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Entries about volunteer

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)

The Energy Is Off

Today has been kind of a blur. Someone else even commented on how the energy here has just been kind of weird. I think we are all feeling off because we only have a couple of days left so it’s hard to know how to feel. I also didn’t run today, and I always feel a little weird when I don’t. It was 3AM when I decided not to run. That’s when I woke up for about the 10th time because my roommates were talking. It’s been hard to sleep because one roommate has been sick since the start of week 2, this same roommate also has African Tick Fever which has given her hives. In order to relieve some of the discomfort from the hives, she turns the fan on, which makes my other roommate sneeze; therefore, my room is NOT a conducive space for sleep. I was a zombie when I woke up, and I was a bit annoyed because I physically wanted to run but was too mentally tired.

The good thing about my roommate having tick fever is that I was able to switch from Holiday Club to the Homeopathy Clinic (her morning project). This ended up being my first really positive experience at clinic. In this area, the homeopathy clinic is only open the last week of each month, so there was a huge line of people outside waiting for an appointment – there was even a woman taking advantage of the line and selling snacks/fruit. I took vitals on the people in line for about 3 hours. It was nice to be outside and the nurses were nice and accommodating. For example, I didn’t feel comfortable measuring respiration (manually) and the nurse nicely said just to do what I was comfortable with. It was nice to be in an environment where the nurses were patient and knew how to smile. I just asked our volunteer coordinator and apparently this clinic is run by private doctors who have clinics in their hometowns and come to Khula Village as volunteers. Patients pay a really small fee (like R5 – which $1 is ~R14.5) and are seen by Afrikaans doctors. Very interesting to me.

When I got home, I slept straight through lunch. I was so tired. Afternoon session was a clinic session, so we talked to patients about heart burn and indigestion. Honestly, I didn’t/still don’t know much about the topic. Afterwards, a patient asked our names, where we were from, and what our jobs were. I said I was in school to be a doctor and then he started asking questions about constipation and how to prevent it and also about alcohol and why it’s bad and how much he should drink in one month. My mind was running around trying to figure out how to answer them because everyone was looking at me (there was only me, another volunteer who is a linguistics major, and the translator). I was like no, please stop! At the end of each sentence, I tried to throw in “…but you should probably go to the clinic to know more.” He seemed satisfied, thankfully. We finished by sorting patient files which was honestly all my mind could handle at the time; I was so out of it.

Now I’m feeling a lot better, mentally, though. I think the nap helped and I don’t feel so weird about missing my run this morning. I facetime called my mom for about 10 minutes – jealous my family is going to my grandma’s today – then watched Lilo and Stich while doing rehab and sitting on a lacrosse ball to loosen up my hips. Dinna time now. I guess I’d say overall a pretty solid – if not very bizarre feeling – day.

Posted by kfkeane 09:02 Archived in South Africa Tagged family sleep run sick information volunteer session clinic bite tick homeopathy pulse vitals afrikaan respiration Comments (0)

The Final Countdown

sunny 73 °F

Since the safari, nothing has seemed that exciting. It’s the last week of projects, and I’m ready to leave. Although I feel sad when I think about leaving, I think it’s just a natural part of saying goodbye – especially since I’ve been here for almost a month, which is a pretty long period of time. Those feelings are already fading, though. I find myself half-present during projects. Like I’m there, but my mind is wandering. I keep thinking about going home on weekends to cuddle with my pups, eat grilled food from my dad, and go for family boat rides (I’m also really looking forward to running on terrain that isn’t only hills and hopefully sometime after 6:00AM).

So this final week of project, I was a little disappointed because I have Holiday Club (similar to daycare) twice: Monday and Wednesday. I definitely left Holiday Club on Monday with snot on my shirt and saliva on my arms/hands. I also held hands with children who had their hands touching private parts. I tried to trade my Wednesday Holiday Club session with someone else, even going as far as offering to buy a milkshake if they did so, but no one would trade me. It’s just not a hot commodity. Yesterday afternoon we also had planning, where I was in charge of planning the clinic information sessions for the week. I happened to learn a lot about sinus infections, gout, and HIV during/after pregnancy. Actually it was very interesting.

