I have just finished my first day of rotation. I started today in Chatsworth Hospice, but let me back up a bit. The plane rides here were long and consisted of many bad movies. While waiting in heathrow airport, for nine hours, I found out one of my best friends was there as well, unfortunately, I did not figure that out until she had just boarded her plane. Once I arrived in Durban, the person meeting me at the airport was a bit late, so thinking I had read the email wrong I wandered around the airport starting to have my first little freakout. However, Maureen came up to me and assured me that she was the right person.
Maureen and her Husband drove me to Woodlands, Durban where I met my new family and roomate for the next month! Zola, Vusi, Mzamo, Mienhele, Lazola and of course Larissa. I am proud to say I can now pronounce everyone’s name correctly. Zola is incredibly sweet and was very welcoming; none of her daughters are living with her, but she has three sons who are living with her, but one is currently with his uncle. Zola and Vusi are both school teachers and Lazola is their grandson who is incredibly cute at 2 years old. Larissa is my roomate and fellow CFHIer; she is from a small town in Texas but attends Harvard.
The day that I arrived, I sat on the couch and watched TV with the family. Now I do like TV but this set is never turned off! It is incredible. The obsession with american reality TV is rather funny. Later that first afternoon, I took my first shower. Now I am not telling you about my shower habbits to be my normal TMI self, rather, it was the strangest shower of my life. There is a bath tub, no shower spicket. I am not a picky person, but I was told to conserve water. HOW?! There is no way to concerve water, but I did try and stick my head and body directly under the faucet rather than allowing the tub to fill, but then my hair went down the drain and I freaked that my demise would be due to drowning with my hair still connected to my head clogging the drain. (My brother would absolutely love that irony)
The food was great and was an enormous portion, but Larissa and I attempted to eat as much as we could looking at eachother asking if the other was full, both responding a miserable yes, but continuing to eat in order to not offend our host mother. Zola has been very sharing and honest with us, but she is a highly religious woman. The first dinner she lead the prayer and I bowed my head. However, since the title of this post is in quotes, you might know what is coming next.
The next day was orientation. The meeting detail are unimportant and well I am running out of minutes. We took a tour with Steven of the Umlazi township. This township houses more than 2.2 million people. Some live in shacks with no water, electricity, and have children wearing grocery bags as clothes while some live in houses just like the one I am stayin in. In the middle of this township is the HOW LONG park. This man has been creating this park by himself for 15 years; his name, which I believe he gave himself, refers to how long will we be suffering. This tour was my first eye opener into the fact that I am not in the United States. Prior to this tour, I had not seen anything worse than some parts of Atlanta or LA.
While in this township we went to an orphanage which I hope to work with; all of the children were orphans because of HIV and many of them had the disease themselves. A couple has taken in 30 children, their house would be a home for maybe 5-7 in the US, but they have given everything to try and give these children a home. Although the government gives them no support, the police dropped off an HIV positive baby they found in a bush. The clinic in the township tries to help them, but I doubt these children receive any ARVs.
I am really running close on time so I will just write about the rest of the second and third day. That night at dinner, Zola asked one of us to pray, I kind of threw Larissa under the bus and volunteered her. After the prayer, Zola asked if we were christian. I was not trying to offend, but I did tell a small lie. I said that I was not christian, but my mom was Catholic (this seemed acceptable to her) however, I left out the fact that I identify and was raised Jewish.
The third day was a busy day running errands at UKZN and seeing the hospital at which we will be doing a two week rotation. We also had the opportunity to get to know our host family better as well as eachother. In fact, I told Larissa that I am actually jewish. She understood why I did not feel totally comfortable telling Zola that I do not accept christ as my savior. Larissa said she would help me with a prayer since it was obvious that it would be my responsability at dinner later that night.
Zola offered to teach us some zulu. It was the best possible forum; we were gathered in her kitchen cutting vegetables and chicken while she stirred up some amazing spices. I can now have a decent introductory conversation in Zulu but my clicks are still pretty rough. Zulu is very closely related to Xhosa; in fact, Uncle Roy, the man who drives me to my clinical rotations said that anyone who knows one language can understand the other. During this wonderful dinner preparation, Zola also informed us of the affect HIV has had on her family. She has lost 10 members of her family and she has also fallen into depression herself. South Africa is very much like parts of LA or Atlanta; I was almost dissapointed in the fact that SA was so similar, but the impact of HIV/AIDS is incredible. This disease has prevented the progression of this incredible nation, but the way in which the communities are dealing with countless tragedies is inspiring. I am truly out of time!
Once dinner was finally served, I looked at Larissa and we both knew what was coming. When Zola sat down, she said, “Sarah will you please bless our food?” In the past, whenever I have lead prayer, I simply leave out the dear god and the in your name we pray, but I knew that would be incredibly disrespectfuly if I did that in Zola’s house. So I went for it, Larissa chuckled the whole time as I stuttered out a prayer which gave thanks for some of the most random aspects in life, but I finally ended with “In Jesus’ name we pray,” for the first time in my life.