Archive for June, 2011


Jessica: Home and lessons learned

June 20, 2011

So… I guess I’m back!

When people ask me, “How was Ireland?” what can I really say?? I’ve been trying to come up with a sentence to sum it up, because from my last study abroad or any trip I’ve taken, people will ask and tune out 2 sentences in since, frankly, it’s hard to understand. It’s not a sad thing to realize, but there’s no way to truly capture the experience.

I saw beautiful things, sad things; I was exhausted and energized; I met some of the most amazing people, and I learned a LOT. Not just the things like Irish history, but of leadership–that vague term that people throw around without truly knowing what it means.

My basic lessons are these takeaways, outside of technical information:

  • Value of one, power of all: we all matter, and I am continually shaped by every individual I come across. Every story you hear, every person you spend any amount of time with, impacts you somehow–and it should. I’ve written in my journal the lessons I’ve learned from others, something that Emily Smith once told me to do. And there were people we met who simply stepped up and did what they thought needed to be done–and moved mountains by doing so.
  • Listen listen listen: why do we keep relearning this lesson? Because we still mess it up. I would like to get better at not always needing to chime in, just to sit, pause, and absorb before I have to open my big mouth
  • People will surprise you: What happens when you force 25 people to hang out for nearly a month? You give those people who you judge upon first meeting a second, third, fourth chance. You are exposed to them in multiple different situations till you realize, “Wow, I actually really enjoy you, and I had a bad first impression.” It’s humbling and makes you feel like an ass–so the lesson here is keep your judgments to yourself (avoid that mob mentality, dudes) and then be open to them changing.
  • On that note, avoid poisoning the well. We started expressing our displeasure with certain situations or people and that is TOXIC. If you can’t just stand up to change it, at least don’t perpetuate it to the best of your ability–because we all need to vent.
I already miss having my roommates around, and it’s weird being fully in control of my life’s schedule again… Again, what I’d like to take home with me is letting go a little bit of overscheduling myself as well as just going out to enjoy life: do MY to do list. As Kelsey says, I spend too much time doing things for others, not for myself. This trip reminds me that we all have our OWN to do list we want to accomplish–I will work on not forgetting it.
In the meantime I will definitely enjoy half and half in my coffee, abundance of public restrooms and the friends I came home to.

Shawnda: A million questions

June 20, 2011

Another day in the clinic, another day left with questions and confusion.

I spent the majority of the day in the dressing room watching wounds being cleaned and bandaged.  The nurse, Agnes, was most likely in her mid twenties and was working her first day at Extension 2.  We talked about America and what it is like to live there, and about her applying for her green card.  I never realized the amount of money and work it took to apply for one, and how badly people want to come to the US just to work. Nurses here make just enough to get by, and most likely work twice as much as nurses in the states.  It costs over P2000, just over 300 USD, to take the English entrance test.  They all have the will and the desire to take the test, but most just don’t have the resources while only making the equivalent of about 2 USD per hour. 

Not only was this process confusing to me, but their perceptions of Americans were as well.  I’m sure that monetarily, most Americans are rich compared to Botswana, but they assume we are all living such perfect lives.  It was surprising to them when they heard that many people are losing their jobs and can’t find any replacements.  Most are unaware of our economy, health care, and schooling systems.  I could continue for pages on the issues our country is facing.

Still, every country comes with its unjust issues, and each has its own triumphs.  In Botswana, workers are underpaid yet health care is free.  In the US, health care is remarkably expensive but people have the ability to succeed and advance in their fields.  In the US, education comes at a price but is unbounded.  In Botswana, college is paid for but limited.  The grass is always greener; with some advantages come even more difficulties. 

I’ve found so far that public health is such a complex field; it is impossible to serve and protect everyone. Where do you find the resources and political power to enforce public health policies?  With a topic that should be straight forward and simple, keep people safe and healthy, it is completely intertwined with politics, money, and limitations.  I think that no matter where you go, everyone is faced with similar public health issues at varying intensities.  Most health care systems are focused towards curing disease rather than preventing it. Patients come in when they are sick; why not before?  Most patients don’t follow the rules whether it’s concerning drug adherence or lifestyle choices; who is educating them?  Many hospitals and clinics are congested and most health care workers work too much.

So many issues…how do you fix them?


Shawnda: Giving back to the Batswana

June 18, 2011

Yesterday we visited the SOS Orphanage and it was by far the most rewarding experience so far.  The children were so excited to see us and had so much energy to share.  They absolutely loved our cameras and taking pictures.

