Hello everyone!

I am home safe and sound! As promised, here is a link to my photo gallery…there are a ton of pics, so just browse as much or as little as you want!

http://picasaweb.google.com/101216744953207149967?feat=email

Once again, I am leaving. My short adult life has been one of constant transition, packing my bags is more familiar than filling a dresser, sharing lunch with brief acquaintances, more common than sharing a lifetime with a soul mate. Every day is a new horizon for me…I have planted some shallow seeds, have made some remarkable memories, and have tried, in every way, to live my life to the very fullest, not leaving any opportunity in the dust. I carry with me badges of ever-changing zip-codes and an armor of a lifetime’s worth of new “cultural experiences”. What I am looking for, what I am running away from or running towards, I don’t think I will ever know. My soul is reckless but my motives are true. And here I am again, I am leaving. It is time for me to once again, say goodbye.

This time, I am saying farewell to a place that has forever changed my heart and soul. It is cliché for me to express how much this experience in South Africa has meant to me. Maybe it’s the heat of the Africa sun; maybe it’s the breathtaking view of the mountains in the distance, keeping guard over the squatter villages of Mthatha; maybe it’s the ear-piercing scream of the morning “hadeda ibis” that faithfully wake me up every morning at 5:30am; maybe it’s the taste of the fresh mangoes that grow so abundantly here; maybe it’s the smell of salt in the ocean air, slowly working on my soul, washing away the sharp edges and opening me up to a life full of vibrant love. Maybe it’s a combination of many of these things, and maybe, just maybe, it is the people who I have met along the way.

Never, ever, have I met more loving , nurturing, truly honest-to-goodness human beings. From my “cleaning lady”, who scrubs her heart out before walking back to her two-room clay house to care for her family, and perhaps find some rest for her body that is ridden with HIV; to the Sisters in the pediatric ward, who act as surrogate mothers to the tiny children who are bed ridden because of broken limbs, a by-product of what it means to just “be a kid”; to the gunshot victim who every day tries “just a little harder” to make her paralyzed legs work, so that she can return to her children; to the volunteer orthopedic doctor, who shut down his entire practice at home in America, so that he could selflessly come to the back-ally of South Africa, to the people who desperately need a skillful, healing touch. These people, and so many more, have pieced together the complicated puzzle that expresses the picture of what life has been like for me here.

I have seen people celebrate life; I have watched people struggle with death; I have seen people pull themselves up from the depths of despair, to make their lives minutely better for themselves and for their families; I have received the spirit of “ubuntu” where “everything I have is also yours”; I have watched a culture of people still struggle with the after-effects of Apartheid and what it means to live in a divided land; I have seen the effects of HIV and Aids on probably more than half of the people I encounter every day; I have understood what it means to give and what it means to receive; I have cried; I have laughed; I have prayed; I have listened, and I have learned…oh how much have I learned!

The preconceptions I had of life here, the people here, who I would be while I was here, even who I am as an integrated individual have been shaken, broken, smashed and remodeled. My soul has been graciously shaped and formed by everything about this heartbreaking, beautiful, complicated and fascinating land. I will never, EVER be the same. How lucky and blessed am I that the unknown darkness that I left my home for ten-and-a-half weeks ago, has turned out to be so surprisingly pleasing to my heart, body and soul?

And so, with my soul enriched, and my heart re-formed, my short journey his is concluded. The “quarter-life-crisis” that brought me to South Africa has not been quenched, in fact it has just be even more fueled. I want to keep traveling, I want to volunteer more, I want to work with orthopedics, I want to work with children, I want to work with neurological patients, I want to keep learning. If it weren’t for my financial debt to the federal government, and intense attention issues, I would say I want to go to medical school, but I am called to really work with people, and try to help them in whatever tiny way I can. Most of all I want to be happy and make other people happy, if I possibly can.

And what next? Tomorrow, I am starting my 30+ hour trip back to Rochester, NY…my home. I will take a month to re-assimilate myself back to American life, and then I will pack up and leave again. In the very beginning of May, I am going to drive across the country and settle in Washington state for a short time. I am going to do “traveling physical therapy”, where I will work at different facilities for 12 week stints as a sort of “interim” therapist while these places look for permanent staff. I am nervous but excited about this next chapter,…it’s time to push the comfort zone once again….

