English?

One of the things I find incredibly interesting about South Africa is that they have 12 official languages and many other languages that are spoken. I only speak one of the official languages, which is English. However, it is still interesting that I can have a conversation with someone in english and still be confused about what they are saying. For a funny example check out Trevor Noah’s video about English vs. American. I am adding to some of the items on his list. Some of the differences I have collected and eventually started using without thinking about it are listed below. Enjoy.

jorl= party/ to have fun

oke= male, dude

just now= sometime in the future

now now= in a minute, now

robots= traffic lights

shops= grocery store

lekker= great

braai= barbecue

gymming= going to the gym

nappies= diapers

serviettes= napkins

biltong= beef jerky (South Africans claim theirs is better)

babbelas= hangover

bru= friend, pal

chow= lets eat

chommie= friend

hoezit- how is it?

toastie= grilled sandwich

sarmie= sandwich

chips= french fries

yebo= yes

shame= sympathy or admiration

eish= colloquial exclamation of surprise, disapproval, exasperation or regret

sharp= good-bye (pronounced shap)

boerewors= ‘farmers sausage’ in Afrikaans, popular for SA braai.

biscuit= cookie

Askies= sorry

There are others but these are the ones that I can currently remember. Pronunciations are also different as well. I’ll leave those up to your imagination. If I had to foresee what it would be like to go home, to one language for the most part, where I can understand everyones conversations, it will be very strange. All the languages and different cultures seem to add so many other layers. However, I do believe when I return home I will see other layers and many differences that will be strange, but things I have never notices before.

Other observations are that many traffic rules mean suggestions, such as, yellow means speed up to make sure you go, red means that two more cars can go before the other directions light goes green and stop signs are more like yields. The cars here are also manuals, and I can only drive an automatic. All these differences are not out of the ordinary but just interesting still how things are similar but not the same.

Cheers,

Randi

 

 

Where did the time go?

Dear Friends and Family,

This is an open and honest post about my feelings and sentiments for my time that I have spent here and for the time that I have remaining. I have past the six month mark and I am staring at my calendar with less than three months left. It is strange to think that I have been in Johannesburg for six months already. This place is not just a placement anymore, but it is home. I have my network with people from home, and my fellow Fellows abroad for a support system, but this is where my life is currently. I quite literally have people all over the world, so if I ever need to call someone, I know that someone will be up. I even had the opportunity to meet a Union College Economics Professor, Ellen Foster, as she performed here in Johannesburg. I realized how global my world really is in that meeting. This past week I was talking to Isabelle (A Fellow in Cambodia) and I realized when talking to her that I no longer feel like an intruder here. I feel as though I am a part of this country in a way. When people in the shops hear my accent they ask if I am on holiday, and I respond, I live here, without thinking. So where has the time gone? I look back on the past six months at all the memories, and all the work I have done and I feel so much pride. When I look forward to the next three months the first feeling that bubbles up is panic. In the best sense of the word. I am panicking because I have so much love for Johannesburg. I find myself looking at my calendar and realizing there are only so many weeks left and I still have so much I want to accomplish. I feel as though I have just hit my stride not too long ago, and what am I going to do now? Well the answer to that is to hustle in order to complete the projects that I aim to complete before I leave.

My second thought is from my last phone call with Michelle. We were discussing the idea of tension. My awareness of the tension in everyday life, the poverty I see, the need, the help that can be given, and the differences in living situations, I am still acutely aware of it all. I feel comfortable here in Joburg, but I do not want to feel as though that is how it is. We discussed how we need to have this in our lives, and when we realize that this is no longer the case, we should move on. We need to have that tension in our lives so that we remember what we are here to do and what our purpose is. It really is amazing but also scary when you realize what you can get use to; what becomes the new norm. When I think about this the thought scares me. I am afraid that one day what I see around me on a daily basis will seem normal, that it won’t bother me, or make me uncomfortable when I see people begging in the street, or seeing people malnourished that “that’s just the way it is.” The tension keeps me awake and present in this reality.

