Back at home, with Douglass (the elephant), my blackberry, and cup of coffee. Doesn’t get any better than that on a summer morning
Sunday was an early morning to finalize packing, take my last walk around the neighborhood, and squeeze in one more delicious brunch before heading the airport. Although Rebecca and Audrey headed off to an ultimate frisbee tournament, I got everyone else (including Talia and Alice) to come out to brunch at this GREAT smoothie place. I also got this banana and bacon french toast that was so good! I never thought that combo would become one of my favorites, but it definitely is now. We all got something different to share and nibbled off each others plates to get different tastes. When we got back to Gordon Street, I started getting a little sentimental. I packed my two VERY big bags into the car, and then had to say goodbye to everyone except Talia. Saying goodbye to Danielle was really tough after her being my roommate and everything. We had some crazy stories, whether it was the bipolar toilet that sometimes worked and sometimes different, to our crazy neighbors that we would sometimes hear late at night stumble home. She was a role model to me, for everything from her incredible running schedule, to how patience and understand she was. For having a roommate for the first time, I can definitely say I lucked out. And then was Charlie, crazy good Charlie. He’s so fun and spirited and I hope I have the energy like he does for the rest of my life. I said my goodbye to Alice, the cheerful, goofy, and extremely down to earth new addition to GRS. Although she wasn’t an intern, she was always joining in, having fun with us and making everyone smile. My last goodbye at the house was with Durkin. Sometimes acted like my dad, but more so my brother, as we always made sarcastic comments to each other, but also worked extremely hard to make the literacy program strong. I know he’ll do a good job taking it over and continue to build it. As I drove away from the house, I thought of all of the memories that now came with 3C Gordon Street. The house itself is quite standard, but the people who fill it make it home. They’re all incredible and I know they’ll have an awesome year there. Somehow Talia got me to play Adele on the way to the airport, which could possibly have been the worst decision of the trip. As soon as it started playing, the tears started rolling down my cheeks. If it had been anyone else but Talia, I might have been able to hold it in, but after all that she did for me, there was no way. She took me under her wing and showed me the ropes after her internship was technically done. She showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly of Cape Town and how I would be able to help. She is one incredible person that GRS is lucky to have and I hope she knows how great she’s done there. Pulling up the airport may have been the worst memory of the whole trip, because as I recall it now, I can’t bear to think about leaving Cape Town again. It became my home, where I was me 24/7. In Cape Town, I was able to set my own schedule, make my own friends, find the changes I wanted to make and do it, and really just be me. After a tough junior year at a prep school where things are very formatted for me, having this freedom made me feel rejuvenated. I was so fortunate to be able to get to experience Cape Town this way, but also get a sense of what I’m passionate about. GRS will always be a part of me and I hope they know that I am always a contact for help. So many internships are about finding out what you don’t want to do as a career, but in this case, I found what I really want to do in the future. GRS combines the three things that I care about most- medicine, soccer, and youth and hopefully I can continue to pursue that in the future. The planes home were indeed long, but it’s nice to back in Simsbury. Hurricane Irene hit us pretty hard, but my thoughts and prayers go out to GRS in VT where I know things were a lot worse. I have quite a bit of summer reading to do though and have yet to finish my college essay. Throw some soccer training in there, and I’m almost right back to a school schedule. I’m still a bit jet lagged, but after a long night at the Red Sox game last night (they won!!!) I’m back on track more. I’m thinking this is the end of my blogging, since I know when school starts I won’t have time. Plus, I don’t think I’ll have many exciting worthwhile things to share about school (just being honest).
To wrap it up, I’ve had the best summer I could’ve asked for, hands down. I got to see so many different aspects of GRS, from the business, fundraising, and development side in VT, to the hands on, nitty gritty, yet rewarding work in Cape Town. I needed a change from school and from a routine I was falling into, and this was just that. Many thanks to all of the people who made it possible for me to get to go on this trip, including my parents, and the people at GRS.
Catch ya on the flipside!
some pictures from Lion’s Head- what a beautiful day!
