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The AIDS Conference Conundrum

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Monday, August 2nd, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

Of all the heart-wrenching scenes I witnessed at the 18th International AIDS Conference, the most disturbing had to be on the last day when the Conference volunteers went about the exhibition halls rounding up mountains of abandoned books, brochures and flyers.

“It’s all rubbish now,” I gasped to myself as I watched whole piles of materials disappear into vast recycling bins.

The chatty teenage volunteers, donned in bright yellow T-shirts, probably thought nothing of it. But I thought differently.

What a waste.

The amount of money spent in producing and shipping those things to Vienna is a figure I don’t want to even try to imagine, lest I become even more upset than I already am. I was a culprit too, leaving a tall stack of books on my hotel room bed as I tried to weigh out (figuratively and literally) which would be most useful to take back home. Feeling horribly guilty about abandoning the materials, I considered leaving the housekeeper a note to say not to throw away the books and instead hand them out to friends and family. But something told me that a ‘first world’ country with a decimal  HIV prevalence figure might not take too much interest in books around reforming sexual and reproductive health rights policy in the patriarchal global south.

Maybe they might. But I thought against the idea and did what many people did in hotel corridors, lobbies and at airport check-in desks these past few days.

I dumped the books.

I had never been to one of these big HIV conferences before but went into the experience with a healthy dose of scepticism (not wholly premised on the fact that people dump stuff of course, since I’d heard about that before).

One of my strong beliefs was that a gathering of 20 000-odd people (19 300 participants, to be exact) with 248 sessions, 127 satellite meetings, 279 Global Village activities, 151 exhibits, 19 plenary sessions, 18 special sessions and enough daily sponsored after hours parties featuring copious amounts of free booze – all happening in 6 days – would lead to excited chaos and eventually, apathy.

In a post mortem on the Conference, the international agency, Oxfam, called it a disappointing conference whose tone was set by the host nation, Austria, when it indicated  that it would not contribute a single cent towards the replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria(GFTAM).

According to a presentation made by Paula Akubigizwe of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), the 2010 Conference delegates’ collective presence contributed an estimated total of 45 million Euro to Austria’s GDP – a figure that was equivalent to 20% of the total GFTAM Round 9 allocation to southern Africa for the response to all three diseases.

I don’t need to point out the irony for you.

I also don’t really need to point out the irony in the fact that the next conference takes place in Washington DC, moving further and further away from the hotbed of HIV which unequivocally remains sub-Saharan Africa. (Out of 18 such events held, the 2000 Durban Conference represents the only time the Conference has ever taken place in Africa.) I was simply appalled by the conversation I overheard among a group of men who each proclaimed they had been to at least three or four of these conferences and yet, had never so much as attended a single session.


We really need to think about what we are doing here, what real response and responsibility means to each one of us on a personal level. But here are my questions.

Do these big conferences actually work or are they simply glorified talk shops? Should we even be contemplating having a 19th and a 20th and, God forbid, a coming-of-age 21st International AIDS Conference?

The course of the epidemic remains very region-specific so that talking about condom negotiation to women in Sweden can be about as meaningless as talking about harm reduction to a group of Zimbabweans. Yes, it’s important to know all of this information, but on a practical level, it mostly remains useless.

And while we heard at the Conference about the alarming growth of the HIV pandemic in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, particularly among injecting drug users and sex workers, we forgot that two-thirds of all people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa; women who get HIV by merely having sex with their husbands and babies who are born with no chance to reach their fifth birthday.

But this isn’t sexy enough.

And so we’ve taken to catchy phrases like ‘treatment as prevention’ or the edgy sounding ‘Treatment 2.0’ coined by UNAIDS. According to UNAIDS, the new Treatment 2.0 platform – which includes HIV testing scale up and strengthening community mobilisation as some of its pillars -  can reduce new HIV infections by one-third if treatment is provided to everyone who needs it.

But that’s what makes it more sexy than practicable.

I don’t need to tell you how many countries are falling short of providing universal access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) for people whose CD4 counts have dipped below the 200 threshold.  Thus the 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations to up CD4 thresholds to 350 for treatment initiation for people with HIV remains a pipe dream for many.

And in many parts of the world, the thought of initiating people who aren’t even already infected with HIV onto treatment is a mere fantasy.

