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 9

WOW, today was crazy. During my last week in the maternity ward, there have been an average of 2-3 births per day. Today, however, SEVEN BABIES were born! Seven! Our first task this morning was to take the blood pressure of all of the mothers-in-waiting. Not only did they fill the chairs but they also had to be hoisted onto some extra beds in the post-natal area… these mamas were all about to pop. Around 8:30, one of the sisters handed Nikki and me a pair of sterile gloves and said “When this baby comes out, you’re the ones who are catching it.” In that moment, I knew today would be something special.

As the day continued and the three other Mercer interns arrived, the five of us were very lucky to directly assist the nurses and play a large role in some of the births. While the nurses were always on-hand to assist us when we needed help or guidance, they are so excited about the prospect of teaching us how to do what they do which has been really fun. After just a week of watching deliveries, we were literally elbows deep, doing things you wouldn’t dream of doing in America until you were at least halfway through Medical School. From pep talks to the mothers all the way to writing the birth certificates, we were hands on at every step today. This was a huge turning point for my ~adventure~ so far in South Africa and the first time I could really see myself pursuing a career as an Obstetrician… a fun thought!

Obviously, this post would not be complete without talking about the wonderful mothers who let students talk them through / deliver their babies. They were extraordinarily welcoming and agreed with the nurses when it came to promoting learning. They were excited that we were helping them and getting something out of it as well. The mothers today were also the most social of any day so far. They laughed and talked with us about how they would “never again” have a child even though the midwife claimed she’d see them “on the same bed this time next year”. Also, because many women here don’t have ultrasounds before giving birth, some were happier than others about the gender of their babies. One mother was disappointed it was a girl because “I already have one of those and don’t want to try again” lol. Being the person to hand them a newborn and see their reaction as they find their own resemblance in a little one is like nothing else. Being a part of such an important moment for mother and child (their birthday!) and guiding them through an extremely scary and vulnerable time is what is so appealing to me about OB/GYN. I feel like it would never get old.

After work, I went with a group of Connectors to Bo-Kaap Kombuis in the historic (and beautiful!) neighborhood of Bo-Kaap nestled right below Lion’s Head. This restaurant offered a fantastic view and a delicious buffet-style selection of Cape Malay food. The Cape Malays are a South African ethnic group originally from the Dutch East Indies, brought to the Cape when it was settled as a Dutch colony. The menu included lots of curry, rooti, rice, and various meat pastries (samoosas). Absolutely delectable and yet another restaurant that I would highly recommend. Xhosa word of the day is “boy”, the gender one mother wanted her little girl to be: nkwenkwe.