My education has expanded my life an opportunities far beyond what I knew until I came here. My education has given me this opportunity to grow and that is a privilege I hold very dear. Every day I still feel the shame for having the opportunities I have had, but I also have to remind myself that I can do something with what I have been given. I have the ability to touch peoples lives and make a difference because of it and I am so grateful.

Much Love,

Randi

 

Home away from home

Hi All,

We are close to the new year, but with the same reality that I am still just as bad at updating you all in blog posts, considering my last post was 2 months ago. I have now been here for over five months. So here are some of the activities that I have been up to in the last month.

1.) My parents were able to visit me for the first two weeks of December, where we celebrated being together, and celebrated being together again in four months. It was a wonderful experience to finally be able to share this amazing beautiful country that has grown so close to me in the past four months and for them to meet the people, women, and children with whom I have been working with at the clinic was a truly amazing experience. RSA really is beautiful. My parents and I went on Safari and drove on the Garden Route all the way to Cape Town. From the experience, I have come to realize myself how much I love Joburg, and take comfortability as home now. Pictures to follow.

 

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The prettiest view of a vineyard in Stellenbosch.

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Robberg Island Panorama

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Cute Bathing Huts I forced my parents to go to because I wanted to see them.

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My mom completing her penguin hunt. She couldn’t have been more thrilled.

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Have you seen a happier Santa Clause? Proof he can be in more than one place at a time. Cape L’Agulhas (Southernmost tip of the continent of Africa)

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The most magnificent sight to see. Elephants passed in front of our vehicle, and this bull stopped to get a good look at us.

2.) Christmas. So aside from missing family and friends, and some of the other obvious sentiments being away from home at this time, I experienced my first hot Christmas. This year, instead of waddling around the farm in all my jackets because I cannot handle the cold (the visual is meant to conjure up Randy from the best movie ever, ‘A Christmas Story’) on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day getting chores done, I was invited to some family gatherings. It is interesting to see how different families celebrate holidays. And different is good. On Christmas Eve, besides from their being no snow, there was a Father Christmas who did not wear shoes as it was 95 degrees and Christmas cookies were replaced by puddings as it is too hot to bake anything in large amounts. It was like having a summer pool party with a ‘cooler’ Santa for Christmas present.  On Christmas Day I joined a family to attend a church service preceding the festive breakfast, gift opening, and pool party. So this is Christmas and of course, in the true South African fashion, there was a braai. I do feel so grateful to the families that opened up their homes and traditions to me for their festivities. It was a good experience to be able to see how different families in another country celebrate the holidays. I also realized how much the holiday season doesn’t really matter how you celebrate, but who you celebrate it with. As the theme goes, its the people that make the experience, and I have met some truly amazing people here.

3.) Sometimes when I’m working with patients at the clinic I catch myself trying to picture what their life would be like if they didn’t have to worry about food or money so their children can stay in school, or if their was a cure for HIV, or what the world will look like when HIV has a HIV negative generation. There are always struggles in the world, but I see it everyday point blank here. In the States, I will confess it slips to the back of the mind and I don’t think about it everyday like I do here. It has been good growth to be able to live with the people. I sometimes think of the John Lennon song Imagine. A little weird, I know, but I see it as an opportunity for what we are aiming for, and it helps make it a reality to me. To see what it is and why. Apart from success story writing, this helps me to visualize what we are aiming for. Before a game, our coach use to always have us do a visualization exercise. That is just for a game, but it actually helps in real life as well. So I invite you all to try it with me. Picture in the world, how it could be different, changed for the better. What is it? What do you see?

The Minerva Fellow mantra really does leave something behind. At first I never gave it much thought, but the more time I spend in RSA, the more I realize how true it is. It is more like a recipe that slowly reveals itself to you and you don’t even know it yourself. For those of you who never saw us chant it in public or were in Hal’s Social Entrepreneur class, the mantra is,

“Go to the people.

