Friday, August 29, 2008

Te odio, Gustavo

Tyree and I didn't really want to evacuate for Gustav. Classes were canceled from Friday to Monday. If I were still in high school, that might actually make me excited. But, being in graduate classes I've paid a lot of money for...this is not cool. The Floridian in me doesn't even believe it's going to be a big deal. I've seen so many false alarms in my life! But everyone here took this VERY seriously. People went to Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi. It hadn't even passed Cuba and New Orleanians were convinced a disaster was coming. But you can't blame them. You could listen to strangers' conversations on the street and know exactly what they were talking about. Stress was in the air, infectious even. I feel most for the international students at my school. They had just arrived in this country and just a week later they were evacuated! They went to Jackson, to Ole' Miss. I think they had to sleep on the floor for what turned out to be a week-long stay.

Tyree and I decided to leave Friday night after an evening in the Quarter to see the Southern Decadence Festival.

Around 9 pm a hotel across the street from the streetcar stop announced on a loudspeaker that there was a mandatory evacuation and that all tourists would have to leave to hotel by 12 noon the next day. It was ominous. Tyree and I looked at each other and decided we would leave that very night. We arrived in Tallahassee the next morning at 7:30 am. It sucked.

Mind the Gap is a cool site that shows demographic models in a very interesting way. You can learn about population growth, economic gaps, mortality rates, all with animated graphs that can actually hold your attention. We watched one in my International Health Policy class. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Send an HIV-positive postcard?

Very interesting: inSpotLA is a website that allows people who are HIV-positive to send an anonymous e-card to all their previous and possibly infected partners telling them they should be tested. The e-card then directs the receiver to more information about how to get tested.
I can imagine it must difficult to tell someone that they may be HIV-positive, and that you know this because YOU may have been the one to give it to them. Would anyone want to receive this e-card? No. Would most people rather have a former lover tell them in person? Probably. But if this is the only way some people can deliver such important information, then it could be an innovative idea.
Go to the website:

When I first found this site, it seemed like it was only for the LA area. They have now expanded into several states, Louisiana and Florida included, and for some reason Romania as well (in Romanian!). So I sent myself a test e-card. Mine was in Spanish, for Louisiana. For some reason the card wouldn't let me pick HIV as my fictitious STD, so I picked Hep A. I don't understand why HIV wasn't an option, maybe they're working on it. But when I opened the card I was also able to see a list of testing clinics in the New Orleans area. Very useful, I think. The cards to choose from ranged from funny to sad, English, Spanish and ROMANIAN!?! But the best thing is that you don't have to reveal who you are. That will make it easier for those people who feel so bad they might never tell if they had to say it in person. Hopefully, health workers will encourage new STD cases to use this to warn past partners using this method if they're too scared to say it in person.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Three years later...

Katrina is reaching its 3rd anniversary. A lot has improved; in my neighborhood there is no evidence of what happened. Other neighborhoods that were affected more severely, however, carry the scars. I think the house above is the only house on Coliseum Street that still bears the Katrina X. It makes me wonder how a homeowner makes the decision not to paint over the X on their home.

The X:

/ , one slash meant the rescue team had entered the house
X , the other slash, completing the X, meant the team had exited the house
9-28, the date is found in the top triangle
OSMS, the left triangle is the symbol of the particular rescue team
0, the number in the bottom triagle is the number of bodies found,
(fortunately, no one was found in this house)

0, the right triangle is for extra information like, Turn Off Gas or Dead Cat.
This boarded up school bears a melancholy sign: Registration for the 2005-2006 school year that never was and the starting date for students who never came back.

It seems so sad that no one has ever decided to get a ladder and take the sign down. The building is now for sale, so it is unlikely that students will ever attend this school again. But for the neighborhood, for the children who used to study here, it must be a reminder of what was lost.

I wonder if it were my home that had Katrina Graffitti. Some people were angry the teams spray painted their homes; sometimes the paint was on brick and very difficult to clean off. But it seems like it would be so easy, to just paint over it. For some, it might not seem like a priority among so many other problems. But I imagine for many, it was a choice to keep the reminder up there. It's a battle scar. This house was under so many feet of water, yet the owners came back and still live there. I think if it were my home, I might have kept the X too. As ugly as the storm was, it is a part of the city's history now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

O que é saúde pública?

So, I've been given these red stickers and I'm supposed to place them all over my community on examples of Public Health, to raise awareness about the field and how it relates to daily life. Here are a few of my pictures, you can see them all on Flickr.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Las Fresas: The Strawberry Girls

I love being from Florida. So, when a magazine like The New Yorker gives space for an article, not about our botched elections or Orlando or Miami....but an article about Floridian culture, well, that catches my attention.

The Strawberry Girls, by Anne Hull (apparently a Plant City native) was all about the Strawberry Festival and it's Royal Court of Fresas. It was a very nostalgic piece, about the way things were before Disney paved over orange fields with plastic. This, of course, is the way my grandmothers remember it too. But I'm just a little cynical of Hull's belief that the Strawberry Girls somehow are a bastion, a hold-out of Plant City's values. For all her praise, they still seem like vapid beauty queens who aren't on their way to higher education or thinking. One girl paid more for her dress than she could hope to win in scholarship money.