But let my scepticism not completely override the successes scored at this year’s Conference. South Africa, once the joke of the global response to HIV and AIDS proved that it has well and truly shaken off its demons and come to the party. No better proof of this could have been given than by the standing ovation afforded to Health Minister, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi in one of the plenary sessions when he admitted that the task ahead was comparable to climbing Mount Everest, but needed to be carried out anyway. And also, a breakthrough in microbicide research with the CAPRISA 004 trials. With 39% effectiveness in reducing a woman’s risk of becoming infected with HIV, the female condom might soon be finding company with another female controlled device. Admittedly, the trials are still in the preliminary stages but when one of the key researchers, Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, smeared a little of the clear odourless gel onto my palm, I felt like I was literally holding the future in my hand.

But the real winner?

That is unquestionably Austria and the historical city of Vienna, whose people largely went about their way oblivious to the impact that a gathering of HIV scientists, campaigners and programmers would have on the nation’s future.

Wouldn’t it have been so much more of a meaningful impact, I wonder, if we’d actually taken the conference somewhere that really needed it?

So, go ahead, call me a salad

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Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

On a recent visit to my grandmother’s rural home, I remarked to my uncle how sad it is that when I have children of my own, all of their grandparents will be city-dwelling creatures who won’t boast scenic views of misted mountain ranges, free-roaming cattle and grass-thatched rondawels.

“Ah, but you can’t be sure of that yet,” he quipped. “You could get married to a man whose parents live in the rural areas and who loves to go and see them often.”

I am not too sure whether the grimace I felt growing within, after that statement was made, actually seeped through my flesh and crept all the way up to my face. Marry a man whose parents live where and who loves to do what?!

Now, I know those types well – the urban dwellers whose lungs can’t take the smell of diesel and industrialisation for any protracted amount of time, and who must therefore drive off to the ‘roots’ (that’s Zimbabwean slang for one’s rural home) at any opportunity. Public holidays, Christmas, Easter, annual leave – name the calendar dates and these men are on their merry way.

I have absolutely no problem with this whatsoever. Showing love and appreciation for where you come from is a sign of humility and respect. So bravo to all of those who have embraced their heritage.

But please don’t expect me to be the first to be kitted out in faithful pursuit at the suggestion of each and every road trip to see my in-laws and their string of relatives.

Let’s go through the reasons why.

It isn’t just rural folk who want to see what mettle a mroora (daughter-in-law) is made of. But they make the greatest demands on you to find out whether you really were worth all those cows given away as your bride price.

They want to know if you can cook, clean and do every other wifely task they know of from their own mental handbooks.

And note, cooking here is not for some previously planned dinner party of eight guests who all get place names. In this instance, it’s more like cooking for the whole village – aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, brothers of aunts of great uncles and any other relation you can think of!

Oh, and I neglect to mention that this is cooking by fire.

In a drum.

With a big old log for you to stir the pap around with as it gurgles and threatens to erupt all over your face.

I laugh at the thought of my even attempting such feats of heroism.

Ah, and then there’s the small matter of plucking feathers from newly deceased chickens which, in their final moments, you watched coursing about the yard headless and bloody.

I have to pass on that one too because I have real issues with cooking or eating something that I have seen living.

Call me crazy, but I grow attached to livestock. I watch and learn their different characters and even give them names and nationalities. In fact, in just this last visit to my grandmother I reincarnated one of her hens as a moody painter called Pierrick cocking his head to and fro (in the previous life the hen was male!) and fixing his eyes on angular shapes and edgy colours.

So don’t think for one moment that I could ever partake of the cooking and eating of Pierrick and others of his kith and kin.

Fetching water from a well kilometres away and then balancing a full bucket over my head? And actually walking with it?

Pass again.

But my personal favourite is getting all of this done before the first cock crows and with the whispers behind my aching back about when exactly it is that I will show my fertility by falling pregnant.

Did I just chuckle out loud? I am not so sure because no one else is in the room.

The chuckle, whether audible or otherwise, is induced by the fact that I am involved in a well-documented unshakeable romance with my pillows. So much so is sleep the glory of my life that I have since forfeited the spectacle of picturesque sunrises for it.

I will forfeit a whole lot more, even at the risk of being called a salad. In Zimbabwe, people who are considered to be ‘raw’ in a cultural sense, are derisively referred to as salads – no particular type of salad, just anything that’s made up of raw ingredients.

