Sunday, December 28, 2014

Projects, Puppies, and Penguins

A bonus blog that was never posted. I am finally starting to look back on my two months with positivity! Thanks for reading such a belated update. 

In my last post, I spoke for a moment about the Project Management Training I was lucky enough to attend. I think it's important for everyone at home to know the types of projects in a diocese in South Africa and some of the challenges they face on the daily.

I met two women who worked for the Overstrand Care Centre, where Keri, fellow YASCer, is spending her year. OCC is a hospice center that is more like a halfway-house for patients that don't need to be in the hospital, but aren't quite ready to live at home without help. In addition to their in-patient care, they have in-house carers that travel around and stay half a day with patients in their homes. The women they employ as carers both at the centre and in the homes would not have work otherwise and are often single mothers needing an income to provide for their families. In addition to the 24/7 coverage by carers, OCC also provides substance abuse programs and support groups and an after-care program. They face some challenges with paperwork, but they have two care coordinators (Martin and our very own Keri) who will be working on that. There are improvements every day!

At the training, I also learned about the AIDS Action Group which meets Tuesdays and Thursdays and works with adults living with AIDS. The leaders of the group cook food for its members, but unfortunately are starting to lose food to cook with. They have 120 members total, a lot of which aren't able to eat at home and so need to eat with the group in order to survive. They're hoping to start a food garden rather than needing to rely on outside sources for food parcels that they can cook and distribute, but there is a significant lack of resources and money so it's hard for them to move forward with the plans they have for the future.

Luckily, at this training, we also had people from Masikhanye Food Garden who were more than willing to give tips and even some help to start. MFG started with some very humble roots (no pun intended!) and quickly grew into the dual programming it does today. At Masikhanye, they not only grow their own food and plant their own seedlings, but they have 3 computers on site that young people use for computer and administration training. For youth in the community that are not keen to garden, they can learn skills that will be very applicable out in the world as they're looking for jobs in the future. MFG not only feeds the people that come to their garden to buy food, but also bring any leftover food to the market and provide food parcels to the oldest locals two times a month.

Following a presentation from MFG was some information on Abigail Women's Movement which provides quite a lot of programs to help women in the area. They have sewing and recycling programs that are extremely sustainable. They run a support group for the "old and frail" in which they help with clinic visits, medication, and cooking. They've recently expanded and added another group called the "Stroke Club" where they cook and do physical activity once a week with those who have had a stroke. At their original "Seniors Club" they do exercises and craft work and feed the seniors twice a day in addition to transporting them to and from the group and providing basic care and medication. At the moment, transportation is one of their hardest challenges because there is a huge number of people they need to transport daily to their groups and medical appointments with limited staff to make sure the seniors are getting to their appointments.

We also heard from St. Johns Pre-Primary School which has four classes, each with one teacher and one college volunteer assistant. They are hosted by St. John's church, but the space is St. John's is limited and they have too many children to fit comfortably in the spaces provided.

Now, you might have noticed, but I am not the greatest about getting pictures of every event I attend and unfortunately my three days at this Project Management Training were no exception. However, I did manage to get a video of the most adorable puppy I've ever met who also happened to live at the retreat center we were staying at. Take a look at this little munchkin! Some of the background of the video might give you an idea of what the surroundings were like there.

At the end of the week after returning to the HOPE Africa office after the Project Management Training, Keri showed up! She was visiting Cape Town for the Gun Run (10K race) and decided to spend the rest of the weekend doing touristy things with me! Here follows the photographic evidence of that weekend.

We hit up the world famous Long Street in Cape Town!
Had a lovely time enjoying the view from this bar.

Watched these local girls doing a traditional dance right in the middle of the City Bowl.

Found a CT newspaper with news from Nebraska!

We stumbeld upon a Bonsai Tree festival.
Keri finally found her cupcake :)
Loved this session of South African drumming. We both took a turn!

