Day 28

  • Closest a day at the clinic has gotten to hellish
  • Madison took the day off, so Skylar and I were the only two interns
  • USUALLY, mothers in the post-natal ward check-in at reception and drop off their baby book so that the “folder men” can pull their files and then deliver the mother’s folder, baby’s folder, and “Road to Health” baby book to us
  • With these three documents, we can finally process the mothers and do their paperwork in the post-natal ward
  • We always complain about the folder men because it feels like they take forever to bring us folders, so we get kind of backed up
  • But TODAY, the folder men were both out sick and we discovered that they truly are the absolute backbone of the clinic
  • Every package we got was an odd combination of one folder (sometimes mother, sometimes baby), maybe a baby book, but never the full collection. Without all documents, we couldn’t finish paperwork or do it properly so we had about fifty mothers waiting until we could get everything sorted out
  • For reference, we usually start paperwork around 9 and end it by noon but today, we couldn’t really start anything until 11:30 and didn’t finish until 2
  • The only bonus of today is that I had time at the end of the day to take a video walking through the post-natal and labor wing
  • Hit the gym then returned home to cook some soup and down some leftover pasta courtesy of Morganne

Day 27

  • Slept in which means waking up at 9am (thank you, internal alarm clock)
  • The gods of exercise were really frowning on me today: gym was already closed by the time I wanted to go AND exercise room on our roof was closed for heavy winds. Ended up working out in the kitchen so thanks @Morganne for watching and cheering me on.
  • Went down to the V&A waterfront with Brooke and Morganne
  • While they went to check out the Zeitz Museum of Modern Art, I headed to Exclusive Books (in the mall) to utilize their café
  • Played lots of sudoku, read my book, and updated the blog
  • After Brooke and Morganne saw a movie, I met up with them and three of Brooke’s Duke friends to grab a pub dinner while watching soccer
  • Started pouring rain during dinner and we got absolutely drenched on our way to the Uber. Begrudgingly blessing the rains down in Africa.

Day 26

  • For Nikki and Maci’s actual last day, we headed to the Old Biscuit Mill again
  • Stayed for breakfast and lunch… both delicious
  • Headed home to sleep off a little bit more of the nausea from the food poisoning
  • Was getting ready to go out and Morganne and Tess put me in a crop top for the first time ever… evidence in the gallery from their photoshoot of me
  • Headed to Asoka (definitively my favorite restaurant here) with Morganne, Tess, and Sarah
  • Went out to the Tin Roof in Claremont with a huge group of Connect-123 participants- lots of fun!


To all of my lovely readers (the few, the proud), you may have noticed I’ve been relatively (that’s generous) inactive and also the posts have been a bit behind. I was super busy during my last few weeks in South Africa and unfortunately fell a bit off the wagon.

On my (27 hour) journey home from Cape Town, I wrote almost every post from where I left off until present day and was feeling very accomplished but, unfortunately, all of these posts deleted last night when my computer shut down to do some updates.

I still want to share my last days with all of you so, instead, over the next few days I’m going to be posting some bullet points from each day in South Africa. If you want to inquire more, NEVER hesitate to shoot me a text/email/snapchat/carrier pigeon and ask a little bit more about my time because really I could talk about it for years.

If I’m being honest, the best place to look through to really get a sense of my experience is the photo gallery. I love photography and my friends (especially Tess) love taking pictures of me so it really captured most aspects of the experience, especially those outside of the clinic.

Sorry for falling short, but this gives me even more of an opportunity to talk to people in person about this experience… my favorite thing to do 🙂

Day 25

Last night when I went to sleep (finally), I was praying to feel good as new when I woke up so that I could attend Maci and Nikki’s last day, but unfortunately that wasn’t in the cards. I woke up to give them the baked goods for the nurses and went back to bed. Thankfully, Tess also had the day off so we laid in our beds, each watching our respective Netflix shows until I could muster up the courage to grab some lunch… the first time I had eaten in 24 hours.

After some lunch and a little bit more Mad Men, I decided to get out of the house and go to my most calming spot: the knitting store. I needed some materials to make gifts for the Connect-123 coordinators, so I took a quick trip to Orion Wool and Crafts. The ride there definitely didn’t do any favors for my stomach, but I made it out alive.

For the remainder of the afternoon, Tess and I headed to the K Spa at the waterfront and got couples’ massages because why not? They were wonderful, cheap, and definitely not well-deserved (as we were lying in bed all day) but we enjoyed it anyway.

