Home stay switcheroo

A brief report this Saturday from my coffee shop hot spot at the Cavendish Mall…Jen and Kym had a few issues arise at their home stay this week that left them feeling unwelcome. 🙁 The GHS staff supported us in switching their home stay Friday. I went along to oversee the transition, and I found their host mom to be a bit chilly, and even kind of pouty (probably hosting students from other countries isn’t the best fit for her, just sayin’).

I am happy to report that they now reside with Courtney and Crystal and the “home stay hostess with the mostest” Sabine (and her husband, Yul, two young daughters, the girls’ grandpa, Erica the maid, and two [?] dogs). I hope and pray this works out for the remaining two weeks…I think it will be far better than where they were. When I SMS’d them last night, they sounded good. My host, Sheila, has offered up her spare room too, so it’s good to know we have options and nice people here to help us. We appreciate your continued prayers…despite all the “girls” having very good coping skills, this is still quite a stretching experience!

The rain continued off and on much of Friday, but today is looking better, though still some showers. I went with Sheila and another friend, Donna, to the shops at Kalk Bay and lunch toward Simon Town…it was a nice outing. Tonight I will be watching the big rugby match between South Africa and England…go Springboks!!! I look forward to seeing the girls tomorrow for our Hermanus whale-watching adventure…

Cape Town rain

Wow, it sure can rain here in Cape Town! I think “downpour” is a more suitable term. Being from Oregon, we are used to rain and don’t mind being out in it, but this is beyond our typical Oregon drizzly showers. Wednesday night was windy and wet…I woke several times to the sounds on the roof and outside the window. Sheila was going to drive me to class, but her car wouldn’t start. So, I put on a rain poncho over my coat, backpack, etc. (it’s a great look…I’m such a fashion-plate), and headed out on foot.

I was late at this point (after being ready extra early), so I didn’t want to wait for Brenda who was looking for a ride for me. It wasn’t too bad initially, but then I turned a corner into the wind, got splashed (like over my head splashed) by two cars, and by the time Brenda found me, I was soaked everywhere the poncho didn’t cover…even through my boots! I guess it was my turn to experience what the students felt last week. I’ve included a picture and short video of the rain (sorry I don’t have more interesting material…the girls offered to take my picture, but I declined).

Thankfully, Kjersten and Kelsey’s “mom,” Beryl, brought them all in their safari-edition Land Rover (no joke…they do their own game drives in this vehicle and have been to Botswana, Namibia, and beyond, “dad” Patty told me when he picked us up). We had our class and tried to stay warm…without inside heat, it is challenging, but I guess that’s why there’s coffee and tea (and Port in the evenings). 🙂

We had good discussions once again. We talked about how we are all the same at some level – that we can see beyond our differences – and yet our very different cultures have a significant impact on our thinking, behaviors, emotions, etc. It is a delicate balance to hold…and to try to understand. We learned about how qualitative research methods tend to work better (than quantitative) when we study global issues. We talked about how psychology has much to offer to help address global problems, but often fails to meet this call.

The students are struggling a little bit with wanting to see the images of Africa we have in our minds…the mud huts and colorful, yet impoverished, communities. Cape Town is a modern city and, although there is poverty here, we are removed from it for the most part. I hope our township visit (which was postponed until better weather) provides a glimpse at this sort of urban community. Or perhaps our drive to Hermanus will give us a look at the rural communities such as these. It’s like we can almost see, touch, and help the dire situations we know exist here, but they remain out of our reach.

Even so, the six young women are making big differences with those they encounter, whether through their practicum placements, home stays, with one another, or by the impression they leave on the train. 🙂 Like I said yesterday, I am very proud of them (& they did well on their first exam too)!

P.S. It rained hard Thursday night, but so far Friday morning is a bit brighter…here’s hoping for blue skies this weekend (or at least not downpours). FYI, our Hermanus tour has been bumped to Sunday to improve our chances of good whale-watching weather. Long live Gumby!

