The First Goodbye

Ok, I stared at the computer screen for a good fifteen minutes before I finally started writing this post. Quick summary of my weekend (final weekend in Plett!), and then I have some bigger stuff to tackle, so feel free to skip ahead since it wasn’t anything ground-breaking.

On Saturday, Sophie, Becca, Alex, Jules, Sam, Nelsen, and I all went into Plett together since the rest of the group was going skydiving. We got some DELICIOUS sushi and spent the rest of the day chilling on the beach. The waves were pretty rough and the sun was super intense, but I played mom for a few hours and made sure no one went into the water alone and everyone had sunscreen on (ironically, I was the one who got burned…). That evening, we met up with the rest of the crew at a local bar/restaurant and listened to a live band while we all just hung out. The vibe was really, really awesome: it was the first time we were all together in the evening without the PLs, just as a group of friends. Hopefully we’ll get to do more of that in the future. On Sunday, we headed back to Ingwe for some cool stuff with birds and a nice hike, and then a delicious buffet and a session of building owl-houses. Overall a chill day, with lots of games played on the long bus rides.

Ok, onto the bigger matters at hand: this is my last post while living in Kwano. I haven’t really thought about it until now, but writing that out makes me really, really sad. Martha admitted to Jenni and I the other day that although she has a son, she’s always wanted a daughter, and she feels much safer and happier with us in the house. She’s been more than a gracious host: she’s been a mother to us, boiling hot water for our baths every morning since there is none, making sure we have tons to eat, finding out our favorite foods and stocking up on them, giving us our own blankets to snuggle up on the couch with. So many times she has told us that it’s not her house, it’s our house, and her presence has made this somewhat terrifying experience so easy and amazing. I’ll miss her in more ways than I can put into words, and I don’t think I can ever truly thank her for opening her home and making my time here so unforgettable.

For the past few weeks, every time I mentioned that I was living in a township, I received a reaction that varied from shock to delight to horror. Some people thought we were taking advantage of an amazing opportunity, and lauded our efforts to truly understand the people and culture here. Others were downright offended, arguing that townships were dangerous and inhabitable places, completely unfit for a group of all white students like ourselves, wracked with criminals, drunks, and savages. It was those reactions that really gave me pause. I reflected on some of my own fears coming into the township, and realized that many of them weren’t far off from those of the people I considered to be ignorant and rude. I was ashamed and embarrassed. After being here for more than a month, I’ve come to realize that although my life back home is different in so many ways, there are more ways in which it is the same. We all chase that elusive quest for happiness, which can be as simple as a roof over our heads and health for our family. It is these basic wants and needs which make us human; these things that draw us together, no matter the distance and differences between us.

Which brings me to another thing that’s been on my mind for the past few weeks. Ever since we watched the film “Human,” I’ve been thinking about what it means to be human. The best I can come up with is this: being human means jealousy, fear, rage, incompetence, selfishness, disgust, bitterness, and hatred. We are inevitable in our tendency to make mistakes, and even the best of us retain some unsavory attributes. And yet, being human also means kindness, compassion, forgiveness, patience, laughter, growth, and so many other amazing things. As humans, our ability to love unconditionally is so incredibly encroached in the fibre of our being that it seems capable of overpowering the myriad of other emotions that pour out of us at all times. So yes, we are flawed beings, but we are still redeemable. We are mismatched, pockmarked, broken, and stitched together again, but we are beautiful, in all our imperfections. It would do us well to remember that.

Some of those ideas are touched on in our media projects, which is the final glaring aspect of my life right now. In each core country, we are able to break into small groups to tackle a specific problem or idea that has resonated with us from that country. Once in these groups, we then work to present that idea in a short media presentation, using whatever medium we choose. For South Africa, Jules and I took immediate interest in a comment Sandra made about the impact drinking has on the spread of HIV/AIDS. We wanted to roll with that idea, and it has expanded to address the current drinking culture in South Africa as a whole. Media project presentations are on Thursday, and we’re planning on making a podcast, but that could potentially change between then and now. Unfortunately, being such a small group means that it took us a little longer to get our act together, so we’re a little behind where we wanted to be at this point. Here’s hoping it all comes together!

