Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saying Goodbyes...

Sorry for the last hurried and blunt post. We're constantly moving and I find it difficult to be at a computer for more than 20 minutes at a time!!

We've done alot these past few days. Saturday we spent mentally and physically recovering. Sunday we went surfing with South Africa's female champion as a mentor!! We also went and saw the penguins in Simon's Town. Monday we went to work and rode a cable car to the top of Table Mountain!! Tuesday we went to our work sites. Tomorrow everyone will be saying their final goodbyes at our sites. Thursday and Friday will be spent visiting the University of Cape Town and the meeting with the U.S. Embassy here in Cape Town, among other things.

I won't be updating my blog again before I leave due to time constraints. We leave Saturday morning and come home around 9:30a Sunday morning. I plan to post a few more detailed blogs once I'm home to help myself in processing this experience and to share more insight with all of you from my journey.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Another Week, Another Emergen C Pack..


First, ignore my spelling and grammar. This blog post was rushed!! The beginning of this post of written mostly on Thursday night. The second half recaps a small amount of our week here and future plans this weekend! Enjoy!

South Africa is vibrant, complicated and unpredictable. Things change so quickly. From the weather, to travel plans to social functions, nothing is fully certain. The pace of life here is strange at times but exciting. I had the pleasure of experiencing first hand the rapid flow of emotions here last Saturday night. We had a group outing during the day. After we dropped every one else off around 11:30ish, 5 of us embarked on a strange journey.

Barb, Sabine, Jenn, Dr. Fish, and I set out to a local club for a quick stop. Dr. Fish was saying goodbye to a few friends so the rest of us danced. (If you're wondering, club music is basically the same here as it is back home.) Watching Dr. Fish dance to Kei$ha, Pit Bull, and Madonna was priceless!! Only in the Women's Studies Department do you go clubbing with your professor and then for work a night shift at a public health clinic!!

We showed up at 1:45a and saw our first birth in the clinic at 2:00a. I held the mama's hand through pushing and she delivered a beautiful baby girl. Next two births happened at 4:30a and 4:35a. We were booking it all this point and the lack of sleep/dancing was getting to us. Like I said before, the highs and lows come fast around here. At 7:00a a mother came in having delivered at 23 wks with her baby still attached. I stood by her side through the entire process until she was resting in bed. This was by far the most difficult thing I've ever experienced in my life. I cannot begin to understand what it is like to lose a child. I felt pain, but I know it did not amount to hers. I was appalled by her treatment, her lack of voice during her pain. She finished her miscarriage with little privacy and no medication during the forced removal of the placenta. I was in shock for a few hours. It was so difficult to experience the joy of birth and the tragedy of death all within 5 hrs....

... SO, this week has been difficult to process. I pushed through work on Monday after catching up on sleep, only to find myself sick on Monday night.

Jess and I stayed home together on Tuesday and slept all day.

Wednesday I went back to work at the clinic. I thought death would get easier from a health provider's perspective. I was completely wrong. We experienced another death that afternoon. Wednesday did have its high points. I spent about 30 minutes taking to a new mother. I gave her a patchworks quilt too!!

I started giving out Patchwork quilts on Thursday. I gave out 18 blankets, caps, and booties to new mamas and babies!!

Friday, (TODAY) we got up early and walked to St. George's Cathedral to watch Archbishop Desmond Tutu lead the morning prayers and communion. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAAAAAAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This man prayed in 3 languages and gave me communion!! WHAT A BREAKFAST!!!! Nothing can top that. I'm sorry.... Afterwards we went to Camps Bay High, walked along Camps Bay Beach, and came back to see Molly Blank's (Testing Hope) new film Where Do I Stand? about Xenophobia (Vaughan.. that correct citation is for you from me and Andi!! We miss you!!) She was amazing, the film was amazing! Another contact for my documentary process!!! SO STOKED!!

So the plans for this weekend include a little shopping, table mountain, surfing, and seeing penguins.

Please keep the team in your thoughts and prayers. Most of us are sick or getting sick. I currently have a fever of undetermined proportions... We don't have a thermometer... Thank you for your constant encouragement through email, the blog, and facebook. It really means a lot to me. Enkosi! Love you all!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alive, safe, and sick.

Hey Everyone!

