Newt In A Tea Cup

{May 1, 2008}   Update

K has now been spending the nights in the red-light district. The neighbour has called the police on her for having a guy round the house. She dumped the baby with the grandmother (the one whom we suspect is bipolar or schizophrenic or something because she’ll be fine one second and then the next she starts yelling and screaming for hours on end). We don’t have a choice but to bottlefeed and have been getting milk to them. It’s not ideal- the place grandma lives is a not even the size of our bathroom, doesn’t have a proper door and has a snake hiding under all the clothes and dishes in one corner… If I thought the other was hell…

But maybe this way the baby might gain some weight. When I left she was three months old and 2.68k.

It kind of sucks that no matter what you do things keep getting worse and there is absolutely no solution. It kind of sucks to realise the relentless bleakness of people’s lives.

In positives my English lessons were a success and we had a great end of “term” party, the research project also showed huge, huge differences in the experience of labour for women with pre-natal lessons

{March 8, 2008}   World Women’s Day- Update

Haven’t written for a while since the connection is difficult here but I thought I should make an effort since it’s world women’s day. Am currently hanging out with some really cool fearless women, two of whom have been working for years as midwifes in Morocco, one who is a friend of theirs visiting and currently works as a midwife in Afghanistan. My current schedule is spending the mornings working in the clinic (taking blood pressures, weighing babies etc…), am starting on a project of figuring out the effectiveness of the teaching lessons for first time mothers and going on an immense number of post-natal visits. I am very privileged to having been offered the chance to do some education lessons on hygiene and so on in the Atlas mountains.

However the main focus of my thoughts has been a young fifteen year old I’ll call K. She gave birth to her baby just under three weeks ago and the father is in jail for two years since she’s underage though from what we understand it was all consensual.

Because she’s unmarried the stigma is unbelievably huge and I can’t even begin to describe this.

(Of course I’ve already met a sixteen year old who is expecting her first – due when seventeen- but she’s married so no one is bothered by that.)

Her mother, who by all accounts is not quite right in the head and spends her time standing in the street begging and screaming, will not have anything to do with her. K’s father is dead and her upbringing has obviously not been easy.

As a result she does not have any role models or instruction on how to care for her baby beyond the visits we give her and even then we have a suspicion she’s not really listening. This morning one of the midwives I’m staying with went to visit her and found mold growing in the baby bottle with what we suspect is biscuit crumbs- this could well kill her child.

It’s not that she’s stupid as we have met other mother’s who’ve done the same if not worse. It’s a huge lack of education and illiteracy. The idea that women naturally know how to care for children is demonstratively false. Really, really false. The patriarchy is killing itself- how many more children would survive if their mother’s knew how to read and write, were allowed to be clever and have an income to buy them warm clothes? How much better would men’s lives be if they were able to enjoy full companionship with women?

/tangent- It’s odd but this experience has really shown me a lot of how patriarchy hurts men since it would be completely and utterly inappropriate for me to be involved in men’s issues and education here- they simply would not listen to me and view me as degraded! It’s them that loose out. Also how much can I as a women help that woman who came to clinic upset because of her husband beating her? He’s the one who’s got to stop hitting her and do you really think he’d listen to a woman telling him that? It’s so important that men get involved here./end tangent

K is living in a windowless house with two other girls, both illiterate and both thirteen. They have absolutely no parental supervision, no money, no water and no electricity. I brought them some pancakes and chocolate spread as a gift yesterday but previously had no idea they didn’t have food! We also gave her baby girl it’s first bath in her lifetime yesterday… She’s gaining a bit of weight but her mother does not feed her nearly often enough (twice a day) and tends to go out the house a lot. She’s frighteningly skinny is not wrapped up nearly warm enough and, in view of the high infant mortality rate, she needs a lot more help. Watching her mother joking around with her house mates I kept thinking “This is a Jacqueline Wilson novel. A twisted, terrifying, horrific Jacqueline Wilson novel.”

