Monday, October 20, 2014

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo: book review

We Need New Names (2013) commences with a young girl called Darling from shanty Paradise who crosses Mzilikazi Road to get to Budapest to steal guavas. Darling, the narrator, is 10 years old. She hangs around with her friends: Godknows is ten, Bastard is eleven, Sbho is nine, Stina doesn’t know her age because she has no birth certificate, and Chipo is eleven and pregnant.

It is in Zimbabwe where these friends play country-game in which “we fight over the names because everybody wants to be certain countries, like everybody wants to be the U.S.A and Britain and Canada and Australia …” Nobody wants to be countries like Congo, Somalia and Iraq. Darling always wants to be the U.S.A where her aunt Fostalina lives. School doesn’t exist for these children, not like it did before their fathers lost their jobs, before they lived in the shanty town, and before her father left home to go to South Africa. He returned home with the Sickness, skinny and dying of AIDS. He wasn’t the same and she wasn’t sympathetic – he shouldn’t have left her and her mother for so long.

The election did not change a thing, not as her parents hoped. “Look at them leaving in droves, the children of the land, just look at them leaving in droves.” They are leaving “because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you just cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.”

Darling leaves too. She leaves her mother and her friends to live with her aunt in Detroit. It’s not the same as her home. At school, children “teased me about my name, my accent, my hair … the way I dressed, the way I laughed … in the end I just felt wrong in my skin, in my body, in my clothes, in my language, in my head, everything.” She soon learns, from television, to talk like an American, and look people straight in the eye.

Bulawayo speaks from experience. She left Zimbabwe at eighteen to begin a new life in a new country. This is a child to teenager transition, growing up, out of country and out of place. Missing the old friends and making new ones; being dissed by the old for talking like white folk and being dissed by the white folk for being not. Life changes and people do too. And with it, the language of the novel changes, from that of a young Zimbabwean child to an American teenager and beyond. The innocent language of jacaranda trees and smells and colours and watching men play board games - the poetic language - transitions to phone text shorthand, relationships, and American politics - the serious language.

East African morning

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gun thermometers and infra-red screening: is fever screening at airports effective?

Gun thermometers – infra-red thermometers or fever scanning cameras or thermal cameras – have been used at airports to screen passengers for high temperatures and fevers. The Australian Government used temperature scanners at all international airports to screen 1.8million incoming passengers from overseas flights during the Avian Flu and SARS outbreaks in 2013.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral disease that caused about 9,000 deaths across Asia, and has symptoms similar to influenza – and for which there is no protective vaccine. Infra-red thermometers at airports were used to scan body temperatures, noting those with a fever of 38 degrees Celsius (100 F) or higher. After this surveillance, suspected passengers who exhibited high temperatures were isolated and followed-up with chest X-rays and further tests. All passengers arriving in Australia received a leaflet before disembarking the plane, in several languages, with general information on SARS and respiratory diseases.

The infra-red guns are thermometers used to measure the temperature of people – from a distance. It can measure heat, and therefore can measure people’s body temperature without touching them. It detects heat with optic sensors in the camera or gun’s imaging display. The gun or camera is attached to a computer which monitors temperatures.

At airports, security or airport personnel file people through one lane with the equipment positioned some distance in front or to the side of the queue which can screen quickly without touching people. There is no machine or kiosk to step into, so people remain in line and queue past on their way to the security bag screens. So it is not like personal security screening devices, but instead it is an unobtrusive, rapid way of screening body heat from a moving object or person. And it is safe and easy for the technicians. The readings are instant digital displays. Most people are unaware of the equipment.

During the 2003-2004 SARS outbreak a Canadian study found that 4.6 million people were screened at airports using infra-red imaging, with only 1,435 passengers recording an elevated temperature, and no cases of SARS. Some scientists say that because it can take several days for an incubating infection to produce symptoms, a one-time temperature screening will miss people who are infected but not yet feeling unwell.

