Weekend excursion

Trip Start Aug 28, 2008
Trip End Dec 21, 2008

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Flag of South Africa  , KwaZulu-Natal,
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Well, this weekend was great, powerful, overwhelming, enriching, confusing, inspiring, and discouraging- to name a few of the emotions I am dealing with at the moment.
Friday we drove to the Drakensburg mountains, where we all stayed in a big cabin without electricity and cooked over a campfire.  Saturday we were free to relax and hike.  I got up really early with a few friends to see the most amazing stars I have ever seen and go on a sunset hike, which was really beautiful.  Later in the morning a big group of us set off for an 18 km hike, which took all day and had some amazing views- we even saw a few baboons!
Sunday we left and drove to Impendle, the rural community where we stayed.  We got to the town and found out that we are the first foreigners to ever stay in the town, which was apparent by the number of stares we got.  We were paired off and dropped off at our new homes for the next few days (there is a whole story with the dropping off, involving lots of cows and dogs and trying to drive a minibus with a trailer around tiny country roads to find houses of people who all have the same names, but anyway...).  The family I stayed with was absolutely lovely.  Six people, five cows, two dogs, and various goats and chickens live in a little homestead consisting of a few small buildings; two of them were a beautiful blue color that I was in love with.  My family had some electricity but no running water at the house, but there was a water source a short walk away that they used to get buckets of water that were kept in the kitchen.   We were treated extremely well the whole time we were there, with trays upon trays of delicious food being set before us and an overall very welcoming feeling.  The mama, her brother, and the two teenage boys of the house spoke some English, and the gogo (grandma) and 4 year old girl only spoke Zulu.  They were such a great family, and they even gave us Zulu names!  Mine is Nontokozo, which means gladness (all Zulu names have literal meanings, so it would be like someone's name was literally Gladness, or Flower for example).
Monday we shadowed some home-based care givers on their rounds to various sick people in the community.  This organization is really inspiring, it is a group of dedicated women who volunteer to visit people in their homes in order to bathe them and offer general support.  At the end of each visit all of the women sing a beautiful prayer, a very powerful and emotional thing to experience in a round hut in the middle of nowhere Africa.  We also had a lecture from various people of the community- a nurse who runs the local health clinic, a social worker, someone from a local non-profit organization, and the woman who runs the home-based care organization.  There are so many dimensions to the problems the community is struggling with: limited resources, cultural beliefs, stigmatization, poverty, lack of proper education, gender issues... it was good to see that there is a strong interest in change and a want for help, but it was also a bit discouraging to be faced with such a complex problem and not be able to spend enough time in the community to really understand the situation. 
We are now back in Durban and happy to see our Cato Manor families.  We have another rural homestay in October, so it will be very interesting to compare all of these different communities we are able to become a part of.  There are a ton of other stories that I could tell about this weekend, but this is already long, so I'll stop for now!

ps- here is a link to some more pictures... http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2065593&l=95f43&id=7205945
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