Archive for January, 2006

January 31, 2006

It all hits me harder…

January 24th, 2006

It all hits me harder…

I was sitting in our Team PEACE meeting with the Springhill Lake ES teachers yesterday and we were talking about including paper crane making in one of our lesson plans and I just had to bite my tongue. I wanted to say so much- we made 1000 paper cranes on the ship for our arrival in Kobe, I actually went to Hiroshima and saw the paper cranes sent to them being displayed in glass cases in the Memorial Park, in the Hiroshima museum they had a large section of it devoted to Sadako and her story, etc. But then I realized that 1) it didn’t really add anything to our presentation and 2) I have to stop doing this. Same thing when we were talking about apartheid. I really had nothing constructive to add to the conversation yet I still had this urge to tell everyone about how Archbishop Desmond Tutu was on our ship and how they still have townships and about the District Six Museum, etc.

January 25th, 2006

First day of classes. What a strange feeling. Randomly I will see someone who resembles someone from the ship and I’ll have to look twice. Haha. I guess all of you who have been back at school for awhile are over this but cut me some slack, it’s my first day. 🙂 I am not at all looking forward to having class every day, 5 days a week, 15 weeks every semester. I need A Days, B Days and 5 day weekends in different countries. Ok fine, I really have to get over this and devote myself to doing well this semester because I know it’s going to be hard.

January 30th, 2006

It’s weird not carrying my laptop around all the time to jot down my thoughts as they come to me. It’s the first full week of school now and I guess I’m slowly ( VERY slowly, mind you) getting back into study mode…even though I really don’t want to. This weekend I called my parents while they were in NJ visiting all my family and my mom said they were all watching my movie. I can’t even describe how happy that made me. I wasn’t even there to force them to watch it, they actually wanted to watch it. What a strange concept. Now that I think about it, maybe I made the movie more for myself. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I thought more people would want to watch it and in reality, they don’t. Haha, oh well! I’ll just make my parents watch it again. 🙂

So Parth and I were talking today about how this world we live in conditions us to believe that if we’re not stressed out all the time we’re not really accomplishing anything. Relaxing isn’t really an option. It’s unfortunate. My problem is I don’t really get too stressed out, I just over exert myself to the point of exhaustion and I’m usually really high-strung so I have a hard time sleeping. Hence, the exhaustion and lack of concentration. It’s a vicious cycle. I shouldn’t be complaining because my workload is nothing compared to pre-med people who are preparing for the MCAT’s or what not but I believe it’s your own personal work ethic that affects you the most. I have terrible time management skills and there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish what I want to. Prioritizing is key and I’m not good at that either. The worst feeling in the world for me is to have things pending or to have assignments looming over my head. Not just for school but for everything. I hate having deadlines and knowing that I have to finish something by a certain time that is far from feasible. That’s why I had such an amazing winter break. Spring semester hadn’t started yet so I had no school work to worry about and I had just come back from Semester at Sea so that was done with as well. Oh man, I miss the ship so much. I read Jed’s list of things that he missed and it almost had me in tears. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be satisfied with my old life? All I can think about now is finding more ways to travel. The worst part is that when I look in the mirror I don’t see the same person I was on the ship. Something about SAS just made me so excited about life and I actually looked forward to waking up every day. Now that I’m home and back in the same old routine I pretty much know how each day is going to pan out. I was in my element on SAS- being outgoing, extroverted, and learning more than I ever expected about myself, the people around me, and the world we live in. Now what am I? I feel boring. And then I feel stupid for missing SAS so much and I feel ungrateful for all that I have here- wonderful family, amazing friends, a comfortable lifestyle. Why can’t I just be satisfied with what I have? I’ve had a taste of adventure, of freedom, of independence and I’m having a hard time putting it behind me. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s pretending. Sometimes I feel like I’m just putting on a show. Poonam and Preethi were right, I keep so much inside and I’m adept at changing the subject when it’s something I don’t want to talk about. What’s worse though- pretending to be happy or actually acting unhappy and portraying that to other people? Maybe if I pretend, I’ll fool myself into believing it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be back home but now I want more than “happy”. Perhaps my standards have changed. Well it’s 2:30 am and I have work at 9am so I guess I should go to sleep. It’s funny how I try not to write about SAS but somehow I just come back to it.

