Experiences of a med student with an incurable travel bug.

Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Condoms are OK!

…at least to stop the spread of AIDS, according to the Pope. In any other situation they’re still prohibited.

*sigh*

Well, it’s a start. This a huge improvement from last year when he declared that “condom use did not help prevent the spread of AIDS, only abstinence and fidelity did” — a scientifically disproven fact, by the way. Condom use can, in fact, significantly reduce the spread of HIV infection, which can develop into AIDS, in both men and women. (“A critical look on condoms,” Kigbu and Nyango, Niger J Med 2009, Oct-Dec; 18(4):354-9)

Losing the battle against AIDS

Uganda, which was once a leader in the fight against AIDS, is now struggling to continue the battle. Insufficient funds (“According to the Uganda AIDS Commission, the lifetime bill for treating one Ugandan AIDS patient, counting drugs, tests, and medical salaries, is $11,500.”), insufficient education, insufficient medical personnel, insuffient…everything. Despite cheaper, generic antiretrovirals becoming available earlier this decade, there are still not enough. “‘Family members…will often share one set of pills, an act of love that leads to disaster. Incomplete treatment means both will probably die, but may first develop drug-resistant AIDS and pass it on.'” Furthermore, the medications and treatment strategies are still considered too expensive; donors and world leaders have begun to shift their focus from AIDS to other diseases, such as malaria and diarrhea, that have much cheaper remedies, like mosquito nets and water filters. Read more from the NY Times.

These other diseases certainly deserve attention and need to be addressed, but this needs to happen IN ADDITION to combating AIDS, not instead of. Encourage your government representatives to support the Global HEALTH Act of 2010, which will assist developing countries in recruiting, training, and keeping qualified health care workers. (Check out the bill here.) Give to your favorite organization and make a direct; a friend of mine recommended this fantastic organization as one that is both reputable and brings real, tangible results. Talk to others and educate about this devastating disease and how much more needs to be done globally.

Do something.

Robben Island

To add to an already action packed weekend, we went to Robben Island on Sunday. For those of you less familiar with South African history, Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 total years of imprisonment. We had a half hour ferry ride to the island, followed by a bus tour to see island landmarks. Prior to becoming home to a prison, Robben Island (“seal island” in Afrikaans) was a leper colony. Few remnants, including a grave yard, remain from this era. The island, which is now a museum, is generally empty save for the cluster of barracks constituting the prison itself and a small town where island employees and their families live. Following the bus tour, an ex-political prisoner led us on a prison tour, describing prison life and showing us the cell where he had resided and the 2m by 2m cell Mandela was confined to for 18 years. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could survive in one of these cells under such conditions for so long, “let alone orchestrate one of the greatest sociopolitical movements of the century.” (M. I., Captain’s Log, April 20) [Plagiarism is strongly discouraged here.]

Wine Tasting, Round 2, and Best Train Ride Ever

Though I’d already done a wine tour in Stellenbosch, I was excited to go again when Stephanie set us up with a great deal – her dad has connections with these guys who own a winery here, and they had offered to give us a wine tour and tasting, for FREE! What college kid is going to turn down anything free, especially wine?! So early on Saturday morning we got ourselves on a train to Stellenbosch. We enjoyed brunch at a little café before heading to Beau Joubert, the winery, around 1. Here we met Andy, our tour guide for the day, who happens to be a Green Bay native! A great afternoon ensued, in which Andy gave us a private tour of the place and let us sample 11 – yes, eleven – different wines, some of them right out of the cooling tanks and aging barrels. He even drove us through the vineyards and out to the wooded area of their grounds where they have fresh spring water they’d like to bottle. Through it all we were talking about all things Wisconsin, with a mix of South Africa; any time you find a stranger from home you both just get so excited to talk about the things you both know and understand (ie: Brett Favre).

After this pleasant day we headed back to the train station to catch the train home, thinking we’d reached the end of the day’s adventures. We had checked to see what time the train went back to Cape Town, so when it arrived as expected, we hopped on and settled in for the ride home. The compartment doors slid shut, and the train did indeed depart – in the opposite direction. Having been here for a while, we’re used to things going wrong; in fact, it’s more unnerving when things go right. This, however, posed a few more problems than we had bargained for that night. It was now getting dark, and we were heading in the wrong direction on a form of transport we’d been told by everyone in the city not to take after dark. Ok, not a big deal, there were five of us and there were plenty of people around. We just asked a fellow passenger how we could get to Cape Town. She told us not to worry, the train would turn around soon (relative term, of course) and go back to Cape Town. Great! We were set.

