Day 19

Boy, oh boy, today was a long one. As one of their sponsored events, Connect-123 took everybody in the program (all ~50 of us) on a wine tour. Only downside is the fact that wine country (Stellenbosch, in particular) is about an hour away so we were up and at ’em on the van at 9am– pretty early for a Saturday. If you add a morning workout on top of that, I had a wakeup time of 6:30. No *clap emoji* days *clap emoji* off *clap emoji*.

We started off the day with a trip to Fairview, one of the most popular wine-tasting destinations where they pair sips with different cheeses from cream cheese to gorgonzola to brie. I’m not even a cheese person but, holy heck, these were pretty good. A bonus feature of Fairview was that they had a pen of goats out front. Not sure how this related to their vineyard/brand/mission at all but I was a big fan. As I sang “The Lonely Goatherd” from “The Sound of Music” they came running my way, so I’d consider that a win.

The next stop was at Spice Route. Besides a spot for wine tasting, they had a variety of other interesting areas: beer tasting, chocolate tasting, restaurant, pizzeria, gin tasting, etc. I went with some Connectors to the chocolate tastings where they let you try cocoa beans and small nibs of different flavored chocolate bars which was very interesting. Unfortunately, I don’t like much besides some ~classic~ milk chocolate so I didn’t participate too much but according to my roommates, it was fantastic. We were treated to mushroom/chicken/beef burgers at Spice Route (incredible) and then went outside for a literal PHOTOSHOOT. Check out the photo gallery to see the plethora of pics that were taken.

Lastly, we headed to Morgenhof for the final tasting. Upon walking into this beautiful Italian countryside-esque vineyard, we saw their pen of P E A C O C K S. Half of me said this small of a pen was animal cruelty but the other said they’re too beautiful, it doesn’t matter! oops. We kept our tasting here pretty short because lots of participants were really ~feeling it~ if you catch my drift.

The 1.5 hrs home was rainy and pretty quiet as almost everybody took a snooze aside from a few students from London in the back who had a karaoke party. We returned home around 5 and took naps until coming to our senses around 8. Currently, Tess, Morganne, and I are cooking up some pasta and soup to warm up after a cold, cold day in the Stellenbosch mountains. Xhosa word of the day is “wine”: iwayini.

Day 18

Not sure what’s been up with the birthing population this week, but today was another slow and rainy day. We started doing our usual paperwork but soon enough, the nurses found themselves with nothing to do and wanted to help us. The usual system was a bit thrown off but we worked quickly, chatting with the nurses Toto and Maseko in-between babies.

When we took our tea break around 10:30 (as per usual every day), I grabbed my typical snack of hummus with carrots, cucumbers, and celery. Today, however, the nurses/sisters/administrative ladies were particularly interested in what I was eating. First, they asked if it was liver then proceeded to ask what the heck “hummus” was. I ate about half of my portion in the tea room then brought the rest back to the maternity ladies for them to try. They always eat such exotic food that I thought they’d love the hummus but they weren’t pleased. One woman said she was “okay” with it but the rest were not fans. I pled my case about hummus being the nectar (paste?) of the gods but oh well.

After our half-day (a new Friday tradition), Nikki, Maci, and I headed back to the CBD and to Truth for lunch. Their porridge, eggs, bacon, avocado toast, etc. was out of this world as per usual. We headed back to our apartments to change/hit the gym/watch Netflix/chill out for the rest of the night.

Morganne and I ordered some incredible Chinese food (thx you Monks) and snuggled up to watch “Sing”, one of the most iconic animated films of 2016, save Finding Dory. After an emotional but triumphant rollercoaster, here we are, another day into my South African adventure ready to sign off. Xhosa word of the day is “pregnant” to mourn the drought of new babies: ukhulelwe.

Day 17

Blame it on the tardy driver, the slow days in the clinic, or the rain, but today we took a day off. The morning began with a luxurious wakeup at 8:30 (smh internal alarm clock) and brunch at a nearby restaurant, The Raptor Room. They have one of the coolest atmospheres I’ve ever seen complete with ivy on the roof, Millennial Pink all around, a Dinosaur logo, and “Proud Mary” blaring during our breakfast.

After some poached eggs and spinach-corn fritters, Nikki and Maci headed back to the apartment and I headed to Truth (former #1 coffee shop in the world, in case you forgot) to write postcards, catch up on blog posts, and take a minute to myself. About three hours in, a clingy waiter chatted me up and asked me on a date to which I said “no thanks” and proceeded to escape the premises. Oops.

