"I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded…"

0.5%

Posted in Uncategorized by Stuart J. Sia on September 20, 2014

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A chlorine inspector sits atop a water tank containing 0.5% chlorine. Chlorine is effective in killing the #Ebola virus, and its dilution in water is a key strategy to curbing the epidemic.

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09.23.10 gaborone (book sorting)

Posted in personal, Uncategorized by stuart sia on November 14, 2010



09.23.10 gaborone (book sorting)

at a book sorting organized by pam shelton of the botswana book project. took place at baobab primary school in gaborone. i got my school library over 400 books! a handful of books for the clinic, and 200 books for each of the primary schools too.

THE PROFESSOR – Lecture 1: Verbosity

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on June 27, 2010

A short monologue containing 75 GRE words from Group 1 of Princeton Review’s “Hit Parade.” Enjoy.

This is Rhetoric 101. I am your professor, Dr. Anthropos.

Although I cannot stymie those of you who wish to abscond, I wish to disabuse the notion that my lectures are mere prattle. I am sure you will find my insights illuminating. I am, as it were, a rather lucid and eloquent speaker, albeit immodestly so.

[Waits for laughter that never comes.]

Ahem, I concede, there may be no real good reason to believe me versus the reviews on BruinWalk discordant with my aforementioned claim, and I must say I appreciate the magnanimity of those of you resisting the, in my humble opinion, virulent censures against me and the precipitate demands exhorting my termination and fulminating against my tenure. That year was admittedly tortuous, what with my extemporaneous lectures and my sporadic attendance, both of which were due in large part to the untimely synthesis of all things onerous in my life: the dissolution of my marriage to my truculent and irascible wife of 11 years, the noxious book reviews purporting my writing to be “convoluted,” “nebulous,” and worst of all, “obtuse,” once again seemingly refuting my aforementioned claim to perspicacity, and then, there is of course the tragic death of my beloved box turtle, Cecelia; your loyalty never wavered, my dear Cece, and while getting over you may have been easier for your thickheaded brother, Oscar, who took care to satiate his voracious appetite with your torqued foot not an hour after your passing, precious little has assuaged my grief and ennui

[Pauses a couple moments. Breaks from his reverie, blinking several times, momentarily stupefied by the hundreds of eyes staring at him.]

Sorry, uh, where was I? Ah, yes, the previous year… I must be clear, this…soliloquy, if you will, is neither an attempt to exculpate myself for the previous year nor is it an equivocation to elicit sympathy. That year was aberrant, an anomaly, though part of me does fear it to be a prescient harbinger of even more sordid affairs, heralding the nascent and ultimately perennial dark ages of my enervate life!

[Inhales sharply.]

Oh God!

[Coughs.]

You. Your water!

[Chugs down the entire water bottle. Takes a couple deep breaths to calm self. Grimaces.]

No, I expect no sympathy, and have become, in fact, inured to the audacious critiques due to erudite philosophers of learning like myself. Indeed, I suspect the administration of a predilection towards my termination, having responded with an unconventional amount of alacrity to the solicitous feedback of my former students, taking no qualms with extending my administrative sabbatical, and even admitting, upon exploration of all canonical recourses and exhaustion of all administrative options, that they would uphold my contract, albeit “begrudgingly.”

No matter. I desire no approbations. I need not be lauded with paeans of my intellect and genius by lesser, mundane folk like yourselves. And I may sound austere, but I do not care that for many of you in my lecture hall, taking this course is merely a perfunctory step towards completing your General Education requirements! To obviate any inclination you may feel to befriend me, know, I care little about learning the veracity of what motivates you and would much prefer ingenuous, reticent students without the effrontery to visit me during office hours! A bit of advice, the more disparate you are, the more I remember you; the more I remember you, the less I like you; and the less I like you…well, even ignoramuses like yourselves can figure out where I am going with this, so don’t try to be a peacock among peahens, and just try to figure things out on your own, okay?