Live with them.

Learn from them.

Love them.

Start with what they know.

Build with what they have.

But with the best leaders,

when the work is done,

the task accomplished,

the people will say

‘We have done this ourselves’.”

Cheers,

Randi

P.S. My New Years Resolution this year is not to go to the gym more, but to be more consistent with my blog posts.

Drip Drop

Hi all, long time no chat and I do apologize. BUT, I am back. I recently stumbled across this quote from none other than Mother Teresa as I was trying to find quotes for my newly implemented newsletter at the clinic and it made me realize how I feel.

 

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

 

For me this quote is so powerful and helps to visualize the representation for how I feel for the insecurities in this fellowship. Let me explain. First, as I have already mentioned in previous posts, this fellowship is amazing and among myself and all the other staff I feel as though I am making an impact in at least one person’s life. However, you wonder, because nine months seems so long, but I am already almost three months in. I realize as I plan out the next 6 months that nine months is not a long time at all. I begin to wonder “How much of an impact or good am I really doing, more importantly am I doing enough?” I want to do a great job with such a great impact without being needed after I leave the clinic. I want the impact I leave to last. Well, I think they are all just several drops that are added to the ocean and if they were not there then they will be missing from the world, and missing from someone’s life. Each drop is another that is added to make the stepping stones for another person to use.

 

Confessions:

  • I am not very good at posting blogs in a routine manner as I receive a few messages from friends and family about when I am posting the next one. I struggle with criteria to write about, what should I put in, or rather not put in? The goal of this is to just lay it all out for you.
  • I am obsessed with all the outdoor markets that Johannesburg has to offer, and I try to go to one as often as I can. I have made it a personal goal to go to all of them before I leave at least once.
  • I’ve been way to scared about what they call ‘rain spiders.’ I had a late-night visitor about the size of my palm on my toilet bath mat and I was so scared I first screamed, then called my mother, and texted numerous people to get input on how to remove this spider from my flat. I will also confess I usually have my father do the spider killing at my house. It is my kryptonite if you will. Fast forward to the end of this story, it took me an hour to get him out, and he was mostly unharmed, but I think we are both equally traumatized.
  • Sitting with a patient who has just found out that they were diagnosed with HIV doesn’t get easier. I’ve only been with a couple women and men when this has occurred, but there is one instance that sticks out in my mind. I was on the mobile clinic when a woman came in who looked elderly and frail only to find out that she was in her early 30’s. After a rapid HIV test came back positive, she became quiet and withdrawn from the conversation. She had tears in her eyes. The counselor stepped out of the room and I was left alone with the patient. I felt so uncomfortable. I am not great at comforting people in pain, and here I was stuck in my shame and all I could think was that nothing I could say would make her feel better and I can’t fix it. I put my head down and I wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not sure what made me do it, but I reached out to her and I held her hand. I offered a small smile, and said “I know this is hard, but there is care for you and it will be okay.” I am not sure if it would be okay, as I knew this woman’s life just became harder, but I did know that HIV is not a definite death sentence anymore. It can be managed just like a chronic disease similar to diabetes with treatment. The woman returned a soft smile, and the exchange was over just as quick as it began as she moved on to the next station.

I have many uncomfortable situations like these and I realize that while in the moment I may feel shame for various reasons, or may not know what to do, afterwards, I reflect on them in my journal or talk it out with a friend, and it has allowed me to get so much more out of these experiences than if I did not do that. I am thankful for these uncomfortable moments.

  • I love coming to work and doing work that I feel inside is important and making a difference in their lives, and it is my drop in the ocean that I am contributing to. I won’t make a tsunami, but I am still adding to something that is needed.

 

What have I been up to?

