A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about garden

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 Comments (0)

Week 3 - Check!

sunny 80 °F

Today I decided to take a morning off running and stationary bike instead. My legs were feeling a bit sore and banged up, so I thought ‘why not?’. At the morning meeting during breakfast, I learned my roommates and I would be having another visitor in our room for our last week…none of us were too happy – quite the opposite. It just seems weird to have a 47-year-old woman move in with a group of college students. Now we have 7 girls sharing one shower, so fingers crossed everything works out.

My first project today was my favorite: gardening! Yay! We built an entire garden, and then started raking dirt and picking up stones :D It sounds silly and looked silly, but the yard actually looked better when we had finished. Something funny was that we found like 10 marijuana plants on the property. I'd never seen one before. When we had finished, we took our gardening tools and a sugar cane (they grow everywhere so people are always eating them) and walked about 30 minutes to the highway to wait for the bus. It was really cool to walk through the villages because normally we are in the bus and only get out once we are at our project location. Across the street from where we were waiting for the bus was someone selling hand carved wooden bowls. They were gorgeous and I decided to buy one as a souvenir – of course I bartered for it! Ironically, the man I bought it from said he had remembered our project group from a clinic session we had previously given on vaginal thrush. I’m sure the topic is burned in his memory, as there were some graphic images included.

At lunch, I picked up what I hope was my last load of laundry while here. I think if worse comes to worst I will just hand wash anything else I may need. Afternoon project was Reading Club, which I honestly wasn’t too thrilled about because the projects that include children really drain me. Honestly, it was really fun, though – maybe that’s because only three girls came who were middle schoolers. When they came, they picked out some books and read out loud to us. Then they had some cookies and juice and left. It’s their holiday right now, so I feel like Reading Club is busier when school is in session. At this location, there is this HUGE storage tank just full of books. Unfortunately, the roof had rusted through and all of the books had been damaged by the rain. It was traumatizing to see such good books damp and mildewey. It reminded me of something that had happened to my family’s children’s books back home. Opening the trailer, a stench just hit us. We spent a lot of Reading Club taking out books and leaving them in the sun to dry.

Honestly, that was about all to my day. I got home and decided to run to the beach and back right before sunset (which was at 5:00PM since it’s the shortest day of the year today), ate dinner, and now am doing sudoku while Selma plays in the background. Tomorrow we go to our overnight safari and then only one week left!!

Posted by kfkeane 11:57 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset home beach walk garden books safari run bike read volunteer movie souvenir sudoku Comments (0)

Give It Time

sunny 75 °F

I’m a little surprised by myself. I keep waking up so tired and feeling unmotivated, but I stay dedicated and run each morning. I enjoy running so much and I am always grateful when I do it, but it’s so hard to get excited and pumped to run early in the morning. Most days, I think of my mom and how she works all day but continues to wake up every day at about 5 AM to do her runs. She motivates me to run the most out of anything, especially since she is running her first ½ marathon this weekend. She has no idea how proud I am of her. It’s making me so sad to not be there and I think of her accomplishments every day.

So something I’ve been talking about in my blogs a little bit is how I don’t feel welcomed in the community. Today, my perspective changed a little. I was walking around before dinner and realized that less people were staring at me and more were saying hello to me. I’ve noticed people are really happy when I greet them in Zulu. While walking, I decided that because I’m always out running/walking through town, people see me and recognize me (I stand out like a sore thumb with my hair/skin color) and have noticed I’m not just here for a week, but more permanent. As reinforcement of this point, I was almost home, and a security guard at the Lodge next door waved and stood up to talk to me more. He said he sees me running every morning and can tell I have an energy and love of running. I learned his name is Talent and that he lives in the nearby village Khula. I told him a little about myself and said I’d see him tomorrow! I left that conversation with renewed energy, just so happy.

Honestly, the biggest thing I think I’m learning from this trip is patience. Everything takes time. It took me about 2 weeks to stop feeling homesick and it took until almost the end of week 3 to feel welcomed in the community. It’s all just an adjustment.

Something I don’t think I’ll ever become accustomed to, though, is the germs that children carry!! This morning I was working at Holiday Club (basically day care). Here is just one example. A kid had come up to me wanting to hold hands and jump on me. I let him, of course. Then, five minutes later, I see him peeing in the grass and then fondling his junk for about 3 minutes. I’m still horrified. Needless to say, I disinfected up to my shoulders when I got home, because you know if one child is doing it, they all are.

The afternoon was chill, though. I had gardening, my absolute favorite! All we did was water the community garden we had helped plant the first week. The plants are really growing quickly! Then we sat on a hill and chilled and talked while waiting for the bus. Dinner was great; I had beef (yay red meat!), and now we are just getting ready for karaoke night. Still not sure how to feel about it. I could totally go for just eating and playing sudoku while a movie plays in the background, but I’m sure this will be interesting too.

