Saturday, August 21, 2010
Well the first week of work has come to a close and I might be beginning to start to understand my role, maybe. I have spent much of my week reading old proposals, grant applications and miscellaneous documents trying to get some grasp on what a Programs person does at the GRS office. As I am beginning to wrap my mind around the major concepts, I am starting to work on my first big project. Next week the programs team which includes me and my three bosses: Elise, Matt, and James, will be compiling the Fiscal Year 2011 Work Plan report (FY11). This report outlines all of the programs that create GRS, what goals they hope to achieve and how they aim to achieve these goals. The fiscal year starts October 1st , so our team is currently compiling the small reports from each section of the office and making them one cohesive unit. GRS writes this report to renew their USAID grant. I have written some paragraphs on a couple of Grassroot programs that I have a better handle on, so it is exciting to be a part of such a big project so early.
Outside work, our group continues to run around discovering Cape Town. I am taking runs with Charlotte, Tim and Graham after work, and in the evenings we all either go out for a glass of wine or hang out as a group in our living room and kill a few bottles. It’s amazing how good even the cheep wine is here. Building off of that, I would like to give some attention to the food here in Cape Town. For those of you who know me well, you know that about 60% of the waking hours of my day are spent either thinking about, or consuming food. Tim and I now call this “pigeon mode” reflecting the one dimensionality of a pigeon’s worldview. It is this diligent attention to food which has yielded me some amazing experiences already. Aside from the every day culinary experiences that you encounter, for example the samosas of Bo-Kaap— the colorful Muslim sector of Cape Town that is featured in one of the pictures above, I have three particular stories that I would like to elaborate on.
The first is probably the least eventful but the most cultural in my view. It happened when I was in of the townships working last week. Graham, Tim, Nolan and I went to observe a new coach delivering an HIV lesson called “Red Card” to seventh and eighth graders. “Red Card” builds off of the connotations linked with a red card in soccer to help the students identify and act upon tough situations they encounter in their real life. First, the kids discuss what a red card means for a player in soccer, then continue to define what scenarios warrant a red card during a soccer game. They then carry those meanings over to their life off the field and apply them to when someone commits a personal “foul” against them in their personal life. For example, one of the scenario role plays depicts a younger girl being approached by an older man (something very common in Southern Africa) and the younger girl in response to his advances would “throw her red card,” aka simply saying a resounding no. The kids then explain the reason behind the red card which is that inter-generational dating is a major force driving the HIV epidemic.
After we watched the new coach give this lesson and be critiqued by his superiors (which yielded incredibly professional and perceptive feedback), we were headed back to the car. On our way I was offered some KFC by the coach. Little did I know that not only was it KFC, it was African KFC which included chicken feet. Needless to say I would have needed some serious mental preparing to have stomached that, but it gave me a serious chuckle.
Despite my chicken nature while approaching chicken feet, this day provided another culinary adventure which I happened to enjoy very much. On our way back one of the coaches offered to go with us and get a “Great Gatsby” for lunch. This “Gatsby” was an experience and lived up to its name in many ways. Weighing in at approximately 3 lbs, the Great Gatsby is a sandwich that is a 2’ baguette with chicken, potato wedges, a full tubs worth of mayonnaise and some other things I can’t remember.
This was definitely the most prodigious, decedent and heart stopping sandwich that I have ever seen compiled. The group split two. This incident ended in an absolutely instant stomach ache, but is a Cape Town specialty well worth trying at least once.
Last but not least was the Biscuit Mill which we visited today and is now one of my favorite places on earth. The Mill is a farmers market that attracts the people who sell and consume the most gourmet products in Cape Town. Consequentially, the market is filled with the best, brightest and most beautiful people. Truly a foodie’s paradise. After making two rounds where I saw everything from bakeries, fresh champagne with pomegranate seeds at the bottom, falafel, schwarma, donner kebabs, crêpes, Belgian waffles, mushroom kebabs, fresh mozzarella made on site, cheese stands and condiment stands, I was quickly was worked into an excited, happy frenzy. I took as many samples as I could to figure out what I wanted and I settled on a sandwich stand. It was the most wonderful thing that I had ever tasted. The fresh pesto, sundried tomato spread, honey cured ham, tomato, fresh feta were all, I am sure, from the owner’s local farm. They piled that on to a hearth roll which was baked that morning and was handed over to me to make my day in a mere five seconds. My roommate Sara and I found an open picnic table where we could face outward to take everything in. Afterward, I washed the best sandwich of my life down with some fresh squeezed orange juice from the juice lady. It was truly a magical and satisfying experience and I plan to get my fix every Saturday. I cannot wait to see what it turns out during the summer.
