I know I promised to provide updates about both the core of this issues and my personal well being, but I have found the public health care system so much more exciting and thought provoking to blog about so I apologize for my lack of details regarding other aspects of the trip.
First off, I love Africa and it has far outdone my expectations. Plettenberg Bay is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been! The people are beautiful in appearance and charm. They seem equally excited and stunned at the sight of white people walking through their townships and I often get called an Umlungu, or lungu for short, which literally means 'white people' in Xhosa. It's a stark contrast from my life in Iowa to be such a prominent minority figure in a neighborhood, but it is a humbling experience to say the least. I don't mind being pointed out because the people are naturally acknowledging the ethnic and cultural differences I bring to their community. So far, the residents of Kwanokuthula have not had any serious issues with the presence of 6 American students living within their confines, which hints at the idea of further integration of living environments in the future. The post-aptheid segregation is obviously present and I have had people tell me that there are still black and colored South Africans that genuinely hate white people, but by living amongst poverty ridden black people, as a white female, I feel like I am helping to break stigmas.
My host family is so sweet and I feel so fortunate to have been placed in such a beautiful, loving home. The mother Sindi, has a 4 year old daughter Iphuey (pronounced e-pee). Sindi is not married, but I think Iphuey's dad comes home when he gets vacation from work. I have not seen him yet though. Her brother also lives in the house, but he works a lot and is not often home so I have failed to remember his name :-/ Sindi's niece Cassandra, who is 18, did live in the house with us for the first week, but she went back home to her township of Knaysna. Sindi is a wonderful chef and provides me and Sophie with some of the best packed lunches in the whole group! We have had cheeseburgers a couple times, which is a crowd favorite and a sure way to get half of the burger stolen from people wanting bites. My favorite is the egg salad or tuna, because they are not a huge hit with the rest of the group and because I can't taste the butter layer as much. I have gone to the grocery store quite a few times to supplement my meat and starch diet with some more fruits and veggies, which has been quite satisfying, but a very expensive splurge. The home Sophie and I live in is quite nice and has modern amenities. I share a very comfy and cozy bed with Sophie and we have a shower and a washer and water that comes from the fridge. I feel very spoiled to be living in such a nice home, when there are so many afflicted by extreme poverty right across the street.
I have been very fortunate health wise thus far (knock on wood). There was inevitably a cold that went around the group in the first week and I've accepted my fate of having a runny nose for the remaining 6 months. My biggest concern is that my right eye has been twitching for 5 days now, but no further diagnosis has been made concerning that issue. I did get my nose pierced, but it appears to be healing quite well and only bothers me when I yawn. I do miss paper towels dearly and the only trash can in our house is the big city one outside, so I have had to rethink my trash output which is obviously a good thing, but hard to adjust to.
An update on everything exciting and adventurous I've done so far could easily encompass a short novel, so I will provide an abbreviated version in the form of a bulleted list instead.
-Swam in the ocean
-Learned about bird tagging
-Observed the local flora and fauna
-Bungee Jumped at the worlds largest facility
-Spent way too much money on food (local cafes, ice-cream, hotel restaurants, grocery stores)
-Inevitably, most likely eaten way too much food
-Worked for 2 weeks with the care givers
-Learned about public health and HIV/AIDS in Africa through our seminars
I am more than enjoying my time in South Africa and it's crazy to think that our time here is almost halfway over. The next few weeks include working at a local elementary school, traveling to Robertson for a week with the Breede River Hospice, a weekend in Cape Town, and then 2 more weeks in Plett and a week in Addo National Park on a safari. I can't comprehend my excitement for the coming weeks, and in that case the coming months, but I will keep you all updated as I learn about myself and the world through these crazy, educational, adventurous days.
Vrede (peace in Afrikaans)
An attempt to document my journey through 5 countries, 3 global issues and billions of people