We continued our honeymoon-type day with dinner at a local tavern (Perseverance or Persies, started in 1836) while watching rugby for an authentic ~South African night~. On our walk home (only about 2 blocks), there was a torrential downpour, paving way for our photoshoot to enact Toto’s iconic line, “I bless the rains down in Africa”. Catch all the evidence of that in the photo gallery. We quickly retreated inside, dried off, and are now settled back into bed for a restful night. Xhosa word of the day is “rain”: imvula.

Day 24

This morning, we arrived to a promising few women who looked like MAYBE they were about to push/give birth/complete the miracle of life etc. but unfortunately, we had a slow day L. Maci, Nikki, and I did paperwork with Madison (Skylar didn’t make it today) for most of the morning until we determined that, as per usual on Thursdays, the rest of the day would probably be pretty slow. Because Nikki and Maci are leaving this weekend, it wasn’t worth spending the rest of the afternoon at the clinic if they weren’t going to be doing much so we called it a day around noon. The Mercer interns don’t work on Fridays so they said their goodbyes to Madison and to some of the nurses who wouldn’t be working tomorrow. Our miniature photoshoot is documented in the photo gallery.

We returned home and hit up Truth (if you can’t tell already, I love this place) for brunch. After some eggs, bacon, and iced lattes, we headed back to my apartment to bake cupcakes/cookies for the maternity staff on Maci and Nikki’s last day. All went swimmingly, I headed to the gym, then returned with a moderately upset stomach.

It was moderate until it for sure wasn’t and I spent the rest of the night alternating sleeping and hurling as I battled some unfortunate food poisoning from Truth. Not sure how I’ll ever come to terms with this lovely coffee shop that betrayedme. So now it’s 2:05 AM, I’m texting my mother wishing she was here to take care of me and praying for some more sleep before I wake up again. Peace out, readers. Xhosa word of the day is “poison”: ityhefu.

Day 23

I guess I never really finished up yesterday– Nikki, Maci, and I headed out to Camps Bay for some Tuesday night karaoke at Dizzy’s. We met up with Skylar and Elijah, two of the Mercer interns at the clinic and caught up on what we had missed while shark diving. The answer? Nothing much. We sang “Take Me Home, Country Roads” then Elijah absolutely murdered “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. What a wonderful night!

But TODAY, we finally broke the dry spell at the clinic! After about an hour of paperwork, Nikki, Maci, Skylar, Madison, and I all started shadowing Dr. Prinsloo, the neonatal specialist who comes in every Wednesday. While this was fun, watching her check out all of the preemie babies, we crowded her a little bit so I went to hang with Elijah in the labor ward. Lo and behold, 10 minutes after I arrived, two mothers began pushing (one who was much louder than the other).

One woman (the loud one) didn’t speak any English and barely any Xhosa so we really had a tough time communicating with her. She kept pushing when, in reality, she wasn’t ready push which could’ve been very damaging for the baby. Eventually, the sisters got her to calm down and just lay on her side until the baby was ready to come out.

However, the woman next doorway ready to push and that baby was ready to come out. After a few painful minutes and some coaching from Elijah and me (wow, this really makes me sound so much more qualified than I am?), she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! We cut her cord, measured her, warmed her up in the incubator, then gave her back to the mother to begin breastfeeding. The only problem was this mother was a first-timer and, unfortunately, had inverted nipples, meaning that the sisters had to use a syringe to pull them out. During this whole process, I was lucky enough to be the designated “baby-holder” (my favorite job) and got to bond with this little bundle of joy. After handing her back to the mother, I decided that this was the perfect way to introduce my new baby hat concept. As a way of thanking the mother for letting students deliver her baby, I gave her a pink baby hat knitted by yours truly. This woman was so grateful and even let me take pictures of the baby with the hat on :’). Those are featured in the gallery.

The rest of the afternoon was relatively slow but that birth made this past 1.5 weeks of waiting all worth it. I returned home for a classic afternoon of going to the gym, calling home, etc. This time, though, I got to talk to my brother, Russell, who just returned from a 2-week wilderness adventure! As fun as SA is, I’m definitely missing my family. On my way home from the gym today, I finally decided to try Nando’s, a large chain restaurant in Europe and South Africa specializing in their roasted chicken. I got a leg/thigh with mild peri-peri sauce and thought it was pretty good! 8/10, convenient and tasty!

