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Career Opportunities

Now that this one has completely dried up, I have to think of options. The simplest option would be to let myself get hit by a bus in Nairobi (likely on most days anyway), but the costs and logistics of getting the body for cremation would be an immense burden on my family. Just not fair, as tempting as it is.

So that’s out.

Having not much to work with, I’m considering a few possibilities. Some might argue that I have options given my degrees and all, but without a social network to support it, it isn’t much use, aside from the general failures of this career which haunt me. Moreover, my mental issues prevent me from doing much that requires long term commitment, let alone produce anything of quality. My putrid character prevents me from working in groups. Not being able to look at email makes things even harder.

So, one has to think of what to do.

As I am 47, my options are limited. Going back to school is out. I can’t really remember anything anymore, and the time commitment would be too much given the small amount of time that’s left in my life. Granted, some people do both, but it can’t be easy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, fortunately, provides data on employment numbers, sector growth and average wages. This is quite useful when making plans of what to do upon a move back to the US.

As I know how to drive, taxi driver might be an option. At $12.53 an hour and $26,070 a year on average, it is a possibility. Retail work is about the same. The average wage is $12.67 and the yearly income $26,340. Construction is a bit better, $17.57 an hour and $36,500 a year. I can’t really think of any other options. Food service would get me about $9.16 an hour.

These three possibilities are not without their problems for me. Taxi driving companies are probably not hiring, and to get into Uber I would need a car, which I don’t have and can’t afford. Retail requires that I be nice to people, which is difficult for me since I’m depressed and unpleasant. The problems with construction should be obvious. I’m too old anymore. No one would hire me. Food service pays poorly but it might be my best bet.

So the employment outlook is pretty bleak. I could go back to teaching adjunct, but that would mean that I make half as much as a person working retail, which would make it impossible for me to live and pay my other expenses. I would be better off on welfare.

One might ask why I don’t start looking for jobs related to my skills. Well, when one can’t look at email, one has a really hard time getting work.

I know a lot of this is crazy because I know I’m crazy, but there’s not much to be done about it since it doesn’t appear that it’s going away any time soon. Some people say that one is only crazy if one doesn’t realize it, but that’s nonsense. Most people with mental issues are fully aware of them.  It sucks. It’s a living hell. The awful shit you do to other people when you’re like this just makes it all that much worse.

I don’t write this expecting that anyone feel any sympathy at all because it’s my fight and no one else’s. Some days are better than others and any time I get an instrument in my hand, it leaves me temporarily. Some people self medicate with alcohol and drugs, I play the shamisen. Seems a bit healthier. At least its more fun.

Food service it is.

Please don’t email me with any offers of help. Though appreciated, I don’t look at email anymore so it won’t get to me.


I went to bed last night, assuming that I would wake up to an America that had pulled together its senses and rejected a misogynistic, xenophobic, inexperienced, uneducated and irresponsible bigot dead set on propping up his own ego and erasing decades of American progress.

But that didn’t happen. And now I’m wondering what the future holds. Life has never felt worse.

I didn’t like McCain, or Romney, or either of the Bushes, but I had no doubt that all of those people had the best interests of the country at heart, even if I disagreed with how they approached it. Trump, on the other hand, is radically different. It has been clear from the beginning that he cares little for the country, exemplified by how ignorant he is of it. The American dystopia he imagines is foreign to me, but might resonate to unemployed, uneducated white people on disability.

So, maybe this is it. Maybe it is time to just cash it all in.

At 47, I never expected my own life to be this bad. I am in a job I hate, living in a place that simultaneously rejects and exploits me, broker than I’ve ever been with no career of job opportunities, watching the life I built for years crumble and burn, leaving a wasteland of people I’ve loved yet hurt and destroyed. It is really hard to go on.

The last is the hardest to take.

I’m not sure I have the will to move on. I have no idea what the future holds as it is blacker than that blackest night. When you’re young, you kind of think that there might be some hope, but when you’re old, there really isn’t anything at all.

