Tonight was our final night in Cape Town, South Africa and I don’t think it could have been a better one. The day started out with some last-minute shopping on Main Road and after soaking up the last bit of summer sun for a long time. At night, Jamie, Ashley, Katie, Karin, Lauren, Ben and I hiked up Lion’s Head before sunset. Once at the top we had a little snack picnic while enjoying each other’s company. We watched the sun set at the top and then watched the city light up on our way down. It is an absolutely breathtaking view, one that I am surely going to miss. It is one of many things that I am going to miss down here, which makes it so difficult and sad to leave. The hardest part about going home is leaving the friends we have made down here. I am especially going to miss our drivers; Parks, Dumasani, and Nana, who were wonderful and we all grew to love. I’m going to miss Vernon Rose and his family, who welcomed us one of our first nights here with open arms. Reverend Rose was the glue to our study abroad experience and without him our time in South Africa would not have run so smoothly. Finally, I am going to miss Ben, our RA, who has the biggest heart and was always there for each and every one of us whenever we needed him. As I write this blog and think about leaving tomorrow, I am very excited to see my friends and family but also extremely sad to leave such a beautiful place I could call my second home. I like to look at this as a positive, however, because if I weren’t so sad to leave, it would have meant I never had the great experience I did down here in South Africa!
This past weekend we took a road trip to an area of South Africa called the Garden Route. It is basically the central southern coast of the country and a popular holiday destination due to it is beautiful forests and beaches. The drive from Cape Town to the Garden Route was very nice. We stopped at many places along the way, but eventually arrived in a town called Knysna, just outside of Plettenberg Bay on Friday afternoon. In Knysna, the group stayed in a small hostel Highfielder backpackers. In the morning half of the group woke up very nervous but excited! At 11am on Saturday was the reservation for the world record’s highest BUNGEE jump. I was not going, however gave lots of hugs and support to the jumpers! I was able to watch everyone from the bar through out their jump. I was very proud of all of them for being so brave! On Saturday afternoon, Tina, Candace, Lauren and I went to the elephant sanctuary. We were able to walk with them “trunk in hand” and fed them. The elephants were really cute, and surprisingly, I learned a lot about them!!
On Sunday the group went to the main beach in Plettenberg to swim in the Indian Ocean!! The water was much warmer than the beaches in Cape Town. I think I’ll miss the beach the most when I go home! On Monday morning we began our trip back to Rondebosch. On the way, we stopped at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. This is where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet!!
Since this is my final blog, I would like to thank Ben, Professor Breitkeuz, Professor Griffiths and Vernon for all they have done for us. I have learned so much about South African culture in these three months. I remember feeling so overwhelmed and out-of-place when I first arrived in Cape Town. These feelings have been replaced with a sense of comfort. In Cape Town I have realized in order to have unforgettable experiences you must try new things and meet new people. We have met awesome locals who have shown us things we would not have found ourselves. From Cape Town to Johannesburg, I would not ask for a better time traveling around South Africa.
Since October I have begun my maternity rotation. My second day at the hospital I was able to witness a c-section of twins! Going into the operating room was exciting. From the first cut to when the baby was delivered was so quick! A girl was born first and soon after came the baby boy! Both were healthy beautiful babies!! I was then able to help with drying off the babies and clamping the cord. After, I brought each baby to the mother and father. It was a very rewarding experience especially since these were the parent’s first children.
Another worthwhile experience included a visit to a local Mosque. Since our clinical are in Muslim hospitals and many of our patients are Muslim, we felt obligated to learn more about their culture. In order to enter the Mosque the girls were required to wear scarves, long sleeves and long pants to cover our hair and skin. Similarly we had to remove our shoes when we arrived.
We were guided around the Mosque by a Shaikh. He showed us the two separate prayer sections for the women and the men. After the tour, we sat in a circle on the prayer carpet and had a conversation about the Islamic faith. He talked to us about daily Muslims requirement to praying toward Mecca minimum of five times a day. The Shaikh taught us about the Qur’an and discussed the differences between his religion and Catholics/Christians. He also discussed the misconceptions people have about the Muslim religion and suicide bombings. He explained this act is no part of the religion or stated in the Qur’an.
