Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stuff we say

Live around people long enough, and you start to pick up their phrases.  I have recently caught myself repeating some uniquely South African sayings.  I guess it's a sign of how long I've been here.  Some of these words and phrases are things I like to hear, and I will hopefully continue the habit of using them when I get home.  Other sayings don't really make sense to me, and I am trying my best to stop repeating them!  But let's talk about some of the stuff South Africans say:

It's a pleasure - In Afrikaans, the response to 'thank you' is 'is 'n plesier'.  When Afrikaners speak English, they usually still say 'it's a pleasure', or just 'pleasure'.  I think this is a lovely thing to say, so much more genteel than 'you're welcome'.  I try to remind myself to say 'it's a pleasure' when someone thanks me.

Lekker - Means awesome, sweet, nifty, cool, clutch, super, great, lovely, etc.  Pronounced 'lack-uh'.  This is Afrikaans slang, often used with baie (very), so you say 'Is baie lekker.'  I like this word and so I have added it to my vocabulary.

Finished and klaar - Klaar means finished in Afrikaans, so this is literally 'finished and finished' but I take it to mean 'over and done' or 'we're through' or 'you're beating a dead horse'.  

'Now now' or 'Just now' - Does not mean 'now' AT ALL.  Means 'sometime within the next few hours/days/weeks' or 'whenever I feel like it'.

Oma and Oupa - Granny and Grandpa.  I hear these two words A LOT, as I work in a hospice.  Our carers refer to our patients as 'that Oma' or 'Oupa John', and we often call them that to their faces.  It's considered a respectful way of addressing one's elders.

Boot - The car's trunk.  That one is British English.

Biscuit - British English for cookie.  Afrikaans is koekie, which is pronounced just like cookie.  On a side note, for all the South Africans to whom I have tried (and failed miserably) to describe what Americans mean when we say biscuit, here is a picture of a biscuit:

It tastes a bit like a croissant, but the texture is different.

Crisps - Chips

Chips - Fries

Robot - Stoplight

Pudding - Dessert; any type of dessert.  The conversation usually goes like this:
Hananja: 'What are you having for pudding?' 
Me: 'I'm having cookies for pudding.'
This might really be more of a Hananja thing than a South African thing, but I've picked up the habit somehow.

Mos - A very Hawston word.  I'm still not exactly sure what 'mos' means, but I'm pretty sure it's Afrikaans for 'you know'.  Used in conversation like 'You know mos, that Oma, she didn't eat her dinner' or 'I was here mos, at that meeting'.  This word, or at least the frequency with which it's used, seems to be unique to Hawston.  I've never heard my friends from Cape Town or Hermanus say 'mos'.

Hokkie - Another good Hawston word that it took me forever to figure out the meaning of.  Usually the conversation went like this:
Carer:  'I'm looking for the keys to the hokkie.'
Me: 'You're looking for the keys to the what?'
Carer:  'The hokkie.'
Me: (blank look) 'Uhhhhh...'
Eventually I figured out through the process of elimination that hokkie means shed, but could also be used for closet.

Hectic - Same meaning in America.  I mention hectic because South Africans say hectic a lot more than Americans say hectic.  They use it like we use 'busy' and 'difficult' and 'no way!':
'This restaurant is so hectic!' (busy)
'This trail is hectic.' (difficult)
'My family is going on a trip to America.' 'Hectic!' (no way!)

Is it? - Definitely the most annoying phrase on the planet.  South Africans say 'Is it?' like we would say 'really?' or 'oh yeah?'  Often it will be grammatically incorrect:
Me:  'I saw you in the shop yesterday.'
South African:  'Is it?'
Something about the way this phrase is used absolutely drives me crazy.  I think probably it's the grammatical error that annoys me.  But I have caught myself saying it, and I'm really trying to stop.  Recently, when other people ask me 'Is it?' I have started answering, 'Yes!  It is!'

By you/by me:  Means with you/with me, or maybe at your place/at my place.  Like 'Would you like to have dinner by me?' or 'Let's go for a run by you.'

