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.


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.

Day 4

This morning, we walked into the clinic and there were 5 mothers “on deck”, waiting in chairs until their contractions. After a slow hour, two mothers went into labor at once. However, both of them had very long labors. After a few series of pushes, one was transferred to the Khayelitsha hospital because of her “high-risk labor”. While the clinic offers many services, unfortunately it doesn’t have unlimited resources and must transfer many patients to the nearby hospital. While it is only a ten minute drive away, sometimes EMTs can take up to six hours to arrive due to high demand. Thankfully, in this case, they arrived after only twenty minutes. However, when I was working in the emergency unit, patients were waiting for at least two hours before being picked up. This follows a trend of townships being offered too few resources for the demand and population it’s catering to.

After the first mother was transferred, the second mother neared birth. The sister taking care of her gave her a hard time mid-labor because she wasn’t pushing hard enough and the baby was “getting tired”. For the first time, I thought I may see a stillborn baby. I was put into action as the “pusher”, using all of my weight to push down on the abdomen to force the baby down. I swear I thought I was about to crack a rib. About five minutes later, the baby was born but seemed to be stillborn with blue extremities. After about thirty seconds, though, this child came to life, absolutely wailing and thrashing around. Watching this little alien-baby-thing enter the world was still as amazing as watching it the first time. I don’t know if I could ever get tired of that. We were tasked with measuring the baby again and I got to put on the baby’s first “nappy”!

All other interns only work Monday-Thursday so we took a half-day and arrived home around 1 (instead of 4). Due to the early mornings, I took a nap that lasted 4 hours and may be the best decision I’ve made since I arrived in Cape Town. For dinner, I headed down to Camps Bay with some Connect friends and ate at a restaurant called 41. It was here I adventured out enough to try ostrich and it was INCREDIBLE! Definitely would recommend to anybody who has the chance to order it. After stopping by Café Caprice, we headed back to Bree St. to check out the nightlife scene (surprisingly dead for a Friday night) before returning home. That’s a wrap on the first week of work! Very excited for a fun weekend of exploration! Xhosa word of the day is “push”: dudula. Heard this one and an English version (“poosha”) a lot today.

Day 3

This morning I got up, made a wonderful breakfast of two eggs + yoghurt AND remembered my lunch! We’re making progress, folks. As soon as we arrived at the clinic, we were brought into the post-natal ward to watch as women received contraceptive implants after giving birth. These implants in the arm provide contraception for three years, so they’re ideal for women who don’t have the time to come in every so often for injections or don’t want to be responsible for daily oral pills. However, about halfway through the implantation, a woman sitting in a chair began having close contractions. Women don’t come into the labor ward until their water has broken but once they arrive they are asked to sit in a row of chairs until their contractions are enough that they need a bed. Since there are only three beds, the midwives and sisters prefer to keep them empty until the absolute last minute so that a woman with a long labor isn’t taking space away from somebody giving birth right then. However, this can be a problem when women wait until too late to leave their chairs. As this woman experienced major contractions fairly close together, the sisters tried to get her into a wheelchair to bring her to a bed. However, when she lifted herself up, the baby began crowning and, thus, she gave birth right then and there in the chair. After a large clean-up crew and some stabilizing support, she was able to get into a bed and breast feed / heal but it definitely started the day off with a bang.

Later in the day, once four other interns arrived, another mother gave birth with all of us watching. Honestly, I felt bad that her labor had become a viewing theater but she was very gracious about letting us watch. As the baby emerged and the sister asked for the time, every single one of us yelled “11:37”– our eagerness was palpable. As she cared for the mother, she let us weigh the baby and take its measurements (head circumference and length) then watch it as it laid under a heat lamp to avoid hypothermia. We showed the other interns how to feel the soft sutures of the skull and check for all of the other reflexes (balance, sucking, crying, etc.). Even after two days in the maternity center, we were learning a whole lot.

The day ended with a conversation between Nikki (Connect intern), the two Mercer interns, the “Jemster” (one of the nurses), and me. We discussed the differences in healthcare in South Africa and in the United States. It’s crazy that two nations can develop completely different systems that both have their pros and cons. Jemster was floored that the US had no government-run clinics or hospitals. Where we work, nobody pays for anything and it’s all government-funded. She was also amazed that we don’t have many paper files in America. She asked if “all nurses have to be computer technicians” to operate with that system which is an interesting way of thinking about the technological revolution in America compared to other parts of the world.

After work (and gym, shower, talking to roommates, etc.), Maci, Nikki, and I headed down to Bree St. for the famous “First Thursdays”. On the first Thursday of every month, galleries, shops, and restaurants open with special hours and streets close down for patrons to walk around. We started with dinner at IYO burgers where their bunless burger salads with all sustainably-sourced ingredients blew our minds. This one is high on the recommendation list. Afterwards, we walked around for a while, checking out a bar called “The Man and the Machine” (an ode to men and bicycles), a Patagonia store turned lounge, an Aperol Spritz truck, a gallery called L99P, and, finally, Sgt. Peppers, a bar with live music and a lovely deck for looking down on Long St. This was such a cool cultural event with many of the locals walking around (all impressed with American accents) and a very lively atmosphere. After a long night, I’m finally ready to hit the hay. The Xhosa phrase of the day is “I don’t know”: Andazi.