Saturday, May 31, 2008

Turning Things Over

As I am looking to the quickly coming end of my year here with two of my schools, I am beginning to look at how to make my efforts here sustainable. The reality of short term mission is that, you can do a lot in a year, but being able to set up programs and systems sustainable, should be, or has been for me the end goal. I simply cannot be the older brother to the 120 some odd kids here in Grahamstown, but I can make sure the schools and specific students I have been working with get plugged into the right resources and supports available in the community around. It is getting harder than I thought it would be to figure out how to do this apropriately and say my good byes in a way that leaves the potential for further communication open, but with the reality of how busy life gets.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My first ambulance call

Saturday evening from 7pm to 7am I rode ambulances for the first time. I guess that EMTs here get a lot of volunteers because, the fellas were not inviting at all. I felt like a worthless fly on the wall unworthy of even being recognized or introduced to the other EMTs. I was beginning to regret having come when the first call came in. We had a motor vehicle accident on a road 20 kilometers outside of Grahamstown. Upon entering the scene there was a man laying face in the grass prostrate unconcious. I first thought he was dead, then heard groaning. We put him on a spinal board (I think that is what it is called) then took him to the hospital to get xrays and determine if he had anything broken. While waiting for x-rays the scene at the hospital was just as crazy. There was a line of stab victims waiting to be sticthed up. One patient refused to be patched up. He was highly under the influence of something. After he had lost a lot of blood he passed out, and the nurses put an I.V. in him and started sewing him up. When the patient awoke he again refused to be stitched up. We told the nurses to stop trying, because, the risk of being poked while stitching up a unwilling patient with a good chance of having AIDS is not safe. There were head wound victims and a woman with bloody feet and hands. In between vehicle accidents I sat and listened to drivers talk about the nurses they "liked". The second vehicle accident came at about 6:45 a.m. in the last 15 minutes of my shift. Again about 20 kilometers out of town the opposite direction. The drunk driver hit a semi truck head on. Upon arrival there were two passengers concious and sitting outside of the car. One had his collar bone sticking through where his shoulder should have been and was bleeding profusely. All this to say I had a horrible uncomfortably awkward time in between ambulance calls, but learned a lot and grew in my confidence when dealing with medical emergencies. The shocking thing to me about the victims was that both drivers were drunk. One of the drivers was the principal of a school, and the other an off duty police officer.....

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Its My Mom's Birthday

Yesterday or today was my mother's birthday depending on what time zone you are in. I missed it, not technically, but she called me earlier in the day and I missed the opportunity. It is a bummer when you realize how much you do appreciate someone, but how little you show it. I feel that a lot. Letters unsent, words left unsaid.

Here I am reminded daily of what I have. I am reminded in moments with a choice to be joyful or feel guilt. I have family. While I don't see them or hear them every day, the knowledge they are there and they were there is enough; Malibongwe, Mango, Nyangayethu and Siposethu don't. I have economic supports- a steady income, people willing to support me financially, Xolani, Xoliswa, Bongisani don't. I had commited teachers in my classrooms who had resources, Zanoxolo, Xhanti, and Sinethemba don't.

Education, health, economic income, a healthy environment (clean water, sanitation), social-political stability, and spirituality (a sense of purpose and hope) are all factors to poverty. All needs must be met, because all these factors are interdependant. I have been provided all these things. Without them I could easily be on the other side of town. For that I am greatful and forever determined to provide and advocate for the same opportunities to those who don't have them.

Happy birthday Mom. I owe you a lot. I will pay it forward to these kids and try to remember ahead of time next year.

Matt Kellen

Taco Thursday Meets Actualization

Every Thursday is Taco Thursday. Myself and Sarah cook rice and chicken and sauce, and heat up tortillas. My objective of taco Thursday was to facilitate communication across cultures and socio-economic classes. Last Thursday we had 25 people over. The crowd was a vast mix of people. Men, Women, a 23 year old highschool student, masters students, doctorate students (a british ethno-musicologist), non-students, heterosexuals and homosexuals, conservatives and liberals, christians and non-christians, Xhosas and Zimbabweans, Africans and Afrikaans, white and black and colored, vegetarians and meat eaters. Interesting combinations of food, cultures and conversations abounded. The objective of Taco Night has reached actualization. I didn't have to ask anyone to leave for being unreceptive to others' opinions. Here is to future taco nights of interesting dialogues.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Curiosity Captured On Camera

Field Trip to Port Elizabeth

Sarah, Tombekaya, and I took 6 little tykes between the ages of 6 and 9 to the beach last weekend. Showing children the beach for the first time was such an amazing experience. Watching big eyes and dancing feet running into and away from waves as they hang on to adults for dear life. With the support of the Brothers at the monastery we were able to take the kiddos to the oceanarium to see real dolphins and penguins and seals!!!! This was a new experience for Tombekaya my co-teacher and friend.