Despite diversity in food experience, the Cape Town crew continues to realize our privileged position and frequently call Cape Town Africa Light. The best and worst part of our job is that we are in the office, fully a part of all the nitty-gritty work that makes this program run. Yet, Cape Town is a misrepresentation of the dire situation that affects sub-Saharan Africa. We are all itching to travel outside the city to other sites which will be a possibility once we really get our bearings at home. Nonetheless, being able to experience a culture through food is one of my favorite things and South Africa has so much to offer. Maybe someday I will warm up to chicken feet.
Posted by Margaret Owen at 11:12 AM
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I have finally reached South Africa, settled down in my new home and figured out the communication situation! On August 4th the twenty five interns embarked on a four day orientation adventure where we spent two at the class of 66 cabin built by Dartmouth alumni and rest at Pierces Inn outside Hanover, NH. These four days will forever be a wonderful memory because within this short period of time our orientation directors, Zach and Elise, managed to generate a group that was endlessly fond of and supportive of one another. When we were not doing silly games consisting of dancing and learning the GRS cheers and games formulated in Africa meant for teaching purposes, we were learning more about how the organization worked. This combination of camping together and learning about a common cause created a class of interns who were incredibly close. The experience wonderful and necessary because it will help us collaborate in our work both at home in South Africa and in the international sites.
After a long flight from Boston to Washington DC to Dakar to Johannesburg to Cape Town me and seven others, (Grahm, Jamison, Tim, Sara, Charlotte, Talia and Julie) were brought to our home in the Gardens neighborhood of the city. The next morning we were brought into the office which is a beautiful space on the top floor of one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town. All of the offices are walled off by glass so it has an incredibly communal feel. Grassroot Soccer’s mission is to use an interactive curriculum that teaches HIV/AIDS awareness through the metaphors and values that soccer provides. Our role as interns is to help facilitate this process through supporting the local coaches by acting our different roles, whether in the office or field, while they teach the nine class curriculum to local children.
Although we did not technically work the first week we were in Cape Town, the eight of us were set to the task of getting to know the city and the program. Or second day we went out to the township of Khayelitsha which is the biggest “informal settlement” in South Africa. Unlike the rural poverty I witnessed during my visit to Malawi, Khayelitsha consists of a mixture of corrugated metal shacks and cement housing. It is in this particularly tough neighborhood that the Football for Hope Community Center resides. The FFHC was built by FIFA as part of its “20 centers by 2010” project whose focus was to build safe community centers in these poor neighborhoods. GRS in Cape Town works from this venue to reach their target children. We spent the day meeting the local coaches and going through the curriculum and intervention process that they conduct. After we took a tour all around the township to get a feel for the living conditions and every day challenges that the residents face. One thing that has struck me in my short time here is how inundated this culture is with music and how music is used as a tool in many ways. Not only does it seem like a coping mechanism for the mass amounts of unemployed people (it seems like they can really only afford to be at home for most of the day listening to music or singing) but it is also a form of protest and a rallying tool. The first day we went downtown to witness a strike consisting of 10, 000 government workers and singing was their added emphasis to walking and standing in front of the parliament building. Let me tell you it was beautiful, harmony seems to be just a natural tool that most people can collaborate on.
Yesterday we climbed Lion’s Head mountain at sunrise which was one of the most rewarding hikes that I have ever embarked upon. Lion’s head gives you a 360 degree view of Cape Town and the surrounding ocean and the view at sunrise on a clear day is unrivaled. Overall, I have been floored by the sheer beauty and exotic nature of this place. Instead of dandy lions, white lilies grow wildly and border the road. The beaches are white and the water has a teal tint which is misleading because it is freezing this time of year. I am so excited to start work on Monday and sink my teeth into this inspiring cause with a group of people who I am coming to love exponentially more every day. My team brings many talents and world views to the table which I am guessing will make a highly interesting and dynamic work environment that will enable to take on challenges from different angles. On top of this I am falling in love with all of them because they are truly inspiring people.
I will check back in after I have a little bit more experience with what my first project will be. As of now I know that I will be working directly with the head programs operator in the office managing the different sites that run interventions (An intervention is the term for one class in the 9 step AIDS curriculum) and testing tournaments.
Love you all and I just want to give a special THANK YOU to all of my generous friends and family who have already donated to this experience. I cannot begin to express my gratitude as I continue to realize how amazing, meaningful, and educational this experience is going to be. Without you, this would have been much harder, if not impossible. Personal notes will be coming in the mail but I cannot guarantee their arrival date seeing as the African post system is not the most reliable!!
Posted by Margaret Owen at 9:09 AM
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I am off! My adventure begins today when I drive up to Hanover, NH for Grassroot orientation. Here I will learn the basics of the Grassroot HIV curriculum and what I will be doing as a Programs intern for the next 12 months. I leave the states this Sunday, August 8th to arrive in Cape Town the 9th. Information and updates to come when I settle down, figure out the internet situation and gather some more useful information! I am excited, currently I am busy packing and re-packing. Love you all.
Posted by Margaret Owen at 8:45 AM