31 March 2008

living under a flight-path and the wake of our lives

Stef and I have been walking at night lately. We put on our sneakers and just start walking around the neighborhood. It is as much a way to get out as it is exercise. We really enjoy walking at night, as simple as it is, if only because Johannesburg was too dangerous a place to do such a thing.

The neighborhood we are living in is directly in the flight-path of the San Antonio International Airport. More directly, we walk every night under the last few seconds of airplanes' "final descent". People skate right over us in mammoth silver birds. Fathers return from business trips on Continental. Families arrive for vacation on Southwest. Presents and packages sneak into the city on DHL and UPS planes - at the same time every night.

And there is something weird that happens when you walk under planes ripping through the air. First, you can literally hear the air tearing as the planes comes through. The sound is unmistakable and, admittedly, a little eerie. More bizarre still is the sound that pours from the sky a full minute after the plane has passed over. A roaring, ripping noise again pours down from the heavens, almost like all of the displaced air is now draining back into place, tumbling back into the destiny created for it. (From the internet: "As objects travel through the air, the air molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave much like a boat creates a bow wave. The bigger and heavier the aircraft, the more air it displaces.")

The point of all of this is that I cannot see a plane fly over head and not marvel at the enormity of things around me. More importantly, I cannot hear the air roaring through the night without being reminded that everything, even those long since passed, leaves a wake.

In our lives, we roar through, ripping and tearing through the fabric of this world in order to get wherever it is that we are going. We rarely stop to consider the wake we leave. We can live purposefully, though. We can be mindful that every step we take leaves a footprint behind us, a tracer for others to see. We can choose today to live for that legacy.

Another World is Possible.

punching in by alex frankel

I recently finished a book called Punching In by Alex Frankel. The premise of the book is simple - a business journalist takes front-line service jobs and then reports on all that he sees.

Frankel works for UPS during the Christmas season, delivering packages as part of "Brown". He gets turned down for jobs at Home Deopt, Best Buy, and Container Store, as he is unable to convince the online questionnaires for each company that he is a worthy interview. Weeded out, he endures a stint at GAP, which he describes as the most boring job on planet earth. Lots of shirt-folding people. Frankel also sells insurance (err, rental cars) at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, slings coffee at Starbucks, and becomes geek-chic by taking a job at the Apple Store.

Punching In is one of those fascinating perspective-benders that I couldn't put down. Now, I can't see a UPS truck (or my father-in-law) in quite the same way. I feel like I understand the retail world's motivation better, which makes me feel like I can better fight it off.

While trying to finish a different book, this one stole the Kindle screen. Fascinating and a little fluffy...I loved it.

28 March 2008

approval and the peace of unconditional surroundings

Coming home has been an interesting experience in any number of ways. What we definitely enjoy the most is the people that made up our community, the people the help us understand the play that we are in just a little better.

I sat down for coffee with such a friend a few evenings back. We laughed about old jobs and life as a Starbucks barista. We smiled as we just enjoyed the presence of one another.

We talked about approval and where the need for such a thing even comes from. We traced the origin of it in our lives and tried to figure out just when that addiction goes away. To some degree, we all live for approval. The question is then whose approval are we after...

After a while, I think we agreed that the antidote to the venom of approval is unconditional love. We roundly came to a conclusion that we, as people, have to surround ourselves with people who will love us despite all of our self-sabotaging ways. We have to have people around us who will love us no more when we do well for them than when we fail them. Only then will the realization come that true love cannot be won or lost - only savored.

27 March 2008

the fourth circle: or how i learned to accept free things and embrace the power of community and generosity

At some point in our lives, we catch a break. Sometimes, we get set up with a great gig based only on who we know. Sometimes, we eat ridiculous food because someone else was too busy to eat it themselves. Sometimes, we get...and in the post-karmic stream that we live in we have to find a way to attribute that "getting" to something other than a karmic response to our "giving".

