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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending August 3, 2012

August 6, 2012

Daria Clegg

  • Being abroad has challenged me more than I thought was possible. Being emerged in a culture that was I was not familiar with allowed me to reflect on my own life. I was able to challenge customs and beliefs that I brought with me from the States. I was able to learn about the TshiVenda people through my research on Malaria awareness in the village of Maludzawela. I was also able to partake in traditional food. My experiences abroad have allowed me to gain patience. There were times while I was abroad when I was surrounded by people who did not speak the same language as I did. This resulted in simple tasks such as bathing, feeding, and using the restroom becoming complex ones because I was unable to communicate. I had to have patience with myself and with my host family to accomplish daily tasks.
  • While I was abroad I was also able to understand the definition of true happiness. I was able to watch people who lived in extreme poverty laugh, play, and enjoy the company of friends and family. They understood that material things do not equate to happiness.  These were some of the nicest people that I met while I was in South Africa.  They shared their culture and traditions with me and for that I am very grateful.
  • During my time in South Africa I have changed for the better. I am better able to conserve electricity and my water use. The community that I lived in did not have running water in their homes. Everyone in the community had to fetch their water from the community water tap. The water tap was only turned on Friday thru Sunday and each household was responsible for fetching their water for the week. My housemother used the water to cook, clean, bathe, and drink. She also did not have a kitchen so she would cook over a fire outside of our round house. Though routine to her, I found her daily tasks to be quite fascinating, especially because she did not have some of the common luxuries that my mother has in the United States. I have also eliminated all laziness by being abroad. Over the past month I have walked numerous miles. I admire the Maludazwela community for all their hard work, diligence, and “active” lifestyle.  Walking on sand for hours is nothing to take lightly!
  • My experience abroad was more than just awesome because I was able to experience a new country, participate in community based research, and try traditional South African food. I was able to taste pap (similar to grits) and Mopani worms. Neither of which I can imagine tasting again but I am proud to say that I tried both. I was able to visit museums, go camping, and participate in game drives. There is nothing like being between a group of zebras and a family of rhinoceros while walking through Kruger National Park.  The adrenalin that rushed through my veins was enough for a lifetime especially after our guide had just told us to climb a tree if we encounter Rhinos. I am so grateful to have participated in the OTS Global Health Issues Program in South Africa. I am excited to share my travel experiences with my family once I return. I also look forward to staying in touch with all my friends that I met abroad. They have made my trip worthwhile and memorable. I cannot believe that this month has gone by so quickly. I guess the saying is true… time fly’s when you are having fun. Until next time South Africa.

Christina Sparks

  • During this past week the DAAD-RISE program had their second scholarship holder’s meeting in Dresden. I cannot say what I expected from it save for a nice break from work. When I arrived I had my second moment of minor disorientation during my stay in Germany. I get lost regularly and the sensation is nothing new to me. I have spent countless hours wandering around downtown Atlanta in hopes that I will eventually stumble upon my destination. Even so, it seems there are a few moments in life where everything that could possibly happen to discombobulate you occurs within a very small space of time.
  • I will admit that I was not as prepared for the experience as I should have been. Not having internet access at my home, I would have had to print out directions to the hostel before I arrived. In part, I had become accustomed to traveling in a group where one person with a skill for organizing such things would guide the rest of us. Even so, the realization did not shake me too badly. Knowing my friends had arrived nearly an hour before me, I planned to simply call and ask how to get there.
  • Of course, after stepping out into the moderately busy Dresden hauptbahnhof (main train station) and dialing a friend’s number, I was greeted with a calm and completely unfamiliar voice that delivered an undecipherable message before hanging up. Confused, I checked the number and tried again. I managed to ask the friendly woman at the tourism desk (after waiting a significant period of time for the woman before me to realize that a tourism booth was not the same as a hotel booking service) to translate the message. Naturally, I had no minutes left. Of course, this was preposterous as I had been sure to diligently monitor and maintain my balance, but what could I do? Yell at a recorded voice?
  • I did manage to find my way and enjoyed the series of events the programs had set up for us. There was a jazz duo, speeches from representatives from the United States, the UK and Canada and then a spectacular dinner consisting of a full roasted pig. The next day brought excellent opportunities for exposure to companies and institutions of higher learning for advanced degrees. The day ended with a fascinating tour of Dresden. I believe I mentioned before how much the destruction in Germany during war struck me, but again it was so clear.
  • From Dresden we travelled to Prague and again I was exposed to an entirely new history. The Czech Republic is not a large country and hardly one that would be likely to make it into the history books in a high school in Texas. Americans are sometimes wont to feel that they are the originators and flag bearers for freedom. Such is not the case, as countries like the Czech Republic have fought through religious and political persecution as well as a blatant betrayal by its supposed allies in order to become the country that it is today. The country itself is in many ways only as old as I am. The history and spirit of its people stretches farther back into time, of course.
  • The adventure did not end in Prague, however. As a student it is often necessary to be fiscally responsible, particularly when you are in a place when assistance cannot be speedily sent. In an effort to save money, a friend and I purchased a ticket that was significantly cheaper than the other ones, but limited us to the slower trains with more connections. Even so, it seemed to be a good idea. Upon closer inspection, however, this ticket would require a trip lasting nearly eleven hours overnight, bringing us back to our hometown at six o’clock in the morning. This is, of course, including a wait from eleven o’clock at night until the next train at four in the morning.

