What happens? As Sir Ken Robinson states it, “you’ll never come up with anything original.” Seems logical, I suppose, so why is it absolutely unachievable in today’s educational system (from student down to professor)? It’s as if the status quo is so appealing (by default, perhaps as a result of the economic situation) that being original seems awkward and slightly dangerous. Why is this? I would like to share this slightly dated (for technology, I suppose) TED talk by Ken Robinson (viewed by over 10 million people). I have to admit that viewing TED talks has become my pastime – it’s just so fascinating and I can relate to almost everything I see, it’s amazing.
This discussion has just expanded my horizons on one particular topic: how much kids know more than adults. Note the language I used above (from student down to professor), which is intended to highlight how much we lose as we age instead of the more common notion that we gain intelligence, wisdom, self-sufficiency, etc. I have recently completed the book When Children Grieve, which describes how children know all the important elements of grief and dealing with sadness. It’s only when adults say things like “Don’t feel sad” or “Don’t worry” that instigates some unnatural emotions that children carry with them into adulthood. It’s amazing to me how we might actually grow out of our born human instincts. But why? Really…why?
Ok, so it might not quite be vastly different, but call it a new understanding, perhaps. That is the association of HIV with TB. In the early 90s, TB was merely thought of as a consequence of HIV/AIDS. In the same way that someone might develop Kaposi’s sarcoma or Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). However, now TB/HIV co-infection has taken on new meaning. Not only do we know that a person can be infected with TB long before contracting HIV, but that the various drug-resistant strains of TB can make treatment for HIV incredibly difficult, since some drug-resistant TB strains can take up to two years or longer to effectively treat. Furthermore, in some cases, TB treatment can thwart HIV treatment, requiring a patient to complete one treatment before the next, while the untreated disease advances. A potential solution? Treating HIV alone in an era of co-infection will not eradicate the virus. After all, millions of people thought that TB was a bacterium of the past until we got complacent and the result was drug-resistance and it remains a major global killer. Without any standard protocol for the treatment of co-infection, could the same kind of scenario develop with HIV, one of drug resistance, if it hasn’t already?
Tonight while I was having dinner, a person named Daniel struck up an interesting conversation with me. It continually amazes me how the people here are more than willing to come up to you and strike up a lasting and frequently very intriguing conversation. Like most natives here, he was interested in where I came from and what I do back home. All natives are very interested in how life is different in Ethiopia compared to life in the United States. Coming from Addis, the capital, to Gondar, a less developed city, I make comparisons about food and bed rent and so forth. I went on to say how the culture here in Ethiopia definitely makes the experience unique. As unique as it is, it is not as eclectic as that in the U.S., which is a considerably bigger melting pot, which I think in turn makes it harder to identify with one culture over another. Daniel was particularly excited when I tried ‘flexing’ my Amharic language muscle. It certainly wasn’t a big muscle, but nevertheless Daniel was happy to hear it and helped me along by refreshing some of the Amharic I learned over the summer. While it wasn’t a lot, I felt like I could appreciate the culture even more and show respect for the country that has taken me as a guest for this first month.
Daniel told me how he was studying to be a clinical nurse. I told him that seemed like a very worthwhile career, but for some reason he seemed to downplay this to a significant degree, and I’m not sure why. It seemed to me that he was equivocal about the value of such a career because he wasn’t being educated in the United States. This struck me as unfortunate. What is it about the American educational system that makes it the envy of the world, yet at the same time makes those who get educated outside of the United States feel inferior? What promulgates that paradox? Why does it exist and what can Americans do to change it? Daniel confessed that he was interested in researching hypertension. He was particularly concerned about the hereditary aspects of the disease, even though he wasn’t aware of any hypertension in his family history.
Last night though, I met two other people and had dinner with a man named Ashrage and his son. Ashrage came back to Gondar for a funeral. In an incredibly small-world coincidence, Ashrage informed me that he came from Columbus, OH, USA. I was flabbergasted – thousands of miles from home and I ran into someone from Reynoldsburg OH, very near to my home in Columbus. What are the odds? Ashrage and his son are staying at the Baharee Selam Hotel for two months.
Well, I’m now in Africa (actually I’ve been here for about two weeks). It took a while to get settled and such, but I’m now in Addis Ababa. I spent my first week at a conference in the capital: International Congress on Pathogens at Human-Animal Interface. Interesting experience and amalgamation of what would seem to be very different takes on pathogens. It really is amazing how pathogens can affect so many different species. I guess to some viruses and bacteria, a host really is just a host.