On Friday morning we’re leaving Plett for Addo, the site of our first enrichment week!! We don’t have many details other than the fact that we’ll be going on a safari, so I’m definitely excited for that. Not sure what the Wifi situation is like out there, so unclear if I’ll be able to post an update next week. If not, then the next time you’ll hear from me will be in India!

Other news: Sophie, Mandy, Jules and I started our new job yesterday: teaching elementary school kids at the primary school Phakamisani. I’m having a great time! The kids are really sweet, and it feels good to help out the one teacher in a class of 44 fourth graders, even if they do tend to be extremely distracted by my hair and skin and clamor for my nametag. It’s making me really excited/nervous for our next unit in India: education!

Also, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! A bunch of us are still trying to piece together a little celebration this weekend, but not sure how that’ll play out. I’m currently planning on being a flower child, will possibly try to post pics?!?

All in all, I’m beyond grateful for my time here, and as much as it breaks my heart to leave Kwano behind (and my amazing roomie/Kwano Krew), I’m excited for the road ahead!

Love to everyone back home, and send me Halloween pics please!!!

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

Bananagrams and BAEs

So in TBB, we have a little thing we like to call “gray space.” As the name suggests, we use it to describe areas of uncertainty or doubt; and so far, that’s been most things. Things that have fallen into “gray space” at one point or another include:

  • How to get to work
  • How to get home
  • Seminar schedules
  • Work schedules
  • Meal plans
  • Work partners
  • Sleeping situations
  • Weekend activities
  • Dress code
  • Cultural norms
  • Weather
  • Insanity or nah???

Essentially, gray space rules our lives, so we’ve gotten used to rolling with the punches. Even so, I don’t think I was really ready for the major plot twist that shook up my Thursday afternoon.

So in every core country, we get three days for IST, or Independent Student Travel. During those three days, we can go anywhere we want within reasonable distance in a small group of students. The idea is that we plan the entire trip and are able to experience traveling abroad on our own. For the first IST, a program leader is required to go with each group, but after that you can travel solely with other students, so it’s a huge amount of independence.

For South Africa’s IST, a group of students and I were planning on going on a program called Rock the Route. We had first heard about it from Nick, the owner of Ingwe, who was friends with the guy who ran it. He described it as an opportunity to travel to more low-key spots around the Garden Route, while enjoying hiking, delicious food, and live music. What’s not to love? So for weeks, we had been totally set on the program, which boasted a low price and an all-inclusive plan, leaving us with little to worry about. So when the day before our IST rolled around (this past Thursday), we sent the guide an email asking for a final itinerary for the weekend.

But when he sent back an information sheet, he had not only raised the price significantly, but he had excluded all meals from the deal. In addition, the only hikes were two short walks (fewer than 3 km long), and most of our time was either going to be spent in the car or involving alcohol (drinking is strictly not allowed on any IST, regardless of whether a program leader is with you). We were baffled and frustrated. Suddenly our weekend escape seemed like it might be a nightmare. So, with the prodding of our program leader, we scrapped it. We called the guide and explained, as politely as possible, that we were no longer interested, sorry, thanks but no thanks. And from there, we went into a wild frenzy trying to find an alternative way to spend the next three days.

And the result? One of the best weekends of my life.

First off, let me introduce the players in this pickup game. First there’s Laura, our program leader, who insists that she’s “not bossy, just a leader.” She’s about 5’5”, a twin, and not afraid of direct communication. As we learned this weekend, she can take a lot of shit and shove it right back at you, and she gets surprisingly aggressive at bananagrams after 10 pm. She’s extremely nurturing, a great listener, and not afraid to sink to our level, even if it means ordering milkshakes at every meal and swearing like a sailor.

Then there’s Rebecca, who looks beautiful in literally everything and has a fantastic taste in music (and apparently can’t take showers like a normal person). She’s from Portugal and often uses a language barrier as an excuse to cover up the fact that she’s actually the worst listener ever. Her willingness to leap into the unknown and take on adventure is evidenced by her complete determination to convince her parents that she needed to take this trip, leaving behind her island home to run with us hooligans.