The suffix -kie or -ie:  Afrikaans for small.  'Where is the boxie?' or 'Have you seen that bottlekie?  You know mos, the one for the hand wash?' Sort of like how we would say puppy or kitty, except Afrikaners use this suffix A LOT and often for inanimate objects.  Somebody once told me (jokingly... I think) that they use it so frequently because Afrikaner men are so big and strong that everything else around them seems little in comparison.  (Side note:  The actual word for little in Afrikaans is klein, just like in German.  For those of you who know me well, you know my maiden name was Klein, so I am Keri Little Geiger.  Also, Keri sounds like the Afrikaans word kerrie, which is a type of curry dish.  So I guess if you want me, you can ask for a little curry.)

Umm umm umm umm umm - Another uniquely Hawston thing.  This means that the Afrikaans speaker is trying to think of the English word for what they want to say.  People here in Hawston are usually really outgoing and extroverted.  That's just the culture.  So I guess it isn't surprising that they fill silences when they're talking by repeating 'umm'.  Martin also does this even though he isn't an Afrikaans speaker, and I assume he picked it up from the people we work with.  My other friends here who aren't from Hawston are really unlikely to repeat 'umm' in the middle of a sentence.  If they're trying to think of a word, they just stop talking for a second or two until it comes to them.

(silence) - Silence is the general response to someone sneezing.  Martin and I are the only people who routinely say 'bless you', and neither of us are South African.

On a related note, I was in a shop a couple of weeks ago, and I conducted an entire transaction without giving away that I'm American!  How did I do this, you wonder?  The trick is to say as little as possible, because as soon as I open my mouth it's all over.  My accent gives me away immediately.  So I let the clerk greet me in Afrikaans, and then I just smiled.  When he told me the total I owed, I looked at the cash register screen so I wouldn't have to ask him to repeat the numbers in English.  ('Two' in Afrikaans is 'twee', which sounds almost exactly like 'three' and can be the source of much confusion.)  Then I said 'dankie!' and left the shop.  Successfully fooled that guy!  Look at me!  I'm culturally assimilated!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ses Maande

Six months ago today, a 747 landed at Cape Town International Airport, and one of the people who got off it was me.  I cleared customs and walked out to the international arrivals lobby and straight into the welcoming hugs of about half the HOPE Africa staff and most of the Anhouse students.  Of course, I can't claim that this huge reception was for me - they had all come because last year's YASCer, Holly, flew away on the same plane that I had just come in on, which was a happy coincidence.  I can hardly believe that happened half a year ago!  These have been the most challenging, inspiring, extraordinary six months of my life.  This post is about six things that South Africa has taught me so far.

1. Adam was right.
I recall a conversation I had with my friend Adam a few weeks before I left Richmond.  Adam spent more than a year in South Africa a while back, and he was really helpful as I was preparing to move here.  But in this particular conversation, I was telling another of our friends about how excited I was to learn to speak Afrikaans.  Adam said, "You're not going to learn any Afrikaans."  I don't remember what I said in reply, but I'm pretty sure it was something along the lines of, "Shut up. Of course I'm going to learn Afrikaans!"  Well, I owe you an apology, Adam, because you were right.  In the past six months, I have learned a grand total of 10 phrases in Afrikaans.  I had this vision in my head that, since I was going to be living in an Afrikaans-speaking community, I would obviously become fluid in the language.  But that hasn't happened at all.  Yes, Hawston is indeed an Afrikaans-speaking place, and there is even a little bit more of a language barrier than I originally anticipated.  I assumed that everyone would speak at least some English, but several of my patients have known about as much English as I know Spanish, which is to say they mostly know food words.  But I still haven't learned any Afrikaans, simply because when I am around, people make an effort to speak English for me, so it hasn't been necessary.  

The is just one of many examples of how my preconceived notions of what South Africa would be like have been proved very wrong.  In fact, I think my most glaringly incorrect preconceived idea was that South Africa could be defined as being one certain way.  This is the most diverse country in the world!  Within a 10 mile radius of where I live, you have Hawston, a poor colored Afrikaans-speaking community, Zwelihle, the black township where Xhosa is the main language and people are even poorer, and Onrus and Vermont, in which wealthy white people like to buy houses when they retire.  And that's just one tiny little part of the Western Cape, which is the most affluent and developed province of the country!  If I went to the Northern Cape or Eastern Cape or KZN, I would find places that are nothing like any of those parts of the Hawston/Hermanus area!  So yeah, some of my preconceived ideas were right, and some were very wrong.  But it all depends on exactly what and where we're talking about, because South Africa just can't be put in a box.