  • I have implemented a staff newsletter system to Witkoppen. It does not seem like much, but with communication struggling from various departments at the clinic, I am using it as a way to keep all departments informed, while also giving information to educate staff about the Gift of Hope’s programs, A FRESH Start and Sponsor a Mother and Child.
  • In an effort to be more involved with management, I am to be a type of scribe to type up the problems/ideas/conclusions in the Senior Management Meetings.
  • Reports and Success Stories. As part of my role as a Minerva Fellow I am to write a Report every three months and to analyze the data for the report in order to send to Lauren on the progress of the Gift of Hope. The success stories are stories written about patients that have overcome challenges and are now on the right track with the help of the programs provided by Gift of Hope.
  • Campaigns: photos, videos, and interviews with patients.

 

Observations:

  • If you have a ball they will come. I have a soccer ball in the back of my car and so far I have played soccer in the parking lot with the parking guards after getting my groceries, played in the parking lot of the clinic with staff members, and have played soccer with the orphans and vulnerable children in the townships. If you have a soccer ball they will play and the rules are always understood.
  • “You need to work here because you love your job and because you care about the patients.” I overheard this conversation at the clinic from a staff member to another. She also began to explain this statement. “These patients are needy and vulnerable. You have to visualize every time you talk to a patient about nutrition, or home life, or money how would you want to be spoken to in that situation if the table was flipped. It is the golden rule, that we hear since we are children, but when you are able to see the situation right in front of you it changes things a lot. It is so powerful when you see the inequality and I think this mindset allows me to connect with patients better. To be able to open your heart and time to patients is something that is absolutely amazing. As Brené Brown says, you need to sit on the same side of the table as them, not across the table. Power or positions of power changes how someone views you no matter your intensions. Therefore, I strive to be able to relate with patients, and to use the little bit of power that I have in order to benefit them.
  • I love how I am seeing regulars at the clinic because I have now been here long enough that they remember seeing me at the clinic, and speaking with me at various points around the clinic. Perhaps the thing that makes me smile the most is when a child remembers me and has spotted me from across the room and they start making noise and waving at me in order to get my attention so I can come over and say ‘hi’ to them.
  • There is a big difference in the healthcare systems in SA versus the US. SA might have infrastructure but they do not have the newest and latest updates, technology, treatments. SA is still developing, has more exposure to diseases that are not a worry in the US, and the clinics and hospitals are also set up differently. For example, there are government clinics that have long waiting lines or private that can have high fees. There are gaps in the health care given and within the system. It isn’t equal and patients do not always get the attention and care that they need.

 

That was a long-winded rant, so if you made it to the end, I just want to congratulate you on finishing 🙂

 

Cheers,

Randi

 

 

Why South Africa?

Okay, so time to address the elephant in South Africa. When I came, the people wanted to know if I thought I would see lions roaming the streets of Africa. But then again people at home wanted to know what was worth going to South Africa for. Over one month in I am ready to attempt to answer ‘the question’ which I was asked by numerous family members, friends, and acquaintance before I left, which was why do you want to go to (South) Africa?
Let me begin with this image. I awoke one morning like any other, to scroll through my phone before pulling the covers off and starting my day. Being that there is a 6-hour time difference, my missed notifications are more numerous than usual. On this morning, my friend sent me a video in the form of a GIF, who had tried to call me while I was sleeping, but failed because of the time zone difference. The GIF perfectly sums up a lot, while still eliciting a good laugh. The GIF was a bunch of actors from different movies/scenes forming the phrase “Why did you have to go to South Africa?” (Unfortunately, I cannot post the GIF on this platform)

