Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Problem with Ebola, Part 1

Over the past few months, there's been a lot of talk about Ebola in West Africa. And this has sparked a lot of responses from Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora. It's also sparked a lot of responses from the Western world--many that have felt ignorant and upsetting to me as an African.

My biggest pet peeve has been how the media has portrayed it. I was in journalism for a while, and I've always found a strong distaste for articles that were more about sensation than about clear, objective reporting. Most of the articles I've read have promoted ignorance and a "panic" about Ebola versus really presenting the reality of the disease and how it's being handle. An example: West Africa has a lot of countries. And only 4 of those countries have been dealing with Ebola. Two of the four have contained it and it is no longer a problem. Yet all the articles simply just reference "West Africa." 

As a doctor, my sister has had lots of thoughts and conversations about Ebola, and has also not appreciated the mass media's representation. So the following is a guest blog she has written to share her thoughts and ideas and the issue.

The Problem with Ebola, Part 1                                                 original written: August 16, 2014

Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. – Lamentations 3:48

In a developed country, it's easy/natural to have a poorly calibrated suffering meter. Even those in poverty have at least the potential to access healthcare, food, and shelter - the basic rights, right? (And yes, sadly, I know not everyone actually receives these resources.) This of course does not mean that people don't suffer, as the title of an old telenovela states "The Rich Also Cry." It seems that tears are universally-understandable in some situations (death, isolation, illness, etc.) and in others, they fall under the area popularly-termed "First World Problems." We give Scrooge from the Dickens' story a bad rap, and although he is an extremely negative caricature; to some extent, he represents many of us with First World Problems. How many of us use a version of this line "are there no prisons... no workhouses?" to defend our ignorance and detached views on others' suffering? There's a disconcerting truth to those words... After all, aren't there established non-profit organizations set up to deal with all the messy kinds of suffering? We don't need to be touched by it because it's not our calling to work for these said organizations (God bless the people who do, we say). We do our part by giving them money - after we prove they are legit (you know how crooked some of these people can be) and also in a setting where people see us doing the good deed (my tree should not fall in a quiet forest, but perhaps in a glitzy fundraiser). Those cachectic, malnourished kids on the commercial can't be real, right? And even if we are convinced they are real, a part of us are soothed by the fact that it's not our problem... it's someone else's bad fortune... the cards we/they were dealt (excuse me, blessed with)... Again, these words have truth to them and the money is needed (fundraiser or not), but they cannot justify ignorance or callousness. Some of you may feel I'm preaching to the choir and some of you may feel guilty... Well, this is more of a wakeup call – to those in the choir (myself included), stop patting yourself on the back and continue to sing (i.e., do good works, love your neighbor) and those who feel guilty (again, myself included), expend your energy on worthy things (i.e., feeling guilty won't help anyone, but caring about someone other than yourself will). 

The summary of my mini-diatribe:

- Take a moment out of each day to care about someone other than ourselves. Mr./Ms. Good Samaritan, your neighbor may be a family member, a co-worker, or a complete stranger. Make caring a habit...

- Don't be too comfortable in your version of goodness (that’s great that you watched Blood Diamond and now wear a conflict-free diamond, well done for getting a “#Bring Back Our Girls” t-shirt, Props for going to the latest rally, it's great you donated money at that benefit concert, etc – just remember that caring is not a trend or a one-time thing… again, make caring a habit).

- Avoid being guilt-motivated but instead be conviction-motivated (otherwise your caring deeds end up being ironically selfish).

This note was originally intended to be about my views on the "current" Ebola crisis and in a way it is, but the fact of the matter is... the problem is way bigger than Ebola... We live in an "Upstairs, Downstairs"/"Downton Abbey" existence, and it's only when the worlds start colliding or when they hit close to home (or for some, when they show up with a Twitter hashtag) that we begin semi-caring... Our global "small" world has always been and continues to be full of social injustices and tragic inequality. 

Not Caring about them would be the biggest First World Problem of them all. 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

30 Days of 30

I've decided.

Next year, when I turn 30, I'm celebrating my birthday for 30 days.

My birthday is on the 1st, and September has 30 days... so it's perfect.

I know... it sounds crazy. And maybe a bit self-absorbed. But as I got closer to my birthday this year, I realized that I had never really gone all out for my birthdays since I became an adult.

As a kid, we planned our own. My sisters and I would come up with themes and execute pretty stellar parties. But I think my last big party was when I was like 10. After that, they remained pretty simple--dinner with family and friends, maybe a movie or a show. Even most of my "milestone" birthday passed with little fanfare.

Age 13: I think it was a Wednesday and my church family came over afterwards for cake and ice-cream. I remember asking for only one thing: A Bible... which as a pastor's kid, you know I got.

Age 16: Four friends came over and we went to the mall. I used my birthday money to buy a bunch of musicals and then we returned home for a slumber party and to watch them all, plus other movies.

Age 18: It was Labor Day. And my first day of school at A&M. I found out the journalism program was getting the axe. And I got lost and cried like a baby. Nikki and TJ brought me a cookie cake, an Aggie pillow and an Aggie ring (but not THE Aggie Ring) to welcome me to the family and celebrate my day. Nothing huge, but it was super special.

Age 21: Okay... this one, there was some major fanfare. I had planned a last-minute dinner that got switched to a surprise party. And I was definitely surprised. (And the very next year, I got to spend my birthday in NYC.)