The train did indeed turn around after a while and head back toward Cape Town. We had arranged for a taxi to come pick us up when we arrived at the station as it was now too late to take a minibus, so we just waited for the train to pass all the other stops. When the train pulled into the Belville station, we didn’t think anything of it, it was just another stop on the line. Then the lights turned off and the train locked down. Perfect. So we open the compartment door and wait for the employee walking the length of the train to reach us; we asked about getting to Cape Town, and he informed us that the train was just stopping there in Belville that night. Ok then, wonderful. He did walk us to the police station about 100 meters away where we could devise our next plan of action. The police didn’t mind us loitering in their station too much, but they were reluctant to give us a ride home without charging us. So, we got our cab driver to come allllll the way out to Belville to pick us up and drive us home. During the wait, Molly nearly got herself arrested for taking a picture of the police station; they let her off with a lengthy lecture on needing to ask people for permission before taking their pictures, and having her prove to them she had deleted the picture. Mind you, the picture was of the station from the outside, so while there was some of the station’s window in the picture, you couldn’t see anyone inside….

Eventually our taxi arrived and delivered us safely to our homes. He was even more defiant than we were about the police not bringing us back; he insisted that it’s their job to get stranded people, such as ourselves, to safety. The thing is though, like most things here, what the police are supposed to do and what they actually do are two very different things, often determined or influenced by lack of financial and other resources.

Howzit

When I came to South Africa, it was under the impression that I was going to a country where I’d be able to get by with my somewhat decent knowledge of the English language. Little did I know, there happens to be a whole different language of slang in use here, influenced by a mix of Afrikaner, British, and assorted others. Unless you pay close attention, it’s pretty easy to have no idea what someone’s talking about.

South African Slang Essentials:

keen – anxious, eager
lekker (pronounced lekka) – good, cool, sweet, etc.
shame – too bad (same as U.S., but used approximately every 1.5 seconds in normal conversation)
howzit – how are you, how is it going
izzit – really, is that so
robot – stoplight
globe – light bulb
torch – flashlight
lift – elevator or a ride somewhere
jersey – sweater
takkies – tennis shoes
mealies – corn, corn meal (maize, not sweet corn)
hectic – crazy, busy
hooting
– honking of a car horn
sorry – excuse me, pardon me
cheers – bye, see you later

If ever you find yourself in a situation where you need to pass as a South African, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Initiate conversation with a laid back “Howzit”
  2. Respond to any remark with “izzit” or “shame”
  3. If asked when you will do something, say “just now”
  4. Bid farewell with “Cheers!”
  5. Rinse and repeat

You’ll notice that any question with a “when” element should be responded to with “just now.” This is a blanket phrase that is used to mean right now, soon, sometime within the next three weeks, or perhaps “never, but would you stop bothering me about it?” If you’re lucky, you might get a “now now,” which is a slightly more immediate form of just now, tending to indicate that it should happen within the next few hours – or days.

Well, I’ve been through the desert…

…on a horse with no name – only it wasn’t a horse, it was a truck (not a bus!), and its name was Lennon. And there were a few tour guides to make sure we didn’t kill ourselves on the strychnine plants or the deadly scorpions. It was pretty fantastic, particularly as we all managed to make it back alive and relatively unharmed. Here’s the break down:


Day 1: Departed from Cape Town, driving north to the Cederberg Mountain Region. After one of our shortest bouts of driving of the trip we arrived at the backpackers lodge and set up camp. We were using tents, old-school canvas tents that were actually much roomier than I anticipated, and very easy to assemble. As it was blasted hot, we changed and walked through the citrus fields to the river for a swim. The river turned out to be a small, small stream, with a strip of sandy shore line, and it was perfect, nice and cool while the sand was scalding. We’d been hanging out there for a while when a group of boys, probably ~9-11 year olds, showed up to swim too. At first they didn’t seem to know what to think about a bunch of tourists invading their swimming hole, but they eventually warmed up to us, probably because some of us had brought inner tube that we let them use. They were adorable, skinny little black boys just being boys, racing each other across the river and doing handsprings and flips into the water.


Day 2: We continued our journey north in the trucks, camping that night on the shores of the Orange/Gariep River, which constitutes a large portion of the South Africa-Namibia border. Once again, it happened to be hot, so we decided to go for a swim. Only this time —


WE SWAM TO NAMIBIA.