Now an exigent matter I would like to draw your attention to is your upcoming midterm. According to your Filibus

[Mouth twitches involuntarily, betraying his amusement and pleasure at his own wit.]

Get it?

[Raises eyebrows. Looks around the hall.]

Oh, of course you don’t get it, its a neologism, a portmanteau really, of filibuster and syllabus, suggesting a syllabus of inordinate length! Dim-wits…in any event, as I say in the Preface found on page vii of your Filibus, examinations are an axiomatic component of my pedagogical methodology and will, therefore, be invigilated thrice monthly. The calendar can be found in the Appendix, and I would urge you begin your arduous revision soon, lest you be relegated to the lowest echelons of the class. There is precious little time to squander. The examination topics can be found on page 33, though do not take them to be static for they can be as capricious as language and rhetoric themselves are. I understand you may take this to be a prevarication, but I only mean to forewarn that more contemporary examination topics may be drawn from noteworthy news as it unfolds, such as political chicanery playing out at the Hague, the declaration of martial law by a dictatorial regime, the recanting of beliefs by a clergyman disillusioned by his church’s perfidy, or the biting and sharp-witted parody found in the Letters to the Editor section of the New York Times, written, of course, by yours truly.

I had wanted your first midterm to be yesterday, but the department head alleged, rather argumentatively, that midterms must take place in the middle of the term, i.e. not before the term had even begun. Therefore, lucky you, your first midterm is in a week. With that said, let us begin our lecture…

08.13.09 sick in gabs

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on August 13, 2009

hey all,
sorry i haven’t updated in awhile. i’m in gaborone at the peace corps office. i woke up yesterday to a terrible crippling stomach ache. i thought i could sleep it off, but as it were, i could not. i went to gabs, and saw dr. tanaka, who fixed me right up. i’m all better now :)

mazvita chose, tanaka!

06.21.09 last week of training

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on June 21, 2009

Updates:
I have been placed in Mogobane Junior Secondary School.
It’s in the village of Mogobane, which has a mountain and a dam.
My counterpart is the school guidance counselor.
Her name is Thulaganyo Koti.
I have a puppy.
Her name is Hermy.
My house is small and on a family compound; 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and 1 living room/kitchen.
It’s mine. So, it’s perfect.

This past week has been crazy. Last Friday, we had our final Language Proficiency Interview (LPI). Last Saturday, we threw a thank you party for our host families. We had our last days of training on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, we went shopping for house furnishings in Gaborone. Thursday we were sworn in. And Friday, Saturday, and today, we have been parting ways and moving in to our respective sites.

The thank you party went amazingly well. Each of the committees deserves a big thank you for the great job they did. And, of course, Alex Price deserves special recognition for being so on the ball and making sure we pulled off a rocking party. The family loved the food, which was supposed to be American with a Setswana twist, complete with BBQ chicken, rice, and salad. It was probably more like Setswana with an American twist, and the chicken wasn’t really barbequed (unless boiling it, then baking it briefly in the oven counts as BBQ; a creative solution Ric came up with upon discovering the grills had been forgotten). But, hey, everyone including myself enjoyed it, and there was plenty to go around. The talent show was also a hit, with Shannon on guitar, Katie and Luke swing dancing, Meesh walking on her hands, Shelly and Matt juggling, Richard stepping, and a couple of original songs from yours truly.

Wednesday was well needed and well deserved, and the perfect way to cap off training. We got the results of our LPI back. Jonathan, Megan, Kip and I all got Intermediate High. We were pretty stoked. I went shopping with Laura and we found some great stuff. We have nearly the same of everything. She’d find a great deal (e.g. a bamboo floor mat on sale for P89!) and I’d have to get it. Or, I’d find something really useful (e.g. a wide mop with an extendable neck) and she’d have to get it too. We had lunch with Mike, Erica, Amy A., Jeff and Richard at Café Rio. I had the sizzling chicken. We shared some dumplings. We did a little more shopping, and topped off our day with coffee at Mugg and Beans. I was feeling spontaneous, so I indulged myself with a Pedros, which was more of a desert than a coffee, complete with Amaretto and Irish whiskey. It was delish. The entire day was delish. I could’ve eaten it with a spoon, perhaps the very same spoon I used to down my Pedros.

