Posts Tagged ‘public health

In honor of the O’s ending today and leaving me incredibly depressed – (no more shots of Hot Harry watching the games? No more amazing athletes? No more avoiding news sites during the day to avoid getting spoiled?? Sigh)…. here are some of my favorite pictures from my short time in London. See you in Rio!

(Click on the first pic for the gallery to open)


I think by now, whether you know me in real life or through these posts, it’s pretty clear I’m not a hippy-dippy, crunchy-granola, nature-loving, crystal-wearing kind of girl. You’re more likely to find me being naughty behind a sports bar (true story, will tell you later) than you are to find me in deep yogic meditation. {Don’t get me wrong, I do my part for the Earth – I’m actually a nazi-recycler. I recycle EVERYTHING. I’ve actually pulled stuff out of the dumpster (it was empty except for the magazines that my dad mistakenly threw away instead of taking to the recycling center)!!¬† I take it all to a facility that recycles mixed paper, plastics 1-6, corrugated cardboard – a smorgasbord of blue bins to use. Of course, they don’t take styrofoam so that goes to a different place, so basically, all the time I spend driving around to various recycling centers is probably negating the good I’m doing by recycling, but whatever.}

ANYWAY… that long deviation was to get to the point of this story. I bought what I thought was a half-off voucher for an hour-long massage that turned out to be an hour-long reflexology session. Basically, the gist of reflexology is that there are pressure points in your feet and hands that connect to various organ systems of your body.¬† Now, for as much as I’m not all the things I listed above, I actually do believe our bodies are one large system instead of the ‘compartments’ that western medicine teaches us.

A few years ago, I went for a 1.5 hour massage, but the last 30 minutes was just reflexology. I told her I would prefer not to do it, but that wasn’t an option. She stated working on my feet (which I absolutely hate) and as she’s doing her thing, I can actually hear/feel these things she called “crunchies” and that was exactly what it was like – these weird crunchy things.

She finished up and said, “You have pretty bad stomach problems, you have had them for a while…” I was FLOORED. I have had IBS (I’m planning a post on chronic pain, so just wait for that fun one) for more almost 20 years now. And she could tell from MY FEET!!!!

So this past Sunday, when I go in for my reflexology, I didn’t tell her I’d done it before and we didn’t chat about health issues either. She did her thing and at the end of the hour, she shows me the pictures of the feet / body parts, and she says, “You have a lot of issues with your stomach.”


And the thing is, when both of them were working on my feet, even I could feel a difference in that area as opposed to the rest, where there were no issues.


If you get a chance, I recommend it… it’s really relaxing, but also just really neat. OBVIOUSLY IT DOES NOT REPLACE A REAL MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS (not that I think any of you are dumb enough to believe that), but it’s just an additional “weapon” in staying healthy and happy.¬† Actually, the girl from this past week said she worked on a woman and felt some weird stuff in the “breast” part of her feet (that was really weird to type) – the girl did find a lump in her breast and came back and told her.

Just awesome.

And it was staring me in the face the whole time!!! It’s walking distance to my house, $15 a month and did I mention only $150 to start up? No? Neither did they on their advertising. Goddamn gym math. I still joined because it made the most sense.

So, while I’m talking to the guy about joining, another member who was just chatting at the front desk starts to sell me on the place too. Honestly, I was already sold when I walked in – not because it’s so phenomenal, but because I am tired of having to listen to sales pitches. (This was how I bought my condo too – I got sick of looking after 2 months and just picked one (that I happened to like the most) and it worked out just fine!)

Anyway, this member was a bit older, in scrubs (Doctor maybe?!?!?! Who has younger friends for me?!!?!? Desperation has become my middle name) and he starts telling me how he used to be 450 lbs. I called bullshit, which he laughed and agreed to, AND THEN HE MADE ME FEEL HIS BICEP.

Because why not? That’s totally proper gym etiquette!

