A Travellerspoint blog

A Mix of Work and Fun

semi-overcast 66 °F

So it has been a busy last couple of days. On Friday, I spent some time at a preschool teaching shapes and the alphabet and playing games and singing songs with the local children. In the afternoon, I helped lead an information session on HIV/AIDS at the local clinic to the village caregivers. I learned SO much about it. Like I didn’t know that you can live with HIV if you get treatment but once it progresses to AIDS, which is the 3rd stage of the disease, it is completely fatal.

Saturday started off as a really great day. I FINALLY SLEPT IN!!!!! Went for a run and met the rest of my cohort at the beach. A couple waves demolished me, but still had the time of my life! The beach is my happy place here. Went for a nice, long walk along the beach and saw a family slaughtering chickens on the shore. Supposedly it’s cleaner, so that’s why they do it. We then walked back to the lodge, about 30 minutes, and I was able to FaceTime audio my parents!! Hearing their voices made me start to tear up; it has been so long. I was so happy! I rode that mood to Zulu Cultural Night…where it quickly faded. It started to rain as soon as we arrived. The beginning of the night was kind of interesting because we got to learn about the traditional Zulu culture; we wore some of the traditional dress, partook in dancing, and at dinner, but it felt like they were selling their culture, which was a bit of a turnoff. The activities ended at 7:30 but we were there until 9AM the next morning. We sat around a bonfire and played Mafia and most of us didn’t sleep at all. It was a bit uncomfortable because we were in a really unsafe area. I could hear EDM music all night, animals howling and cooing, and then when I was lying in bed, one of the male employees walked into our hut on accident (yes, we stayed in the traditional huts), and it was very awkward. None of us felt comfortable the entire night and barely slept. I did make me grateful for the lodge though :D

Today was pretty good as well. Took a relaxing morning. Ran and saw some monkeys having sex and a snake. Tried to do laundry but the not so “7 days/week” laundromat was closed…guess I’ll do it tomorrow? Made avocado toast and eggs for lunch then got to not only talk to my parents but see them as well today because I found strong enough wifi to FaceTime. Tried to see the sunset at the jetty but just missed it. Whatever. I have many more days to make it happen. I’m so sad that I have to wake up early again tomorrow, but then it’ll make me more grateful for sleeping in on the weekends. Hopefully everyone back home is doing well. I think of you all often. XOXO

Posted by kfkeane 11:48 Archived in South Africa Tagged monkeys sunset traditional hut south_africa zulu eggs preschool early avocado Comments (3)

First Day in the Villages

(This post is from yesterday - 6/6/19 but wifi wasn't in the picture)

Hi guys, so while the WiFi is off at the Lodge, I may have trouble responding to comments :( I’m sorry. The worst part of being here is literally just how much I miss everyone. It’s such a new experience not being able to call someone at the touch of a button. I didn’t even take it for granted before; I just miss the luxury. Currently, my biggest challenge is looking at my watch, seeing the time back home, and wondering what everyone is doing or what I’d normally be doing. That really gets me, especially at night.

In other news, today was our first day of service work. We have two sessions: morning and afternoon. My morning session was at the clinic, but since we hadn’t had orientation, we read these premade informational sheets on “road safety” and “mental health” to the patients in the waiting room. We read in English while someone who works with African Impact (the group we are volunteering with) translated. My biggest worry was that we were forcing our volunteer work on them. Something I learned when preparing for this trip was that a lot of times volunteers come in to towns to “help” but never ask the people if the help they are providing is something they want/care about. I tried to put myself in their position and wondered if I’d appreciate two random people coming in and reading information sheets to me. They didn’t seem to care much about the road safety one, but they were really interested in mental health. Our translator said it was because it was a sickness, so they could treat it. The talks let them know that their feelings aren’t unique and can be helped by going to the doctor; mental health seems similar here as in the USA but in a separate context.

After lunch, my session was “family empowerment”. My partner and I went to a family’s house to play with the children. We made macaroni bracelets, played soccer, jump rope, and ring around the rosie, and painted nails – yes, I even got mine painted! The kids were so smart! They loved practicing counting in English and were so good at communicating with actions rather than words. I was very impressed. On the drive home, we all finally saw some hippos!!!! Finally!

