Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trip to the gym

I went to the gym today for the first time in a couple of weeks to "blow off some steam". It's been a frustrating couple of weeks; I've been feeling overwhelmed, I've got a shooting pain up my right side and I'm pretty sure my neck is out. I haven't seen Jacob in over a month, I miss him terribly, I'm unhappy with most things going on in my life.....And really, after spending time in South Africa, with people who are really suffering, I have no right to complain. I'm not complaining, really. Well I'm trying not to. I'm just frustrated with things that are out of my control and I really just need to turn them over to God and place them in His hands. Because really, that's the correct person who has all the control.

So, back to my experience at the gym. I basically dragged myself there because I've been saying "I'll go tomorrow" since last Wednesday, and I figured the pain hasn't gotten any better so, why the hell not just go! I'm on the elliptical in front of a TV screen that is showing an episode of Beverly Hills Housewives. Ok, why the hell do they get their own show? This whole "housewives" pandemic has gotten out of control. I know I don't watch TV, but when did this show air? And why? This particular episode was about a 4 year old girl's birthday party and a spring break trip to Hawaii. The mother of this 4 year old decided that 4 is a good age for your first piece of really expensive jewelry. Seriously? What happened to My Little Ponies and Barbie? Oh wait! The jewelry she purchased was from the Barbie Jewelry Collection. Yes, such a thing exists. As if that Bitch doesn't have enough already. Not only did mom by a $1,700 sapphire Barbie necklace for her daughter, but she also purchased 25 "favor" Barbie necklaces for the 25 girls that will be attending her 4 year old girl's birthday party. The total spent was over $5,000. Ridiculously disgusting!
I attended a birthday party in South Africa for a 6 year old little girl. Her party consisted of a "lavish" spread of chips, sweets and hamburgers. The play room and patio was decorated with princess streamers, missed matched party hats, plastic lawn furniture and balloons. None of this mattered to any of the kids. They were so thrilled to be celebrating and to be able to eat sweets. Her birthday present, which would have been considered to be outdated and unappreciated by most children, especially in Southern California, was a generic, plastic beauty vanity set. You should have seen the look on her face. Priceless. She was beaming and overwhelmed with joy. I'd give anything to see that face again. She was so gracious.

And the trip to Hawaii was all about the stress of calling up the house manager at their home/condo in Hawaii to make sure everything was working. Oh, and getting their driver to pick them up in the morning. Seriously, this woman was sitting with her friends talking about how busy all their lives are and her biggest issue was whether to heat the pool or not. Her friends decided not, because it was just a waste and her response back "thank you for helping me. I couldn't have done this without you." Now, maybe there was more to their conversation and media made them look like a bunch of stupid women who have nothing better to do than travel and spend money...... but that's all it appeared to be.

I know this post sounds very bitter, resentful and angry. To honest, I'm all those things except for bitter. Yeah, the money they have would be nice. But I would not use it how they do nor would I buy my 4 year old and her 25 "friends" diamonds.
My apologies (sort of) to any of you who watch these types of shows. I just really cannot stand shows that portray a lifestyle that the majority of the population cannot afford to even come close to. It upsets and disturbs me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Journey to Joburg: Day 6: Mangwanani

Journal Entry: Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I've held off for a bit on posting this entry. Mostly because I've been really busy, but also because of some remarks going around about my intentions with my trip to South Africa. We spent Thursday visiting with Oasis board members, staff, house moms, children, visiting a local hospital, and yes.... enjoying a night at Mangwanani Spa. With that said, here is my experience on Day 6.

Today we attended the SA staff meeting. Beth wanted both teams to get to know each other a little better; how long we've been working with Oasis Haven, how we got involved, our role, etc... It was great to hear from those who work directly with the children. How they were called, their struggles, the love they have for each child.

Serena is the house mom at Bou. Bou is our first Oasis Haven Family Home. She has two assistants that help her during the week from 8:00-5:00pm. They alternate days at the home and will help on the weekends as well. The assistants at Bou are Caroline and Minki. Both very sweet, loving, incredible women.

Maggie and Veronica are currently sharing the role as house mom at 54. 54 was recently donated by the local church that supports Oasis Haven. This church, name I cannot ever remember, is our lifeline. They donate often and will always be our line of support if we're ever in a bind and need a helping a hand.

Maggie and Veronica work one month on, one month off at the home. The goal of the month on, month off system is to help provide stability in the home for the children. Rather than having one week on, one week off, or weekday versus weekend... It seems to be working right now. Our goal is to have houseparents for 54 by the end of this year.

Maggie and Veronica also have assistants to help from 8:00-5:00 and on the weekends. Their names are Juliann and Boukley (not sure on the spelling) They too are incredible, loving, kind women.

It was wonderful just to be in the same room as these amazing women who love God and his children. To add to the amazement, we started our meeting off with some worship. Minki led us in the most beautiful worship I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Most of it was sung in Sutu. Although difficult to sing along to, it was absolutely beautiful to listen to her incredible voice, along with the others, sing with such passion.
After our meeting we went to pick up more paint supplies and paint for 54 (our other home) and then headed to Helen Joseph Hospital where we met with virologist and Med Researcher, Francesca Cordobain. (not sure on exact spelling) Meeting with Francesca was an incredible experience. She is such an amazing women. She is extremely intelligent, passionate about what she does, and has a great sense of humor to top it off. Helen Joseph HIV/AIDS center specializes in ARV meds; anti retro viral. ARV medications are fairly new to the med world. It's not a cure for HIV/AIDS by any means. I learned while sitting in her office, that once you're infected, it's not something that can be cured. It's in your DNA. However, that doesn't mean that some day there won't be a cure, but ARV isn't a cure. It allows someone who is infected with HIV to live decades longer than they might have. It's no longer a death sentence.
It was wonderful to speak with her and learn from her.

