Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Ethics Olympics

I realized today that, while I think I've been pretty good about updating my blog regularly (so far I've met my goal of posting once a week!) a lot has happened that you don't know about yet!  I don't want to put it all in one long post, so you lucky blog readers are about to get bombarded with several posts in a short period of time.  It's like Christmas in October, right?  You KNOW that blog posts from me are better than the pumpkin spice lattes that all you lucky Americans are enjoying.

Anyway, last Wednesday the Overstrand Care Centre had a special treat.  We got to go to ethics training!  You don't think that sounds exciting?  Well, you're wrong.  I really enjoyed our training day!  Here's why:
1.  All eight carers who work inside the centre, all of our home-based carers, our admin team, and Martin and I all went together.  That means I actually got to see everyone in one place all at one time.
2.  We were encouraged to wear spring colors (remember it's spring in the Southern Hemisphere), which means everyone got to wear their real clothes instead of navy blue and white uniforms.
3.  The training took place in Stanford, which is about 30k down the road to the East of Hawston, past Hermanus.  It was a little like a field trip!
4.  The home based carers from the entire Overberg area, stretching from Kleinmond to Gansbaii (yes, Gansbaii... that's where the great white sharks are, for anyone who is not a Shark Week buff), were all gathered together, so I got to meet lots of new people!
5.  Instead of lecturing to everyone about ethics for 8 hours, we broke into groups and played games that were intended to teach us ethics-related skills.  Thus, I have dubbed this day 'The Ethics Olympics'.

Early in the morning, we all arrived at the care centre to board our transport van for the ride over to Stanford.  Since I live 10 steps away, all I had to do was roll out of bed, make my coffee, and hop on the van.  Lucky me!  Notice how nice everyone looks.  It was really fun seeing people wear something besides their normal work uniforms.  They were a colorful group!  Notice I said 'they' and not 'we'.  Since I had just rolled out of bed, I looked about the same as usual, and you might notice that I am strategically absent from all the photos.

As we arrived in Stanford, we met up with all the home based carers and their management teams from all the other areas around the Overberg region.  Everyone (except me) knows each other, so it was a happy reunion.  Our hosts in Stanford had decorated, so the day had a real carnival feel to it.

Old colleagues catch up in the reception hall.  We're a pretty big group when we're all together.

The Hawston care centre group poses for a picture.

Soon it was time for the games to begin.  We were divided into seven teams, and each team was challenged to move through the seven stations.  At each station, we had 10 minutes to complete a task and answer a question about the ethical principle that was being taught.  If we were successful, we got a balloon with a clue inside it.  Once we had been to all seven stations, we had to use all the clues to put together the secret message (about ethics).  I don't have any pictures of us doing the stations.  Why not?  Because I was too busy trying to solve the puzzles with my teammates!  Ten minutes doesn't leave a lot of time for photo ops!

Side note:  Notice that 'Time Management' is spelled wrong.  My guess is whoever painted that was rushing to finish.

After we completed all the stations, (my team got all seven balloons, by the way.  AND we successfully decoded our secret message, which turned out to be the definition of ethics) we were tasked with putting on a skit to illustrate three of the ethical principles we had learned about.  Here is one of the teams demonstrating the right way to greet a patient.

Martin explains the ethical principles his team is going to demonstrate.

Here's one thing I've learned about South Africa:  If you ask a group of South Africans to do any sort of public speaking, at least some of them are going to opt to turn the speaking into singing and dancing.  It's a joyful culture, and it's one of my favorite things about the people here.  Nasier, the only guy on the stage in this photo, was REALLY into the song.  This was my favorite group skit.

Another group also decided to sing their skit, and they had everyone else join in too!

So yes, the Ethics Olympics were a lot of fun, and I think that everyone learned something.  I'm so glad I got to participate!  

Oh!  I almost forgot to mention the REAL reason why the Ethics Olypics were so awesome:  they came with LUNCH!!

You better believe I ate everything on that plate.  It's unethical to leave food behind, right?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So great even the whales come!