I spent the night hanging out with Tess, Morgan, and Sarah, listening to Big Bootie mixes and admiring the beautiful view out of their 13th floor window (we’re only on the 4th floor, facing another building). I’m on this new kick where I’m trying to go to bed earlier so I’m off to the snoozer at approx. 10:30… progress? Xhosa word of the day is “hat”: umnqwazi (there’s a click in this one! and I can do it!)

Day 22

Alright, today was NUTS! Nikki, Maci, and I have been playing with the idea of going shark cage diving with Great Whites for a while now but hadn’t made moves. Unfortunately, they leave this Saturday so time was running out. After texting with a recommended driver from some friends at Connect-123 (the best with suggestions), we had a booked reservation for 6 all day on Tuesday (Nikki, Maci, Tess, Morgan, Sarah, and me). The nurses were jealous that we were missing work to go see the sharks but sent tons of prayers that we’d come home in one piece. Barend, the driver from Great White Shark Tours, picked us up at approx. 6:35 and we set off on our 2.5 hr journey to Gansbaai.

Not gonna lie, I was sketched out about this adventure. Were we going to be in a tiny cage off of some rando’s tug boat? Would we be fed meals? What is Gansbaai anyways? Well, as soon as we arrived (after a long, sleepy ride), all of these questions were answered. Great White Shark Tours is one of many cage diving companies along Gansbaai, one of the few coastal areas in the world where Great Whites naturally come to hunt. In fact, a lot of Shark Week is filmed in Gansbaai!! We arrived to a delicious continental breakfast (featured in the gallery) in a cute little house on the coast, paid for our trip, and met fellow passengers along the “Apex Predator” (their specially engineered boat). We watched a safety/informational briefing then grabbed our supplied waterproof jackets and hopped on the boat.

We had a high-speed, choppy 15-minute ride to our destination, Shark Alley, then anchored down. Shark Alley is a small area in-between Geyser Island and Dyer Island. Dyer Island is the home to over 400 bird species and Geyser Island is home to over 60,000 seals, making the passage in-between the perfect hunting ground for Great Whites. Shark Alley, specifically, is where some of Shark Week is filmed. When we anchored, one of the seven crew members aboard (for only 26 passengers) gave us a warning about their low sightings of sharks recently. Though the South African winter is their high season, bad weather and natural causes had only brought them into contact with one Great White in the entire month. This wasn’t great news but we were determined to have a fun time anyways.

However, this guy spoke too soon. Almost immediately after our “chum master” started putting bait into the water and creating a chum line towards us, we spotted our first Great White of the day. The crew quickly ushered us all into the cabin to get us outfitted in thick wetsuits for the frigid water and stuck the first eight divers into the cage. Their titanium cage is attached directly to the side of the boat and sits both over and underwater. Essentially, you bob around on the surface until a shark was close, then Happy, the shark handler, would tell you to “go down”. You’d take a big breath, hook your feet under a bar in the cage, and pull yourself underwater for a maximum of 10-15 seconds to see the shark. I’m gonna be honest– the visibility wasn’t great so I had better views of all of the sharks from above water rather than underneath BUT when Nikki, Maci, and Tess were in the cage, a shark came directly for them (jaws out) and they got a phenomenal view underwater.

Eight people would get in the cage and after about 5 minutes, the crew would put eight more in to make sure that everybody got a view of the shark. Our first one stuck around for a little while, swimming back and forth from our boat to another one nearby. We were lucky to have seen one so quickly but expected it to be the last one of the day. But we spoke WAY too soon.

We had a phenomenal day, coming into contact with five different Great White Sharks in just over 3 hours on the water. Each of them swam around for a while giving us almost no downtime. The boat had snacks, drinks, and warm towels so whether we were in the cage (I spent a total of 40 minutes in there) or on the boat, the viewing and conditions were fantastic. At one point in the cage, a shark even stuck his pectoral fin between the cage bars and touched my foot… that was pretty cool. As we were wrapping up and getting ready to head back to shore, the crew told us that this may be their best day all year. I’m not sure how we got so lucky but I sure am glad we did.

After another chilly and rough ride back to the dock, we got out of our wetsuits and returned to the house/office. They had hot showers and more towels for us then served a delicious lunch of chicken pea soup and cheese toasties complete with coffee and tea. As we ate, we watched the film our videographer on board had put together (in maybe fifteen minutes? turnaround time was crazy) and talked dramatically about all of the majestic sharks we had seen.

