Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hello to all!

Greetings from South Africa, my home for the past two weeks and for the next year! I arrived in Cape Town on August 2nd with a group of other interns, and we had training in Cape Town at our hotel for the first week-packed days going over forms, learning about the history of S. Africa and more of the biology of HIV, and also getting to play soccer with local children, go on some amazing hikes and explore the city. It was an amazing, incredibly busy week. I think the best activity that we did was on the first day we arrived we had a Cape Town resilency race, where in groups of three or four we had to run around the city looking for monuments and random things, and ask(while filming) people about the provinces, languages and more. It was really fun, but exhausting! My group ran around the city from 8am until 2pm, literally running. A lot of people thought that we were on the show, The Amazing Race! One of the tasks in the Resilency race was to get tested for HIV, which was a really good thing for all of us to experience, as this will be something that we will be dealing with throughout the next year. While I knew that there was no way I could be HIV positive, I was still completely nervous/terrified/anxious as I awaited the results. And, seeing the conditions of the clinic made me appreciate all that we have in the States. I am sure that was the first time of many that I will take and observe this year, but it was a really humbling experience and helped me to remember what I am doing here this year.
With the soccer playing, s most of you know, I am not the most talented, but I had a great time goofing off with the other 26 interns, most of whom are division I or III soccer players. But they were all patient and we had some good laughs. And we got to play with children near our hotel who flocked in droves to come and show us their moves. On Friday, they announced are placements for the year at Bill Miles’s house, the COO of Grassroot(GRS), and a Norwich resident. He and his family are living in Cape Town for the year, which isn’t such a terrible gig! Before the placement we played some casual games of soccer as a huge group: staff, coaches, and interns-there were about 5 differenct games going on! And, we played right as the sunset overlooking the city. We had to climb up this ridiculously steep hill and then up a ladder into his backyard where we all huddled together and learned of our placements. We had all been really nervous and worked up about where we were going, so it was great to play some soccer to take the edge off. Before our placements, the interns did our best to thank the Cape Town staff by singing our own version of “Bye, Bye, Bye” (which I co-wrote), as they had re-written “Thriller”, “wonderwall” and “wagon wheel” in our honor on our first night in C.T. The song didn’t go as well as we had hoped, but they got a kick out of it and we had some great laughs.
So, then they announced our placements in team style, and I am going to be in Port Elizabeth, S. Africa for the next year! I am already moved into my house which is awesome, we live in a gated community near the township where we iwll be working. And, we live about 2 minutes from the beach! I am living with two guys and a girl, and all three of them are awesome. Although I am a bit biased, I think we have the best crew of all the sites. Everyone is funny, laid back and hard working, so it should be a great year. I am really excited, and also really nervous for work to begin. We arrived in Port Elizabeth this morning, after driving six hours last night and three this morning PACKED into a little car, and now we are all just unpacking and organizing ourselves. Only one of us knows how to drive a standard, so it’s going to be entertaining for the first few weeks as we orient ourselves and get a feel for driving on the other side of the road and the city.
Another really cool thing about Port Elizabeth is that we get to work in the townships, which is pretty incredible. Our office is in a primary school, so every day we are exposed to the devastating poverty in South Africa. One reason why I am so thrilled about being here is that I will get to interact with the locals and children more than people staying in Cape Town. I think this is going to be a fantastic year. Again, thank you all for your generosity, encouragement and motivation. I would not be here if it were not for all of you: everything that you have given to me has helped me to get to where I am now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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