The three 2014–2015 Fulbrighters left in Cote d'Ivoire (one student – me – and two public policy fellows – Erica and Laura) threw a pretty great 4th of July Party for all our non-American friends, complete with a poolside BBQ, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, chips and guacamole, brownies, Coronas, and classic rock music. A bit expensive, considering all our food had to be purchased from the expensive supermarket because it was imported, but totally worth it.
I love living outside the U.S., but there are some traditions I miss. Next year, I'll see what I can do about the softball tournament and fireworks.
Seriously, what a great party.
Today is a post on something I learned the hard way: bill paying.
We received our electricity bill about a month before it was due, but I didn't get around to paying it until the due date. I walked into the office nearest my house around 10 a.m., fully expecting to wait in a short line to pay in cash (as I don't have a local bank account and this is essentially a cash society). I took my ticket and was number 584 in line. The number being called upon my arrival was 107.
I sat for three hours, went out to run an errand and grab some lunch (around number 250), and returned to sit for 2 more hours before the office closed. Good thing I brought a book. And my electricity bill was now overdue.
That night at home, I read the fine print on my bill and the website and realized that I could pay it through Orange Money, a mobile money system (similar to M-Pesa in East Africa) where you deposit money into your mobile phone account essentially and can then pay bills, pay individuals, or purchase mobile credit.
The account is free, and for Westerners, the payment fees (100-200 FCFA/0.20-0.40 USD) are negligible. And I would have saved hours and lots of confusion. Do it.
Reconfiguring my master to-do list today. I'm feeling behind and not fully in grasp of the mountain of things I have to do in the next nine months. But I certainly don't want to look back in July and freak, so ...
Musical accompaniment by Doc Martin and Mark Farina, courtesy of Live@Focus, and by a friend of a friend, LephonQ.
Went to the U.S. embassy yesterday to meet some people, for my security briefing, and to get the badge that allows me to check for mail, use the gym, and hang out at general events. I'm officially a Fulbrighter now.
There was nothing too remarkable about it, just the usual multiple layers of security plus vast bureaucracy and promotion of certain forms of power. While the machinery and larger global politics is certainly ripe for criticism (and which has been done so many times before), everyone I met there, both the Americans and the Ivorian national staff, were all helpful and welcoming. My fellowship is paid for by the U.S. government for international cultural exchange, and I am quite aware of the privileges that I personally have and that I also am able to exercise because of my citizenship.
But again, though my research focus is not health care, it's that topic that seems to attract my attention. I was given a health packet from the embassy clinic, mostly so I could know the recommended local doctors and hospitals (and the French versions of medications was a bonus). Much of the packet is devoted toward preventative medicine, and the HIV & Sexually Transmitted Diseases section is a disaster – I don't know if it was developed locally or copied from similar packets in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, but the language is so problematic when talking about local populations.
"Cote d'Ivoire, like the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, is a hotbed of HIV infections; 3.9% adult HIV prevalence." Hotbed? While this rate is higher than the U.S., it's not anywhere close to the prevalence in a number of other countries in southern Africa. The date for this statistic is 2008, and the current UNAIDS estimate is lower, at 2.7%, both of which are down even further from 7% in 2003 and 13% prior to the first war. And the "hotbed" language simply serves to reinforce the "othering" of Africa as a diseased place.
"The HIV prevalence among local prostitutes, and presumably amongst promiscuous natives [emphasis mine] who frequent late-night clubs, is 50%. That means there is a 1 out of 2 chance that the person you 'pick-up' in a bar is infected with HIV!" Wut? Let's allow that the 50% figure is accurate for prostitution (I couldn't find a recent source but note previous stats), how on earth can it be extrapolated to "promiscuous natives"? So much sex-shaming and racial/national segregation and repeated othering language used in a public health message. And the cute little exclamation point at the end, that you really only have yourself to blame.
I would encourage a great deal more sensitivity and less fear-mongering toward the local populations. Give the stats, give the health precautions (as done for malaria and diarrhea), but keep the ugly, moralizing, whiff-of-superiority tone out of it.
As part of a UCI workshop for women in academia, couple of women in my program and I developed a guide to survive graduate school (mostly in political/social science), though it is fairly general. This will likely become part of an APSA Women's Caucus resource, but feel free to use for your own resources (with a link or credit).
When entering graduate school, women can face a number of challenges that might not be apparent to men. Many of the suggestions below can benefit grad students in general, both men and women, but they are particularly relevant for people in any number of underrepresented categories – women, LGBTQ, students of color, etc. The key is to recognize the strengths that you bring to your study, even if they are not traditionally valued by your discipline, and seek out avenues of support.
Seek out a mentor
Sexual harassment still happens
Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower
UCI’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity
UCI’s Childbirth Accommodation and Child Care Reimbursement
UC Student Association’s annual Students of Color Conference (SOCC)
UC Office of the President diversity policies and goals
Travel and research notes
Fieldwork and travel in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, and wherever else I end up. Plus occasional research-related thoughts. And now ... Teaching!