It was almost more overwhelming for us to have so many kids running around and trying to play with us than it was for them to have 22 white kids roaming around their playground.   Their motto was “It takes a whole village to raise a child” which is so fitting for them.  The orphanage appears as a small village in itself, with kids of all ages and backgrounds.  I can’t wait to go back and spend time with them after knowing how happy it made them and me.  

I started my clinic internship today in Extension 2.  Walking in was probably the most uncomfortable and overwhelming experience thus far.  Their waiting room was packed full of Batswana, and the three of us were the only white people there; and the whitest considering we were wearing lab coats.  It is such an odd feeling when you are looked at as something completely alien.  It just seems like everyone was in shock that we were there.  Communication was difficult, and starting the day was even more so considering our arrival was not expected.  I was so conscious of the fact that I was an intruder that it was hard to be aware of everything else around me.

I began my day in the injection room, which was incredibly busy.  As soon as the patient would open the door to leave, another would be walking in.  Most patients, about 95%, were there for Ceftriaxone, which is an antibiotic for STI’s. There was one pregnant woman there for her routine tetanus booster, and two others for their TB treatment.  A few had both Ceftriaxone and Penicillin for STI’s as well. 

The most interesting part of the day was when I was brought into the dressing room to see an abscess treatment.  A woman had an abscess in her armpit area about the size of a small apple.  The doctor made an incision and drained the abscess, which looked incredibly painful.  Even after receiving a painkiller, the woman was writhing in pain.  A positive to seeing this was the fact that I wasn’t fazed by the abscess itself.  However, I felt absolutely terrible for the woman.  I think if I were the doctor in that situation, I would be continually apologizing.  Still, I couldn’t help but think that I would have loved to be the one with the scalpel.

The rest of the day was incredibly slow and uncomfortable.  Most of the people spoke in Setswana, during which I could only understand “gakiitse” which means “I don’t know.” We did meet an incredibly helpful doctor there though who answered all of our questions and helped to give us a better understanding of their medical system.  In Extension 2, there are only two doctors and a few nurses.  It is incredibly understaffed and resources are scarce.  There is a maternity room, three observation rooms, a very small emergency room, injection room, dressing room, and TB room.  TB patients need to go to the clinic daily to ensure they are taking their medication, otherwise they can be prosecuted.  Most patients, if they cannot be treated at the clinic, are given referrals to other clinics or hospitals. 

It is just a completely different medical environment than I am used to.  People will spend the night or get to the clinic at 3 am to get in line.  Others wait for hours just to see a doctor for a few minutes or have their blood drawn, which takes about 2 minutes.  I had to scour the clinic to find rubber gloves for a doctor; I felt so guilty for wasting all of those rubber gloves in Biology lab. 

I never realized how much I took health care in the US for granted until now.  If I wait a half hour in the lobby for a doctor appointment, I’m frustrated and assume it is because people are inefficient and lazy.  I waste pipette tips and gloves in biology lab like no other.  I don’t even appreciate the fact that when I go to the bathroom in a US clinic, there is soap and toilet paper. 

Even though health care and services are free in Botswana, the system is completely lacking in so many areas.  Nurses and doctors are overworked and underpaid.  How are doctors expected to give quality care when they are faced with hundreds of patients every day?  They are faced with the struggle to decide between helping everyone with less-than-efficient care or helping a select few with exceptional care.  Only 5% of Batswana have health care, but even they go to the local clinics to get free services and medication.

The practical solution would be to charge the citizens for health care in order to pay for medical resources and personnel. However, many citizens most likely cannot pay for such things.  Botswana is the first African country to pay for all ART (antiretroviral treatment) for HIV/AIDS patients as well.  But how is that affecting their economy?  Do you choose between keeping clinics and hospitals well stocked in all aspects, or between keeping your citizens healthy? 

These questions are only skimming the surface of the problems the health care system is facing.  I can only imagine how difficult it is to decide between such vital things. I am sure tomorrow will bring about even more observations and questions.

On a positive note, I learned how to test someone’s blood pressure, which is surprisingly harder than it looks.  Hopefully by 4:30pm tomorrow I’ll be a pro thanks to Phage (pronounced Pah-hey), the male nurse who is looking for a wife. 