Our weekend in Plettenburg Bay was a nice getaway from Cape Town life. It was timed nicely as the weekend before our 2 final exams. We had the opportunity to do some fun things while away yet have quiet nights to relax or get some studying in. After an extremely long bus-ride, during which I slept like a rock, we arrived in the small town of Knysna where we would be staying in a hostile. I hadn’t stayed in a hostile before so it was an interesting experience. Knysna had a nice little waterfront with shops and nice restaurants, where we ate the first night. The next day we rose early and got our heart rates pumping for our plans that day. Most of us planned to go bungee jumping at Face Adrenaline, which happened to be the world’s tallest bungee. It was amazing to say the least. I had the pleasure of being the first in the group to jump. It was so excited and I honestly wasn’t remotely scared – until I stepped up to the edge of the bridge. I screamed most of the way down, until I remembered that I wasn’t actually plunging to my death and that I was totally safe. Once reaching the bottom, the rope rebounded a few times and each time I went down, I felt the pressure in my head and eyes and it was a very awkward feeling. But after the initial few seconds I took in the beauty of what was around me and looked at the sea, mountains, and stream below me. It was a peaceful and quieting few moments. Being hung upside down is very uncomfortable and I remember thinking, “Are they going to come get me? Why are they taking so long? Is something wrong?” Naturally I was very ready to get my feet back on the ground and stand right side up, so I was happy to see the guy come down on his harness and get me. It ended up being one of the craziest things I’ve done, and the way I felt afterwards was amazing. I would jump every day if I could, I loved it so much. Then I got to see the rest of the group jump. It was weird watching all my classmates fall off a bridge, one by one. Everyone had a great time and loved the experience. That afternoon, myself and a few other girls went to the Elephant Sanctuary. One thing I wanted to do while in Africa was ride an elephant and I was really happy that I was able to. We took an hour-long tour with the elephants, when we learned about them and walked with them, trunk in hand. We fed them, petted them, and finally got to ride them. It was cute because the elephants walked with their trunks wrapped around one another’s tails so they walked in a line. It was really nice because elephants are my favorite animal so it was fun. It wasn’t quite as exhilarating as bungee jumping, but it was nice. The day was a great little getaway from my lifestyle in Cape Town.
Last night we held our big end of the term thank you dinner for all of those key individuals who truly made this incredible experience possible. In attendance, of course, were all of the wonderful nurses who guided through both pediatrics and maternity. It was wonderful to have representation from each agency that we were involved over the past three months, and especially great to be able to say one more farewell to these fabulous people. The night was a huge success and proof that we have truly made a home for ourselves in South Africa. Once the proper “Thank Yous” were given and our appreciativeness was made apparent one last time, we all shared in a delicious buffet styled meal and sat down to wonderful company and conversation. After dinner I think almost every single seat was empty as we joined together on the dance floor to an amazing jazz band. The mood was lively and I am certain that everyone joined themselves immensely. As the night faded on the guests started to trickle out one by one. It was hard to say good-bye to those we have been working with and those who have seen us from our first week in South Africa, to now our last. Everyone was so accommodating to us and made our experience that much more enjoyable. I will never forget the time spent working in Cape Town and owe it all to the great individuals who made it happen. Cheers to everyone!
See you all back home soon! (sooner than I would like to admit)
I would like to start out saying I am a huge shark fan. I watch shark week religiously every year and just can’t get enough of them. I never thought I would ever get the chance to see sharks face to face so when I found out I was coming to South Africa, the world’s number one place for Air Jaws, I knew I had to seize the opportunity and go shark cage diving.
When 7:30 Saturday morning came I was up, packed and ready to go. I took a taxi to a nearby hotel and anxiously waited for my bus to pick me up and bring me to Gansbaai (pronounced Hans-bay). I joined three other people on the bus, Felix, Cem, and Zoe, in which I later came to know and hung out with for the duration of the trip. We arrived in Gansbaai a little before 12 and joined a group of 16 other people. At the office we were greeted, given breakfast, and a briefing of our trip. We were then brought to the harbor, where we met our guide and got on to our boat, The Megalodon II. The Megalodon II resembled the boat from Jaws which only heightened my excitement. The 20 of us plus the boat crew sailed 3 miles off the coast where the cage was lowered and tied to the side of the boat. As one of the deck men were preparing the chum we got another briefing of what to and not to do while inside of the cage. As our guide was talking to us a few sharks were already biting at the chum! Feeling all sorts of emotions I put on the cold, wet, tight, wet suit, put on my booties and mask and hopped into the cage.
The cage is set up so one of the larger sides in up against the boat and the diver’s backs are plush with the boat. You keep your feet on the cage and hold on to the buoys that line the top; the inside of the cage also has a bar where the divers can hold on to. While in place, you wait patiently, similarly to a sitting duck, in the water for a shark to come along and grab the bait. When a shark does come by, the deck men yell “GO!” and this signals the divers to hold their breath and go under the 64 degree water. The sharks were within a leg’s length away and at times close enough to touch. The experience was absolutely amazing and I would do it ten times over.
I can’t believe we are coming home so soon. It feels like we just got here. We just got back from the Garden Route trip and Plettenberg Bay. I’m sure everyone else wrote about bungee jumping so I’ll leave it up to them to describe the incredible rush we all got from that! Let’s just say, I would go bungee jumping again in a heartbeat if the opportunity presents itself. We have about a week left and two exams. I think I can arrange times for sky diving and sand boarding, but we will see! See you all very soon! Until then I am going to soak up the beautiful Cape Town sun/weather. Miss you all<3
A few weekends ago, our host coordinator took Steve, Emily, and me downtown. The purpose of the outing was to go to a shop that custom-tailors traditional African clothing. The shop is on Long Street, a busy street in the middle of the downtown area bustling with stores, restaurants, and nightclubs. After we spent some time in the store, Steve suggested we go to a restaurant that is famous for it’s authentic Cape Malay dishes.