After our visit with Francesca we we ran some errands and heading to enjoy an evening of relaxation at Mangwanani Spa.
Oh my stars!! Our experience at this spa was phenomenal. I've never experienced anything quite like it in my entire life. We were greeted with a glass of champagne, or delicious fruit cocktail, taken to our table where we nibbled on yummy snacks like biltong (beef jerky, but so much better!) After which we were led to dressing rooms where we changed into robes and slippers for our first treatment. Also, during our "snacking" we were entertained South African style. After changing, we were led down a wooden, bridge like pathway through trees that crossed over a creek. The pathway also had little hut-like rooms that jetted off to each side and stretched into the starry night. We were coupled up in these little huts for our hot stone massage. Tuliswa was my massage therapist and she was fantastic. As a lay there in the warm room, with the hot stones rolling down my back, I could hear the sounds of bull frogs and crickets. Or were they grasshoppers? I think they were locust!? Whatever they were, they were loud! As most things do, our session came to an end, and we were lead back to our table where we enjoyed a light meal with wine, sweets and more beautiful South African singing.
After dinner we were led back out to the pathway and into a larger hut with comfy Adirondack chairs and basins filled with warm water. We each sat in a chair and dipped our feet in our own little basin of warm water decorated with rose pedals. We sat there for about 50 minutes for an amazing grape seed extract foot and leg massage. I left there feeling wonderful and completely relaxed. I'm so grateful to have had this incredible experience thanks to Lori Kimbell and Paula Gillig. I later learned that Mangwanani supports Women's Rights in South Africa and they play a major role in Lead SA which is a campaign/NGO about getting South Africans to step up and take charge in their own country. Not accepting bribes from officers, trying to put an end to corruption..... I was thrilled to find out that our visit to this spa was not just for our enjoyment, but helping women in South Africa. Oh, also, Beth said that every employee, as far as I could tell they were all women, becomes a share holder of Mangwanani after a certain amount of time. That's so awesome! I've included the link to their website if you'd like to check it out.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Journey to Joburg: Day 5: Renovation!

Journal Entry: Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
Today our plan is to head out for some paint supplies, primmer, paint clothes and suitable spa/swimwear. Most of us didn't pack a swimsuit or clothing we didn't mind getting some paint on. The suit was considered, briefly, but then I decided it wouldn't be needed. (which, we didn't end up swimming anyhow because it didn't work out for us to take the kids with us to Bakubung for Safari)

We went to a mall/shopping center in Johannesburg to get our clothing and supplies. It was interesting to see how very similar and different our stores are. After purchasing what we needed, we headed to Bou (our first Oasis home) for a little painting. We would be painting the boy's room, children's bathroom (which currently is a hideous shade of orange), and the house mom's room. Each room had previously painted by volunteers, much like ourselves. Unlike the previous volunteers, we consulted the house mom before painting rooms awful colors and covering the walls with giant bugs, Snoopy and Garfield. My thought, by looking at the rooms, was that whoever painted these rooms was doing a very kind act of service, however, I kind of felt that they just figured their work to be good enough for orphans. And this was NOT good enough for us! We planned to give each room a simple, fresh look, that they can enjoy for quite some time...... with no more bugs!
Our first task was to prime each room (in order to cover up the bold bright colors of the insects). It was a difficult task, maneuvering around furniture, trying not to die of fume inhalation, but we got the job done.
After priming, we cleaned up, had lunch and headed back to Pepperwood Lodge. But....not before a visit from the little ones as they returned home from school. We were greeted with hugs, questions of "what's that smell?" ...."what are you doing?" ...."Are you leaving? When are you coming back?" and boasts of what they did at school.
We were able to escape the loving embraces from the children at Bou to make it home to shower and get ready for Rotary. Laura is involved in the RB Sunrise Rotary here in San Diego. Rotaries like to get involved, partnered up with, other Rotaries from around the world. I'm still not entirely certain on the exact roll that Rotary plays, but I do know that they are city funded, they fundraise for other organizations and they are extremely supportive of education.
My experience at Rotary was pretty pleasant. It was not for Paula and Lori though as they had the pleasure of being in the company of an extremely racist man.... who by the way is German. My thought is, if you're living in a country where you are among the wealthiest, living in the company of those far less fortunate, in extreme poverty, making money of their exploitation, then you have no right to complain. Johannesburg is a city founded by the Dutch as a mining town that used the exploitation of local South Africans (Blacks) to gain their wealth. And then, they were being forced to become "like them" to speak and be taught in their language. Men like this German guy will sit and complain about the corruption and poverty of the country, however, they will remain there, versus going back to their country, because they can live for cheap and bank on other's suffering. I'm grateful to not have had the pleasure to engage in a conversation with him. Sitting at the next table, hearing his wealthy, well fed mouth speak, was more than enough.

Tomorrow is another full day. We will however, get some relaxation in. We'll be ending our day at Mangwanani Spa. Beth has arranged for an evening of pampering. A full body, hot stone massage and a grape seed extract foot and leg rub. SOOO excited!
Before our spa-scursion, we'll also be attending a morning meeting, picking up the paint the kids decided on and visiting Helen Joseph Hospital.

For now, I'm off to bed. Hopefully the birds outside our window, and the barking dogs, don't wake me up again at 5am.