Age 25: I don't even remember. I remember planning to go to Disney World, but losing my job weeks before the big day killed those plans. I'm sure some friends came over and we played Just Dance on the Wii in my living room.

So for 30... I want to go big. I'm starting to get to the point where I feel awkward making a big deal about my birthday. It's a lot easier to celebrate when people do the planning for you :-) But it's always been a habit of mine to drag my birthday beyond just one day. Mini-celebrations happen weeks later, with different groups of friend. Next year, I figure, why not just be super intentional about it.

The idea came about last year when a friend of mine was turning 30. Her family and friends did a "30 Days for 30" surprise for her. Each day, she got a new gift with a tag that counted down the days until her 30th. Sometimes the gifts were big or expensive. Other times they were simple things to just brighten her day. Each gift was personal. And each day got her pumped to turn 30. I was obsessed with it and waited for her to post each day.

I was also extremely jealous because I knew it'd never happen to me. I mean... it could, but I doubted it. And it's not like I can just say, "Hey! Family... friends... for my 30th, you need to do this!"

A friend suggested an alternative... create a wish list of things I want and have friends and family sign up to send me something from that list each day. Which would also be cool... but then takes away the element of surprise when you open a gift.

And while I'm not huge on gifts, I do love surprises. And what I love most about getting gifts is that they are a surprise... it's super cool to see how well people know you, or the thought that they put into picking this out just for you. That type of surprise is the best. That type of gift is the best. Not so much when I have to tell you want to get (although I would still love it).

So what's where the 30 days of 30 idea came about. It's be a cool way to celebrate my birthday in a big way, get others involved, feel showered with love and ultimately just indulge in this beautiful thing called "my life."

A few things I do have in mind: a trip every weekend of the month (Prince Edward Island is high on the list, and other suggestions are welcomed) and I would like to rent out a space and have a DJ and throw a party and have Photo Moto there to capture all the fun (and possibly get proposed to, but we can save that crazy idea for a different blog).

I'm obsessed with this proposal.

I'm still not sure what exactly I'll do... but I guess I have quite a while to plan.

Let me know if you want to help!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Last Year of My 20s!

Yesterday, I began a new chapter in life. I turned 29.

Holy cow! It's the last year of my 20s!!! I don't even what to contemplate what that means... should I be excited? terrified?

Last year, I was not all that thrilled about turning 28. I think I was just down about life not being all I expected it to be. And as the days grew closer to my birthday this year, I could feel myself feeling all down and pathetic about life. Like getting older was a curse, instead of a blessing.

So I decided to change my tune and celebrate life.

FRIDAY: I got to sing the National Anthem at the an Astros game!!! Granted this wasn't planned in honor of my birthday, but it was a great way to get the weekend started. I'm not a huge sports fan, but I am a huge fan of new experiences. And this was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Check that off the bucket list!

And the best part is that the Astros were playing the the Rangers! And... THE RANGERS WON! (Sorry, Astros fans... I'm originally from the DFW. Gotta support the home team). And the night ended with amazing fireworks.

Our fearless leader

SATURDAY: Earlier in the week, when I decided to get out of the doldrums and celebrate life, I planned a "party" and invited a few friends. I decided to go to Pinot's Palette. I was so thankful for the friends who decided to spend their Saturday with me since it was so last-minute. And it was super awesome to actually get GIFTS from the girls! Completely unexpected and just made me feel even so loved since all the gifts were very personal and it was obvious thought was put behind them!

Later that night I did dinner at one of my new favorite places in Houston, Adair Kitchen (it is just too cute!). Again, these ladies decided to come out super last-minute and it was nice to catch up.

I struggle a lot with feeling like I have good friendships and stuff, but this day showed me the opposite: I'm surrounded by awesome people who am beyond thankful to have as friends.

SUNDAY: Fun day :-)

Of course there was church, and then an epic nap... and then in the evening I went to see the documentary Finding Fela.

A few friends joined me for this, too. And while again--it was exactly all planned for my birthday, it was part of the weekend fun. And I did get my dinner paid for because it was my birthday, so... :-)

Afterwards, we decided to walk to Miller Outdoor Theatre to watch the Bollywood Bash. After my time in India this summer, I've felt an affinity towards all things India, so this was a nice treat.

The show, overall, was good.

And ultimately, it was just a nice night with friends.

MONDAY: My actual Birthday!

Since it was Labor Day, I didn't have to go to work so I slept in :-)

Texts, Phone Calls and Facebook messages streamed in starting at midnight.

And then I spent the day with my family. Super last-minute, and so again, I felt super-loved. We had lunch in the Heights and then the "men" (in quotes only cause my nephew is three, haha) went off to do their thing, while the "ladies" (my neice is only 4 months old) did our thing. We spent some time at my place before going on a shopping adventure. I finally got a chance to go to Fat Cat's ice cream parlor. And then as they left, a good friend invited me over to have dinner and desert... which was divine.



All in all, it was a GREAT birthday.

FINAL THOUGHTS: There's a lot of things about 29 that could feel disappointing... mostly because life isn't what I planned or expected when I was 12, 21, 25 or even 28. But I think the one thing I learned as I entered this new year is that happiness in life can be measured in a lot of ways, but the way that matters the most is LOVE. And there is a lot of love in my life, so I can't help but be happy with it. 
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