As some of you may know, I am a very avid knitter. Scarves, sweaters, hats, blankets I do it all. One of my favorite things to knit is infant hats. A few days ago, I saw a big bucket of knitted garments in the clinic and figured that I could spend my down time knitting for all of these babies! It’d be my gift to the mothers that let me deliver their little ones to give them one of my hats. I brought some yarn with me from the US of A but needed the right needles, so I headed out to a local knitting store. Orion Wool and Crafts had a great reputation online but inside it was even better. The man and woman who run the small shop were so sweet, walking me around and asking all about knitting in the states. I told them all about the drastic price difference between South African yarn (generally $5-15) and American yarn (from $8 to $60). Once again, I hit a great bargain on some needles (R 40 or $2.98) and headed back home.

My afternoon consisted of a trip to the gym, knitting, sudoku, and more knitting before going with Morganne to see the Incredibles 2. Predictably, it was incredible. Edna Mode, Elastigirl, and Jack-Jack deserve Oscars– if those exist in the animated world. And that brings today to a close! Xhosa word of the day is “boy/child”: bhuti.

Day 16

Yesterday, I failed to mention that we were surprised in the morning with a new driver. I’d like to give a sizeable shout out to our OG driver, Luvo, for his positivity, punctuality, and 10/10 driving skills. This morning, our new driver showed up 50 minutes late (imagine the extra sleep!!!!). So late, in fact, that I told myself if he didn’t arrive by 8, I. was going to take the day off. Well, this man rolled up at exactly 7:59 so I guess that was my bad karma for the day.

Similar to yesterday, today was also pretty standard. The four interns did lots of the paperwork but some of the nurses on the non-paperwork-friendly staff were watching over our shoulders looking for any mistakes. They ended up sitting with us and watching our every move but were “too tired to write”. This suited me just fine because we got to talk to and hang out with them. Their favorite activity was getting us to call out the folder names for new mothers, trying to pronounce them correctly. Most of the time, we absolutely butchered the Mbuntus, Fundiswas, and Nkululekos but finessed the occasional Amanda or Olivia. One of the nurses took the opportunity to let me know that her middle name is Grace but she absolutely hates it, asking her mother to give her a different name instead. Now she just refers to me as “my name”: “My name, are you going to tea?” or “Good morning, my name!”

As if the 50 minutes this morning wasn’t enough, driver #2 showed up 30 minutes late to pick us up from the clinic this afternoon. Yikes. Once we got back, Maci, Nikki, and I decided on a sunset cruise at the Waterfront. Instead of Ubering, I decided to walk the 2.5 miles through downtown Cape Town and that was, indeed, an endeavor. Lots of checking behind my shoulders and walking at a brisk pace.

We arrived at 4:59 and ran onto the dock to be met with many sales reps trying to get us to go on their boat. We jumped on the first one we saw (only R 300 or $22.37) and set out for the Atlantic. We were aboard a huge catamaran with only one other family. The crew guided us out to the trampolines in the front of the boat and we stretched out, blankets and cider (included) in hand. As the sun began to set, the crew came around with champagne (also included) and we watched the sunset over the horizon in style.

Upon return to the waterfront (~90 minutes later), we ate at Servuga, a taste of international cuisine right on the water. Since we came before 7, all of their sushi was half off, so we ordered a few table-size platters to share for only about $9 each. I’ll never stop being astonished at the low prices we’ve found here. Same as literally every other restaurant I’ve been to, 10/10 would recommend if you’re down at the V&A Waterfront.

A few hours later and it’s now time to “cruise for a snooze” as my roommate, Tess, would say. Xhosa word of the day is “sunset”: kwelanga.

Day 15

It’s crazy that I’ve been here long enough to say this, but today was a pretty normal day in the clinic. Since mothers are required to bring their babies in every other day until they are over 2.5 kg, their cord is off, and they’re over 5 days old, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are very busy. Tuesdays and Thursdays are slower, especiallywhen it’s raining so today was pretty empty. In the meantime, Nikki and Maci did a lot of reading and I wrote a lot of postcards. As a side note, I have SO MANY postcards if you would like one please let me know and I’ll send one. Warning: takes 10 business days to get to the USA so no return letter needed.

We took our lunch break around noon and ended up having a 2-hour conversation about sororities at each of our respective schools (Skylar and Madison: Mercer, Nikki: UT Austin, Maci: Oklahoma State, Me: UVA). Interesting content. We returned to the labor ward desperately hoping for a birth but, alas, there were no mothers ready to push.