This weekend I had a special treat.  It was the Whale Festival in Hermanus!  The Whale Festival happens every year in late September.  I was fortunate to arrive in town in time to enjoy it!  Technically, 'whale season' is June through early December in this area.  The Southern right whales show up to the waters of Walker Bay in early winter (remember that's June in South Africa), and they mate and calf here.  They spend several more months in the relatively warm and protected water before heading back to their summer feeding grounds in Antarctica by mid-December.  So, late September is the height of whale season, and the perfect time for a festival that revolves around them!  

I had a lovely weekend enjoying the festival.  Emily came down for the weekend, and we were also joined by Vivian, a nurse from Great Britain who is working with a children's home in Cape Town.  I met Vivian the first week I was in Cape Town, so it was great to see her again!  She is nearing the end of her six months here in South Africa and will return to the UK in November.  I think she was really glad to spend a long weekend on vacation in this gorgeous area where I live!  I was so happy to have Emily to my house.  It was great to be around another American, especially one who has mutual friends in the other YASCers.  Emily and I have been facebook messaging each other ever since I left Cape Town, but I had really missed seeing her face to face!  She's a lot of fun to hang out with for many reasons, including her excellent taste in music, her ability to quote movies like Mean Girls and Legally Blonde, and her willingness to go with the flow and enjoy whatever her day brings.  Needless to say, I was so happy having my two visitors!  

Here are some pictures from the whale festival:

Hermanus is all set up for the festival!  Tents for live music, craft stalls, and loads of tourists around!

Emily and Vivian search for the whales.  They didn't have to wait long before they saw one!

Sadly, this is the best photo of a whale that I have.  Where is the whale, you ask?  On the left side of the frame, you can see its back and its tail as a disturbance and dark area in the water.  I know, I know.  You can't really see much.  I'm sorry, it's just really hard to get a photo mid-breach!  Believe me, I did try!

Gearing's Point is arguably the best spot to watch the whales from.  It's crowded even on a normal day, but you can see how many extra people flock here for the festival!

The whale crier of Hermanus.  His name is Eric.  He is very knowledgable about the whales that live in Walker Bay, and he is absolutely the best at spotting the whales, even at a distance.  Not to mention he's super friendly!  I've met him before, but it was fun to see him during the festival.  When Eric sees a whale, he blows a signal in morse code on his kelp horn.  Many people who don't know any better will tell you that he is calling the whales with his horn, but that isn't true.  He's just alerting you that he's spotted some so you can come take a look!

Do I look happy?  That's because I just saw the whales!

I ran the Whale Half Marathon on Saturday morning.  This 21km race is put on every year by the Whalers Athletic Club, the group that I have been joining for time trials and training runs.  Not my best time, but I had not trained for this race AT ALL.  I was super impressed with myself for just finishing it!  See the cool medal I got?!?

On Sunday we went wine tasting in the Hemel en Aarde valley.  This is a wine route that is literally 10 minutes from my house.  I had no idea there were such great vineyards so close by!  What a pleasant surprise!

Hemel en Aarde means Heaven and Earth.  If you don't see why this area was named Heaven and Earth, then you're blind.

Whalehaven vineyard just opened their tasting room this weekend!  To celebrate, they offered free tastings, and they paired their wine with local jams and chocolates.  It was really fun to experiment with how the flavors in the jam and chocolate changed the taste and feel of the wine.  I absolutely loved this vineyard and I will be going there again.  If you come visit me in South Africa, I will take you too!

Beautiful proteas, the flower of South Africa, at the second vineyard we visited.

