What to do about that elephant in the room…

Play dead of course!

I’m not talking about feigning ignorance about an important subject that you’d rather not talk about. I’m actually talking about what to do when confronted by a real elephant.

A Yorkeshireman has been rather unpleasantly gored in the leg by a grumpy elephant whilst on holiday in Kenya. His method of avoiding further injury was to drop to the ground and play dead until the elephant lost interest and wandered off.

Whilst I’m impressed with Jonathan Sykes’s lucky escape, his adventures raise a more worrying question:

What on earth was the guide thinking in leading a group of tourists out into the bush to get closer to an elephant?

Going on safari is not like visiting some pleasant country farm, where there is an opportunity to pet the animals. The wonder of a safari is getting to see these exotic wild animals happily existing undisturbed in their natural habitat.

Somehow the fact that an elephant is a wild animal weighing several tonnes and with equivalent physical strength seems to have been forgotten in this situation and it’s no surprise that he didn’t take kindly to being disturbed. Elephants are rarely aggressive creatures, but this one clearly felt threatened when approached by a group of eager tourists armed with cameras, and responded only naturally. After all, I would probably react in a similar fashion if surrounded by the paparazzi.

There are several reasons why it’s not a good idea to venture away from campsites in the middle of safari parks, and grumpy elephants are usually the least of your worries. However, the guide in this case seemed to be a little too overconfident in his knowledge of the native wildlife.

I can only hope that this story serves as a lesson to arrogant safari guides and inquisitive tourists, to treat wild animals with the respect they deserve, and enjoy safaris for the fascinating scenery and the glimpses they offer into the exotic lives of such creatures.

Yet true stories often fade into myths, as a friend of the family can testify. A story of a lady waking up in her tent with an elephant standing on her hair seemed an unlikely, yet comic tale when I first heard it as a child, but was verified by the lady herself the last time I was on safari in Africa.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bradford/8279861.stm

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Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Flame-proof bras

I’m sure any girl who has ever suffered the embarrassment of her bra strap popping open in the middle of a PE lesson, and had to enlist the help of a friend to solve the problem can sympathise with the cries of the Swedish female soldiers this week.

Everyday M&S support just doesn’t cut it out in the field apparently, causing all kinds of hassle as female soldiers have to interrupt training sessions in order to re-hook their bras.

Such poor quality equipment is not acceptable, the Swedish soldiers argue, and moreover, it is dangerous in combat as such underwear is highly flammable.

Thankfully, the Swedish army have put in a new order for battle-safe bras that should arrive early next year.

At last, something that would make even Madonna proud… but sadly not yet available in Topshop.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/sweden/6220319/Female-Swedish-soldiers-complain-about-flammable-bras.html

Published in: on September 25, 2009 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Time for a Career Change?

I picked up the newspaper today and found I was reading a story about myself.

Well, almost.

The story was strangely familiar; a postgraduate student with a Masters in International Development (like me), struggling to find a job (like me), even though she already has experience in the field (like me).

The article then took on a more chilling tone as it revealed the reason behind the paucity of jobs in the sector. All postgraduates desperate to get a foot in the door with aid agencies and NGOs are competing with those in the development sector who have just been made redundant, but already have 10-15 years of experience on their CV.

My heart sank.

I know its tough finding jobs at the moment, and getting into development work is by no means easy, but no-one wants to hear that for every job they apply for there is someone else with ten times as much experience competing for the same role.

It’s difficult to know whether such a discouragement necessitates a change of track, or merely more willpower to keep fighting.

I’m undecided.

Published in: on September 23, 2009 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Controversial Climate

Tomorrow world leaders will meet to begin talks on climate change in Pittsburgh. The G20 will focus discussions on how rich nations can help poorer nations to combat climate change and lower harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Global efforts to tackle emissions targets are setting the scene for the Copenhagen summit in December where the existing Kyoto protocol will be revamped.

The hope is that rich nations will commit to cut their emissions and set stricter targets, and under a new Copenhagen agreement, developing countries will also be expected to adhere to the requirements.

Scientists argue that to stave off the worst effects of climate change we need to have halved global emissions levels by 2050 (Source: UNFCCC, The Climate Group).

But why does this matter? Surely if we just use an energy saving light bulb here and there, turn off the TV and wear an extra jumper rather than turn the heating up, it’ll make a difference? Sadly, while these are admirable efforts to save the planet, the onus lies with the world’s politicians, and it’s on them to react responsibly to the way the world is changing.

Climate change is not just about gloomy wet summers and subdued skiers watching the snow melt in winter. It is leading to droughts, floods and unexpected storms that ravage the landscape and destroy the livelihoods and wellbeing of many living in developing countries that are hardest hit by such changes.

A recent UN report records that over 20 million people were forced out of their homes in 2008 due to climate change-related natural disasters. This is not a phenomenon to be ignored.

For more information:

Kyoto to Copenhagen – http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SP503745.htm

Impact on Poverty –

http://www.tearfund.org/Campaigning/Climate+change+and+disasters/Impact+on+poverty.htm

Can you make a change? –

http://www.tearfund.org/Campaigning/Climate+change+and+disasters/Pentathlon.htm

Check out these blogs: http://climatechange.thinkaboutit.eu/

Published in: on September 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

D.R.C. – D.o we R.eally C.are?

In the last year, the number of displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo has risen from 30,000 to 105,000.

Increased insecurity in the north-eastern regions of the country is hampering humanitarian assistance, as aid agencies are prevented from reaching the vulnerable groups of displaced civilians. NGOs and aid agencies are regularly forced to evacuate as the violent conflict escalates.

The war officially ended in 2003, but the conflict is ongoing, and a resource-rich country is plunging further into economic collapse and nationwide poverty.