My biggest takeaway from today is the speed of life in South Africa. Not the speed of day-to-day life, because that’s slower than molasses, but the speed at which people start having babies and die. I was talking with our translator and her daughter, who is 18, had to stop school a couple of years ago because she became pregnant. Also, I was showing her pictures of my parents and she asked, “Are they still with you?” and when I replied yes, she was surprised, but said “Oh, well I guess you are still young.” It was pretty eye opening to hear this first-hand.

Posted by kfkeane 13:25 Archived in South Africa Tagged village fun family volunteer south_africa service doctor wifi mental_health Comments (6)

What Happened to the Wifi?


OK, I swear I’m having fun, but I need to vent about the things that are not ideal. For one, I woke up this morning to the lovely surprise of ants crawling throughout my toiletries (face wash, toothbrush, allergy meds). EVERYWHERE!! They were everywhere!! Then, I get back from my run with about 30 minutes to shower and eat breakfast before our 8AM meeting, so I rush in my towel to the shower. We have the one room without a bathroom so we are supposed to use the one in the craft room. I am all prepared to take the fastest shower of my life when I turn it on and nothing…or so I thought. Then I felt the slight tickle of moisture. I felt around the shower head and water was misting outward (basically everywhere but down where my dirty body was, and when I say “misting” I have never meant it so literally). Now for the namesake of this post: the wifi. NONE! They told us it was kind of shoddy and we would only get it before 7AM and after 7PM but today it simply doesn’t even exist! So I’m so sorry world. I want to be posting pictures and most of all, talking with my family, but I’m in the middle of South Africa with no wifi. My roommate and I went to the neighboring restaurant and sat outside to get wifi, but even that didn’t have capacity to download email or sustain facetime audio. It’s all part of the experience, I guess. I just don’t like keeping this experience all to myself. I feel like I’m going to forget it before I can tell my friends and family about it because there are so many good things to share!

For example, this morning I woke up at 5:22AM, was able to do rehab and pushups, then was able to run at 6:20 when the sun had come up. My friend and I took a loop that went to the beach, which is located on the Indian ocean and then comes back to the lodge. I was surprised because the loop is all rolling hills – I expected it to be flat. It was very humid but the air was so pure and I could smell the salt from the ocean. When my friend and I reached the beach, the sun was still rising and I was blown away with the size of the waves and beauty of the scene. That’s my favorite thing about South Africa so far; it’s so natural and feels removed from the hustle and bustle that’s hard to escape in America. Africa time is a real thing – people do things when they want and that usually means later. Life moves slowly here, but something about the timing here that I still don’t understand is the time that everything closes!! Everything is closed by 7PM, including grocery stores and food places. And 7 is the latest. Things close starting at 4.

Back to the story, though. So I ran (which happened between the ant and shower fiascos), ate breakfast, then the rest of the morning was spent in the lodge listening to orientation. I’m actually so happily surprised with the work we are doing. There is a big variety, and it’s really hands-on. Each day we have a morning and afternoon session, and on Monday afternoons, we plan our lessons for the rest of the week. Today we planned a session for the home-based care session. So we are bringing crafts for the kids, like macaroni bracelets and face paint, and we made a lesson plan to teach the parents, who are between 18 and 28 years old, about the food pyramid and healthy eating. Tomorrow I’m set to help in the clinic, so I’m excited about that!

After our orientations, we had a mini lesson in Zulu language then went to a dock to watch the sunset. We only saw the tail end because we all got very distracted by a pack of monkeys that were showing off for us. Don’t worry, I got lots of pictures. So cute. The sunset was gorgeous as well. I can’t wait to go back again when it’s prime time. I still have yet to see a hippo, though, but I still have a couple of weeks for that. Dinner was really good. It was bacon goulash. Later I went to the gym to roll out and do abs and now I’m just snacking and relaxing. I can’t believe it’s only 8:30 right now. I’m so tired. Well I hope wifi is more reliable later, but it’s doubtful so I’m really sorry if posts are far and few between. Currently sitting in someone’s stairwell next to the restaurant’s wifi to post this. Miss you all xoxo

Posted by kfkeane 11:39 Archived in South Africa Tagged monkey busy bugs ants wifi Comments (4)

Wait, I'm here!

79 °F
View Ann Arbor, MI -> Toronto, Canada on kfkeane's travel map.

I'm here!!! My favorite part of the trip thus far has been the drive from the airport to St. Lucia. The driver played some really cool African music and the scenery was gorgeous. Also, I FINALLY SLEPT!!!!! After staying at the airport for 8 hours, almost falling asleep while playing cards, then falling asleep while sitting up after playing cards, I got 2 hours of straight sleep in the car.