In moving back from South Africa, we have been blessed. In an oft-repeated scene, I'll lean over to Stef and, with hushed voice, tell her that we lead a charmed life. She'll smile and nod her contented agreement.

So, was I the least bit surprised when I was given free music recently? I stumbled onto Enter the Worship Circle's website, looking for some chord charts that I had left somewhere in the African savannah. Once there, I noticed that the group was releasing a brand-new album. Like a giddy school-girl, I clicked download and strangely noticed that the "total" of my shopping cart was "$0.00". I double-checked the contents of the cart - yup, a whole album, 18-songs worth. Still, it looked like they weren't going to charge me.

Sure enough, I checked out, paid nothing, and received a bunch of free (and very good) music. A day or two later, I got an email from the fine Worship Circle folks, explaining that they had inadvertently given music away to quite a few people (me included) and all they asked in return is that we share the music and encourage our friends to check it out. Graceful, eh?

So, check out some great music from some good folks. Experience justice and love. Take a listen. I think I may just pay them anyway - by gifting the music to someone else...

Enter the Worship Circle: Fourth Circle

why aren't you here?

I saw this sticker on a street-pole in Johannesburg. Interesting question...

"Why aren't you here?"

26 March 2008

yogurt night...never easy

"Why does yogurt night always have to be so difficult?"

-Ken in "Bee Movie"

I just thought the movie was great(and that this was the best line in the movie). You should see it.

25 March 2008

South Africa's Drug-Resistant TB Patients Held Prisoner by Government - NYT

TB Patients Chafe Under Lockdown in South Africa - NYT

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — The Jose Pearson TB Hospital here is like a prison for the sick. It is encircled by three fences topped with coils of razor wire to keep patients infected with lethal strains of tuberculosis from escaping.

But at Christmastime and again around Easter, dozens of them cut holes in the fences, slipped through electrified wires or pushed through the gates in a desperate bid to spend the holidays with their families. Patients have been tracked down and forced to return; the hospital has quadrupled the number of guards. Many patients fear they will get out of here only in a coffin.

“We’re being held here like prisoners, but we didn’t commit a crime,” Siyasanga Lukas, 20, who has been here since 2006, said before escaping last week. “I’ve seen people die and die and die. The only discharge you get from this place is to the mortuary.”

Struggling to contain a dangerous epidemic of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, known as XDR-TB, the South African government’s policy is to hospitalize those unlucky enough to have the disease until they are no longer infectious. Hospitals in two of the three provinces with the most cases — here in the Eastern Cape, as well as in the Western Cape — have sought court orders to compel the return of runaways.

The public health threat is grave. The disease spreads through the air when patients cough and sneeze. It is resistant to the most effective drugs. And in South Africa, where these resistant strains of tuberculosis have reached every province and prey on those whose immune systems are weakened by AIDS, it will kill many, if not most, of those who contract it.

As extensively drug-resistant TB rapidly emerges as a global threat to public health — one found in 45 countries — South Africa is grappling with a sticky ethical problem: how to balance the liberty of individual patients against the need to protect society.

It is a quandary that has recurred over the past century, not least in New York City, where uncooperative TB patients were confined to North Brother Island in the East River in the early 1900s and to Rikers Island in the 1950s.

In the early 1990s, when New York faced its own outbreak of drug-resistant TB, the city treated people as outpatients and locked them up in hospitals only as a last resort.

Most other countries are now treating drug-resistant TB on a voluntary basis, public health experts say. But health officials here contend that the best way to protect society is to isolate patients in TB hospitals. Infected people cannot be relied on to avoid public places, they say. And treating people in their homes has serious risks: Patients from rural areas often live in windowless shacks where families sleep jammed in a single room — ideal conditions for spreading the disease.

“XDR is like biological warfare,” said Dr. Bongani Lujabe, the chief medical officer at Jose Pearson hospital. “If you let it loose, you decimate a population, especially in poor communities with a high prevalence of H.I.V./AIDS.”