Sarah Fox sweethearts

Wednesday was another volunteering day. I met Jen and Kym at Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Hospital in Athlone. The stated objective is “to provide expert nursing and medical care in a homely and loving environment for children and infants who are recovering from acute medical and surgical conditions…these children are unable to return to their own homes for social or medical reasons.” That last part seems to be the key…it feels more like a medical foster home than a hospital. And the conditions seem more chronic than acute. Parents aren’t really around, so Kym and Jen (& other workers and volunteers) are so important in providing the TLC all the little sweethearts there need.

Jen and Kym are stationed in the baby room, and as the pictures show, they are very happy there and are making a big impact. The main conditions treated at the hospital are TB, HIV, and kwashiorkor & marasmus (i.e., diseases subsequent to malnutrition). I saw a baby this morning that looked like fetal alcohol effects might be present too. You’ll have to ask Kym and Jen to tell you about the babies’ personalities and who their favorites are (it happens…Kym is holding Tyana and Jen is holding Phelokazi). In my short two hours there this morning, I grew quite fond of Fatima, who was born July 5, 2011…I think the feeling was mutual.

The babies are delayed in their growth, motor skills, language, etc. As I sat there, I wondered who they are able to form attachments with and how this is affecting their emotional development. I often reflected on our daughter’s orphanage in China and the similarities…not much crying despite a room full of babies, very basic facilities, “staff” as caregivers. They are safe and looked after, but it is far from an ideal or even a “normal” setting that babies deserve. It was sad and happy all at the same time…bittersweet, I guess.

We have talked in class about having the mindset of what can I do at this time for this one. I truly observed that being lived out at Sarah Fox with every peek-a-boo game played, every dropped toy retrieved, every nappy changed, every nose wiped, every smile shared, every hug given. All six of these young women are doing great things – you would be as proud of them as I am if you were here and saw them in action!

District Six Museum & Greenmarket Square

Our group was reunited Tuesday with the recovery of Kelsey & Kjersten. Their hosts have been excellent caretakers of them, so I am very grateful for that. Being sick in another country is absolutely miserable (I swore I was going to die in a Dublin hotel room last summer). We are all very thankful to have them back in action (& not contagious).

We had a good class Tuesday morning, and now I have exams to grade. 🙂 After everyone had finished and we took a short break, we moved on to the next section of our book…no time to waste when you’re doing a three-credit course in four weeks! Courtney had a good volunteering experience at a child protective service type of agency…lots of kids and babies to tend to (runny noses and all). At 1:30, Rashied collected us all and we headed downtown to the District Six Museum…

District Six was an eclectic community in Cape Town where people of diverse races, colors, and religions lived in harmony. However, in 1966 under Apartheid and the Group Areas Act of 1950, it was declared a “White Group Area.” Over the next 15 years, more than 60,000 people were forcibly removed, their homes demolished – literally bull-dozed down – and they were forced into townships, i.e., racially segregated neighborhoods (we will visit one or two Thursday).

Our museum guide, Noor Ebrahim, told his story passionately…he lived in District Six and was forced to leave with his family in 1976 (he’s even featured in my travel book!). He explained the map on the floor and how relocated families have noted where their homes were. He told us how a man saved the street signs that now adorn the museum. He described the cruel nature of apartheid and how kids today have it so much better. I am glad we met him.

After our time in the museum, Rashied took us to Greenmarket Square, which is an outdoor arts and crafts type of shopping area where bargaining is expected. We have the whole spectrum of bargainers in our group, from Kelsey who enjoys the sport of it to Jen who happily pays full price. 🙂 We helped the local economy by getting many cool souvenirs and gifts, and we enjoyed “show and tell” on the drive home. We all agreed it was a great day, and we were thankful for our “Baby Gumby Monday” since it meant that Kelsey and Kjersten were with us on our excursion.

