By Terri van Iperenburg, Fourth year Social Work student at Avans Hogeschool (ASH)

Last week I was in George for a month, a whole month!! Last week was heaven in terms of being with my boyfriend who visited. I waved him of again and hopefully we will see eachother this week. It was nice being together, but there were a lot of doctor visits for his foot, which is almost healed now. It was interesting to see a different side to the country in terms of the medical care system. We also made some plans and send some emails to start planning our trip in July. We are planning to travel up to Johannesburg and visit the Krugerpark next to many other cities along the way. I am soo excited to go travelling in this beautiful country! We also had a date day where we went to the cinema and out for dinner in the evening. Also all the people from Cape Town from the CASO project came over to George for a weekend. I seriously felt super appriciated because they came all the way here to see us and have some fun. It was a lovely weekend!

I worked on school a lot this week since my planning said I had to design my interviews and put them on a board and make small cards with my interview topics on them. This so that I don’t do the classical way of interviewing and bring in a little bit of my creativity! I did it and felt quite good that I was able to arrange this. But my teacher also said to take the time to think about my research and follow the proper steps. I decided to make a balans and work on my thesis but also really focus on my interviews, because I have only a month an a half left! Today I actually started my interviewing in both departments. I started out really nervous because I had to go up to people and explain what I was doing and what I wanted from them while they were working. But I was recieved very openly and did 2 interviews straight away. It was really amazing to see my product working!
Also I finished putting al my fabrics together for my exam that is happening on the 16th of April. It was so satisfying to see a product I had in my mind coming to life! As you can see in the picture aboven I feel very happy about being done (having worked on it for serveral hours a day for over a week) (and also thanks Pepijn for motivating me to get started, otherwise next week would have been very stressful LOL).

Our new roomie arrived (YASS, Welcome Lizzie) and she instantly helped me feel way better by forcing my (not really though haha) to go outside and enjoy the sun and the surroundings (I for example didn’t know there was a big forest behind our residence untill we explored it this week). It is soo cool that a new person can make you feel a whole new way!

On Tuesday the 2th of April I went to present my project to the Ethics Committee of the hospital. I had no idea what to expect, but Max and I made a presentation and went with a little bit of nerves not knowing how many people were going to join. But basically, the Ethics Committee has met to discuss certain cases in the hospital that have different viewing angles that can to be looked at from different perspectives and with different values of people. Max and I had to present our project so that they could be approved formally (even though we started in March already haha). At first, a few people sat in the room and we waited for the meeting to start. Suddenly when we started there were 10 to 15 people that were in the room eventually. For me, this was very exciting because I love presenting in front of people, but was also very nervous because these were people that knew a lot of things in the hospital and have a lot of experience. Once I was done presenting my idea people started asking a lot of questions, which at first felt overwhelming, but after that, I realised that was because people were so interested in my project and my way of interviewing! People asked me why I didn’t choose their department for the research and this was a compliment for me. Also, people expressed that I should think about asking the people I was interviewing how they experienced this tool so maybe the hospital could use it after I was done. How exciting right?! So for me, it was a successful meeting and my project got approved!

Then also this week on Wednesday and Thursday I went to Ithemba Lobomi. Lobomi is an organization that goes on house visits in the challenging area in George (Thembalethu). On these house visits they look at the needs of the people and try to do everything they can to help them in that area. For example if someone has mental health issues they send a team of social workers to the house to check up on them regularly. Me and Max went with the social workers on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday we went to a substance abuse workshop that took place in the clinic in Thembalethu for people who want to quit smoking, drinking or abusing drugs. When the workshop begin no one was there. The social worker explained that people often have to much shame to come to the meetings, because they fear what people are going to say about them. So we went to share some flyers in the waiting area that explained what the workshop was about. But there was a huge language barriere that I didn’t expect. In South Africa there are 11 languages that people speak. In this area people usually speak Xhosa. Afrikaans is still quite understandable but I can’t make anything of Xhosa (if anyone wants to teach me, please do haha). But still I got over the barrier and tried to reach people with slowly talking in English and introducing myself, which worked well and I had some fun and was also proud of myself. Around 4 people came in to the workshop and from what I got (because someone had to translate what the social worker was talking about) it was a succesfull workshop. I found it mainly intersting to see how the social worker did the workshop, because in the Netherlands it would be different in terms of first getting to know people and filling in the workshop with exercises in stead of just talking. But I definitely understand dat you have to make the most of the small amount of time you have with these people, because you are never sure if they will ever come back to the workshop.
In the afternoon we went to a parenting workshop in Thembalethu. I was shocked by the circumstances that they gave the workshop in and how many people were present to give the workshop. The workshop had a really good subject; listening to the feelings of your children. It was again spoken in Xhosa and the workshop started an hour late (which happens often, it is a culture thing, so was explained to me) which for me is frustrating some times, because I like being on time but I learned here to let go of the rules of time sometimes. For example I went to do an interview yesterday and went to the hospital, but the person I had an appointment with had no time. I didn’t even get frustrated I just made a new appointment and everything was fine (are you proud of me mam?). But the workshop was interesting of what I could follow (because translating again). It was too bad that I wasn’t able to do anything and just sat and listened the whole day. I wish I could have brought in some of my exercises I do in the Netherlands.

The next day we went to do house visits and boy was I shocked. I almost cried at the circumstances and what I saw that day. For example we went for a house visit where a little child was walking around all by itself (not a mother, father, grandma or anyone present) just smiling about covered in flies. The social worker explained that the childs mother was not at home but they would return for a surprise visit so the social services could do something about it, but first they had to talk to the mother, because you can’t just take a child away from it’s mother. I was soo heartbroken and had to hold in my tears. I saw more things that day, but I get they can be very shocking to hear! The organization also brought some food parcels to a few houses that day with all the basic needs (like eggs, butter, flower and many more things). I found this very nice and saw the organization doing every thing they can to help and meet everyones needs in the area as good as possible!
I want to thank them for taking us on their journey which they go trough every day, in burning sun and pooring rain. I think you guys are doing a very good job and it was nice meeting everyone and having such open conversations about the conditions and what was the tinking behind certain things and how things are arranged in South Africa (the example I gave here, it is intersting to see the difference in the working with abandoned children).

The picture was taken on Thursday before the house visits with the social worker in charge of the team of social workers. So lovely meeting you and talking the two days in your office 😉

Damn this is becoming such a long one, but as the title says, it is a eventfull one haha. So after the full week we went for a gin tasting in Nina’s (an amazing restaurant here). 5 gin makers came to the restaurant to explain what there gin was and the restaurant served a tapas with every gin. It was an amazing evening and I have never tried any gin that tasted as good as these gins (for example the black phantom gin, which has a black colour, with orange and cinnamon, Jaco if you are reading, try it if you can some day, hope I can bring some for you). It was an amazing evening, and guess what… On my last day in George (31th of May) we will go back for a magic show with a wine tasting and 3 course meal (how amazing does that sound!!). Thanks again Esmarie for inviting us along 🙂

Lastly I went to the strawberry farm again on Saturday to pick some more of those delicious strawberries and enjoy the farm which is soo fun haha. Feel like a little girl again every time I am there. On Sunday we had a relaxing day where we slept in, enjoyed breakfast outside and went to the beach to have a braai. We went for a good swim in the waves (still am in love with the sea, makes me feel soo good). I had a difficult morning, but the sea healed all of that. The braai was a fail, but we made the mead at home and enjoyed it there, which was super fun (right guys haha).

Follow Teri on her Blog The BIG adventure

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