Sunday, June 26, 2011

Food for thought.

The first day where I thought, “What a healthful and filling day of food!” I’ll copy the description I gave to Lauren, because I’m just that lazy:

Salad for lunch with all manner of toppings, including carrots, cucumber, cabbage, and even some balsamic and olive oil. Side of fried plantains. Wow! The vegetables were washed with well water, which should be sufficiently clean. Here's to hoping. Dinner was likewise wonderful: groundnut soup with rice and beef. This meal was generously prepared by Nuzrath, one of the interns. Evidently it's quite popular in Ghana, where she's from.

The evening was occupied with reading A Mercy, by Toni Morrison. I devoured its pages over a mere two days. I wouldn’t describe the story as “gripping,” yet I was powerless to do anything but read on. I believe it was her lyrical, poetic prose. She has such a captivating style of writing. No word is unnecessary. Her conciseness frames an articulate perspective of human nature and relationships. A moving portrayal of slavery in colonial America, one that moves beyond the hardships faced by Africans typically covered by other authors and wades into the murky terrain of the ties formed among slaves and masters, men and women, mothers and daughters.


There are certain fundamental issues facing the Anam City project. Foremost on my mind: greenfield development. The indigenous people face many problems and lately I’ve wondered at the decision to make something new rather than fix what is existing. It is certainly easier – in some regards – to start fresh than tackle societal problems developed over many decades. Still, a sight from our field trip on Saturday sticks in my mind.

On our walk to a neighboring village, we came across an abandoned hospital that appeared to constructed within the last decade. Given the lack of adequate healthcare in the Anam state, the sight of the well-constructed hospital came as a jolting surprise. It was technically open, in that the doctors who ostensibly worked there were being paid, but the entire facility was overgrown with weeds. Not a soul was to be found. Mold was growing in IV bags. The facility was (relatively) well stocked, save for the lack of people. Hospitals are decidedly creepy when vacated of human life. Convalescent wards became an eerie sight with its empty beds shrouded in plastic bags.

Taken out of context, I was struck by its suitability as a cinematic depiction of the beginning of the zombie outbreak. Taken it context, it was a depressing reminder that good intentions and money are not enough to solve the complex problems in Africa. The full story behind its abandonment is not understood, but the impression is that a lack of advertising and poor management was at the root.

Is that what we are creating? A shiny new city that will become a ghost town? Countless stories told in the overgrown sections of road and dilapidated houses…

I don't believe so. Regardless, the hospital gave us all pause for thought. Food for thought.

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