The truth is that simple, country people all over America have allowed Wal-mart and fast food and strip malls to take our culture away. The very people who lament better days long gone are the same people who voted in politicians who allowed corporations to take over rural America, the same people who didn't protest a SuperWal-mart coming into their counties. I think Americans are going to have to overhaul the system to get our country back. But I don't think the Strawberry Girls will lead us.

Why does this man still have a job?

In this clip, Fox's Bill O'Reilly attacks Planned Parenthood for an ad they're running. In the ad, McCain fumbles around for an answer to the question: "Do you think it's fair insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control?" For some reason, the very question makes O'Reilly irate and well, watch the clip. What I don't understand is why he wasn't fired or at least publicly shamed for what he ends up saying. "Do I have to buy you dinner before I pay for your birth control?" he says, insulting all women at once. I don't think he was even trying to make a joke. He obviously hates women so much that from the very idea of a fair medical insurance plan springs a fountain of venomous nonsense out of his mouth.

Sex is a personal choice for women, but not for men? Really?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Obama in Africa

Obama and his grandmother, Sarah Obama. This picture may be from his first trip to Kenya. He looks so young!
With his grandmother in 2006 in Kenya.

For me, these pictures are very emotional. Kenya must be so excited! I know when Kerry was running, Mozambican papers ran articles about Teresa. I don't know why Obama's international heritage frightens some Americans. For me, it is only a plus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Parlez-vous français?

Just how much French is still spoken in Louisiana? Cajun French took a big hit when the school system outlawed it and teachers began to punish students for speaking it. Within New Orleans you may not get much opportunity to practice speaking...but many businesses still use French to their advantage in advertising. Here are some examples from Magazine Street and the French Quarter:

Rue de Magazine

On St. Charles Avenue

Le Vieux Carré

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cajun Encounter

On the last day of Mama's visit, we took her out to Slidell for a swamp tour with Cajun Encounters. Of course, to see an alligator was our mission.

I was amazed by how much Louisiana and Florida share in ecosystems; all the birds, the same poisonous snakes, the same saw grass, elephant ear and cypress. I'm curious as to why there are no manatees in Louisiana. Tyree says it's because we have more springs, which the manatees like the best.

White Egret

Blue Diamond Herring

Great Blue Herring

Our guide, Captain Ted, was very informative, pointing out all the animals he could. He also gave a little Cajun history. I found that he had a similar sense of humor as Anne, the instructor from the Cooking School. All their jokes were long stories that took their time in getting to the punch line- which was usually very slapstick. They both made reference to the fictional "Boudreaux," who seems to be at the center of many Cajun jokes.

I think this was the biggest alligator we saw on the trip. Mostly we saw babies. The guide attracted them to us with marshmellows, which he assured us we not harmful. Feeding alligators meat is illegal.

In front of the boat, at the end of the tour. The only thing we didn't get to see was a nutria!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Un Bon Repas: Cooking School and K. Paul's

My mom is visiting this weekend and she wanted to go to a cooking school. We went to the New Orleans School of Cooking, on St. Louis St. in the French Quarter.
Our instructor, Anne, taught us to make gumbo, jambalya, bread pudding and pralines. It was all delicious. I'm especially excited about trying to make the jambalaya and pralines. Along with the cooking lesson, she gave a history of Louisiana and its food culture. I was amazed that she could talk so much while cooking these recipes and not burn something! She was really great.

For dinner we went to K. Paul's, Mama's favorite restaurant in New Orleans.

This is my mother and I in front of the Court of the Two Sisters. We haven't eaten there yet, but my grandmother ate here in the 1940's. She and my grandfather passed through New Orleans on the way to either Pensacola or California during the war (she can't remember which). The only reason she seems to remember why she ate here was that the lights were out because of the war and she ate all her rationed butter in just one bite because she couldn't see anything.

It was also Dirty Linen Night, on Royal Street. One week after White Linen Night, the galleries in the French Quarter open up and do the same thing. We were told that you're supposed to wear whatever white thing you wore the week before, but there were a lot less people in white this time. There were also a few people still in red from the Red Dress Run. I ended up liking White Linen Night better for some reason, but still, it's fun to walk around with other people. And I got another free fan. I have a collection now!

Red Dress Run

Find out about the RED DRESS RUN
Mama and I were wondering around the French Quarter after our cooking lesson and stumbled upon this parade. New Orleans is all about parades and processions, but I'm glad I had my camera for this one! It's a fundraiser, someone told the money this year will go towards the city parks. It looks like just another excuse to be crazy to me.
And while I'm sure there were some genuine drag-queens in the parade, it seemed like many of the men wearing dresses were not queens of any sort and were immensly enjoying wearing a dress in public. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. I saw men walking down the street in red dresses late into the night.
There were lots of women participating too. It's fun to see a group of people dressed in the same color. That's what they do in Mozambique; whenever there's a wedding or event, everyone wears the same pattern of cloth.