Newt In A Tea Cup

{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.

{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.

{October 10, 2007}   I’m in the papers!

Newt colony’s £70,000 relocation

A colony of endangered newts is being relocated for the 2012 Olympics at a cost of £70,000, it has emerged.

About £450 – the equivalent of renting a double room for a month in the area – will be spent on moving each newt to make way for a temporary cycle circuit.

The great crested newts will be placed in a safe area within the new facility in Hog Hill, Redbridge, east London.

The London Development Agency had to ensure the newts’ safety as the creatures are protected by law.

The new circuit will replace the Eastway Cycle Circuit in Stratford, east London, which will become the Olympic Velopark.

Great crested newts are the largest species of newt in Britain.

Their numbers have declined in the UK over recent years, due to the destruction and pollution of their breeding sites and terrestrial habitat.

It is hoped work will start on the new circuit so it is ready in time for the new year.

This story is making me go both 🙂 and 😦

PMS is one of those bete noir that I hate yet reluctantly acknowledge. I hate them because they are misused as a catch all to dismiss legitimate concerns. It’s also a big joke that quite frankly pisses off every women who has actually had any serious pain or symptoms. Our modern female hysteria, if you will. Oh, and the fact I’m feeling moody or in pain doesn’t change how much of an asshole someone is.

Except that regularly, like clockwork, I end up spending entire days crying, disappearing to cry in bathrooms when I go out (I once spent over a third of a lunch in a cubicle…), and drastically cutting back on my active social life. I start something, stare at it blankly then walk away in despair. It’s not depression because it comes and goes.

I went to the nurse today and we chatted about it. She thinks it’s most likely PMS and suggested some vitamin pills, that I keep a diary of symptoms and watch how my eating habits change.

So where does it leave me? I hate the fact of the label… but what else could it be?

Aah… puberty. The nostalgia of that crushing feeling of awkward self-loathing… Your body deciding that it will either take years to get to the same spot as everyone else or that it’ll rush so quickly that the rest of you is left miles behind… Don’t you wish you were back in time; sitting in a classroom crossing and uncrossing your legs, trying to figure out how to exit the room tactfully and gracefully, whilst smuggling a tampon like a ninja on a mission and simultaneously stopping everyone from seeing the back of your skirt because you’ve got a sensation that bits of your insides are seeping through your clothes into a red stain?

It’s about to get a lot worse in the fascist control-phobic systems…

The girl was called out of class by a security guard during a school sweep last week to make sure no kids had backpacks or other banned bags.

Samantha Martin had a small purse with her that day.

That’s why the security guard, ex-Monticello cop Mike Bunce, asked her The Question.

She says he told her she couldn’t have a purse unless she had her period. Then he asked, “Do you have your period?”

…It appears that at least a few other girls were also asked the same question…

The small Sullivan County school has been in an uproar for the last week. Girls have worn tampons on their clothes in protest, and purses made out of tampon boxes. Some boys wore maxi-pads stuck to their shirts in support.

After hearing that someone might have been suspended for the protest, freshman Hannah Lindquist, 14, went to talk to Worden. She wore her protest necklace, an OB tampon box on a piece of yarn. She said Worden confiscated it, talked to her about the code of conduct and the backpack rule — and told her she was now “part of the problem.”

Inquiring minds want to know… how they going to check girls are telling the truth about said period?

This is more a question of paranoia over concealed weapons than sexism… After all the only way to make sure that someone isn’t carrying any kind of weapon is making them go naked… incidentally…

Two days ago, state police say, a 16-year-old boy wearing nothing but a paper bag on his head streaked through the high school as students arrived. The boy was charged with public lewdness, a misdemeanor. He told police he was protesting the backpack policy.

Aaaw… Creepy arse officials but those kids seriously brighten my day. Do you think we could market this tampon jewellery? 🙂

It just seems appropriate, is all…

{August 19, 2007}   A-Levels!

I got straight As across the board!!1 I’m into the Uni I want- and I’m going to try for a scholarship! Straight As!

My strongest one was in English Lit (of which I did the worst on the Shakespeare and the best on my coursework – which was exploring the status of victimhood intersecting race and gender in Toni Morrison’s Jazz, and then the comparative essay on the failures of the American dream for both rich and poor.) Funnily enough I did worst on English Language which was my favourite subject and second worst in French; The irony being I’ve been bilingual all my live and received a French education for all of my formative years until I moved UK-wise.

But if that’s my worst I am sooo damn happy!


{August 13, 2007}   I am off

to a Christian conference for a week. I’m freaky scared (because there’s bound to be a lot of crazy) but also intrigued as to find out what I can learn and which ideas I can develop.

To be fair I’m more worried about the lack of privacy. I have a tendency to go really weepy without knowing why and I don’t want to have to explain to people why sometimes I can’t face them. The late development thing also means it’s ridiculously painful for me to lie down in any position and our sole accommodation is an mattress in a tent. So no sleep there. Damn hormones.

More than that my best friend who has been gone for ages is coming back for results day (which I’m going to be away for 😦 ) and I’m only going to be back long enough to see her for one night. 😦 😦 How the hell can I cope for a gap year without my friends network? Seriously, sisterhood is powerful. That and the one guy friend whose always got your back and gives you romantic advice like “Don’t bother answering his texts if you don’t like him” and “You don’t owe him anything, babe”.

All that stuff about friends replacing parents and family for advice- is that always so bad? And, if it takes a village to raise a child, is the breakdown of the nuclear family a negative thing? Much, much to ponder…

et cetera