And because I sometimes do things without really thinking about it, I felt his bicep – admittedly, rock hard. Impressive. But why is this even happening? Because it’s me. That’s why.

So then, I’m signing up and the owner asks me what I do, and I told him I work in HIV prevention, and he asked about Truvada. OMG! A SMART GYM PERSON! MIND … BLOWN.

But the best part is … I worked on one of the studies that contributed data to the decision. Do you know how amazing that is for someone in public health?

Finding “new” approaches to diseases/programs/public health issues is HARD. People go a lifetime with never working on something that makes a difference… careers are made and broken on outcomes of clinical trials and studies. BUT ME! LITTLE ME! I got to be involved with something that was really fucking hard but ended up being amazing and may really help. (By the way — this is a complete oversimplification of the issues involved, but this is a blog about me and my experiences, not a medical discussion).¬† In any case, not only did I get to work on it, but I made some really good friends along the way (who are reading this now ūüôā ). I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of the work my colleagues and I have done then when this recommendation came out. WE MADE A DIFFERENCE.

And some random guy, at a gym, asked me about it and we ended up having a really good conversation about the drug, pros/cons, and just general public health issues.

This is totally the gym for me. ūüôā


Bicep-man sadly did not look like this



Finally back in ATL as of this morning. It’s always a rude awakening to come back here. The customs agents, airport staff and generally everyone at Atlanta Airport could use an attitude adjustment. I realize they’re probably tired of answering the same questions all the time, but you know what? It’s their job. Just f”ing do it and try not to be rude. It’s not like I’m thrilled about going through customs after a 20 hour flight, but I stay nice and keep smiling. [Update: If I’m going to bitch about the airport, I should also write something good too… On my way out of ATL, I realized I’d forgotten to mail some letters only after I’d already made it through security. The only post-office is before security, meaning I was going to have to exit out and re-do the whole thing. I was talking to one of the guards and he very nicely offered to take the mail for me on his way out after work. I wasn’t sure if I should leave it, one of the envelopes had a check in it and the other was my dad’s birthday card. But he seemed trust-worthy and I was being lazy (Surprise! me lazy!) so I said a very grateful thank you and left it with him. My dad let me a know a few days later he got his card, so he definitely kept his word. I didn’t want to JUST complain when there was someone who helped me out.)

Anyway, after my non-stop from South Africa, I took a banana off the flight, which was dumb. I just wasn’t thinking beyond the fact that I have no food in the house. So, when the agent asked if I had food, I honestly said, “yeah, but just the banana I got at breakfast on the plane.” I didn’t know that meant I had to go through the “goods to declare” line AND he didn’t bother to tell me.

So I head off in the “nothing to declare” line and of course I get the Indian guy. Who of course is condescending and dick. The first thing he does is make sure to pronounce my name just perfectly with a proper Indian accent. Yeah, we’re Indian. I get it. Then he asks: “So, what’d you buy?”¬† I told him the truth, which was just some jewelry. And he says, like he’s trying to trip me up, “So you have ivory?”¬† Um… no. What. The. Fuck. I know I gave him a look of¬† just complete annoyance.

Anyway, he sends me to the other line at this point. Ok, fine. So the guy there asks, “What food do you have?” and again, I say, it’s just the fruit they gave us on the plane. And he goes, “well, technically you’re breaking a quarantine law by having that.”

OK, here’s the problem. I didn’t get into it with him because I didn’t want to be hauled to jail, however, how does it make any logical sense that a banana and/or any other fruit (the people behind me had an apple) that was perfectly fine and edible in-flight magically becomes a lethal weapon once it’s on land? HOW? Again, I know he’s just doing his job but I wonder if they ever stop to think how stupid it is?? And I know there are probably sound agricultural reasons for this, but sometimes I also think that sweeping generalizations were made into laws so it’d be easier and nobody would have to use common sense. Ever.