The swearing-in ceremony was long and ran late. But it felt great to be finally sworn in and called “volunteers” instead of “trainees.” As we repeated the oath delivered by Ambassador Nolan, we thusly became Volunteers of the United States Peace Corps. We got little pins with the American and Botswana flags. We ended the day as we end all good (and bad) days: at Lemepe Lodge.

Friday, I left Molepolole for good. It was sad to say bye to my host family. I was so lucky to have them. Thank you Onnie and Edison. You were great host parents. And I will miss you Angel and Richard. Don’t worry; I will visit often.

To dampen the pain, I took someone with me: a puppy called Hermy.

Hermy’s mother is Ferari, a gentle and nurturing mutt, and we believe her father is Picasso, a rambunctious, strong and irresponsible American pit bull, though he’d have to have been quite young at the moment of conception. He’s only eight months old now…maybe he’s just a lucky dog. One could say, he likes the gray foxes. They’re so much more mature and experienced after all.

“Hermy” is short for “Hermés,” the Greek god, who is messenger of the gods on Mount Olympus. The spelling is French. After all, “Stuart” is the French spelling of the old English name, “Stewart”, which comes from “estate steward.” I suppose Hermy isn’t really much shorter than Hermés. And in pronunciation, the two are essentially one, the accent merely implied. In any event, I use Hermés when I am angry or particularly stern with her, and it is in those moments that she knows the accent is there. Perhaps a more appropriate orthographic representation would be “¡HERMÉS!” for when she upsets me, and simply “hermy” for all other instances.

“Hermy” comes from “hermaphrodite.” I cannot lie, however cruel the truth may be. At birth, her sex was questionable. She was, as it were, the runt of the litter. And even still, her genitalia befuddle me. I had thought she was a male with a small penis (For runts, everything comes small, right?). Then, as her nipples became undeniable, I reassigned her as female with a large clitoris (Runts always have some deformity anyway.). The neighborhood boys are certain she’s a male, and have since taken to using the male pronoun in reference to her. I, however, am sticking with “she.” And I’ve exchange one Greek god (Aphrodite) for another (Hermes)…and I’ve thrown in an accent (Hermés)…and as of 5 minutes ago, all caps and a couple of exclamation points as well (¡HERMÉS!).

She is adorable.

And as of this moment, she is licking my small toe…

¡HERMÉS!

06.18.09 swearing-in

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on June 18, 2009

The speech I gave at the swearing-in ceremony:

First and foremost, on behalf of the volunteers being sworn in today, I would like to thank the Government of Botswana and the very people of Botswana, for welcoming us so warmly and openly. In our relatively short stay here thus far, we have already experienced the hospitality and sincerity synonymous with Botswana, and we cannot begin to express how fortunate we feel to have been invited to your beautiful country.

A question I have been asked several times is, why? Why Peace Corps? Why Botswana? Why are you here? Why did you leave? Why would you leave?

I don’t know if I can speak for everyone when it comes to the individual reasons and motivations that brought us here, but I can confidently say, it wasn’t for the money. And really, that is a wonderful thing. I have gotten to know quite a few of these volunteers sitting before me quite well actually, and at the heart of it, what we want most out of these next two/three years is to be useful. It is a simple desire yet one that can seem so daunting at times, especially when words and phrases flow over us unfamiliar, and as we make our way through communities for the first time unrecognized. But, these men and women before me are extraordinary, not only for the knowledge, skills, and talents they possess, but more so for the spirit of service and dedication they bring into the work they do and imbue in the very lives they live, and if there is anyone who can accomplish the simply understood yet less simply manifested desire to “be useful,” it is these volunteers of the United States Peace Corps.