On to practicum placements Wednesday…(& exam grading for me). 🙂

Quiet Tuesday morning report

Without having our excursion Monday afternoon, I’m afraid I don’t have much to report this Tuesday morning. After Monday’s class, we walked over to GHS to take care of a few miscellaneous tasks, including booking an additional excursion to Hermanus, a fishing village 122km southeast of Cape Town. My travel book states that it is “the best land-based whale-watching destination in the world.” Wow! And, we will also get to stop at another penguin colony at Bettie’s Beach. 🙂 It only costs R300 (~$35) for the whole day, so we thought we’d give it a try this Saturday. GHS has a social planner, a guy named Marius, and we have all of the additional outings available to us at reduced prices. It is a pretty nice arrangement!

Today we have our first exam in the Global Psychology class for four of the students (the other two – our CU alums, Courtney & Kelsey! – already took the class from me at Concordia). Monday afternoon, it reached just over 80 degrees, so the students got some rays while studying. We all agree that this weather, though not perfect (a week ago was the downpour day) is pretty nice for fall/winter.

After our exam/class, we will have lunch and go (with Rashied) to the District Six Museum and Greenmarket Square. I hope to file a full report tomorrow, though it won’t be first thing in the morning as it is practicum day. I will be joining Kym and Jen at the Sarah Fox Recovery Hospital. I will do my best to post to the blog in the afternoon…as of this morning, the wifi at GHS was back in action (hopefully it will stay that way)!

Please continue to remember us in your prayers…we are fine but still need to feel the strength, support, and love from back home. Thank you.

Baby Gumby Monday

Brenda texted while we were in class that she forgot that the District Six Museum closes early on Mondays. So we rescheduled our outing till Tuesday, reminding us once again of Gumby (can you find him in this picture?). Hopefully Kelsey and Kjersten will be feeling better and can join us then.

We had a good class and a meaningful discussion of some of the issues we are observing, e.g., poverty, racism, sexual violence, HIV/AIDS. There is so much to learn, and so many ways to make an impact. We must continue to ask ourselves, “what can we do at this point in time for this one?” I have no doubt that these students will continue to make a difference because of this experience.

Weekend happenings

Here is a Monday morning report of the events this past weekend, as I know them, picking up where I left off on my Friday morning post:

Friday afternoon/evening: Sheila (my home stay hostess), Binci (see the post from last weekend to meet Binci), and I enjoyed lunch at Barrister’s, a local rugby pub. As the ladies had told me about, the horse-drawn wagon delivering a keg of the local Castle’s lager showed up at 2:00 sharp. This only happens in the first Friday of each month, so I was glad to get to take it in (see pics). We gladly accepted our free draughts of ice-cold Castle’s (Sheila left, me center, & Binci right), and we had a nice time chatting about this-and-that. One of Binci’s daughters works in social justice research, so we talked about the possibility of her visiting our class…I hope it works out.

After lunch, I walked down to the nearby Methodist church to see what time Sunday services are; the English (or Afrikaans?) one is at 9:00 (the 11:00 one is in Xhosa). I will try the early service and cross my fingers that I understand what’s going on! Friday evening was quiet; salad with Sheila to compensate for our bigger lunch out.

Saturday excursion: We had a GREAT day touring the Cape, although we were two short as Kjersten and Kelsey stayed behind. Don’t worry…the baboons did not get them. Sadly, they weren’t feeling well…cold symptoms mostly (sore throat, fever, sinus pressure). 🙁 We missed them dearly and hope for a speedy recovery…I called when we finished our tour, and it sounded as if they still didn’t feel well, but had gotten some rest and were being well taken care of by their hosts, Patrick & Beryl.

The other five of us – again with Rashied’s great guiding – started out driving behind Table Mountain toward Camp’s Bay as we did a few days ago, but this time we went south to Hout Bay. This is a small fishing village with soft sandy beaches. We arrived at the harbor, and we experienced one of the highlights of the day first thing: we got to pet a seal! He was the alpha male of the harbor and was 48-years-old, according to the man who assisted us. We all took turns, and then the seal lumbered out of the water so we could get even closer. It was pretty cool. Then we got a few souvenirs at a craft market right along the harbor.