But other public health experts say overcrowded, poorly ventilated hospitals have themselves been a driving force in spreading the disease in South Africa. The public would be safer if patients were treated at home, they say, with regular monitoring by health workers and contagion-control measures for the family. Locking up the sick until death will also discourage those with undiagnosed cases from coming forward, most likely driving the epidemic underground.

“It’s much better to know where the patients are and treat them where they’re happy,” said Dr. Tony Moll, chief medical officer at the Church of Scotland Hospital in Tugela Ferry. It is running a pilot project to care for patients at home.

Some 563 people were confirmed with extensively drug-resistant TB last year in South Africa and started on treatment, compared with only 20 cases in the United States from 2000 through 2006. A third of those patients in South Africa died in 2007; more than 300 remained in hospitals.

Further complicating matters, South Africa’s provinces have taken different approaches to deciding how long to hospitalize people with XDR-TB. In KwaZulu-Natal, the other province with the most cases, the main hospital is discharging patients after six months of treatment, even if they remain infectious, to make room for new patients who have a better chance of being cured. The province is rapidly adding beds, part of a national expansion of hospital capacity for XDR-TB.

“We know we’re putting out patients who are a risk to the public, but we don’t have an alternative,” said Dr. Iqbal Master, chief medical officer of the King George V Hospital in Durban.

Two days of interviews with patients cloistered here at the Jose Pearson hospital offered a rare glimpse of what all sides agree are the wrenching human costs of the patients’ confinement, as well as their rebellious feelings about being cut off from their loved ones.

Zelda Hansen, 37, the wife of a welder and mother of sons ages 4, 12 and 14, has lived at the hospital for more than a year. She was among the 31 extensively drug-resistant patients who escaped from the 350-bed hospital before Christmas, along with 57 patients with less severe strains of drug resistance. Her eldest son had started to seem like a stranger to her, she said, while her youngest, her “flower pot,” was growing up without her guidance.

Once home, she said: “I just sat and watched them. And I was very happy.”

Soon the media trumpeted news of the infectious runaways. A provincial health department spokesman vowed they would be “hunted down.” On Dec. 23, a Sunday morning, Mrs. Hansen said, police officers wearing infection-control masks came to her door. A crowd of neighbors gathered for the spectacle.

Mrs. Hansen refused to go. She begged for a few more days — just through Christmas.

Her middle son, Trevino, 12, fearing she had done something wrong, offered his barefoot mother his sneakers, called tekkies here.

“ ‘Here, Mommy, take my tekkies, go with the police,’ ” she said he had pleaded with her. “ ‘Please, Mommy, go.’ ”

Back at the hospital, on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, Mrs. Hansen descended into despair. “I felt like going to the trees and just hanging myself, I was so humiliated,” she said.

When news of South Africa’s outbreak of extensively drug-resistant TB was announced in Toronto in 2006 at an international AIDS meeting, it sent shudders through the ranks of infectious-disease specialists. These virulent strains had rapidly killed 52 of 53 patients.

Drug resistance emerges in large part because health care systems too often have failed to ensure that patients successfully complete treatments with first- and second-line drugs, according to international health officials.

The medicines for ordinary TB here cost about $36 and take six to eight months to cure the patient. The drugs for XDR-TB cost about $7,000, and treatment lasts two years. At the start, patients endure four to six months of painful daily injections in the buttocks or thigh, a morning ritual at Jose Pearson that leaves faces scrunched up in agony. A 10-year-old boy whose mother recently died here of the disease rubbed cream into his backside to relieve the ache. He now lives on the XDR-TB ward as its solitary child, with no family around.

“I do think about my mother,” he said. “But I don’t cry because I’ll never get her back again.”

Dr. Lindiwe Mvusi, who manages the government’s tuberculosis program, said the hospitals shouldn’t be seen as prisons, and that requests in special circumstances to go home should be considered individually.