I can’t solve this problem. The local community needs to step in and from what I’ve heard they are usually pretty good especially for people with disabilities. However this situation should not exist in the first place. The good news is the number of professional people I have been meeting who recognize the problem and are dedicating time and effort to solving it. I find it oddly encouraging that for all the problems here it isn’t that hard for people who recognize there are problems. In the UK we don’t want to imagine anything bad happens in our “civilized” shores. That and there are many aspects of this society, such as the focus on family, community support and generosity that we could seriously learn from.

Otherwise I’m healthy and well.

{January 1, 2008}   Future Plans for 2008

If everything works out, and it looks like it is, I’m going to be going to Morocco in February and South Africa in May.

In Morocco I’ll be helping a midwife friend of ours gather her notes on first time mothers and the effects of education, performing interviews and making spreadsheets.

In South Africa I will be helping at a home for underprivileged girls in the townships of Cape Town.

I’ve got most of the money I need but it’s going to be incredibly tight so I’m hoping to raise the shortfall. Somehow I find it ironic that I keep gravitating towards working with children when I, myself, am not keen on having any or even like them in general that much.

{December 26, 2007}   WHYYYYY???


Why must I have a stupid wisdom tooth decide to pop out and gouge it’s haphazard way into the side of my gums in a painful way, just in time for Christmas day and the Big-Huge-Grotesque-Meal-Of-The-Year-Despite-Attempts-To-EconomiseTM?

And worse, why is the stupid dentists closed until the second of January? This pearly white baby here isn’t exactly waiting around to piss of my little life…

I pray to the Deity that this crap is dealt with by the time I get to Morocco. Cause there’s excellent dental treatment in the desert, don’t cha know?

When I’m at home I tend to hole up in my room with my computer and enjoy the role of serial lurker. Socialising with my parents whilst they watch CSI and it’s numerous tedious clone-shows every single night isn’t exactly my thing. As a result when I’m told my mother “wants to speak to me” it tends to be along the lines of “You need to clean up this mess” and…. no, just “you need to clean up this mess.” Oh, and last night we had “your aunt is about six months pregnant with her fifth child” which was unusual in of itself because last time I didn’t find out she was expecting until after the birth. And if my sister is reading this, no, I’m not joking and let me guess; the parental units forgot to inform you as well?

Tonight she called me over have a what I just read in the papers discussions. It was a talk of the “guy in our town convicted to 14 years in jail for rape and he used to work in your school” variety. “Do you know this guy- he taught was a black belt karate teacher in your high school’s sport centre? The rapes took place between 2004 and 2006- you left high school in 2005… The girl is two years younger at sixteen, she’d be what… 13 when it started… and you’d have been starting your GCSEs.”

No, I don’t know who it was. Yes, I’m happy he’s in jail and I’m so glad the entire courtroom is said to have gone into a standing ovation when he was sentenced. Look, it’s obscene he claimed the girls family planted used condoms with DNA evidence around his house. I know they didn’t buy it this time but you wouldn’t believe what you can get away with… Oh, my god not only did he threaten this guy who overheard him boasting about it but he forced people to watch him doing the crime?

I’m going to go to bed now and pray that all rapists can be put behind bars this Christmas.

{December 1, 2007}   BEST VIDEO EVER

I love how all the crowds are watching the shenanigans completely passively; why yes, that’s the local synchronised condom dance team. They practice every Sunday at four.

The best [worst] thing is that this is more inclusive and comprehensive than a lot of sex ed in the developed world.

{November 21, 2007}   Miss… Landmine?

Is a beauty competition ever feminist? That’s a valid question. Well, here’s a bit of subversion.

It’s Miss Landmine!

Not only are all the women survivors of a landmine explosion but they clearly wouldn’t be even considered as beauty pageant candidates even without the accidents. One candidate is heavily pregnant. Most have several children. Most aren’t the “ideal” weight. Few of them have jobs and those that do are working for, what is obviously, a pittance. Note the number of them that cite “anything” as their dream job. That’s quite humbling and a rather important statement on our privilege.

Kudos to them all.

The most interesting and moving thing I found was the description. First of the clothes with their prices, then the jewellery and then the mine; it’s country of origin, type and method of detonation.

