Tag Archives: Global Psychology

Angels, miracles, and soup

I finally have a couple of pictures of the “girls” with their home stay hosts. However, this is still an incomplete report as super-host-mom, Sabine, was not yet home when I took the one of Kym, Jen, Crystal, & Courtney. You will see them with Yul, Loren, & Tia…I will do my best to add a photo of Sabine if I see her again. Also, here are Kjersten & Kelsey are with their adorable hosts, Patrick (Patty) & Beryl. When we asked for the photo, Beryl exclaimed, “Oh Erin, you should’ve let me know so I could’ve had my hair done!” 🙂 These hosts have been fabulous to our girls…we are grateful to GHS and their good care of us.

Wednesday was another day of practicum experiences. This week I went to Little Angels on Owl Place (such cute names). This is a day care center for children of single mothers. Today there were six little angels there (one was already napping and isn’t in the photo), as well as three “big angels” in Kjersten, Kelsey, and Jolene, the amazing woman who takes care of these wee ones each and every day. She does a wonderful job of establishing a routine for the crawlers and toddlers, and I saw a lot of evidence of healthy developmental strategies. It is a brightly colored, stimulating place where nourishing food, good naps, and lots of fun are present. The photos show this well through the healthy faces…the sweet nappers are Lolli with Kelsey and Devotion with Kjersten.

Next I went to Miracle Kidz, which is a new site at which several of the girls have already volunteered, and I think they all will during the remaining time here. The super-host-mom, Sabine, facilitated this opportunity for supplemental practicum experiences. It is a safe house for babies and children who have had a rough start in life. They can live at Miracle Kidz up to a year, at which time they would transition to foster care. I couldn’t take photos of the children, and Elsie, the woman in charge, was at the doctor with some of the kids, so the only photo is of Crystal and Courtney by the sign. In my short time there, I could easily tell that it is a very special place with people doing incredibly important work there…facilitating miracles.

I spent the afternoon helping at a soup kitchen in Cape Flats, specifically Mitchell’s Plain, a low-lying part of Cape Town that was a racially segregated area during apartheid. It was one of the areas people were forced into when they were removed from District Six. This soup kitchen was established in 2009 by the son of Stanford, our kind GHS driver (he was in the photo of the girls in front of the van at the airport back on May 27).

Tragically, this eldest son of Stanford – Quinton, age 45 – was killed in 2010, right in the neighborhood where the soup kitchen operates. The family has kept the kitchen going…just barely. They can only afford to feed the community once per week. Either Stanford’s wife, Lillian, or daughter-in-law (i.e., Quinton’s widow) make 100 liters of soup each Wednesday. Adults get 3 ladles (along with 2 slices of bread) and children get 2 ladles (plus 1 piece of bread). Stanford said he’s sure Quinton smiles down from heaven every Wednesday afternoon.

This was a very touching experience, reminiscent of the mealie meal I have dished out in Swazi preschools. The people are so grateful for the small portion they are given, and then the kids just want to play. 🙂 This was the majority of our time spent – holding kids, dancing, playing street games, taking pictures. They were hungry for our affections, as well as the soup. I believe it was just as nourishing for me as it was for them.

My students were at their practicum sites, but I was accompanied by seven other Good Hope students to the soup kitchen. They are all here learning English (as that is the function of GHS), and were a bit puzzled by why I am here. The composition of our group was as follows: two guys from Switzerland, one guy from Spain, one girl from Angola, one girl from Sweden, one girl from Colombia, one girl from Brazil, and me. The girl from Angola said my accent is like that of a movie star. On the drive home, we shared tongue twisters in our native languages. They REALLY liked my “she sells sea shells by the sea shore” bit…they roared with laughter as they attempted to say it. 🙂 It was a fun afternoon together, serving in this truly global community…I’m so glad I went.

Test & Township Tuesday

Tuesday started with our second test in Global Psychology. You can see the students writing away in the first photo (along with our new classroom at GHS, and Rosie the GHS cat in another photo). This test covered topics such as indigenous psychologies (i.e., understanding people in a cultural and global context), alternative psychologies (e.g., liberation psychology of Latin America), qualitative research methods for a global psychology, and psychotherapy within a cultural/global context (being a clinical psychologist, this was my favorite topic and I rambled on quite awhile).

