Thursday, September 30, 2010

Africa Part 6

Last Tuesday, my whole world was shaken when I saw a pig slaughtered. The part where the entrails and organs were being removed, blood washed, and even the head cut off were incredible. I had never seen the process before, and wondered how my vegetarian friends would fare at witnessing the thing. After, I was told that there’d be another one killed. And that was horrifying. Seeing the pig dragged out of the pen, shrieking and fighting—provoked tears and me running away like a little girl.

Two days after, I spent the whole day making sausage. (Yes, out of those very pigs). The whole process is a lot like chess in some manner: success comes from anticipating the next step. We, the A Team (Sylvia and myself) made about 40 in two hours. The glass of suds (beer) after that was one of the most satisfying drinks I’d ever had. Also- I milked cows for a bit, and hadn’t realized how tough it is. You have to squeeze a lot harder than I had initially conceived of. My hands and forearms were pretty darned sore that day.

Sunday was the last day of the Magoebaskloof/Haenertsburg Spring Festival, and the four of us instead went to see THE BIGGEST BAOBAB TREE OF THE WORLD. And that was just it. Gigantic? Yes. Terribly interesting? No. Maybe I was in a foul-ish mood, and not one for sight-seeing but it was about two oohs and an ah. Only. And not even the bar inside the tree could cheer me up. But the day before at the fair, I witnessed the sausages I so painstakingly produced. And that was quite a sight to see.

You might be wondering what the heck I’ve been doing “work” wise. Aside from the farm, I have been teaching dance, and choir, as well as learning dances and songs with kids aged 4 to 19. Interestingly, they picked up merengue very quickly because the footwork is basically a dance called “nguazi” Salsa and tango are a little new, but we have fun regardless. Plus, everyone loves some good freestyle booty-shaking. But as old habits die hard, I have been trying to start up a volunteering initiative at a clinic that is located up a big old hill from one of our after school sites. Coupled with me-designed curriculum about anatomy, and physiology, my plan is for the secondary school aged students to go volunteer a few hours per week and in such a way build confidence toward a career in healthcare. Presently, there seem to be very few opportunities for some people to get this type of exposure, limited as it may seem. This way, the clinic’s staff shortage would be somewhat resolved, and these girls would be able to learn accountability, and responsibility, and lots of other –ilities. In my wildest dreams, this program would be sustainable for years, and we’d get to do quarterly field trips to hospitals in Limpopo to observe surgeries, or shadow physicians. I’d like to find funds to get them sphygmomanometers and steths to check their families’ and neighbors blood pressures.But even if that doesn’t happen, I hope that it starts a dialogue between these young women and themselves, as well as their communities about healthcare and wellness. Today we had our first lesson on the heart. We took pulses, and talked about how valves are like doors, that close tight so wind (it was blustery today!), or blood, can’t come into a room (atrium! ventricle!). Shame that I hadn’t taken the pig heart from a week ago to really have a little dissection. That would have really been full circulation! (hah!! Get it?! Circulatory system!! My nerdatory comments are charming, I’m sure.)And, I had them listen to their own hearts with the stethoscope I brought, that of which I had been given some…8(?) years ago at Westminster Free Clinic when I started volunteering there. Sentimental. Nostalgic. Cheesy.But absolutely wonderful.

Another bit on hearts: I have been (unbelievable, I know), running! I started a week ago and am trying to go 2-3 times a week. I have never really liked the activity with great passion, but Jenna goes pretty much every day and is a constant nagging reminder (with really muscular legs) to me that it’d be a good idea to be cardiovascular-ly healthy. And Im glad for such a beautiful place to run. I usually go in the afternoons before the darkness sets in like an obsidian blanket. And it truly is breathtaking, to see Venus, and the moon, and stars like I’d never before encountered.
I would give you a poem, but I struggle for words the way the setting sun fights to keep its throne between 5:45 and 6:30 PM, urgent and desperate. But I rest assured that they’ll come and find me to play, the way the afternoon rays always discover my shoulders in the warmest of ways. And I will post that up too.

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