Despite a large peace-keeping force in the country, the UN are still struggling to contain the conflict and protect the population.

Over 5.4 million people have died from war-related hunger and disease between 1998-2007 (Source: IRC), and the International Rescue Committee estimate that over 45,000 people are dying every month.

Compare this to the numbers that have died in the Iraq war; 151,000 between 2003-2006, an average of 4000 per month. Recent estimates place the number of casualties as less than 500 a month.

A forgotten war. A forgotten conflict. Can we afford to ignore it any longer?

Sources:

http://www.alertnet.org/db/crisisprofiles/ZR_CON.htm

http://www.theirc.org/special-reports/special-report-congo

http://www.brookings.edu/saban/iraq-index.aspx

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Forgotten Conflict

Fierce fighting in Yemen between government forces and rebel groups have left over 150,000 people displaced in their own country.

This adds to the number of displaced that have been forced to flee their homes and livelihoods due to the conflict that has been ongoing over the past five years.

Those who have been already displaced by the fighting have been forced to move again due to the recent escalation in the conflict, and many have been forced to live under bridges or on the roadside.

As the conflict spreads, mines, heavy fighting and airstrikes are hindering the safe passage of people as they flee, and they are forced to remain in situations of intense insecurity. The majority of those fleeing are women and children, often forced to travel several days across desert, without food or water.

There is a desperate need for greater humanitarian assistance as access to shelter, food and water is scarce and unreliable for the displaced.

The work of UN agencies such as UNHCR who have been setting up camps has also been threatened by the lack of security in the area. Following the murders of three foreign aid workers in July, the work of many aid agencies has been compromised. A lack of funding has further limited the response of aid agencies in the area, despite promises of increased aid from the UN.

There are fears that instability in the region may spiral out of control, with an increased threat from Al Qaeda in the north and the growing insurrection of rebel groups.

However, the immediate concern is that of the wellbeing of the thousands of displaced persons in the region, desperate for food aid, and needing urgent access to a clean and reliable water supply in the arid conditions. Malnutrition rates are rising rapidly, and the World Food Programme has already had to cut assistance to the area due to funding constraints.

But when was the last time a story like this made front-page news?

Source: http://www.alertnet.org/db/crisisprofiles/YE_CLA.htm

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm  Comments (3)  

H2N1

Don’t believe the hype. It’s just flu. A new strain that is a bit more infectious than ordinary flu.

Why am I so blasé about it? I came down with swine flu a couple of weeks ago.

Just as I thought I was getting my energy back – I get swine flu!

Sadly there are no comedy side effects, such as a desire to roll around in mud or oinking…

No, instead it’s two (or three) days in bed with a high fever until you can resume normal life again, and once all your symptoms have gone you can even return to your social life!

The best medical advice I got was to shun Tami-flu and just take paracetamol to lower the fever – for most people Tami-flu can make you feel worse!

So nothing to worry about…unless of course the virus mutates again….

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 10:21 am  Leave a Comment  

‘Do you find you have the attention span of a dyslexic gnat?’

‘Do you find you have the attention span of a dyslexic gnat?’ asked the consultant as she crossed the room to wash her hands.

I paused to consider, amused by the comic image this conjured up in my mind, and, lost in my reflections forgot to answer. The consultant had returned to her desk and looked up at me from her notes, pen poised, and I emerged from my brief daydream.

‘Umm, it’s getting better…slowly’

She went on to detail some of the side effects that often result from head injuries, from physical, to emotional and cognitive changes. It seems strange that a month after the accident, this was the first time that anyone had spent time explaining the consequences and long-term impact of a head injury to me. The focus of the orthopaedic team had, understandably, been on fixing my broken bones back into place and helping me to regain enough mobility to be able to perform basic everyday tasks.

Yet now, a different focus has helped make sense of different things that have seemed otherwise bizarre or disconcerting during my recovery. From blinding headaches to extreme fatigue, and odd irrational reactions or phobias, these began to fall into place with the help of reassuring explanations from my consultant.

It has made me realise how much any event such as this can interrupt lifestyles, thoughts and experiences with long-term consequences. Life is different as a result, not just for me, but family and friends too.

Please forgive me this somewhat self-indulgent section… apparently self-centredness is a side effect of a head injury.

For more information about head/brain injury see www.headway.org.uk

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

A series of unexpected events…

I woke up staring at white ceiling tiles, a cold, antiseptic white. I closed and reopened my eyes to see a complete stranger standing over me, dressed in a blue cotton shirt.

‘Where am I? What happened?’

‘You’re in Frenchay hospital; you were in a car accident…a head-on collision with a lorry’

A vague memory came back, a panicked fear that I had assumed was a bad dream, and the vivid image of the collision flashed before my eyes.

The paramedics, police, and the doctors had all expected there to be fatalities. The General Surgeon came up to the ward the next day and expressed his astonishment that I had survived the accident. All of us in the car had cheated death that day.

I remember reading a book when I was younger – ‘What Katy Did’ by Susan Coolidge, where the protagonist falls from a swing and breaks her back, a sudden unwelcome interruption that brings life as she knows it to a sudden halt.

I had never expected to break my back at the age of 24. Lying flat, staring at ceiling tiles, the fate of Katy, confined to her bed for two years, and unable to walk, filled me with dread. The list of my injuries was extensive, my x-rays impressive, and I faced three separate operations.

Yet Katy’s story doesn’t end there, the experience changes her attitudes and thought patterns, challenging her in new and different ways.

For me, the experience has inspired me to begin writing again, hence this blog. It has also taught me not to take things for granted any longer, from the most simple of everyday things, to the fact that I’m lucky to be alive.

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment