Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lost Kenyan IDs

I've just gotten back to Wenzhou after my quick trip home for my twin brother's nuptials (...which on its own requires a retrospective blog entry). Was great to finally be in the same room as all four of my siblings for the first time in 13 years, so indeed, it was a blessing.

But part of being cooped up with those guys means that we got to go down old paths and just be as loud as ever (and poke fun at each other). Everyone labeled me the "complainer-in-residence" - aka Pessimist supreme - because apparently all I did since getting home was complain about Kenya; sure, I have done my fair share of complaining (...not like I was the only one complaining), but the rest of the family just seems to think that I can't ever say anything positive about any situation in Kenya.

Maybe sometimes I just expect too much of my country; but then again, it should be noted that about a week before I had jetted into Kenya, the refurbishing of Parliament had taken place; I did not learn of the 'expensive chair debacle' personally (because I have been avoiding political news since "Pre-Election Fever" rolled in); rather, it was a fellow African friend who informed me of how shaming it was for Africa-as-a-whole to have that gross waste of public funds tacked to its image, on top of everything else we already go through.

So, perhaps, we just might not be expecting enough from our leadership and institutions. (just a thought).

My sister once told me
"Someone shouldn't complain about a situation if they haven't taken the effort to do something about it."  
She was not implying that complaining is sinful; rather, that solving problems should be the first option. Focus on progress, and try to save complaining for 'emergency' situation. So, in the interest of what I can do for my country, let me change tact here, basically address a problem I perceive, and offer the solution.

While walking through business premises in Nairobi, I have long noticed the habit of affixing lost ID cards to their service counter windows. I can understand the reasoning behind this: surely, if someone left their ID cards, they can possibly retrace their steps, end up at said business premise, and be reunited with their cards.

This, however, gives the impression that the process of "retracing our steps" is flawless; in my personal experience, it is quite chaotic even if the lost items were merely misplaced in my room; compound the scale of the search area, and I think the chances of finding said lost item are negligible (bordering on 'miraculous').

People might not understand how important ID cards are in Kenya. Kenya is not like the US, where your driver's license might dabble as useful ID. The only other document approaching that level of credibility is a passport (and even less Kenyans have that document). In times past, being caught without an ID by the police was legal grounds for detention; add to that the fact that we have an election scheduled within the next 6 months, and that ever-nagging threat of Al-Shabaab in our midst, I think NOW is not exactly a good time to be missing an ID card (and Lord know how long it will take to get a replacement).

I searched the internet for any centralized solutions that the National Registration Bureau might have implemented to fix the situation, and the results are as follows:

  1. National Registration Bureau website is currently offline
  2. Secondary sites (Found it & Lost ID) have been set up to pick up the slack
    One could argue that if these sites are obscure, then they are just virtual equivalents of IDs affixed to the service window in some random office.
  3. *The sh. 300 surcharge for ID replacement was recently done away with.
So here's my solution.
  1. The National Registration Bureau (NRB) needs to open its own equivalent of a 'Lost and Found' site (this is the only one fully guaranteed of being centralized)
  2. Businesses should hold on to lost IDs for a maximum of 3-5 days (just in case someone does successfully retrace their steps)
    After that period, they MUST send them to the NRB (unlike the old system, where the card would be sent to the Chief's office, which on many occasions does not correspond to someone's actually area of residence).
  3. The NRB needs to work out an arrangement with the post office, such that people can drop/mail a found ID card to the post office free-of-charge. This of course means that the NRB needs to get a 'dedicated' post office box for this exact purpose.
  4. The collected cards can then be sent over to Nyayo House, Nairobi where they can be digitally catalogued and stored safely. This also calls for a dedicated working space.
    The beauty of this is that since catalogued info would include the key fields Name and ID Number (two items we are expected to know off-head) for a lost ID, these same key fields would correspond with those listed on an application for an ID replacement, thus effectively bridging the tracking and replacement functions of the website (...why replace something if you already have it within retrieval range?)  
  5. Lastly, they just need to regularly update the lost-and-found database, and allow the typical mwananchi access to either by mobile phone or internet
So, there you have. My bit for the day. Wish I had the power to implement it...but until such a time, this will have to do.

God Bless

Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Crate Digging' For Music

I really have let myself go when it comes to editing this blog :)
I Apologize; can prolly blame it on the fact that I've spent more time editing my other blog which mainly deals with a hospital website project.

