Friday, May 29, 2009

Crazy Boys...

They are screaming and giggling in pain all at the same time...Oh, Boys...

Showing off...

The boys of Cottage 3 sporting their news hats from America :)

Elizabeth and Monalisa...

It is with deep sadness that I report that Elizabeth passed away yesterday. Monalisa, the 20 month old baby, will be staying with us at the Respite Unit until her Grannie can get here from Zimbabwe. Luckily, Mona is still a crazy little toddler and doesn't really know what's going on.

My buddy!

Remember my little buddy from the Respite Unit…Mpumelelo? Well, he’s still in the TB hospital, but he is absolutely thriving there. He is able to go home now, but due to an unstable family situation, he’s being kept at the hospital for a while. I go and visit him a lot and give him lots of sweets! Last week, I was there to say hello. He hugged me and said “you made my day.” Can it get any cuter than that?

Thursday, May 28, 2009


This past Sunday (5/24) was the Comrades Marathon here in Durban. This is the world’s oldest and longest ultramarathon (59.9 miles) from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The race goes right past our house and I was lucky enough to hang out and watch for a while. It is an amazing feat for these runners to complete the Comrades. Here are some random pictures of the race…oh, and FYI…the winner finished in 5 hours, 34 minutes. CrAzY!



Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Africa is stunning…enough said.

Hooray for Visitors!!!

I am sooooooooooooooooooooooo happy to have some visitors coming soon! Sarah Lang, the athletic trainer at Saints, is coming from June 19-July 1st. Tricia Dalglish, my longtime friend from Rutland, is arriving on July 1st, staying until July 6th, then we’re travelling to Cape Town together until July 11th. Words cannot express how excited I am for both of these visits. The countdown is in full swing!!! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You decide...

My African Boyfriend...

...Or the really drunk man on our food parcel route! Your choice...


Sma’s baby, Nosihle, is growing up fast. Here are some pictures of her at 10 days old. Cuteness…


This beautiful young woman really brings out the best in everyone at the Respite Unit. She is such an amazing woman with a heart of gold and a smile that can light up the room. I was taken to her house by her sister about 2 weeks ago. We arrived at a very small concrete room to find her barely able to move due to severe shingles covering her entire torso. Watching Sizah walk to the car was painful for all of us. You could see the fear in her eyes as she took each step and the anxiety about leaving her two children behind. I later came to find out that her students go to St. Leo’s Primary School (where my roommates teach!). This was wonderful news. I talked to her at length about getting her children to come see her and I could see it ease her fears.

My roommates and I arranged to visits for Vuyani and Asanda to come and see their Mom. As you can see from the pictures, they got their Mothers’ beautiful looks/smiles. The visits were great for Mom and children. This past Wednesday, May 27th, I brought Sizah home. Her CD4 count is still high enough for her to be at home and at work. When we drove into her yard, she was met by huge hugs and lots of screams of family and friends. It was a moving experience for her for sure. It was so reassuring for me to hear and see how much she is cared for. In a place where many HIV+ people are shunned or abandoned, this was an instance of hope, family and acceptance.

My Monalisa!

Yes, you heard that right…Monalisa. Our new little baby at the Respite Unit is Monalisa. She and her Mom, both Zimbabwean refugees arrived last week. Elizabeth, the Mom is absolutely miserable. She is very sick, very weak, does not speak Zulu and is in a strange land, alone. Baby Mona is also quite sick, though just tested HIV NEGATIVE…HOORAY!!!

Elizabeth told one of the care givers last week that she is giving up and doesn’t want to deal with this disease any longer. She will not even look at Mona and really wants no part in mothering at the moment. I know, and keep reminding Elizabeth that had to have been a good Mother because Monalisa has a wonderful disposition and is a thriving, clever 20 month old little girl.

Please pray that both Elizabeth and Monalisa adjust to their new surroundings and find healing.

The Old Man!

Each week (as my loyal readers know...wait, do I have any loyal readers???), I deliver food to very destitute families in KwaNgcolosi. Most of the stops involve adorable, naked children running wild. There is one house that has captured my heart this year. I call him my "old man." His name is Tholani and he is an older, fragile man who lives in a tiny mud shack by himself. I have befriended him this year even though I speak little Zulu and he speaks little English.

Our food deliveries include very meager rations...a small bag of rice, a small bag of beans, some spices and some random donations. As the year has progressed I recognized that for this old man, cooking his own meals is probably quite challenging. I was lucky enough to have a friend donate some money here to use for various projects...he seemed like a great recipient. I, with the help of our translator, asked him if he'd like some prepared meals. Of course, he responded YEBO! I have now, for 3 weeks been able to deliver him hot meals, fresh fruit, juice, etc and thrilled him beyond belief. I have never seen something cuter than when Tholani profusely thanks us in Zulu and English. This simple, pre-made food has made his life so much more comfortable. I look forward to many more smiling pictures with my buddy!!!

Tholani and his neighbor outside his home.

