Starting off on the wrong foot…or shoe

Wow wow WOW have I had myself a week. I have so much to share that I’m splitting it into two posts. This one is about my first few days, initial thoughts and feelings, etc. and the next one is everything since then, coming soon to a computer near you!

I arrived in Johannesburg after 2 red eye flights and basically no sleep. I landed at 8 am and had to stay awake the whole day. Luckily, I managed to do it but my body was all sorts of confused. I thought I would have a day or two before I went to work but Ashley (Witkoppen’s COO) dropped me off at my house and said “see you tomorrow!” In hindsight it was good because it gave me something to do right away. I had a memorable first day at work because….I WORE 2 DIFFERENT SHOES. Yep. Jet lag is a killer. I knew I put on 2 different shoes in the morning, so I could see which one was more comfortable to wear, then I got distracted and left my house with 2 different shoes on. They were both black but it was still pretty noticeable. The guy who led my training at work looked down and goes “uh…did you do that on purpose?” I made some friends though because two other women who work there pointed at my shoes and chuckled and they thought it was hiLARious that I accidentally wore different shoes. What a way to start off a new job!

I am living with Trevor and Lila Keip who rent out a flat (one room cottage + bathroom) that all the previous Minerva Fellows have stayed in. It is a bit small, but it has a bed and a kitchen and a bathroom so I can’t complain at all! It’s quaint and has a bench outside where I’m writing this right now. The Keips are amazing and so welcoming. I have been going on walks around the neighborhood with Trevor the past few days which has been lovely. I’m living in a gated community and use my fingerprint to scan in which is pretty cool. It’s completely safe for me to walk around, during the day and at night. 

Weather time: It’s winter here right now but it’s pretty mild. The highs are in the 70s and the lows are in the 40s. In the US there’s usually a 20 degree difference between the high and lo but here it’s close to 30 degrees. I go to work feeling cold with a jacket and within 2 hours I’ve lost the jacket and need to change pants to shorts! The sun is very strong here and apparently 30 minutes in the South African sun can cure anything! It’s very dry here in Johannesburg, since they’re at a high elevation. My throat has been bothering me and I’ve been sneezing and I thought I was getting sick but it turns out it’s allergies with the change of seasons plus the dry heat :/

For those who know, the microwave is doing well. That’s the nickname for my car. It’s the same car that the past few fellows have used and the air conditioning is broken and it’s basically the size of a microwave. It’s actually smart car size but it’s not smart in the slightest. This car has been on its last leg for quite a while, yet manages to pass inspection every year. Luckily, it’s an automatic, so that wasn’t too big of a change, but I’m driving on the LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD. That certainly took  some time to get used to. It’s like learning how to drive all over again. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and I’ve had too many embarrassing moments walking to the wrong side of the car to enter. The roads are demarcated pretty well with arrows so I’m reminded to stay on the left, but I’m still not used to crossing traffic when I turn right. They LOVE their roundabouts and sometimes the traffic lights are out so it’s basically a free for all. By the way, traffic lights are called robots here. (Robots are also called robots.) I only live 5 minutes from work which is nice.

Witkoppen Health and Welfare Centre is amazing. I love where I work! It’s a non profit health clinic that does SO much for the community, and really focuses on comprehensive care. Public government clinics many times don’t even have doctors and the service is terribly slow, but Witkoppen has an HIV clinic, TB clinic, pharmacy, dietician, emergency room, general hospital, social services, and a psychologist (I’m probably forgetting some). There’s also a mobile clinic that goes out to the townships every day to encourage patients to get tested for HIV or anything else they might need. All things Witkoppen Clinic is going to get its own post soon, I promise!

Since arriving last Wednesday, my first few days were really overwhelming and overstimulating. It was nice to get into things right away but when the first Saturday came and I had some downtime, it hit me that I was really here. 8,000 miles from home. I was dreading the moment when this would happen, because when I studied in Brazil, it hit me hard and it took me days to get out of my “I want to go home” slump. But surprisingly enough, the sinking feeling came and went pretty quickly. It’s because that feeling is one of doubt, that I won’t be able to get through this. In Brazil, it was the first time I ever was far away from home and while I knew that I would physically get through my term abroad, I wasn’t sure if emotionally I could handle it. But. I. did. Brazil is a huge success story for me and if I did it then, I sure as heck can do it again. I no longer have that feeling of doubt that I can’t get through this, because I know I will. Simple as that. 

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3 Comments

  1. So enjoyed reading your first post, Christie! All the details bring you closer. I can totally understand how you ended up with two different shoes on the first day. I’m looking forward to more!

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