Alex is the kind of person that makes you roll your eyes and groan at least ten times a day, but you love him anyways because it’s kind of impossible not to. He’s crazy smart but hides it behind dumb-ass comments and terrible jokes, and a habit of juggling literally everywhere we go. He lives off Coca-Cola, chocolate bars, and head scratches, and would do anything to get attention, but the fact that he makes friends with everyone makes it clear that he cares a lot about making sure that everyone else is okay (as long as you don’t bother him first thing in the morning).

And finally, Sophie, who sometimes can’t manage to finish a single sentence but can make me laugh anyway. She’s strong, not just physically but emotionally, and finds a way to joke about almost any situation. She’s not afraid of being honest, is better than most doctors at taking care of people when they’re sick or injured, and is incredibly musically talented (which sucks when the rest of us are singing along too).

So that’s the crew!

On Friday morning, we all met in Plett to move into our new home, a backpacker’s hostel called Amakaya. We all shared one room, with our own bathroom and private balcony looking into town. By the work of some last minute phone calls, we were able to go on a Tsitsikamma canopy tour that afternoon, which basically consisted of us zip-lining through the forest and looking at wildlife. Then on Saturday, we took a two hour horseback ride across a gorgeous nature reserve, with plenty of time for trotting, cantering, and galloping (oh, I also got thrown off my horse at one point, but I took the classic advice and got right back on). We had lunch a little restaurant overlooking the ocean before heading out for sea kayaking, where we made the rookie mistake of putting Laura and Becca together into a boat, meaning we spent a majority of the time waiting for them to catch up. The fastest we saw them move was when they were desperately trying to paddle away from a curious seal, reasoning that a great white would be not far behind. Sophie and I managed to get extremely close to the seal, as he swam right up to our boat, so that was really awesome. We chilled on the beach and played games for the rest of the day, and then started up again early on Sunday to go skydiving in Mossel Bay. At first the pilot seemed pretty certain that weather would prevent us from going up, but after a few hours of bananagrams (which was the staple of our weekend activities), we were cleared for liftoff!! I’m not even going to try to describe that experience, because I don’t think I can do it justice. All I can say is that it was the most incredible thing that I have ever done, and I would without a doubt love to do it every day for the rest of my life. I might try to upload the video on here, or on Facebook if the file isn’t too big.

Anyways, what I think I realized this weekend was that even though the activities we did were amazing, what really made this weekend so awesome were my groupmates. We could have sat in our hostel all day and I would have still been so, so happy with those three days. These were four people with whom I didn’t feel particularly close going into this weekend, so I was actually a little nervous that it would be a bust, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I feel so much more grateful, not only for the people on this program but for all of my amazing friends back home. I am so incredible blessed to have such truly wonderful people in my life, because I think I realized that it’s not the things I did that I’m going to remember, but the people I did them with.

Whew! Got all deep and emotional for a minute there. Since I’m really missing all my loves back home, if you ever want to get up at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning for a Skype call, my account name is ellie.sherman27, so hmu and we can work out a time.

Work is going well, and Martha made an apple pie while Jenni and I were gone, so basically she’s my hero. Seminars are interesting and media projects are stressful, and I can’t believe only two weeks left here! Will post more information on further travel plans as I get them, but for right now it’s a lot of gray space (surprise surprise). Anyway, hope everything is going well for everyone back home, shout out to my college babes roughing it through midterms!! PROUD OF YOU GUYS!!!! Love you all to the moon and back J

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

Some Crazy Shit

Sorry to be posting a day late! The power went out in our township yesterday, so the internet was down, but Sarah let me steal the computer this morning so I could get this up (sorry Sarah!!).

So as some of you might know I’m kinda an adrenaline junkie, but this weekend was INSANE even by my standards. Lots of group bonding, lots of extreme situations, lots of feeling like I was going to die (which is my personal favorite way to spend a weekend). Without further ado, here it is: ADRENALINE WEEKEND!!

