Saturday, November 25, 2006

Another weekend in KL.

I am house sitting for Lu this weekend, which is more of a favour to me than her, given that I am living in an apartment so empty it doesn't even have a fridge. It has been a tough week having to eat out every meal and working late because I don't have much to come home to.
So this weekend I am relishing in all the great things about having a fully-stocked house to yourself. Doing some cooking, watching TV, listening to music and practicing cartwheels and handstands in the living room. (What, you don't do that?)
I am trying to take it easy because work is crazy with the meeting in Jakarta being up-scaled to include more people and my report from the FIGO conference due the following week.
That being said, I feel like should really be doing some transcribing for that now, since I don't have much else on the go, but I find it so terribly painful.
It is kind of the way of life here to take work home (not something I would normally do). It is easy to become overly focused and stressed about work when it needs to make up for all of the other things that might be missing in your life as an expat. Not to say that I don't have a social life, but I don't have the same network or familiar rhythm of days and weeks. There is also the NGO martyrdom phenomenon and accompanying guilt to contend with of course.
But as long as there is MTV and living room gymnastics I should be able to avoid this beast for a while longer.

I should mention that my housing issue has finally been resolved (although who knows when the next one will be as these kinds of things seem to shape my life!). After having resolved to move into the YWCA dorm for my last 3 months in Asia, I have been offered to move in with some other interns. This is what I was holding out for the whole time and so of course it didn't work out until I had made another plan. I will be leaving Bangsar for Brickfields on Monday or Tuesday. Brickfields is the same area that I work in, which will make life very easy indeed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Today I stepped out from the foyer of my building to walk down to the LRT and scuttle my way back to Bangsar when I came across a sight that you definately would not find in Canada.
A guy a in a black t-shirt and jeans carrying a full-on machine gun walking down the street. I find it alarming when I come across the common sight of security guys with these things in the doorway of expenisive stores, but this was more than I was ready for. I felt like running back to the building to put some concrete between myself and this alarming sight, but managed to keep my cool.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This week I have been hard at work for the ARROW-FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) parallel forum. If nothing more comes out of this internship, I can at least say that I have finally memorized the correct spelling of "parallel"-- a spelling blindspot since childhood!
Of course things of much greater importance were learned and discussed in this four-evening forum on sexual and reproductive rights and health in Malaysia. All of the evenings had presentations from both local activists and professionals and visiting FIGO experts.
The first night was on the unmet need for contraception in Malaysia, the second on violence against women in respect to their reproductive health and rights, the third was on health sector reform (privatization), and the last night was on the feminization of HIV/AIDS.
All of the night inspired discussion and I think that the series was particularly effective because it was clear that it was not all just preaching to the converted. There was one doctor there who was willing to stand up and argue a counter-point to the views expressed by the panel, and I always think that is a good sign.
My role in the whole thing was to act as "rapporteur", so I was busily recording, taking notes, and trying to understand the bigger picture so that I can ultimately write a decent report on the event's proceedings and the recommendations that come out of it.

Through this process I learned that Malaysia doesn't have a comprehensive sexual education program in schools, that contraception (i.e. the pill) is only available to married women and that while you can get an abortion in a private clinic, it is expensive and public hospitals are unlikely to provide one despite Malaysia's relatively liberal law (abortion is allowed if the physical or mental health of the woman is at stake). It seems that decision makers would prefer to think that young un-married people are not having sex... a little unrealistic perhaps. Condom use here seems also to be an issue as I learned that many think that they are only to be used with sex workers, which may be a factor in the rising proportion of married women who are becoming infected with HIV, as they find it difficult to get their husbands to use condoms even if they are involved in risky activities like intravenous drug use.

It has been great to learn so much, but this week I have the unglamorous task of transcribing all the recordings. At the same time I am still working on organizing this evaluation meeting for the project in Indonesia. It seems more things keep coming up with that and so I feel like I am treading water with it. The meeting will be taking place on Dec 4 and 5, which is closing in on us now. Hopefully this will all pull together in the next couple of weeks.