Friday, December 11, 2009

Shuga - Justified Hype or Not?

Well, if you visit the Kenyan blogs or any Kenyan social networking site, no doubt you've heard the hype that's MTV Ignite's "Shuga"...a public service announcement about HIV transmission that stresses the importance of knowing one's status in a creative, subtle way that's not preachy, condemning, etc. I can see why mini-series? (still not sure what it is)...has garnered such attention in Kenya. Before I continue, here's some housekeeping disclaimers and a link to Jmmk's post with links to the "Shuga" episodes.

For starters, I'm a certified HIV test counselor, so I've seen it all and heard it all. The lens through which I view HIV is from a public health perspective, and I always try not to let my personal bias enter the picture (in true Kenyan cultural upbringing, I am socially conservative).

Ok, now on to this movie/mini-series. The one word I would use to describe it is "SURPRISING". This spoken by someone whose vivid memories of the social scene in Kenya include women being stripped on the streets of Nairobi for wearing short skirts; and who can forget the warning "This program is unsuitable for children under 18" every time The Bold and The Beautiful came on! So of course for me, seeing a chick in a short dress boarding a matatu, and close ups of people kissing, and even Ayira's underwear clad body was surprising to me. Evidently, a lot has changed about what's socially acceptable in Kenya. Which leaves me wondering if this was airing during prime time and if the kiddos watched it with their parents (kissing scenes were usually the cue to change the channel).

My constant question as I watched Shuga was "how realistic is this movie?" On one score, I think it's very realistic, but on another score, I think not.

Realistic: If you're familiar with any Kenyan party scene, then you've probably witnessed all the characters portrayed in the movie. The all-night raving, the over indulgence of alcohol, the showing off of cars, the virgin that's always being pressured but wants to do the "right" thing, etc. Whether in Kenya or abroad, I think Shuga did a good job in portraying how Kenyans party in general. Even the portrayal of the sleeping around for monetary reasons is realistic, we all know such characters.

Unrealistic: There's the finer details of testing itself, i.e. if you have unprotected sex with an HIV+ person, it takes 3-6 months to get an accurate result. So, even if Violet tested negative and Skola positive, it was too soon for her to be celebrating her negative status. I am yet to meet a single Kenyan that has not been touched by HIV, be it a family member or friend. How many of those HIV+ people close to you freely talked about their status? How did society treat them and talk about them? How did you personally feel? The theme of "acceptance" that's portrayed in Shuga is rather unrealistic. Put yourself in Ty's shoes: you've been steadily dating someone and are even ready to get married. Then you discover they've been cheating on you with an HIV+ person and put you at great risk. My guess is that it will take a long time for you to get over the initial anger. And for many people, cheating is a huge deal breaker, HIV+ or not.
Perhaps acceptance was supposed to tie in with the message of people getting tested and knowing their status: a goal to strive for. As young people, we tend to think we're invisible and certain things only happen to some people and not "me".

Judging by some of the posts already up, and the comments left, both here at KBW and social networking sites like Facebook, it's pretty obvious that Shuga has its supporters and its opposers. And that's a good thing as it brings about public dialogue and debate. And if the film will lead some people to do some soul-searching and get tested, Shuga will have accomplished one of its objectives.

The bottom line is, ABSTINENCE ONLY SEX EDUCATION DOES NOT WORK!! It was kind of amusing to see/hear how shocked the "grown-ups" were when that survey came out showing that Kenyan youth are having plenty of sex. Of course they are! And they always have, so stop with the over the top reactions. Face reality. Teens are having sex, and they will continue to have it no matter how many times we preach abstinence. The best thing to do for our youth is educate them on how to protect themselves against HIV and other STDs, and teach them to take responsibility for their actions. For those that decide the best way to do that is by abstaining...good for them! Unfortunately, a majority won't. It's time we stopped burying our heads in the sand and pretending that every unmarried person is a virgin, or more accurately, should be a virgin. And even those that are married are known to stray. Otherwise, HIV rates among married couples wouldn't be so high.

I say, kuddos Shuga, for starting yet another HIV dialogue, and putting it in a context that the average campus student in Kenya can relate to. For those that think it's too "westernized", that's part of what's going on with our young Kenyans. They're busy becoming "westernized".