Upon return from work, the afternoon was pretty standard: gym, hanging out with roommates, etc. For dinner, I went to The Codfather in Camps Bay with some friends. This place not only has a sushi conveyor belt that you can choose from but also has a huge case of fish where you choose your cut, how it’s cooked, sides, etc. We all split some edamame, tuna rolls, seared tuna, and kingklip and WOW it was all fantastic! This is a pretty notable restaurant in all of Cape Town so I don’t need to promote it too much but would definitely recommend that any seafood fan check this place out.

After dinner, we met up with some of the UVA people here with iXperience (all staying in Camps Bay) to attend a Tuesday karaoke night. We watched some older men (minority demographic) conquer Ice Ice Baby, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and Country Roads before deciding it was time to head out. Tired and ready for sleep, I now sit here writing this post! Xhosa word of the day is “postcard”: lokuposa.

Day 14

Today was the definition of “hurry up and wait”. The maternity staff always rotates and one staff works Monday, Tuesday, Friday while the other does Wednesday and Thursday. Today, we had the staff who lets us do all the deliveries but not much of the paperwork. Unfortunately, nobody was in labor so it ended up being a pretty slow day. This would’ve been fine if I had a book or something but my silly self brought a book where I only had 20 pages left and finished it during the ride to the clinic. Side note– the book was “Sorority” by Genevieve Sly Crane… there wasn’t really a plot it was more of a fictional exposé so it was fun to read and felt low-key trashy but the quality writing was incredible? 7/10, would still recommend. Anyways, I was left to my thoughts and my Candy Crush but it was a wonderful day nonetheless. One of the Mercer interns left last week for a family emergency and another one arrived today so we had fun getting to know her and just hang out together.

However, after a very slow morning we decided we needed to do something. I ended up heading over to the dentistry unit to see if they’d let me observe. Luckily, a (particularly beautiful) dentist let me watch him do lots of tooth extractions. Though I’m fine with blood/other medical procedures, something about cracking teeth and dental tools has always given me a fright. I stayed for about an hour, watching children and adults alike with tooth pain get numbing shots then having every painful tooth removed. He said about 95% of patients come here for extractions with the other 5% being “patches” (cavity fillings) and cleanings (rare). As interesting as this process was, I scooted out after about an hour.

After we returned for lunch, a mother went into serious labor around 1:30. This woman had been sitting on a bed for a while but, as she told me, “I’m trying to push but only the poo poo is coming out!” Disclaimer for anybody who has not yet given birth/is nervous about it: 90% of women poop in labor so when it happens to you, know you are NOT alone (in fact, you’re normal). This same woman kept wanting me to clean it up for her but didn’t know my name so she continually shouted “White Woman!” every five minutes for an hour. It has become my new identity within the clinic. She begged me for an “operation” saying that she didn’t want to push anymore but, unfortunately, that’s not an option at our clinic.

After some more consoling and even more “White Woman” calls, she was ready to push and I could feel the baby’s head. However, she was only about 5cm dilated and the possibility of a baby coming out seemed nearly impossible from an outsider’s perspective. The sister-on-staff told us to go for it and get her pushing so we set up around her: Nikki lifting the head and shoulders, Skylar on the abdomen pressure to push the baby down, and me on the pulling/catching side with Madison (new intern) watching from the sideline. After a few pushes and a lot of stretching, the baby was out and breathing (and mama only needed 1 stitch!). It cried for about 10 seconds before going silent which meant we had to start hitting/flicking it to keep it crying (and, therefore, alive). This baby was alert, looking around, and clearly breathing, but it just didn’t need to cry. It was precious. After cleaning him off and weighing him, I got to hold him for 15 minutes while the others dealt with the mother/cord/placenta. Highlight of the day, for sure– he was biting his fingers, staring at me, and sticking his tongue out like a pro.

We headed out to the parking lot as soon as we got ourselves cleaned up (baby fluid/blood literally goes everywhere) and hopped onto our shuttle where the driver, Luvo, immediately asked “how many babies?” He’s the best. I headed home, hit the gym, then went out to dinner with some new friends from the Safari before jumping into my glorious bed. Tess (roommate) is living out in Franschhoek in her boss’ guest house so that they can work every day for a week (it takes him an hour to really get into Cape Town so they don’t get to work much) and I’m a little bit lonely but it’s nice to have some space for the first time in a while. One Mad Men episode in and I can already feel myself fading so it’s time to peace out. The Xhosa word of the day is “remove” as in a tooth: khupha.