Thank you for reading my blog and supporting me with your comments, thoughts and prayers. If anything, I hope my time here has inspired people to figure out what their dreams are and go after them. It may not be as extravagant as moving to a new country, it may be as small as starting a new hobby or as major going back to school. Whatever it is, please do what you can to make your dreams come true. All too often people live in fear and hide behind the “what-ifs?” in life…letting their inhibitions prevent them from living their lives the way that they should. It takes blood, sweat, time, perseverance and elbow grease, but it CAN be done. Take the time to sort out the details, dare to dream boldly, and do what it takes to BE HAPPY.

I will be posting a link to an online photo album here when I get home, so please, check back.

Much Love,
Irena

“There are potholes on the road less traveled–some deep, some not so deep, some you dig yourself. Most are filled with mud; many contain rocks. But every once in a while, you’ll be walking along and step in one a bit more accommodating–shabby, green, and pulsing with life. It’ll tickle your feet like clover.” (Ray Blackston)

Since being in South Africa, I have not had the opportunity to go to any big cities, except for the one night I spent in Johannesburg when I first arrived. My neighbor, Eugene, wanted to make sure that I understood that SA is more than just what Mthatha has to offer, so he offered to take me to East London for the weekend. East London is the nearest “city” to Mthatha, nothing as grand as a place like Durban or Capetown, but it has more to offer than the rural place we’re living in, and it is less than a three-hour drive to get there. So, at 9am on Saturday morning, we hoped in his car and made the trip!

East London is situated on the coast of the Indian Ocean, it’s a clean city with shopping malls, movie theaters, fast food restaraunts, all of which I havent seen any of since leaving Rochester in January. When we arrived, we met up with some friends, had lunch at the mall and did some shopping. Afterwards, we went to the beach and then headed to our “backpackers” accommodation where we would be spending the night (backpackers=youth hostel). The place was….ok….but a little sketchy, the door to my room didn’t lock and the place kind of smelled like smoke…but whatever, it was just for one night and I have been in worse places.

At night, several of Eugene’s friends from Mthatha had also driven to East London, and we met up with them to go to this fancy dance club called “numbers”. Most of the people lined up to get into the club were WHITE…I admit, this was a bit of a culture shock for me because in the nine weeks that I have been here, I have grown used to being the only white person anywhere I go. For the people I was with, they were nervous about going into the club because they didn’t know how to dance to “white person” music…haha. But we went in anyway, the place was pretty cool, two stories with a dance floor on the bottom and a bar at the top. The DJ was pretty good and there were lots of lights, smoke and special effects. Some random Xhosa boy kept trying to awkwardly dance with me, eventually he asked for my “numbers”…I gave him my US number…haha…his loss!

The next day, Eugene and I hung out on the beach where I soaked up my last few rays of South African sun. We also went to a little craft market where I picked up some last-minute souveneers…then we made the trip back to Mthatha. Eugene picked up two hitch hikers a long the way to help pay for petrol. Hitch hiking is a lot more common and (I guess) more safe in SA than in the US. Whenever you travel somewhere, there are lots of people lined up on the sides of the roads holding out cards with letters on them that indicate where they need to go (for example, if someone needed to go to Bedford, they would hold out a card that said “XG” on it…I have no idea what these codes mean, but apparently most people around here understand it perfectly). In any event, it was neat to do this trip with Eugene because I think I got a different perspective traveling with someone who is more of a “local” than just another Bedford voulnteer. It was a good trip and nice to get to a “city”.

Upon returning home, I went for a run…this time I had 13 boys following me, I think it was a whole soccer team of middle-school aged boys, all laughing and yelling “umlungu!” (white person) and trying to talk to me in Xhosa…it must have been an interesting site to see. I will miss going for runs when people actually wait for you to pass by and either cheer you on, or just start running with you…this place is so cool.

Today is “human rights day” here so I have the day off of work. This week I will be spending my time packing and saying goodbye. I am ready to leave, but I will really miss the people here. What a great time I have had! Hopefully I will be able to write one last blog before I leave, but for now….”Sala Kakhule!”