Lindsey: Exploring London

June 18, 2011

This weekend started off early being I didn’t have to work Thursday or Friday. After class on Thursday, a friend and I finally went to Harrods! The department store is huge, and you can buy absolutely anything there like groceries or an elephant! Everything is so beautiful inside the store, the chocolate room was my favorite 🙂 Here’s a picture of the outside of the Harrods:

Afterwards, we went to a free curry dinner sponsored by our program. Curry is a very famous and popular dish in London so we thought we’d better try some. They served us SO much food there it was unbelievable. We had two plates of appetizers plus our dinner. It was very tasty!

Yesterday (Friday) we went on a tour of Fuller’s brewery in Chiswick. It is the only Brewery still operating in London! We went on a tour with a bunch of older men who were all excited to learn about the brewing process, so they thought it was pretty fun that we were there! The tour was pretty cool, they had a majority of their old machines and equipment they used in the 1800s still there, next to the new machines they use today. We even had a tasting at the end of the tour! We got some lunch at their pub, the Mawson Arms, and one of the guys working in the brewery gave us all free Fuller’s polos! It was a fun morning!

Later in the evening, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The building was extravagant and so beautiful. The V&A is a museum of art and design. Everything was so pretty, and we are going back to see more another day this week! They have an outdoor courtyard that was so beautiful last night:


Lindsey: A Royal Weekend

June 17, 2011

Last weekend we went to see the Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace. This is one of the Queen’s birthdays. (Yes, she has two!) We lined up in the second row on the mall (the road that leads to the palace) and got ready for the parade to start. It looked just like it did for the royal wedding. There were tons of people there and the mall was lined with huge British flags. First, the guards in the black fuzzy hats paraded around in bands, on horses, and in kilts playing bagpipes. They make their horses walk sideways and backwards. So crazy!! While we were waiting, the entire royal family drove by in their fancy British cars, heading to the palace. Everyone went crazy when they saw them! When the parade finally started, more royal bands, soldiers, and police officers rode through on decked out horses. Then came the royal family!! First it was Prince Andrew, Camilla, Harry, and Kate. They were riding in an open carriage 15 feet away from us! It was so cool to actually see them! They all waved and Harry gave one of his cute scrunchy smiles. And if you were wondering, Kate is just as beautiful in person as she is in pictures! People just love her here. Every day in the newspaper, there is a huge new picture of her, showing what she was up to the day before. Anyways, then came the QUEEN! I thought people went crazy for Harry and Kate, but when she rode up they went nuts! In their British accents they all shouted “Oh my, it’s the Queen it’s the Queen!” and waved like crazy. It was so fun. Will was riding behind the queen in uniform on his special grey horse (everyone else had jet black ones). I couldn’t even tell it was him! But he sure looked good! We waited for the parade to come back and saw everyone again as they headed back into Buckingham. They all went up into the balcony of the palace and waved to all the commoners below as the bands played and people cheered. It for sure felt like a Disney movie. And a British version of 4th of July all in one. It was such a cool experience!

I would have written about this earlier but my camera’s memory stick is on the fritz, so I don’t have my pictures of this! BUT here are some of my friend’s pictures from the day for now!

Afterwards we finally went to Westminster Abbey, which was beautiful! We then all met up with our family friend Carl and he took us out for some authentic British food at The Albert pub! 

Lauren: Exhaustion

June 16, 2011

Greetings!  I am writing to you from somewhere over the continental United States!  So far the journey (from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, back down to Chicago, and onto the plane to Rome) as been going smoothly enough, with the exception of some confusion as the massive O’Hare airport and a bit of turbulence we experienced leaving rainy Chicago.

It has been quite a process getting me prepared for my trip to Rome – with several shopping trips and extensive fashion research to ensure that I don’t look like a hunky-dory tourist my entire stay (which I probably still will anyways).  Monday night I finally had to stop the procrastinating, and my mom and I worked hard to check off every item on my VERY extensive packing list.  Since I’ll be away for six weeks in a foreign country, it’s hard to know for sure which material items I will miss the most and which will be most helpful.  Being a chronic over-packer, I can say with positivity that a good amount of stuff in my suitcase will probably never be used or worn in Italy.  Oh well.

One thing I am glad to have packed is my handheld mini fan, since Italians apparently don’t believe in air conditioning.  As childish as these neon battery-powered fans may be, I have a feeling that they are going to become quite a luxury item for me.  Funny isn’t it?  The things that you take for granted everyday?

My mom and I drove up to Minneapolis yesterday along with my (adorable) puppy, Oliver.  Although we had a connecting flight in Chicago, and it would have been easier to drive down there and fly directly, I am glad that I chose to travel with the group.  This morning I met about ten people in my program, most of whom are from the University of Minnesota or a college nearby.  Everyone seems very pleasant and excited to start our adventure!  So far I’ve met two of my Roman roomies, Heather and Janel.  We all share a love of Harry Potter, along with quite a few others on the trip, so we have so far been able to bond over our love for all things HP.

