All posts by K.B.

Development practitioner working out of Australia - creating growth in current projects and assisting with creativity in field work. I am a student of both language and culture, in the hopes of providing future development solutions while laughing about the many things I must learn. I don't take life or myself too seriously.

If you’re about to jump off that cliff, what happens when you look down?

What I write today is what what I’m not supposed to say.

A landmark Supreme court case recently ruled about one of the most controversial things in the developed world even today.  Next to Euthanasia, it is still potentially the most highly-charged subject (excluding gun control, of course).

Abortion.

It divides dinner parties, it separates women and highly-held opinions about mothering, child-bearing or the right to lack thereof and polarizes those with genderized images of femme fatales, love/marriage and having children.

Beatrix Kiddo goes on a "rampage of revenge" when her so-called friends are responsible for attempting to kill her and the child she carried.
Beatrix Kiddo goes on a “rampage of revenge” when her so-called friends are responsible for attempting to kill her and the child she carried.

In popular culture, certain 90s films dictated possible dealings with the choice of having a child as a teenager (i.e. Singles) but generally we tiptoe around the subject in Hollywood.  Other liberal countries like France don’t often give it a second thought, but conservative ones like Ireland advocate the right to life over right to women’s choice. Yes, even in 2014.  While it isn’t a subject two sides usually can persuade in a political forum (Ask any republican/democrat debate on the subject… ) what is often forgotten is that the individual choice is the one that matters.

Now while this decision did not change U.S. laws on the subject it did make a case that a Massachussetts law preventing anyone from standing within a 35-foot buffer zone of an abortion clinic was ruled unconstitutional.  The case decision recognizes people as agents of change.  Autonomy.  What does a woman feel before she makes that all-important choice?  No one pretends that it isn’t a bit like taking a dive into deep waters, but we try to ignore it if we can.

Autonomy in these kinds of decisions is remembered but not often discussed at least not in the circles I run.  The only honest discussion I ever had was with a roommate when we lived with another college acquaintance.  When the subject came up, we both still kept hushed voices even though it was 7:00 am and there was no one around.

“I know this is a sensitive topic but I don’t think it is easy for anyone to decide.  Well [Emily]…”

“Yes, what about her…?”

“Were you aware she had an abortion?”

“No, of course not. We aren’t very close.”

“Yes well right before Emily and [Trent] broke up they had to go through all of that.  She’s never been the same.”

“That must be rough.”

“Well she says now that it needed to be done at the time but she dreams about it almost every night and has for the last 2 years.  She talks about her nightmares and sometimes I can hear her sort of crying.”

Now I know that this isn’t what women’s rights activists want to hear.  They’ll say it was her right to choose what the best thing was for her body and she made the decision to protect her right to freedom.

What is forgotten in this conversation is that the choice itself is not just a difficult one at the time.  In fact, like many difficult decisions, they often come back to visit us years later. Whether Emily’s choice is ultimately one she will respect as her college self versus the adult self she is today, I will probably never know.  I don’t know where she is but I presume there are many ‘Emily’s out there.

Why do I think so?  Another conversation I had with a friend , [Jane] who confessed she’d been lost for almost 12 months because of the same decision she made.  Then she spontaneously burst into tears over a secret heartache no one knew about.  Only this woman was closer to 30.  It seems the choice doesn’t get easier no matter the age.

So when I read this article today about “The Last Person You See Before Getting an Abortion,” it allowed me to ponder the ramifications of such decisions.  The Supreme court (SC) ruled unanimously that there should not be a buffer zone around Planned Parenhood and other such clinics to detract those who seek to make a statement.

It was an unusual decision in a place like the U.S. which has never been conservative on this issue since Roe vs. Wade.  The SC ruling, however, was based on a protection of free speech. The clincher in this Atlantic article was not the dialogue around the first amendment, it was the conclusions about altercations which occurred (or didn’t) between women going into clinics and those standing outside.  An SC Justice, Roberts stated that Boston police were not able to show evidence for more than barely 5 arrests although they attempted to discuss police clashes:

Roberts wrote, it’s not clear that these kinds of clashes are actually happening…Indeed the facts of the case suggest that something more interesting than scream-filled protests was happening at these clinics:  People have been trying to persuade others to change their minds about having an abortion — Even though these direct, personal interactions may make some women uncomfortable, Scalia wrote, that’s what the First Amendment is all about: allowing people to speak their mind and try to persuade others to see things the same way.  This is especially true in politically charged public spaces like the streets outside abortion clinics…

So, Roberts and Scalia made the case that when people speak to others in a polite, non-threatening way, some people were actually persuaded not to have abortions.  That certainly is news.  The fact that the decision was ruled unanimously also tells us something about how convincing the argument was.

The reason this made me think of Emily, Jane, and countless other women who may have had to face this kind of decision is simple. It is that it underlines a fact we ignore.  That the choice is an emotionally-charged one and recognizing that may be something.

In a continent like Africa, where 6.4 million abortion occurred in 2008, only 3% were performed under safe conditions.  By unsafe, WHO defines this as performing a procedure by a person with the lack of mandated skills or qualifications or an environment where the minimum standards of hygiene and/or medical skills are kept.  Mozambique, as an example of one of 18 African countries where abortions are legal if the woman’s physical health is at stake.  Abortion is not permitted under any circumstance in 14 additional African countries.  As it stands, this isn’t stopping women from choosing to do so.  The average is 29 abortions per 1,000 women. As stated earlier, most of these are not remotely safe.  So living on a continent with limited access to such procedures and opportunities, I realized all over again what a gift it is for people to choose.

To choose to say yes.  To choose to say no.  To change one’s mind.  To listen.  To make a decision knowing she will stay healthy (and wake up) after going under the knife.  Or stay healthy whether she says yes. Or no.

