Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

As of now, this was probably one of the better days. We did SO much.

First thing we went to was a Creche at the district 6 museum that we had visited on Friday. When we walked in there were about forty 4-6 year olds sitting in a circle. Each of us stepped in the circle and introduces ourselves. When we did, they responded “Good morning Cristen.” After introductions we had little dental lessons. Then they sang for us and we all joined in on a couple of songs and games. The kids are so cute and so smart. At that age most of them already speak two or three languages. If I haven’t mentioned already, there are 11 official languages here. EVERYONE speaks at least 3: English, Afrikaans, and their tribal language. Anyways, we also just played around with the kids for a long time. They were climbing all over us and they had SO much energy. When it was time for us to leave, they didn’t want us to go. It slightly broke my heart because one of the girls kept telling me to come back to her school and they all kept saying they were going to miss us. I reallllly had a lot of fun at the crèche this day.

After this we went to the waterfront and went through the aquarium. The Indian Ocean (warm water) and the Atlantic Ocean (cold water) meet at the Cape so this aquarium had both warm and cool water fish. They were really pretty. Oh and there was this crab that was literally 3 feet wide. They were huge! Also we ran into a group of middle school age on a field trip. They had come from 3 hours away. Me and 3 others stopped and talked to them. They could not believe we had come from so far away to be in South Africa. When they had to go they all gave us hugs. The kids here are so affectionate and so down to earth. They understand how to really be happy and that possessions aren’t what really make you happy.

Soooo then we had lunch outside. Nothing exciting and really not even worth mentioning haha

Out next adventure was a tour of Robben Island. Robben Island is a jail on an island a lot like Alcatraz. We first got a tour of the actual jail. Our tour guide was named Sparks and he was actually a prisoner there for 7 years. We saw the cell that he lived in for those 7 years and saw Nelson Mandela’s cell. Nelson Mandela was a prisoner on Robben Island for 18 years then 7 more somewhere else then 2 more somewhere else. We then got a bus tour of the island. Before getting on the bus we met a group of guys from Moorehouse University/College? which is in Atlanta. These guys were making a video/documenting their trip that was sponsored by Oprah. Im pretty sure they were going around to townships in South Africa talking about HIV/AIDS awareness. I don’t know all the details but we might get together with them on Friday so Ill update then!!

For dinner we decided to make dinner! We had a family dinner! It was really cute! We just made pasta and a salad.

Its getting really tiring because we’re always so busy. But I’m hanging in there! We’ve been going to bed early lately but are on the go all day long! But its great regardless ☺

Monday, May 25, 2009

Today was one of those days that had its ins and outs.

First thing, I went to Beautiful Gate. Beautiful Gate is an orphan care center (which is now what used to be called an orphanage). Half of the group went to the orphan care center while the other half went to the Cross Roads Clinic. There, Monday is HIV/AIDS day so they got to learn a lot about the virus and see how the doctors in cape town handle it.
Meanwhile, four others and I were playing with 3-5 year olds. And when I say play, I really mean that we taught them how to brush their teeth. These kids were some of the most affectionate kids I have met. They gave so many hugs. When we first walked in through the doors, they immediately all ran towards us and hugged our legs.

After this, we got a tour. For an orphan care center right outside of a township (Phillipe) it is an extremely nice building. It is so great for an orphan care center. Their new goal is to work on moving from a relief/support program to more of a development program. Paired with this is the idea that they also want to work on reunification rather than institutionalization. This helps the kids to adapt when returning into a family situation.

For lunch, some went to McDonalds (yes, we’re in South Africa and some people wanted to eat at McDonalds…) and some went to a super market. Everything there was so fresh and got this roll from the bakery that was great! I also looked at all the cool candy and crazy chip flavors they have. They have very difernt things here. Its so interesting to look at it all!

After lunch we went back to beautiful gate to hear a talk from Dr. Vaughn Stannard. He is the director at Beautiful Gate and the doctor at both Beautiful Gate and the Crossroads clinic. We had a wonderful talk that I was able to learn so much from. He talked to us about the drug abuse and physical abuse in the townships. He explained to us what it is like being an outsider and how people from the outside can help. He told us about how Beautiful Gate doesn’t do adoptions because people aren’t as willing as they are to foster due to cost. And he lastly explained what he thinks needs to be done in order for the HIV rate to decrease. In Dr. Vaughn’s opinion, prevention is going to happen through men on the inside realizing that their actions are killing themselves, not through women or children. Women and children are the victims. It was a great talk and I learned so much from him. It put a lot of things into perspective.