2. I don't have an emergency contact person.

If you're a runner, then you know that when you enter a race you have to put the name and phone number of an emergency contact person on the form.  Every time I enter a race here, I get just a little bit sad.  I don't have an emergency contact person!  At home, my person would be my husband Jacob.  Before Jacob, it was my mom.  If neither of them is available, I could use my sister or my grandmother or any one of my close friends.  But here?  If I have a heart attack during a race, who could the paramedics really call for me?

I have some good friends here, but I will never be on level ground with any of them.  I will always need them more than they need me.  Everyone I know here has a family and friends they've known for longer than six months.  I don't.  I only have them.  At first this was a little weird for me, but I've come to realize that it is actually quite normal, given the situation.  That's just the nature of expat life!  I think I feel it more than some of my YASC colleagues who are in places with other Americans around, because countrymen tend to kind of band together and become each other's go-to person.  But there are no other Americans here.  I'm the only one, and while that's given me a sort of novelty factor, it also means I'm always going to be a bit of an outsider.  It's unfair of me to expect anything else.  Please don't misunderstand me here.  This no longer bothers me at all.  It's just something I had to realize and go along with.  

3. I will never understand cricket.  

I say this at the risk of alienating one of my best friends here, but cricket is absolutely impossible.  Forgive me, Dewald, for I know not how to appreciate your sports.  But seriously, I do not understand this game at all, and it's not for lack of trying.  It doesn't help that both teams wear the same color so you can't tell who you're rooting for, or that there are multiple forms of the game and it may last anywhere from about an hour to five days.  Honestly this is the most incomprehensible sport ever invented.  I am totally bewildered, and I give up.

The same applies to other things besides cricket.  There are some cultural differences between me and the people whose country I live in.  Sometimes these are subtle or funny, but sometimes they're kinda big things, like the meaning of 'urgent' in a medical situation or how one relates to one's work colleagues and superiors.  At times I find the South African government health care system really confusing and counterintuitive.  But in the end, these things are just differences of opinion, and as the outsider, it is my responsibility to function within the system I'm given.  Just because my way is what I'm used to doesn't mean I'm right.  It has been really good for me to learn to set aside that 'my way or the highway' attitude that I think all Americans are born with.

4. You've got to ask for what you want.  

I learned a lot of life lessons from James Dick, the director of the Washington and Lee Outing Club.  I learned them despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that James had this habit of spouting off some really deep and profound piece of wisdom in the middle of a very normal conversation about something completely mundane like ice cream.  Anyway, one of my favorite 'Jamesisms' is that you have to ask for what you want.  (James also taught me other things like how to safely and respectfully enjoy the wilderness, and he introduced me to my husband.  Good man.)

When you go on a year long mission to another country by yourself, you are forced to rely on God because your normal support system just isn't available.  Since I have been in South Africa, I have found myself asking God for things that I want, even when they aren't things that are normal 'prayer material'.  For example, I have asked God 'oh please let the internet work well tonight' or 'help me to find a shop that sells a super warm blanket'.  And guess what?  Every time I have asked for something like this, God has given me what I needed.  He may have also given me what I needed if I hadn't asked, but what I'm saying is that I've learned it's OK to talk to God about whatever is on my mind, even if it isn't particularly profound.

Same thing goes for asking other people for what you want.  For some reason people, and I would argue women in particular, are bad at just coming out and asking for what they want.  We expect others to magically know what we need and give it to us, but that isn't fair.  If you don't ask for what you want, how is someone else supposed to know that you want it?  When I first got here, I was uncomfortable asking for what I really wanted, which was company.  I guess it made me feel too vulnerable.  But once I remembered James's wisdom, I started asking, and no one has let me down yet.  Maybe it's just because I am surrounded by awesome people who allow me to take over their TV to watch the Olympics, are willing to meet me for dinner when I'm feeling a bit lonely, will run with me when I want a jog and don't want to go alone.  But seriously.  Try asking the people around you for what you really want from them.  Try praying about everything, big or small.  Just try it and see what happens.

