Sunday, December 30, 2007

Where have all the Swazi's gone? - Recent media

"Where have all the Swazi's gone?" is the title of a recent article from Toronto's Globe and Mail, which discusses Swaziland's recent census results. According to the census, Swaziland has 300,000 fewer people than predicted by pre-HIV growth rates.

The article goes on to describe the "toxic mix" of factors that has fueled the country's HIV epidemic. Examples of such factors are:
- a culture that "condones, even encourages" promiscuity and polygamy among men
- a culture that denies women the right to negotiate condom use
- a "limited economy" that relies on sending men to work in South Africa for long periods of time
- a king with several wives who has denied the magnitude of the problem
- the country's understaffed and underfunded health system

The result: Swaziland is shrinking, and 26% of adults and 49% of young women between the ages of 25 and 29 are HIV positive.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Season's Greetings

There are many 'things' to be mindful of this season as we give our gifts and make our resolutions. Click here for some examples.

See the following post for others.

Friday, December 21, 2007

For those children not nestled all snug in their beds

Siphelele, on Young Heroes waiting list

I rarely solicit on this website. When I do, it is for Young Heroes, an organization that provides direct assistance to orphans in Swaziland. For example, you can sponsor Siphelele, above, who is six years old and not currently in school. See the website for photos of other unsponsored children.

Please consider sponsoring a child as a holiday gift. 100% of your donation goes to the family in need. Zero % goes to admin. Yes, zero.

I have posted links to my previous entries on this worthy organization below.

Parentless children with nothing to lose
Ryan's birthday wish
An offer of solace and hope

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Drawn - A anonymous Swazi child

Sipho (pictured standing below) walked into the clinic office where I was working a few weeks back and told me he had something to show me. He took me down to the first floor where two carbon pencil sketches had recently been hanged. The girl looked familiar, and he confirmed that I had taken the original photos (also attached below) on my way back from St Phillips. The girl (of about 4 years old) was carrying a bucket of water down a long dirt road in rural Swaziland, and this made an impression on me. Sipho, the artist, was similarly taken by the child, and drew her. A very nice job, Sipho.

Sipho and his two sketches.

Anonymous Swazi child.

Anonymous Swazi child 2.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Have difficult-to-shop-for-relatives? Here is a humane gift idea: support a Swazi orphan

This misspelled poster, created by rural community health workers at a recent Baylor-sponsored pediatric HIV training, made an impact on me.

I wish that 'human' and 'humane' had similar meanings, but they do least not here in Swaziland.

Swaziland has the world's highest rate of HIV infection. The disease is filling local cemeteries and creating a generation of orphans, nearly 70,000 of them. The small kingdom has ~15,000 child-headed households.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have found great meaning in helping restore dignity to the lives of some of these children. My role is small, but I believe in it.

As you plan for the upcoming season of giving, you can play a role too.

Please check out the following links for to learn how to support local Swazi children orphaned by HIV:
Parentless children with nothing to lose (previous blog entry)
Ryan's birthday wish (previous blog entry)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tacos in Swaziland - Cultural encounter series (4 of 10)

Treasure, Anne, an Mlingisi eating their first taco.

There are no tacos in Swaziland. There are no Taco Bells, Taco Buenos, Taco Cabanas, or for that matter any taquerias, taco stands, taco trucks or taco shacks named Taco Something.

There is a place downtown named Pablos with a desert cactus on the sign, but they serve burgers.

Well, I recently found taco shells at the local grocery store. I do not know if there was a supply chain routing error or if I just got lucky, but there they were. I believed they were "El Paso" brand.

I made that tacos that night for dinner, so many in fact that I had seven extra, which I brought to work the following day. I sat down in the kitchen to enjoy one, and handed out the others to the next six Swazi colleagues that happened to drop by the kitchen.

None of them had ever heard of a taco or seen anything like it.

Here were some of their comments:
"Oooh. It is sooo nice."
"So, doc, is this really what they eat in Texas?"
"What is it again? A teekos?"
"How do I do it? Do I hold it like this?"
"You really have to share the recipe."
"I like Mex-Tex. I must visit some time."
"Oh! It tastes just like Doritos."


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Senzo and the doll - A patient encounter

Dolls in Exam Room 8

Senzo was pretending to breastfeed a doll when I walked in the exam room. He sat beside his mother and infant sister, holding the head of the stuffed toy firmly to his tummy. Occasionally, he would tug at his jacket to try to move it out of the hungry doll’s way.

He looked up at me gave me one of those hey-look-at-me-look-what-I-am-doing looks.

“Aren’t you going to be a good big brother!” I dutifully told him in response. He did not understand a single word of English, but his smile suggested that he understood the sentiment.

Senzo wore rainbow-patterned flipflops, baggy corduroy pants, and a grey and maroon sweatshirt. He was small but bouncy.

When I examined him, he seemed no less excited than if I had been passing out candy dressed up as Disney’s Mickey Mouse. He watched every move with amazement.

Watching the child watch me, I too felt amazed. Senzo was one of Baylor’s many success stories here in Swaziland. When Senzo was a year old, his CD4 was below 500. Now, thanks to a few pills and careful follow-up, his count is nearly four times that, well within the normal range.
After refilling Senzo’s ARVs, I turned to his mom. "Are you going to get Senzo’s little sister tested?" I asked.

“Yes. Next time I am at the clinic,” the mom replied.

“Good. If the baby tests positive, we will take very good care of her, just like we have taken very good care of Senzo.”

Thursday, December 06, 2007

One hundred and one Swaziland destinations - #22: "The Swazi cultural village"

I recently took a trip to the Swazi Cultural Village about twenty minutes east of Mbabane, where one can tour a traditional Swazi village and see dancing. Swazi dance is similar to Zulu dance, with singing, drumming, whistling, alternating kicks, stomping, and plenty more. A true feast for the senses.

The link below will take you to a very short video clip. (The Swazi internet connection encourages brevity.)

Swaziland cultural dance


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

One hundred and one Swaziland destinations - #21 The weaver birds

The weaver birds are back in Swaziland after a wintertime hiatus. So are their pendulous, seemlingly precarious abodes.

See this YouTube video for some brief video footage of their nests, and see the two links below for my previous weaver-bird-inspired entries:
A brief encounter with a weaver bird
So, here I am - An introduction