I'm alive safe and sick currently. I found some Emergency C mom packed and I'm overdosing on that today. Just wanted to check in and let everyone know I'm still breathing. Hopefully I will have a new blog post on Saturday. Things have been really rough these past 2 days. I've seen two infant deaths and I've been pretty shaken up. I'm still processing everything so just keep me, my sanity, and my health in your thoughts and prayers. I am very excited about meeting Desmond Tutu on Friday morning!! BE JEALOUS!!! Thank you all for the support! It's so encouraging to read everyone's comments on here and on facebook. Even if I don't have time to respond, just know your encouragement keeps me going!! Love!!

P.S. Teri- Teri doll is my strength some nights!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'm living in contradictions

I'm tired and energized. Though I came to South Africa with little expectations, it was still so different than I imagined. Khayelitsha Maternity Clinic's labour and delivery ward is busy and slow, just like labour. Just as a woman may quietly labour with slow deep breaths, her body is in a constant state of change and progression. In the same way, though the sisters (that's what they call the midwives in the clinic) may be eating, singing, and chatting, there is at any given moment 1-3 women in active labour in the next room and 1-8 women in the early stages of labour in the room beyond the first. Since January 1st of this year, 1437 babies have been born in this clinic.

My role here is different than I expected. I'm learning a lot more about the women working these 12 hour daily shifts and less about birth. These women are amazing, vibrant, resilient, and most of the time I don't understand a word they say. They speak limited English but are determined to teach me Xhosa.

I came here with the expectation of learning midwifery from South Africans, to give emotional support to mothers, and in some space to create a project. I'm not really doing any of those things. I"m learning to "B Still" as my YWCA rock says. I'm learning to take in every click of the Xhosa tongue, and every life lesson the sisters pass on.

As for my project and patchworks, I can't tell you where these journeys will end. Dr. Fish keeps telling me to "trust the process". I'm slowly learning to follow her advice. I keep thinking of a quote from Eddie Izzard in The Riches. "Life's a river kid. You gotta go where it takes you."

Here's a small section from my journal on 7/21, our first day of observation. Tonya is a graduate student at University of Cape Town. She is helping us on our journey to better understand the surrounding culture. Enjoy! Enkosi!

...I'm sitting in the ward watching this woman in labour. She is so quiet. She makes little noise. She walks the halls in laps. She's having a contraction now, softly she whimpers. Tonya says women here are not allowed to feel pain. They have no right, no voice. African women are expected to be stronger, to "shut up and take it". Tonya said the staff is often so overwhelmed and tired that they do not allow patients to express their pain. If these women cry out, they are silenced by weary women working night and day to deliver their babies....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The million dollar question...

First, a few of us have been wondering... Does the ten second rule still apply in foreign countries? Thoughts anyone?

Secondly, I'm having a hard time forming thoughts right now so bare with me.

Today has been interesting thus far. We visited the Khayelitsha Maternity Clinic, Similela Rape Clinic and Fuzeka High School today. Each place was amazing. The Maternity Clinic and Similela are both in the hospital compound. The Clinic has a staff of about 15 women rotating in shifts of 5. These 5 women consist of a combination of midwives and students. The doctor comes about once a week for a few hours to give treatment to higher risk cases. These women are amazing and are excited for us to give any help we can. The Clinic is so underresourced in staff and equipment. (I hope I can bring home your supplies mom!! If not I'll pay you back!! They seemed really excited about stethoscopes!) I will begin working there tomorrow in any capacity I can lend a hand, so please pray I have patience and peace. Interestingly enough, the guest house we are staying in St. Paul's was the first Black Midwifery in Cape Town 150 years ago! Fate?

In honesty, I'm having a hard time dealing with my experience at Similela. South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world and Similela is doing amazing things to heal South Africa from sexual violence. I think seeing both clinics back to back was a little difficult to process. Experiencing birth and in some ways death is difficult in such a short time frame, but I think a little sleep and my art journal are REALLY helping.

Hopefully I will update in a few days. I'm gonna stay away from the internet cafe for a few days to help myself adjust better. Thank you all for the support!

Monday, July 19, 2010

We're here!!!!

Hey everyone!