It is impossible for me to do simple things like check email. I’ve disabled my social media accounts. This blog will be next. I’ve alienated everyone that ever loved me. Leaving the house is almost a feat. I usually sit for hours trying not to.

“One more cup of coffee….”

I do some music, which is about the only thing I feel I have any control over and that’s always a temporary respite from this noise, but it always falls back to where it was before.

And on top of my personal disaster, my country seems to want to burn itself to the ground.

So, really, what’s the point anymore? People are saying that we should fight… but fight what? It’s clear that this has done irreparable harm. There’s no turning back now.

Sorry for the tone of this post. Fortunately, no one will read it.

I paid a bribe: part 2

Same thing. Wrong way down an unmarked one way. Cop at the end. After arguing with him for a bit, I threw 1000 schillings at him and just left.

2014 in review: I’m not sure what this all really says

It is pretty obvious that after July, something happened and I stopped posting with any sort of regularity. I really need to fix this or whatever is keeping me from posting. I don’t get a whole lot of traffic on this blog, but it seems that every day I don’t post is a missed opportunity for me.

Anyway, to all of you who read this blog in 2014, I thank you. It’s great to have you around. I wish everyone a great 2015.


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 62,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

New Publication: ITNs on Vanuatu

Today, in Malaria Journal, a new publication appeared with my name on it (though I am not the main author). This will be a record of one of the most challenging experiences of my life.

In 2012, my friend Akira and I went hiking in the mountains outside Osaka. It was a pretty easy hike, but on the way down Akira twisted his ankle and sort of lumbered down the rest of the trail. After a few days, the pain got worse and he had to cancel an upcoming research trip to Vanuatu. He asked me to go in his place and offered to pay my expenses. I was due to go on a couple of other research trips that summer so I couldn’t commit, but the only other gringo on the trip begged me and at the last minute I decided to go.

Long story short, it was a crazy set of interpersonal dynamics, we suffered bacterial infections, got stuck on an island for ten days because a plane needed to be repaired, one of us didn’t eat or drink water for ten days, much fish was eaten (but the people who ate), much kava was drank and stories were told. Our diet alternated between delicious seafood and fresh fruits to ramen noodles over rice.

It was a surreal experience. I lost ~16 pounds, down from 175 to 159, came back with numerous skin infections and was a general physical wreck for months, more so than usual. It was challenging, but an experience I am unlikely to forget. I hope to go back one day.

The paper can be found here.

Pictures from Vanuatu (back when I took pictures) are here.

Insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) are an integral piece of any malaria elimination strategy, but compliance remains a challenge and determinants of use vary by location and context. The Health Belief Model (HBM) is a tool to explore perceptions and beliefs about malaria and ITN use. Insights from the model can be used to increase coverage to control malaria transmission in island contexts.

A mixed methods study consisting of a questionnaire and interviews was carried out in July 2012 on two islands of Vanuatu: Ambae Island where malaria transmission continues to occur at low levels, and Aneityum Island, where an elimination programme initiated in 1991 has halted transmission for several years.

For most HBM constructs, no significant difference was found in the findings between the two islands: the fear of malaria (99%), severity of malaria (55%), malaria-prevention benefits of ITN use (79%) and willingness to use ITNs (93%). ITN use the previous night on Aneityum (73%) was higher than that on Ambae (68%) though not statistically significant. Results from interviews and group discussions showed that participants on Ambae tended to believe that risk was low due to the perceived absence of malaria, while participants on Aneityum believed that they were still at risk despite the long absence of malaria. On both islands, seasonal variation in perceived risk, thermal discomfort, costs of replacing nets, a lack of money, a lack of nets, nets in poor condition and the inconvenience of hanging had negative influences, while free mass distribution with awareness campaigns and the malaria-prevention benefits had positive influences on ITN use.

The results on Ambae highlight the challenges of motivating communities to engage in elimination efforts when transmission continues to occur, while the results from Aneityum suggest the possibility of continued compliance to malaria elimination efforts given the threat of resurgence. Where a high degree of community engagement is possible, malaria elimination programmes may prove successful.”