Saturday: Shark Cage Diving

I’m actually pretty terrified of sharks. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re super cool and totally misunderstood animals, but they’re still ridiculously scary. I’m that person who freaks out about going too far off the beach because of the potential threat of a shark attack. My brothers think it’s hilarious, but as far as I’m concerned, sharks top the list of Things to Definitely Not Fuck With. I’ve spent the first eighteen years of my life actively avoiding them, and done a pretty solid job. That is, until Thursday afternoon, when I called Wild Shark Africa to reserve six spots on the Saturday morning boat for shark cage diving.

The night before we went, we had gotten a call that there was only a 50% chance we would be able to go out, but as a group we decided to give it a shot. Since the company was based in Mossel Bay (which is a solid two hour drive from Kwano), and the only trip that day was running in the morning because of afternoon storms, Jenni and I crawled out of bed at a miserable 4:45 am. We had a little trouble finding the cab, especially since we weren’t supposed to stray beyond the safety of our front yard, but we were greeted by four familiar faces when we finally did. Alea had a huge smile on her face (per usual), Becca somehow looked beautiful at 5 in the morning, Sarah snuggled up to me when I squished next to her in the back seat, and Patrick sat up front, just being Patrick (#justPatrickthings). The ride was a blur of streetlights and bumpy roads and hushed voices, and we finally reached Mossel Bay just as the sun was rising.

Driving in, the clouds hung heavy and low over the horizon, sending a clear warning that any trip onto the ocean would be impossible. However, we got word that the six of us had been approved to venture out so long as we moved quickly. After that, we were herded onto a small boat that reeked of fish and shipped out to Seal Island, which was only about ten minutes away. Zipping into our full body wetsuits (including socks and a hood), I’m not sure which was more ominous: the rapidly growing waves crashing against our boat as the storm raced towards us, or the glimpses of the enormous great white sharks already beginning to circle our medieval-looking cage. Even so, I volunteered to climb in first, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really scared at all.

That is, until the last second before I stepped in.

Suddenly, it sunk in that this was really happening. I was actually about to climb into an ocean filled with extremely territorial sharks as we dangled half eaten fish into the water, with only a few sparsely placed strips of metal between me and them. I think my brain suddenly went into survival panic mode, because fear level went from zero to hundred in about two seconds. It took literally all the will power in my body to make myself get into that cage.

But as soon as the first shark appeared, floating out of the darkness and drifting almost lazily by, the fear was overridden by wonder. It was beautiful. They were beautiful. They were terrifying, yes, and no amount of money in the world could have convinced me to leave that cage, but the amount of grace conveyed by such mind-bogglingly huge creatures shocked me. Even watching them breach, rocketing from below to throw themselves out of the water at the fish, was amazing. Seeing them on TV and being close enough to reach out and touch them has given me a new respect for them as the true kings of the ocean. They are nearly prehistoric, almost as old as the dinosaurs, and so is the fear associated with them, and yet they are undeniably entrancing. It took my breath away, and it is a memory I will not soon forget.

Sunday: Bungee Jumping

Since one day of adrenaline pumping activities isn’t enough for us, our friend Alex arranged for us all to go bungee jumping on Sunday morning. This bridge in particular was especially exciting, since it’s the highest bungee bridge in the world at 216 meters (called Bloukrans Bridge). Once again, there was a slight change in plans, after the wench broke and the repair guy was called to come fix it. We ended up hanging around for three or four hours, but since the delay gave us time to get milkshakes, it was really more a positive experience than a negative one.

We finally got out onto the bridge, at which point I think we all realized how high it was. It wasn’t sorta-nervous high. It was drop-in-your-stomach, curl-your-toes, swallow-hard-and-laugh high. The kind of high you fall from in your nightmares. And for some reason, we all decided that jumping from this height was our idea of a good time. I’m starting to think this trip attracts literal crazy people.

Anyway, the vibe up there was fantastic, with music playing and everyone standing around cheering for each other. Everyone in my group ended up going (even Sam, who was literally crying as she jumped…poor Small Size). Some jumped, and others were pushed, but at the end of the day, everyone got off that bridge, and I think we’re all a little closer because of it.