When we got home, all ten of us walked down to the waterfront just to see what it was like. It was very pretty but there were these really strange things all along the shore- they were huge concrete pieces shaped like jacks. We couldn’t figure out what they were and we couldnt think of any kind of explanation for them! Don’t worry, Ill figure it out before I leave!

I feel like today was very beneficial and this whole trip has been put into perspective for me. It was pretty great. I can’t wait to go back to the grocery store… yes, haha, im looking forward to going to the grocery store again.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I was really tired from going to the club last night. We went to lunch at this Cape Malay restaurant that overlooked Cape Town. It was really pretty good but just A LOT of food since it was a buffet… naturally we all had to taste everything! We also got the really good dessert again and the chef is going to send us the recipe. Its called malfa pudding. I know I’ve said it already but Ill definitely be making it so you can plan on tasting! It was a fun lunch and there was such a great view.

After lunch we went to Table Mountain. Table Mountain is the mountain that lies next to Cape Town. It kind of looks over it and (like the name implies) it looks like a table since the top is flat. On days when the winds from the east and west are going at the same speed, a cloud forms atop the mountain. Its known as the table cloth… its cool beacuase the rest of the sky will be blue all around so it really does look like a table cloth!! So we rode a thing up the mountain (I cant remember what it is called but it was large enough for 20 or so people and the floor rotated. The thing hangs on a cable too.). When we got to the top we were completely in a cloud and after only minutes everyone’s hair was soaked! Unfortunately we didn’t see the view since we could only see about 15 feet infront of us but I’ve been told its really pretty!

We didn’t do too much today. Dinner was take out thai- which was actually good. I got this coconut thing and it tasted almost exactly like my dad’s coconut lime soup. Miss you faja ☺

Tomorrow we’re going to an orphan care center. I cant wait!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

[Sorry I cant put pictures up now... the internet isnt too great here!! Ill do it as soon as I can!]

Today was the day of the ultimate tourist. We were picked up around 9 for a tour of the cape. The tour was amazing. We drove all through the peninsula all the way to the very end- the most southwestern point of Africa. Our tour guide had so much info to share with us and I learned a lot.

Our first stop was hout bay. There was a quaint little town nestled in the groove between two mountains and lining the coast. There we took a boat out to “seal island.” It was very simply a small island covered in seals. Not that exciting. Except our teacher missed the boat. She just disappears sometimes… and our tour guide went to look for her and we waited for a while but she never came to the boat so we went without her. It was funny but we now sing “where in the world is Deborah Sutton” pretty much daily. She goes missing a lot. We don’t know where she goes.

After this we stopped at a beach that was covered in penguins. It was called Boulder Beach because there were huge boulders in the ocean! The penguins are only about 2 feet tall at the most. Maybe only a foot and a half. They are known as Jackass Penguins because they make a sound like a donkey. These penguins also do really adorable things. The hope and it’s the cutest thing ever. Also when they find a mate they stay with them for life. They circle around each other and they even kiss. Sometimes they link wings like they are holding hands. Also they are always together. We almost always saw two penguins together. Never just one.

Next we went to an Ostrich farm. I’ve determined that I reallllllly dislike ostrich. We got to see 2 that had been born about an hour before. I also got to feed one. And we ate lunch at the Ostrich Restaurant. It was a little weird eating them after seeing them but I cant say I particularly liked it anyways. But they are very stupid animals and they have ugly feet.. Ill be fine if I don’t see one again.

After that we went to the Cape of Good Hope. That is the most South Western point in Africa. It had a beautiful view. Right along the water a lot of kelp had washed up into the rocks. I had never seen it up close but it was surprisingly huge. It was at least 6 inches wide. Also, it was covered in little bugs. They were crawling all over the place!

The last place we went was to Cape point. This is the point at the end of the cape peninsula. There was a light house at the end that we went up to. It was gorgeous- just like every other view! We hiked hundreds of steps up to the light house. At the top there was a post that said how far we were from a bunch of major cities and which directions they are in. I was 12, 541 kilometers from New York!!

That night it was my roommate’s 21st birthday so we went to this club that was on the 32nd floor of a building with windows all around. It was really cool because we could see the whole city and it so cute how they dance. It was completely different since its such a different culture.