We followed the Atlantic south to Noordhoek and on to Chapman’s Bay where we ascended up along the rocky coast. It offered amazing views, and we learned the road was closed from 2002 to 2009 while they secured the route of falling rocks. It was pretty amazing…and no rocks fell on us or the streams of cyclists we passed. Then on toward Scarborough…

Somewhere along the way in one of the small towns, we were excited to encounter our first baboons. We had read the warning signs and heard about their aggressive nature (because people feed them and then wonder why they come after their sandwiches), but hadn’t yet seen them. We were starting to wonder what all of the fuss was about, and then we saw them. They were out and about looking for food in garbage cans and jumping from roof to roof while the townspeople hollered at them. The two men on “baboon patrol” we’re trying to help shoo them away with sticks, but I think the baboons had the run of the town this day. Down the road a bit, we encountered a traffic jam…the culprits = baboons. 🙂

We stopped briefly at an ostrich farm, and then we headed further south to the Table Mountain/ Cape of Good Hope National Park. The first stop was to put our feet in the water where the currents of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge. We could see it happening – the waves crossing – and we survived the slippery, rocky, seaweed-covered, bug-infested slow walk to the water so that we could stand in it briefly. (It was gross, but worth it.)

Next we drove down a little more to Cape Point, where we first took a break and had lunch. Then we walked up and up and up (and up and up and up) to the lighthouse. There is a funicular (an on-ground tram) called the “Flying Dutchman” that we could have taken, but we opted for the hike. It was tiring, but good exercise and quite a view along the way, as well as from the top. Based on the sign to New York, and the conversion from kilometers to miles, we figured we were about 10,500 miles from home. Wow!

We drove a bit more to the penguin colony, just south of Simon’s Town. We were delighted to see the cute little guys on Boulder’s Beach. The fluffy, furry babies are especially darling. We didn’t learn why they’re called “jackass” penguins, but we did learn that they live for 12-14 years, lay two eggs once per year (which are looked after by the males, just like big emperor penguins), and they mate for life (the partner dies within six months of the other). And, it wasn’t really smelly at all.

After a round of gelatos, Rashied gave us some time to walk on the beach at Simon’s Town. This was where we thought we would use our “swimming costumes,” but the overcast day didn’t say “let’s go swimming” vey loudly. Jen and Courtney got in more than the rest of us, but no real swimming occurred. We did try to rescue a few starfish though…way to go, Oregon girls. 🙂 By the way, Simon’s Town is a SA naval base as well.

We drove through Fish Hoek (where Brenda lives, by the way), and then our last stop was on the mountain above Kalk Bay. We saw where the “shark spotter” stands and watches the beach where the Guinness Record of the most surfers on one wave occurred. He said that the last shark sighting was two weeks ago, and that the great white shark was over three meters long. If he sees one from the mountain, he pushes a button that cues a siren on the beach, and he radios down the coordinates of the shark. Two spotters take shifts each day, and many more sightings occur in the summer (remember, it’s winter here). It was an impressive effort…I will not worry about Kym if our Hawaii girl does some SA surfing!

Saturday evening for me was another rugby game on TV with Sheila and Binci; we again had salmon salads, etc., like last Saturday…it’s become our tradition, I guess, and I heard a few “yum yum” & “luscious” comments about some of the players on the opposing team. 😉 This time the local Stormers took on the Blue Bulls of Pretoria (who were sporting all pink uniforms for breast cancer), in Pretoria, and the Stormers won, 19-14. Then the national South Africa Springbok team was announced. Even though I am a newbie, I could tell this was a big deal…I think three or four Stormers were selected. Next Saturday, SA takes on England, and I’m already looking forward to it. I think some of the girls are going to a soccer game tomorrow, so we’ll have to compare notes on SA sporting events.