Day 13

Today was another early morning but this time, 200% worth it. We reported to the game vehicles at 7am after some coffee and set out for our sunrise drive, searching for every animal that we had missed the day before. Our first hit was the two elephants kept in the park. Unfortunately, this reserve is only 8 combined farms and about 2000 hectares (~5000 acres) whereas other parks like Kruger (northeast South Africa) are more than 4 million hectares. Because of its small size, it cannot sustain free-roaming elephants or lions (legally) and, instead, has those two species cordoned off and taken care of by highly trained zookeepers. For the first time, this park felt more like a park than nature by having these animals contained. However, the elephants and lions were all rescued from hunting lodges and rehabilitated/socialized so I guess it’s all for the greater good. We watched the elephants eat their breakfast (lots of grass) with the sunrise behind them and it was the definition of a money shot (see below for proof).

Next, it was onto more ostriches, zebras, lions, antelope, then, finally, the giraffes. I learned more wildlife facts than I can remember and absolutely basked in the beauty of these animals all while witnessing the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen. It was pink, blue, orange, and cast shadows over the lateral acacia trees to create a surreal vista. If you remember the beginning of “The Lion King”, that’s exactly what this morning felt like. The biggest animal highlight of the morning was the giraffes who walked right next to our vehicle. They’re so friendly and so majestic! See below video for our giraffe escort (sorry it’s huge)

After we returned to the lodge, we had a wonderful breakfast of omelets, fresh fruit, toast, and the like. On our way out, we hit up the gift shop for some animal shirts and many postcards. We hopped back on our shuttle and begrudgingly headed back to Cape Town. I’ve spent the rest of the afternoon grocery shopping, catching up on the blog (sorry, fans), and watching Mad Men. It’s time to sign off so the Xhosa word of the day is “giraffe”: indlulamathi.

Day 12

After a week of waking up at 6:30, I was ready to sleep in but, alas, there is no time to sleep when you’re somewhere as exciting as Cape Town. At approx. 7:30 sixteen girls from the Connect program boarded a bus taking us to the Garden Route Game Lodge. 3.5 hrs later (filled with sleeping and a lot of reading), we arrived at this slice of heaven on earth. See below (or the photo gallery) for pictures of this place– from the deck where we had “high tea”, dry grasslands went on for miles, completely preserved.

At 4:30, we were introduced to our lovely guide, Ines, and set out for our first game drive of the trip. The first animal we came across was a beautiful white rhino named Tim. This dude was huge and we were only about 5 ft away from him. Ines told us a wonderful story about how one time Tim turned his back and urinated directly into the faces of a bunch of elderly Swiss tourists. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky but maybe next time :/

Next, we ran into a bunch of Cape Buffalo, one of the strongest animals in South Africa who gave us a stare down. They routinely pierce animals with their strong “headpieces” and, honestly, I was scared. Ines explained how the animals are socialized to see our vehicle as one object without humans inside of it and have nothing negative to associate it with. However, if we were to leave the vehicle, we would be charged in a minute. Scary stuff.

We drove around a bit more running into some more rhinos (mother and baby!), ostriches, lots of antelope, a hippo, and cheetahs! About halfway through the drive, Ines put us in park, turned around, and said, “you guys are a little quiet– let’s get some alcohol in you!!” We hopped out of the truck (less than .5 miles from some rhinos!!!) and watched the sunset with drinks-of-choice in hand… a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After a delicious curry-filled dinner and warm bonfire, we headed back out for a night drive, hoping to see some nocturnal animals (owls, small cats, jaguars, etc.). Sadly, we had no such luck but we did run into a family of porcupines and learn how to tell true South in the Southern Hemisphere from our guide during the nightly hot chocolate break. Still worth it.

Now I’m sitting in bed, ready to pass out even if it’s only 10:30pm. Tomorrow morning we’ll be up early again to head out on our sunrise drive so sleep is imperative! Xhosa word of the day is “cheetah”, the coolest animal of the day: ingwenkala.

Day 11

Today we celebrated Youth Day at the clinic! All week, the sisters and nurses had been talking to Nikki and me about how we needed to wear school uniforms on Friday to celebrate “the 16th of June” (which was actually on Saturday anyway) !!! After some outside research clarifying what exactly that holiday celebrated, I stumbled onto some really interesting information about the tradition of Youth Day. On June 16th, 1976, thousands of black students in a Joberg township (Soweto) left school to protest against the Apartheid regime. They rallied against a new order that made Afrikaans compulsory in all black township schools across the country, prohibiting the use of local languages. The rallies were meant to be peaceful but once police started to break up the crowds, riots erupted and more than 500 students were killed. Though celebrated on the anniversary of a tragic event, Youth Day celebrations around the country are meant to  empower youth of all ethnicities and commemorate their anti-apartheid efforts.