Went for a drive along the coast on our way to Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach has penguins!!!!
They weren't quite this close, but we could see them this clearly!

Look at the cute molting ones!

Farewell to a beautiful place

And last but not least, the Rhodes Memorial.
So close to my living arrangements and yet I only went the one
time with Keri on our touristy weekend.

I'm considering this my final farewell. Unless some great twist of fate allows me a re-do in Cape Town, this should be the final post of this blog. Totsiens and baie dankie.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It's been almost three months since I posted last. I think I still owe this blog one final farewell, but I didn't want to end this part of my life without having first moved on and found myself doing something else. Unfortunately, I'm still unemployed and living with my parents and my dream of independence came and went with every passing holiday. Maybe my Martin Luther King Jr. Day I'll be well on my way towards autonomy.

Before I can move forward physically, whether by getting a new job, a new apartment, or even just new friends, I need to move forward emotionally. I need to be able to see news stories, articles, and movies about South Africa and Cape Town and not cry at the very mention of the country I left behind. I need to be able to look through my fellow YASCers blogs and feel proud for them, not resentful that their placements have all worked well for them. I need to be able to look back on my two months in Cape Town with pride for what I did, love for the people, and with the knowledge that leaving was right. I hate to say it, but I'm not quite there yet.

As for pride in what I accomplished while I was there, I'm about halfway there. I finished the projects I was working on and I know I did them to the best of my ability. I think I contributed to the quality of the office and the quality of some of our productions. But I still wish I'd been able to notice just how far my actions went. I wish I'd seen that in creating a pamphlet on the flooding in Mozambique a year ago, I was providing donors with proof of the fruits of their labor. I was giving them hope that their past and future donations were making a difference in provinces and countries in Southern Africa. I wish I'd noticed that the donated food in the corner of my office could easily feed a small village. I wish I'd seen that the interns working in the office were being given the opportunity of a lifetime by HOPE Africa providing them with jobs and wages. I am so proud of HOPE Africa and what it does for all the dioceses of the Anglican church. I hope I can take what they taught me and bring it with me throughout my life.

As for love for the people in Cape Town, I have it, without a doubt. Not a day goes by that I don't wonder if Iggy and his girlfriend are still going strong and whether or not he kept my Mean Girls DVD, if Fana has finally caught up with his little girl and is supporting her through the death of her mother, if Kholiwe is still rocking her beautiful bald head or if she's hoping to grow her hair back out sometime soon, if Jenny and Nicki still dance with their whole hearts. I miss the students I lived with in Anhouse and always wonder how their summer breaks are going. I saw them in their finals week and I know how stressed out they all were so I can only hope when the grades appeared, they were satisfied. I can't even begin to describe the love I have for every person I worked with and every person I lived with. They cannot begin to know what a lasting effect they had on me and how they've changed me. It's remarkable that knowing someone for two months can do that to you, but that's all it took. I am so lucky to have been surrounded by them and to still feel their love after leaving them behind.

As for the knowledge that leaving was the right thing, I'm nowhere near there. I left behind one of the most challenging places I've ever lived and jobs I've ever worked. I left behind the most culture I've ever seen in one place and the least safe place I've ever lived. I left everything I was scared of to return to where I felt safe. All I can do now is challenge myself to never do that again.

I started this blog as a final farewell and a final explanation to my readers, but for me it's become cathartic. I had to write all this and share it with you. I had to say it out loud and stop avoiding thinking about it. I had to own up to my decision and admit that it wasn't easy and that it wasn't obvious and that I might have made the wrong choice.

After all of the thinking and writing and praying, all I can do now is move forward. There is NO turning back and there never will be.

So here's to 2014. This will be my year to take charge and do things that scare me. This will be my year to move out of my parents house and into my own. This will be my year to find love and support and encouragement and friends that I will have for the rest of my life. This will be my year to find music and laughter every day. This is my year.

Baie Dankie for your support through this journey. I couldn't have done any of it without you.