Once again thank you, Botswana. From Shakawe to Molepolole, Ghanzi to Francistown, Kasane to Maun to Middlepits, from the lush, fertile Okavango Delta to the dusty, windswept Kalahari Desert, you have accepted us into your schools, your clinics, your offices, and your homes. We hope the service and support we render over these next few years can repay in small part the kindness and generosity you have shown us.

For many of us here, the decision to come to Botswana was one whose implications were not understood until we arrived, and will perhaps never fully be appreciated until the day we leave. It was a decision we made whole-heartedly and without reservation, and a decision that gives me so much hope for the future.

I have reserved my last few words for the volunteers themselves, so forgive me as I lapse into my mother tongue.

You inspire me. You move me. You continually impress me. I have been privileged to know you all, and I am proud to be counted among you. I have learned so much from you, and will continue to milk your swollen udders of knowledge and experience for as long as we are here in the green pasture that life is (a metaphor befitting a country whose wealth is measured in cows). I know that we, together, will accomplish great things. We will touch lives and effect positive change. We will move mountains. Just as a missionary’s very life is a profession of her faith, so too will the mission of peace be the seal upon our hearts, upon our arms. Some people call these next couple years of ours a sacrifice. But, I think, we’ll call it an adventure.

“And in the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures, for in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning, and is refreshed.” –Kahlil Gibran

ghanzi

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on May 13, 2009

I went to Ghanzi last week.

We left early Wednesday morning. I’ve been having trouble sleeping since I got here, not that I slept much better in the States. I’m on some malaria meds called Mefloquine, of which “nightmares and vivid dreams” are side effects. Last Thursday night was certainly no exception, and I was not surprised to find myself waking up around 2 am. That was a couple hours early than I was planning on waking up (I was getting picked up at 5 am), so I went back to sleep. About two minutes later, I woke up to a car horn. Groggy and blurry eyed, I checked the time…4:54!!!

Certainly, not a great way to start my trip, but fortunately, not any indication of how things would go.

We had fairly cushy travel arrangements on the way there. A government combi (an Afrikaans word for van, I think) took 10 of us up to the western part of the country, through the Kalahari Desert. We dropped of Kip and Steve in Charleshill and continued on to Ghanzi, where Laura, Heidi, Glen and I were dropped off. The combi continued on to D’kar with Cay, Cherry, and the Pappajohns on board. Laura and Heidi had an hour and a half of travel ahead of them to New Xade (yes, that “x” is a click). But Glenn and I had arrived at our destination, and those 8 hours of travel were certainly enough for us.

We stayed with Brian, who is working with the DAC (District AIDS Coordinator) for the Ghanzi district. We couldn’t have asked for a better host. We ate and drank like kings.

Menu for those four days:

Wednesday – chicken gumbo

Thursday – steak

Friday – chicken adobo (by yours truly)

Saturday – IMPALA!!!

Yes, I had impala for the first time, and I must say, it was the most delicious meat I’ve ever ripped my canines through.

Thursday we shadowed Brian at the DAC office, learning a little bit about its organizational structure. We went to a conference where he was presenting some statistics, which turned out to be a most interesting and informative experience. The conference was conducted by a faith-based NGO known as TLW (True Love Waits) and attended by several leaders of the community. They were discussing the incidence of MCP (multiple concurrent partnerships) and its contribution to the spread of HIV/AIDS. The discussion took place in Setswana for the most part, so, Glen and I didn’t understand a lot of what was said, but we were able to figure out the gist. There was some fairly heated debate, especially with regard to gender roles and the various cultural customs of different tribes. If there wasn’t an impetus to learn Setswana before, wanting to understand what was being said in this debate certainly became that impetus for me that day. From what I could gather, there was disagreement over the acceptance of older men having multiple partners, some asserting that it was not an accepted part of their culture and some asserting the contrary. Regardless of whether it is or isn’t, was or wasn’t once accepted, they all agreed that MCP is indeed a major contributor to the proliferation of HIV/AIDS and that modernity has made such relationships at least permitted if not accepted. While I do not entirely agree with the abstinence-only approach promoted by TLW, I learned quite a bit about MCP.