January 20, 2006

The Constant Gardener and other thoughts

January 20th, 2005

The Constant Gardener and other thoughts…

I was all ready to go to sleep but then I had the sudden urge to write in my LJ. I haven’t posted in awhile so I figured I might as well. It’s been almost one and a half months since Semester at Sea and I can’t believe how fast the time went. I’ve pretty much readjusted to being at home but sometimes it’s still hard. I feel like it was all a dream and that if I want to get on with my life I have to put it behind me. I don’t want to do that, not at all, but I feel like I don’t have any other choice. What else can I do? “Hey, you want to hear about that time in Myanmar when we had to hike up to the Golden Rock and we were so disgusting and sweaty when we got to the top but it was all worth it when we saw the view.” It all seems so random now. I find myself biting my tongue more often than not. Sadly enough, it’s slowly fading away. I don’t want to lose touch with people but it’s so hard- especially once school starts. Excuses excuses right? Well then, expect random calls from me. 🙂 Ok, enough about SAS for now.

The reason I really wanted to post is because I saw Constant Gardener tonight and it brought up an issue that I never really thought about. It’s about big pharmaceutical companies in Kenya who test a TB drug called Dypraxa on unsuspecting TB infected poor civilians. Instead of reporting fatalities, they cover them up by destroying their medical records and burying them in deserted unmarked graves. If they did report such side-effects it would cost them millions of dollars and years of research to fix the formula. “ We’re not killing people who wouldn’t be dead otherwise.” is one of the lines from the movie and the general sentiment of the pharmaceutical companies who are in it solely for the profit. They say that a TB endemic is going to affect the whole world soon and that finding affordable and effective treatment is necessary. But at what cost? The kicker is that the people taking the drugs consent to it because if they don’t they would stop receving this free treatment. So I was watching the movie and wondering how true it all was…google to the rescue. Here’s what I found:

“According to a May 16 report in USA Today, giant drug outfits are outsourcing increasing numbers of drug trials outside the United States and Europe. Merck is now conducting 50 percent of its trials outside the United States. By 2006, 70 percent of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals trials are expected to occur offshore. Across Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, the sick are abundant, desperate and doc-trusting, and so recruitment into clinical trials is rapid. As one executive from an outfit specializing in running drug trials in Asia put it, patients in developing countries are “more willing to be guinea pigs.” (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050912/shah)

 I guess it’s important to look at the other side of it too:

 “Some of the African subjects died in the trial, the film tells us, but little else is revealed. There’s a reason for this strange omission. Most Western audiences will easily jump to the conclusion that any experiment that rendered any deaths is irredeemable, no matter the condition of the patients, the purpose of the trial or the rates of deaths from traditional therapies or no therapy. And yet the business of testing experimental drugs in humans is a risky one, no matter what the condition or drug. Humane research practices may minimize the risks, which must be balanced against potential benefits, but the risks remain, regardless. As one HIV researcher put it, “I mean, shit, we learn by climbing over the bodies of humans.” (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050912/shah)

More Articles ( granted, some are simply conspiracy theories but interesting to read nonethelss):

http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,69595-0.html?tw=wn_story_page_prev2
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/050400-02.htm
http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/002763.html

January 5, 2006

Unconceivable

January 5, 2005

This is just something I came across in Sarah’s journal and as I was reading it I couldn’t believe how much I related to it. It’s very well-written and incredibly true. I couldn’t help but steal it ( with her permission of course). 🙂


One of 700… out of 6.5 billion

Here I am on the ship. All of my friends share my experiences with me. “Crossing the street in Vietnam” is something we all understand. We all know what “the voice” is. Many of us saw the Starbucks in the Forbidden City and the McDonald’s on nearly every street corner in Beijing. (Some of us wanted to cry.) We all have “hang loose” paraphernalia from Hawaii, chopsticks and scarves from China, Tiger Beer shirts from Vietnam, clothing and jewelry from India, wooden giraffes from Kenya, objects that were too expensive from South Africa, and soccer jerseys from Brazil. We know where people wear rice hats, and don’t confuse them with the Chinese. We can tell the difference from an Indian, especially a Sikh man with a turban, and someone from the “middle east”, whatever that really is. We have a newfound appreciation for languages with Latin roots. We can all bargain and haggle better than ever before. Hand sanitizer is a welcome and necessary commodity, and it feels odd to be able to drink from the tap. We recognize faces wherever we go. We now know what it’s like to be the one that looks “different” in a sea of faces. We know what it’s like to feel lost and confused, yet more in tune with the world than ever before. Suddenly the world is small, and we all understand. Suddenly all cultures are not so different… we all have family structures, we all have clothing, we all eat food. Everywhere I go, people speak a language. Everywhere we have been, a smile can lighten the mood. Pointing and arrows are universal. Everywhere we go, everyone has to make a living. Some have to try much harder than others. Now we understand just how much more.