Emily and Vivian chose a great weekend to come visit, not only because of the festival, but because they got to stay extra because it is a long weekend.  Today (Tuesday) is a national holiday!  It's called Heritage Day, but most of the people around here call it braii day.  Braiis are a South African tradition, and I've been to two so far.  The best way to describe a braii to an American is a cross between a back yard barbecue and a pot luck.  When you're invited to a braii, you usually bring some meat (or chicken or fish) to grill and a side dish to share.  The actual braii, the grill, uses wood instead of charcoal.  It gives the meat a delicious smoky flavor.  When I woke up this morning, I could already smell the woodsmoke.  I wandered next door to the care center, and this is what I found:

Sheralene and Stephanie are braiing for our patients!  The patients were all sitting outside in the warm sunshine (it was about 65 F today) and watching these ladies work!

The chicken had just come off the braii, and Stephanie is putting the meat and boerewors (sausages) on.

The kitchen staff is buys making salads and cleaning up the dishes.

So you can see what an awesome weekend I've had here in Hawston and Hermanus!  I hope everyone reading this had a great weekend too!  One of the whales I saw kept sticking one of his flippers up out of the water and waving it around.  I think he was trying to ask me to say hi to y'all for him! So, hi from the Hermanus whales, and totsiens from me!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Baie dankie

I've been in South Africa for a little more than a month.  It's hard to believe this much time has already passed!  Since I've been in Hawston, I've started to learn a few Afrikaans phrases, my favorite of which is 'baie dankie' which means 'thank you very much'.  The main reason why this is my favorite phrase is because it is pronounced exactly like 'buy a donkey'.  Baie dankie is more than a quick thanks.  It's a sincere thank you for going above and beyond what is expected in order to make life easier for someone else.  I decided that, in honor of my first month here, I'd like to say baie dankie to some of the people who have made my transition to life in South Africa surprisingly easy.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  I'm grateful to every single person who has welcomed me here, and also to all of my supporters at home.  But I think the people listed below deserve an extra special thanks.

Baie dankie to Carol, the house mother of Anhouse, where I stayed my first week in Cape Town.  On my first morning here, I had not been to the grocery store yet, so I had no food.  Not only did you give me breakfast, you gave me yogurt and granola, which is my very favorite thing!

Baie dankie to Marianne and Mick for showing me your favorite parts of Cape Town on my first weekend.  I could have done the obvious tourist stuff by myself anytime, but instead, because of the two of you, I spent the day sipping fabulous coffee, meeting the artist at a gallery opening, and taking pictures of the most incredible sunset I've ever seen in my life.  I can't wait to come back to Cape Town so you can show me more!

Baie dankie to Iggy.  You quite literally put your life in my hands by teaching me to drive on the left, and avoid the rampant jay walkers, and stay out of the way of the crazy minibus taxis.

Baie dankie to Mari and Ari for housing and feeding me for a week in Cape Town.  I don't know how I got so lucky to stay in your lovely flat with you!  I miss you guys now that I'm in Hawston.

Baie dankie to Desiree for jogging with me every Monday and Tuesday, and for showing me some of the most beautiful running routes that I've ever seen.

Baie dankie to the Hermanus Whalers Athletic Club for accepting me into your circle and letting me participate in your organized runs.  Thanks especially to Liz for slowing down enough that I could keep you in my sights and not get lost!

Baie dankie to Martin for giving me such a great orientation to the care centre, and for empowering me to take charge of what happens here.

Baie dankie to Malan and Ria for opening not only your home, but also your hearts to me.  For everyone who doesn't already know this story, Malan and Ria live near Hawston and are involved in some of the projects that happen at the care centre.  While he was googling the phone number of a care centre worker one day, Malan found my blog!  He and Ria read all of my posts, and shared it with their other family members.  Once I got to South Africa, Malan contacted me and offered me their love and support.  I think it's so amazing that they found this blog sort of by accident, and now they have already become a big part of my life here.  God works in random ways sometimes, but I'm so glad that He has put you both in my path!

Baie dankie to Emily for listening to me during my lower moments (though they have generally been few and far between) and for reminding me that a a few bad moments are normal during a transition like this.

Baie dankie always to the entire parish of St. John's Church in Richmond.  I would not be here at all if not for your financial support, and I truly believe I would not have had such a smooth transition if it weren't for your prayers.