Making yourself jump is the hardest part. It goes against every evolutionary self-preservation instinct that you have to dive headfirst off a bridge at a height that you most definitely would not survive. And right after you jump, there’s a second where you see the ground, so far below, yet somehow rushing up towards you faster than you would ever think possible. The harness is deceptively loose, and you can’t help but question if this is really happening. If maybe this isn’t just another dream. I think it might be the brain’s way of coping with the fact that you’re falling, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it. For that one second, you are totally powerless, and you are only barely tethered to the realities of this world. Because for just one instant, you can fly.

And then the rope is pulling you, shockingly gentle, and you bounce dizzily over the valley. The relief kicks in, and the world has never looked more beautiful. More than happiness, you are flooded with joy. As I dangled, I remember using the word amazing, over and over and over. Until that moment, I don’t think I truly understood what it meant. And when they pulled me up, when my feet were on the ground again, when I was crushed by the hugs of everyone who watched and shouted encouragement, I couldn’t stop smiling. I laughed without really knowing why. I felt truly and wonderfully and undoubtedly alive.

Sorry Mom

So that was my weekend.

On a different note, we watched a film called Human last Friday. It was…wow. It was a lot. I wanted to talk about it a little bit in this post, but I don’t really have the energy, and this is already a novel by itself. Maybe more on that next time, since the ideas are still all bouncing around in my head.

Quick update on work: my new job started yesterday! Jules and I are now traveling around with three Wellness Caregivers, who do HIV/TB testing in different places in the area. Sometimes we go to a company and test the employees, sometimes we sit at a taxi rink and test whoever comes, and sometimes we just drive around a township testing random people. Jules and I are with another work pair, Sophie and Mandy, and we’re all having a good time together. The caregivers are incredibly funny, and seem super willing to answer questions/talk to us. Can’t wait to learn and work with them!

Hope everyone is doing well, and happy one-month anniversary for TBBeast!!!

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

Surprise!!

WHOA POSTING ON A DAY THATS NOT TUESDAY WHAAAAAT

So the reason I’m posting today is actually quite unfortunate. Yesterday evening we went back to Ingwe to watch the rugby game and have a braai (barbecue), and we broke out a soccer ball for a little friendly competition. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a little accident prone, so no surprise I had a little incident and now am unable to walk because I hurt my ankle. Whoops. Anyway, since Sandra walks all over town, they left me to chill at the Plett Aid office today, meaning I’ve had a pretty boring day thus far…but that I finally had time to figure out how to upload pictures! So without further ado, here are some nice shots for you all: some taken by yours truly, and the good ones taken by the actually talented people on this trip.

Hope you guys enjoy!!!

WOO INGWE!!!

WOO INGWE!!!

Represent TBB East!!

Represent TBB East!!

View of the river from the Salt River Hike we took

View of the river from the Salt River Hike we took

Another lake pic from Salt River Hike

Another lake pic from Salt River Hike

Yoga on the field in the mornings at Ingwe

Yoga on the field in the mornings at Ingwe

Group shot minus a few lazy people

Group shot minus a few lazy people

Robberg Hike

Robberg Hike

Robberg Hike

Robberg Hike

Unclear??

Unclear??

Part of the Garden Trail hike

Part of the Garden Trail hike

Roomie!!! My new sister Jenni

Roomie!!! My new sister Jenni

Crew!!

Crew!!

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

A Little More Info

Things have finally settled into a semblance of a routine over here, so I’m going to try to post at least once a week, probably on Tuesdays since that’s my designated computer time. There’s a couple things I want to talk about in this entry, so I’ll try to separate it in a way that at least kinda makes sense?!?