My "Old Man!"

He asked for a close-up!

My friend Nonduduzo!

My year here in South Africa has held MANY challenges for me. My work at the Respite Unit brings such extreme emotions to the forefront of my life everyday. One of my favorite patients and best South African friends, Nonduduzo, just passed away on Monday 5/18. This has been one of my most difficult times in my entire life and to be honest, I'm still trying to sort things out and process everything.

Nonduduzo and her (at the time) 2 month old baby Andile were admitted into the Respite Unit about 3 months ago. They stayed for 2 months and Nonduduzo greatly improved (see previous blog if interested). Of course, everyone at the respite loved having Andile around to brighten up our days. I became very close with both of them and cultivated a wonderful friendship with Nonduduzo. We spent many days talking and laughing and crying. She was a wonderful mother even when she felt terribly and was fighting for her life. She was discharged and spent a few weeks at home waiting to begin ARV's at a clinic near her home in Lower Molweni.

I was in touch with her quite a bit to say hello, stop by to visit, deliver formula or just talk on the phone. We worked together to get Andile tested after the government lab had lost his results on three different occasions. I will never forget seeing the results, screaming, then calling her in happy tears to deliver the wonderful news!!!! She was so thankful that her baby was HIV NEGATIVE!!!!

A friend from San Diego, Mary Panish, made a quick stop over from Cape Town in Durban on Sunday May 10th. She was only visiting for 6 or so hours and wanted to see where I worked, etc. I took her down to Lower Molweni to meet some of my friends there. I brought a jar of formula to drop off to Nonduduzo as a Mother's Day gift. She was a little weird sounding on the phone, but I didn't think much of it. I arrived at her home and waited for her at the bottom of the hill. It took her a while but again, I didn't think anything of it. She finally arrived and she looked terrible. I saw "the look" in her eyes and knew she needed to be re-admitted. She told me that she had been vomitting and having diarrhea and that she was sweating a lot. I asked her if I could take her back to the Respite Unit and she said yes. I went back on Monday morning to fetch her. She was not doing well and was terrified.

She left the baby with her boyfriend, Lucky. As the days passed, her condition went down very quickly. The whole week was a blur. I spent a lot of time with Nonduduzo and we spoke a lot about what would happen to her children, her fears and also reminiscing about our great friendship. I told her I loved her and she said the same to me. I brought her wonderful boyfriend and her baby to see her for the last 4 days of her life. She was so in love with her boyfriend and her two sons.

On Monday 5/18, I spent the morning with my friend. I left around 11am to go and get Lucky and Andile to see her. I dropped them at the Respite and went to do a home visit. On the way home, Lucky phoned me to let me know that she had just died. As much as I guess on some level I knew it was happening, I was completely crushed.

To me, Nonduduzo was a friend, an inspiration, a lover of life and a gentle spirit. I cannot even express how much I will miss her. I told her the day she died that I'd do everything in my power to look after Andile, Busani and Lucky.

I was privileged enough to attend her funeral on Saturday. It was a moving celebration of a life cut too short by a horrible disease. Rest in peace my friend Nonduduzo. I love you.

This is my friend Nonduduzo and her youngest child, Andile. This was taken 3 days before she died. I will forever treasure her friendship!

This is her other (and oldest) son Busani aka the cutest boy on earth!

Auntie Jenn and both Nonduduzo's boys!

Brothers. Adorable.

The Villanova nurses holding Andile on the way to visit his Mommy.

Lucky, the proud Daddy.

Nonduduzo and two of her 3 favorite boys.

Auntie Jenn and Andile on the way to test him for HIV. HE'S NEGATIVE!!!! :)

Friday FUNday!

One of my favorite things to do...deliver food to these sweeties! :)

I love this little girl...priceless huh?

The naughty house...always trying to scheme for one more sweet...

The cutest baby and a yummy ice pop!

Footie PJ's in Africa!

Not too sure about the white lady (still...)...

Silly bubble blowing as we drive!

Olwetu is adorable!

This picture has now taken the cake as "the best picture I've ever taken."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lots of Respite Love!

Every day that I spend at the Respite Unit, I grow to love it more. It is truly a place of love as it is appropriately named. The patients and care givers have become my friends and I feel blessed to spend time with them each day.

Katie and my patient(and her boyfriend, haha) Sphiwe!

Me and one of my favorite patients, Lucky!

Apparently, everyone loves Lucky!

My co-worker Pamela and our buddy Thamsanqa!

Tala Game Reserve!

Last weekend I was lucky enough to join the Villanova nursing group on their trip to Tala Game Reserve which is about an hour from our house. It was such a fun day with lots to see! We ended up sitting a very close distance to two giraffes. Just being so close and snapping pictures was cool enough...BUT THEN...the giraffes began to fight. They were slamming their necks against each other while pacing around each other. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my entire life. Wow!

So close!!!

Mid-giraffe fight! Totally unreal...

Sneaky Giraffe!

Bye Bye Birdies?!