I have been taking a lot of pictures of my patients recently, I wanted to post some here so that you can see who I have been working with lately. This is my last week in Umtata, I will be home by next friday!

I know that I haven’t blogged in a while, so let me fill you in on what has been happening over the last week or so.

Last Thursday was a busy day, starting out with giving a presentation to all of the doctors here about the basics of physical therapy, especially in an orthopedic hospital setting. I gave the presentation with Tebogo, one of the full-time physiotherapists here (I work the closest with Tebogo in the spinal unit, he is a great therapist, I really admire him and respect him a lot). Physio is a very much developing profession here in South Africa, and many of the young doctors don’t have a full understanding of what the profession entails. The lecture was very basic, but well received. It was a good perspective check for me, as I have been trained to be on a collaborative level with the doctors that I work with as an autonomous professional. In South Africa, the profession is not yet as developed or respected, and the physiotherapists are struggling more to be accepted in their places of practice.

After the lecture, the physios all brought in cultural food for us to share. I had samp and beans, pap, maize, curry and even….tripe (sheep’s stomach!). We ate so much and had a good time together. However, the next morning, everyone who ate the tripe (including me)…had a severe case of the “runs”…two of the therapists were so bad, that they couldn’t even show up for work on friday! Luckly I had some immodium that did the trick, and my day wasn’t filled with mad dashes to the bathroom!

After work on Friday, Harry, Sue and I set off for a place called Mbotyi River Lodge on the Wild Coast. It took about 3 hours to get there, through some beautiful tea plantations and over some very rough, dirt roads. But, as is usually the case around here, the drive was worth it. The resort was on beach front, the weather was beautiful, the food was good and the bar was well stocked :). On Saturday, Jenny and her friend, Mariann met up with us and we really enjoyed ourselves as we layed on the beach, went swimming and had many nice meals (including chocolate muffins in the morning!). Susan and I even went on an early morning beach walk. The weekend was also filled with what Harry would call “DMCs” (Deep Meaningful Conversations), I just really love these guys. What a great way to spend the weekend! I am getting so spoiled!

Tuesday was Dr. Francsisco’s and Eugene’s birthday. We celebrated by eating delicious cuban food and dancing the night away (people here can REALLY dance!). I boiled up some maize that one of the Sisters in the female ward picked from her garden, especially for me and Harry. The concept of “Ubuntu” is very prevalent here, where people all look out for each other, and this Sister gave us the maize because she knew that Harry wasn’t feeling well and she wanted to help him get better. It was a great addition to the party.

On Wednesday, I was privileged enough to watch Harry and David (the CEO of Bedford Hospital) in action in the surgical theaters. I got to watch a hip relocation, an elbow ORIF (open-reduction-internal fixation), and a hip hemiarthroplasty (partial replacement). The coolest surgery was the elbow surgery. The patient had crushed her elbow and had only about 20 degrees of available range of motion. The surgeons first took out the radial head, and then wired the ulna together (it was in about 4 pieces), then they took tiny shavings from the radial head and filled in the “gaps” between the pieces of bone in the ulna so that the bone could heal strongly. It was kind of a crude surgery, but I was extremely impressed with the ability and precision of the surgeons. Orthopedic surgery must be so gratifying as you get to fix what is broken and sew it up nicely in the end. This experience just reiterated to me how much I love medicine, especially orthopedics. Harry and David are such fine surgeons, I am so grateful that I got to watch them in action.

Thursday was Harry and Susan’s last day here at Bedford. The goodbye was a difficult one, as I really have become so close to them during their short six weeks here. They are like family to me. How lucky am I that I randomly was here at the same time that they were? But, the goodbye comes with feelings of anticipation, they live in California (bay area), and I will soon be moving to Washington, not exactly a hop-skip-and-jump away, but close enough to make a visit.