While most people wanted to sleep in on Saturday, Rebecca and I were the first ones up and decided to take advantage of the beautiful day. We went to some of the big African markets that are set up on Saturday to poke around and see if we could find some sweatpants for Rebecca since it’s FREEZING in our house. When were finally found some after almost giving up, we headed home to find everyone awake and ready to go. We all packed in the car and headed to Lion’s Head to climb, since the route we wanted to take on Table Mountain was closed for a trail run. It was such a beautiful hike and I think we did it during the perfect time of day. The sun was just beginning to hide in the mountains, but we still had plenty of sunlight. I was not prepared for the hooks and chains we were supposed to use to get to the top, but it made the whole thing more adventurous and a little but more exciting. There were definitely points where I questioned my safety, but you just have to get over it and keep going. The top was INCREDIBLE! You could see almost every point in Cape Town, including Table Mountain. Parts were a bit hidden by Signal Hill, but as you turned 360, you really got a great view of Cape Town. I don’t know whether it was the best idea to go up there on my last day because it made me think about leaving such a great city where some of my closest friends live now. We spent a good amount of time at the summit sitting on different rocks, taking some group photos and whatnot. When the sun started to reach the water, we knew it was time to head back down, and unfortunately at the end, we found ourselves with not only one, but two flat tires. Luckily, the rough and tough car we have made it to the gas station safely with all 8 of us inside to get some air in the tires. While everyone was cooking for my last meal where I requested a potluck dinner with everyone coming over, I finished most of my packing and only left out what I needed for Sunday and my flight home. By the time Elise, Alice, Talia and others were over, everyone was ready to eat! we had grilled lamb kabobs with veggies, some couscous with different things in it, a large salad (an intern house specialty) and it was really nice sitting down with EVERYONE for one last time. The table was crowded, but that’s just the way I wanted it. Audrey made some delicious brownies for dessert, and we all sat around talking, playing cards, and being goofy. for the last night, I curled up in my sleeping bag with my woolworths blanket, my ipod, multiple layers and the windows cracked for the last time. At that point, it really sunk in that I was leaving and my month in Cape Town was coming to an end.
Catch ya on the flipside!
I am home safely!! And have been slacking on posting about my last days in Cape Town. I think mainly because writing about it while back in the States will make me miss it more. But anyway, Friday for work, I just wrapped up all of my lose ends, making sure that I was ready to leave with each department. I had a quick wrap up exit interview with James, talking about all of the positives, and the few negatives, and just chatting about the experience in all. It was hard to sum up everything after being so immersed for the month, but taking a step back was good to see the broader things. I was going to leave after starting a program in a month’s time. The best part is that it’s going to continue and what I was able to do will never end. In the afternoon, I spent some time on Long Street bopping around the markets and getting some gifts for friends and family back at home. Thankfully, when I got back to the office, I was just catching some of the people leaving and was able to say my goodbyes then. It’s so hard to say goodbye to people who have made such an impact in such a short time. I will always wonder what it would be like working there full time in such a positive environment constantly. I told everyone that it was goodbye for now and I would be back soon! I’m really hoping I can go back at some point to see how the library has progressed and where there still needs work to be done. After work (and downloading an episode of SVU) some of the girls headed to Long Street Café to get some quick dinner. Somehow we ended up staying for 2 hours! It was great to get a final time out on Long Street with it’s trendy atmosphere, relaxed vibe from the locals, and it’s GREAT food! When the girls got back, the others had already cooked and eaten, so we decided to watch a movie on a quiet Friday night since we were able to snag the projector from the office. This gave me some time to pack and get things sorted before a big day on Saturday. I definitely started to get sad about leaving, but at this point, I knew it really hadn’t hit me quite yet.
Catch ya on the flipside!
Dancing in the circle for the last time and the coaches dancing while their players wait to get tested
The last day at the centre for me yesterday was so tough. Saying goodbye to all of the people who have taught me how the centre operates, where there are problems to be patched, and how I can help out was not easy. GC, the “boss, Lunga, Vuyo, Mams, Poppy, Chris, Mthura, Azola Ayanda, Amanda, all of the other coaches, the peer education group, the preschoolers, and of course the literacy kids yesterday, have all been a part of my everyday life here in Cape Town and although they will always have a place in my life, I feel like I’m sort of closing a door to a huge part of my life. GRS has become so much of who I am, what I believe in, taught me and brought out so many characteristics I never thought I had. Thank you will never cover it, but leaving the centre last night, was the only thing I could say to all of the people who have been instrumental to me this month. In the morning, we headed straight to the centre since they were doing testing there for Skillz Street later in the day. I handed over all of my materials to Durkin and met with the leaders of the literacy group for one last time before they needed to work with the girls. I know I am leaving it in good hands and they will continue to make the program great, but I wish I could be there to see it happen. They promised to skype me in when making major decisions, and I would LOVE to do that, so school might get put on hold for a GRS literacy emergency sometime, it’s bound to happen. After all of that was squared away, some of the coaches took me to get my last meal of township food, and they ordered me a “fat cook.” Basically, it’s a mix between fried dough and a roll, with a hot dog in the middle. They’re SO good, but I can’t think about how unhealthy it is. The bread is freshly baked and just melts in your mouth, but im still iffy about the whole meat inside, don’t exactly trust it, but it was my last day, I had to. When Skillz Street started, I went and joined the circle for my last time. They called me, asked me to dance, and I got to say goodbye to them all. Unfortunately, afterward, I had to work, holding down the fort at registration for the HIV testing (called HCT here for HIV counseling and testing). It was all going really smoothly, all the