Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Previously I have remarked that it is rather sad to know that I will live longer than most of my students.  Statistics clearly shows that the life expectancy of a South Korean is much higher than that of a Tanzanian.  Although, as any statistical measurement is, it is a generalization, the distinction in the availability of health care makes this harrowing difference believable. 

I have also noticed that this statistical difference (oh I'm sure a very small p-value) is reflected on the daily Tanzanian life.  That is, I observe a high rate of death around me.  Over the past month, a student's mother, another's sister, and another's friend passed away.  Mr. Prosper, a fellow teacher, went to his grandfather's funeral over the weekend.  One particular death I will never forget happened a couple of months ago.  In the middle of the night, I heard a loud wailing.  It turns out there was a death in a neighbor's family.  People gathered for condolences, but I didn't go because one, I was not acquainted with anyone in the family, and two, I didn't know how to react.

In fact, thinking about the past deaths, the list goes on and on.  Azizi, a young teenager who lives across from me, lost his mother after she had a surgery on her uterus.  And now, my other neighbor has a growth in her uterus too.

A lower life expectancy and a high birth rate in developing societies indicates that death looms.  And the decrepit medical system also indicates that if you're sick, be ready for death.  When my students ask for permission to attend a funeral, or to console a friend who's experienced a death in the family, I see grief.  But being so frequent, the grief seems to be anticipated and routine.

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