And now, it is just me and Richard here in terms of volunteers. I have been here now for a little over 8 weeks. Looking back, I can kind of see “chapters” in my time here. It started out with me and Pete hitting it off and discovering Africa together. Then, Pete left and 8 other American volunteers came. All of a sudden, my time was jam-packed with social obligations, parties, and weekend trips. Then, many of the volunteers left, and the next two weeks were “bonding” weeks for me, Adam, Harry and Susan. Adam’s medical school is on strike, so he has spent a lot of time at Bedford, observing surgeries and just “soaking in the knowledge of the doctors”, as he would put it. Harry’s mandatory round of ARVs, secondary to an accidental needle prick during surgery, whopped him over the head with extreme fatigue. All of these circumstances, combined, gave us all a chance to really get to know each other better and become like family. Adam and I look similar anyway, and Harry and Sue adopted us as their pretend children. These memories I will cherish forever, I am so blessed.

Things here now are very very very quiet. I have about a week and a half left in South Africa. I think this next chapter will give me a chance to wind down, reflect, say goodbye and get ready for the next stage in my life. I will miss this place immensely, but I know that I will be able to take the lessons that I have learned here, to strengthen me for whatever comes next. Life is good :)

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true”. I heard this quote the other day and I really think it is so true. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Barack Obama, the list can go on. I would also like to add to the list many of the people whom I have encountered while being here in South Africa. Here are some snapshots:

Father Cas: this man is an American, Roman Catholic priest who lived in the Eastern Cape of South Africa during the very highest point of the apartheid. Father Cas had the integrity and audacity to let people of all colors and races join together for his church youth group, and was subsequently exiled from South Africa. Eventually he was allowed to return, however not long after, he was spontaneously arrested (for no strong reason), and brought to Zambia, where he was brutally abused and beaten. Father Cas has also spent time chaplaining for the ANC and has lived to see Apartheid come to an end. He has the such a kind and gentle soul, it is healing to just be in his presence.

Jenny McChonachie: Jenny’s husband, Chris was an orthopedic surgeon who basically founded Bedford Orthopedic Hospital. He built the hospital from the ground up and turned it into a place where today, millions receive care. Jenny has founded the Itipini project where she provides free health services for the Itipini community, a squatter community built on a trash heap. She tends to the poorest of poor in a gracious and loving manner. She lives with the nitty, gritty, dirty, and exasperating…and she has devoted her life towards it. In my mind, she is the definition of beauty.

Philip Zide: I know I’m not supposed to play favorites as a therapist, but I truly love this patient. Philip was in a car accident 5 months ago which resulted in a C6-C7 incomplete spinal injury. Philip struggles daily with painful spasms in his legs. He tells me that he has pain, but he still lets me stretch him and he works so unbelievably hard to gain function. This week he has started walking with a walking frame. Philip also has a beautiful wife and 14 month old daughter, living about 20km away from the hospital, they visit him when they can. Philip always is laughing, smiling and joking…a strong feat for a guy who has it so tough.

Mizwandile: another patient who has ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that pathologically fuses the bones in your body. Mizwandile cannot move anything in his body except for his right arm. He spends his days lying in a bed, staring at the ceiling. My job is to range his stiff-as-a-board limbs…he cries when I do that…but afterwards he will laugh and sing to me. Another beautiful soul.

Harry and Sue Jergesen: these guys are my neighbors and fellow volunteers. Harry is an orthopedic surgeon from San Francisco and his wife is a former RN who now works hard to make interpersonal connections and empower people (especially women) at places like Bedford Hospital. These two are in their 60s and are an incredibly strong team. Their gentle respect for each other along with their crazy sense of humor livens up and encourages the community here. Throughout the year, they also work internationally with other organizations to provide their skills and services. Truly a testament to using their abilities to better their surroundings. Currently, Harry is taking Anti-Retroviral Medications because he accidently pricked himself while suturing a HIV positive patient (this is not a joking matter, you really can’t be too careful). The drugs are making him feel downright lousy, but are also providing him with a sense of empathy towards what countless people here are dealing with. Harry and Sue are my family away from home.

Eugene: my neighbor and fellow physiotherapist. Eugene lived through the genocide in Rwanda and put his life at risk to volunteer with the American Red Cross during. Eugene saw much bloodshed and loss during this time. Eugene an extremely happy, sensitive and caring individual. The world desperately needs more people like him.