Last and most of all, baie dankie to Jacob.  In the first month we've been apart, I've realized exactly how much I rely on you.  I don't think I really appreciated what you mean to me until I didn't have you around every day.  When something amazing or stressful or sad or funny happens, you're the person I want to tell about it.  Baie dankie for listening as intently over Skype as you do in person.  Baie dankie for the way you reacted when I told you I wanted to leave you for a year.  I said I wanted to do this, and you asked, 'Are you sure?'  When I said, 'Yes, I'm sure,' you simply said 'OK' and started looking for ways to make it happen for me.  Baie dankie for believing in me.  You have confidence that I am capable not only of completing my service here, but also of enjoying it and becoming a part of this community.  The knowledge that you believe that of me is what has gotten me through this transition period so easily.

Dankie to everyone who reads my blog, and baie dankie to everyone who comments on it or sends me emails!  Keep them coming!

Friday, September 13, 2013

A tour of the Overstrand Care Centre

Welcome to my workplace!  Please allow me to show you around.

Here we are in front if the care centre.  Step inside!

You'll be greeted by our admin team, aka the Boss Ladies.  You can catch a glimpse of Julie, the manager of the whole centre.  Be nice to her - she's in charge!

Across from the boss ladies is a nice sunny area where our more mobile patients can eat their meals.  Sometimes we have meetings out here because it's one of the warmest spots in the center!

Walk through the glass doors and you'll be in our waiting area.  We'll give you a comfy seat while you wait for one of our staff to assist you.

Continue on past the waiting area, and you'll see a door on your right.  That's where we store things like extra supplies and old patient charts.  That's also where our social worker, Desiree, has her office.

Keep going down the hall and you'll see this room on your right.  This is the nurses' station, and it's basically Martin's and my office.  Notice the big gray file cabinet.  A few weeks ago I took an entire afternoon organizing the contents of this cabinet.  As my mother will happily tell you, I am NOT an organizer, so if it was bad enough for me to need to organize it, you can rest assured that it really needed cleaning out!  Martin is a very skilled and compassionate nurse, but organization is not his strong suit.  He's such a guy.

Just past our office is the staff lounge.  This is where carers can take a break and eat their meals.

Further down the hall are the patient wards.  We have two large patient wards with six beds and a bathroom in each.  This is the men's ward.  The ladies' ward is just the same, except it has green and pink bedspreads instead of blue and brown.  We also have two smaller wards with two beds each, which are used for patients with highly contagious diseases like TB or for patients who require extra privacy for any reason.

Here is a picture of what is arguably the most important room in the care centre:  the kitchen!  Maria is one of our cooks, and clearly she's enjoying her job right now!

Out the back door, we have a nice fenced back yard.  Our staff provides for all the needs of our patients while they are at the centre, including their laundry.  You're likely to find laundry drying on the line pretty much any time of day.  And yes, the tan building on the left just behind the fence is my house!  You can see that I have a very easy commute to work.  It's about 10 steps!

Also in our back yard is a lovely vegetable garden.  I have no idea how they got it to grow so well in the soil here, which is essentially just sand.  I can't get stuff to grow that well in my backyard in Virginia!  And remember, I took this picture in the middle of winter!  Just imagine this place in the summer!

And here is Sheralene, one of our carers.  She took time out of her busy day to say hi!

Thanks for coming to work with me today!  I hope your enjoyed your tour.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pictures and recap of my first week in Hawston

I'm at the end of my first week in Hawston!  Let me start recapping the week by making you super jealous.  This is the view from my back yard:

I took that photo the first night.  The sunset was incredible!  Unfortunately, the color comes from the big storm clouds that were rolling in.  It rained most of the weekend, and I admit that I was rather cold for my first few nights in my new home.  But it has been much warmer this week, and I haven't needed to turn on my heater most nights, but I'm super glad I purchased it.  It helps warm up the house on nights when it is cold.

Here are some more pictures:

Again, taken from my backyard.  You can't tell because of the light, but I can see the ocean!

