Blech. Ok, it's not really fair to start the entry with that, as I've really had a pretty good day overall. But it's what's in my head right now. I've somehow managed to get back to some point similar to fall semester my freshman year, when I have what I consider "rolling panic attacks." In other words, no one big episodic thing, just a nearly constant feeling that I can't quite get my breath. All day. I can't decide if this is preferable to the big scary episodic stuff I was experiencing, with far scarier symptoms. I think it is...I guess I should appreciate the fact that the good days now outnumber the bad, thus making the bad seem a little worse...coupled with this crappy head cold that seems to have been knocking around my system for two weeks now. Anyway. I'm just whining. Really, truly, the day was fine. I got a lot of things accomplished and had a nice time at the chemistry party. But for the first time in a long time, being around friends didn't really make me feel better. I'm sort of glad to be left to my own devices now. Hot tea and honey and finishing Closer sounds pretty appealing.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Bored of the Rings - Harvard Lampoon
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
Zodiac - Neal Stephenson
Unexpected gifts from Dad. On the note, under Zodiac, he says, "Hope it doesn't sound TOO much like me." The back of Zodiac:
Two centuries after the Boston Tea Party, harbor dumping is still a favorite sport, only this time it's major corporations dumping toxic wastes. Environmentalist and professional pain in the ass Sangamon Taylor is a modern-day Paul Revere, spreading the word from a 40-horsepower Zodiac raft. And embarrassing corporations in highly telegenic ways has earned him a collection of enemies that would do any rabble-rouser proud. After his latest exploit, he's wanted by the FBI, possibly by the Mafia, and definitely by a group of Satanist angel-dust heads who think he's looking for a PCP factory instead of PCB contamination. Pretty soon dodging bullets is the least of Taylor's problems - because somewhere out there is an unhinged genetic engineer and a lab-concocted bacterium that could destroy all ocean life...and that's just for appetizers.
I think I just got a weird glimpse into Dad's head.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Monday, August 15, 2005
The Conference - Doctors for Global Health
I first found out about this group from one of my profs, and ten minutes into their annual meeting last year I thought to myself, My people! It was amazing to be in a room full of such idealistic, dedicated people. The conference is always about equal parts inspiration and feelings of unworthiness, but I think this time around the inspiration outweighed the guilt.
This marked the tenth anniversary of DGH, so the meeting opened with a retrospective of how it all began - with Lannie Smith helping to build the Jaime Solorzano Bridge in Morazan, El Salvador, so that people would not have to swim across a river to go to school or the local clinic or simply cross to the other side of town (the bridge is named afte a medical student who drowned crossing the river).
There was recognition of the 60th anniversary of the US dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (140,000 individuals died within the first 6 months, 160,000 additional deaths over time as a result of fallout; many third generation civilians are still suffering adverse health affects linked to the bombs).
Charlie Clements was our first keynote speaker, who offered up this quote from the Talmud:
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Walk humbly now. Do justly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
He talked of his work in El Salvador, of how people would simply disappear off the streets after attending union meetings or discussions about social justice.
He was a member of the air force and flew combat missions during the Vietnam war, but when he refused to participate in the invasion of Cambodia he was declared 10% mentally disabled, which he says used to bother him until he realized that also meant he was 90% intact!
One of the conference attendees from Uganda offered this sobering statistic - in Uganda there are approximately 25,000 individuals for every one doctor.
Our second keynote speaker was Kathy Kelly, an old school hippie/activist. She's pretty extreme, but also a damn entertaining speaker. She told stories about various times spent in prison and getting shunted around Iraq and Jordan by the Iraqi government and being able to bring small medical supplies (bandages, disinfectant, etc.) across the border prior to and during the first Gulf War, but being prevented by UN sanctions to bring powdered milk.
She said that when trucks full of supplies for US soldiers broke down, as they often did on hot desert roads, the soldiers guarding the trucks were ordered to abandon them, but first to burn the contents. Burn the contents! How can we be so wasteful? (and we're not talking military supplies, like ammunition here. they were burning food and shelter items)
She says that roughly 60% of the water in rural areas and 20% of the water in urban areas in Iraq today is contaminated.
She spoke of politicized compassion, which I think is a good focusing phrase. She advised us to find non-violent ways of action that are more commensurate to the crimes that are being committed. The 'bitter pill' as she put it was to ask two questions - What does this government want from us? (money) What can we control? (our own personal budget)
The last day of the conference I scribbled this in my notebook:
If you ever wonder what happened to the hippies, they're here. The best thing about this conference is the middle-aged and older members. These grandparent-looking, sweet, grey-haired individuals, with stories about time in jail, time in developing countries, digging latrines, dealing with military outfits. And I'm the one who's afraid. Sixty-year-old, smallish women spend months working in El Salvador and I think I can't. I need to get over that.
Which was, to some extent, the beginning of the conversation with Carrie. I just came away from last weekend thinking it's time to get out of here, to spend some real time somewhere else, to actually do more. I agree with Carrie that it's a dangerous slope from being willing to take risks for the things you believe in and being all about the risks you've taken rather than the work you've done. But I'm so afraid of resting on my laurels. I'm so afraid of being self-congratultory because sometimes I call my representatives in congress and knock on a few doors and write a few checks. I'm so afraid that my ideals, since they've never really been tested, won't stand up to testing. It's far too easy to sit in my white, upper-middle class, highly educated world and say things about social justice and right and wrong and the way things should be. I like to think that if it came down to it, I believe in the things I believe in enough that I would make sacrifices for them. If potential jail time is the consequence of conscientious objection, I should be realistic about that possibility. Sid talks about sometimes feeling that it's his duty to serve in the military. I wonder if I believe in anything enough to risk my life for it? I hope that I do...But I just don't know.
I don't want to make sacrifices for the sake of sacrificing something. I would love it if I could work for social justice all my life and never really risk much...but I would hate it if I avoided doing something that was well within my capabilities simply because I was afraid.
Luke 12:48: "To those to whom much is given, much is required."