The Jose Pearson hospital had suspended all weekend passes to patients for months, and only recently reinstated them for the handful of XDR-TB patients showing signs of becoming noninfectious.

The provinces began diagnosing and treating XDR-TB on a large scale more than a year ago, but the question of where to care for South Africans who remain infected after two years or more of treatment is unsettled.

“We expect they will die at some stage, but what do we do with them in the meantime?” asked Dr. Mvusi. “Do we send them home or keep them in a sanitarium for life?”

At Jose Pearson, patients who have different degrees of drug resistance — with XDR-TB being more deadly than multidrug-resistant TB — live in different quarters, but they mix on the grounds. Infectious disease experts say that some of the multidrug-resistant patients are likely to catch the more severe XDR strains of tuberculosis directly from their fellow patients.

Peter Jantjes, the chief professional nurse in Jose Pearson’s XDR-TB unit, said that multidrug-resistant patients were turning into XDR-TB patients at an “intense rate.”

Vuyokazi Gqawe, 30, a saloonkeeper, was admitted to the hospital more than two years ago with the lesser form of drug-resistant TB, then was found to have the far more dangerous kind in June. “They don’t have the answers,” she said.

Mrs. Gqawe was pregnant when she was admitted and gave birth here, but she sent her newborn to live with family. She has since seen her daughter, now 2, only in photographs, except when she once waved to her through the hospital gate. “She didn’t even know who I was,” Ms. Gqawe said.

The hospital itself is a caldron of discontent. The staff members and the patients share a pervasive sense of dread.

“It’s going to burst,” warned Louise Bruiners, the sole social worker for the more than 300 patients. “Something really bad is going to happen.”

Angry patients bully and threaten the staff and have even brandished knives at security guards to get out of the hospital, hospital managers said. Crowds of patients have blockaded the entry gate, demanding weekend passes to go home.

On a recent Saturday, as workmen tried to erect a second buffer gate at the entrance, patients pulled it down, jumped up and down on it and repeatedly heaved a chunk of concrete on it.

The hospital’s management has been trying to make Jose Pearson more tolerable. It has brought in a pool table, flat-panel televisions, soccer balls and sewing machines. Hospital managers hope to bring patients’ families for more regular visits.

“It’s good, the things they’re doing, and we thank them for it,” said Mrs. Hansen, the patient who briefly escaped, “but nothing can replace your freedom.”


I just finished my first full Kindle-book. The Kindle experience was flawless. The book was as entertaining as advertised.

I read Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture. I really enjoyed it, to say the least.

The author completely dissected both the company and the phenomenon that is Starbucks. For anyone who finds themselves in Starbucks with any frequency, the book is fascinating.

Among the revelations, Starbucks actually helps local establishments (i.e. independent coffee houses). One small regional chain went so far as to locate all of their coffee houses next door to Starbucks...and the chain prospered like you wouldn't believe. The CEO even retired early.

That is just one of the unexpected nuggets that is inside Starbucked.

I may be a total nerd, but that sort of stuff keeps me turning pages.

(And, just so you know, I totally feel like I just previewed a book for you on Reading Rainbow. Sorry about that.)

24 March 2008

the strand, the kindle, and the irony of progress

While in New York in early March, our friends took us to Strand Bookstore, a legendary NYC spot. They have miles and miles (and stacks upon stacks) of all kinds of books. There are new books, used books, rare books, out of print books, picture books, foreign books, war books, peace books... You get the idea. Lots of books.

To an avid reader, used bookstores are beautiful places of hope. Each one is a place to hunt for treasures that others have long discarded. Each one has its own personality depending on the neighborhood it is in and the attitude of the staff that buys books from the public. They are creatures, organic and individual.