This raises a few questions in my mind about the nature of conflict and femininity. All of these women have to raise a family and provide; in fact it’s only the privilege of the rich to not work regardless of gender. All these women are trying to eke out an existence and rock this world best they can. War and the effects thereof affect everyone in a community. Front lines are entire cities and countries so it’s rather silly to view it as a soldiers matter only. It seems to me that war affects everyone in it’s path for years afterwards and it’s unjust how much the lucky few dictate the fates of others by their carelessness.

What’s the point of saying women should be protected (by a patriarch of course and all kinds of chivalry) when the shit gets dumped on them anyway? We talk about a women’s power as being her looks but what good is that against a landmine? More than that, what does this say about the bestial nature of conflict that all nations engage in again and again like a heroin addict promising it’ll be the last hit for good this time? Our world is absolutely ravaged and pockmarked by this violence.

The problem with conflict is that, despite all seemingly valid justifications, it’s never the people making the justifications that deal with the consequences.

Just some thoughts.

{November 20, 2007}   Vagina Dentata on Film!

I dislike Freud. The man’s theory’s were a mixture of the obvious the so ridiculously stupid and short-sighted it’s actually offensive. Please don’t even mention the absolute preposterousness of the penis-envy concept. Now there is some debate on whether he is or isn’t responsible for the vagina dentata fiasco but he’s a good place to start in examining free associations. Vagina Dentata is the ultimate in fear of symbolic castration (of the penis? of male privilege? male status?) and of female sexuality which must be literally broken before being of use as per one myth relayed by Erich Neumann. But then there’s something so bad it’s hilarious about it. And Queen of Wands hardly hurts the general image. Fact is, I think it’d be kind of cool to have one. So this really could swing wildly towards a hilarious montage or towards misogyny incarnate.

And just because I feel like it, here’s some more classic genital related humour.

{November 15, 2007}   pirates of the seven seas

Now my aim is to take this whole debate outside the high ground of morality because it doesn’t have anything to do with morality. Many women who I have helped have said they are generally against abortion but that their situation is ‘different’.

“Even if you are against abortion you might face a moment where your situation is ‘different’. My work is about ensuring there is a fundamental respect that a woman can make that decision for herself at that point in her life.”

Exactly. Rebecca Gomperts is right on the money and deserves our respect and support for, not only her insight, but her courage to put that into action.

Forcing someone to carry a pregnancy to terms against their will is in direct contradiction of bodily autonomy and even of it wasn’t it’s a dangerous pragmatic in a world where thousands die of botched unsafe, secret abortions. But beyond that, and I’m falling into the moral trap I’m trying to avoid, everyone draws the line somewhere else and to put a thick line down is near impossible. This is a grey, grey world and when dealing with someone’s uterus and contents thereof it’s best to take a policy of discretion.

And if abortion was illegal rich, priviledge people would still find ways out of it. In fact there are plenty of rumours of women in the anti-choice movement that have their own abortions and then go straight back to picketing and regarding all the other women in the clinic as whores- because their situation is “different”. It’s known as “the only moral abortion is my abortion” syndrome.

{November 10, 2007}   Amanda to his Marc

It turns out that one of my friends has been using me as his fake girlfriend when he goes to spend time at his boyfriends…I’m flattered.

We finally had a nice talk and I expressed a few concerns I’d had about his recent behaviour. One thing about coming out is that there’s got to be a fear of rejection and so some people reject their friends and family pre-emptively. And then you’re liable to go ridiculously on the defensive – not because it isn’t necessary- which can alienate people who are being supportive. Things like “Are you sure about being with that guy there?” is taken as “are you sure about liking guys?” So how does one go about this? In my mind, nothing has changed about him. He’s exactly the same person he has always been. But for him? It’s a big, BIG thing. So I need to affirm that nothing has changed. And then he probably does think he’s a bit alone in the friendship group and that we can’t possibly understand. Which is kind of true but then I myself have barely stuck a toe out my Narnia-style closet. And then some other things have happened which have made me think of that stuff so I may well blog about it. But then maybe not. Quite frankly I can’t be bothered to explain it when no one will believe me anyway.

et cetera