5. Miracles happen.  

I often hear people ask about miracles.  The Bible is full of them.  So where are our modern miracles?  As a nurse, it is my privilege to witness miracles all the time.

The war on AIDS is over.  We've won.  Antiretroviral drugs work.  HIV is no longer a death sentence.  It is a chronic condition that is manageable, like diabetes.  The war on AIDS is now a war on the stereotypes and prejudice that people with HIV suffer under.  But medically?  We've got this covered, guys.  And that is every bit as miraculous as the parting of the Red Sea.

Here at the care centre, I get a front row seat to see some pretty miraculous healing.  We have a patient right now who will be discharged at the end of the week.  When she came to us in December, she was so weak that she was bed bound, so confused that she didn't know what city she was in.  This same patient will walk out of here on Friday completely healthy.  That's a miracle, and it's quite typical of the type of work my colleagues do every day.  I'll say it again:  it is my privilege to witness these things.

6. I'm helping to build the Cathedral.  

We had a guest preacher At St. Peter's in Hermanus a few weeks ago.  He is a retired priest from England, and he gave a really exceptional sermon about what Church is (I use the capital C because I mean Church, the house of God on Earth, not church like a building or a denomination).  He based his definition of Church on a sculpture by Rodin called the Cathedral, which depicts two right hands touching.  He talked about how this is a powerful metaphor for the Church, in that these two hands belong to two different people (obviously, since they're both right hands).  Church is about reaching out to someone else with a loving touch, a healing touch, a comforting touch.  The Church will walk beside you, even in the darkest, scariest, most painful times of your life. 

Rodin's Cathedral

My day to day work in South Africa is a bit different from what the other YASCers are doing in their placements.  I am working in what is essentially a secular nursing role.  I have very little to do with the Anglican church here, other than I go to one on Sundays.  At first, that bothered me a little bit.  After all, I'm a missionary, so shouldn't I be doing something a little more... churchy?  Over the past six months, I've come to realize that my work at the Overstrand Care Centre is actually part of the central mission of the Church.  Every day I am directly involved in healing.  Even when I'm writing a report in the office, I'm doing that so Martin won't have to and he can rather spend more of his time with our patients.  So in every way I am working towards the healing of God's people.  Yes, it's physical healing I'm talking about, but that too is what the Church does.  Check the gospels.  Christ Himself spent quite a bit of His time on earth healing physical bodies.  So my nursing work is definitely worthy of the title 'mission'.

There is another point I need to make here, and this is something that has become abundantly clear to me during the past six months.  There is nothing at all special about me.  I'm still a new nurse, I've never worked in hospice or rehab before, and I certainly don't understand the ins and outs of the South African health care system.  Somebody else could do this job a lot better than me.  But this is so NOT about me.  Maybe I'm not the most qualified person for this job, but I'm the one who is here, and if I don't do it, who will?  I promise you that God is using me as a channel of His healing, even though I am lacking in knowledge and I get frustrated when things aren't done the way I'd like.  God is using my far from perfect, very ordinary self to do some amazing work for His people here in Hawston.  And that is totally awesome.

This experience has not been easy.  I've had some low moments over the past six months, especially towards the beginning.  But I never expected it to be easy, and honestly those low moments have not been as frequent or as low as I had prepared myself for.  Over the past week or so, I've been thinking a lot about my experience so far.  And I can't imagine having lived my whole life and never come here.  I can't imagine having not lived in this beautiful corner of the world, having never met Hananja and Martin and Dewald, having not hiked Table Mountain and eaten abalone and visited The Cape of Good Hope and touched the Indian Ocean.  My life suddenly seems like it would be incomplete without all these things.  I can't even IMAGINE it!  How crazy is that?  So I guess what I'm saying is thank you, to everyone who has helped get me to where I am right now.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More weekend fun

This week I am going to show you lots of pictures of what I've been up to recently in my spare time, when I'm not busily attending to patient and staff needs at the care centre.  Why am I showing you all this on a blog about my missionary experience?  Two reasons.  First of all (if you haven't noticed this already, you certainly will when you see the photos below), the Western Cape is just stunning.  I don't know how it's possible to look at these vistas I'm about to show you and not think of God.  So in a way, my 'playtime' has been very much linked to my spiritual growth this year.  Secondly, the main reason I'm here, besides for filling a nursing role where it is crucially needed, is to make relationships, to be with people.  There is no better way to do that than having fun together!  