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Eleventh Commandment

Who would have thought a small car accident on his own property would turn Tiger Wood's life upside down? (The paps probably know what these celebs do before the celebs go out and do it...damn!)While the media circus is ridiculous, and with all these women and their mamas claiming to have had sex with Cheater...I mean Tiger...I couldn't help but marvel at how sloppy this dude is. It's like he was begging to get caught.

Now, all of us can probably name 5 - 10 men that we personally know that have cheated on their wives/girlfriends. Asked to come up with the same number of women, we would probably be at a loss. Does that mean women don't cheat as much as men? Of course not! They probably cheat more; it's just that they've mastered "The eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not get caught".

I remember my first year of college in undergrad, my roommate also happened to be my best friend from high school. I was dating a guy I'd met right after graduation and that relationship lasted my entire first year. Everything was going great, but towards the end of the year, I started suspecting he was cheating on me partly because of his sudden change in behavior and habits. That summer, after our first anniversary, I broke up with him because I no longer trusted him. A week later, I found out from my cousin that he was seen at a party cozying up with my best friend. Of course I was shocked! This girl had been my friend since high school. I thought I knew all her secrets...from first kiss, to when she lost her virginity (I had to sleep in another friend's room that night), I could even tell you what she ate for dinner. Plus, we were roommates, had mutual friends and did almost everything together. And I never suspected a thing, nor could I fathom when she was able to do the creeping (turns out when I was busy putting in my 3-4 hours of volunteer work at the hospital, she was getting it in with my man). Had all three of us not had the same circle of friends, I might never have discovered that my boyfriend was cheating on me with my best friend.

I have never cheated on a man, and I like to believe that before things get that bad, I will have tried to rectify the problem or walked out before I cheat. But, I don't know that for a fact (shit happens!) So, if, theoretically, I were to cheat, everything would have to conform to the 11th commandment:

For starters, I would avoid the first blatant mistake Woods made and cheat with someone who has as much to lose as I do. That's key motivation for silence. And silence is the only way to not get caught. When you're a multi millionaire/billionaire cheating with a waitress....'nuff said! This really, is the most important thing. Everything else is common sense: avoid PDA, don't use credit cards, don't call each other, etc. Then again, common sense is not so common...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Has it Really Been a Year?

Damn! How fast time flies! Can't believe I haven't visited the blogs since last year. Well, I can't close the year without a single post. Oh, what school can do to you.

Was just reading my last post and remembering how depressed I was a year ago. It's true, time does heal all wounds. I am 100% over my ex, the death of my favorite unce and father figure doesn't hurt as much anymore....even my academic performance and finances have improved.

But, I'm still really bad at picking men. I think it's a disease. I keep joking to my family that they need to do one of those arranged marriages for me or else they'll end up with the weirdest in-law they've ever heard of. After all, I am turning 26 in less than 2 months and all my friends seem to be jumping the broom and popping out kiddies like popcorn machines. That little fact hasn't gone unnoticed by my family. Why in the hell would my aunties and grandmas ask me on a monthly basis whether I found a "new catch" (who uses such phrases?) My parents, who were always anti-marriage while in school, are suddenly worried that I'm not being "social" enough. My dad bluntly pointed out to me this past summer that I'll be graduating in less than 3 years and once I add that "Dr." title to my name, it's gonna be exponentially harder to meet eligible men (instinct tells me it'll be the opposite, but with Kenyan men, you never know). One of my aunts is even using phrases like "import a husband from Kenya"....gotta love these people.

All in all, this has been a progressively good year. After having a complete meltdown, the school year ended well, I spent the summer in Kenya doing volunteer service and meeting lots of hot, single, successful men (my love of Kenyan men was forever renewed), my second year in school is more stress-free, and I'm involved enough with community service that I'm finally feeling like my motivated, passionate self again. Even the social scene in this God-forsaken, middle-of-nowhere city has improved and if it wasn't for the lack of family, I might even venture to say I'm kinda starting to like it. Although I'll be damned if I stay here for residency!

And of course, can't forget to thank God for making all this possible. 2008 was a horrible year, 2009 has been a tolerable year, and I hope 2010 will be a successful, purpose-filled (and fulfilled) year. Cheers!