My house, as viewed from my back yard.  As I mentioned, it used to be a children's home, so there is a swing set.  On Monday night, the two little girls who live next door came into my yard to play on the swing.  They didn't speak any English, and I don't know enough Afrikaans to communicate beyond the most basic introductions.  But they were obviously enjoying themselves.  After a while, three more little girls from across the street joined them, and I was suddenly the host of a spontaneous party.

The front of my house.  It says 'St. Andrew's House of Hope' on the side.  That was the name of the children's home.

My living room.  All of the furniture and decorations were there before I moved in.

Part of my kitchen

My bedroom

My bathroom.  That's basically the tour of my house!

Now for some pictures of Hermanus.  Hermanus is the resort town that is about 9 miles down the road from me.  It is full of beautiful views, lovely cafes, and lots of shops.

I took this from above the Old Harbour in Hermanus.  You're looking East across Walker Bay, where the whales live.

A rainbow my first day!  It's a sign that this year is going to turn out right :)

A rather blurry photo of a penguin

The unidentified furry creatures have a name!  They are rock hyrax in English, but I prefer the Afrikaans name, which is dassie.  Thanks, Malan, for enlightening me!

Here is the only photo of a whale that I have been able to get.  As I said before, the real ones aren't so easy to photograph.  They live underwater.  (Side note:  It can be hard to indicate sarcasm in a blog, because you can't hear the tone of my voice.  But just FYI, that comment was sarcastic.)

So, there you have it.  Some exciting photos.  Now I will catch you up on my first week of work in the clinic.  Hawston Hospice's real name is the Overstrand Care Centre, but most of the people in the area know it as Hawston Hospice.  It is really more of a rehabilitation facility that a hospice.  Some patients are terminal, but many are not.  Patients are admitted for a variety of reasons.  Some are coming from the hospital, and are not quite ready for care at home, so we take care of them until they are stable enough to be cared for by their family members.  Others are usually cared for at home, but come to the centre if a certain issure flairs up, or if the family needs a respite from care.  There are usually 8 patients in the clinic.  The patients are cared for by 'carers', who are trained but unlicensed nursing personnel.  Their closest US equivalent would be a CNA.  The carers are assisted by a few aids who help with food preparation and serving, exercises under the direction of a physical and occupational therapist, and whatever other tasks the carers ask of them.  The carers are overseen by Martin, who is a nurse from Zimbabwe.  Martin takes a supervisory role, and he trains the carers on ways to improve their practice.  I have spent this past week learning from Martin.  The hope is that, once I get up to speed on the routine of the centre, I will be able to work with Martin to improve the nursing processes of the clinic and to take some of the work off his shoulders.  He is a very busy man.

The centre also serves as the central location for home-based care.  The home based carers are just like the carers who work with our inpatients, except they visit patients in their homes.  They might be overseeing medication, helping patients with their activities of daily living, or simply checking on their status.  We also have a social worker at the clinic who runs programs for at-risk youth and for seniors in Hawston.  I will be joining the home-based care team and the social work team in November.  

As you can see, work has kept me pretty busy this week.  I don't have a lot of plans for the weekend.  I'm going to relax and enjoy my free time before another busy week, do some chores and errands, and exercise.  I found a group called the Hermanus Whalers that do Saturday long runs, as well as group runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I confess that I'm a little out of shape right now.  I didn't really run all that much over the summer, and I'm not really training for anything specific, but I think I am going to join the Whalers for their long run tomorrow.  It is 20k, but I am thinking I will just quit a bit early.  I have some errands to run in Hermanus tomorrow anyway, so I might as well join in a run as well.  On Sunday I will go to the Anglican Church that is right by my house.

Now that you're all updated on my life here in Hawston, it seems unfair that I don't know much about what is happening at home, other than what I hear from Jacob.  So please, leave me a comment or send me an email!  I'd love to hear from my friends and family, and I could use your moral support as I work on making friends in my new town.

That's all I have for now.  Totsiens!