Oh, and who really understands the idea of getting married and enjoying your spouse’s company for a few years before birthing a brood of noisy rugrats? Just you wait more than a year and listen as everyone speculates that you are barren and that you need that special healing that the pastor who lives on a distant mountain top gives.

I am in no way making light of rural life. Rural communities have their own systems, proud rituals and traditions. And these are what keep them functional.

But I am at an age where I can be honest with myself.

I will never be a size 10. I will not be a fashion designer when I grow up. And I will not be the typical traditional wife.

My way of life is a fusion of things – an acculturation of different ways and beliefs about how I feel that I can most benefit the various structures within society, including family.

I am not a domestic goddess. I can be competent at house work, but nothing more. And whoever I marry, if I marry, has to understand that.

So no eyes gawking at me and vetting my competencies, thank you! The rustic life wasn’t made for some.

And for this narration of my reservations, call me a salad if you want. In fact, call me a Waldorf salad. At least I can munch away at bits of apples and nuts while you chew over my audacity.

Bon appetite!

What’s your flavour? A look into female condoms

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Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

Pina colada and berry flavoured vaginal lubricant.

Green apple-scented condoms.

These are just but a few of the enticements featured at the Condom Project stall at this year’s  18th International AIDS Conference, which opened on Sunday. The organisation, which is part of the larger Condomise Campaign, boasts a stall with an array of colourful condoms, genital lubricants and other aids which the general public are free to sample and taste.

But amid the kaleidoscope colours of sensuality and allure, the female condom still looks unappealing in its white, pink and blue packaging.

As Joy Lynn Alegarres, the Director of Global Operations for the Condom Project, explains, the FC2 female condom, the only condom currently approved for  global use, is undergoing a rebranding (through partners such as UNFPA)and will soon reflect the identity of the various countries where women use it.

“In Bali, the packaging is now pink with a flower on it,” explains Alegarres.

As Maya Gokul of South Africa observes, the female condom is available in over 120 countries of the world and has passed tests of approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

And it can be sexy.

“Since the inner ring is detachable, it is exciting for guys,” adds Gokul. “When the penis bumps against that inner ring it is very sensual.”

She also added that a male partner can use the inner ring to arouse the woman through playing with her clitoris prior to putting the condom on.

And as Nienke Blauw of the Netherlands demonstrated, there are newer models of the female condom that may soon be on the market that can add to the variety for the female condom.  One condom, which is called the cupid and is being developed in India, has a sponge instead of an inner ring which is meant to gave a different sensual experience to the user. Another is cone-shaped and has a tampon-like tip which expands to fit into the inner vaginal lining upon contact with moisture. Unlike other female condoms, it does not use lubricant as it makes use of the woman’s fluids to eventually open up after insertion.

But while innovation around the female condom is increasing, barriers still exist.

“In Zambia, female condoms are going for a (United States) dollar for a pack of two,” explained Carol Nyirenda of the Coalition of Zambian Women Living with HIV.

Prices of female condoms remain much higher than those of male condoms, which means that many women cannot afford to buy the only HIV prevention device that they can control themselves.

Currently, Zambia’s activists are in the process of lobbying the Ministry of Trade and Industry to review and formulate policy for the regulation of the quality of privately imported male and female condoms by 2011.

Also, Nyirenda stressed the importance of educating those who use the condom to do so correctly and consistently, and also to challenge cultural norms that increase women’s vulnerability to HIV transmission, such as marital rape.

“There is need to work on cultural norms which promote the subordination of women, especially in terms of sex, notes Tabona Shoko,the Director of Zimbabwe’s National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (ZNNP+), who is an advocate for the female condom. “We need to create leeway for women to negotiate for safer sex.”

Interestingly, Annie Michelle Salla of Cameroon shared that in her country, male military officials had actually requested that rather than train them to use the male condom effectively, they requested that condom promoters train their wives to use the female condom.

The reason?

The men felt that it was important for their spouses to be able to protect themselves since they admitted that they were not responsible enough to do so.

Roli Mahajan, a journalist from India also feels strongly that the female condom should become more widely available and affordable. But when asked how it could be improved, she admitted to never having used it.