I got to the next customs agent and we were just chatting and she told me that there is certain chocolate that’s not allowed in the States either. Kinder Eggs. I didn’t know this until this morning… she said it’s because they’re considered a choking hazard.

So, let me get this right. I can’t bring a banana off a plane because as soon as we got of said plane, it physically changed properties from a nutritious fruit to a possibly deadly carrier of disease and I can’t bring Kinder Eggs (which are freaking sold all over the place in duty-free) because the US government thinks I’m stupid enough to die from eating the non-candy part of candy….

Yeah… Welcome home.

I’ve drank¬†at the same bar at the hotel almost every night since I’ve been here. A little (ok, a lot of)¬†harmless flirting with the very young, but verrrrrry¬†cute, bartender makes it all worth while. Plus the free drinks he hands out every now and then. I’ve had more blow-job shots this week than I ever have before in my life… Although, I think that count was zero before this, so it wasn’t so hard to beat. But anyway,¬†I’ve also met some super cool people who I count as friends now.

I met a girl, A, who is half-Angolan, half-Namibian and we have had a lot of fun together. She’s engaged to be married, but honestly, I don’t think she ever will marry him – she said as much herself. She wants to be committed but not really with him – she wants her freedom. He’s going to be¬†heartbroken pretty soon, I think.

I also met a member of the Canadian Cricket Team. He’s cute, funny and surprisingly intuitive. The three of us were chatting tonight and he said the following about me: “CurryLove is really thoughtful – she doesn’t speak just to speak. Her words have meaning. She really means what she says too, she doesn’t just say things.”

I was super flattered but also really surprised. I’ve had other people tell me the same thing, especially at work.¬†One of my best compliments ever was from a colleague who said: “You know, you don’t really speak a¬†lot in meetings, but when you do, what you say is really important and worthwhile.” ¬†I try to measure my words and not be careless. I’m glad that comes across, even to strangers.

On a kind-of separate note, I’ve about had it with the stupid ‘new-colonial‘ attitudes that still exist in the work I do and it is driving me nuts. This whole ‘careful’ speaking may go out the window pretty soon. I went to dinner with some coworkers – all of who are really nice, that’s not the problem. I had to leave the table for a bit and when I came back, one of my coworkers was talking about how the Native Americans were so disenfranchised because for so long they were just the “other” category when data was being represented and how awful it was and OMG isn’t it sooooo sad for them.

It basically took all my willpower to not say anything, but what I really wanted to say was, ‘Bitch, do you know how long in my life I’ve been “other”????’¬† From grade school until high school, I was the “other” category.¬†There were three choices on standardized tests: White, Black, Other.¬†¬†

It never really bothered me that I wasn’t represented on the forms, it made sense. My constituency just didn’t have the presence to warrant being there. It changed as I got older but good god, I was never a lesser person because of it. It didn’t shape me or my thoughts and I certainly didn’t need anyone else to fight my fights for me.

I love traveling and I love being out here, but fuck if most everyone at work doesn’t annoy the crap out of me. I am sick of the attitudes that are condescending and falsely encouraging, all at once — a different coworker told me today that she wanted to help develop capacity, so I said that’s great! Maybe we can help write papers – she said, no, the staff isn’t that good.

Are you fucking kidding me? So you’re here to ‘save’ everyone but don’t think they’re smart enough to do it? Fuck off. Again, it took a lot of willpower for me to not just bitch her out in the meeting. I know I didn’t do a good job hiding my disdain, but I don’t give a shit.

What is wrong with people?? These people, always white, come here and think they’re going to save the poor Africans from themselves. How do they not see what they’re really doing? How are they so oblivious??


Sometimes, white people super annoy me. That’s an over-reaching, over-arching statement and I don’t *really* mean it, but holy fuck, what is their problem? (I sound racist, which is completely what this post is ranting about, but whatever. I don’t care. That’s why this is anonymous.)

