Sunday, May 3, 2009

Slowing down.

These once a month updates will stop soon, I promise. Why? Because things are slowing down... I will no longer be traveling as much as I have been, which means I'll be in the office and at home, giving me time to sit here and talk to you.


With the passing of May 1, we have officially been in South Africa 10 months. Yes, 10 months! 10 months without momma and poppa Brock, without driving on the *correct* side of the road, without Target, without friends and family, without mexican cheese dip, without TV (gosh I miss Food Network), without being surrounded by people with similar southern accents.

And its been good. I haven't been too homesick - I guess mainly because I'm so busy and also because there is enough about Pretoria that reminds me of home that I don't miss it. I guess also because Will and the dogs are here to keep me happy. However...

Will went home last weekend to the U.S. and I miss him terribly. I realized this is the first time that he's left me... throughout our entire relationship, its been me leaving him at home while I travel to Tanzania, South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Washington D.C., you name it. Aside from brief sojourns throughout the state of Georgia that would last one or two nights, I really haven't been without him. Go ahead - call me spoiled. We've just never been fans of being apart from each other if we could help it. But this is 17 days of being by myself in a foreign country. I won't lie to you - its been hard.

What makes it hard are the two dogs moping around the house and staring longingly at the door waiting for Will to bust in. Its hard when I have a really simple question that I must answer and I just want to run the scenario by someone... and no one is here (Muddy is really good at looking interested in my convos though). Its hard feeling like I should get out of the house and do something - but where would I go? And what would I do? Its even difficult thinking, "what should I make for dinner?" knowing that I'm filling up a fridge of food I have to eat repeatedly throughout the week (I hate leftovers). Its hard knowing Will is at a wedding where I'd like to be with him, that Will is with our family and friends, that Will is eating good sushi... and I'm here.

In some ways its been nice to have this time on my own as I've tackled quite a few projects I would have otherwise left undone. Its sad that my big plan for today is to unclutter our guest room, which has become the room in which we dump everything that has no official home.

Truly, I'm ecstatically happy for Will. He needed this trip home and I'm hopeful great things will come of it. He calls me multiple times a day (thank you Vonage!) to catch me up on life back home so its not so bad. But let's just say... I'll be glad when he gets back!

So what's been going on with me other than missing Will...

This past week I went to Durban. It was quite possibly the worst travel of my life as I got picked up much too early and dropped off much too late. Save for complaints about transport, Durban was pretty nice! It reminds me a lot of Ft. Lauderdale - a big steamy city on the beach... and not the prettiest beach, mind you, but there's something peaceful about hearing the waves and seeing people have fun on the beach. I stayed at an awesome hotel where I got bumped up to the top floor with a sea view. For about $90/night, not bad. I ate dinner at a great little place on Florida road and had the best time.

Most importantly, I had great visits with my grantees. The first day I went out and met with the traditional healers (sangoma in Zulu), which really gave me a better idea of the project. Traditional healers are essentially the "doctors" of the villages here, except they haven't been formally educated or trained. They use the practices passed down from generation to generation to help people. As I took of my shoes and entered the sangoma's hut, I see all sorts of herbs, switches, massive roosters walking around, cobwebs, blankets, and fire pits to be used on people suffering from various malaise. They've been a HUGE help in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of encouraging people to use condoms, referring those who need to go to the clinic, and more. What struck me was their gratitude. One traditional healer said, "Before PEPFAR, I was ashamed because I was not educated. You have made me feel important and I am so happy to know I have helped so many against this disease." I couldn't help but get choked up by her words.

Moving on to more random things...

I realized the other day how much my eating habits have changed here, so much to the point that I think my mom will be shocked the next time she sees me eat! What's changed?
  • I willingly eat runny eggs. Before, I liked my eggs scrambled - no yolk anywhere! Since being here, I started eating fried eggs, but only if the yolk was well done. For whatever reason, they won't do scrambled eggs here (there's lots of confusion when you ask for them) nor will they cook an egg all the way done. Hence, I've started to eat my eggs a bit runny. I'm amazed that it doesn't gross me out and that... I actually think it tastes better when eggs are cooked over medium. Don't worry... no sunny-side up eggs for me. That would take it a bit too far...
  • I ate pineapple on my pizza the other day and it was YUMMY. I also eat avocado on pizza. Try it. YUM.
  • I've acclimated to South Africa so much that I eat with my knife and fork almost all the time. South Africans eat in the european style of using their knife to make little bites to scrape on their fork. Its really interesting to me to watch and I've come to realize, it can be quite an efficient way of eating. Previously, I used to cut up my food, lay down my knife, switch hands, and eat. Now I just keep both utensils in my hands all the time. Weird.
  • I'm a big fan of curries, especially prawn curry.
  • I ate beets the other day. Yes, that's right. Me. I ate BEETS. My parents used to can beets when I was younger and I would literally leave the house due to the stink boiled beets create. Yuck. When I got home from Malawi two weeks ago, Will instructed me to change into something nice and he'd take me to dinner. Lo and behold, the most romantic date since our honeymoon occurred. We went to this fantastic French restaurant that was all candlelit, full of fresh flowers, and played fantastic french music. We ordered a tasting menu - french onion soup, scallops, duck breast, cheese platter, creme brulee. Romantic and delicious! I went back three nights later with Jody and Beth and I got a toasted goat cheese salad. It came with a beet and apple stack that was absolutely delicious. And it came with toasted pistachios
  • So within that entry above, my mom would be shocked that I ate: beets, duck breast, a platter of cheeses, pistachios
Random fact of southern Africa: everywhere I go, people sing. Whether they are tone deaf or not, they sing out loud, whatever song is in their head. Sometimes they are singing to a song playing overhead, but more often than not, they just sing to sing. And of course, it puts a smile on my face.

For right now, I am no longer headed to Mozambique due to timing issues. This leaves my next trip as my beloved R&R to Ireland and London. I'm having so much fun planning the trip! If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments.

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