Seriously. Not even 50 meters across the river, and we were standing on Namibian soil. I’m still amazed that we were legally able to do that; it’s not at all like the Rio Grande between the US and Mexico, where I’m fairly certain they don’t just let you swim across for fun. And here, there’s just no where to go after you make it across; there’s no one for miles in any direction in either country. That being said, I’m sure that people do come across the border here and in other places if they are able to make it to that point; the number of refugees in South Africa is astronomical, people fleeing from Darfur, Sudan, and everywhere in between. Having met a Darfur refugee, a doctor who was imprisoned and tortured for helping his people, who escaped and fled on foot from within Darfur, through jungles, and snuck across the South African border, I know that there are plenty of people who come to South Africa this way.

Day 3: In the morning we canoed 7ish kilometres on the Gariep/Orange River. Only it was more rafting than it was canoeing in this inflatable dingy (kinda like the rescue boat I spent most of last summer in, sans the motor); the river was absolutely still except for the 2 or 3 places that were kinda like small rapids if you used your imagination, so it actually took a bit of work to propel the boats through the water, whereas real canoes would have been super easy. It was really beautiful though.

That afternoon we officially crossed the border into Namibia, this time via truck. It may have been this day that the trucks just pulled over in the midst of all this crazy plants to tell us all about them. As it turns out, these bushes contained strychnine (in theory) – pronounced “strike-nine” if you’re African – and therefore incredibly deadly. Remarkably, we all resisted the urge to touch them, but Amanda and I did get a great picture of me restraining her from getting at the bush, which captured the theme of our relationship (“Amanda, that’ll kill you, please don’t!”). After setting up camp, we headed over to the Fish River Canyon, second in size only to the Grand Canyon, where we watched the sunset over the canyon.


Day 4: More driving. As we continued north the landscape got more and more sparse as we got closer to the heart of the Namib Desert. As can be expected in such an arid area with harsh conditions, the population density is extremely low; we’d drive for hours without seeing anyone, and the sighting of another vehicle brought on horn honking from both parties as everyone was just happy to see another soul. I think it was this day that at one point the trucks just stopped in the middle of nowhere, there was nothing around for miles except huge expanses of desert, and the guides told us to just go see what it was like to be in that huge empty space. We all took of running in different directions and just absorbed it; dead silence, nothing visible apart from barren desert for miles. Incredible. That evening we hiked around the Sesriem Canyon – or at least tried to. As it turns out, there was actually water in the base where we would have walked, so that interrupted the hike. We did find a cool cave in the side of the rock though, which we proceeded to crawl around in and attempt artsy pictures (with moderate success). Found deadly scorpion at dinner that night.


Day 5: Up before dawn to embark on a race to the sand dunes, attempting to beat everyone else there so our footprints could be the first on the fresh sand. At 6:00am sharp we were off, literally racing all the other cars that were trying to do the same thing, passing little cars in our beast of a truck as we rushed to Dune 45, one of the highest dunes in the Namib Desert. You might ask why it’s called Dune 45; our guides told us lots of reasons: it’s 45km from the campsite, it’s as high as a 45 story building, etc…all lies. Not the first, or the last, time they lied; if they didn’t know something (or even if they did), they’d just make something up for their own amusement. You’d have to with that job, fielding ridiculous questions from tourists all the time. By the end of the trip we were just pointing at things and asking them to tell us, no, to make something up, about the object in question, because we found it highly amusing as well. Oh, the real reason it’s called Dune 45? All of the dunes are numbered. No particular reason or pattern.


We weren’t quite the first people to the dune, but we were close. We began the trek up the side of the dune, which turned out to be a bit of a challenge; with every step you took you’d end up sliding down almost as far with the cascading sand. After a while though we made it and collapsed on the top ridge to watch the sunrise. There are a lot of minerals in the sand there, which has actually led to rusting in the sand, giving the dunes a beautiful reddish-orange hue, which changed by the second as the sun rose. It was positively gorgeous, and we did a regular senior-picture style photo shoot to try to capture it, even though you just can’t get that on camera.


After breakfast at the truck, we went to a place where some people went on a guided walk while the rest of us just played in the desert. We found a patch of parched ground that was most definitely the exact spot where Simba collapsed from dehydration and nearly died before being rescued by Timon and Pumba. Of course we re-enacted the scene.


That night was spent in Solitaire, supposedly the smallest town in Namibia with a population of ~32 and a mayor named Moose, who also ran the campground we were at. As Solitaire is famous for its apple pie (yeah, don’t ask) we finished off the night with a piece. Don’t worry, it was nothing compared to the homemade stuff back home, but still pretty good considering the lack of apples in the middle of the desert.