We all go around the world on this ship, are released into new and foreign lands, and do what we do best: invade. Maybe it’s not exactly an invasion, but when 700 American college students are released into a single city within an hour, I don’t know what else you can call it. We all come back with the stories, we all come back with the souvenirs. We can identify apparel by the country it was bought in and likewise speak of time in terms of “when we were in Kenya” or “the day before Brazil”. “Nice shoes, did you get them in India?”

It seems that with 700 people experiencing the “same” thing, that what I am experiencing is not special. Since I am always with people who are on my voyage, everyone will understand what I am talking about. I feel that sometimes my experience isn’t as valuable as someone else’s, that I shouldn’t bother trying because somebody else could say it better. That my experience is not special. I’m only one of 700, a small fish in a big pond, right? That’s not unique. To top it off, this isn’t even the only voyage. 700 in the spring, 400 in the summer, 700 in the fall… that’s 1800 people a year. For, let’s say, 25 years… it would make it around 45,000 so far. One of 45,000? Not so special.

But wait a second. If there’s one thing that they won’t let me forget, it’s that there are well over 6 billion people on the planet at this very moment, and that number is rapidly increasing. 45,000 out of 6 billion? That means only one in 133,333 people have gotten to travel around the world on a ship while taking classes. Only one in 8,571,428 people are on our voyage. And I have had a unique experience… no singular person has been with me every single moment of every single one of these 100 days. I have had an experience that only 1 out of 6 billion people have had.

I guess that makes it pretty special.

Now, I need to get used to the idea that when I leave this ship, impressions of “crossing the street in Vietnam” and “rickshaw driver” and “discount, I give you special price” will no longer hold any meaning, nor will they be funny. Nobody will really want to listen to my stories, because in order for it to make any sense and have any meaning I’ll have to ramble on for hours… and nobody can listen for that long. I don’t think I can talk for that long.

This is what I’ve been told anyway, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try it out. They say I’ve changed and I don’t know it. Have I? Don’t I? That almost feels like a challenge.

So really, I don’t know what to do now. Mostly I’m trying not to spend all of my brain power stressing over finals. I have a photograph of Zebras at a watering hole in Tanzania on my desktop, that I took. It’s unreal. The map of the world on my wall suddenly has so much more importance and meaning. I am so glad to have a concept of something so small that was once so unconceivably huge.


January 2, 2006

Resolutions

January 1st, 2006

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Wishing you all ( and by all I mean the um…3 people who read my journal) a prosperous and happy new year. Some new year’s resolutions:

1) Try to get people to stop using “gay” as an adjective. It never really fazed me before but now every time I hear someone say it it makes me kind of mad. It’s so important for us to accept alternative lifestyles and using a phrase like that is a step in the wrong direction. That’s just my opinion though- but don’t be surprised if I try to get you to stop saying it. No hard feelings!

2) Manage my time more wisely.

3) Finish this SAS movie before winter break. I know the scrapbook will take much more thought and time.

4) Attempt at keeping in touch with SAS people.

5) Appreciate what I have.

6) Investigate seriously into teaching English in Japan after I graduate.

Ok I think that’s ambitious enough!

On to something else- I’ve started reading The Great Railway Bazaar again which is a book we read excerpts from for my Literature of Travel class on the ship. It’s written by Paul Theroux (not the same person who wrote Walden) and it’s a hilarious travelogue. The good thing about it is that you don’t actually have to read it cover to cover- you can skip around and it will still make sense. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

” Because it was still early, and because Indian villagers seem to think of railway tracks as the margin of their world, there were people crouched all along the line, shitting. At first, I thought they were simply squatting comfortably to watch the train go by, then I noticed the bright yellow hanks under them. I saw one man; he portended a hundred more, all facing the train for the diversion it offered, unhurriedly fouling the track. They were shitting when the train pulled in; they were still at it when the train pulled out. One curious group- a man, a boy, and a pig – were in a row, each shitting in his own way. A dignified man with his dhoti drawn up squatted a little distance from the tracks. He watched the train go by and he looked as if he would be there for some time: he held a large black umbrella over his head and a newspaper on his knees. Indeed, he seemed the perfect symbol for what a man in Delhi had called “The Turd World”.

If you’ve ever ridden on a train in India you can just picture this scene in your head.