These first few pictures are actually from an overnight hike I did with some friends back in November.  In this photo, Hananja is wondering which trail we're supposed to take.  This was at the very beginning of the hike, but it was a situation we found ourselves in repeatedly over the next two days.  It was a really confusing trail.

We got some good views, though.  It was awfully dry and hot that weekend.

This was near Grabouw, which is about a 45 minute drive inland from Hawston, on the way back towards Cape Town.
Hananja and I went hiking in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve one Saturday in January.  Here you're looking down towards Hermanus from the mountains behind town.

Hananja is contemplating what a lovely area she lives in.

Here I am, posing for the camera.

Fernkloof has the advantage of a reservoir you can hike to, so after our walk we cooled off in this water.  Sadly, this wasn't quite as enjoyable as it sounds.  The water, like all the surface water around here, was that weird tea-colored brown that means you can't see anything.  The opacity of the water, combined with the steep cliff walls that you can see in this photo and the depth of the lake, made for a sketchy swim.  I had to actively tell myself that there were no sea creatures in that lake and that yes, the sides are steep, but they are climbable and I wouldn't be trapped in the lake forever.  At one point Hananja was swimming beside me and her arm accidentally brushed mine, and I think I might have damaged her eardrums with how loudly I screamed.  I thought she was an eel.

Best part of  the dam?  There was a puppy there!  He had taken his people for a hike, but he took a break and came over to visit with me.

On the way back from the dam, we passed this guy.  He's a pretty big tortoise.  I've seen bigger, of course, but only because I've been to the Galapagos, the home of the giant tortoises of Darwinian fame.  I use the word 'fame' loosely.  Darwin's giant tortoises are famous if you were a biology major.

Hananja really enjoyed meeting our tortoise friend.  I really enjoyed watching her try to get the perfect shot of him.

This is the De Bos dam.  It is up in the Hemel en Aarde valley (where the wine farms are), and it is one of my favorite places to go on a random weeknight (or Sunday afternoon, as it was when I took this photo), to jog and swim.  You can park at the edge of the reservoir and there are some great running routes right there.  You can even run through a vineyard!  Then when you're nice and hot and sweaty, you go cool off with a swim.  This dam is much better because it lacks the steep sides and you don't feel like you're trapped in the lake.

This was a hike of Babilonstoring, the biggest mountain in the group that forms the back side of the Hemel en Aarde valley.  I might should have warned my friends who hiked this mountain with me that they would end up on my blog, but I'm pretty sure none of them read it anyway, so I guess what they don't know can't hurt them!

This might be my favorite hike I've done.  Well, besides for hiking up Table Mountain.  And Lion's Head.  But Lion's Head had beer at the top, so that's not really a fair comparison.

Dewald apparently agrees.  He looks pretty enthralled with the view.

I see these flowers all over the place here, pretty much on every hike I've ever done in the area.  They look and feel like they're made of paper.  Actually I'm pretty sure their name means paper flower.

You can't help but smile when you're surrounded by such great scenery!

Looking down over the Hemel en Aarde vineyards.

From the top of Babylonstoring you can see the ocean!

Rod celebrates victory over the mountain.

This concrete pillar is South Africa's ghetto answer to a USGS marker.  But hey, it makes a great place to stand for a photo!

Megan on top of the marker.

A few weeks ago, I took a drive with my new friend Emy.  Emy is from Vancouver, but she was on an extended winter holiday in South Africa.  We took a road trip down to Cape Argulus, the southernmost tip of Africa, about a 2 hour drive away.  This is the Argulus lighthouse.