First off: KWANO aka MY NEW HOME

Coming in, the only thing I knew about Kwano was that it was a township outside of Plett. If you’re like me and have no idea what a township is, it’s a group of houses and neighborhoods into an informal sort of mini-town. It’s got tiny all-purpose food stores, pubs, and hairdressers, but it’s not really a town so much as a sprawling community that lives just outside an actual town. Living in a township is a lot cheaper than living in an actual town, and in South Africa this division tends to follow racial lines as well as economic status. Some of the other townships around Plett include New Horizons, Crags, and Kranshoek. Another interesting division that separates townships is the label of being predominantly “black” or “colored”. These labels have a lot to do with South Africa’s history of colonization and racial tension, with a lot of issues that carry over into present day. Those who label themselves as colored speak mainly Afrikaans, while those who classify themselves as black speak mostly Xhosa. As a result, English is often used when people of the two groups are interacting.

Kwano happens to be the only predominantly black township outside Plett, and it’s also one of the largest and most difficult to navigate. Only one other pair of students live in Kwano, and Jenni and I have finally learned the route well enough to walk there on our own. Walking through the township is definitely an experience that takes some getting used to: there’s a lot of staring involved, especially from younger kids. Martha told us that for a lot of these kids, we’re the first white people they’ve ever seen in real life. Most of the time they wave or shout hello, and the brave ones love to run up and give high fives or fist bumps or even just touch our hands. Besides the kids, there are always kind strangers who greet us or give us advice, or ask to make sure we’re not lost. Those parts make it easy to forget the less kind looks and calls that come our way.

As in all neighborhoods, the quality of housing varies, but most homes have tin roofs and colorful concrete walls. The streets are always an amalgamation of people: barefoot kids playing street-wide games of jumprope, bands of teenagers around my own age, mothers walking with babies tied to their backs by strips of cloth. Add that to the never-ending throng dogs, cats, cows, goats, and chicken that wander through the township as freely as the people do, and no walk is ever a dull one. And I’ve found that it’s never silent here: even into the long hours of the night, music thumps from the pub down the street and the dogs seem to bark until the sun rises. And yet, despite the fact that it’s barely been a week, when I walk into Martha’s house after a day of work and seminars, there’s an irrefutable sense of relief. Of coming home.

Which leads into my next topic, which is WORK.

The way it works in South Africa is that we each get a partner to work with for five weeks. My partner is named Julia (Jules) and she lives in other house in Kwano. Every two weeks, all the pairs rotate in the jobs we’re doing. For the first two weeks, Jules and I are shadowing a caregiver named Sandra from the organization Plett Aid as she visits patients with long-term illnesses in Kwano.

Sandra has a sweet, round face with enormous eyes and an easy smile. She laughs often, especially considering the emotionally draining nature of her profession, and it’s the kind of laugh that makes you want to join in. She’s originally from Zimbabwe, but has made Kwano her home. She carries letters sent from her friends in America in her backpack at all times, proudly showing them off to anyone who asks. Her friendly disposition means she spends most of her day talking not only to patients, but to friends and random passerby. Everybody knows her, and everybody loves her, so everybody loves us by association. Older women embrace us and tell us we are welcome into their homes. Shop keepers push snacks into our hands. A woman in one of the houses we visited handed off her three month old baby to the two of us and left to go chat with friends. Sandra told us that if she could run for mayor, she would win, and I don’t doubt it for a second. But what stands out to me more than anything else is her obvious care for and dedication to her patients.

We walk for hours through the winding streets of Kwano as she visits her patients. There is little for Jules and I to do besides sit and watch Sandra talk in Xhosa to the patient. Then she usually takes their blood pressure or checks their sugar levels, makes a note in her book, and we leave. For Jules and I, it’s an experience that is both interesting and frustrating because of our inability to offer any real assistance. Often times, merely being in their homes feels invasive, as if we are intruding in a private and vulnerable part of their lives. The issue of where to look is one we have debated at length: staring at the patient feels rude, but so does gawking around their home, so we usually just watch Sandra. As a result, I tend to focus on other details, such as the way each house smells. The home of a man missing a leg smells so strongly of cigarette smoke that I almost choke when we walk in. A woman with diabetes and three children has a house with pink walls, and it smells like the chicken and rice they are eating as they sit in front of the TV. The house of the man with epilepsy and mental problems has the sour stench of urine. The wooden shack a man with stage four gastric cancer shares with his two children smells like sweat and old food and too many people living close, breathing in and out the same air. This smell in particular is one that I find again and again, in many of the houses. It hangs in the air and makes it feel stale and claustrophobic in a way that’s hard to put in words.