Veanne Turczynski from Germany has also never used the female condom but is sceptical about the product. “I cannot imagine that it’s practical to use because it’s hard to handle,” she noted. “It’s so much more complicated than the male condom.”

But with an HIV epidemic that still affects far more woman than men, the female condom remains a tool well worth investing in – for the sake of women’s health.

The ABCs of SRH

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Monday, June 28th, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

As a gender and HIV activist, getting the opportunity to attend the 26th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, as a female youth observer was very important for me.

Coming from Zimbabwe where HIV infection leans more towards women than men, I am always aware of the need for women and girl’s empowerment against oppressive gender norms if my nation is to ever overcome the epidemic which still stands towering above us at over 14% prevalence.

Prior to the two-day PCB meeting, and as part of the programme, I attended a thematic session on integrating sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV services.

Quite honestly, I had never really thought of the intricacies of linking Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and HIV services, although I had always known about the importance of providing HIV testing and treatment services within antenatal care for pregnant women and girls.

At the thematic session, however, I learnt just how far back we are falling on this.

As Gottfried Hirnschall of the World Health Organization (WHO) shared, HIV is currently contributing to 19.2% of global maternal deaths in the 15-44 year age group. And TB is contributing a further 6.4%.

Imagine that.

TB and HIV – both manageable diseases, when early detection and treatment are available – are accounting for a quarter of the deaths of all pregnant women in the world.

And with southern Africa, my region of the world, being the area most affected by HIV, that means that even more women here are dying needlessly. National HIV statistics from all over the region consistently show that HIV prevalence among pregnant women who attend antenatal clinics is usually much higher than overall national figures.

It was therefore heartening to hear about some of the good work being done in the region to begin to address the urgent need for stronger integration of services.

Dudu Simelane of the Family Life Association of Swaziland gave a perspective from her country of the successes and opportunities for integration.

Her organisation is working with various development partners to provide youth-friendly SRH and HIV services that integrate interventions such as screening for STIs and TB, HIV tests, pap smears for cervical cancer, pre-and post abortion care, male circumcision, ART and the promotion of condoms for dual protection (that is, using condoms not only to prevent contracting HIV but also to prevent unwanted pregnancies).

What’s good about such sites is that they provide a broad range of services under one roof.   And ultimately, this cuts down on a woman’s use of usually scarce resources such as money and time. So instead of spending two amounts of bus fare to first get to an HIV testing centre and then to the STI clinic where she’s been referred, a woman only spends one amount to get all the services she needs. This also saves her time for travel, which is also often a very practical barrier to a woman being able to access services.

But perhaps even more importantly, such integration helps to reduce stigma. As a visitor to one of the Swazi sites noted, “It’s not like other clinics where I have to go to the ART wing. I go to the same dispensary as everyone else to get my medicine.”

That sort of set-up does a world of good to fight stigma and discrimination. I have heard ghastly stories in Zimbabwe about how people who visit the opportunistic infections clinics of hospitals are set apart from other people receiving services and labeled imi vanhu veHIV (you people with HIV).  Such treatment has serious influence on whether a person will continue to come to collect their medicine every month and can actually lead them to stop taking drugs completely, thereby building up drug resistances and damaging the immune system.

If you think stigma doesn’t kill, think again.

As Sofia Gruskin of the Harvard School of Public Health reminded us, one of the main obstacles to integration is stigma and discrimination. And sadly, this is usually perpetuated by the very workers in the health sector. Gruskin cited examples of the prejudice of healthcare workers in many parts of the world who refuse to offer contraceptives and STI services to unmarried women (who in the eyes of the workers should not be having sex in the first place). And on the flip side of the coin, there are health workers who will not give a married woman contraceptives in the belief that she should be having as many children as possible.

In its most extreme manifestation, stigma and discrimination has seen healthcare workers sterilisng HIV positive women, after childbirth, to ensure that they do not have the option to have any more children.

Also, what’s been found at the sites in Swaziland is that there has been increased male involvement through the provision of male circumcision (MC) as an entry point. Studies have already shown that MC has high efficacy rates of around 60% when it comes to HIV prevention (if practised with correct and consistent condom use) and providing it in such a setting seems like a good way of ensuring that men don’t shy away from being seen with their partners at sites which they would ordinarily think of as places for women.