The Bride makes her final stand against one-time close friend, O'ren Ishii in Wintery Japan.
The Bride makes her final stand against one-time close friend, O’ren Ishii in Wintery Japan.

Or to decide like The Bride that slicing and dicing your old bosom buddies and team players is necessary for anyone who tries to take that decision away from her.   Kiddo may have a point. Just saying.

 

References

Green, Emma. “The Last Person You See Before Getting An Abortion,” The Atlantic Monthly.  26/6/2014. Accessed 26, June 2014.  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/the-last-person-you-see-before-getting-an-abortion/373526

“In Brief: Facts on Abortion in Africa,” Guttmacher Institute.  Accessed 27, June 2014.  http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/IB_AWW-Africa.pdf

 

Why do we call it the world’s sport? Why do we call it the ‘beautiful sport’..?

Football, or soccer as we call it in the U.S., is on the world stage right now.  Mozambique is not exactly the # 1 spot to watch this great sport.  While I am surrounded by football players in the villages, the average crowd where I live is peopled with South African expatriates who love..Rugby.  That’s right.

Today I make the case for Football.  Well, how can you not love a game that prizes itself on fancy footwork that is about strength, perserverance –Sorry, D.  Hurling and Rugby are not the only sports that use those two.  Although I’m sure. (I know.) the Irish are tough– strategy, and teamwork.  Some footballers might have a great attacker in the likes of Robben, Rooney, Ronaldo… but you can’t win football properly at the professional level without your goal-keeper, mid fielder, and defensive team.  One of the reasons I still enjoy watching football, especially under the international pressure at the World Cup (WC) level is that it has to be won by the complete team.

Okay.  Maybe tennis is not always the most graceful sport.
Okay. Maybe tennis is not always the most graceful sport.

Other sports I respect like diving, martial arts, gymnastics and tennis all have strong or fast players but they also have balance and agility.  This is not to be undervalued.This Nike commercial says it nicely about football.  The art of the video is in showing off all that nice jumping around, headers, and the all-important …

Balance. 

They also have a few clever quips that remind me of 1990s action flicks with Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves, where exciting moments are cut with one-liners on the side.  There’s a second where a free kick is being shot and the guys famously line up to hopefully stop it from going in, and one abruptly stops it with his forehead.  The player who is supposed to be on the field – it flashes to him calmly perched in the stands as if watching himself in the stadium – while he states that it looks like it hurt.

“Nice header, though.”

I will admit that I love the Dutch Oranje.  My ancestors on the mother’s side introduced my family to the WORLD’S SPORT.  When Robin Van Persie and Arjan Robben decided to make Netherlands the destroyer of Spain on their W.C. opener (some would say as retribution for four years ago) in the first World Cup game it was so exciting.  It brought me back to the great stand-off between Brazil and Netherlands making the ORANJE a leading contender and pushing for the cup with a 2-1 lead in the 2010 World Cup (See below.)

Now that Brazil and Netherlands are both leaders in Group A and Group B after their recent wins against Chile and Cameroon, they are gearing up for another stand-off probably very soon…Although should I mention that the Oranje Team have the most points in the WC standings? Oh yes. I think I should.  Tune in next time.

P.S. This sport is beautiful.

I Would if I Could, But I Can’t so I Won’t

Loss.  It is an un unusual, yet mostly terrifying event.  The first thing that comes to mind when I imagine loss is the fear that comes from the absence of the missing element.  The reason I say unusual is this.  Loss has the uncanny ability to propagate feelings of absence and yet, presence of the missing.

Today’s subject is the losing end of coming to Mozambique.  Most days I relish the challenge of coming here, and in fact I have begun to make a sparse group of friends I look forward to getting to know more.  In my humble opinion, friendships are the best part of a new place.  Mine are few and far between but they make living in a foreign place much lovelier.

The challenges are many: negative attitudes, language barriers, cultural boundaries, leering & twisted grins, and miscommunication.  These challenges do not often paralyze my sense of adventure in and of themselves.  What they do strike in me is a sense of loss.

Confidence.

When I first arrived, I had little.  I’ve never been one of fear. I have a spirit of hope in me and this is never forgotten when I take on the new because hope is un-ending joy.  As a Christian, the spirit of hope is an important element of my life and I needed it a lot when I came to Nacala.  So I was not afraid.

I was however, not without a nervous, creeping sense of my weirdness in a place of abject poverty, Portuguese and Makhuwa lenses of culture, and an unstable political climate.

There is confidence and then there is arrogance...
There is confidence and then there is arrogance…

So instead of spreading my ‘wings,’ I walked around as if they were clipped without knowing my own freedom and that has cost me time.  While some may think that being the eagle, and not the kitten would be ideal.  Look at this picture again.  The cat is clever, but the bird is powerful.  I’d rather be clever and make mistakes – only to pick myself up and be smarter.  Maybe even wise someday.  Hopefully confidence does not mean arrogance as in here.  In the meantime, clipped wings or sly felines equal some major advantages.

  1. Never mistaken my understanding of people for ‘knowing’ everything. I’m still learning.
  2. I appreciate a good cup of coffee.  Did I mention this yet?  I REALLY appreciate a delightful cup of coffee – and I especially miss Parisian cafes, so when I travel in an airport I get very excited just to see a cappuccino in a clinical-style café. Giddy.
  3. Never take the beauty of Africa for granted.
  4. I listen more.
  5. I stay quiet more.
  6. I confide in my best friend more than ever.

My loss of confidence has in fact, not been a loss at all.  It means I am ‘growing up’ in an adult sense.  I like it.

For the spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self discipline. – 2 Timothy