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!

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