Anyway, just wanted to 'pen' something different for a change. Besides the dastardly humidity which makes being outside something of pain recently, it's been a great week for me, musically speaking. No, I didn't take music lessons, write any songs or learn how to play an instrument; I'm talking about the music I was able to find.

When I hear a good song - the kind that you just can't get out of your head - I go into 'crate-digging' mode and seek out the song. Search engines (Google) and Youtube have made this much easier for the vast majority of songs these days, but then, they could just as well frustrate you if you don't have the specific details for the song (Imagine sifting through 20,000 listings for your item!)

Well, in these past weeks, I had three big victories:
  • Julie Fowlis  - Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird a' Chuain
  • Mumiy Troll - На перекрестках судьбы (Стань человеком)
  • Billy Preston f/ Syreeta - With You I'm Born Again
Pretty eclectic list, huh :) 
Takes searching for them to a whole new level of difficulty. Let me start this in order of difficulty (and duration searching)

With You I'm Born Again

This track was originally sung in 1979 by Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright. My first encounter with the song,  though, was in a 1988 British made-for-TV Cinderella musical  (performed by Cheryl Baker), and later I heard the original on radio. For years, on-and-off I'd searched for the song by basically looking for the British musical (a Google nightmare). Previously I didn't even know what the song was called, nor did I even remember any lyrics. Some things are just bound to be found, and now I have this beautiful gem in my favourites collection. (On Youtube, I found other performances of the song, with the Mariah/John Legend piece appearing to be the biggest in spectacle, but they all pale in comparison to the beauty of the original composition).

На перекрестках судьбы (Стань человеком)

Yes, this is very much a Russian song. Translates into something along the lines of The crossroads of fate (becoming human). This theme is played a few times in the movie "Day Watch". I had searched for it for some time, but failing to find it I figured that the short instrumental piece was only a part of the movie score and a lot of films are not in the habit of releasing their musical scores, so ...dead end! In the past week though, a Youtube search for the "Daywatch ending" led me to the actual song and the band responsible for the composition, and now I can enjoy it in its entirety :)

Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird a' Chuain

The latest addition to the 'favourites' is this beautiful haunting melody by Julie Fowlis (from her debut album no less). This is sung in Scottish Gaelic - as is most of her music - and is translated as My Love is on The High Seas. A lot of people probably came across this song the same way I did: the Trailer for Disney/Pixar's BRAVE. This song, with all its all encompassing peace and emotion totally defined the final 40 seconds of the 3rd trailer. One would think that this song would be easier to find because the movie is meant to be a huge Hollywood spectacle, but alas, it wasn't; tried to track this one down by checking on the movie's soundtrack, but it wasn't there. Movie trailers have taken a life of their own nowadays, and the trailer ends up being its own standalone work of art :(
Thankfully though, other youtubers recognized the song and pointed me in the right direction, and led me to discover a great artist.

This version of the video is the best, because once you get over the mere chilling beauty of her voice and the setting for this song, you can then enjoy it for the deeper love story, which is a testament to true love.

Thank God for the joy of music.
God Bless

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rain! Rain! ...and more Rain!

Wenzhou weather really seems to be doing a number on us this year. I can't think of a time when it isn't raining around here; the rain is a given no matter what season were in. I'm not sure if El Nino is in effect this year, or perhaps it might even be something else.

On a few days, the rain is most welcome; it's that time of the year when the humidity starts to skyrocket, and make life a bit uncomfortable. It is at times like that that I welcome a large downpour. Not only does it cool things down a tad, it also washes any residual gunk that might be in the sky. I think anyone can attest that the sky looks a bit more bluer and the colors of the vegetation are that much more vivid after a rainstorm. Also, living by these expansive hills, we get to see the usually dry 'rills' running down the face of the hills bring forth water; in addition, the hills have this quaint little effect where it looks like the clouds are steaming from the very rock that lines hills tops .

The little things in life that I took so little time to enjoy before...and now my time in Wenzhou is quickly coming to an end. I guess this means I better find a way to document it really quick. Who knows whether it will look the same in the years to come. One thing has to be said for Chinese construction - they 'totally' change the face of the land as they develop it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying what they do is negative; it's just a remainder that the saying 'here today, gone tomorrow' is not a cliché here (hills or valleys are not exempted from their development and might just be leveled).

But, I digress, the rain, with its characteristic Wenzhou pulsing, has finally given way to some calm. Might just dash out and get something before 'Round-2' starts. Have to be on the lookout for 'Magic Bricks' though. 'Magic bricks' is something of a misnomer; remember how the Mario Bros. had their magical bricks, well here they have paving blocks which sometimes come loose and all this rain water ends up pooling under them.  Stepping on those paving stones sometimes triggers an effect similar to a geyser (unbelievable how much water could seep under one tiny block!!!)