Today, I had a morning session of home-based care, which is basically where we go to people’s houses and take their blood pressure, clean wounds, provide clinic transfers, and give painkillers/laxatives/multivitamins. I had some good and bad takeaways. Bad: once again it didn’t seem like we did much. For example, we went to a man whose hands were shaking badly and he had reddish urine and was constipated. We took his blood pressure and gave him laxatives (which later his grandson came out and showed us an entire bag of unused laxatives he already had). The translator/woman from the village who examines the patients thought he had something wrong with his kidney, but what we did didn’t seem very helpful. The good part, though, was actually really cool! I loved travelling throughout the village and having these intimate appointments with the patients. The patients were all smiling and so talkative, which is polar opposite from the feelings/observations I had in the clinic. The whole atmosphere was different when the patient was seen within the home. This is something I would be interested in the future; perhaps I could be a doctor in a rural town who does home visits. It would be more personal, and I could build stronger relationships with the patients.

Well, I’m going to start getting ready for bed, but I’m still thinking about souvenirs for people. I have a couple of non-food items (I need more but I’m still not exactly sure what people want) and some food items (also need more because you can never have too many). I realized that since I haven’t gone out to eat at all, I have a lot of money for souvenirs, so it’s time for a shopping spree. Treated myself to a 1 Liter bottle of Coca-Cola for tonight with my extra money (oh wait, hahah just remembered I forgot to bring my money so someone else payed for it) and played a little Balderdash (kind of fun) but I think a game everyone should try is 30 seconds! So fun!! 5 days left. Single-digits baby!

Posted by kfkeane 12:06 Archived in South Africa Tagged children home travel village fun morning games money volunteer zulu pregnancy doctor program hiv infection kidney gout balderdash Comments (2)

Thanda 6.4

This is the title because originally we were planned to go to a reserve called Thanda, but they were all booked, so Rhino River Lodge was the second option, but for the longest time we weren't sure if we were going to be able to go on the safari.

sunny 78 °F

It’s Sunday night, and I’m back at the Lodge after going on a weekend Safari at Rhino River Lodge. It was…one of the greatest experiences of my entire life. It’s impossible to capture the experience, but I’ll try to give a description of our schedule to try and give a picture of it. All in all, it was about a 24-hour experience; we left the Lodge at 11AM, arrived by 1PM, then left the next day (today) at 11. We got there and immediately were greeted with lemonade refreshments and cool towels to wipe our faces with. That’s when I first sensed this safari experience was going to be better than I imagined. The property was gorgeous. I roomed with three other people and our “Chalet”, as it was called, had two floors, bath and shower, coffee/tea/biscuits, and a huge living room with plush couches. We did have a couple of visitors being many crickets and a gecko in the bath tub – the real wildlife experience. Now, the rooms we stayed in were on the game reserve, so when night came, we had to be escorted by guards because there was a risk of wild game (which we saw impala and many warthogs). At 1:30PM we were served an amazing lunch of cheeseburgers/cheesecake and then went on our first safari at 3PM. We were on the drive for about 4 hours. I have never been so content and calm in a car for that long. When we finished I thought it had only been 30 minutes. It was nice because we stopped halfway on this grassy plain by this rock that looked like Pride Rock from The Lion King. We were given free drinks (I had a tequila mixed with Passion Fruit granita) and snacks. Our guide’s name was Stuart. We are now following each other on Instagram. He was amazing. His specialty is the Big 5, so we ended up seeing every animal from the Big 5 except a panther. My favorite favorite favorite animal we saw was a momma cheetah. She was a queen. So gorgeous. I made sure to take notes on every animal we saw as Stuart explained facts about them. When we got back, dinner was chicken or lamb and then a dessert.

This morning, we were served muffins and coffee/tea at 6AM before leaving for our morning game drive at 6:30. It was insanely cold! Right off the bat we saw a hyena, which was a big surprise because they are nocturnal. It looked mean, but it was pretty stocky, which is different than how The Lion King portrays them. We were out another four hours and our goal today was to spot a rhino. We saw momma cheetah again which was cool, but I was worried we wouldn’t see a rhino because we were heading back to the lodge and had only seen outline of two from a long distance. Suddenly, over the radio our guide got word of a White Rhino. We were lucky enough to see it! It had its horns cut to help prevent poaching. Our guide was such a daredevil. He went off the path and got way closer than they are supposed to get. Our car was full of girls and we all trusted him at that point and were like “get closer! Go Stuart!”. When we got back, we were served another huge breakfast. I swear, I could never in my wildest dreams imagine how amazing that safari was going to be. And to think, I wasn’t going to sign up to go because of the price, but all of my friends told me that if I never had the opportunity to return to South Africa, I would regret not going on one. Really, this safari was super cheap for everything that was included. I swear, if the doctor thing doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to find me on the safari being a ranger. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, beyond expectations experience that no one should miss out on.

Posted by kfkeane 09:37 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset queen breakfast dinner safari lodge chicken drive cheetah game coffee rhino tequila volunteer cold cricket hyena golden_hour big_5 muffin Comments (2)

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)

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