I had a lunch of parmesan cheez itz and a casear salad wrap before leaving Chicago, and was just served a chicken dinner on the flight (which actually was not bad, especially considering that it’s airplane food).

Before dinner I was able to see the hook of Massachusetts and a lot of the US shoreline as we began to travel over the Atlantic Ocean. I lucked out with a window seat!  It is beginning to get dark outside, which means I should probably start considering going to sleep so the jet-lag isn’t so bad.

So goodnight and goodbye America!  See you in six weeks!



Connie: Jazz lives and Kagura Festivals

June 16, 2011

Saturday was our band’s jazz live. It was the first one we did in a public venue. We performed in a small, rather popular cafe on campus called Mermaid Cafe in front of friends and people who just wanted their morning coffee.

The acoustics in the cafe were awful, and I missed a few notes (I’m sure we all did), but people enjoyed it! One of my friends who had run off before I got a chance to talk to him even sent me a private message on facebook saying how good we did. 

It was a bit funny to me that the three foreigners in the band were the ones who act as emcees. I know I rambled a bit and said a few weird things, but I think if we appear in a live again I’ll do better. As for music, my favorite two songs we performed were Tokyo Telephone, a cover of a Merry song, and On Green Dolphin Street. Bluesy lyrics and quick tempo changes make the world a better place.

After our live, my host father picked me up and along with one current graduate student who had stayed with him as a host-daughter in the past, we made the venture from middle-of-nowhere Saijo to even more middle-of-nowhere Shobara up in the mountains. The snow had long since melted, and though the weather forecast had promised rain, the clouds broke up.

My host father owns a rather large RV, and as it turns out he’d volunteered to take a group from Shobara up to Shimane-ken, the prefecture north of Hiroshima, to see a kagura festival at the same place I’d tried on the costumes before. It took roughly two hours to get from Shobara-shi to Shimane-ken going up and down mountainous roads. When we arrived at the school there were more people than I’d expected there to be. There were also makeup- and costume-less young kagura actors squatting on the steps of the school, smoking like high school punks. These weren’t the sort of people I’d imagined acting in such a graceful traditional dance, to be sure.

What had at one time been the school’s gymnasium was transformed into a stage with mats set out in front of it for a rather large audience. Food vendors were packed in the corners with rather delicious bentos. When we received the program I was surprised to see that it would be going until midnight. Actually, the atmosphere of the place was rather charming. I don’t know if there’s anything really like it in America. While such an ancient and beautiful art is going on onstage, people are conversing (though not obnoxiously), drinking, eating, rather like a large picnic. At one point my host father’s friend told me that in the olden days these sorts of festivals would continue until sunrise. To me that seems like a really cool thing, but I suppose in this modern life it’s not very practical.

The performances themselves were stunning. All the actors are men, no matter what kind of character they play. All of them are incredibly graceful, somehow managing to move smoothly in the costumes I could barely hold up. The smoking punks were suddenly transformed into something entirely different. Not only that, but the crowded room we were in was incredibly hot, not to mention the costumes – at one point I went backstage to take a picture with a few of the actors and I encountered one coming offstage, absolutely drenched in sweat. Not only is their grace impressive, but so is their perseverance. In these kind of conditions, the actors do plays that last roughly 20 minutes each, along with musicians who beat drums relentlessly the entire time.

My favorite costume. I always paid attention when these guys were on.

This particular actor was my favorite. Everything he did was beautiful.

The Japanese spoken during these performances is an ancient form of the current language. I suppose it could be equated to hearing Shakespeare’s English, though possibly less decipherable – my host father said there aren’t any Japanese people who really understand it. The program we’d been given had a summary of what each play was about, each of which I did my best to read through despite my lacking knowledge of kanji. The stories are old Japanese legends, including exactly the kinds of characters you would imagine in such legends: princesses, priests, young warriors, demons, dragons.

I’ve taken away from that night something of an interest in kagura. When I expressed that, one of my friends back in Saijo informed me that in July there is another kagura performance near here. I’m considering going to that one as well. I wonder if it will be the same kind of atmosphere?


