Tuesday, October 31, 2006

African Baby Bandwagon

Recently, Madonna adopted a baby boy from Malawi with the popular name of Daniel Banda. (Read more about it here). During my trip home this past weekend, several people asked me what I thought about this. I hadn't thought to make a blog post about it, but after expounding ad nauseum at the church bazaar, to my family and during the wedding on the topic, I thought it would just be easier to write a blog.

First, let it be said that Madonna is doing this boy a great service. Somewhere in the ballpark of 44% of Malawian children are chronically malnourished and 22% are considered "stunted' for their age (meaning their height-to-weight ratio is all out of whack). Although I can't say for sure, my guess is that this is due basically to the lack of pre/post-natal care, nutrition, sanitation and regular doctor visits. With Madonna, he is going to get enough to eat, clothes on his back, vaccinations and excellent schooling - something that we all take for granted but are severely lacking in developing countries like Malawi.

Secondly, let it be said that Madonna is also doing this boy a great dis-service. Although it's not unusual for children to be placed into orphanages even if their parents are still alive (as Daniel's father is), it IS unusual to be removing this child from its cultural context. I think I read some where that the father will be allowed to visit in England once a year, but surely there are also brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles who - unlike in America - are much much closer to the child and would also like to visit. Will this child grow up rooted in an extended African family, or will it become part of the globo-baby jet-set who are 'citizens of the world'? Granted, Malawi is not the place people dream of building a summer home in, but shouldn't the child go to Malawi instead of the family heading to England? At least Maddox got a hut in Cambodia.

I'm no child psychologist, but what will the cultural/emotional ramifications of this adoption do to this poor baby? Is it even worth debating if he gets the chance at a hot meal and a life out of poverty?

That being said, this child is also like the golden ticket for the Banda family. From what I understand about Malawian culture, this child will be sought after, harangued, chased down, called up and pretty much pestered into helping his extended family members - if they ever find out how to get in contact with him. And you know what? I kind of think it's Madonna's duty. She took their child, after all. In fact, I think she shouldn't have stopped at adopting just the kid - given that his family is still alive, she should've also set aside a trust for them, or adopted their village or something. After all, it takes a whole village to raise a kid, not just one white lady from Detroit.

Part of the problem in Malawi is the fact that individualism as we see it here in the West doesn't exist. It's called the 'poppy syndrome'; all the tall poppies in a field are cut down (but if you don't stick out, you'll stay standing). The same reasoning exists in Japan, exemplified by the saying "The nail that sticks up will be hammered down." Removing one child doesn't solve the problem that the ENTIRE boat is sinking. Something needs to be done about everyone, at once, instead of person by person (who is then pulled down by the needy extended family). Whoever advised Madonna about this adoption either a) failed to grasp this concept or b) forgot to mention it.

Madonna has gotten a little less press for another initiative she's putting together - her organization Raising Malawi. It's gotten alot of press due to the supposed Kabbalah underpinnings. While I don't condone prosteletyzing - well, I can't say she isn't the first one in Malawi - I also can't definitively say that Kabbalah shouldn't be taught. I really know nothing about it. I get the feeling that from this angle anyway, the press has blown things out of proportion. It's not like she's opening a Kabbalah madrasa (Watch out! It's a jewish jihad!). Perhaps it will only manifest itself in a morning hug. And who wouldn't like a hug in the morning?

Perhaps the only thing we can really blast Madonna for is lack of originality. I mean, adopting kids in the 00's is like adopting a rainforest in the 90's (or adopting a solar system in the 80's). Why don't we see any stars funding pit latrines? or a well trained police force? or mental health clinics? (talk about an underbelly of the underserved!) Is it that the poor don't need to use the toilet, or have laws enforced, or a safe place to recover from trauma?

It seems to me that stars take the best and the worst of their celebrity "for a good cause". Some child gets a red-ribbon on their wrist (if I'm not mistaken, a symbol of Kabbalah beliefs) and she gets some good press and a sexy cause.

But on the other hand, people now know where Malawi is.

What do YOU think?

M is for Madonna;

Sunday, October 22, 2006

So Much Better than Homework

Aside from attending class yesterday from 10-4pm, I have also been hacking away at my Substantial Research Paper, one of the last things I need to finish in order to graduate this fall. I found out on Friday that I passed my language requirement exam (mon dieu!), so all that's left between me and exorbant loan repayments are two take home exams and one enormous paper on Malawi. Wish me luck!

Of course, before I could get any real work done on the SRP, I participated in the fantastic Tour du Port in Baltimore today. Fifteen miles, lots of bananas, boats and bicycles later, I feel I've got a good grasp on this port city (atleast, by bike). Too bad it was so cold! After that, I let myself drink this and eat some of this (of course now I remember WHY I never eat/drink those things! ug!)

Now I'm forcing myself to sit in the library and write until the Simpsons comes on. Do I lead a strange life or what?

M is for More Homework,

Friday, October 13, 2006

Two Random Thoughts From the Drive Into Work

1) Sometimes, when I'm driving in the morning and the sun catches on the National Cathedral and the water is smooth over the tidal basin, I realize, all things (traffic, expensive housing, crowds, republicans) aside : I love living in DC. I love DC!

