June 18, 2013
I am going to quote from an Airline Magazine (Ethiopian Air): “Closing the Gender Gap: The next class of African women scientists chosen for the prestigious AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) Fellowship will soon begin a two-year career-development program, empowering women to help close the agricultural gender gap. Representing 11 countries and more than 20 agricultural disciplines, the 70 recipients were chosen based on intellectual merit, leadership strength and the potential for their work to improve the livelihoods of African smallholding farmers. The fellows’ research will span everything from plant breeding to climate change.”
I have to tell you that I find this utterly fascinating, for two reasons. 1 Most of the world’s farmers are women. Cultivate is the word used for farming in South Sudan. Most of the women cultivate crops for their families to consume. 2. There is something about professionalizing what has traditionally been considered “women’s work, or role” that does create a gender gap. How many women chefs are there in the world? The numbers are growing, but who is it that has been primarily responsible for cooking at home at least in the past? WOMEN. Men enter the world of farming and it is professionalized and women must do extra work to “help close the agricultural gender gap”. This reminds me of something I read a few years ago about the feminization of poverty. Salaries go down when fields open up to women. Teaching, professional ministry.
I just find it very fascinating.
Another issue that has become in-my-face-obvious here in South Africa is the issue of language. I don’t believe that there is a single South African who does not know multiple languages. Just as in South Sudan there are so many languages that I could not begin to put a name to them. Fortunately there are likely a lot of cognates that make some of the languages somewhat similar. Kind of how English relates to Greek and to German. It makes it easier to learn languages that are in Families, similar roots and similar origins. Why is it so difficult for us in the United States? Is it because we are isolated except on our northern and southern borders? Is it racism? Is it a lack of good training in English grammar? Is it a lack of motivation? Is it that life has become so professionalized and so busy that there isn’t time for good old-fashioned study time anymore, and study time is required to really delve into a subject at the depth that is required for language study? And some people do have learning challenges. I am just truly puzzled. People from the Netherlands have told me that they must learn other languages besides their native Dutch just to survive because their country is so small and it is the only place where Dutch is spoken. So they know English, German and maybe French. Arabic and Mandarin Chinese are two languages that are going to be increasingly global. They are extremely difficult languages for Americans to learn. Spanish might be a better ally. I find myself being grateful to the world for learning my own language of English because of how difficult it is for myself and my country to learn their languages.
Finally today I am going to address the issue of heat. I think I have at last figured out that America may be the only country in the world with central heating. What the rest of the countries seem to have is a fixture that goes on the wall and usually is created to produce both heat and air conditioning. I am going to try and get a picture of one to post for y’all to see, anyone who doesn’t know what I am talking about. I am always shocked to see these air conditioner/heaters and yet it occurred to me today that this is ALL I have seen in other countries. No heaters, no duct systems, no floor grates.
June 11, 2013
One of the other things I am noticing is what is considered socially acceptable in terms of “manners” from country to country, culture to culture. Yesterday someone who was in line behind me was just fine with diving first for help at the store we were in. I went up and asked if he was a friend of the woman employee because I had been in line before him. He got up and apologized, and then she ended up going to where he was seated to help him before me anyhow. I was just rather amazed by the whole incident.
In another store after that had happened I was busy helping get my groceries organized to go into my backpack and when I turned around someone was making a purchase. I was startled and he said to me that he saw I was busy and so went ahead to the cashier. I said that it would have been polite for him to ask me, it would have been fine and it would have been polite.
I tell you, my reality has become that really for a sense of comfort in life, being in one’s indigenous culture is simply the easiest. Not always possible, but the easiest.
I have also noticed here that there are very few people wearing what I would call indigenous African clothing. Mostly they are quite Western although there is some creativity in color and how outfits are put together. A very few of the black African women wear more traditional looking outfits.
June 10, 2013
I had some real sticker shock at drugstores, internet stores and grocery stores today.
Every country is set up so differently. The Pharmacies here in South Africa have grocery stores in them. I found Lithium Energizer AAA batteries for about $4.00 although I do have to exchange them because I wanted AA batteries. I paid well over $10. for the same thing in Juba, South Sudan.
Internet on the other hand…..is very very expensive here. Especially when a person comes from countries that have wireless internet for, frankly, cheap. I will not go into details with y’all, suffice it to say that I discovered that doing Software Updates on my computer eats a lot of mgs and costs a lot of money. Sometimes learning can be expensive.
Now, on the other hand, the grocery stores can be cheaper than other countries. A large jar of Nutella (350 grams, whatever that might be in pounds and ounces) for $3.20 a jar?????? I bought two to take back to Malakal with me. I may get more as it doesn’t expire until 2014. A decent size jar of honey is about $2.50. I hope this doesn’t mean I am eating on the backs of underpaid farm workers.
I am concerned about what is going to happen when I enter a Costco store again in the United States. The Checkers grocery store here in Pretoria today frankly overwhelmed me. I found myself wondering how any store could have so many choices. And…why does any store need so many choices? How many kinds of shampoo and conditioner does the world need to be producing? How many kinds of instant coffee? This time there was even a label by Nestle that used the word GREEN! There were some green beans in the mix with the ripe beans and apparently this is good for the environment. It is scary how far behind being in the know I am.
Oh yeah, toilet paper, 40 cents a roll.
There was an NGO (Non Governmental Organization) Doctors Without Borders, at the shopping center. The people that were representing the NGO were raising money for the efforts at working with tuberculosis. TB is a particular killer in many countries that rely on donors to provide the regime of medications that are necessary in order to cure TB. Often adequate resources are not available and as a result the TB is not fully cured and reappears. The forms in which it reappears are resistant to any kind of further treatment. It is a health threat that is much more cheaply dealt with the first time with the appropriate medication. What I found today that is new to me is that it is often children who experience the devastating effects of not having adequate medicine to cure the TB the first time. I imagine that the repeated episodes of TB weaken their immune systems and their little bodies and that there is a high rate of death among the least powerful and the least able to resist.