Morolake Odetoyinbo of Nigeria’s Positive Action for Treatment Access pointed out how culture and socialisation leads to the detachment of men from SRH issues by always teaching girls about SRH and not doing the same for boys.  In many African cultures, it is acknowledged that a woman’s virginity is the greatest prize that she can ever give a man. And also, it is commonly emphasised that her role within sexual intercourse is solely to please her man. To this effect, women in some Zimbabwean cultures are instructed to pull on their vaginal labia from an early age so that these lips protrude. Apparently, this has an effect on sensation and stimulation for a man during sex.

But nothing is without its challenges. As Simelane pointed out, healthcare providers can become overwhelmed by demand for the integrated services, seeing more patients than usual. Also, there tends to be increased client waiting time due to provision of HIV counselling and testing which is a time-consuming process.

For such service integration to be successful, there is need for a range of competencies, including capacity building as well as the fostering of strong partnerships with national and international organisations that may be able to provide staff on secondment or funds towards integration.

And a word of warning.

Integration doesn’t necessarily mean cost saving. In order to be effective, it requires a lot of investment and patience. It takes time to change perceptions and attitudes. Donors need to be aware of this and should not expect radical results within a short amount of time.

And you can’t put all expectations of success on the donor’s shoulders either.

A comprehensive country response to SRH and HIV integration will require the cooperation of civil society, government and the private sector with overall leadership and coordination by the national AIDS authority. National HIV plans will need to be better linked with national SRH plans. Funding streams will need to stop supporting vertical structures.

So how can all of this work in the real world?

The most important thing is for healthcare workers to stop moralising and stigmatising patients. Rigorous training and monitoring is required. Journalists and the media should be mobilised to write articles on the matter so that the general public can know when they are receiving sub-standard services.  A healthcare worker’s role is to provide quality service – and not an opinion.

Secondly, I believe that current upscale of MC in Africa provides an immense opportunity for SRH and HIV integration.  Rather than set up stand alone MC sites that drain resources in terms of infrastructural development and staff recruitment, let’s look at integrating them into pre-existing sites. Also, when we finally develop an effective HIV-preventing microbicide, this must be accessible in terms of cost, as well as available as part of a holistic range of sexual and reproductive health services. In other words, I should be able to get my microbicides at my local clinic, and not at some high-tech lab.

And let’s make sure that everyone who needs to get HIV services can do so. Antenatal care coverage in Africa is still too low. In fact, some women still don’t know about it. Let’s take the information and the services to the people and build the capacity of community-based initiatives.

But most importantly, let’s remember that sexual and reproductive health rights are human rights. No, they aren’t a passing fad or the latest NGO buzz. When implemented, they represent human lives saved and money well spent.

Keeping up with the Moyos

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Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

So there’s this thing that we Africans do that is a little bit funny, but also actually quite a serious issue.

Let me set the secenario for you by introducing you to the imaginary Mr. Y and his wife, Mrs. Y who will help me illustrate my point.

The Ys are a family who earn enough money from their combined salaries just to get by each month, as well as take care of their three young children. Mr. Y works with an NGO where his pay is lukewarm, and Mrs. Y is a nurse in a public hospital. Her pay is definitely cold.

So you would think that the Ys try by all means to live within their means right?

Far from it!

Rather, they rent out a house in some  plush suburb (though they are three months behind on paying up and the landlord is threatening to take them to court) and their children go to that private school up the rolling highlands where the red-hot fees ensure that Mr. Y can never save enough money to fix that dent on the bonnet of his car.

Speaking of his car, Mr. Y drives a C Class Benz – black in colour, tinted windows with reams gleaming that seem to make time slow down with each revolution of the fine specimen’s tyres.

Oh, and doesn’t Mrs. Y just love to drive that Benz to church on Sundays and ‘humbly’ remind Jehovah’s children how blessed in the blood of Jesus  she is to be in possession of this stunning vehicle.

If only they knew that it wasn’t actually her car, or even her husband’s. Nope. The car belongs to Mr. Y’s brother who’s fled to the UK and entrusted the keys to his most prized possession to Mr. Y. whose old tired jalopy is now hidden from public view, locked up in the car shed.

So you get the picture, right?

This is a story about a family that on first appearance seems to have it all going on BUT is actually living a horrible lie.

What for?