My list could go on. I could write books. Every day I meet someone new, who has a different story to tell. I am humbled to know them and I am blessed and grateful to be in their presence. Perhaps we have stories in the USA as well, but here everything is so real and forefront. Apartheid ended only a short 16 years ago, HIV and AIDS is present in at least 40% of the population, and people in this part of the world, in the “homeland” of South Africa (homeland=place where blacks were sent to toil during apartheid rule), are struggling to figure out how their story fits into the puzzle of a developing society. These people are the dreamers and these people daily toil to pay the price to make their dreams come true.

this story is by Susan Jergesen, one of the volunteers here…I thought it was really well written and very articulate, therefore I wanted to post:

The Story of a Small Boy

Like a statue, he’d been sitting in the hospital’s over-crowded waiting room since early that morning, silently waiting for his turn to be seen by one of the clinic’s few doctors. His wide eyes were tinged with pain and fatigue, and it was obvious that he was scared, scared frozen. I watch him all that morning and into the afternoon as I ushered patient after patient in and out of the examining rooms. I kept looking for his parents or the adult that surely was with him, but saw no one, and when it was his turn, he walked slowly into the room, all alone. As he stood shyly in front of the doctor, guarding his right arm with its crooked angle close to his skinny chest, big tears began to gather in his eyes and his lower lip quivered. He was desperately trying to stay brave. But in that moment, that moment when his pain, his hunger and his fatigue must have collided hard up against his tender soul shaken by its first time’s fear of the vast unknown, the glistening tears overflowed, running down his soft little cheeks and falling on the floor, in silence.

This 4 year-old boy had broken his arm two weeks before. Early, in the dark of this very morning, his mother had put him on the bus in the care of the driver, to travel the long 200 miles to the hospital. She’d spent the past weeks working long hours and borrowing, trying to get enough money for bus fare. At last, she’d had saved enough, but just for the boy. He was still her baby, but he was in bad pain and she wanted it to stop, and there was no other way. So fighting back her tears lest he see and be afraid, she sent him off into the still dark of the day, to seek help, alone.

He was admitted to the hospital late that afternoon by the gentle, young medical officer and sent without a whimper of protest to the pediatric ward to wait the 2 weeks until it was his turn for surgery, necessary now because of the delay. It would then be another 2 or 3 or 4 weeks until someone could come and pick him up. For all this time, a certain eternity to him, the hospital would be his home, the Sisters, his sole source of comfort and the other patients, his brothers. And he, still fresh out of his mother’s arms would go through it all with barely a whimper. I was told that would have been remarkable, except that he was not just any small boy, he was a Xhosa boy.

Seeing as how it is Thursday afternoon here, I figure it’s about time that I blog about what I did last weekend…as always, it was eventful!

First, let me give you a general life update. I’m now sitting at my dining room table, the door is open, I just got back from a quick run, and it is raining! I love rain. We were without water for 5 days and it gave me some perspective on how much I depend on the substance. Also, the rain makes things so much cooler, which is a godsend.

As far as work goes, I have taken on a few more responsibilities. I am now not only working with the spinal cord patients, I am also working in the female ward. Extra responsibilities include rounding with the female ward doctor on every female orthopedic patient in the morning (I think there probably about 30, but I have never counted), and then performing therapy on mainly the post-op patients as my schedule allows. At home, the post op patients (total knee and hip replacements, etc), are top priority and they get seen twice a day…but here, I do my best to see them once a day…time and resources are limited but anything is better than nothing. These women are TOUGH…in three days I saw a 80-year-old, total hip replacement patent, transition from not being able to sit up, to walking around independently…the first few sessions were kind of hairy, as she was swearing at me in Xhosa…I would call over a “sister” (nurse), to interpret…but now she at least smiles when she sees me…she’s waiting for transportation to come and pick her up and bring her back home…a process which can sometimes take weeks or months. Anyway, I have been busier, but I like it that way. I sincerely enjoy my job here.

Ok, on to the happenings of the weekend. First and foremost, surprise, surprise!….My dad and brother were here as part of their “whirlwind-let’s-see-all-of-southern-Africa-in-a-week” expedition. They spent most of their time in Zambia, to see Victoria Falls, and spent the weekend in Mthatha, SA with me…a slight “clashing of the worlds” on my end, but hats off to them that they made it all possible and all in all it was good to see them.