Since Argulus is the southernmost point, it is where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet!  I was about 750 m east of the actual point here, so that, my friends, is the Indian Ocean!

I am standing in the Indian Ocean!  OMG!  It's amazing how much warmer the water is here than in Hermanus, even though it's only about 60 miles east.

Where two oceans meet.  That doesn't happen anywhere in the US!

I'm standing at the tip of the continent!  Ever wonder why I named my blog 'Unto the Ends of the Earth'?  It's because of this!  When you look out across the ocean from here (or from Cape Town or from Hawston), you're looking at Antarctica (several thousand miles away).  There's nothing there except penguins.  The Western Cape is literally the END of the earth!
On the way back from Cape Argulus, Emy and I got a little lost.  Mostly because I decided we should take the 'scenic route', and due to lack of signage and road work, we ended up driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception for about an hour and a half.  It was quite a trip, and while I don't recommend anyone else try that (if we had blown a tire or something we might have been in real trouble), I have to say I rather enjoyed the experience of getting a little lost in Africa.  And in the end we made it back to town in time for dinner, so it's all good!

This is from one of the wine farms in Hemel en Aarde.  Amelia and I had a girls' afternoon of wine tasting recently.

Then we went back to Hermanus and watched the sunset.

This sunset photo is actually from Hawston, but so colorful!  I just had to share.
Humm.  There seems to be a theme to my weekend activities.  Apparently I hike a lot.  But I think Everett Ruess summed up the strange pull of the mountains when he said:

"I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and the star-spangled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway. Do you blame me then for staying here, where I feel that I belong and am one with the world around me?  It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty."

No, I don't think you can blame me at all.

Friday, February 7, 2014

My cast of characters

I think it's time I formally introduce you to my cast of characters, the people in South Africa who mean the most to me.  They're the ones I see every day, the people I work with, run with, have fun with.  Basically they're the reason that, when you ask me if I'm lonely over here, I say no!  I think I've mentioned all of them in previous blog posts at some point, but they each deserve a little special attention.  So meet:

Martin - Martin is not South African.  He is originally from Zimbabwe, but he has been living in South Africa for a while and he has worked at Hawston Hospice for about five years.  He is a professional nurse, trained in Zim but fully licensed in SA.  (Side note: nurses are called 'sisters' in South Africa.  Even Martin, who is a man.)  Right now, Martin is working towards a graduate degree in health care management, and I'm awed at his ability to put so much time into his studies at night, even after a long day of work.  He is a bit of a work a holic, rarely taking time off.  Martin lives in Vermont, the next town over from Hawston.  He does have a satellite TV in his house, so when Martin and I see each other outside of work, you can usually find us on his couch catching up on our shows or the latest movie.  Martin is a big reason why my work life is so happy.  He is a great nurse, very passionate about providing the best service to our patients.  He's really a joy to work with, and I am learning a lot from him.  

Martin is hard at work.  He says he's not photogenic, but I don't think that's true.
Mari and Ari - Mari and her husband Ari aren't South African either.  Actually, they're not even African.  They are Finnish.  Mari first moved to SA to work as an au paire, then stayed to get a degree in social work from University of Cape Town.  Since graduating, Mari has been working at Hope Africa.  While she was still finishing her graduate degree, Mari met Ari, who had already been living in SA for a while for his work.  When they fell in love and got married, they decided to stay here.  These two are probably my favorite people to spend time with in Cape Town, which is lucky, because about half the time I'm in town, I'm staying in their flat!  They are really a lovely couple, and being around them helps me remember what a good marriage looks like.  They joke with each other and tease each other constantly, but you can tell how much they really love each other.
I don't have any pictures of Mari and Ari together, so you will have to settle for this picture of Mari (and Melanie) making a poster on the HOPE Africa retreat.

