Third-Year AuD Student, UT-Dallas
Friday, July 30, 2010: Before the Mission had Begun
It is very early in the morning, and I am on the tail end of a flight from Frankfurt Germany to Johannesburg South Africa. Breakfast just arrived, and it is surprisingly delicious considering the food we were given on the last flight. We haven’t even landed yet, but I can already feel the effects of Africa on my mind and body. I am completely exhausted as I only got a few hours of sleep on this flight and none at all on the flight before.
I am excited and ready to arrive in South Africa, and the Swahili song from church keeps playing in my head: “Si-ya-hamba ku-ka-nyen kwen kos. Si-ya-hamba oo-ooo. Si-ya-hamba ku-ka-nyen kwen kos.”
Saturday, July 31, 2010: First Full Day in Africa
Today, I fell in love with Africa. It is at the same time very much like Europe and the States but also unlike anyplace I’ve ever been. I think the perfect word to describe this place is “honest.” There are many different cultures and clashing socio-economic groups living next door to each other. Each group proudly displays their religious symbols and cultural garb, speaks languages unheard-of by most people outside of Africa, and no one seems afraid to express themselves freely.
We met a local man from Soweto named Lucas who showed us around town and explained some of the social and political uprisings that led to the state of South Africa today. He brought along his darling granddaughter, Mpho, which means “gift.” After touring Soweto, we headed to Parys where Dr. Clark’s friend and colleague, Dirk, had a farm at which we are to stay for the next several days. We will be doing hearing screenings at several Creches, or day care centers, in rural areas outside of Parys.
Monday, August 2, 2010: The Mission Begins
Today was a whirlwind of small, dark bodies and shy faces. In the township of Tumahole, which is near Parys, there is a seemingly infinite number of Creches. Most seem to be run by only a couple of women who look after anywhere between 10 and 50 children at a time. The first crèche we visited had a small shack they used for a church, and we did our hearing screenings there. Otoscopy and cerumen management were done outside with the child sitting in a small plastic chair and each of us kneeling next to them to look in their ears. I was taken aback by how well-behaved the children were – some of them were only two years old, and they were able to follow directions and sit still. The children in this township (and I suspect in most of rural South Africa) are quiet in nature. Very few of them cried, and hardly any of them spoke unless prompted to.
It is interesting to see the children’s reactions to us, as many of them have not seen a lot of white people, and some have never met a white person at all. Some of them were afraid of us, some were amused, and others were curious about the novelty of having us there. Each time we left a crèche, all of the children would shout and wave: “bye bye!” “I love you!” “beep beep!”. This was really the only time we saw the children act like children rather than being serious. It was heart-warming to feel so loved and appreciated by these wonderful, sweet-natured children.
Thursday, August 5, 2010: Transitioning
The South African sunset is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Out of the darkness appears a broad muted rainbow which spans the horizon, peaking over the hilltops. The rainbow sky slowly turns brighter, then the colors begin to fade as the luminous red-orange sun is seemingly birthed by the hills.
Such was the breath-taking sight I beheld this morning as our group drove away from Dirk’s farm for the last time. We had stayed there for all the days we did screenings at Creches in Parys and now had a long road ahead of us as we made the 8-hour trek to Hazyview. But, more importantly, we were moving away from that which had become our home and our family for the last few blessed days.
This is for you Dad – Happy Birthday!
Monday, August 9, 2010: After the Mission
Two days ago, we finished our diagnostics and hearing aid fittings on community members of Hazyview. As a whole, I felt that we were able to help a good amount of people and teach the community about hearing health care. Kelli, Liz, and I shared our lunch with an elderly lady who had been waiting at the clinic all day. She accepted our food with such appreciation that my heart nearly melted. It is amazing what we take for granted everyday and how much some of our patients rely on the kindness of strangers for many of their essentials such as food, clothing, and healthcare. I feel blessed to have had this opportunity to see “the other side of the world” and contribute to a mission that brings necessary services to those who need them.