Sandra manages to keep a positive attitude, and that makes the days easier, but there are some visits that are incredibly emotionally draining. One of the worst was a trip to an elderly bedridden woman in a room that smelled like cough syrup. She had a whole host of problems, including renal failure, which caused the doctor to declare her case hopeless and send her home to die. She could no longer sit up, swallow food, or speak. Her granddaughter was there when we arrived, feeding her some herbal medications with a syringe. As Sandra talked to the granddaughter, the woman began to wail. They were wordless cries, sounds of pure sadness and agony and despair. Sandra held her hand as Jules and I stood helpless in the back of the room. I wanted to help, and I wanted to run out of the house. I had the horrible sense of being an intruder in one of the final moments of this woman’s life. I have never felt so terribly useless in my entire life.

It’s also frustrating to study the intricacies of the healthcare system, which can keep patients from getting the help they need. One of Sandra’s patients, an HIV positive man with tuberculosis, had been coughing and vomiting blood, and was suspected to have lung cancer. Sandra sent him to the clinic so that a doctor could refer him to the hospital immediately. However, for whatever reason, the doctor send him home, insisting he wait a week for an appointment at the hospital. Sandra protested vehemently, since it was clear that the man would not last a week in his current state, but the doctor’s word was final, and she was powerless to do anything about it. Jules and I were shocked. The man was so thin that his knees and elbows stuck out from his body, and the rag he coughed into was dark red with blood. It seemed clear to us that the answer was simple. And yet the process was anything but. These kind of frustrations have made me appreciate our own healthcare system, as well as reflect on the many aspects that go into making such a system run smoothly. Overall, its been an extremely interesting learning process, and I’m excited to continue.

Whew! Lots of stuff to say there, congrats if you actually made it through all that. Other exciting news includes Martha’s muffins, which are actually the best things ever, and Insanity, which a group of us are doing almost every day in an attempt to “stay fit.”

Hopefully I’ll get another post up here next Tuesday. Possibly more pics soon?!?

Love you all bunches.

The best way to save the world is to first discover it.

So I’m Alive…

It’s only been 18 days, but it already feels like a lifetime since I’ve arrived in South Africa. I have a lot to share without much time to actually write it all out, so I’ll try to stick to the highlights.

When we first arrived, we stayed at a team building retreat called Ingwe, which means “big cat.” Not surprisingly, the retreat is known for its amazing wildlife population, including jaguars, and you can hear the lions roaring across the valley if you wake up early enough. Life at Ingwe was surprisingly comfortable, if not starkly different from home. The showers were freezing, the food was delicious, and the spiders were ridiculous (we shared our cabin with tarantulas and baboon spiders). During those first 10 days, I faced a lot of fears, including letting myself be vulnerable to a bunch of near strangers. Through seminars, rope courses, canyoning, and just sitting around the fire and admiring the incredible stars, I’ve learned so much about my trip mates, and about myself. Not to mention our first work site! We’re staying just outside the town of Plett at the cape of South Africa.

Speaking of which, last Friday we left Ingwe and moved in with our first host families! Another student named Jenni and I are living with an amazing woman named Martha in a township called Kwanokuthula, Kwano for short. We’re getting spoiled by her: she loves cooking, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already gained a few pounds! The township is huge, and different from what I expected. To be honest, I’m having a tough time describing it. There are parts that speak directly to my mental image of poverty, and yet the people are so much friendlier than I ever expected. I’ll try to write another post soon with more info on Kwano, and how work is going, but I think this post is long enough already. Hopefully I can get some more pictures up here soon too!

I know the next few months are going to be some of the hardest of my life, but I’ve never felt more ready for anything. So many of my preconceptions have already been challenged: about my role in society, about my society’s role in the world, and about the entire global community, But still, I know this is just the beginning.

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.