The other volunteers here thought it would be a good idea to head to Bulungula for the weekend. Bulungula is an entirely self-sustainable hostel in the Transkei Wild Coast. Harry, Sue, Brandt, Katherine and Larry (orthopedic doctor, his wife/RN, OBGYN, OBGYN and all around Mr. Fixit), headed out on Friday afternoon after work, and I waited for the family to arrive from abroad. They arrived safely, and quickly “hit the sack” as I was to wake them up at the crack-o-dawn (4:30am) the next morning to get to Bulungula.

Getting to Bulungula is a real challenge, (starting with the pot-hole-filled coffee bay road, followed by miles of dirt road through vast South African rural terrain and then a 3km hike to the ocean), but once you get there…WOW…it is worth it!

This place would put my tree-hugging-self-sustaining-hippie friends from Ithaca to shame…the amount of energy they use in one day equals the amount of energy used by a normal toaster in one hour! They use solar panels for their electricity, they heat their water with kerosene (they have “rocket showers”, where shower water is heated by lighted kerosene…so freaking cool), they cook their food on solar ovens, water is collected in rain canisters and is recycled as banana trees soak up the used shower/cooking/cleaning water, etc. etc. Also, the locals own 40% of the location, so profits go towards things like bettering their schools. Not only that, but this place is BEAUTIFUL…it is located right on the ocean with beach as far as you can imagine, horses, cows, donkeys, goats, etc roam freely, and surrounding you are rolling hills with colorful rondavels, quaintly situated on green grass against blue sky. Truly, heaven on earth.

Bulungula was a great place to go with the family, because I didn’t have to concern myself with keeping them constantly entertained. There was a library of books that could be read around the outdoor fire pit, or in the inside lounge, and there were several activities that you could partake in, if you chose to do so. A bunch of us took a hike to a nearby rondavel, where a lady made us crepe-like sandwiches with curried chicken inside of them. We also got to walk the beach and swim in the ocean (I’ve been in the Indian ocean 3 times over the last month!) At night, my brother and I participated in a drum circle, and all of us enjoyed conversation with the many interesting people staying there (European backpackers, medical volunteers, local Xhosa people, a mixed conglomerate of culturally rich individuals). After gazing at the wide open night sky, we fell asleep in one of the many guest rondavels. Harry and Sue had a “safari tent” which was set up right over the beach….pretty, pretty great.

The next day we hiked UP UP UP the very steep hills in the HOT HOT HOT African sun, to get back to our cars…I guess this experience gave me an appreciation for the local Xhosa people who walk everywhere….I’m not too sure if I could hack it, living out there, but it would be fun to try. After getting to our cars, we drove back, ate dinner and rested. The next day my family had to return home…short but good visit.

I have now been here for 6 weeks, hard to believe, but I really really love it a lot. I even appreciate the everyday frustrations. Temporarily moving to South Africa is probably one of the greatest things I have done…I was scared to come here but it has been nothing but gracious, eye-opening and wonderful…as the Zen phrase says “Jump and the net will appear”, I am so glad that I made this jump and I am so glad that Mthata, South Africa has become my net.

On On
Irena

Shoutouts:
Sheepdate: happy birthday week!
Cyrus: happy anniversary…3 years! I miss you!

When it doesn’t rain, we don’t have water. When we don’t have water, there can be no surgery. When there is no surgery, patients keep waiting…one more day lying in bed, in traction, in pain. One more day added on top of the hundreds of days where they won’t be able to return home, healed. The doctors try to explain the best that they can, yet a feeling of frustration still hovers in the sticky, hot, smelly hospital ward air. We are so dependent on such a basic substance. Today is day number five without water and we will continue to wait.

Another week came and went (despite South Africa time seeming to go so slowly in the present, it certainly does fly by…does that make sense?). All of the Bedford/Itipini volunteers decided that it would be a good weekend to head to the coast. We went to Coffee Bay, the place that I went to with Pete during my first weekend here (Pete has since left, currently I’m living with a girl from Colorado and next door is dr and his wife from California along with one of his residents, also from California). Richard, the Itipini volunteer from Wisconsin, told us that he has friends that live in Coffee Bay in a “really nice house” that is “right behind the hotel”, so we should stay there. Susan, Harry and Megan (the dr., his wife and my roommate) decided to be safe and stay at said hotel while Reza (the medical resident) and I decided to go with our adventurous instincts and stay with Richard and his friends.