Jasmine Taylor

  • This is the sad part. We have one week left to spend with each other and the diverse country of South Africa. I was just starting to enjoy my homestay and feel like a part of the family when we had to pack up and leave. We made so many friends amongst the younger crowd. They really enjoyed playing and teaching us their games. However, this week is all about buckling down at Wits Rural Facility. We are using this time to continue lectures number one, but also come together as a research team and began writing our papers. Our paper was pretty much finished one night and our supervisor looked over. He killed our dreams of being finished early because he was not seeing the overall purpose spelled out. We decided as a collective to start from a clean slate the next morning. That was the one thing we did right the entire time we were there. Also at Wits Rural we were given our specific debate topic. I am not too ecstatic but it has to be done. Next week we will present all of our research in both a report and PowerPoint to the staff and students of OTS.
  • We had an exciting time at the Moholoholo Animal Rehab center. In a nutshell, if the animals were not born there in captivity, they had some form of a disability. Nearly all of the birds were captured and saved. They lionesses were on birth control which made them abnormally huge. I thought that tidbit was humorous. They had 3 of the Big 5 there in captivity. The big 5 is Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino, and Elephant. I really wanted to touch the cheetah, Bullet, but everyone around me was freaking out. This field trip was expensive, even though I did like everything I saw. It costs us R110 for about 1.5 hours of touring.
  • The cheapest, because it was free, and more academic field trip we had was the visits to South African hospitals. In this country the private and public sector operate quite differently. The kinds of patients they care for differ and the methods in which their referral system works across the line is tedious. If patients do not have certain jobs or a high enough income, they may never see a private doctor who specialty can save their life. The private hospital was just like the big sophisticated ones we can see in the states. However, when I walked through the public hospital, even from the outside, the types of patients and the atmosphere was gloomier. Statistics show that the majority of professionals, from nearly all specialties, operate in the private sector. There is a huge problem, because much like the States, the majority of the citizens are not financially stable enough to afford the top dollar care their ailments require. Because of this, South Africa is at the moment revising a plan for National Healthcare for all. This way the disease burden of the country can be lessened and the access to care is equal whether citizens live in the rural or urban communities.
  • Although this week was a head on collision with the reality that I must pack up and head back home to the States. I learned a lot. There is injustice in my home country and South Africa alike. In all situations I encountered, I paralleled it to the reality that America the beautiful needs some remodeling itself. We walk around with such an air about ourselves, but we are not perfect. And that is what lesson/thought I took from my lectures and field trips. It all comes down to the bottom line that leaving your nation may make you appreciative, but there is still work to be done on the home front.


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