Tomorrow we leave for India! We said goodbye to Plettenberg Bay and our host families last Friday and have been spending the last few days relaxing in Addo. It was a bittersweet goodbye because it was hard to leave a host family I really connected with but I’m excited for the new adventures that lay ahead.
Julia (my roommate) and I lived with Sally and John, our host parents, and their kids Megan (14) and Joventis (18). Sally is one of the sweetest, most adorable women I know. She calls us her babies and makes amazing food- Monday nights were always my favorite because she made a delicious chicken curry! John is a carpenter and made it his personal goal to teach us the game of rugby. He was definitely successful because I can know watch a game and know 99% of whats happening. Side note: New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup and South Africa got bronze! Joventis is a typical 18 year old boy who is usually out hanging with his friends so we developed a pretty routine conversation each day. Megan is a beast. She can sing and dance (really really well), she is super athletic and was the youngest girl to ever make her schools varsity netball team, and she’s super smart. Megan is sponsored by a lady in Belgium to go to Wittedrift High School. It’s a very nice school with a hostile that she stays at all week, so we only got to spend time with her on the weekends. Our host family practices the Greikwa religion which seems like a combination of Christianity mixed with cultural beliefs. They have a 5 AM service on Sunday along with another at 10AM. I went to the 5AM service twice which consisted of everyone standing in a big circle and going around in a circle singing, praying, and praising God- although everything was spoken in Afrikans so I still don’t know exactly what they did. It was awesome to experience what a church service is like almost half way across the world!
We did seminars after work usually 2 or 3 times a week. They are all very interesting and challenge me to think deeper about public health and what we can do. Some of the questions I walk away with are: How can you break the cultural/social stigmas around HIV/Aids? Why aren’t patients taking their medicine if they have it? And is access to state-of-the-art medical treatment a human right? The seminars can definitely be frustrating at times because I’m someone who likes having answers so it’s hard for me to talk about questions like these and not come to a conclusion. But that just reminds me that they aren’t supposed to be questions you can sit around in a circle for an hour and find the resolution. If they had such easily solutions then HIV/Aids would’ve been eradicated already. But they have definitely open my mind to thinking in a way I haven’t before and challenge me to really change my perspective and assumptions on EVERYTHING.
In each core country, we all have to do a media project which is basically where you take a question that you have and go out and see what you discover. Sophie, Noah, Sam, and I were all interested in happiness and if the reasons that cause happiness change in each country. We interviewed many of the Plettaid staff and our host families and asked them all 5 questions: How do you define happiness? What makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? And how do you think happiness in the USA differs from your definition of happiness? The results were very fascinating and once we have time to upload the video I will definitely post it for everyone to watch. We presented our media projects at our farewell party last Thursday. There were 4 other groups whose projects were: What does it mean to be a women in South Africa? What makes you who you are? What is aid? and What is the drinking culture in SA like? All the projects turned out awesome and it was fun to show the community of people we’ve been surrounded by the last few weeks what we’ve learned. Although it was sad to say goodbye to the plettaid staff, my caregiver Marie, and the amazing staff at Ingwe.
During each core country we get an IST or Independent Student Travel. This is an opportunity for us to break into smaller groups and travel for one weekend. A group of about 8 of us traveled to Cape Town! We left Thursday night in order to get a head start and took an 8 hour overnight bus to Cape Town. Friday morning when we arrived we went to Robben Island. Robben Island is a prison that’s famous for holding political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and many others from the ANC. It was super cool to visit and I was expecting something similar to Alcatraz but it was way bigger than that. The rest of our time in Cape Town was spent doing two beautiful sunset hikes, walking around local markets and shopping centers, and eating lots of amazing food. It was an awesome first IST and although it wasn’t the most relaxing, it was a lot of fun!
Right now I’m in Addo, SA which is famous for it’s elephant park. We took a safari and saw elephants, warthogs, rhinos, springboks, kudu, and many other animals. Today we went kayaking down a river which was extremely fun and very beautiful!
Tomorrow morning we leave for India! We are taking 3 planes, an overnight train, and a 5 hr bus in order to get to Palampur where I will be staying the next month. I’m super excited for the new adventures that are coming ahead.
Let me know if you have questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.