Love in a Hot Climate
Dearest Love in a Hot Climate readers: How time has flown!
I've spent the past six weeks bunkered down in London (literally bunkered down for much of the time - the Al Jazeera newsroom is in the basement of a Hyde Park Corner building...).
All of you, meanwhile, have been enjoying the sunshine. Spending lazy weekends at the beach, drinking delicious New Zealand red wine, telling the world wide web about how tough it is to be sunburnt AGAIN. Yes, I've found yet another reason to avoid Facebook, Twitter and the like. I swear I don't remember the last time I felt real-life sun on my face. I can see now why Londoners are so depressed during winter - they're all vitamin D deficient.
Anywho, to the point. This is to be my last post!
After an incredible adventure through Tanzania, Kenya, Mali and Niger, I've decided to settle down and call London home (for the time being at least).
Christmas is well and truly upon us, and surprisingly I've found myself layered up in thermals and overcoats, surrounded by elaborate Christmas lights. People are chirpy despite the negative-degree temperatures, and I'm told snow is imminent. How could this be, you may ask? Well, dear readers, I've last-minute found myself in London.
I wondered what it would be like returning to civilisation after such isolation. And it's been nothing short of intense. I'm blown away by so many things here in London - things that I wouldn't have thought twice about before living in East Africa. Like how on earth is there an electricity grid stable enough to support the entire population of this massive city? Why do people turn into robots on the tube? How can that shop charge NZ$500 for a table centrepiece? It's a decoration! It serves no purpose!
I'm sure anyone who has gone from poverty to wealth understands - I feel a little like an alien with the reality of life in Africa constantly on my mind. The supermarket has become a daunting place - how does one choose betwen 35 different types of biscuits? And how do the chickens get so big? (The only ones I saw in Tanzania never grew bigger than your hand)
Which brings me to my next point - I'll be off the blogging radar for a while. Unforeseen circumstances means I'm in London a little earlier than expected - while poor old MH slogs away in Tanzania I'm now catching up on the months without skinny lattes and almond croissants. Tough, I know.
Anywho, given the state of play, and the upcoming holidays (for you and Stuff bloggers alike) this will be my final post for the year. But! I hope to make a return to your much-valued screens in the coming year, and will keep you up to date.
After 11 days holding the city of Goma in their hands, M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have withdrawn from the city. Amid warnings of a growing humanitarian crisis and international pressure for a resolution, rebel leaders are preparing for peace talks with the government. The DRC's history is unfathomable for many New Zealanders, unfamiliar with conflict of this kind. Five million people have been killed in the DRC since 1994, fuelled by the Rwandan genocide and the estimated two million Hutus who fled across the border into the DRC as a result. Since then, constant fighting in the DRC has become the deadliest conflict in African history.
I'm surrounded by news about the DRC, by virtue of living so close. So far from what I've seen in the New Zealand news media, coverage of this conflict is difficult to find.
It's one of the first things you learn about in journalism training or news media studies - the geographic proximity/care factor ratio. It basically means that the further something is away from you, the less you care, and the less you care, the less likely the news media that serves you is to cover it. If there's a car crash in Perth and three international students are injured or killed, it probably won't make our news. If it happens in Pahiatua, well that's a different story.
We relate to the people and places we know, we more easily engage with them because we have clearer terms of reference. We care because it could be us, our partners, our children. We care because we've been to that city, we saw that actor from The Hobbit in a Te Puke cafe, we went to school with that defence lawyer.
It may be the case, but is it right?
The idea of having a "house girl" doesn't sit well with me. Just the idea of it makes me instantly uncomfortable, having been brought up in a society where everyone is (or at least should be) considered equal.
But since week one arriving in Babati, MH and I have had pressure from all sides to employ home help. That's despite the fact that we live in a tiny two-bedroom house that requires next to no maintenance, and the fact that I'm now the master of my own work schedule and therefore can take an hour out to mop the floors if it needs doing - and if I can be bothered, of course.
It all began when I embarked on the surprisingly difficult mission to get a load of washing done. Washing machines are a rare luxury here, and therefore way overpriced. Coupled with the fact that we don't have any room in our own house to put said washing machine, I headed to the village shops to find a solution.
With a local friend, Elly, I walked the dusty trail to visit both of the two "Laundromats" in town. The first had a washing machine, which somehow constituted the business being called a dry cleaning service - but I'm not one to argue. It seemed to be professionally run, complete with a price list for the cost of washing each individual item. It was going to cost the equivalent of NZ$90 for one load. On we went.
The next place was a wooden shack, the words "Laundry" painted brightly at the entrance. A gaggle of girls sat inside the door, staring expectantly as we approached. These workers, Elly told me, would happily take our washing down to the lake and hand-wash everything. It was still expensive, about $30 a load, but they would do a good job, he said. It felt horrible, knowing they'd spend an entire day hunched over, soap in hand, scrubbing the dirt from our clothes. But they wanted the business, and with no alternative at that stage, away they went.
When I told people I was moving to East Africa, and that MH works in the development sector, I couldn't count the number of responses that began with "But why?"
"Leave Africa to sort itself out," they said.
"Why not do something about poverty here first? New Zealand has problems of its own," I heard more than once.
And on the more extreme end I got "Starvation in Africa is the world's way of naturally regulating population." Whoa.
Moving to Tanzania, and meeting a lot of people who have dedicated their lives to the aid/development/charity sectors, I thought I'd hear strong arguments for the reasons to help. But surprisingly, even some of the people who are working to ease poverty here are unsure of their own effectiveness.
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