Update: Sang Hips Don't Lie and A Whole New World

Posted by kfkeane 11:01 Archived in South Africa Tagged food water friend garden dinner run time karaoke beef volunteer zulu patience adjustment germs Comments (2)

Monkey See, Monkey Do

sunny 80 °F

Good Moooooorning San Francisco!! I thought of that on my walk this afternoon. I feel like I’m doing a daily broadcast with my blogs – love it! So this morning I ran again. I’m always anxious to run after a day off. It was actually kind of chilly – like I could see my breath! Something I realized while warming up for my run, though, was that I have a serious monkey/copy-cat. The girl I go running with follows me everywhere and does everything I do. I’m a very independent person who values her alone time, so this really bothers me. For example, before she met me, she said she ran at most 3x/week for about 2 miles; now she runs 6 days/week for about 4 miles. Also, she used to just hop out of bed and run, but now she has to do the exact. same. warmup exercises that I do. This morning, I also looked over and she was doing my ankle rehab exercises and I’m not sure she knows why she is doing any of the exercises in the first place except for that it’s what I’m doing. She also asks to go on walks with me after dinner because she knows I like to go for walks and go to the gym to stretch. There are some benefits, though. She made me a dinner without garlic and onions last weekend and made the layout for my journal calendar, so I didn’t even have to be creative; I just copied her design. I feel slightly guilty, but I get annoyed by having a shadow. I know she only has good intentions, though, which keeps me from saying anything.

Project-wise, in the morning I was at Holiday Club, which is basically day-care. We did about 45 minutes of songs, crafts, free play, and snack time. I later wrote some postcards to friends and family. After my run, I had spoken to the volunteer coordinator about the food continuing to have onions/garlic in it, so at lunch I was met with the beautiful surprise of *plain* chicken!!! It was so nice to eat a meal and know it was safe to eat. In the afternoon, I had gardening, which is my favorite project. I helped turn the dirt and then watered the plants after they were in the dirt. We created an entire garden from scratch for a family. My opinions about this volunteer organization’s work are starting to transform. I feel like this kind of work is actually beneficial; imagine how many gardens we could build for families in one year. This one garden took us less than 2 hours! I still have my doubts about some of the health-care volunteer work, but I think the garden work is really beneficial! Counting down the days to leave still. Twelve left after today.

Posted by kfkeane 11:14 Archived in South Africa Tagged food monkey garden family run weather chicken volunteer preschool copy gym countdown count_down Comments (3)

Till Death Do Us Part

sunny 85 °F

I am currently stuffed. We have a lot of heavy seeming meals, like meals with sauces and rice or pasta. I then continue to snack until it’s time for bed. It’s just a way to pass the time, especially since the wifi went out again. I’m resigned to the fact that it will never be a constant in my time here.

Today was my first day off of exercise since being here. I swear when I don’t exercise my body becomes lethargic and I feel like a zombie. Feeling this way makes me nervous that I’m getting iron deficient, though, because my meals here haven’t included a lot of meat. Luckily, tonight’s dinner was chicken-based!!! Yay! I think it was good to take the day off though, even though I barely slept in because my internal clock is set to wake up early now.

My first session today was support group. Only two women came today because there is a flu going around. It was a little slow at first because the women were speaking in Zulu for about an hour, but after that, the translator explained their conversation. They were talking about marriage in Zulu culture. Once the woman is married, she is no longer part of her birth family; she is part of her husband’s family. Also, marriage is permanent; divorce doesn’t occur. So, the woman knows going into the marriage that if the husband cheats or forces the woman to quit her job to stay home and take care of the house and children, then she has to be strong and put up with it. Although divorce doesn’t happen, separation is becoming more popular among younger generations. I asked how it made the women feel, being in a relationship where the man has all of the control, and the response was that it made them feel badly. The problem is that even though they may not be happy, they value and respect their culture, which says marriage is permanent. It was really interesting to learn about.

Later we went to the community garden to work. This garden is for people in the support group facilitated by African Impact. I was in leggings and a t-shirt to cover my shoulders, in order to be respectful of the Zulu culture, so it was quite hot out there. We used a garden fork to lift the grass, hoed rows, and planted new seedlings in the rows. Working in the garden was my favorite session so far. I love being in the fresh air and being able to move around and not be confined to a chair for 4 hours.

Pretty good day. I still think about home, though. I’m not terribly sad, but I miss it and look forward to coming home.

Posted by kfkeane 10:34 Archived in South Africa Tagged food culture garden weather meat sad volunteer zulu wifi support protein mental_health Comments (4)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 5) Page [1]