Sunday, March 9, 2008

He's Such an Englishman Sofi's Daughter Called Him "Daddy" and He Blushed

Here at Cosmos Farm my bosses hold a Bible Study every Friday. I'm not always comfortable sitting in — most of the members are very conservative. And I haven't considered my own spirituality since I moved away for college; appreciating what some call Creation is hard enough when you're running on deadline after deadline, gulping coffee like a fish (or burning through half a pack a day, like some of my friends). But I keep joining in around the edges. It's the only time during the week the whole white community gets together here. They're a very diverse group: some are quiet seekers of God, some are friendly missionaries working in local schools, some are loud, fire-and-brimstone evangelists.

But one guy in particular stood out when I met him. Andy is from England, and like me, he's working on a thesis for school here. In his case he's working on his PhD. Also like me, he's been trying out and scrapping subjects for his academic Magnum Opus.

Right before I met him, I settled on a subject for my school project that turned out similar to his. That's right! I finally know for sure what I have to do to graduate this year. Here's a sketchy version of the proposal:

Topic: the Zulu perspective of the AIDS pandemic ravaging their community.

Framing Questions:

- Why, after almost twenty years of AIDS education, have the numbers of infected spiked in this area of KwaZulu-Natal?

- The Zulu community of KwaZulu-Natal has responded to the AIDS epidemic with a remarkably fatalistic attitude. Is the atmosphere a reflection of the Zulus' situation with the disease, or does it also reflect pre-existing values in their culture?

- What obstacles face the AIDS patients of KwaZulu-Natal? Can they be surmounted without outside help?

- Are NGOs really helping AIDS patients get treatment and manage the stigma of their disease?

Living in what's called the AIDS capitol of the world, I'm well-placed for the job.

The research has been going well so far, except that I've done a terrible job documenting it. I have an Academic Blog where I keep readers up to date with the gritty details of my research. I'm working a lot of catch-up right now to finish the couple of entries I missed. (But by the time you read this, they'll be up. I update my academic blog every Sunday, so keep checking back if that interests you.)

Basically, that's all I know about my own subject. I've got a few leads -- people to discuss my project with who might point me toward something interesting.

Andy is the first of those leads. For his doctorate, he's designing a new kind of education program. It's supposed to be more effective at deterring the spread of AIDS. The program is called "Crossroads," and I don't know much about it except that it sprung out of a research paper on the Christian Church's AIDS education. Like a true Greener, as soon as I heard the word "Church" I caught a whiff of a possible train wreck, especially since it's also supposed to "teach Zulus modern values and responsibility." But it should be interesting. And Andy is a quietly married Englishman. He seems too gentle to be wrapped up in weird, sexually frustrated Jesus Camp doctrine.

I'm working on getting to sit in on a Crossroads lesson, and I'll do a full write-up of it once I get myself in there. For three weeks now I've been reading about AIDS and the Zulus, and I've been working with AIDS patients. I've seen enough sick people for a crack team of medical anthropologists.

Crossroads is definitely my next step. Maybe it'll turn out to be exactly what this place needs. I can hope so, anyway.

1 comment:

Ricka said...

We can't see your academic log--it requires membership.