After a break, we launched into the final segment of our “term” and then worked on a group project for awhile. They are working in pairs to investigate websites of organizations with a global focus (Crystal & Kjersten are reviewing Pathways to Peace and Kym and Jen are looking at One). On our last day of class, they will make brief presentations on what they learned, including a recommendation for how the organization could improve its impact based on things we’ve discussed in class. Also, they will write individual reflection papers on the experience. It’s hard to believe we are just over a week away from our last class (i.e., next Thursday).

Rashied collected us at half past one and took us on our long-awaited township tour. We drove to Langa Township, where around 350,000 people reside, and there is a 42% unemployment rate. This area existed as a work camp before Apartheid; men would go to work there and live in crowded “hostels.” Then it was used to segregate blacks during Apartheid. We first stopped at a community center, where we met our local guide, a woman my age named Mpumie (say “Poomie”). She took us through the center, and we saw a pottery project where the proceeds benefit the community. Children can come here to learn crafts and other trades for possible future employment. Very practical.

We began our walking tour with Mpumie on this cloudy and chilly afternoon…we were quite the spectacle walking down the streets, often drawing looks, waves, and smiles from the children who were walking home from school. We learned that the people of Langa live in one of three “classes” (i.e., low, middle, and upper [referred to as Beverly Hills]) and corresponding types of homes with various levels of government ownership and subsidies. Before we went into the homes, we were educated on the delicacy of sheep heads and got to see a bit of the cleaning and de-braining process (gulp). I was very thankful we weren’t offered a sample.

The low class residents live in the old hostels, which were pretty challenging to behold. Inside these run-down concrete structures, 16 families live in each unit. Two or three families share each bedroom, and there is a communal dining room (see photo of the concrete table) that doubles as a sleeping area for children over age 8. Mpumie talked a lot about how children engage in sexual behaviors at very early ages due to what they see in these living conditions. This contributes to high rates of teen pregnancies and HIV/AIDS, among other things. These hostels were dark, cold, and depressing, though Mpumie reminded us that they have running (cold) water and flush toilets, so they are better than living in the rural villages.

The middle class homes are better, of course, though still very small and simple. Some were in better shape than others. Teachers might live in such accommodations. The upper class homes are nicer, yet understated by our American standards. Mpumie said that doctors, lawyers, and nurses live in these types of homes. They stay in the area because it is where they are from…Langa is their community.

We continued to walk on and got to the shanty part of the township. I was prepared for what we would see, as Reed and I toured a shanty in Soweto, a segregated part of Johannesbug, about six years ago. Shanty towns are where the structures are made out of whatever materials can be gathered…wood, corrugated tin, cardboard, etc. I guess it is a lower class than the low class hostels, as there is not running water or flush toilets in the homes. Again, it was hard to behold these living conditions. However, Mpumie said she chooses to live here over the hostels due to the less crowded living quarters. She moved from the hostels with the birth of her first child, nearly 20 years ago. Wow.

She told us about how rain water runs through the homes, as does the wind of course. People were standing around open fires outside for warmth, and she said that the fires are brought indoors this time of year, and often the structures catch fire and are quickly consumed (& firetrucks can’t access them). Mpumie also spoke of their “friends,” the rats. She proudly noted the row of clean toilet facilities (i.e., like our honey buckets/port-a-potties) and water taps around the shanty town. There was also a community gathering place where you can catch up on all the latest gossip. Some things are universal, aren’t they? 🙂

We had one more stop in Langa: to the “Sangoma,” or local healer. A sort of medicine man, he is the one people turn to in times of sickness, possession of evil spirits, and romance problems. We all entered his dark, strangely smelling cargo container (what most of the small business use for a structure). I saw our guide slip him some cash, at least 100 Rands. We sat and listened to him tell us tales of his ancestors, snake oils, and potions. I felt skeptical as I saw the many empty vodka, gin, and whiskey bottles, but at the same time I believed in his importance to the local people. He clearly is someone they turn to for hope and healing amidst the suffering and despair.

When we got back into the familiar and comfortable setting of Rashied’s van, a few comments and observations were voiced. Jen thought her brother would have loved the animal bones and snake skins hanging from the ceiling. Kelsey offered to share with us her good karma as the Sangoma had just whisked away any lurking evil spirits from her with his buffalo- and cow-tail hand brooms. Courtney honestly exclaimed, “I could have lived my whole life never having done that.” 🙂

The next part of our tour was a drive through the Guguletu Township; a nearby community of around 280,000 colored people. Remember that this term is not used as we do, with a negative connotation, but rather to describe those who are neither black nor white. Many Muslim families reside in this township, which looks to be more of a middle- and low-class blend, though not quite as impoverished as the hostels and shanty towns of Langa. Rashied said it is where the Langa people would go if they could afford a dinner out with friends.

