Closing the Book and Walking Away

I’m going to be backtracking a little bit in this blog post. I would like to take us back to the day we discussed the end of Zulus, and to the day we read “The Trouble with ‘Medical Voluntourism’”, because both classes are days I continue thinking about.

In our discussions of the end of Zulus and the article “The Trouble With Medical Voluntourism”, Professor McCoy suggested the idea of “closing the book and walking away”. The class related this idea to the two texts because in both situations, there is either a sense of finality either for the reader or for the voluntourists.

Just as a refresher, first we discussed the cyclical nature of Zulus. At the end of the novel, Alice places her hand on top of Kevin Peters’, and together they pull the green lever. The last sentence in the novel reads, “Z is for Zulus,” (247) indicating that they ended all human life. This is implied not only because Alice is considering pulling the lever to end the world, but also because Z (or Zulus) is the last letter of the English alphabet. Each chapter begins with a letter instead of a number. It appears as if these letters serve as a countdown to the end of the novel. The last line of the alphabet song is, “next time won’t you sing with me?” We can interpret this novel as Alice Achitophel retelling her story of how she both saved and destroyed the human race. Professor McCoy suggested that while we as readers “can close the book and walk away”, Alice Achitophel’s story will live on as she continues to tell the story from the dead.

Secondly, the article “The Trouble with Medical ‘Voluntourism’” is an example of an extreme case of this kind of voluntourism. “Projects Abroad offers medical volunteering placements for anyone over age 16, even if they lack prior medical experience and don’t speak the language” (Sullivan). Since prior medical experience isn’t a necessary requirement for participate in this program, serious physical harm could be caused to the patients. The inexperience of the voluntourists should speak for itself–nobody besides licensed medical practitioners should be performing invasive procedures, because that increases the rate of potentially harming the patient. While the voluntourists are able to leave the country with an experience that “sets them apart” on college and medical school applications, the patients and natives of this country stay and deal with the same diseases every day, possibly for the rest of their lives. If the procedures performed by the voluntourists harm the patients, then their quality of life will be lessened, and the voluntourists will have left the communities in the same state, if not worse, than before.

These stories remind me of my own, in a way, and that’s why I continue to think about the idea that was suggested in class. My family used to be a host family for foster children in the Rochester, NY area. We began when I was five-years old. We worked with seven children altogether, and we adopted two of my siblings in 2010. However, the reason I bring this story up is because we closed the book on the first three children. They were our first foster kids, and we took care of all three sisters at once. There was an infant, a three-year-old, and the oldest was five-years old. They were the kind of stubborn that results from little family structure; we were inexperienced. My parents called and had them placed in a new home within three weeks. My mom and I will talk about them every once in awhile, wondering what type of lives they’re leading now. We were ill-equipped to continue caring for them in their home, and I think passing them on to another more experienced family was in the best interest of all involved parties.

We learned that if you aren’t experienced, you may not be able to make a lasting positive impact on the people you’re helping, and that’s okay. While we couldn’t care for them in those three weeks the way a more experience family could have, we know we at least kept them safe.

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