Hananja - Hananja is my best friend in South Africa.  She is from Cape Town and went to Stellenbosch University.  Now she works for Stellenbosch as a clinical instructor in the dietician program.  We met through work because she brings students to the care centre as one of their rotations.  When I had been in Hawston a few weeks, Hananja called me and invited me to have dinner with her one night.  Our relationship just sort of grew from there, once we realized that we love all the same things like hiking, running, roasted vegetables with feta cheese, cookies, driving around and exploring a new area, swimming in dams, and silly animated movies.  Hananja might be one of the nicest people I know, here or at home.  She's just a genuinely sweet person who really loves everyone she meets.  I can't say enough good things about her.  She introduced me to lots of people in Hermanus who have also become my friends, so she is a major reason why I'm enjoying my time here so much.  Of all the people I know and love in South Africa, Hananja is the one who I will miss the most.  If you met her, you'd understand, because she is such a beautiful person that it is impossible not to fall in love with her.  

Hananja at the top of Lion's Head in Cape Town, on the sunset hike we did over Christmas.

Dewald - Dewald is one of the people that Hananja introduced me to.  His name is a little difficult to pronounce (sounds more like Dee-vauld) but he usually forgives me when I get it wrong.  Dewald has been living in the Western Cape for about a decade, but he is originally from Pretoria and still harbors a love of their sports teams (especially cricket).  Dewald is very athletic and has therefore become my go-to running partner.  I'm lucky to live near a guy who knows all the best places to run and is willing to go run there with me.  Dewald has been really welcoming to me and has gone out of his way to make sure I have plenty of fun things to do in my free time (and a fun person to do them with).  That's just the kind of guy he is - friendly and inclusive and fun to be around.

Dewald celebrates getting to the top of a very tough hike up Babilonstoring.

Amelia - There must be something about dietitians in South Africa, because Amelia is also a dietician, and she is another of my best friends here.  Amelia is from Cape Town, but she lives in Hermanus and works for the government health system.  We met because she visits patients at the care centre.  On one of my first weekends in Hawston, Amelia and I drove over to Stanford to check out a brewpub over there.  Hanging out with Amelia that day felt just like spending an afternoon with one of my friends from home, and I think that was the day I began to believe that I really would make friends in South Africa!  Amelia is a lot of fun to spend time with because she has a really positive outlook on life, which is my very favorite thing about her.
Amelia is even prettier than a Hermanus sunset.

The critters - OK, so they aren't people, but you also need to meet the animals who live next door to me, because I have started to think of them as MY pets.  Since I don't know what their names are (and they are certainly Afrikaans names anyway), I have given them new names that I think fit them well.

Niblett is my neighbor Mary's dog, but since the gate between Mary's yard and my yard is usually open, I often find Niblett waiting on my front porch.  He is called Niblett because he has spots that look like cocoa nibs.  He is well behaved, so he is allowed to come inside with me sometimes.  He also gets to eat some of my leftovers.  Lucky Niblett.  

Niblett enjoys his invasion of my house.

Buttercup is the orange cat who hangs out around my house.  He has a perpetually grumpy face (which is why he is named Buttercup, after the grumpy orange cat in the Hunger Games series). When Emily visited in September, she started calling him 'Butt Butt' and that name has really stuck.  It is not at all unusual for me to come home and find that Butt Butt has snuck in my open window and is taking a nap on my kitchen table.  He also scared the living daylight out of me one time when he was hiding under my bed.  I could sense that something else was breathing in the room, and I have to admit that I had nearly had a heart attack until I realized it was just the cat.  
Butt Butt lounges on the bed.  Typical cat.
There are also two cats who look a lot alike.  I can't even tell them apart unless they're sitting next to each other.  Thus their names are Fish and Chips.  In early December, I noticed a miniature version of Fish and Chips, who has been named Tartar Sauce, or Saucy for short.  None of these cats are super friendly.  They're happy to eat any tuna I want to give them, but they don't let me get closer than a couple of feet away.  But even if I can't pet them, they're cute to look at.
Tartar Sauce on the right and Fish (I think it's Fish?) on the left.
One of my biggest fears in coming here was that I would feel isolated and lonely.  I am an extrovert, and I hate being alone.  To be perfectly honest, there are occasional times when I do feel a little lonely.  But thanks to these awesome people (and critters) those times are few and far between.  I'm so happy that I have good friends here who have made South Africa feel more like a home than I thought possible.