Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So, about those 35 days...

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.


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