I found myself feeling a stinging guilt as I perused the millions of volumes that rested in Strand. I am an owner of the Amazon Kindle. I have embraced books in the newest form - one that is measured in kilobytes instead of pages. I appreciate the way that my books are delivered free of paper and glue, free of the pollutants that the diesel delivery truck spews on its way to Barnes and Noble. I enjoy the portability of having multiple books available at all times, all in a device the size of a movie theater concession-stand candy box (Mmm, Sour Patch Kids). I love my Kindle.

My guilt is in the fact that, if I had my way, my love of the Kindle would kill off the very bookstores that I loved before the Kindle came into my life. There would be no used book stores, no warehouses of old paper and ink. These places of amazing character, these places that define neighborhoods, would be no more.

Embracing the irony, I applied my Strand sticker to the case of my Kindle. It's the least I can do.

23 March 2008

unlikely life and the kyle connection

A baby boy is today sleeping in his mother's arms in Johannesburg. Together, they are an unlikely pair. At times, the lives of both were deeply in question. His mother, living with AIDS, was at one time the owner of a CD4 count that was only slightly higher than that of a corpse. Somehow, she returned to health. Somehow, the almost barometric count rose, tripling in a matter of months. We are again hoping that she will be a survivior, that she will live a long life.

Her son, still only days old, was once a frequent concern. It was not that many months ago that he was the cause of an emergency visit to the hospital, his heartbeat almost nonexistent. The doctors all but said that the baby was no longer viable. We were left to wait for the inevitable bad news.

Yet, quietly, the pain the mother's stomach subsided. The baby's heartbeat returned. And the miracle of new life was realized in the middle of March 2008.

This baby is named Kyle. That is humbling. And so wonderful. We long for connections with our friends there. That baby boy, his mother, and her other children are the greatest connections imaginable.

We are responsible. One day, we will meet Kyle. I cannot wait.

22 March 2008

low-calorie sweeteners actually make you fat?

Occasionally, I run across a tidbit of information that I cannot help but share with everyone I meet. Every conversational road leads back to that juicy, educational tidbit. I realized this morning that I had such a morsel. As such, I will now share it with you (whether you like it or not).

Do Low-Calorie Sweeteners Make People Fat?

The above link is to an article that highlights a study that seems to show a link between obesity and artificial sweeteners. Ironic, huh?

21 March 2008

freshlyground and "pot belly"

"Even though I have fat thighs, flabby arms...a pot belly still gives good loving."


Everyone is capable of good loving (and being loved)...

19 March 2008

adoption and the weathered cheeks of god

A few days ago, my sister Amy officially adopted Mia, a precious, vibrant little girl that she had fostered since Mia was still a newborn in the hospital.

The scene was memorable. And while I was mesmerized by the "creation" of a family and intrigued by the perspective of a child being gracefully (and perhaps unknowingly) being accepted into a larger whole that took her solely on hope and love, there was another aspect of the adoption that I felt compelled to search deeper.

You see, the obvious parallel with adoption is our own adoption by an omnipotent God, who rescues us from our personal disaster to cradle us in his merciful arms. But I don't recall ever hearing about the overwhelming joy experienced by the sacrificial parent on the day that the union is made official, on the day that the family is created.

I watched my sister beam through the ceremony, smiling as she struggled to hold back tears. She was so proud. It must have been a moment of incredible validation for her. I cannot imagine the emotions that poured from her heart and coursed through her veins. It must have been overwhelming. And it gets me thinking about the way that the sovereign God must feel (if that's the right word as I don't feel completely right assigning my limited human emotive responses to what God is capable of) when one of "His" (or "Her", no matter to me) children is made official. Do tears stream down weathered cheeks?

I would hope, no matter the possibilities, that the scene wouldn't vary much from the one I witnessed a few days ago. Broken was made whole. Lost was found. Darkness was made light. A child, once abandoned, once homeless, came home.

18 March 2008


I recently experienced ridiculous generosity.

I was given a $1000+ guitar. For absolutely no reason, other than the giver wanted to give it away.