We took the pot-hole-filled-cattle-crowded drive to Coffee Bay. Despite some car-sickness, we made it in one piece. The ocean was lovely and the sun was shining. Here is where I should mention that we took two cars to get to the Bay. One car contained Harry, Sue, Reza, Megan and myself. This car arrived at the Bay at around five…two hours later we hadn’t heard anything from car #2 which contained Richard, his Coffee Bay friends, and Adam, a very eccentric young medical student who studies at the med school in Mthatha. It wasn’t until car#1 people were sitting and eating dinner at the very nice Ocean View hotel, when we finally heard some word. Adam and Richard trampled into the hotel dining room, very bedraggled looking. Apparently the house was not behind the Ocean View hotel, instead it was behind the Coffee Bay hotel that was about a mile down the road. Adam and Richard walked through the woods, in the dark, in the rain to get to Ocean View hotel to find us. That meant that Reza and myself would have to walk back with them to get to where we were supposed to sleep for the night. Luckily the “through the woods” route was not the only way to get there and there was a road connecting the two places.

Adam took my head lamp and decided to wear it on the very top of his head, light pointing directly to the sky (really helpful tool at this point), while he stepped in every single pothole while simultaneously warning us to not walk in cow poop. This is not a normal quaint town road…this is a very remote South African style road….somehow I found security in the fact that my hunter’s knife that I had purchased for like a bazillion percent off on steepandcheap.com was securely in my pocket.

Anyway, we of course safely arrived at the “really nice house” (read: it was a run down, half finished, frat house with bathrooms that didn’t work and showers that looked like they could use a bath themselves). Reza was a little wigged out, but it wasn’t stopping my sense of adventure…I’ve seen worse.

We spent about 3 minutes at the house, and then we walked about a half mile to get to a local bar/backpackers hostel/hippie hang out. It wasn’t a half bad joint…there were people of all sorts there (mostly the old worn out hippie type) and there were a few African drums on display (which I thought were free to jam on…so I did…and got in trouble….but my hand still hurt the next day, as it always does after drumming). Adam started to play pool while downing several drinks between victories. I engaged in a conversation with two doctors from England. Time passed quickly. Soon enough, Adam was puking in the bushes and adamantly requesting to return home. Richard and Reza were nowhere to be found.

I got to play the responsable “mama card” (go me!). Richard’s friend Msie (who looks like an African version of Gandhi), and I walked Adam back to the house, which involved him crossing a small river and losing a shoe…with mad hunting for said shoe ensuing for several minutes afterwards. We got Adam home, put him to bed, and then returned to the bar to look for Reza and Richard. We crossed the same river, looked for the shoe, didn’t find the shoe. We came across the boys trying to light their way home with light from Richard’s lighter. We then turned around, crossed the river again, looked for the shoe again, failed at finding the shoe again, and made it home…safely.

I also forgot to mention that two girls had approached Msie on the first trip to the bar after dropping Adam off at home. He spoke to them in Xhosa, something that probably went like this: “hey, you are hot, I live around the corner, meet me there in ten minutes”. Anyway, when we all arrived home, those girls were upstairs waiting. I was tired and went to my room…enough craziness for one night. I later found out that they were most likely prostitutes and Richard had to tell them, ever so politely…to “get the @#$% out of the house”.

The next night, Reza and I decided that we would crash with Megan at Ocean View.

The rest of the weekend went smoothly, we went to Hole in the Wall, body surfed on the waves at the ocean, marveled at the scenery, etc.

When we arrived home, our local Pakistani Dr, Iqbal, got so excited that we were home that we made a late night trip to the grocery store so that he could get supplies to make us Indian food (note: Iqbal drives about 120km/hour). We had delicious Indian food at 10pm. So very random, but I guess that’s just the way my life is these days.

Hope you enjoyed my story! And a sidenote for people like Geriann and Benny Mae from work (who always go crazy when I tell them stories like this…usually on a weekly basis)…I’m alive, well, and am keeping a sound head on my shoulders….no sense in worrying about me!

Life is good!

until next time,
Irena/Rocks/Psyche

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