Day 6: Found deadly scorpion under Amanda and Stephanie’s tent, right next to ours when packing up in the morning. Meh. Drove to and arrived in Swakopmund, where we booked the next day’s activities with a group called Desert Explorers. As this company has hosted Brangelina in the past (Brad Pitt + Angelina Jolie for all the confused parents out there), how could we go wrong?


Day 7: SANDBOARDING! We did stand-up boarding, which was basically snowboarding except on the side of a sand dune. This also allowed us to do lie-down boarding, which was just like sledding down the dune on a bit of greased board. They clocked us going 60-80km per hour at the bottom! See pictures, and be amazed no one got seriously injured.


Day 8: On the bus by 4am to begin our long journey back, stopping in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, on the way through. We stayed just inside the South African boarder for the night at the same place we stayed on the second day where we swam to Namibia. ~16 hours of driving


Day 9: Left at 5 to finish the drive, arriving in Cape Town at 5pm. We had asked if they could let us out on the Main Road instead of driving us all the way back to campus as it would be closer to everyone’s houses and would cut the mountain out of our walk. As we drove in, wondering where they might decide to stop, they just happened to pull over right on the end of our street! It was amazing, we told Bernie, one of our guides, that we lived just a block away, and he responded, “I knew it, I could feel it in my bones!” hahahaha. From there they just kept stopping periodically along Main, letting everyone else off near their houses too. So nice.


So there ends my Namibian tour. While I can hardly do it justice in a blog and with photos, I hope you’ve enjoyed both, they were amazing!

and Found

I FOUND MY KEYS!!!! Seriously, it’s unbelievable…I had back tracked all across campus, my walk home, everything, and I kept checking in Campus Protection Services and the Jammie Shuttle to see if anyone had turned them in and I just wasn’t getting anywhere. Then on Monday night, in a stroke of brilliance, we decided to try the keys for my roommates’ doors in mine to see if any were the same, just in case I had to have new copies made (that way we could avoid our landlord). Well, to complete the chain of events as of late, Amanda’s key proved to lock my door — but not to unlock it. I really have no idea how that’s possible, but you know, whatever. So I finally called my landlord and told her that I was locked out of my room, could she please come let me in. Well, she had dinner plans, which were clearly vastly more important than her job in attending to the people she leases a house to, so she was too busy to come over, she’d stop by in the morning. So I spent the night in Amanda’s room, and got up in the morning to go to class, only to realize that not only were all my books, phone and everything that own locked in my room, so was my campus ID so I couldn’t go to my first class since I needed it to get through the turnstiles into the med school campus. So I called Janice, the landlord, to let her know that my phone was locked in my room along with everything I needed for class, so could she please call me on the landline to let me know when she’d be coming as I’d be there since I wasn’t able to go to class. After a bit she called back, and she had some woman named Annie that none of us knew stop by with her master keys to let me in. As it turns out, the keys got Annie into a wardrobe on the second floor, in which were copies of all our room keys that the cleaning lady uses. So there was a key to my room 15 feet away the whole time. We were a little irked.

After finally getting into my room, I grabbed my stuff and went to grab a Jammie to upper campus. When I got there, the bus ticket window was open, so I asked if they had happened to find any keys. She sent me to a manager type person, who got a security person, who had me talk to the head of the bus department, then passed me over to two other security people, one of which took me across the bridge to the other office, and after talking to someone through another window we went in the office over there, where my keys were sitting!! So I have no idea if someone grabbed them off the Jammie and turned them in, if they were on the ground, or what, but I have them back! I hugged the security guy that I was with, and then when I went back across the bridge to finally go to class, the first security guy, this 6+ foot big guy gives me a hug — “I’m so happy for you, I’m so glad you found them!” Me too, meeee tooooo. Wow. Miracles happen.

I’m still waiting to hear about classes; my home university is being pretty snotty about it, but hopefully that’ll work out soon, too. They just keep insisting that they need time for processing, though as I keep telling them, I do realize that this is a very busy time of year, and I have been trying to allow as much time as possible for processing; unfortunately, this time line has been imposed on me by UCT. I tried to seek approval for courses last semester already, and then UCT changed which biological courses they would be offering, not releasing the information until well into our orientation here in February. This meant that I had to find an upper level science course just a few days before lectures began, and then seek approval to even register for the course. As there are so few science courses offered, this physiology course was one of two applicable biology courses, the other one of which conflicts with another course required for my major. I therefore registered for physiology and have been trying to get approval ever since.