I work in international public health, and I do love it. But the condescending, holier-than-thou attitude that comes along with it from certain people is more than I can take. It’s the idea that because THEY work in Africa, it means THEY care so much and THEY should be listened to because THEY are coming from a country that is smarter/better/richer which automatically means that THEY are smarter/better/richer. I am not even sure if they know how they come across… I don’t ask because I don’t think it’ll be a welcome question: “So, do you know you’re an asshole?”¬† Yeah. That’ll get me fired pretty quickly I think.

On this past trip to Africa, there was a presentation on how the study was ending and what the next steps are. Key words: STUDY ENDING.¬† In the middle of the presentation, we got a question from one of the whiteys in the audience who was SO smug and condescending: “Um… I’m concerned about the ethical considerations of the study, did anyone bring those up??”¬† No, bitch. It’s been 5 years and we all just did exactly what the hell we wanted… What’s an IRB? You mean we had to have this protocol reviewed? Multiple times? By the countries participating in the project? Who knew. (Sarcasm -in case it’s not clear. Everything had been vetted by many agencies prior to the study starting.)

ARGH. It’s that arrogant attitude that is annoying and ridiculous – that no one else, in the course of 5 years, stopped to think about ethics. Thank you, white lady, for being the first to mention it. And that was exactly how she presented it – as if she was such a genius and she, and only she, had considered any ethical ramifications of the study, and the rest of us didn’t care about the poor black people in Africa, not even the Africans in the room that had been involved from the start…

I’ve seen this attitude more often than not, and it’s racist and annoying and if I’m bothered by it, I can’t imagine what our in-country team-mates think.¬† In this situation, one of our colleagues mentioned she was so embarrassed for this person she wanted to crawl under the table. HA!

It’s the same with the missionaries I meet on the planes… which, there was a surplus of them on our last flight back. Ugh. Thank you, oh random white people (they are always white. ALWAYS.), for going to Africa to teach everyone that abstinence is the ONLY way, regardless of what realities they’re facing and pat yourself on the back on the way home for imparting your knowledge on the heathens in the 2 weeks you were there, because that’s all it takes to make a difference.

If I sound unbearably racist, I’m not. This post doesn’t help support that, but it’s true. What I can’t stand is condescending smugness wrapped in a public-health ethos of helping the world when it’s just plain old colonialism in a different format.

I’m in Africa for work… it’s not as hard as everyone thinks. Five star hotels, getting driven around, a daily per-diem that is completely unspendable, and drinks at the pool nightly. Yup, not hard.

I* love* it here. I love the heat, the crowds, the traffic, the bad driving, the near-death misses, the utter chaos all the time, the kids who yell “How are you??” and then giggle¬†cause that’s the only English they know… I love it all. I would move in heart-beat if I could. I should’ve moved years ago and I let that chance slip by, but I have been lucky enough to keep traveling here.

The work I’m doing is different this time – instead of sitting in the headquarters office, usually air-conditioned and with electricity, this time we’re traveling to the clinics. And that means seeing the poverty and the sadness up-close. We were at a clinic in Tanzania that hadn’t used their generators in a few weeks because they were running low on fuel. We showed up with our laptops to do some chart reviews and capture data, and they ran the generators for us… I felt like such an asshole. We told them not to, but they insisted because we were guests. Foreign guests from America, who deserved electricity more than the patients.

In both Kenya and Tanzania, we’ve met with the HIV+ staff… and it’s awesome how healthy they are, and happy. They have all said how much they’ve appreciated this project and how it’s given them confidence to be happy and disclose their status and how their CD4 counts are higher than they’ve ever been. I almost cried when they talked about how much this study has given them personally in terms of being healthier and having safer pregnancies and how they can live the life they want to live without fear. I can’t take any credit for that – I came into this project at the end, but it’s been¬†awesome to see how they thrive, and it’s been a great reminder of¬† exactly why public health is so important and why we do the work we do.




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