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 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.

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 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 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.

Day 5

This morning got off to a slow start, with Tess, Morganne, and me (roommates) lounging in bed as we listened to the blissful sound of rain. In a city where day zero of a drought looms within the next year, rain is always a feat to be celebrated. Morganne and I zipped off to the local grocery store, Woolworths (very similar to Whole Foods), and picked up more of their incredible premade meals… from samoosas to wraps to soups to pies they have it all.

Around 11:30, we took off for Old Biscuit Mill, a shopping hub in Woodstock (suburb) that turns into a huge food/craft market on Saturday mornings. Food stalls were spread throughout the market offering selections from curry to paella to baked goods to pho and every cultural dish in-between. After a few rounds, I stuck with some Korean glass noodles and a grilled chicken seaweed burrito (“edo”), both of which were absolutely fantastic. This market is a must for any visitors and I place I hope to hit up every Saturday from here on out. The craft booths boasted beautiful jewelry, vintage clothes, and stylish bags and nearby shops provided an array of fashion, spices, and kitchenware. My wallet shed a few tears at the good ol’ Biscuit Mill.

We returned home to bask a little bit more in the glory of rain before heading upstairs to work out in the rooftop gym room (no machines, just mats and space). As sunset approached, we loved getting to squat, jump, and stretch all while looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Cape Town skyline. Pictures to come. Morganne and I stayed out on the rooftop deck reading as the sun truly set, providing a wonderful viewing point for the ~golden hour~.  Up there, I finished “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas which I cannot recommend enough. If you don’t believe me look at the list of awards it’s received: William C. Morris Award, Michael L. Printz Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and the longest for the 2017 National Book Award. Published in only February of 2017, this novel is simply incredible and also a very quick read.

Returned from the rooftop to whip up some delicious dinners / bran muffins (Woolworths mix for the win) and now we’re all laying in bed watching movies until we fall asleep. Xhosa word of the day is “delicious”: nandi.