Sunday, March 6, 2011

Laying the Ground Work

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of spending the weekend at my friend's holiday house in Kleinmond, which is on the coast southeast of Cape Town. We spent the weekend braai-ing, hanging out on the beach, playing guitar and catching up. It was a nice weekend outside of Cape Town and I had the chance to explore a different part of the Western Cape. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. I've included pictures above of the scenery there and along the drive. The beauty of South Africa has not ceased to amaze me.

THE LEAP SCHOOL: My next project has been finding a service site as well as a possible sister school to do an exchange with my high school from Atlanta. I believe I mentioned in my blogs earlier that I had met a teacher from a school called LEAP. LEAP is a high school for students from low income areas where the focus is on Math and Sciences. In addition to classes, they have a life orientations course which provides time for each grade to get together and talk about issues relevant to their age. For example, the grade 12 students are working on college applications, CV's, and job applications. Each LEAP school also focuses on giving back to the communities in which the students come from. Therefore, there are two service projects per semester that the school participates in. Everyone at LEAP was extremely welcoming to Jessica and I. We were able to see every class in action, get a school tour, meet the principal of one of the schools, and sit down with the volunteer coordinator. They were eager to see how our service could focus on working at LEAP. The Principal wants to focus more on how students can understand their role in community service as well as increasing global understanding and community. It was definitely a good start for figuring out how I could make my time here count. As of right now though, i'm still working on building relationships with organizations and seeing which one will fit my skill set. I hope to meet with teachers at the LEAP school again soon and see if I might be able to help out in the classroom and with planning service projects.

END POLIO NOW: One event that I had the pleasure of getting involved in through Rotary was planning Rotary International's Birthday on 23 of February. Each year on Rotary's birthday, district's around the world plan an "End Polio Now" screening on historical buildings. This year South Africa used the Cape Town Stadium to show their support for ending polio. Because
Polio only exists in 4 countries, and 1 of them is in the district, raising awareness is a huge part of the focus in this district. The other huge campaign that my District here was involved in was "kick polio out of Africa". This campaign sent a soccer ball around Africa gathering signatures and raising money to support the distribution of polio vaccines in Angola and Nigeria. In order to celebrate all of these efforts, the district plans the lighting every year so Rotarians around the world can see the "End Polio Now" lit up on the Cape Town Stadium. The event was small and consisted mostly of Rotary members but it was a nice way to celebrate Rotary's Birthday.

HEALTH CARE: This past week i've become a bit more acquainted with the health care system here. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of my tonsils. I came down with tonsillitis last week, and luckily had a friend with a car take me to a Medi Clinic (like an Urgent Care in the states). Transportation, or lack there of, proves to be a setback in situations like this. Thankfully the people i've met here were extremely supportive and helped nurse me back to good health. Anyways, I had the pleasure of going to a Medi Clinic. It proved to be a very pleasant experience, though later I was told it is an upper / middle class hospital. The reason I mention this is that I walked in without my ID and with just my international insurance card. In turns out, here you can get any sort of medical care - a private doctor or at help urgent care centers - without having an ID and /or health insurance on you. I found this to be quite convenient, and realized that there is a bit more red tape when it comes to getting care at most places in the U.S. I also realized that in the states I never really had to worry about it, which got me thinking about what health care is accessible to those without insurance and how much it costs.

TYPICAL DAY TO DAY: In general, i've been working on settling in and finding my routine here. It's easy to forget i'm not in America, but there are always the little things that remind
me. For example, I'm getting used to hanging my clothes up on the clothes line instead of using a dryer, having the internet cut out every few minutes, watching rugby and cricket, buying electricity and cell phone air time, and relying on the mountain breeze to keep me cool during the afternoon instead of air conditioning. It's strange how many things come so easily in America that you don't even think about until they are inaccessible. It has been an adjustment working all of these things into my new daily routines, but it's all part of the exciting experience of being somewhere new. Living in Cape Town has a lot of perks. I spend a lot of my free time going to the beach, going to braai's with friends, and traveling around to various areas of the cape. I attend my Rotary club meetings every few weeks where I get to catch up with various Rotarians. This week i'll have the opportunity to check out another non-profit that builds gardens in townships. So, my goal here is to keep living in the moment, taking advantage of opportunities, and enjoying the people I meet along the way.

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