St. Lucia, at least the downtown where our volunteer house is, is actually really small. It makes my hometown seem big and booming, which is pretty hard to do. We got here around 5 then had an hour to unpack and shower before dinner. Even though the shower had no hot water, only one, pin-sized stream of water with the power of a firehose, and kept shutting off then turning back on, it felt amazing to be clean for the first time since Sunday morning (it's Tuesday evening for reference). We then went to dinner, where I had my first home-cooked meal since being home at the beginning of May! So I'm basically in heaven. The food was even specially made to fit my dietary restrictions. It as a chicken and veggie stew and tasted sooooo good. I missed meat so much. I regret not taking a picture to post. I wanted to thank the chef it was so good.

After dinner, we walked around town, which is one road that is about a 1/2 mile long. There were a couple bars, sushi places, and shops for tourists to buy souvenirs. Another group saw a hippo, which I unfortunately missed, but I did see a monkey digging through the trash. It was so cute, but our host said they are evil :D I don't believe it hehe. We then just sat around and chatted/snacked. We also learned our host makes stuffed elephants and hippos, so we all ordered one from her! Now I'm off to bed, though. I will get up at 5:30 tomorrow to run. Unfortunately it's winter here, so my window to run is very short because I have to do it when it's light out in order to be safe from hippos and leopards. This window is getting smaller and smaller when I'm here. Currently it's from about 6:30 AM to 5PM but we work from 8-4:30...so not much time. It'll all work out though. It always does. I have a good feeling about this trip. Tomorrow we have orientation to learn about the projects we will be working on, so stay tuned.

Posted by kfkeane 11:58 Archived in South Africa Tagged food local travel monkey sleep run explore hippo south_africa exercise arrived Comments (3)

Travel Day 2

View Ann Arbor, MI -> Toronto, Canada on kfkeane's travel map.

Landed in London and you know my first stop was the Harry Potter shop! Had some time to clean up before the next leg of the trip: brushed and flossed my teeth (shout-out to you mom), washed my face, took my vitamins, and changed my clothes. The plane ride from Toronto to London was long, about 7.5 hours, but was just a warm-up for the flight between London and Durban, which is 11.5 hours.

I’m writing this post mid-flight to Durban, South Africa. We took off an hour and a half later than scheduled, but I ended up talking with the woman sitting next to me the whole time we waited. She lives in Durban, South Africa and actually invited me to visit her house while I’m in South Africa. We bonded through running; she coaches athletics to children. I love how running connects people.

While we were talking, she recommended I watch Bohemian Rhapsody, so that’s what I did. Freddie Mercury reminds me a lot of Prince. The movie was lifechanging, just seeing the impact the band had on music and the fight against HIV/AIDS – which is pretty cool to see, as learning about and teaching preventative measures against this epidemic is the purpose of my trip. Watching the movie I had one of those moments where you’re like “woah, it’s fate that I watched this.”

I actually took a break midway through the movie though because the airplane dinner was served. Finding food to eat has been difficult with my allergies. I could really go for some plain, grilled meat right now. I’ve only been able to eat the bread rolls they serve and granola bars I packed. I think it’ll be easier to find food I can eat once we land. Apart from a good meal, once we land I’m looking forward to a run, shower, and good long snooze.

Being out of my natural environment is making me uncomfortable, but I’m not second guessing this adventure at all. This summer, I’ve realized that I do everything with intention and only if one of the byproducts is joy. I even miss doing rehab, which I never thought I’d say. To be honest, I’m missing everything right now. I can’t sleep (which, being on an airplane makes you realize that some people are like bats. I swear they could be standing straight up in the middle of the day and still get a good sleep) so I’m listening to music and reminiscing on my final nights in Ann Arbor. I spent my last two nights home with my closest friends and even made some new friends. If anything, this trip has made me aware of how blessed and amazing my life is.

Well, back to my love cave. This is what I call the cocoon I made for myself. If you’d like to make your own love cave at home you’ll need a blanket/sweatshirt to throw over your head like a death eater) and a neck pillow. Wala! Add music and you’ve personalized that lil love cave of yours.

Update: Landed at 6am local time

Posted by kfkeane 00:07 Archived in South Africa Tagged food travel flight sunrise friends plane volunteer south_africa tired exhausted bohemian_rhapsody Comments (1)

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