Well, just some idle musings for an old soul. Come rain or shine, whatever's in your life right now,
God Bless 

Monday, January 23, 2012

As a Dog to his Master...

Once, circa my time at Messiah College, I remember we had a Priest invited over to give us a discussion on matters of Faith. Seeing as this was about 7 years ago, most of the memory has withered away. I do, however, remember that one part of his conversation focused on the Vatican, the faith of the early church community...and the catacombs for the faithful.

Considering the turbulent years of the Early Church, with the rampant persecution and "brutality-for-sport" that their accusers displayed, Faith certainly was a more tangible thing back then: you either had it, or you didn't...and chances were you would either have to renounce or defend it if challenged.

Thus the catacombs tell one part of this story; they are, of course, the place where the Martyrs were buried, and venerated. Because of their great show of faith in times of trial, traditions celebrating their deeds grew around these early faithful, and people also sought to have the graves of their loved ones sited adjacent to the Martyrs' graves (...perhaps hoping to get a "seat" closer to the throne at Resurrection).

The Priest then elaborated on how the Martyrs were venerated (a subject of contention for some, I realize): with beautiful paintings by their graves, or even graffiti scrolled alongside. The usual Christian symbols featured prominently: the fish, dove, Good Shepherd, the palm, etc. Interestingly, at one grave, the Priest noticed a peculiar symbol drawn: A Dog's Paw Print

For an animal considered Man's best friend, and loyal as can be, dogs don't tend to rank as "overt" Christian symbols. To tell you the truth, dog references in the Bible usually tend to be negative; hence, the surprise expressed by the Priest. Later on, the Priest discovered what this little piece of graffiti actually meant:
As a Dog to his Master...I will be Faithful
I'm a dog-person, so it is indeed a fitting reflection of so intimate a relationship between Man & God. Intelligent and gifted as the dog is, it is also capable of great servitude, submission and loyalty. And just as we are gifted, beautifully-made, with eternity imbued in our hearts....even with all that, we pale in comparison to our Maker, and we ought to seek Him out each and every day.

So, that is my little prayer for today,
That as a Dog unto his Master, I too will be Faithful.

God Bless

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year, New Beginnings, New Internship

It's been a happy start to the year 2012. Well, contrary to the naysayers' dire predictions, the world is still here, resilient as ever; and she isn't skipping a bit, 'cause there certainly is a lot of stuff that needs to get done.

To ring in my New Year (almost literally), which is also my last year of Medical School, I have started my  "internship" (more like an Externship) at our WMC's First Affiliated hospital, and that's going great thus far. The first 2 weeks were spent by my group-mate (Jean) and I in the Emergency Department. This is certainly not a department for a rookie; you constantly feel like you're out of your league. The gist of this department is that most patients who walk in have about 2-3 comorbidities, so it's like being in a sinking ship and you're stuck trying to plug the biggest hole....just so you can get down to sealing the other holes.

I remember one patient we came across. He had a history of hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease...and Gout to round things off. With the restricted diet that he'll have to endure, I'm sure life won't be so much of a least he seemed to think so.

Lest you think the hospital is a deluge of patients (let's face it, this is China), we are presented with a rather peculiar Chinese condition - The Chinese Lunar New Year. It is not considered lucky to celebrate the New Year in the confines of the hospital, so people are clearing out of the hospital like 'hot-cakes'. So a lot of departments, even the Emergency Department should see a reduction in patient numbers (Amen!)

This situation is quite the conundrum, because as an Intern, I need the experience and the "sick people" :) Anyway, I think I'll survive. I'm currently in Orthopaedics, and some of the patients today were "seasonal injuries" - meaning they were cleaning the house, slipped and fractured something. The way my mentor talked about it, you'd think it was regular as rain (working here for 16 years, he probably knows best).

Anyway, 2012 is scheduled to be a great year for the Araos. Last year for my mother at Daystar University before she retires (since '87...WOW!), my eldest brother is having his 2nd child, and my other elder brother is getting married, plus this could be the time my elder sister comes back home (wider meaning = "Africa" or "Kenya"); this hardly compares, but I am helping out with my hospital's website during my free time, something I've wanted to do for them ever since they welcomed me warmly in 2009; glad I get to give something back.

Well, just a short intro of what's in store.
God Bless us all, come what may.