Around 1:30, we boarded Barend’s van again and headed back to Cape Town for a chill afternoon. I napped for a hot second then went to the gym before heading back home to shower and get ready. Tonight we’re heading to Camps Bay for another round of Tuesday night karaoke to really top off the day.

Overall, today was so crazy and has me thinking about how grateful I am to be in Cape Town. Besides having a great time at my internship, living in an apartment, etc., being able to see somewhere on the literal other side of the world from so many angles (from the township of Khayelitsha to the top of Table Mountain to the neighborhoods of the elite to the wonders of the sea) has been so eye-opening. Xhosa word of the day is “shark”: ukrebe.

Shark video soon to come 🙂

Day 21

I’m not sure what the Mother Nature thinks is so special about June 25, but this morning was the prettiest sunrise I’ve ever seen. Pictures featured in the photo gallery. I spent the drive to Khayelitsha watching the beautiful pink sky and also speaking to our third (yes, THIRD) new driver this morning, Nomalady. This was one of the first times I’ve seen a woman driving a car in South Africa so hooray for gender equality!

Unfortunately, this dry spell at the clinic is really dragging on. We arrived this morning and spent half the day filling out paperwork, you know, the normal grind. But when we took our tea break this morning, we saw that Maci had a new puzzle book filled with crosswords, sudokus, etc. Most of the afternoon (after the paperwork was all done) we spent solving said puzzles as a group of six– an interesting task. Unfortunately, in line with some days last week, today was rather anti-climactic. However, we did spend some time today planning our shark cage diving trip… details will be covered tomorrow!

When we returned home, I hit the gym, talked to my mom on the phone for a while, and went grocery shopping with Morganne– also rather anti-climactic. BUT after this grocery shopping, Morganne took me into what may very well be the cutest stationery shop I’ve ever seen called Fabricate. Thank goodness I had my hands full of groceries because otherwise, my wallet would’ve been in trouble. Big time. Before we left, I headed down to Pick n Pay (imagine Kroger vs. Whole Foods (Woolworths)) to purchase one of those puzzle books for myself… I was missing my sudoku fix.

I returned home, whipped up some cauliflower noodle and veggie stir fry, hung out with Austin, Charlie, Morgan, Sarah, Morganne, and Tess, and am now headed off to bed for tomorrow morning, we have a 6am wake up call for shark diving. Xhosa word of the day is “sister” (or daughter, little girl, etc.): sisi.

Day 20

Woof, I slept well last night. That wine tour really did me dirty. This morning, for the first time in about two weeks (thanks, Safari), I was able to sleep in! After a slow wake-up (something you take for granted until you don’t have it… ever), I went with Tess, Morgan (not Morganne), Sarah, Sophia, and Georgia (all Connectors from various places) to brunch at Tashas to celebrate Sophia’s birthday! Tashas is on the V&A Waterfront and has a delicious Spanish-inspired brunch menu. Their old school omelet was yum and their fruit platter was stunning: guava, banana, mango, kiwi, dragon fruit, etc.

After a hearty breakfast, Tess and I went to see Ocean’s 8 and, man, that was a badass movie filled with a lot of badass actresses. Big fan. If you’re into crime/heist/action movies or just love to watch some famous women tear it up, I’d definitely recommend it. Sandra Bullock is an absolute queen.

On our way out of the V&A mall, we ventured into their Steve Madden store to check out their winter styles. Surprisingly, not unlike literally everything else here, the shoes were SO inexpensive! Some were on sale for R 399 which translates to $29.75 and I don’t think a single pair cost over $150 USD! I don’t really understand the world economy except I did benefit from it, scoring some cute shoes for cheap.

For dinner tonight, I met up with Nanki, Roxy, and Lauren, three girls from UVA all working on a public health projection Khayelitsha. My cousin actually worked on this same project two years ago, so hearing what they were up to after she’s gone was really cool! They’re basically conducting interviews and helping with support groups/an eventual community center in Town Two, a neighborhood of Khayelitsha. We went to Asoka, one of my favorites, for their delicious tapas and live music on Sunday nights. All three of them were so interested in everything I’m doing and me in their projects. We ended up staying for three hour talking all about experiences in Khayelitsha and how our fields overlapped. It was also nice to be surrounded by UVA students for the first time in a while because we could use the same lingo, talk about school life and studies, have a lot of the same friends, etc.

Anyways, after a lovely day filled with incredible food, it’s time for Grey’s Anatomy and some sleep. Goodnight to all and the Xhosa word of the day is “town”: dolophu.