I have completed 3 weeks at the Emergency Department! Tuesday is our last day and I’m really sad to leave. I’m just getting used to being in the hectic environment and getting to know the doctors well. I’m starting to become a productive member in the department and getting really good at restocking. In my first week in the ER, I was appalled to see how often doctors take blood from their patients. It makes sense for them to do it, but I never thought about it, considering how little I get blood drawn at home. I thought I wouldn’t be afraid of seeing blood drawn (of all the other scary things I could see in an ER!) but I was a little scared of how doctors would push needles into the thin arms of patients who would resist and pull back. I hated seeing them in more pain when they already came all the way to the ER to address other pain. By week 2, I was used to seeing the needles and blood and didn’t turn away anymore. Reflecting on my past fear, I think it’s kind of funny that a lot of people don’t choose a career in healthcare because of their fear of blood. It had only taken 2 weeks to get over my fear of needles into other people and now I can observe without looking away. I can feel my threshold of discomfort improve every day in the ER. I wonder what else I could do if I wasn’t afraid of anything.
Long time no see! This program has really opened my eyes to the social aspects that affect health. It’s appalling that so many people go on to be healthcare professionals without this knowledge. This past month, we learned about traditional methods of healing, as well as the depressing topic of health insurance. It’s sad that so much of healthcare delivery is dependent on politicians that have no background in health and it only takes a few bad apples to ruin good legislation. Then there’s the issue of enforcement, which is a huge problem in South Africa’s corrupt government. And still yet, health insurance will never be perfect because there’s always going to be new diseases that won’t be covered. It’s also wild that people here know so much about what is happening in the United States. Seeing that makes me kind of guilty for not keeping up with international news. I’ve been reading for fun a lot more here than I have since I started college. You could say that study abroad #changed me.
Friday was the last day of my homestay. We moved out this morning and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a lil emotional. Last Thursday, it was my mama’s birthday and we had a farewell dinner for all of the homestay families. I had everyone sing happy birthday to her and she loved it! And it didn’t hurt that she didn’t have to cook and got free food on her birthday. She brought tupperware to the dinner. She is my queen.
We also did homestays in Nzinga, a rural town about 3 hours from Durban. We got to attend a Zulu wedding. It was a really cool cultural experience. There are many intricacies in the Our homestay mama, Mama Zuma, lent us some traditional outfits. We still stood out in the crowd despite our efforts in dressing up! I am currently leading the class in most marriage proposals. Stay tuned for updates.
This past weekend, we spent the weekend in Margate, a beach resort. We stayed in these little beach houses right next to the water and we could see whales from our front door! I spent all of Saturday tanning and swimming. The Indian Ocean is so warm! Can’t wait to go back to Whitman with my tan and make all of my friends jealous. It’s really cool of SIT to plan these fun weekend excursions for us. All of the traveling can be tiring but it definitely pays off when you get there.
I’ve finally secured an internship! I will be working in the Emergency Department at Edendale Hospital. We have to select a topic that we may encounter during our internship and do a write-up at the end of the semester. SIT and hospitals are strict on confidentiality and privacy so I won’t be able to share much about what I will be up to in a hospital but I will be happy to share a pic or two of me cooking with 3 other gals that will also be interning at Edendale.
I am now about halfway through the program and time really flies when you’re having fun. Wifi has been a little unreliable so I haven’t been able to post as much as I want to. I have two more weeks staying at the North Beach in Durban and then it’s off to Pietermaritzburg for my internship!
Sanibona sunshines! I am starting week 3 of my program and I’ve had a blast so far. This semester, there are only women so I’m getting a taste of sorority life! I thought I would hate it but its actually really cool to be around women with similar interests. We have a range of interests, from policy to public health, as well as pre-med and pre-nursing students. I’ve gotten to know my classmates really well. About 12 of us shared one small bathroom for 3 days in Johannesburg and we’ve chased lions, giraffes, and zebras (pronounced zeh-bra… ask Trevor Noah) in Krueger Park. We’ve also visited Constitution Hill in Pretoria and Freedom Park to better understand South Africa’s history and state of the nation.
A key part of an SIT study abroad program is intensive language and homestays. I have been learning isiZulu since day 2 and moved into my homestay this past Thursday. I have a host mama, Sylvia, and a sister and a brother as well as two dogs (Simba and Rose). Rose looks like my dog Hoku!!! They are all very nice and speak a lot of English. My classmates are staying in similar houses where they are also with host mamas. My mama likes to feed me a lot! The mamas like to brag to each other how well we are getting fed and love to see us gaining weight. We also love watching South African soap operas over dinner and they are so good. I am the resident soapie expert in class. We are staying in kwaMasxha, a small township in KwaZulu-Natal. My house was built by the government, a part of the solution for the relocation during apartheid. These mamas claimed these houses for themselves and now they own them. These are badass women and you don’t want to mess with them!!
South Africa is still a largely patriarchal nation, which I find surprising knowing that all the mamas that literally run the town. As a part of our safety orientation, we were told that if we were ever in trouble, ask a mama for help and they will help you. Nevertheless, all of the South Africans that I have met are incredibly kind people. There is still gross inequality between areas that were designated white and black. Considering their past, it is a true testament to the strength and resilience of this young nation.
I admit to having a hard time with moving around so much in the first week. There were a lot of logistical things to cover with a program that moves around so much (Johannesburg —> Marloth/Krueger Park —> Durban —> Wherever your ISP/Internship will be —> Cape Town) and sometimes you just want to stop living out of a suitcase! I have to say that I’m glad that I brought a 70L backpack with me… so many pockets! While you are moving around a lot for the first couple of weeks, you get to see pretty much everything: Rural and urban areas, homestays in a township, the beach, and the three major cities of South Africa. You have to be flexible to thrive on this program or you will be miserable and everyone else won’t want to be around you. I’ve enjoyed learning how to adapt to new situations and am learning how to be a little less awkward about meeting new people. When in doubt, talk about food.
About SIT as a program: Professors here totally understand that you are far from home and what you are used to. The professors are receptive to feedback and ideas from students. The class size is similar to what you would find at Whitman and while discussions don’t typically happen during lectures, there are structured spaces where we unpack and discuss in smaller groups. I particularly love the Research Methods and Ethics course. We’ve only had a handful of these classes so far, but we have learned what it means to be an experiential learner and how you can incorporate your own experiences and ideas into research. It’s been a lot more philosophical than I thought it would be but I feel more excited for the semester ahead with these new perspectives on learning in a new place.