Sunday: I checked out the Methodist church in the area; since those are my roots it seemed like the most familiar choice. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from Sheila’s house, and after waking up a bit apprehensive to go, I was so glad I did. It was in English, thankfully, and the pastor reminded me a bit of Reed (so you know he was good). 🙂 He was a dynamic, entertaining, thoughtful speaker, and he could lead us all in praise songs and hymns too (Reed is much cuter though).

The sermon was from Ephesians 5:21-33 (the submit, love, respect verses), and he applied it to marriages, of course, but also to the wider church body and all of our relationships. It was a good reminder of how Christ intends us to be in our treatment of one another. We were encouraged to behave toward others as if they are already the people they are meant to be. We should see the love of God shine out of us through how we treat others. So good. So glad I went.

Then I spent awhile in Cavendish Square (a huge [6-story?] mall) on my way home. Sheila had told me about an espresso/chocolate shop there…totally my kind of combination. I found it quickly, got my single shot of espresso (& free piece of chocolate!), and sat down to enjoy my treats and do a bit of people-watching. There were families around me having coffee, juice, and pastries, and the sound of bickering children and exasperated parents reminded me of home. 😉 Just kidding (well, sort of). I turned on my iPhone to see if there happened to be free wifi, and lo and behold, it was a hot spot! After many unsuccessful attempts, I was able to register and catch up on some emails. I didn’t have my iPad with me, so I couldn’t update the blog, but it was nice to be connected for awhile.

My mall wandering was a bit disorienting at times…I think there are three or four banks of escalators among the six stories of shops, theaters, and food courts…but I survived. I bought a couple of small “coffee table books” of Cape Town and South Africa, something I had been wanting to find. I also bought a pair of “black comfy boots” (totally what the receipt calls them) for ~$13. I have found a couple of little things for Reed and Jackson, but the perfect “I-miss-you-and-am-so-happy-to-see-you” gift for Miss Abbie still eludes me. I am certain I will find it by June 21. I think I may need to get another suitcase before I return home.

Then it was Kingklip (local fish) and veggies for lunch and a return walk to Sheila’s. At 3pm (till 7pm!) the flotilla on the Thames River in London was televised, so Sheila, Binci, another neighbor, Pam, and I watched it together. We started at Sheila’s, but the local SA channel didn’t have audio commentary, so we walked over to Pam’s house to watch it on BBC. This is part of the celebration of the Queen’s jubilee (i.e., 60 years on the throne). It was quite something…the pageantry and all…especially watching it with three women with English ties!

Onward to another full week…Today (Monday) we have class and then an afternoon with Rashied at the District Six Museum and walk around Greenmarket Square. I hope to file a full report tomorrow morning!


I don’t have much to report on this sunny Friday morning in Cape Town. I imagine the students will be saying “TGIF” by the end of the day as they have had a very busy week. Today they go to their practicum placements…I hope they go well.

I am catching up on some online tasks and preparing for classes next week. Sheila, Binci, and I will be going to lunch in the neighborhood…on the first Friday of each month, the local SAMiller Brewing Company in Newlands delivers kegs of beer by horse and cart. Sounds intriguing (& something my husband would really enjoy!). I will do my best to be a good partaker and reporter of the experience.

Tomorrow, we have our all-day excursion with our pal, Rashied, to the “jackass” penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach and then on to the Cape of Good Hope. That’s truly the name of the cute little penguins here, though I couldn’t bring myself to send my 11-year-old son a postcard with that on it (I went with the more generic one that says “African penguins,” and then regretted it as I think he’d get a kick out of the word “jackass”). 🙂 Perhaps we’ll learn what’s behind the name. We saw three of them on Robben Island yesterday, and they are very cute little guys. We’ve already been warned about how smelly their colony will be.

The Cape of Good Hope is not technically where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, though I guess that’s how the tourist attraction bit frames it up. We’ve been told to bring our “swimming costumes,” so hopefully it will be warm enough to get in the water. Then we can claim that we had our feet in two oceans simultaneously, however false that may be.

