps there is an "Africa". Imagine a OWDW trying to lecture them that there isn't.


Anyway, I usually (and uncharacteristically wimpily) choose an uncommitted and neutral approach to this and always use country names. By following that rule, I can forget about the whole big hoo-hah and focus on more immediately pressing things, like my job.

I wrote about this to a good friend of mine, and here's what she said in reply (which I found fascinating and enlightening, and which made me smile to read):

"...I also learned that almost all Africans (Neil Turok...SA...Cameroonian...Nigerian) *always* talk about Africa. Thinking about regions not in terms of artificially established (colonial) borders is very empowering for the people in my opinion -- the whole radical socialist movement in Latin America always talks about "our fatherland America". Splintering is almost always a means to suppression..."


So I'll leave you with just that. There's no conclusion to this one.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MX missile proof

Anyone catch the Andrew Bird reference?

I chipped a tooth today, took a whole corner off, in fact. Unlike in the song, I didn't fall upon the ground, but rather bit upon a rock in my rice.

I've been eating the local red rice despite the rocks because it's not possible to find unpolished imported rice, so I guess I had it coming.

Despite the whole "local vs import" hoohah I wrote about some while back, seeking local is still instinctive for me, and I wonder if I would not have eaten local rice if I knew this would happen.

I wonder how many Ghanaians chip their teeth every year. I wonder where/if/how they get them fixed.