Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kurland, Church, and Bungee Jumping

Well, it's sort of surreal to actually be here. I mean it was surreal to be in South Africa a week ago, just because this is the country I've been looking forward to since Day 1....but to be in Plettenberg for a month, studying and working...that's SUPER surreal.
I'm sitting at a restaurant that has Wifi right now drinking a Macadamia Frappe (it's really good!) in the middle of Plett's main street. There are boutiques and cafes and sports/surf shops all along the road, nice cars, roads that are fully intact. There are ice cream shops and delis and people in cute beach clothes everywhere. It's a relaxed town, a true beach town. I'm about an 8 minute walk from the beach right now. (Mind you it's down a steep hill that is grueling (for me at least) to climb up again--but i'll be in really good shape by the end of my month here!) We have our seminars in a restaurant right on the beach--we hear it and smell it the whole time we're discussing HIV/AIDS and public health. My house, which is also housing Kasha, Mckinley, Alex, Maddie, Eirann, and Lauren, is about a five minute walk from Plett's main street. And it's awesome. There are four bedrooms, a real kitchen, fresh fruit, a pool, clean tap water, a WASHER, a coffee maker...the list could go on. Our "host dad," if you can call him that, is named Bruce. I wish I could describe him....he's pretty hardcore. Bruce is a surfer and loves nature. He has spent time in the South African army, sailed part of the globe on a yacht, lived in Botswana, volunteered with HIV positive patients, and is now working with plant medicines for various diseases. He's been fun to be around, and all of us are enjoying ourselves.
I started work with my careworker this past Monday. My carer's name is Marie, but it's pronounced MAH-ree, not Muh-REE. :) I'm working in Kurland village with McKinley and her careworker Sindiswa. We are having a blast together. We have a couple difficult cases; one man has Parkinson's, and he's so sweet. I am enjoying getting to know my patients.
On Wednesday Marie, Sindiswa, McKinley, and I all went to church at the Methodist church in Kurland. The service was very Methodist, but the music was very African. I loved it. Marie led the singing, and I really enjoyed getting to see how they worshiped. And it was just SO GREAT to be at church!
Yesterday I went bungee jumping off the highest bungee bridge in the world with nine of my friends--SO CRAZY! It was literally the most insane experience of my life. I have some really great pictures that I'll try to post soon. I can't say that bungee jumping is something I will ever do again, but I am SOOO glad that I went. How many people can say they've jumped off the highest bungee bridge in the world?
I can. :)
Anyway. Tomorrow we're hiking Robberg, which is a famous view here in Plett. I am not really looking forward to the hike so much as I'm looking forward to the pictures I'll get. It's supposed to be really spectacular.
I'll post again soon. I hope you all are well--thanks for reading! :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sweating in South Africa

I know. That's a pretty gross title. But hey, that's my life right now! We arrived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Saturday, the 12th at about...i dunno, 12pm, probably. We got lunch in the airport while we waited for our driver (I got peanut M&Ms and a Stoney--just for you Danny--and finished off a bag of chips from the plane. Well-balanced, right?), and then spent the next threeish hours driving to Rocky Road. Rocky Road is the home of Willing Workers in South Africa, an NGO who is setting up our stay here. It's about 30 minutes from Plett proper, and it is beautiful here. There's green everywhere and fresh air--such a change from India! The first night we had burgers (one of the best I've ever had probably, and I'm not joking), and since then we've continued to have delicious food. We've spent the past few days mainly relaxing and seeing the area. The beach isn't far, and today we spent the morning walking through Kurland village, which is right across the gorge. Last night, Mary, Kasha, Mckinley, Eirann, and I had an awesome Nerts battle. Mary came out on top and I was second (tryin to make the Nelson clan proud :) haha). On Thursday we leave for Plett and get placed in our homestays. This year is a little different: Because of a shortage of homestay families, we are split into two houses that are accustomed to taking boarders. I am in a house with Mckinley, Rayn, Maddie, Alex, Eirann, and Lauren. We'll meet with PlettAid on Friday and figure out who has which careworker. We are each working with a careworker individually, which I am actually quite excited about. I can't wait to start our work here. In addition to making rounds through the townships with careworkers, we'll be spending two afternoons a week volunteering at a preschool or a women's shelter or something of that nature.
So South Africa is pretty much awesome. We are all loving our time here so far, in spite of the sickness that has yet again attacked about half the group (I think our stomachs are just adjusting from India). I've been fine however, and I'm just trying to take everything in. I'm already in love with this place; I can tell I'm really going to want to come back. The people here are so nice--I love hearing "Hello! How are you?" from complete strangers. I love seeing the South Africans interact with each other. There's a pleasantness about this place, and I hope to capture that spirit and bring it home to the States.
We'll see how that goes. :)
Other than that, I am just anxiously anticipating a phone call informing me that my niece is arriving! We are nine days from my sweet sister's due date, and I am so excited! I know Caitlin is too, so I've been praying that her baby will come out sooner, rather than later. :)
I'll do my best to let everyone know how the work here is going, so hopefully I'll write again soon. For now, know that I am loving South Africa and am in no hurry to come home!
Just kidding Mom. :)
(But not really.)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cambodia Pictures and TBF

My friends Kasha, Rachel, Mary and Luisa made a website for their media project called Thinking Beyond Food. I think it's pretty awesome, so I encourage you to check it out and read the blogs they have written. They intend to keep up with it throughout the rest of the trip, as well as during the summer.

On another note, I have a computer tonight, so I wanted to put some Cambodia pictures up! So...yeah. Enjoy!

One of the temples in Angkor Thom

Rayn and Rach being silly.

"Tomb Raider Temple"--super cool.

Girl Band photo. Rachel, Mary, Mckinley, and Hannah.
Yeah we're pretty awesome, we know. :)