As Rashied delivered us home to our suburban residences, we had much to think about…I learned a lot from Mpumie about choices, priorities, and quality of life. I saw a lot of entrepreneurial and creative spirits surviving in living conditions that would probably do me in. I observed a lot of people living with a lot of disadvantages. I think of them now as I type this on my iPad, in a lighted comfortable (albeit chilly) home, my belly full from a warm dinner of vegetables and meat, almost ready to brush my teeth and go to sleep in my private quarters (under five blankets).

Why do I complain about doing laundry, vacuuming, or getting groceries? Why do I moan about traffic-jams and busy-ness? Why would I ever not want to go to work? Why does not having Internet at my home stay frustrate me? Why does my routine get me down sometimes? Why do I reach for my water bottle with the slightest thirst? Why am I grumpy if I don’t find a good parking spot? Why do I whine about ANYthing? I am blessed far beyond I deserve…far more than most of the people in the world.

May this time in Langa today – just as my time in the countryside of Swaziland last month and again in a couple of weeks – cause me to be ever mindful of what I have been given. Much is asked of me; of us. May we not be idle but be active participants in our global community. May we see a need and meet a need each and every day. May we continue to ask, what can I do at this point in time for this one?

Not "weird" but "different"

While living in South Africa, we have caught ourselves describing something new we’ve observed or experienced and referring to it as “weird”…we quickly catch ourselves and switch out weird for “different.” I thought I’d reflect a bit on this in today’s post, since I don’t have any exciting news to report or sites to describe. Students, please feel free to reply and post other differences you’ve noticed.

First, a few differences related to race…
For instance, isn’t it weird, I mean different, how many Afrikaaner (white) families have black maids? Isn’t it different how the term “colored” is not derogatory here, but rather descriptive of those who are neither white nor black? Isn’t it different to perceive racial tensions in the air, even though we are 18 years removed from the official end of apartheid? These differences cause discomfort at times.

Second, a few differences we like…
There are very few SUVs on the roads (now that is weird!). People here drive itty bitty, manual transmission cars for the most part. Generally speaking, people seem more conscientious about conserving resources, whether it is petrol (R11+ per liter…have fun converting to $ per gallon), water, or electricity (homes are not heated!). We like the multiple languages we hear every day, as well as the diversity of people that surrounds us. We like how inexpensive things are, for the most part anyway. We like how kids wear uniforms to school. We like the dinners our hosts make us each night…yum.

Third, a few differences we don’t like so much…
Pedestrians are not valued very highly here! Those itty bitty cars race down the streets, and I have yet to see one yield to a pedestrian…even in a crosswalk (I kid you not). The sidewalks are often in poor condition with quite a bit of trash alongside (despite the frequently placed green “zibi bins”). The only photo today is of the sidewalk that I walk down every day…there has been a huge hole in it the past three weeks. Today I was glad to see someone barricaded it off with some big rocks and wrote “please fix my hood” next to it. I feel safer already. 🙂 We are not crazy about the minibus taxi drivers that yell, whistle, and honk (or hoot, see below) to see if you want a ride…they get annoying when you’re waiting FOREVER to cross a street.

Fourth, some different terms we’ve learned…
Nappy = diaper
Cot = crib
Pram = stroller
Bonnet = car hood
Hooter = car horn (we did convey what we usually refer to when we talk about hooters)
Robot = traffic/stoplight
Geiser = hot water heater
Esh = kind of like “good grief”
Comfort stop = potty/snack break on a road trip…we like that one
Toilet = restroom/bathroom…easy translation but we don’t like asking for the “toilet”

I’m certain there are many other differences yet to describe, but this is a start. Jen, Kym, Kelsey, Courtney, Crystal, and Kjersten can share more…

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.


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!

Brief Update

I talked with Erin this morning and she and her students are well. However, their internet connection has been down for the past couple of days and as such she hasn’t been able to post her latest notes and pictures. She’ll be back at GHS tomorrow so hopefully by then we’ll see something new here.