Monday, July 17, 2006

The fish knife of optimism

Every day since I got here I have been hoping for fish. Every evening they set the tables in the restaurants with the full range of cutlery, including fish knives and forks, and every evening I say ‘do you have any fish?’

There is never any fish, and after I have ordered my vegetable pasta they come and take away the fish-specific cutlery. It’s like Groundhog Day, but I worry that if I don’t ask I might miss it.

I also ask every day about the wireless network cards. They say ‘they will be here any time’. But which time, I don’t know.

This could all be intensely frustrating (Why have wireless hotspot posters up all over the lobby? Why not remove the fish dishes from the menu? Why not say stop bloody asking white girl, we’ll tell you when your strange requests can be accommodated) but actually it’s not. It’s just the way things are. There will be fish when there is fish.

There is also wonderful use of euphemism. We started work today looking at the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Malawi. There is still a huge amount of stigma surrounding HIV status, and some discrimination towards those who are dying of AIDS, but free (if not perfectly distributed) ARVs have given people hope, and there’s a noticeable move towards open acknowledgement of positive status.

Someone who is HIV+ and not receiving treatment is described as ‘not enjoying stable health’. When the same person begins ARV treatment they (quite literally) get a new lease of life. Everyone knows why, and they can be congratulated on enjoying stable health again. This is progress on many fronts.



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