Saturday, August 27, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
On Monday evening our friend Sipho passed away. Sipho was a father, a husband, and a man with a gentle spirit. His name means “gift,” and he was just that for me and others who knew him. Sipho was living with HIV (and, in his case, TB, oral thrush, wasting disease, dehydration, and probably esophageal cancer). His wife Pamela is also HIV positive and has Multi Drug Resistant TB.
Megan and I spent most of the day Monday with Sipho at Ngangelizwe Clinic pleading with nurses and doctors to help rehydrate him and make a plan for further treatment. We ended up seeing a kind doctor who gave Sipho a liter of fluid and us instructions to run further tests in the coming days. Jenny picked Sipho up from the clinic and drove him home. He insisted on walking up to his tin house, painted a pale pink, that sits on the edge of a hill beside the clinic. Jenny received a call from his oldest child at around six in the evening, in the middle of a torrential rainstorm, to say that he was gone.
Sipho’s partner Pamela, and his three children have also come to mean a great deal to me as I’ve gotten to know them through the clinic and tutoring after school. They have lost a significant piece of their family, and the larger community feels that loss as well. I am struggling to reconcile my feelings surrounding this loss and the awful pain and hunger Sipho felt in the days and weeks before his death.
A new friend, Mary-Ann Carpenter, shared this prayer with Megan and me Saturday evening while we were in Durban last weekend. The Carpenter family is a living example of how reconciliation and beauty can come out of brokenness and despair. It has come to mind many times this week.
We struggle, we grow weary, we grow tired. We are exhausted, we are distressed, we despair. We give up, we fall down, we let go.
We are empty, we grow calm, we are ready.
We wait quietly.
A small, shy truth arrives. Arrives from without and within. Arrives and is born. Simple, steady, clear. Like a mirror, like a bell, like a flame. Like rain in summer. A precious truth arrives and is born within us. Within our emptiness.
We accept it, we observe it, we absorb it. We surrender to our bare truth. We are nourished, we are changed, we are blessed. We rise up.
For this we give thanks.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Is it really March 1st? My calendar on the wall tells me it’s true, but I'm finding it hard to believe. February has been a very full month on this end, and every day is an adventure.
Example: Wednesday of last week Jenny told me in her wonderful British accent and with her kind demeanor that there was, “possibly a bit of an emergency,” and asked if I would mind going to pick up a woman who was in labor to drive to the local OB clinic at Ngangalizwe. I grabbed the keys, and Megan, my new neighbor and a very welcome addition to Team Itipini, grabbed a pair of gloves. Megan has worked in an Emergency Room for two years since graduating from college and said to me, “Well, I did deliver a baby in EMT class on a plastic mannequin a few years ago. So yeah…” Compared to my experience and in my mind this made Megan an expert. So, we nervously and excitedly jumped in the truck.
The young woman in labor is the daughter-in-law of one of the ladies who works at Itipini named Makiwa. Makiwa rode up front with us while Victoria, another mama from Itipini, rode in the back. Our ride to the house was pretty hilarious. Megan sat in the middle straddling the gearshift, while Makiwa sat next to her speaking solely in Xhosa and giving hand gesture directions. Many of the roads in Mthatha are a maze of potholes and test drivers’ abilities to dodge pedestrians, livestock, and other vehilcles, but ladies and gentlemen, we may have succeeded in finding the worst road in Mthatha. The dirt road through fields and into the neighborhood left us nearly vertical at a couple of points and bouncing along most of the way. However, we made it without a tire puncture or tipping over, and supplied Makiwa and Victoria with comedic relief for the next few weeks.
We walked into the house, and while I may not know much about being in labor and having babies, I could tell this young woman was not into the serious stages of labor. She was very pregnant and soon would be, so maybe they figured the car ride back would help get her water to break? It was a pretty exciting and funny adventure all the way around. Also, Megan and I have decided that expeditions such as this warrant us our own TV show, “Amazing Race: Mthatha.” Days such as this we consider as good training for our series premiere…
This month I’ve also been working more closely with Itipini Junior Secondary School, where we have over 100 kids from Itipini in grades 1-9. Afterschool tutoring with high schoolers has also started up again, and both of these endeavors are testing my math and science recall…let’s just say I’m very happy to have Megan’s help and the ability to Google things in between sessions. Education is a key component of the support we try to provide at Itipini Community Project. In this region it is a real struggle for many kids to have the resources to attend, and then when they are at school the supplies and personnel there are often lacking. Yesterday I was assisting Principal Madikizla at Itipini J.S.S., who also teaches Geography. The grade 8 classroom was packed with 70+ students and between them there were only six protractors in hand to complete the worksheet on bearing. Well, and in grade 9, there are 83 kids in the classroom! Throughout my education from kindergarten through Sewanee, I think 32 was my maximum class size, so this has put things in a whole new perspective.
