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Wait, I'm Leaving!

sunny 80 °F

I know it's been a couple of days since writing. Since it is the last week, we've had so many activities keeping us occupied. Well…Last day. It’s been a really fun last couple of day – week – in fact. Part of me wonders if the whole time was this fun or if I’m just realizing it’s the last week so everything is a little more exciting. I was talking with my building partner yesterday, as we sat on paint and water buckets taking in the gorgeous, grassy hillside and refreshing breeze, and we were talking about reflecting anytime an experience comes to an end.

To me, I would never reverse my decision to come to South Africa. Even though I missed my mother’s first half marathon, my cousin’s wedding, and lacked readily available communication with anyone I’m familiar with, it’s a sacrifice I’d make again. I’m not at the point yet where I can specifically say how this experience has impacted me. One thing I know for sure is that I’m so proud of myself. I remember saying goodbye to my dad in the security line and just thinking “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into. I can’t do this.” Just the thought of flying to a different country alone freaked me out. I’ve always considered myself an independent person, but now I feel more confident in my abilities to be successful not just on my own, but in a foreign environment, too.

The external impact was less than I’d hoped for, though. It felt like the experience was more beneficial for me than it was for the local community. Being introduced to such a different lifestyle gave me a cultural example of “different isn’t bad; it’s just different”. Everyone here has so little in terms of material goods but is rich in terms of relationships and happiness. I wish I’d had a chance to hear directly from the community members. What issues do they feel need addressing? It seemed like some of the projects we did weren’t necessarily useful or sustainable. For example, during clinic sessions 99% of the patients didn’t seem interested in the presentations. On the other hand, gardening/nutrition seemed useful. During gardening, we could build an entire garden for a family in one session. Since obesity/diabetes are big problems here, it seems beneficial to provide families with healthy food they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Nutrition was interesting. Although many people here are overweight, in some of the villages, especially DukuDuku (the poorest village), there are some underweight families. Either older individuals who aren’t able to leave their homes to get food or families without the money to feed everyone. We checked their weight and arm circumference to track their progress (also calculated BMI with possible new patients) and then provided them with paap. Food and healthy eating are the biggest issues I observed, but I came here thinking it would be HIV/AIDS – which is deemed somewhat of a social stigma to talk about here, I learned, even though most people have it here (about 80%).

I’ll probably make more concrete reflections on my long plane ride home. For now, I must go and enjoy my final day in St. Lucia, South Africa. Will I ever return? Probably not to St. Lucia, but I hope to South Africa. If I never get the chance to come back at all, though, I have nothing I feel I’ve missed out on. Back home, I’d have thoughts of “Oh, that would be cool,” but then I’d think, “Naaah, I don’t feel like it right now. I can do it another time.” Since being here, I’m taking advantage of every opportunity because I have no clue if I’ll have another chance. I hope I bring this mentality back to the States. Some of the things I ended up doing here, like the Safari, ended up being some of the best experiences in my life. By acting more and procrastinating less, I look forward to the adventures I have yet to take. America – and who knows where else – here I come!

Posted by kfkeane 06:10 Archived in South Africa Tagged building happy garden leaving sad volunteer goodbye impact nutrition reflect

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