Therefore, some scientists say they are inaccurate, while others say they are indeed accurate with a low margin of error. However, infra-red gun thermometers are generally regarded as an early warning system and one way of screening many people rapidly and safely, without intrusive handling, and with no effort required on the passengers’ part.

Monday, October 6, 2014

21st World Travel Awards: Oscars of the travel industry go to Kenyan hotels in 2014

After a slump in the tourism sector in Kenya, the 21st World Travel Awards, issued on September 5, 2014, have voted many Kenyan hotels, spas, and eco-lodges among Africa’s best.

Diana Beach on the Kenyan coast has been voted best beach destination in Kenya. This award is equivalent to an Oscar in the travel industry (reports Daily Nation, October 6, 2014, Also in Diana, the Leopard Beach Resort & Spa was voted Africa’s top spa resort for the second year in a row. It was also voted Kenya’s leading beach resort. The 21st World Travel Awards conferred the awards on the Kenyan coastal area along with the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa for Africa’s leading eco-hotel.

The Sarova Shaba Game Lodge in Samburu, northern Kenya, won Africa’s leading eco-lodge. The world famous Maasai Mara was awarded Africa’s leading national park. In the safari camp section of the awards, Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps were named African top performers.

The Kenyan Tourism Board was also named Africa’s leading tourist board for the third year in a row, beating South Africa. Kenya Airways was voted the best airline in Africa in the business class category. Twiga Tours and Abercrombie & Kent were voted the continent’s top companies in the ‘most responsible tourism and luxury safaris’ categories.

Overall, Kenya tied with South Africa with the highest number of winning tourism companies and resorts in Africa (17 of them) with Morocco second (with 14 top awards) and Nigeria in third position with 8 awards.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What does the new Marriage Act 2014 mean for Kenyans?

The Marriage Act 2014 comes into force on November 1, 2014. What does this mean for Kenyans wanting to marry? Some say the honeymoon may be over before it starts (Sunday Magazine, The Standard, October 5, 2014).

What it means is that couples may need to be proactive in ensuring that their marriage is legal after November 1, especially during the transition period, and the height of the wedding season from November to January.

The couple might need to check whether the priest presiding over their marriage is authorised by law to conduct the wedding – even if they’ve known the priest since childhood.

The Attorney General in Kenya announced that all marriage certificate books are being recalled to make way for new licensing requirements for Ministers of Faith and Deputy County Commissioners to authorise over a marriage ceremony under the new Marriage Act 2014.

All unused marriage certificates issued under the repealed laws (the old Marriage Act, Cap 150, and the African Christian Marriage and Divorce Registration Act, Cap 151) will cease to have effect from November 1. The unused marriage certificates are required to be surrendered to the Registrar of Marriages in Nairobi.

And for previously licensed clergy to qualify to preside over weddings and be able to issue legal marriage certificates from November 1, 2014, they are required to file returns of all marriages they have officiated over to date and surrender copies of certificates issued in respect of those unions. Subsequently they must apply for new books of marriage certificates (recognized under the new Marriage Act 2014) once they are issued with their new licenses.

Clergy are also supposed to submit records documenting all scheduled weddings to be conducted before November 1, 2014, listing how many marriage certificates they intend to retain.

But some question whether a month is adequate notice to comply with the new government requirements – especially in rural and remote regions of Kenya. And some people question whether priests are aware of the new Act. In that case, newly weds after November 1 might not actually be wed under the new Marriage Act 2014. The repealed law states in Section 32 subsection (3) that “within 10 days of the last day of each month, every registrar shall send to the Registrar-General a certified copy of all entries made by him during the preceding month in the marriage register book of his district, and the Registrar-General shall file the same in his office.” If this has occurred, then all should be right, but if not, then there might be some confusion.

The new Act is being enforced because some priests and clergy were officiating at weddings without being authorised to do so.

So, if preparing a wedding after November 1, 2014, Kenyans should check that their presiding priest is authorised!