I really enjoyed the tour and it was actually beneficial cause I learned a lot about the people too. The tourguide was great and told me and another girl a lot about the South African health system. There is another tour that tours the townships (like Masi). They visit the town, talk with the people, and meet a healer. The money goes to building a youth center and towards a childrens soup kitchen. The soup kitchen feeds 80 kids a day! They also get the left over fruit from markets once a week to give to the soup kitchen. Such a great thing. I also learned so much about the health care system here. I’ve found that talking to people is where I learn the most. These people have so much to say and so many individual stories that you wont hear anywhere else. Although I might have been on a guided tour, I learned so much.

I cant say Ive found what I want to do with the rest of my life, but being here has really given me a great idea of what I like doing. The passion of the people and the desolation Ive seen has shown me how little people can make a big difference.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Today was our free day. We were supposed to hike table mountain, which is a flat mountain right beside Cape Town, but it was too cloudy in the morning so we would not have been able to see much.

Instead, we went to the “District 6 Museum” and then were free to do what we wanted. On the way to the district six museum, we stopped at what you could call their white house. Near this was a big garden that we walked through. It was full of pigeons (literally, there were hundreds) and we all touched a good luck tree! The tree must have been 10 feet wide at least. The museum was really cool. It was all about apartheid, which is the period of segregation here. It was a horrible time that crated such a diverse society with a huge upper class and lower class but virtually no middle class. Apartheid ended in about 1994 so it’s only been 15 years since the country was given equal rights. The people here say their country is only 15 years old. You can very visibly see the remaining scars it has placed on the people however huge leaps and bounds have been made. Its become a much better place but there is a lot of work left to be done.

After the museum we went for a little walk (got a tiny bit lost) and ended up going to a pizza place for lunch. The pizza here is really good. Its not greasy (I know, unheard of) and the crust is really thin. Oh I also had coffee from this place called Sundance, which is like a version of Starbucks. It’s pretty good. After lunch I got my bartering skills on. I’m HORRIBLE. I feel bad lowering the price too much because I feel like its insulting to them. However, I got a lot better towards the end and I got some pretty cool things ☺

We had until six when we had a meeting so we went back and took a nap. The houses we are staying in are on super lockdown. There is a gate outside the door then there is also a gate outside the porch. And these gates aren’t just like any gate. They are floor to ceiling iron bars (just for safety). We wanted to leave but another girl had accidentally taken our keys when she let herself out so we were literally stuck in this house! It was horrible. It’s a long story but we eventually got out!! We had dinner at a thai restaurant which is surprisingly good for South Africa.

When we got back we just sat around and talked for a while… a very long while. That’s about it for Friday! Pretty relaxing day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

(sorry, Ill add the pictures in tomorrow!!)

Another great day…. Hopefully that’s just how everyday is going to be.

All of the morning was spent in Masiphumelele. We went to a day care called Akhaya Labantwana Educare. There we taught the kids (between ages 3 and 5 about) how to brush their teeth properly, when to brush their teeth, and what their teeth are for. There were about 35 of them so we split them up into groups and we had a toothbrush, a tooth paste tube, and mardi gras beads for each of them. We showed them the best way to brush then let them try themselves. They were all so proud when they did it correctly. It was really rewarding. They are so cute too ☺

After the lesson we did a dance for the kids that our professor had taught us. The kids sang a song for us too. I was so sweet and you could tell that they had practiced a lot! I think it might have been their national anthem but I’m not sure. Heres a video of it!!

Then we went to a library which was right down the street. The library is very build up and very nice. It was surprising to see how developed the library was in an area with shacks too short to stand up in for houses. Here is a really really poorly filmed video of the library. There were close to 100 kids at the library that we taught lessons to. They were between the ages of about 3 and 8. They were so excited after the lesson because we took pictures and they kept asking us to take pictures so they could see them.

After this we went to an artist who also lives in Masiphumelele named Nondyebo Mashiyi. She has the most beautiful artwork that she and two others make out of her home. She even has a website definitely take a look because everything is so beautiful (very African). Her son was out front playing (hes 8 years old) and I started talking to him. In perfect English he said “I’m going to Boston when I’m older.” This amazing little boy has huge dreams to get out of the town. He has so much hope and it was so touching to see that he has such big dreams.

This was our last stop in Masi. After we left we had lunch on a game reserve. It was pretty cool because they had all thatched roofed huts. I even saw a springbok- a type a deer like animal with a white face and antlers/horns. On our way home we stopped on the side of the road where there was a pull off to go down to the beach. I touched the Indian Ocean! It was pretty exciting, not gonna lie.

