Wednesday, March 08, 2006

lawn + sun; baby-Spanish; headache; privacy; Africa

I am on campus, seated outside my postgrad building, on the lawn. It is sunny here; slight breeze; not unbearably cold; not cold at all. How great it is to be able to just sit outside and enjoy the sun for a change. You cannot begin to imagine how happy this makes me, doing something so simple as to sit on the grass in the sun. And ever since the anti-tobacco law has been passed in Spain, it is a pleasure to go to the cafeteria also and to not exit reeking of smoke. So, since 1 Jan I can enter the cafeteria and sit there leisurely eating a sandwich, and not be bothered with 2nd hand smoke.


The niece of my flatmate has just successfully immigrated to Spain, and is now staying in my flat, along with her too-cute little daughter. Thing is, I don´t know baby-Spanish (another linguistic hill to climb!) so it is quite something to hear and observe. Also, just having the liveliness of a three year old around is quite something fascinating too. This reminds me of Monday when leaving Maastricht. The flat that I was staying in is located close to a primary school, and my goodness: I´ve never seen kids so happy on a Monday morning on their way to school. The word "jovial" came to mind.

[Wow, some really big ants on this lawn...]

I awoke with a headache; fortuitously dropped in at a professor´s office, who was able to provide me with a "medicamento" in the form of ibuprofen. Bless his Spanish heart. But I still have the headache. Maybe this calls for some caffeine...

I am online. Obviously, since I am blogging. But can´t access my e-mail on this wifi connection (https seems restricted, bizarrely, always). For sure, there are mails waiting for my attention. Oh, but how lovely the sun in the meantime.

The Spanish legislation re data protection and privacy is quite restrictive. So, yesterday we looked at the special case of medical information, or health information, and how the law applies in this regard. A case was cited where a girl had been injured in an accident (let´s imagine a broken hip or so) and one of her friends writes to an e-mail list to mention this fact, and that said afflicted person cannot join everyone in a planned get-together. The parents of the girl then decide to make a case against the friend, claiming that their daughter´s right to privacy had been violated, and that information regarding her health had been divulged. (Strange, but unfortunately true, this case.) So, imagine that I am sitting in the cafeteria moments ago, and I consider taking a pic with my camera (which I just happened to bring along today). Then I stopped myself, and thought, "probably if I place this pic on my web site, someone could make a legal fuss.". Ridiculous thought no? Do we want to create this kind of society? Should I have asked everyone in the proposed pic (which I didn´t snap eventually) if they wanted to appear in my impromptu photo of the Luis Vives postgrad building cafeteria?


Yesterday a friend sent me a thing from the Granta publication re how to write about Africa. And I´ve been thinking a lot about this of late. Around the stereotypes we (wittingly or unwittingly) perpetuate. For instance, I notice here on the TV, in the media generally, the images of Africa, and what I always see is hunger, starvation, tremendous suffering. And I become frustrated at times, and want to scream: Come on, Africa is about more than that. But somehow saying the latter will make me seem cruel or be very un-PC, at least. I will seem to be unfeeling, no? I want to shout, hey, wait a minute: I´m a city kid; I´ve always known cars, buses, and trains; concrete highways; electricity; running water from the tap; have never been up close and personal with any of the "big five" (animals, understand); have been reading since age four; never been to war; had TV at age three; know big airports; know big cities. Instead the stereotype is the one as presented very articulately by Binyavanga Wainaina.

Yesterday even I was confronted with the above. The lecturer made mention of access to telecomms infrastructure in Africa, and one of my classmates looks my way. I half-smile, half-frown, and think "here we go again". Actually, this reminds me of a great little piece on this very theme by McKenzie Wark in the Rem Koolhaas book I mentioned some musings ago. He writes about how normal it is for southerners to be migrating north, and how unusual the reverse is, and the consequences of the latter. I almost cried when I read the piece. Yes. Indeed. Why? Because he articulated some things which I have thought for some time i.e. that I have been north (of the equator, understand) on various occassions, and so have impressions of life "on this side", but frequently have occassion to despair at the number of people I´ve run into who have very defined opinions about life south (of the equator) but have never bothered, and will never bother, to go there.
At such times, when meeting such opinionated folk, I frequently feel inclined to say: Know what, I´ve come over to your neighbourhood. How about you go to my neighbourhood and then, afterwards, come and tell me about life in the developing world. The even sadder thing is, is that even fellow "southerners" do this kind of labeling of one another.


Post a Comment

<< Home