Fruit wallah

Hot day, heaven on wheels


Either I’ve built up some immunity or I’ve just been lucky. But I now eat roadside stall fruit with impunity. This guy was pretty clean about it all, as you can see below.

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A plea from the uninsured…

Today, in Washington, D.C., on the floor of the chamber of the U.S. House, your elected officials will tilt on the topic of health care. This is being billed as a marquee showdown, an epic vote.

I’ve read through parts and summaries of reports from the Congressional Budget Office and followed the big news outlets now and then, but I can’t claim to have been very diligent. I also will note that this blog is mostly a-political. After the better part of four years as a political reporter, I find politics vital but bluster and bombast all the same.

But I will offer a personal plea now for calm, cool reason. And for compassion. And for common sense, which tells us the system is broken for more than 30 million Americans, myself included.

I will try to be brief:

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Fresh, fresh, fresh, fresh…

You are what you eat?

In India, I frequently have access to more varied and fresh fruits, because the distribution system is often door-to-door or block-by-block via fruit wallahs.

Here is some nice papaya that we had for breakfast a few weeks back. My (sadly, now ex-) roommate Rachel liked a lot of fresh fruit. I joined the fray now and then with pineapple, lemons, oranges, bananas and (while I’m diving here in Pondicherry) Granny Smith apples.

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A year-in-review

2009 kinda kicked ass

2009 kinda kicked ass

This past year pretty much rocked. And the New Year came in fine manner.  No kisses, but a bonfire amid the palm trees (above), new friends, lobster, a decent cigar (thanks, C!), champagne and even the Harry Connick, Jr., band playing Auld Lang Syne at midnight (never leave home without the iPod).

I meant to post this sooner, but here’s a little look back at my new life (as chronicled on this blog):

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Published: Kenyan males line up for circumcision

circumcise

This story, datelined Katito, Kenya, was published this week by GlobalPost.com.

The story contains photos, text and video, as part of a larger series on the issue of male circumcision as an HIV prevention tactic in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bits and pieces of the project, reported in early fall during my stay in Kisumu, have appeared on the blog. Now it’s all available in one place.

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Today, I am thankful… to be uninsured in a country where health care isn’t a cluster

For the last two-and-a-half days, I’ve been running a fever of between 100.3 and 103.1 degrees Fahrenheit. This has been accompanied by dizziness, headache, sensitivity to light, pain behind my eyes and graphic gastrointestinal problems.

Today, I decided enough was enough (and complied with the wishes of people back home) and began to hunt for a doctor. A friend, Poh Si, recommended a GP, Dr. Gita Prakash.

Around 5 p.m., I called “Dr. Gita,” as she is known, on her cell phone, she picked up, and she told me to come by at 6:30 p.m.

Think about that statement for just a second.

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Uninsured and in pain. Could be worse. At least, I’m in India.

I’ve been walking anywhere from two to 10 kilometers per day. It’s exercise, I see and learn the city better, and it beats the hell out of dealing with and paying for autorickshaw rides everywhere.

But in the last two days, my right foot — though it shows no external symptoms and I recall no major trauma — has felt like it’s on the verge of exploding with each step.

(Think jagged metal Krusty-O magically implanted between my fourth or fifth metatarsal. Sharp, stabbing pain when putting weight on the ball of my foot. Sometimes, the pain shoots up my leg.)

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Things Africa taught me

I’ve now arrived in India and am getting settled and spending a little time with family in Pune. I’ve also been coming up with a list of lessons learned from seven weeks in Africa. In no particular order, here goes:

  • French, that language I really thought was useless, is so not useless. Especially if you’re in Madagascar in non-tourist towns, trying to report and the only people you meet competent enough in English to be a translator are either employees of the company you’re writing about or  activists in the community.
  • mudReef flip flops are awesome. Seriously. Reef. Write it down. Best sandal I’ve ever worn. Damn near the best thing I’ve ever put on my foot. For example, when I accidentally stepped into two and a half feet of quick mud and lost a flip flop (again, thanks Sara from London, for a great laugh), I immediately paid the local who pulled me out another 500 shillings (a little more than $7, probably his weekly wage) to get back in the mud and retrieve my flip flop. (Dear Reef, I’m hoping for an endorsement deal. “Backpack journalist in Third World swears by Reef sandals.” Sounds good, no?)
  • I like parentheses.
  • Eat bananas. Leg cramps suck.
  • Save some bananas for the lemurs.

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Potraits from Kibera

Somali mom

Somali mom

Dry cleaner

Dry cleaner

Disabled grandfather

Disabled grandfather

Shy grandkids

Shy grandkids

Charcoal brick maker

Charcoal brick maker

I spent several days on trips to Kibera, a sprawling slum of Nairobi. People there aren’t always eager to have their pictures taken, but these portrait subjects all agreed. I met them in the company of NGO workers who advocate for clean water.

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Forgive me, this photo is disgusting

Nothing a good teeth brushing couldn't fix

Nothing a good teeth brushing couldn't fix

Cringe. I do when I see this photo, and I was there. Hell, it’s my own mouth.

This is the aftermath of paan, a wonderful Indian treat. It consists of areca nut, tobacco and sometimes spices or paste wrapped up in a betel leaf. The resulting little triangle of goodness goes into your mouth where you chew it, suck on it, tuck it into your cheek and slowly spit it out.

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