So why did I come here? I still truly believe what I said in one of my interviews, which is “that I am continually surprising myself.” When I was applying, it was something I dreamed of doing for over a year. I could not think of a solid reason why I should not be applying. I love learning, travel, and new cultures. But of course, this fellowship is so much more than that. To understanding what a global citizen is, to understand a new way of thinking, to press my own comfort zone so that it is uncomfortable makes it worth it when I realize what is beyond that ‘zone’ that I have unconsciously set for myself. This fellowship challenges me in a way that I have not been challenged before. It puts all my experiences to the test. I am pulling from each one in order to be as productive as possible. These experiences range from a term abroad, various classes, working in a clinic, working as a peer mentor, and sports team. As I remember Claire stating in one of her blogs, “to hustle” sums it up the fellowships perfectly because you have to think on your feet all the time.
With one month of the fellowship come and gone, this is just one of the things I have reflected on. With the concept of time looming over me, I realize just how fast time moves when you want to make a meaningful impact, but yet it also does not move fast at all. Nine months seems like a long time (sorry mom), but when you think about it, it is really not that long at all. As I said, I am one month down, but I have eight to go. I know I keep saying, it but I am really understanding the concept of perspective in so many new ways that had never before crossed into my mind. While I am still struggle with coming to terms with my own privilege there are so many more experiences that I would like to share, about these perspectives and why I came to south Africa. Being ‘on the ground’ makes all the stories and blogs I’ve read come to life.
1.) The women in support groups. I get to have a glimpse into what their life is like. You share very personal stories about your family situation. I see how hard it is for them to tell the group. From struggling to come to terms with their HIV status, saving money in order to come to buy food for their children, shed tears of your fears, but more importantly you women are so strong and resilient. You keep fighting back, and trying. You form a network with the other women in support group, and I see the power in numbers first hand. I have worked one on one with students before, but working in a group in this setting is something entirely new to me. It is quite beautiful to watch it all unfold. I see how hard it is for you to share with the group. From struggling to come to terms with their HIV status, telling your partners, and providing the best life for your children. As the past fellow Bri said to me, “All of these moms are success stories.”
2.) I see cultures and lives that live together, but separate. There is poverty everywhere you look, but there is also wealth in the same area. You see people begging in the street while people in BMW’s drive past them.
3.) I often have many ideas that come to mind on a daily basis. Most of them aren’t good so I toss them away, need a lot of work, or one time they are a go. But I believe that this is okay, for if you don’t try then who knows what will happen.
So, back to the question, “why did I come to South Africa?” I think the reasons and answers are changing all the time. Now that reason has faces to it. From the women in support group, to my co-workers, and to the friends I have made here, to the experiences that I know share with all these people. Every time I see something new that strikes me, I meet someone that shares a different perspective or story with me, or I’m introduced to a new cultural aspect. But one thing is for sure, is that this experience of living and working in South Africa has so much to offer me. I can already sense a shift in myself from this experience and I am thankful for being able to experience this new way of life with these new and amazing people.

 

Cheers,

Randi

 

Gobble Up Life

There have been a couple soccer practices where I can remember Brian talking to us about mental toughness after a fitness test. On one occasion, he told us that he wants to set us up with the tools to be able to use after we leave the Union College Womens Soccer program to “gobble up life” from one of his movie references that I cannot remember. (The Great Santini starring Robert Duval. He told me later and I then put it in). As we were all bent over recovering from the sprints, he explained that he was tough on us because he knows that we will be successful after we leave here. To take our experiences and get as much out of them as we can, to learn as much from them. This is what I strive to do with my fellowship, but with my life too. It is what I think about when an opportunity crosses my path. Gobble up life.

From past experiences in life, and as told by the previous Fellows wisdom is that you will see certain things or be in different situations that will hit you and change your view on the world. Before coming to South Africa I researched, asked a bunch of questions like the try hard that I am to try to get an upper hand on what it would be like.  It has helped to a certain extent, but I do not know until how I would feel until I was put in a situation and place that made me feel differently. Not just feel but more importantly see differently.