As we drove up the hill from Long Street to Bo-Kaap, I noticed that we were in a residential neighborhood. This was surprising to me, since I had never seen any residential buildings in the downtown area before. Our host explained that Bo-Kaap (also known as the Malay Quarter) is the historical center of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. It is one of the only residential areas in the city center that survived Apartheid. The houses were multicolored and neatly lined the streets. The area was bursting with a unique culture.
To Cape Malay community first introduced Islam to South Africa. They came to be in South Africa because of the trading done by the Dutch East India Company. Upon their arrival to Cape Town, they adapted many of the recipes they knew from home to their new life in Cape Town. Popular in Malay culture are curries and lamb dishes. I ordered a traditional dish called bobotie. Bobotie consists of a mincemeat with ginger, tumeric, raisins, and a variety of other flavors. The dish is topped with a baked egg mixture. I was skeptical, but it was delicious.
Some older residents of Bo-Kaap have been living there for their whole lives, which is rare, since many people were moved out of their original homes during Apartheid. I am glad to have experienced this neighborhood, even for just an hour. Strangely enough, I felt proud to be there. After spending time in the townships during clinical and seeing how Apartheid has affected so many people in a negative way, it was nice to see that the people who lived in Bo-Kaap had outlasted the Apartheid in their original homes and were able to be so resilient.
Now that we are in the last stretch of classes and leaving in one week, I’m forced to come to the realization that our time here is ending soon. I think back to my initial study abroad interview back in Storrs, and I realize how little I knew about the history and the country. I didn’t know quite what to expect stepping off that plane back in September, but it is safe to say that this experience has given me much more than I expected, and it has been much more different from I expected. Some of the initial qualities that struck me about Cape Town were the diversity, friendliness of strangers, and the stark disparities between the rich and poor. It took me a while to become accustomed to things such as the laid-back attitude of Cape Town, walking to get groceries, and crossing the busy streets, but now it’s hard for me to imagine things otherwise.
Now, I have such mixed emotions about leaving this place that has come to be my home for the past three months. Although I’m excited to see my friends and family soon, it makes me sad to leave Cape Town and all of the amazing memories and friends that we have made along the way. I never thought I would love it as much as I do or that I would feel so sad about leaving. I will never forget the generosity and kindness of the people we have met here whether they were from our hospital rotations, volunteer facilities, friends we made socializing or mere strangers in the grocery stores and on the streets. Our time here has helped me grow as a nurse and as a person as we have all dealt with so many different kinds of people and customs. It has forced me to be independent in a new environment outside of my comfort zone. We have all learned to depend on others in the house that may have been strangers in the beginning, and on ourselves. South Africa is one of the most unique places I have ever visited. The history, landscape, languages, and cultures all intertwine to make South Africa a diverse and a very special place. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have come here and to learn and grow as much as I have! Our time here and the memories and friends we’ve made will always hold a special place in my heart.
This week in clinical and class, I had two reminders that education is pivotal in promoting health and wellbeing. Rev. Rose brought a speaker from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to class Thursday to talk about the work being done to help people in the townships living with HIV/AIDS. Very fitting since December 1st was World AIDS Day. TAC is performing a great public service to the citizens of the townships by bringing their medications to a clinic with in walking distance and by supporting the local schools through education about safe sex and disease prevention. I am always surprised to hear that students in the public school system in South Africa get no education about sexual health unless speakers from the TAC or other non-profit organizations are invited to after school programs to educate the youth. I feel that sexual education classes would make a huge difference if they were incorporated into school curriculum!
Secondly, I also visited the family planning center in a public clinic in the townships this week. I got to talk to over 50 girls and women and provide health teaching about condom use, pregnancy tests and rapid HIV testing. How did I know what to say? School props to high school health class and Lisa-Marie! We saw two 17-year-old girls. One talked about condom use and the importance of taking her birth control, and the other was 15 weeks pregnant and ecstatic. It was quite a shocking contrast to see these girls one after another. Later we saw a 27-year-old who when we began on “lecture” on condom use said she had heard it all before in her university classes. At least she had been educated about sexual health unfortunately not until university and a little too late to help a 17-year-old.
Just got me thinking what an important part education plays in promoting health. Is primary prevention and health promotion emphasized enough in South Africa and even America?
Soaking up the sun and making the most of our remaining days in Cape Town. Lindsey and I hiked Table Mountain for the first time yesterday! We started off in the Kirstenbosch Gardens and hiked up Skeleton’s Gorge- practically up a waterfall! We got to the top and walked to a reservoir of water with a white sand beach and then continued the additional 2 hour hike over the plateau of the mountain to the cable car. For an hour we were completely alone walking on the plateau. We finally ran into a couple from Italy at Mclear’s Beacon (a giant rock pile that marks the highest point of the mountain/was used by Mclear, an astronomer) and were so thankful to see other people! Then we continued to hike over to the cable car station, practically running in hopes to catch sunset from the top. We made it with out a minute to spare though! It was a breathtaking view and totally worth it! The cable car was running and to our surprise the cashier thought we were 18 so we got the child’s rate down! Wonderful day! So thankful for in-shape Lindsey and her motivation and peanut butter crackers