Seraj, our driver, is so awesome. He is the one that took us to the ocean and on the way to the different places he has given us great descriptions, history, and cultural information. He took me and some of the girls on a run when we got home. We went all the way up this huge hill (seriously, it was hard to even walk up it because it was so steep). And from the top we could see all of Cape Town. It was beautiful.

At the end of the night, after dinner, we went to a place and met some of the locals. Its really fun meeting the people here and learning about their culture. Its interesting how completely different things are here. I have plenty of stories but its just too much to write.

Interesting fact of the day- hats in our culture are disrespectful… for example, we take off hats when we go inside a lot of places like school or a church. Here, a hat is a sign that you have become a man. When a boy reaches puberty he is sent off into the bush (not sure if that’s how its spelled) and if they come back in 3 months, they are honored and have become a man. If they come back before 3 months are over, they are given time and when they believe they can go back out again, they are sent out. When they complete it they are honored and they used to receive a certain hat. But this hat is a sign of respect. Cool, huh?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Even though today was almost completely an educational day, it was still the best yet. Again, the weather was perfect. A little warmer, but Im not complaining because it was great. We went to Masiphumelele. It’s a squatter camp. A squatter camp is a very poor settlement.

On the way, we saw the first McDonalds I’ve seen haha. I thought this was definitely worth noting!! In Masiphumelele, we first visited a primary school, which is grades k-7. Ellie, one of the other girls here, and her mother raised $400 that we used to buy balls for the kids. We got to see them do a dance and play with them for a little while. We are going back there tomorrow to teach them a dental lesson.
There were also a couple other places within the squatter camp that we were able to visit. The first place was a wound-dressing clinic that is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8-12. Here they typically dress wounds for HIV + patients, but they do so for other incidences as well. They check blood pressure, heart rate, etc…all the vitals. And they clean and dress wounds but if a wound is severe enough (too severe for them to care for) they send the patient to the hospital, which is not too far away. We’ll be going there one or two days next week!

After this we walked around a little bit and saw some of the people living in the settlement. They are so friendly and the women carry their babies on their backs. It’s indescribable how cute they all are! We got to see a soup kitchen, which cost 2.5 Rand (probably 30 cents in US dollars) for a cup of soup and vegetables. We also were able to see from the outside a kretch//cretch- I have NO idea how its spelled! But this is basically an orphanage for HIV+ kids, most of who are below the age of 4 or 5. We get to actually go in tomorrow!!

Next we went into another clinic, which was right across the street from the wound-dressing clinic. One of the ladies that works in the clinic sat down and talked to us for a while. There are 14,592 people in the township and there is an increasingly large population in the 20s. Less than 2% of this population is over the age of 60. This place has a cure rate for TB (tuberculosis) of greater than 85% which is so great considering the conditions they are working in. They are also working on building a youth center. If you could see the conditions of this place you would understand how wonderful this was.

Thennn the last place we went was a clinic/hospice called Living Hope. This place was by far the most inspiring place I’ve been yet and I can even begin to describe how much I got out of it. One of the ladies who works there talked to us for a good hour or so. Here in Cape Town the HIV rate there is apparently as high as between 35-40%. If you don’t know, that’s ridiculously high. There is a really negative stigma here towards people with AIDS. They believe that you can get AIDS through touch, using the same toilet, and other absurd methods. The ways they believe they can get rid of aids are even more ridiculous. Anyways, this keeps them from getting tested because it ruins their lives. The clinic/hospice holds 22 patients and is such a wonderful place. They run support groups and have done AMAZING things. When they started, the rate was 15% of people were saved and 85% died. In the 3 years they’ve been here in Cape Town, they have reversed the rate to 85% saved and now only lose 15% of patients. This place also had these massive washer and dryers. So wish I had them!

That was it for the day so then we had a two hour break that we spent relaxing and just hanging out. Dinner was at this place called Marcos. It’s a VERY African style restaurant. They had an African Band playing and the menu was… interesting to say the least. For dinner I had a platter of crocodile tail, chicken, and some kind of beef. It was delicious. I also tried springbok (a kind of deer), kudu (a kind of goat), and ox tail (basically an ox butt?... or close to it haha). Surprisingly it was all pretty good.

After dinner we had a meeting and planned out our dental lessons for tomorrow. We also had to sort through about 300 toothbrushes, 200 toothpaste tubes, and hundreds and hundreds of mardi gras beads. The people here absolutely love the beads. I definitely should have brought some. They are grateful for the smallest things and it really puts things into perspective. On the other hand they are the happiest people I’ve ever met and are so giving and wonderful. You all should come here one day because its amazing how people who have so little can give so much.