And the giver has his reasons, which are respectable to say the least. But what am I to do? I have a guitar, although it is in the Bronx which makes it difficult to play in Texas. I have toyed with ways to redistribute this newfound wealth. I thought of selling the guitar and plowing the money into micro-loans to help the world's poor. I decided that my friend will instead get my guitar whenever it gets back from its NYC holiday and I will retain his as a reminder of ridiculous giving. After all, it now has a meaning to me that is worth more than its mere frets and strings could add up to. It is evidence of beauty. In him. And potentially in me.

I think we could all use a reminder of how beautiful ridiculousness can be. Ridiculous love is indescribable. Ridiculous hope flies in the face of all that cynicism can come up with. Ridiculous grace can restore anyone in any situation. Ridiculous peace can calm the greatest storm.

I was a victim of ridiculous generosity. Hopefully, I will be the next purveyor of ridiculousness - in whatever form it takes.

17 March 2008

emerson on creation

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like this one. It is as if Emerson finds an implied majesty in the life around him, one that points to even more magnificence somewhere beyond his own perception. The glory is everywhere...in everything.

16 March 2008

when hope springs from simple existence

I walked in the building, that same building I’d walked into thousands of times. Somehow it was different this time. It was the first time. Back.

Much hadn’t changed. Many familiar faces still smiled my way. Still, it was uncomfortable. It was a mix of relief and grief, a tonic of remembrance with a tinge of never forget. Maybe we’ll unpack all of that someday. Maybe not.

In it all I saw a face that was mired in pain not too long ago. It was the face of the strung-out kid, barely hanging on. I hoped for him back them and loved him for his exuberance and the way that his eyes lit up when he spoke – when someone really listened. His drugs were never really the issue. Now he has a face of absolute beauty to me, a walking piece of redemptive evidence. He eyes light up the same as they always have, but somehow they have a gentler glow. He has been firmly gripped by a love that neither of us understand, a grace that truly goes beyond our ability to understand. He walks freely. He lives unhindered. Exuberant still.

He is not an object of my hope anymore, at least the same type of hope. I no longer hope for his rescue. I now hope for all that lies ahead of him, for the perfect picture of mercy and abundance that he can be to the world.

I cried seeing him there that morning. Same t-shirt. Same scruffy face. Same goofy guy. But his eyes were alight with the unmistakable caress of a real, purposeful life. And I was thankful for him all over again. I was also hopeful again. Maybe there are more like him.

I think he knows who he is. And I think he might read this. If so... My friend, you inspire me to try harder. You motivate me to give more. Your existence gives me hope.

13 March 2008

wonka and wisdom

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

-Willy Wonka

I have found more and more that it is often the triviality of this life, the nonsense, that allows us to so passionately pursue the heavy things of this life. People from all kinds of backgrounds escape from the harshness of this world in all kinds of ways. Starving Africans watch soccer and cheer for men to give them victory in some aspect of life. Bored Americans obsess over Hollywood gossip to the point that many know Britney Spears better than members of their own household. It's all the same. Watching sports or movies. Going to the theater or the pub. Escape. Enjoy a little bit of nonsense. Whatever that is to you.

12 March 2008

brain buzz and cai guo-qiang

As I explained, there was something about the exhibit we saw at the Guggenheim in NYC last week that really has me captivated.

The museum itself has always been fascinating to me. To have experienced it with the incredible Cai Guo-Qiang exhibit inside really just has my brain buzzing.

(By the way, I am eternally grateful to our NYC hosts, who showered us with love and quiet comfort. They made this transition home so much easier for us, all while giving us incredible memories that will last a lifetime. It was a "wicked" good time. We love you two!!)

So, anyway, in an attempt to shed some of this burden I am carrying (I want everyone to see what I saw), here is the exhibition - online... I have watched it about 25 times now. Amazing...