Quick update from Cape Town!! We made it! After a 1 hr flight, 5 hr lay over, 18 hr flight!!!!, the fastest customs transition I've EVER experienced (seriously, we were running through the airport to catch our flight!!), then a quick hop over to Cape Town we made it!!!! We had an interesting ride over from the airport. All 15 (plus our driver Mputumi and ALL our luggage (each person brought atleast 3 bags, do the math) crammed into a 14 passenger convi with a trailer on the back!! The guest house is beautiful. Jess and I have the most gorgeous room. We are on the first floor and can see Table mountain right outside our window!! We're taking it "easy" (I'm wondering what hard looks like!!!) today. Everyone is getting their internet fix and then after lunch we are heading to G.A.P.A. (Grandmothers Against Poverty and Aids) for a welcome celebration.

Mom and Kikamoy- you guys will be so proud of me! I've eaten yogurt TWO DAYS in a row!! Haha!

Hopefully I will be able to update every few days or so. I appreciate the prayers and warm wishes on my journey. I love you all!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Patchworks on the Lawn

The day has finally come! As of this morning, I finished the last two blankets!!! Teri and I headed out to ODU and laid out all the blankets on the lawn in front of Webb Center to take pictures. Teri and I created the Patchworks of Love project in April. We asked for donations from students, faculty, and staff at ODU, as well as through my work, to donate used clothing and sheets which we then turned into patchwork quilts. I will be taking these quilts and remaining donations with me to South Africa in a few weeks. I will be working at the Khayelitsha Maternity Clinic as a birth doula for 3 weeks and these patchworks will be given to the babies born during my stay. In total 72 patchwork quilts were made!!! A friend also donated 5 gently used baby blankets making a grand total of 77 blankets to be donated! We caused quite a stir has we laid out the blankets. Several people asked us about the project and it gave us a great opportunity to raise awareness.

This project has taught me so many things. Each of these patchworks is completely unique in their fabrics, patterns, and size. While looking at all the blankets laid out, I could recall a memory made with almost every blanket. This project was not possible with out the help of about 15 different people. Each one of you have donated your clothing, money, time, and love to make this a reality. These patchworks are a manifestation of your commitment to others and your desire to help those less fortunate than yourself.

I want to say thank you to everyone who donated clothing for the cause, without you this could not have happened!

Thank you to Cathleen Rhodes, Justin Sprague, and David for donating clothing, batting, and your time!

Thank you to Kelly Varner and Barbara Howard for shipping fabric all the way from California! You guys are awesome!

Thank you to Vaughan Frederick and Katie Anderson for cutting and pinning squares for us!

Thank you to Rachel Crockett Hunter for letting me borrow your sewing machine for the past 1 1/2 months and donating thread!! The machine and I have truly bonded but I am glad to see it go!!!

Thank you to my awesome mother-in-law and Mamo-in-law for making 5 blankets and shipping them from Texas!! I love you both so much!

Thank you to Poema Community Church for donating money to purchase space bags to ensure all the items fit in our suitcases and make it on the plane!

Thank you to my aunt Mimi Brown and baby cousin Hannah for coming through in the last few
days to help me finish sewing 47 blankets!!! You guys are powerhouses and I could not have done it with out you!!

Thank you to my mother, Debbie Eakes, who pinned and sewed tirelessly by my side for the last month! I love you mama!

Thank you to Erika Tolive who almost single-handedly cut all the fabric used in these blankets. I would estimate that Erika cut ATLEAST 1300 six inch x six inch squares. She has donated her time probably more than any one else to this cause. She also helped me this past weekend to push through and finish the last 50 blankets!! She has been a constant source of inspiration, always telling me when I was tired or didn't feel like working, "It's for the babies!" Kikamoy, you are truly an inspiration. It has been wonderful to spend time with you and the baby every week and deepen our friendship. I love you so much and cannot thank you enough!!

Lastly, I wanted to thank Teri Sheffield. Teri, you have been my rock these past few months. Every time I thought we wouldn't have enough donations, batting, thread, machines, time, or energy, you always came through with a word of encouragement or a spelunking adventure. Your pure heart and positive energy kept me going. It has been so amazing to get to know you better and to share our stories about life and love. I know you will be with me in spirit during this trip. Know that with each blanket given out, those babies will be receiving a little piece of your love and heart. I cannot wait to see what our next journey together will entail!! Love you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So without delay, here are the long awaited pictures showcasing your dedication, hard work, and creativity to the cause. Enjoy!

The lovely Katie Anderson, Dr. Fish, Teri and myself!

Trying not to cry!!

Teri and I