If the physiology course I am currently in will not transfer back at the 400+, I need to know within the next couple of days so that I may switch my entire schedule to try to accommodate a different class. UCT has been very understanding, making arrangements so that I can still switch courses this week despite the add deadline having already passed. As I absolutely must be enrolled in a course that will transfer home at the advanced level and UCT has only given me a few days to switch courses (it’s already passed the add deadline, they made extensions for me), I have to request that this be handled quickly. It is not an option for me to remain in a course for the duration of the semester only to find out at the end that I will not be receiving applicable credit. [I just directly copied some of this from my emails back and forth and didn’t change much, so sorry if it sounds strange…]

So hopefully I’ll find out soon…grr…

Lost

So every Thursday we have a housekeeper come to clean our house; the interesting thing is that we have to clean so that she can clean. I don’t understand it either. Yep, a housekeeper’s included in our rent; everybody’s got one. It’s nice that she comes once a week to keep the place clean, but I’d be ok with paying less and having the floor mopped a little less frequently. Also, it freaks me out a little how she moves stuff around in my room…I have it organized a certain way for a reason, it’d be nice if she’d leave it that way instead of condensing everything into one disorganized pile.

And talk about stressful, my classes still aren’t figured out, which is really frustrating; my home institution is giving me the run around in getting my classes approved for an appropriate transfer level. Every other science course that has been taken at this, the 3000, level on the UCT campus has transfered back as a 400-600 level course on my campus. This is only appropriate as 3000 is the highest level course one can take at UCT, so it is inherently comparable to the courses classified as “advanced” at home. But of course, there are miles of red tape and hoops to jump through in order to get everything to go through.

And to top it all off I seem to have lost my keys at SHAWCO training yesterday. Everything shuts down on Sunday so I couldn’t make much progress in finding them, but I’m praying that they turn up this week. Campus Protection Services has a box full of lost keys that I went through today (it was the only place open on all of campus, that and a sandwich tent run by this helpful Greek — at least he struck me as Greek, I was kinda preoccupied), and they said to come back tomorrow and over the next few days since people definitely turn in lost keys. Really, they’re no good to anybody since they’d have no way of knowing what house in four different suburbs they belong to. Hopefully I’ll also be able to get in touch with SHAWCO people and the Jammie shuttle (UCT bus) soon to see if they know anything. If they don’t turn up I’ll have to get them replaced; four keys at what sounds like it would be about $10/key, less for the one that’s not a skeleton key, which would suck, but it could be worse I guess.

Also, I’m trying to figure out travel plans for spring break, etc. There are so many cool things to do here, I have no idea where to even begin! And it would be a little bit easier to figure it out if I didn’t have to spend my time running around town and stressing about my keys and courses.

Refugees, concerts, and bobotie

On Saturday I went downtown with my roommate Amanda to meet Muhammed Ali, a Darfur refugee she met the other day. He’s really amazing; he was a doctor in Darfur, and he was imprisoned by the rebels when he continued to practice and to help all injured people/anyone who needed to help. While in prison, he was tortured and God only knows all of his experiences. He was fortunate enough to escape, at which point he literally ran through the jungles to seek refuge in South Africa, sneaking across the border as he didn’t have passport or anything of the sort. SA has a policy that permits all Darfur refugees to remain here, so he is allowed to remain here as he tries to rebuild his life. Currently he is selling his and others’ art downtown to help pay for necessities while he is earning his Masters in Public Health. Though he is no longer a “practicing” doctor per se, he continues to help all sorts of street and poor people in the area that can’t afford health care when they fall ill.

On Sunday we went to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for the sunset concerts that they have there all summer. We got there early so we could wander around the vast, beautiful gardens at the base of Table Mountain before picnicking at the concert. The Rudimentals were playing that night, a ska band that’s pretty big here. It was a very fun time, will definitely be doing it again.

Today, Monday, was the first official day of classes. It went pretty well, and my courses should be relatively interesting. Tonight Graham and Claire had a big party at their house since Graham’s sisters, Sandy and Sharon, were both in town from India and California, respectively. It was a blast; their whole family was there, plus all their friends, so it was a huge party. I obviously didn’t know hardly anyone, but it was very fun, and it was kinda cool to be on the opposite side of things for once – it was interesting to see what people experience when they come to my family holidays! Graham and the family were warning me initially about how there’d be so many people and they’d all be curious about me so I’d be kinda in the spotlight, but then they’d say that actually it shouldn’t be too bad, that it probably wouldn’t be anything compared to my family’s gatherings and that I’d be used to it! Lol, I guess I do come from a bit of a sizeable, rambunctious family, don’t I…

Claire made bobotie for the party, a traditional Cape Malay dish that was positively amazing. It was kind of like meat loaf, but better. She also made ice cream. When I left they insisted on sending home leftovers with me – clearly the concept of the poor, hungry college student is universal, and I was glad to have them!