So, my beginning thoughts on Addis:
1) It is the NYC of East Africa. Lots of people and lots of traffic. Only difference I’ve found is that when someone honks their horn at you in the States, it was generally to get your attention; when someone honks their horn at you here, it usually means that they’re about to hit you.
2) Pollution: it is a problem here. I suppose that since Addis (and much of Ethiopia really) is at least 2000 above sea level, it makes the pollution problem a bigger factor. Along those same lines, don’t let the proximity to the equator fool you, it can get quite chilly here in Addis, especially in the evenings. I go to bed with maybe four covers and that’s still not quite enough.
3) Porridge is actually not half bad (and surprisingly nutritious). So I wanted to be authentic and eat for a few days at least on a budget that many Ethiopians might be accustomed to. Porridge is quite cheap ($1 per kg, maybe 4 servings).
4) As you might expect, obesity is not really a problem here. That’s because people walk everywhere. I’m easily walking a mile back and forth to the office. Cabs and buses are available, but cabs are usually high cost (especially for Westerners…READ, heavy-duty price discrimination) and if you can manage to get on a bus, that is a better alternative (they are usually brimming full).
Sorry for my absence, writing world. 2011 has not been kind to me thus far. It has been a tough road, mostly revolving around school….thus the two month lapse. I suppose I could say that the time away was due to finding time to study and prepare for my candidacy exam. While that is true, it would be an exaggeration. Most of that time if not all was spent pondering about life events. One philosophical question I have been plagued with over the past few months has been my role going forward as an academic. How does one morph into this role when they come from a passion of involvement in helping others? Academics are quite brutal and cut-throat. Ultimately, the research they do is intended in some way to influence policy in a positive way. But can that ever really happen?
I don’t have an answer, but am actively seeking one.
I am now officially a “GreenSpot” – joining the ranks of households, businesses, and community groups across Columbus who have gone green. Below is a complete list of the commitments I have made as a new Green Spot member. This is a reminder of my pledge to making Columbus a healthier, cleaner, more sustainable city. I hope you will be able to make a pledge too! Learn more at http://www.columbusgreenspot.org/join/.
My GreenSpot Pledge
Here’s how we will conserve energy
- I will replace my regular incandescent light bulbs with high-efficiency compact fluorescent ones.
- I will drive 10 fewer miles per week.
- I will purchase foods, goods, and services that are grown or produced close to home.
- I will turn my thermostat up in the summer, and down in the winter, or I will install a programmable thermostat.
Here’s how we will conserve & protect water
- I will water my yard only once a week, keeping in mind that 1 inch of rain/water is enough to keep most lawns healthy.
- I will run my dishwasher and washing machine only when they are full.
Here’s how we will reduce, recycle and reuse
- I will choose products that use less packaging and less harmful material.
- I will request to be taken off junk mailing lists, stop catalog orders, and pay my bills online.
- I will avoid one-use items such as paper plates.
- I will recycle paper, steel, glass, and plastic by using my local curbside subscription program.
Here is a little view into Columbus’ little cultural melting pot. I found this map fascinating. It appeared in the Columbus Dispatch in 2006. You can bet that these numbers have increased. Columbus rivals Minneapolis for the largest Somali population in the United States, and the 4th largest Ethiopian. But, in truth, aren’t we all immigrants??? See geog-www.sbs.ohio-state.edu/courses/g400/lab07/dispatch.cmh-mini-melting-pot.03-14-06.doc for the story.
I am taking part in this walk as a result of my own condition known as social anxiety disorder. Although my goal is a modest $100, the walk means more to me than merely fundraising. For many years, I have hibernated behind this condition and am still struggling with it today. My participation in this walk is to bring awareness to this disorder – a condition which is much more serious that simple shyness, one that has in my case led to major depression. I write to you as a way not only to solicit support for the Walk, but also to perhaps give you more information on the disorder (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001953/). If you are not able to donate or would rather not, I hope that you will at least take a couple minutes to read more about social anxiety disorder and think about those you may know who might be affected by it, but also to realize that you may never find out someone you know has the disorder. Also to realize that what you say, how you say it, and the things you do can have a monumental impact on someone with social anxiety disorder without you ever knowing it.