Adonis Diaries

Archive for May 30th, 2016


Stockpile near-death experiences and look anguished: a guide to expat etiquette

Are you a foreign aid worker who only talks to other aid workers?

Here’s how to survive – and maybe one day escape – the trap

There are two unmistakable signs that you live in an expat bubble.

First, the only time that you talk to non-expats is at work.

Second, you look around at any social gathering and realise that no one is actually from the country where said gathering is taking place.

As always, you have choices.

You can strike out on your own, boast of your friendships with local shopkeepers and street children, and tell everyone that you didn’t travel overseas to spend your time drinking with Americans and Europeans. This is an honourable path, but might leave you lonely.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“The expat bar is a place to get very, very drunk. It’s also a place for more anthropological pursuits, where – if the conditions are right – one can see almost every species of war-zone and disaster-porn expat gathered in one place, including:”

Alternatively, you can embrace the expat bubble. Like any social situation in which a group of random people is confined to a small space – like a high school, or prison – it promises immediate transitory friendships, drama and the opportunity to scorn new arrivals.

As ever, striking the right balance between these two extremes is up to you, but here a few tips to help you navigate the process.

How to talk to expats

Nod frequently. Look thoughtful. Especially when people are talking about a) horrific things, b) how terrible everything is, or c) how awful their boss is.

Refer to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, as just Addis. Johannesburg should always be Joburg. Say ciao, even if you’re not Italian.

Aid workers are notorious for speaking in acronyms and you might, after a time, feel the irresistible urge to make some up.

This is healthy. Just remember that most acronyms are three or four letters long. Try to use the most common vowels and consonants. If you can’t think of a decent one on your own, then just use airport codes – KHT, NBO and so on.

Acronyms describe things that invariably sound or work better on paper than in practice.

Hence, when using your new acronym – the NBO process – try to look thoughtful and frustrated and resigned, yet still willing to fight the good fight.

Also use the same expression when saying words like “governance”, “participatory” or “sustainable”. These words should be used as frequently as possible.

How to drink in expat bars

Most large cities will have an expat bar or three. It will be crowded – unless there’s been a recent bomb scare or police crackdown.

It will be loud and you will pay far too much for mediocre drinks.

The expat bar is a place to get very, very drunk. It’s also a place for more anthropological pursuits, where – if the conditions are right – one can see almost every species of war-zone and disaster-porn expat gathered in one place, including:

  • Twenty-something aid workers drinking loudly in large groups
  • Thirty-something aid workers – looking worse for wear – drinking in smaller groups
  • Journalists, huddled together
  • Private sector or government contractors in suits and semi-sensible shoes
  • Private military contractors in short-sleeve shirts and cargo pants – sometimes wearing sunglasses indoors
  • And, older white men of indeterminate background dancing with much, much younger local women.

Persuade others of your overseas credentials

Never brag openly about your experience. It’s uncouth.

Never start a conversation by saying how long you’ve been in the country. This not only makes you seem insecure, but also leaves you open to embarrassment if your interlocutor has, in fact, been there longer than you have.

Even if the person has actually been in the country longer than you have, all is not lost.

Ask where they were before, and then casually mention either that a) you were there, but at a worse time, or b) you spent the past few years in a country that was even more dangerous.

Stockpile near death experiences, especially those involving rickety airlines.

Instead of listing the number of countries where you’ve lived and worked, it’s far more effective – not to mention socially acceptable – to prove your credentials by casually describing the time you almost crashed on a runway in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in the mountains over Kabul.

Dress like a missionary

The problem with travel is that it alters our finely-tuned cultural compass.

Suddenly, it’s disrespectful to look older adults in the eye.

Suddenly, revealing your elbows is a sign of moral depravity.

Suddenly, it’s alright to say ciao, even if you aren’t Italian.

This is the general advice for navigating different – and at times interesting – cultural waters that won’t have you running to the safety of the expat bubble.

  • Treat anyone older than 50 with pronounced – if not semi-exaggerated – respect, until told otherwise.
  • Wear more conservative clothes than you would otherwise. Though one wants to be mistaken for a missionary, long-dress missionary-chic is sometimes preferable to being propositioned by every man on the street.

And never, ever make the a-ok sign – stick to a thumbs up.

This is an edited extract from the book Expat Etiquette – how to look good in bad places

Photo record of Native American life in the early 1900s

Born on a Wisconsin farm in 1868, Edward Sheriff Curtis grew up to become a commercial photographer in Seattle.

In 1895 he photographed Princess Angeline, the daughter of the Duwamish chief Seattle, for whom the city was named.

That encounter sparked Curtis’ lifelong fascination with the cultures and lives of Native American tribes. He soon joined expeditions to visit tribes in Alaska and Montana.

In 1906, Curtis was approached by wealthy financier J.P. Morgan, who was interested in funding a documentary project on the indigenous people of the continent. They conceived a 20-volume series, called The North American Indian.

With Morgan’s backing, Curtis spent more than 20 years crisscrossing North America, creating over 40,000 images of more than 80 different tribes.