Outside of work, I’ve been spending time with the great new crew we having living at Bedford and exploring some of the options Mthatha weekends have to offer. Highlights include getting a tour of Walter Sisulu University courtesy of Adam Carpenter (a third year medical student), tasting the culinary delights of the new McDonald’s in town (yes, it tasks eerily the same), walking Jenny’s dogs/small horses, attempting to learn the rules of cricket by watching the ICC Cricket World Cup, and hanging out with some of the highschoolers from Itipini. I also had a nice weekend away with two volunteers Jai and Olof where we went on a game drive and visited Chintsa, which is on the coast and is absolutely beautiful.
It’s been a very full month, and really does feel like it has flown by. I’ve also bid farewell to three wonderful new friends this month Tom, Meredith, and Ben who I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and work with since October. A big thank you to all three for some excellent times together, and good luck in new adventures.
Thanks for stopping by, and there will be more to follow soon.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Greetings from Mthatha. This is a long overdue post, but that’s mostly due to the fact that there’s been quite a lot happening in the past month. Here are a few more pictures from adventuring in Cape Town, and some updates from this corner of the Southern Hemisphere…
I am so thankful for the two weeks I was able to spend in the "Mother City" of Cape Town. Being able to share Christmas and celebrate the start of the New Year with good friends was truly wonderful. Amanda and Ann who are YASCers in Cape Town were gracious hosts and great tour guides to Jessie, who flew down from her YASC post in Maseno, Kenya, and myself. I arrived on the 23rd, just in time for Christmas Eve preparations and to share the holiday cheer in a new place with some familiar faces. We had a tasty and unique Christmas Eve experience when Mari, one Amanda’s co-workers at HOPE Africa, invited us over for a traditional Finnish meal. We shared some delicious food, danced, swapped gifts, and laughed a lot. Then we journeyed over to the St. George’s Cathedral for their midnight mass. Sitting there as the service started, I couldn’t help but miss my family and the late night service that would be taking place a few hours from then at St. Paul’s in Chattanooga. This was my first Christmas away from my homes in Chattanooga, Los Angeles, and Sewanee, and I felt the absence of the traditions that each place holds. However, I realized sitting there in the candlelit darkness of St. George’s and singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” what a truly a miraculous event we were celebrating in community worldwide in a way that I never have before.
We all spent the night in the cozy home of Rev. Suzanne Peterson (and her wonderful pup Thembi) who has been living and working in South Africa for over a decade. Her house became holiday central on Christmas Day. We spent most of the day cooking, eating Jessie’s monkey bread, listening to music, trying to master the paddle ball that Amanda’s mom sent to her, and just being together. My role in all of the cooking was mainly to chop this or wash that, so I can’t really take much credit, but we ended up with quite a feast for Christmas dinner with Ann’s leg of lamb as our center piece (check out the picture from my last post to see more of our delicious spread).
The rest of our time together in Cape Town was spent exploring and sharing with one another. One of our first adventures was to the top of Table Mountain via the cable cars on a very windy day. We also made our way out to Boulder’s Beach where we could hang out with some penguins, and dip our toes into the verrrry chilly waters. Wine tasting was also a must, and a fun evening out with the staff of HOPE Africa made for many memories including a midnight visit to Clifton Beach. We also ventured to the Castle of Good Hope and the District Six Museum, which the history nerd in me loved. The District Six Museum stood out especially as a place where stories are preserved, honored, and shared in a very community driven way. I appreciated this and how it pushed me to think about memory, storytelling, and the power of the human voice in new ways. Our time together also allowed us to share our stories with one another and talk about where our journeys this year are taking us. I felt so much joy being there with Jessie, Amanda, and Ann. Ringing in 2011 with these amazing young women will not be forgotten, and I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to share this time together.
Flying back to Mthatha, I was filled with happiness both from the memories of Cape Town, but also in feeling that I was coming a home. I was coming back to people and places that are no longer so new and unfamiliar. Getting out of the truck on our first day back at Itipini, I was greeted by Wee Mama, who has one of the best smiles, and engulfed by a big hug and “Molo Sarah! Unjani?” (“Hello Sarah! How are you?”). I was happy to be back and hear how everyone was doing. It was good to see the kids and some of our regulars in the clinic. My first day back and these first few weeks since our holiday break have such a different feel to them than my first days in Itipini. I’m so very glad to be back.
School started last week, and a lot of our time has been spent helping sort out their registration fees and paperwork. It’s a busy time, and I’ll have more to share soon. Thanks for reading, and let us walk together.
Peace be with you.