Esteem in the eyes of society, of course. Hey, you gotta show that you’ve done something right with your life and the Ys are just trying to ‘keep up with the Moyos’.

I remember an American friend visiting Zimbabwe once asking me a very interesting question.

“Why do so many African families have this fixation with flat screen TVs and leather sofas ?!”

She just couldn’t get why everyone either had those two items, or was saving up towards them.

It got me thinking.

Why is that so many people own terribly expensive phones, and yet can’t even afford to load air time onto the things every month? Why is it that every woman worth her salt in society owns a microwave or washing machine and often never actually uses them?

Like I said before, it’s all about APPEARANCES. When purchased for all the wrong and misguided reasons, these things become status symbols that people use to say, “I’ve made it, unlike you!”

Such reasoning reflects an innate fear of inadequacy that many of us have. You must have a legacy, you must show up all those people who said you wouldn’t amount to much, you must have something to show for all that suffering you endured growing up in some rural area reading for your exams by candlelight.

It’s really sad that in African cultures, we tend to gauge success by trivial things like possessions. And it’s sad too that so many young people strive for that ideal with such singular purpose that they lose sight of the real dreams for their lives.

Who cares what the neighbours think? They will talk regardless of what you do, or don’t do; own or don’t own. A life lived on behalf of the perceptions of others about you is not your life, especially if you really don’t like leather sofas anyway!

My heart’s in Accra

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Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

When I tell people that I am saving up to travel somewhere distant and exotic, they tend to look at me quizzically, as though I have lost my marbles.

“But why don’t you rather buy something sensible – say furniture or a car or a plot of land? Travel is surely not that important!”

More often than not, I am met with such responses when I start talking about my longed-for road trips through west Africa or some unexplored part of Asia.

It would seem to me that we as Zimbabweans, and Africans I dare say, don’t place much significance on becoming global citizens who know their world better.

Rather, when we travel, we’d prefer it to be on someone else’s tab – a workshop or conference where one spends the whole time in a hotel and then takes snaps around anything that bears the visited country’s name and proudly announces to all their Facebook friends, “Ndanga ndiriko! I was there!”

I will admit that once upon a time, I used to be like that. Back then, I figured that having a stamp in my passport that proved I had been to a place gave me authority to speak about it as though I had been born and bred there, even if I had only taken a few paces around some touristy places.

But then over time, I have come to realise that travel is more than just the physical act. There is such a wealth of learning – about people’s cultures and ways – waiting for you if you just take up the challenge.

I think that such experiences can be more valuable than buying things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely important to invest in property . But there are things that travelling teaches you about yourself, about humanity and the sameness of us all amid our differences in geography, language, race and religion.

And also when I talk about travel, please don’t start pointing that accusatory finger at me and telling me that travel is for rich people.

Some of the best travel expeditions I have had have been on a shoestring budget and loads of adrenaline. Last year, a few friends and I bundled into a bus to Victoria Falls and stayed at a $5-a-night ‘lodge’ and had the most amazing time (eating baked beans and dry bread for breakfast and lunch, I might add!) interacting with the locals and just taking in the beauty of the majestic smoke that thunders.

And what about an even cheaper trail? How’s about a weekend exploring a part of your own city that you’ve never really paid attention to? Mbare, with all its history has a great atmosphere of life and living. Makokoba township, with its lively arts scene, is another place worth a visit.

I know there’s people living in their leafy suburban homes who would never dream of going on such tours fearing being seen ‘kughetto’. But those places we tend to look down upon harbour some of the most amazing experiences and people.

My favourite memory of visiting the Vic Falls last year was going to a bar in Chinotimba township where the music was far too loud for my ears and the half-drunk male revelers kept buying drinks for the designated ‘queen bee’ who stood in a corner gently tapping to the beat, making the jelly in her backside quiver to the men’s delight and unending attention. But each time one of them came up to her, she would shoo them away and say that she would only consider the guy’s advances on one condition – that he buy her some bottles of the beer she was plying herself with. Turns out she didn’t like any of the men anyway and used their interests to get herself sloshed! She left, very much alone, and very much unbalanced.

What a sight, and all on a working Wednesday night!

Here’s to travel and all the hilarious and mind-opening experiences that it brings.

And so next time I tell you my heart’s in Accra, please understand the itch in my blood to go to that legendary land. One day, just one day, my body will follow!