There's something intensely satisfying about living out a dream. Even a sometimes scary and inconvenient one.

2) My skin, apart from the random huge pores, has some funny discolorations on it. Like, it's not all evenly one color, even with makeup. Is this normal? From discussions with girlfriends, I think so. Even if the dark patch of skin above my that lip looks like a mustache? You bet.

For awhile - and in the effort of getting gorgeous for Meg's wedding - I've been thinking that I should buy this. I would finally have luminous skin! I could turn back the clock before it needed to be turned back! You could bounce quarters off my double-dimples!

But then I realized that hey, I'm 26 - too old to be falling for these stupid ad campaigns. Every other product out there has yet failed to turn me into a supermodel, why should this one be any different (esp if I have to save to be able to afford a small bottle!)?

So, in honor of my new vow to love myself no matter what, I decided to pull out another ad campaign:

Love the Skin You're In.

Done AND done.

M is for multi-layered anti-aging luminous skin transformation (starting from the inside),

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pathos, the Lesser Known Muskateer

I know I'm just going to get blasted for posting this, but here goes.

Pathos, (n) greek word for "to suffer" or "emotion", both of which I've been doing alot of lately. And it's not like laughing and then crying. It's more like crying, then laughing, then angry, then crying, then chocolate, then laughing, then sleep. Oh wait, hysterical might be the word I'm looking for here...

Pathetic (adj), derived from Pathos. Not surprisingly meaning pretty much the same thing, only used to describe:
  1. a person who keeps wearing the same brown shoes out in the rain, even though they have holes in the bottom of them, because she a) doesn't have enough money to buy new ones and/or b) forgets about the holes.
  2. a person who's idea of a good time is getting into her gnome-y flannel pajama's by 8pm on a friday night and yelling at sappy love movies. (FYI: 'The Prince and Me' is REALLY STUPID).
  3. a person who cares - REALLY CARES - if the pumpkin on the porch matches the wreath on the door.
  4. A person who has tried to melt pumpkin candy corns and regenerate them into a larger pumpkin candy edible sculpture.
  5. a person who buys a dress for a wedding because a) it's burqua-esque coverage and b) $20 price tag. Oh, and haggles at the checkout for an extra 10% because there are some 'loose strings'.
  6. A person who perpetually interns in odd places, like boats, and subsequently comes home smelling like fish and untreated sewage - every day.
  7. a person who suspects that, if she tried, she could eat everything in the refridgerator in one sitting. (ok except maybe not that nasty mustard that's been in the back since 1994.)
  8. Oh and for those of you behind the scenes and know about this one: a person who goes and gets a wart removed and ends up bed-ridden for six weeks until her mother buys her a townhouse and she is carted away. She was definitely pathetic.
And finally, I bring you:
Pathoepeia, a type of speech that moves hearers emotionally.

I think I've done my job here.

Good day.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mailing Malcontent

My roommates make fun of me because of my propensity to decorate. Every fall, this instinct is further perpetuated by the immediate female members of my family, who send me fun little "Halloweeny" type gifts from the Bibelot, etc. These packages usually consist of napkins, wall hangings, candles and the like.

And every fall I'm overwhelmed with guilt because I get these awesome packages and I never have any money (or forethought) to prepare one in return. Yes, I know, I am a holiday mooch.

But not this year.

Oh no, not this year. I had my ACT TOGETHER! I was shopping for Halloween gifts in August! I used tissue paper! I bought presents on the road! I had them wrapped (and addressed) two weeks ago!

But then they just sat in my car because:

I couldn't find a freakin' post office.

It's not that there aren't any in DC. Oh no. It's the fact that, working 9-5 Monday through Friday with class on Saturdays, I couldn't get to my normal post office during the day. (These packages, although small, needed to be weighed). At my old job in Dupont circle, I'd just walk down the street during my lunch hour and be done with it.

But my new job, down on the waterfront, is a different story.

Yesterday, desperate to ship them off (as it's now October - October! - and it's imperative that I get this package to my sister before she sends one to me (so she can deal with the guilt this year, not me)) I drove around downtown over my lunchbreak - for an hour.

An hour! In my car! On a gorgeous 80 degree October day!

I was so mad when I got back to the office and I still had those stupid packages. I was ready to drop kick them into the Potomac.

Then, of course, my office mate says (because inevitably this happens - my life is a sitcom, btw), "Oh, there's one up the street!" (You know when Peanut's characters get that scribble mark above their heads when they're disgruntled? That was me.)

So after work, I head deep into SW DC where my honky-tonky value skyrockets. I obviously don't belong or know what I'm doing. Case in point: I had to pass my packages through a bullet proof glass and shut the door before the postal worker would receive them, but I stood there staring at the postal worker before she said "Are you gonna put your packages down or what?" Uh, whoops.

But anyway, besides that little adventure, I finally - FINALLY - got those silly packages off. And now to reap the rewards..........

M is for Mail,