Mark: La Fiesta de San Antoni0

June 15, 2011

A few days ago, we visted La Fiesta de San Antonio which takes place every year (one local told me for the past 400 years) in the barrio of, appropriately, San Antón here in Cuernavaca. The day-long celebration consists of about half a mile of amusment park rides, tiendas, fireworks and revelers. Young people also give twelve coins and pray to San Guadalupe to meet their soul mates at the church. The evening culminates in a giant close-and-personal pyrotecnic display and dancing. Last night we got the first significant rainfall in my nearly 4 weeks here, not that anyone let that snuff out the festivities.


Shawnda: Eating mopane worms!

June 15, 2011

Today, for P6 (6 Pula, less than 1USD), I bought some mopane (pronounced Moh-Pan-Ay) worms from a street vendor. These are a delicacy in Botswana and are picked from mopane trees.  They are full of protein.  You can eat them dried (in the picture above) or boil them and fry them (second picture).  We added some jazzy salt to them, but they were still near disgusting.  I think the fact that I know I’m eating a caterpillar makes it much less enjoyable.  They were crunchy and mushy at the same time and tasted like grass.  I can now say that I ate a caterpillar, and will never do it again.


Jessica: An Cosain, Parliament and so many feelings

June 11, 2011

Pronounced On- Casahn, this is Irish for The Footpath. This place is in southwest Dublin in a place that has people in need of education and community services; this place has employed many women in the area and provided child care and education for many others at a fraction of the cost.

This place was started by two people who saw there was a need for all these things in the Tallaught West community. It seems like a simple idea but they actually did something about it. This place is truly a family–you have small intimate classes and start with short reflection time to get present/mindfulness with silence and song. Then you learn.

They have several different levels and programs- they have one for children, those for young mothers who couldn’t go on with their education, those for those going back to school, etc. They have gotten accreditation for many different programs to give these people a chance at a life. It’s really quite simple but so inspiring. It again, like Suffolk Lenadoon communities, reminds me of the value of one, the power of all. That it just takes ordinary people to push things in an extraordinary way–it could be anyone. So why not me?

What rules am I following that don’t exist? How do I box myself in? How can I make a vision a reality? How do I break things down? Who sees my vision with me and how can I deliberately go forward, creating a supportive network and environment to do so?

It’s so easy to fall in the trap of just ticking those tasks off your to-do list, to just get caught in the mundane and FORGET about your own to do list. I’ve forgotten about how to help myself succeed, how to get the most out of MY time. I just had to get a little reminder.

Saw most of Romeo and Juliet before we got so chilled to the bone that we had to leave. Whoops. I feel terrible because they were brilliant (and Romeo was so cute) but I would’ve died. Again let’s say there have been four days that have NOT rained.

The packing has started– it’s so crazy to know we’re going back so soon. So far 7 of us going in on my second bag. 

Yesterday we observed Dublin’s parliament–not surprisingly similar to the House at home, where men sit in a U shaped, stadium-style seating with individual booths and microphones where some higher-up presided over the conversation… where I also counted 7 people texting on their phones.

Also, I find that the higher up your title, the less direct your answers tend to be. AKA We’ve been asking questions that we don’t really get answered, just get talked about in circles.

We’ve been sharing our final presentations–a leadership analysis on someone we have encountered on this trip, their qualities, their success in this context and others, and comparing what our leadership qualities are in contrast. It’s been interesting to see who chose who and what their stories are. It tells me a lot about people’s perceptions about others and themselves.

We had a closing moment with telling the group what we’ve taken away from the trip. It was really touching to hear what people see as valuable and what people appreciated from the experience.

What I took away was pieces of everyone: being such a relational person, I believe very much in being shaped by the people we meet and the things we experience, so in essence, I learned a lesson from everyone on this trip. Believe me I’ve written them down in my journal. And they are things I will take with me forever.

Now, we’re all on the home stretch and starting the packing process. My suitcase is half full but somehow I’ll be cramming things into the thing near the end of the night. How did I end up with 6 glasses and 4 mugs? Beats me. But there are many things I’m excited for:

  • Chicken wings
  • Customer service
  • Being able to share little moments in my day with those close to me
  • Being able to text someone, “Where are you?” or “what’s the plan?”
  • Mowgli 🙂
  • Friends went unsaid
  • Dollar drinks. Anywhere.
  • Dollar bills – I’m tired of this dollar coin business
  • Being able to do my hair and not blow out my hair dryer
  • Having my own keys to my apartment
  • Flat walking paths
  • Toilets that flush nearly every time
  • Other songs besides Mr. Saxobeat, Give Me Tonight, California King Bed, and Judas
  • Mexican food
  • cute reunions
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