Saturday, November 24, 2012

When the First Time You Host Thanksgiving Alone Also Happens to be in a Country that Doesn't Know the Holiday (a few tips)

1.  You will look for a turkey at three stores. Finally, you will go to Mndeni Meats, the biggest meat store in town. When you ask the butcher about turkey he will laugh and say “Christmas isn’t for a while it’s FAR too early for Turkey” You’ll settle for two chickens instead. A bird is a bird.
Lesson one: when you cook alone you have to be the one that sticks your hand inside your chicken's body cavities
2. Making pureed pumpkin for your pie with only a wire strainer and a spatula, is not a particularly quick task. 

3.  You will be confused when inside you are making a hearty warm meal , while outside it is 80 degrees and sunny. You’ll sweat, but don’t worry a little salt makes food tastier

Stuffing in the making

4. When your recipe calls for “kitchen string” for poultry, what they REALLY mean is hair elastics. This is based on the fact that you have a huge supply of hair elastics while your supply of kitchen string is nonexistent.

5.    When a recipe calls for a rolling pin what they REALLY mean is a large water glass. (see explanation in number 4)
Pops! Look! First time for both of us!
will be doing dishes ALL day. Your hands will be cracking and dry. This is made an even more daunting task as you will not have a garbage disposal or dishwasher. After dinner there will of course be more dishes. But don’t worry your saint-of-a-flatmate and her boyfriend will literally try and push you out of the kitchen and insist you go to bed.
Woke up to a spotless kitchen. I could get used to this arrangement.
7.    Speaking of your flatmate, she will be almost more excited than you are to celebrate. On Wednesday before Thanksgiving you’ll come home from your run to a festively decorated house.

8. To be on the safe side you will make sure your guests have access to plenty of wine and you will also program the number of the local pizza place into your phone…but don’t worry somehow you will pull it off in the end!
9. Leftovers straight from the fridge will taste just as good in South Africa as they do in the US.
Apples for the apple crisp. You see Shantel's peeler back there---it's super high-tech and awesome

Shantel's Rolls

Shantel and Brad mashed the potatoes

Talitha's delicious salad
No fresh cranberries for cranberry sauce but managed to get some craisins incorporated

Shants held it down with the decor

From left to right: Abby's leg, Justin, Shantel, Brad, John, Talitha. 
Havin' trouble standing post meal?

So there you have it. Last night Thanksgiving came a few days late to South Africa. Dinner was for seven and I'm still not exactly sure how I pulled it off. Was definitely feeling a little nostalgic on Thursday and wished I could have spent Thanksgiving with my family (mostly because it would have meant I didn’t have to cook my own dinner, jokes) BUT I’m also glad I got to share a little American culture with new South African friends. After all, isn’t  Thanksgiving a celebration of the melding of cultures, the sharing of food and the gathering of new friends?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This is a Post About Work--You Have Been Warned

“Sawubona Sis.”

It’s how I’m greeting every morning at Vulindlela. I’ve managed to work up the courage to respond with “Sawubona, Unjani” (I know right, I’m so cool). Annnnd that’s about as far as it goes. Zulu is a hard language to learn as a native English speaker. I know this first-hand, which is why I am so impressed that most of my co-workers speak Zulu fluently and English with great proficiency. Many of the nurses, counselors and coordinators at V grew up in the community, which in many ways is the most important factor for communication when it comes to implementing trials and studies in Vulindlela. This brings me to my next point...

If you have studied development or health in a global context, then I’m sure you’ve  discussed the merits and importance of program sustainability. The importance of founding, implementing and nurturing programs that are realistic, relevant and lasting within the context of the community. Because of the nature of HIV/AIDS treatment (i.e. HIV/AIDS treatment must be accessible for one’s lifetime), this is especially true. After working at Vulindlela and also having access to the work of some of the most well-regarded HIV scientists in the world, it’s clear that CAPRISA has established an extraordinary model.

Community health in rural areas of  Kwazulu-Natal is about much more than science and medicine. The success of implementation relies heavily on respect, cultural understanding, relationships, flexibility, trust.  These facets aren’t easily obtained and once they are they’re incredibly fragile. Often, academics and implementors, the elite and in some cases the foreign, come into an area with big ideas. Ideas that are great. Ideas that have the best of intentions and will seemingly bring relief to those who need it most. But when sustainability is ignored these programs are rarely successful in the long-term. By staffing V site with members of the community, CAPRISA simulataneously foments these vital connections and provides jobs for skilled workers in the community—a community with significant unemployment rates. It sounds pretty simple and straightforward but it’s a model that takes patience, understanding and in some cases comprimises to what implementors may believe is “best practice.”  It’s rare to find an organization so dedicated to the scientific understanding of HIV and yet so able to recognize the social aspects that play such a deep and complex role in the epidemic. It is with this grasp, I believe, that CAPRISA has been able to build such a remarkable organization.

For the science-y group of readers (lolz you like how I say “group of readers” like I have a large population of blog followers) you should check out this article on CAPRISA’s latest breakthrough. Disclaimer: it’s pretty technical, but also a pretty groundbreaking discovery. (I MET THIS GUY LAST NIGHT AT THE COMPANY FUNCTION!! He was dancing with his tie wrapped around his head…) HIV/AIDS Study Offers New Clue to Developing an Effective Vaccine

And for the political “group of readers”  I know you must be DYING to know the South African opinion on Obama’s reelection. Here’s a little peek (first heard on Durban’s East Coast radio the morning after Barack’s victory)…

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Little Off-Roading in a Citi Golf

Just a normal Saturday in KZN; Woke up, had some breakfast, went for a run, pet an African elephant, did a little tour through lion territory…you know the usual.
It’s a rare Saturday morning that Shantel and I are both at the flat. Often she is at her boyfriend’s house or I am off in Durban etc. So this morning when we woke up we were determined to take advantage of our situation. She asked me casually “what do you want to do today?” Approximately 30 km later and we are cautiously [read: trying to avoid peeing our pants—mostly this was me] touching some massive African (read: not the nice gentle Asian variety) elephants.  My day month was made complete before noon today. Saw some Zebra, wildebeests and bucks in the distance as well, but they were too far to get any quality shots.

I will also have you all know that all of this off-roading through South African nature was done in small gold citi golf; the model is probably ten years old. We had our apprehensions but the woman at reception told us it wouldn’t be a problem so on we went. 

First some scenery from our drive out. 

please note that my new friend is ACTUALLY holding my hand

Shants goes in for the pet

Just a little nature happening here...