In order to not disappoint, I have attached a few pictures, though nothing too exciting: the lovely ivy security trim on the gate of GHS (look closely…yikes!), along with our classroom and “lounge” at Abbadale. Two of the girls (please do not take offense at that term…consistently they are called girls and I am a lady, because I am older and married, I suppose), have already taken the Global Psychology class (& graduated May 5th!) – Courtney & Kelsey – so they hang out in the lounge area while we meet in the adjacent room. The maids of Abbadle kindly wash our water glasses and tea/coffee cups each day, so we are pretty spoiled here. As for the ivy trim, that is just one of many options here…there also is razor wire, barbed wire, and humming electric fences atop people’s gates and walls.

I will sign off until Monday (fingers crossed). Thank you for following along, as well as for your prayers. We all are doing well, staying healthy and safe, and learning a lot, so I guess it’s all going according to plan! 🙂

Robben Island at last

We made it to Robben Island this morning with the 9:00 ferry. There were large swells in Table Bay, but no one got seasick, thankfully. The ferry ride was about 45 minutes (one-way), then there was a 35-minute bus tour of the island, and finally a 45-minute walking tour led by a former political prisoner from Robben Island.

We learned quite a bit, though we agreed much more was left unsaid. We saw the leper graveyard (Robben Island has been used for banishment of many kinds since the 1600s), and the limestone quarry where hard labor punishment was carried out. The pile of rocks was placed there by former inmates, including Mandela, in February of 1995, one year after their release. We saw the dog kennels that housed German Shepherds in bigger quarters than those in singe cells, like Mandela and other political leaders who spoke out against apartheid.

We learned how living conditions were very hard, including how everything, down to food portions, was divided along racial lines. We saw Nelson Mandela’s cell. It was hard to imagine real life there, now that it is a World Heritage Site, but I’m glad we have the opportunity to ponder it.

Quite a few pictures are below…too many to fully describe with limited wifi time. You’ll just have to ask one of us to tell you more when we’re back home.

First day volunteering

Today was the first day of the students’ volunteer/practicum placements. I went to Crystal and Courtney’s site, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. We were warmly greeted by Ursula Hodgin, the volunteer coordinator for the past 16 years. She is in the photo with Courtney and Crystal…she is a very sweet lady with a huge heart for the children.

We learned that this is the only dedicated specialist pediatric hospital serving the children and families of southern Africa. It opened in the 1950s, and the wards are gradually being renovated. We looked down the dark corridor of an “original” ward and it was depressing…much different than the bright and cheery renovated wards with colorful floors and wall murals of the Big Five and other sites.

There are units that focus on renal and liver transplants, burn care, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other specialized care (e.g., TB), as well as an outpatient unit. There is also a preschool and primary school for the kids! Their goal is to provide the best medical care, despite the family’s income, race, religion, or place of residence. They also help parents (mothers were specifically mentioned) with donated clothing, toiletries, and food while they stay at the hospital, as well as transportation fares and groceries when they go home.

The role of the volunteers – with their cute and recognizable aprons and toy trolleys – is to play with the children. Ursula talked about the importance of a warm smile and playtime in the hospital environment. I was going to say in the healing process, but not all of these children will heal enough to return home. She described the emotional part of the “job,” and how if a child the student has spent time with dies, there are social workers available to help process the loss.

The plan is for Crystal and Courtney to spend their time dedicated to one of the wards so they can build relationships with the children and families. Today when I left them, Ursula was about to pair them with volunteers to shadow for the day. That is, after the 11:00 tea time that Ursula was going to get ready. 🙂

Of course, part of the job is to help keep the toys sanitized, so there will be a bit of that type of work too. There are always those less glamorous parts of any job we do, I suppose. I think this will be a great placement site with lots of lessons awaiting Courtney and Crystal. Some will be hard lessons, but I trust they will see how little things they do can make a big difference.

I look forward to hearing more about what ward they are on and how it went. Also, I am excited to hear from the other students on their placement sites, & I look forward to visiting them over the next couple of weeks.

Back to class tomorrow…and Robben Island if all goes according to plan. If not, we will get our Gumby on once again!