Cai Guo-Qiang/Guggenheim online exhibition

Sort of a making of video from the Guggenheim site:

Making of the Exhibit

10 March 2008

in nyc - mesmerized by the guggenheim

We're in NYC and will be back in San Antonio on the 11th...

We got to the Guggenheim a few days ago and saw an exhibit there that depicted a car-bomb and had a series of full-size automobiles (with fiber-optic explosions) hanging from the ceiling in the craziest (my ill-informed opinion) and most expensive (real fact) installation in the history of the Guggenheim. Just mind-blowing.

My brain is consumed by it all, so I would imagine that there will be more discussion on this soon.

Here is a photo from the exhibit in another space.

05 March 2008

would an idiot do that?

"Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, “Would an idiot do that?”, and if they would, I do not do that thing..."

- Dwight Schrute

Wisdom from Dwight Schrute should always be taken with a grain of salt (seeing that he is a fictional character on The Office). I, however, could have benefited from employing this line (many times) in my first 27 years of life. Never too late to start.

04 March 2008


The 8-foot brick wall that surrounds the Coronation Women and Children's Hospital is topped by a series of rusting metal "V"s. These metal shards perched atop the sun-baked bricks serve as a cradle for a tangled, gnarled morass of rusty, foreboding barbed wire.

Rubbish gathers in the crevice that occurs where the street meets the curb. Coke cans, condom wrappers, and yesterday's newspaper battle for space with overgrown weeds and grass that invades the cracks in the asphalt.

People pass incessantly, walking in every direction. Many are students heading to school. As many of them smoke as do not. Lone men pass, clutching bottles that cling to last night's escape. Two young girls walk by, excitedly chattering in the cobbled languages that mark the area. Not one takes much notice of the old hospital.

Somewhere in the bowels of that old hospital a child is waiting nervously. She is watching a nurse prepare a syringe. The needle glistens in the sunlight that crashes in through the cracked glass of what used to be a window in the wall. That anything could be sanitary in this place is a miracle in itself. Dried drops of blood on the floor lead the eye to a wheel-chair laying on its side. Further down the hallway a bin marked with red "x"s and jagged biohazard symbols is overflowing with debris.

Prick! Eish!

Skin is broken and the glistening needle pulls blood slowly from the child's arm. This is a new sensation. It is a sensation she will soon be very used to. The needle slides out and the child grimaces. The event is over, the pain somehow incongruent with the considerable weight of the day.

The blood will be passed into a room, where it will be marked with the child's name and sent to another room where an educated face in a white coat will run a test on the contents of the vial - the same test that she runs on the little tubes of crimson life all day every day.

The results of the test will come back in three weeks and will be printed on a sheet of paper inside of a blue folder that bears the name of the child. The results will shape the entire future of the child.

"Positive" and the child will inherit her mother's taint, the unshakable stigma. The child will learn to endure the accusing stares of people whose righteousness seems to have spared them from the dreaded virus. The child will begin the battle for life. It is a battle she cannot yet win.

"Negative" and the child will walk away free, unbound to the biological catastrophe that is slowly taking her mother to the grave. The child, uninfected, will never know of the fear that once clouded her future.

Back outside the walls of the hospital, two stray dogs scavenge amidst the scraps of what lays discarded in the roadside. A young man, school-aged but obviously not heading to school, stops near the dogs, presses his face up against the brick wall, and begins to urinate. The wall changes color below him. He finishes and stammers off.

Not far away the wall has been tagged, black paint leaping from the washed-out brick. There, halfway between the rubbish and the razor-wire, is a bible verse:

1 TIMOTHY 6:10

For the people dying just inside those walls, in the crumbling towers filled with too few nurses and even fewer doctors, the "love of money" is the furthest thing from their collective mind. It is the lack of money, the inability to afford live-saving and life-sustaining medications, that is causing the inhabitants of Coronation Women and Children's Hospital, including the child with the fresh pin-prick in her arm, to slowly fade away.