South Africa is unlike any place that I have ever experienced. There are 11 official languages that I learned from my google search, but there are so many more that are spoken. What I did not realize is that you can hear 5 different ones more or less on a daily basis. It is not just the language that makes it so varied but there are so many different cultures, accents, and people that co-exist in Johannesburg. I experience this at the clinic everyday. I struggle to understand the various accents and they struggle to understand mine. But the experience that promoted this blog post was the invitation to one of the staff members engagement party. The engagement party was to be held in Diepsloot, which is a township. I had not yet been to a township, and was not sure what to expect. I knew there was extreme poverty and people living in shacks. I hesitated on the invitation and waited four days before I said I would go. I knew it would be a good experience, but I struggles with how people would react to me being there. Would I be intruding, seem ignorant, or cause attention to be drawn to me as I knew I would stick out.

When I arrived, I saw what you would see in photos. What you do not see in photos is the interactions that take place between people. These interactions were: two boys that hid around a corner in order to sneak peaks at me and giggle, everyone welcoming to me, helping me understand rituals, translating the ceremony (they spoke in their language and had someone translate everything that was being said in english just for me), to after the ceremony when the food was served, the little kids were grabbing my hands to teach me different African dance moves. They loved it as they liked to show me how to do it and then watch me fail miserably. For anyone who knows me, knows that I cannot dance. Not at all, but I gave it my best shot. Several people came up to me and said they are happy I am here, but very surprised that I came because people like me usually do not come here.  I think the thing that touched me the most was a grandmother. She stopped me as I was leaving, and said “Honey, are you leaving? I hope you enjoyed yourself.” When I replied yes with a huge grin, she said “I love you, I want you to come back and see us, it was so lovely to have you here.”

After that comment all I could do was hug her. I really struggled with the first time in my life with privilege.  I knew I was privileged to attend Union College and to have this fellowship. But I did not fully realize my reality with how much of a privileged life I have lived until coming here. How fortunate I was to have the parents I have and to have the experiences I was given. I did not want to impose my culture, appearance, or view on these people. I wanted to blend in. These thoughts filled me with shame, that I have been working out since I arrived here because of the poverty that I see around me. I am so happy to have had this experience and to have accepted it. That grandmother showed me that my thoughts have been holding me back, and that I was withholding myself from gobbling up life. I could have missed this opportunity and I am sure glad I did not. One thing is for sure, the people really do make the experience, and I have met so many strong and inspiring people here.

Cheers,

Randi

 

Four Letter Words: Jozi and Home

Aloha!

This is the beginning of the physical journey to the City of Gold, Johannesburg. It started at an airport, JFK to be exact. I have been preparing for this journey since my sophomore year at Union College. When I was selected, (along with fellow Fellow, Matt Liquori) my head was buzzing, my mind was racing, and the grin on my face was not going to be removed, so that I no longer was paying attention in class that day. Since then, I was trying to prepare myself as much as I could, natural curiosity, but the reality is you cannot really prepare, except for the visa, because lets face it, anyone who has talked to me lately knows I’ve been busy with it, and I could not have done it without the help of Bri and Tom.

Since arriving here in Johannesburg and even before everything has felt right. For example the day I left the United States, it was Mandela Day, the day Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 years old. So if anyone believes in signs, I think that is a pretty good one. Perhaps the only thing that does not feel right is driving on the left side of the road and the right side of a car. However, with some practice, that too shall become natural. I have been given what I truly to believe an opportunity of a lifetime. I am fortunate to be able to take time for this fellowship and to have my family support me. I feel so grateful that I am able to be here and to work with the Witkoppen Health and Welfare Center and with A Gift of Hope.

As I was sitting in Hal’s class listening to the fellows speak, there was one idea that really stuck out to me, to make a positive impact, but be able to step back after the nine months. I hope to make many positive impacts. Like all good things in life, it will be tough at times, but the rewards will be so much sweeter. July 19th, yesterday, I realized to the day in nine months. In these next nine months I will forever be changed, become a global citizen, with memories, experiences, and emotions I cannot predict, but I am certain it will be for the better. I think the quote that best explains this paragraph is the Minerva Fellow Mantra “Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say: “We have done this ourselves.”

Johannesburg. Jozi is home. I am ready to begin and I am beyond excited.

Much Love,

Randi