In the Kenya airport again….. and talking of Marsabit, Camels and cell phones

DSC_270222JKIA has to be one of the worst airports I can think of, and my five hour delay has drawn out the awfulness of this place. No wonder someone burned it down!

While I sit here in Nairobi Java House (which now has a branch in Kisumu…. Kisumu Java House?) eating my standard “Chicken and sun dried tomato sandwich with ABSOLUTELY NO MAYONNAISE” I’m thinking about an exchange I just has with a guy in the line for check-in.

The guy was a tall, obviously northern Kenyan who turned out to be from Marsabit, one of the most remote and lawless areas of Kenya. He works at an American university on HIV things in Kenya. We started talking camels and public health and I just couldn’t help but ask.

“How did you….” I was almost ashamed to try and finish the sentence which I kind of interjected since my interest overrode wherever the conversation was going.

“I was sent to boarding school when I was six.” I didn’t even have to finish it. He knew exactly what I was asking.

To be from a place like Marsabit and working for a major American University is no small feat. First, I have never met anyone from Marsabit and the few times I’ve met people from remote places like Pokot and Turkana, I’ve been tempted to just shake that persons hand and congratulate them. Coming up through University in a place where most kids don’t go to school at all deserves a special prize.

“One cell phone is the only piece of technology you’ll see for miles. It’s an oral culture. Communication is absolutely essential and cell phones are the most prized possession a herder will have outside of his camels.”

His brother has 60 camels. I asked if we might go up there and take some blood. I could stand a trip up to Marsabit, even if armed guards have to accompany.

Nagasaki U./Gembe East Football Match 2014 (in Kenya)

DSC_0060I’ve been tasked with resurrecting and project that has been languishing in the world of neglect for years. As I was brainstorming some ideas to revitalize and reconnect with communities we work in, I invited the chief of one of them out for choma, to discuss some options. Somewhere in the conversation, the idea of sponsoring a football match came up.

Gembe East is a community of approximately 14,000 people just east of Mbita Point in Homa Bay County, Kenya. It is quite poor and filled with numerous challenges, but it’s a mostly pleasant place to be and the Chief of the area has been incredibly supportive of all of the Nagasaki and JICA activities.

We met a couple of times, had a few discussions as to what should happen and who should do what, set up a budget for the event and proceeded to pull everything together. It was a lot like putting on a rock show, but with considerably more politics.

Gembe East is divided into four sub-locations, each of which has a soccer team. It was decided that the four teams would play and the winner would receive a new set of uniforms, some money and a trophy.

In addition, we’d have a match between Nagasaki U. and some older folks from Gembe East, a band and a few speeches from “opinion leaders.”

For the two days before the match, we strapped a sound system to the top of a Land Cruiser and drove around the area making announcements. I love seeing trucks like this do political speeches. It was great to be in the car driving around in the bush on awful roads announcing a soccer match (over Luo music) to people tending their farms.

The day of the match came yesterday, things fell unsurprisingly behind schedule, there were a few planning problems and some usual chaos, but in the end everything kind of fell into place.

The first of rounds went smoothly, though one of the teams was late. At first, the spectators were just a few old ladies, but soon the place filled up. We probably had about 2,000 people over the course of the day.

The old man team from Gembe East turned out to be guys closer to their late 20’s (though there was one guy who must have been 60). I haven’t ever played soccer in my life. Unfortunately for the team, the ball came into my vicinity a couple of times.

A real highlight was the Omena Jazz Band, a four piece outfit who have been together since 1970 and whose members were all born before 1950.

I did some speeches on the meaning and nature of our research and presented some simple results to the community. It’s incredibly satisfying to present research results to the people who are actually being surveyed. We can’t do this research without these people. They have a right to know.

Overall, it turned out to be a great day. It was great to meet so many people from the area and have the chance to interact with them. There were some challenges, but there always are when putting on big events. I hope we can do it again in the future.

After all of the negative stuff that’s happened recently, this was a welcome change.

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