Adjustment

Adjusting to life in Cape Town has been particularly interesting, mostly because I came here with a totally different frame of reference from everyone else. All of my friends are comparing this to home, and there seems to be a consensus around all the ways Cape Town is deficient in comparison: the internet is so slow, the mini busses are so sketchy, there isn’t this or that, such and such doesn’t work like at home, the power goes out all the time, and “South African” time is such a pain.

Well.

Having come here directly from Uganda, a very, very “third world,” developing country, I have a bit of a different outlook on things.

For one thing, this is a first world city, and it’s pretty strange to have access to things like malls, varieties of fast food, and nice roads again. Any thing you might want is attainable, which is great to know.

I’m just so excited to have internet at all, and it’s actually pretty darn fast, even compared to home it seems. Even though it is pretty expensive, at least it’s available.

As it turns out, mini busses are SA’s version of matatus, only they are much classier; I have yet to be in one with a shattered wind shield, all of the doors tend to open, and I’ve never had more than 20 people in one here. They are also a very cheap, effective way to get around the city, even if they’re not always the quickest or most direct. Unfortunately you really can’t take them at night as they’re just too dangerous after dark (which is true of the city as a whole).

I still marvel at the presence of hot water. I mean, it’s there every time I want to shower! It’s pretty exciting to have regular hot showers.

Food. I can drink milk again without worrying about whether it was boiled. Milk from the stores, shakes in cafes…and really, pretty much anything that I’d want is just a few blocks away at the grocery store. It’s not exactly what I’d get at home, but there’s a huge selection compared to three weeks of starch starch starch (and the same starch each time).

And the best thing? WE CAN DRINK TAP WATER!!! I hate having to buy water. Everyone should have access to clean water, thank goodness we do again. Shameless plug: check out Village Health Project if you’re interested in how our organization is working so that more people can have clean water sources.

It’s a little tough because coming from Uganda, things are expensive here! In reality, everything’s still cheap in comparison to home, but after being able to eat for an entire day for less than $2 it does take some adjusting. Now if I want to eat on campus or cheap take away each meal is under $2, so it really adds up! 🙂 It’s hard to adjust the perspective. Going out to eat at the nicest places in town can run you about $20, more if you’re drinking, but you can go to pretty nice places for about $12-15. Plus they deliver anything you can imagine – sushi, thai, ostrich, shakes, and pretty much all of it’s under $10.

As for the power outages, it’s all a lot of hype. There is supposed to be load shedding here at the moment, which means that different electricity grids in the city are supposed to have planned power outages for 2-3 hours every couple of days to cut down on usage. This is all because a few years back SA realized that it would need new power sources soon, and then failed to do anything about it. Now they’re facing a huge energy crisis and it’ll take another decade or so to build more power plants. This typical example of the planning, organization, and foresight here means that we should be regularly losing power; however, this hasn’t been happening at all. There was a huge, unplanned blackout the first Friday I was here, but nothing since then, so we’ve been really lucky. Knock on wood. We didn’t have power a lot of the time, especially nights, that we were in Uganda, so this is pretty nice.

And really, people need to stop whining about South African time. Yeah, someone will tell you 7:00 and show up half an hour late….One night in Uganda JB told us he would be over at 6. He texted to say he’d be late, so we figured about 1-1.5 hours late. Nope. 3.5 hours later he strolls in, totally casual and completely unaware that he may have irritated us. I threw a shoe at him to demonstrate otherwise. His response? “Don’t worry about it! I’m here!” ai yi yi. I was hoping that people would walk faster here as one would think they’d have things to do, places to be, but no such luck. Any time you get behind a group of South Africans you might as well be moving backwards for all the progress you’re going to make. I really have no idea how people make it to class or anywhere else on time, ever.

I’ve been trying not to be too obnoxious about my excitement over all the little things. I try to restrain myself from commenting on it every few seconds and irritating my roommates, so mostly Molly and I just marvel to each other about our hot, drinkable water, and try to ignore other people’s complaints over their unrealistic expectations.