He made thousands of wax cylinder recordings of native songs and language, and wrote down oral histories, legends and biographies.|By Alex Arbuckle (Click and check the photos)

In his efforts to capture and record what he saw as a vanishing way of life, Curtis sometimes meddled with the documentary authenticity of his images.

He posed his subjects in romanticized settings stripped of signs of Western civilization, more representative of an imagined pre-Columbian existence than the subjects’ actual lives in the present.

Noble savage” stereotypes aside, Curtis’ vast body of work is one of the most impressive historical records of Native American life at the beginning of the 20th century.

The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other…
Consequently the information that is to be gathered, for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time.
Edward S. Curtis

My best friend

One Step Ahead

1.   My friend, with all his disadvantages,

I quit counting the stars,

Yet, I can’t help feeling awestruck in his presence.

2.   My friend, with all his weaknesses,

A couple of them will make me crawl

In a corner and forgo motion,

Yet, he always finds time

To listen to me, to care for me.

3.   My friend, with all his awkwardness,

When I meet with him,

He is one step ahead of me,

Moulding His next Self.

My best friend, my soul.

Italian doctor may have found surprisingly simple cure for Multiple Sclerosis

A simple surgery for incurable Multiple Sclerosis?

Unblocking a blood flow in brain?

April 20, 2016

An Italian doctor has been getting dramatic results with a new type of treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, which affects up to 2.5 million people worldwide.

In an initial study, Dr. Paolo Zamboni took 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, performed a simple operation to unblock restricted bloodflow out of the brain – and two years after the surgery, 73% of the patients had no symptoms. Dr. Zamboni’s thinking could turn the current understanding of MS on its head, and offer many sufferers a complete cure.

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, has long been regarded as a life sentence of debilitating nerve degeneration. More common in females, the disease affects an estimated 2.5 million people around the world, causing physical and mental disabilities that can gradually destroy a patient’s quality of life.

It’s generally accepted that there’s no cure for MS, only treatments that mitigate the symptoms – but a new way of looking at the disease has opened the door to a simple treatment that is causing radical improvements in a small sample of sufferers.

Italian Dr. Paolo Zamboni has put forward the idea that many types of MS are actually caused by a blockage of the pathways that remove excess iron from the brain – and by simply clearing out a couple of major veins to reopen the blood flow, the root cause of the disease can be eliminated.

Dr. Zamboni’s revelations came as part of a very personal mission – to cure his wife as she began a downward spiral after diagnosis.

Reading everything he could on the subject, Dr. Zamboni found a number of century-old sources citing excess iron as a possible cause of MS.

It happened to dovetail with some research he had been doing previously on how a buildup of iron can damage blood vessels in the legs – could it be that a buildup of iron was somehow damaging blood vessels in the brain?

He immediately took to the ultrasound machine to see if the idea had any merit – and made a staggering discovery. More than 90% of people with MS have some sort of malformation or blockage in the veins that drain blood from the brain. Including, as it turned out, his wife.

He formed a hypothesis on how this could lead to MS: iron builds up in the brain, blocking and damaging these crucial blood vessels. As the vessels rupture, they allow both the iron itself, and immune cells from the bloodstream, to cross the blood-brain barrier into the cerebro-spinal fluid.

Once the immune cells have direct access to the immune system, they begin to attack the myelin sheathing of the cerebral nerves – Multiple Sclerosis develops.

He named the problem Chronic Cerebro-Spinal Venous Insufficiency, or CCSVI.

Zamboni immediately scheduled his wife for a simple operation to unblock the veins – a catheter was threaded up through blood vessels in the groin area, all the way up to the effected area, and then a small balloon was inflated to clear out the blockage.

It’s a standard and relatively risk-free operation – and the results were immediate. In the three years since the surgery, Dr. Zamboni’s wife has not had an attack.

Widening out his study, Dr. Zamboni then tried the same operation on a group of 65 MS-sufferers, identifying blood drainage blockages in the brain and unblocking them – and more than 73% of the patients are completely free of the symptoms of MS, two years after the operation.

In some cases, a balloon is not enough to fully open the vein channel, which collapses either as soon as the balloon is removed, or sometime later. In these cases, a metal stent can easily be used, which remains in place holding the vein open permanently.

Dr. Zamboni’s lucky find is yet to be accepted by the medical community, which is traditionally slow to accept revolutionary ideas. Still, most agree that while further study needs to be undertaken before this is looked upon as a cure for MS, the results thus far have been very positive.

Naturally, support groups for MS sufferers are buzzing with the news that a simple operation could free patients from what they have always been told would be a lifelong affliction, and further studies are being undertaken by researchers around the world hoping to confirm the link between CCSVI and MS, and open the door for the treatment to become available for sufferers worldwide.

It’s certainly a very exciting find for MS sufferers, as it represents a possible complete cure, as opposed to an ongoing treatment of symptoms. We wish Dr. Zamboni and the various teams looking further into this issue the best of luck.




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