Published: June 6th 2012June 6th 2012
The bird count for today is still pending due to collegial disputes about raptors and sunbirds. I am in my nerd element here as one colleague checks to see whether hummingbird leks differ from insect leks, another asks a biomedical ethics question, and another wonders whether the two words "mosaic" come from a common root.
Today's lecture was on sociocultural factors in the spread of HIV in Botswana. I was familiar with most of the content, but it's wonderful to have my impressions confirmed by local experts. The speaker also raised issues about how HIV affects development in Botswana, which is important to consider as well.
In the afternoon, we first ate a traditional Setswana lunch. I had seswaa, which is pounded meat (I presume beef) with sorghum and greens (vegetable tops?) cooked with tomatoes and onions. I tried someone else's vegetable, which was spicier and had peanuts, and another colleague's impala stew, which was quite tasty. I also tried somebody's bream, which tasted like mud.
We then visited Bokamoso private hospital. This, or somewhere like it, is where you'd go if you had private insurance and not just the government's plan. It's undergoing management changes and renovations,
and was roomy but not highly utilized. We received a fairly lengthy tour, including behind the scenes at the pharmacy and the room reserved for dignitaries.
Note to my students and alums: My group is following the expected pattern and is moving from storming to norming.
Cultural observations: Without fail, my gender is correctly understood by every cultural group I’ve encountered except the British and their former colonies. Whether in London, on a British ship, or in a former colony where British still reside, some British man will refer to me as “sir.” This happened on the South African Airways plane, and apparently is based on an assessment of gender based only on the length of my hair or lack of makeup. This is a different phenomenon from the masculinizing that occurs based on my unfamiliar name (such as at the hotel, where I was Mr. Soshana on the reservation). I find it both interesting and peculiar.
Depending on where I am in the world, I am often misperceived as ethnically something other than US. I am spoken to in Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic when I’m alone and not wearing clearly American clothing. I
had a new experience in the South African airport, where I was asked in the International Transfer hall whether I was looking for the flight to Mumbai.
Gear notes: I’m very disappointed in, and inconvenienced by, the immediate failure of the inflatable footrest. I had blown it up and tried it beforehand, but as soon as the plane took off, it began to leak (at a seam, I think). This left me without a footrest on a 14.5 hour flight. None of the inflatable products I’ve bought at REI (Thermarest seat cushion and lumbar support) has ever leaked.
The computer gave me a scare with a label that ready “plugged in but not charging.” I spent about half an hour trying different adapters and outlets before I had to go to sleep. It was chilling to think the computer might not function when I’ve got work to do and want to stay in touch. I don’t have to have a computer, but I built it into this trip, and I got this computer specifically for note taking and work during the trip. When I got up, I found some references on Google to newer lithium batteries not charging all the way in order not to overcharge, though I haven’t seen this label before. Other sources say that the battery balance may be off and give steps to reset it. Interestingly, the questions are about ASUS, just as in the past the fan questions were about my 7” ASUS. I will need to explore more, but hope it’s nothing out of the ordinary and that it’s happening because I’m on the higher 230-240 current. (My computer doesn’t need a voltage converter, but my cord is clearly rated only to 125, so I’m using a converter for the sake of the cord.)