For those of you who know me well, you know my disagreement with the abstinence-only approach has more to do with my frank disbelief in its effectiveness (because it frankly is not) than with any disbelief in the practice of abstinence itself. Indeed, it must be noted that abstinence is the ONLY 100% effective way of preventing pregnancy and STI’s like HIV, and this is something we reiterate in Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’s Middle School Program. In fact, we devote an entire lesson (of six) to discussing the several reasons a person might decide to abstain and brainstorming other ways people express their sexuality. While it is my sincere hope that each student is able to identify with at least one of these several reasons (because it is my personal belief that middle school students are much too immature for sexual relationships), the pragmatic and realistic part of me knows that such reasons may not ring true for all students, and that students who do choose to engage in sexual activity should be equipped with the skills to minimize the risks.

The next day, we went to D’kar, a small “village” of sorts about half an hour north of Ghanzi. The land is actually privately owned by a faith-based umbrella organization named Kuru, I believe, who is doing a lot of work with the Naro people. The Naro people (who number about 10,000) are one of the several tribes of “Bushmen” or “the San people” well-known for their phonologically unique “click” languages.

[To briefly explicate on the terms “Bushmen” and “San,” there is disagreement as to which term is acceptable and which is pejorative. Linguists and anthropologists believe the term “Bushmen” to be pejorative in the sense that it connotes a primitive lifestyle and that it is gender biased. That being the case, they prefer the term “San” in reference to the Khoisan language family, of which their languages are a part. But, of course, the term “San” originates from a phrase meaning “one who eats off the ground,” which clearly has perhaps even more negative contexts than “one who lives in the bush.” The debate continues.]

We were able to meet a team of Naro scholars (they themselves are Naro) working on translating the entire Bible into Naro by 2020. They have been essentially working from scratch, creating an orthography to represent the 28 different click sounds and using both Greek and English texts to translate from. One thing they have been doing, which I am so excited about, is teaching the Naro people how to read and write in Naro, which is hopefully instilling in themselves a pride for their language and their people. I have come to learn that there are people marginalized in every society, and for Botswana, it seems to be the Bushmen who experience such treatment. But, I do have hope, and it is inspiring to see much of these efforts coming from within the Naro people themselves.

For our last day in Ghanzi, Glen and I were set to take a swim in a water-filled quarry owned by Brian’s friend, Julian. Julian is a British South African who has lived in Botswana for several years and owns a number of quarries in the Ghanzi region. Being the hospitable man that he is, he invited us to his home for some leg of impala before our adventure to his quarry. We had been planning on eating around 1 in the afternoon, but as it were, the leg of impala took longer than expected to roast, and we ended up eating around 4 instead. The time was well spent in conversation and drinking cider, but we were, unfortunately, unable to visit the quarry. Nonetheless, the meal was certainly worth the wait. What we had was nearly a Thanksgiving feast with, of course, a leg of impala instead of a turkey. The cook was a friend of his, also a South African, whose name escapes me, but whose company I cannot forget. We shared a love for witticism and exchanged wits throughout dinner. Mike, another volunteer, was sharing his experiences in the CKGR (Central Kalahari Game Reserve), to which she quipped, I’m not too keen on acronyms. I chimed in, FYI, neither am I. Cider, impala, and witticism: it was a charming affair.

new glasses

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on January 17, 2009

new glasses

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the prod

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on January 8, 2009

the-prod

on perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by stuart sia on December 3, 2008

“Finality is death. Perfection is finality. Nothing is perfect. There are lumps in it.” [Stephens, James. The Crock of Gold. Bk 1, Ch. 4]