While we didn’t have full school uniforms, we did locate some plaid in our suitcases and wore it under our scrubs to give some semblance of school skirts. All of the maternity employees came dressed to the nines this morning. They wore their old/borrowed uniforms from a variety of schools, dressed in blazers, ties, skirts, and pigtails. They laughed at our plaid concoction and asked if this was what our American uniforms looked like (scrubs included). Nikki and I spent the morning getting thirty-ish women in and out of the post-labor ward while the sisters and nurses ran around taking pictures, singing school songs, and enjoying their Friday. For the first time I felt like I was really helping out in the maternity unit, making the employees’ jobs just a little bit easier. Thankfully, they felt the same way, praising us when we emptied the room out around 11. Since our Friday shuttle wasn’t coming until 12:30, we had some free time to hang out with the dressed up maternity ladies before taking off for the weekend. They demanded some photoshoots, performed again for us, and showed us pictures of their young kids. My favorite was one woman’s 3-year-old daughter who applied a panty liner as “mask” and used her mother’s stethoscope to check on a family member who was under the weather. All of these wonderful photos with Njemna (our paperwork queen) and everybody else are in the gallery, as per usual. Below is the school chant they performed for us.

I spent the afternoon reading, napping, working out, and packing in preparation for our Safari this weekend. Around 6, I went to check out a store called “The Book Lounge” on the corner of Roeland and Buitenkant known for its homey nature and frequent book releases and was very impressed. I purchased “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer (on my summer reading list!) and resisted many more potential reads until I finish the three books currently on my shelf. It comes in just behind Strand in New York City as my favorite bookstore. V cute picture of this place featured below.

The-lounge-area-1060x460

For dinner, I headed to The Fireman’s Arms, one of Cape Town’s oldest pubs, on Bree to catch the Spain-Portugal soccer game. I met up with Rex and some other UVA friends (all from iXperience), chowed on some fish and chips, and got a little bit too much into soccer for the first time in my life. #TeamSpain all the way. Now I’m back home, finishing my packing in preparation for the Garden Route Game Lodge this weekend! Xhosa word of the day is “fish”: intlanzi.

Day 10

Following a crazy day yesterday, today was a bit more tame. First of all, we woke up to a torrential downpour. Though we always need to celebrate the rain (we are in a severe drought), this stuff was crazy. Upon arrival to the clinic, the nurses were saying that today would be absolutely empty because of the rain, especially in the post-natal side where checkups weren’t necessary. They said that, frankly, they didn’t want to see anybody because it puts the baby at risk of getting sick if they’re out in the rain walking to the clinic. With that being said, Nikki and I completed paperwork for a grand total of one patient today. Two mothers were “on deck” but didn’t seem to want to give birth any time soon and the nurses were pretty much all socializing at that point. Two of the Connect interns in the physical therapy department had taken the day off anyway so with some permission from the sisters in charge, we called an Uber and scooted back to the CBD around 10:30.

Because we work five days a week leaving at 7:20 and most places in Cape Town are closed on the weekends, the one demographic of restaurants we have been missing out on is, my personal favorite, brunch. So what better way to use a rainy morning off than pursuing a delicious eatery along Bree St!? We headed to Jarryd’s and absolutely chowed down. Pictures of this straight-up feast can be found in the gallery. Major highlight was the split dish of pancakes that were ACTUAL cakes. With full stomachs we made our way to the waterfront and treated ourselves to a manicure at the K Spa (cheap and great service, would recommend).

One gym trip later, I went to Truth Coffee Roasting with Tess to catch up on blogging (oops) and enjoy the (former) world’s best cup of coffee! I’m not sure if it’s the steam punk-themed interior or the bright cheeriness of all employees or the delicious coffee but I can’t rave enough about Truth. It is absolutely deserving of all the hype and still remains relatively tucked away along Buitenkant St.

Morganne, Tess, and I made our own dinners like strong, independent women and feasted on dumplings, roasted vegetables, buns, and samoosas, all from pre-made Woolworths containers. We divided and conquered, each watching our own Netflix shows in different areas of the apartment and are now ready to crash. The Xhosa word of the day is “early”: ekuqaleni. This one has a palate click on the Q that I’ve been trying to master… we’re making progress.