girls were really excited about getting testing and the coaches were really supportive with all of them. They were singing, dancing, chanting, and smiling. It took a little bit longer because there were only 4 coaches instead of 5, but everything seemed to stay in good order. Unfortunately, there was one girl who tested positive who didn’t know she was. This time it was a little easier to handle because of the situation on Tuesday, but finding that out still pulls at my heart. She was only 12 and today, the coaches are going to her house to get her retested, find counseling, and handling it the proper way. They are all so strong with dealing with it and always so positive about the future. When all of the girls had left, I knew I wanted to get tested. Not because I thought I was positive, but to go through the emotional side of it. I was nervous all day just thinking of the “what-ifs” even though I had no reason to worry. I went into the tiny room, went through a series of questions and procedures, and then got my finger pricked. It took about 5 minutes for the test to come back, but when the single line showed up showing I was negative, it was such a good feeling. Getting tested is really important even if you have confidence that you are negative, and I’m really glad I did it. I wanted to empathize with the girls who have reason to be worried, to kind of know what it’s like to sit in that room and truly not know what the result will be. It’s scary and I know I am so lucky to have grown up in a healthy, safe, and protected community. After an already long day, it was 5:30 and we were just driving home the testers and the girls who lived further away. We napped in the office a little, took a trip to the chip store, and tried to pass time. It was 7:30 when we left the township, so my goodbye was in the dark. Being in the township almost everyday is eye opening and makes me appreciate everything I have, here and at home. I cannot imagine living in a shack, with a tin roof, limited power, and not having opportunities to make a change to your life. Talia and I agreed to still go out to dinner although it was 9 by the time we got to the restaurant and were clearly under dressed. Jeans, sweatpants, dirty shirts were clearly not the look (nor is it ever in Cape Town). But the thai food was delcicious and spending time with Talia was awesome. She’s been a mentor to me this whole time, works her butt off with the coaches teaching them new skills, being patient with them when they demand absurd requests, and learning from them and their stories. We have somewhat of the same family situation at home, and she’s went to emory (one of my top choice schools) so it’s really cool to see what she’s done with the opportunities here in Cape Town. She leaves in two weeks, traveling to Thailand an then Israel where some of her family lives, and I think her goodbye will be the hardest at the centre. They’re her best friends, her coworkers, her mentors, and the relationship she’s built with the people who live there is incredible. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and knew today would be just the same- full of goodbyes. I’ve tied up some loose ends with work in the office this morning and am planning on taking the afternoon off to get some packing (and shopping) done. I’m getting a little bit worried about Hurricane Irene, but hopefully it’ll pass before I get to Atlanta. Fingers crossed, the last thing I need is to be stuck in airport. If I’m stuck, I want to be here, in CAPE TOWN! Tea time is soon here, and it’ll be good to get everyone together for one last time.
Catch ya on the flipside!
Yesterday was really tough for me. It was the start of the end but also the beginning of something great. When I got to the centre, I had a meeting about M&E for the lit program and how we are going to monitor the progress of the kids as the program continues. We came up with some good ideas, but it’s also hard because they’re still in school. I finalized a GRS Event calendar I was asked to do on the side, always piling on work to the low-end interns (just kidding GRS family!) Of course, I was more than happy to do it and turned out to be a cool project seeing what was happening across Africa. Prepping for the lit program has been a routine, but yesterday was different. It would be my last time running the program before leaving and handing it over to Durkin. Working on factors and multiples was a lot easier than fractions the week before, but I was disappointed because numbers were down. I wanted the last day to be the best energy, most enthusiastic, and even though there weren’t many students, I have never seen the kids so engaged. At points I would look up and it would be dead silent, the kids hard at work. Heads down, pencils scribbling down numbers. By the end, it kind of hit me that this was the end of hands on involvement, but hopefully I can still stay involved with brainstorming, planning, and evaluating when I get back to the States. Azola told the kids I was leaving at the end and each one of them came up and gave me a hug goodbye and said their thanks. Yes, I got a little teary-eyed, knowing I might not see these kids again, and also knowing that I have to go back to a VERY different life at home soon. But all that’s well ends well. This isn’t the end though. I realized how much I wanted to go back and share everything I’ve learned with my friends and family. As much as this trip was about me, and following what I wanted to do, what I had planned, and how i needed a break from my routine, it’s so much more than that. As a part of GRS, I need to share the wealth of information I have learned about the program, the kids, the changes that could be made to make it better, the praise that GRS receives, and how every single person can make a difference. It sounds corny I know, but if one 17 year old girl can spend a summer, develop a library and a literacy program and implement it too, that shows it’s not impossible. I had doubts I would get down here and have no impact but that’s not true. I committed myself to this and anyone that does the same can do just what I did. I haven’t even made a dent in solving the greater problems, but GRS together has done incredible things. It’s all around the community here, creating a positive, healthy environment, and a place where people are happy. I am so fortunate to be a part of it now, and hopefully this is not the end. My last day of the literacy program doesn’t mean I’m finished. It wasn’t a goodbye, but more like I’ll see you soon again. Later in the night, I went back to the office to skype with my mom and figure out plans for the week I get back and the last week of summer! I’ve missed the warm days and nights, West Hill Lake, Cape Cod, driving with the top down on my Jeep, and spending time in the sun, but hopefully I can squeeze some of that in when I get back. I’m at the centre now for my last day and going to write about that more later. Big plans for me later today- doing something I’ve never done before and will have a big impact on me only if I’m in Africa
Catch ya on the flipside!