We have only been here for 3 days but I feel like I have already been here for a month. That's a good thing - I think it speaks to the quality of the relationships we are establishing and the amount of work we have completed. Today we had the opportunity to go to the community that we will be working in for the next few weeks, Kenneth Gardens (KG). We also visited our student mentees at their high school. Interacting with the youth and adult members of the community was surely the highlight of my day. The community was so warm and inviting. They were incredibly kind and seemed to be just as interested in getting to know us as we were in getting to know them. The conditions of the community reminded me a lot of places I lived in and frequented as a young girl so in a way I felt at home.
We had a communal gathering this evening that was awesome. I was dressed in traditional Zulu attire and felt like a Zulu princess. Women in the community commented that the attire "fits me." They embraced me, made jokes, and laughed with me. That meant a lot to me as a person of African ancestry who is unsure of her tribal/regional roots. The fact that people who I see as family (brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, and cousins) saw me as a person who fits into their culture meant a lot to me. It felt to me like I was at a family gathering. Interacting with the young people was also a great experience. They were so engaging and willing to tell me all about themselves and teach me all I wanted to know about Zulu and Xosa culture. They taught me a few words and took me outside so I could learn some traditional dances. I am thrilled about my future with them and looking forward to learning all I can about their lives and their culture. They were also inquisitive about American culture and I was happy to share my experiences with them.
Working with the UKZN students and leadership team has also been amazing. I love how we freely interact with each other, share ideas, and work together. Our interactions are not forced but fluid and genuine. From them I have learned so much about the history of South Africa and how deeply entrenched issues of race and class are within the psyches of South Africans. I am interested in seeing if and how this comes up in our community interviews and/or in the photo voice project. In my experience in the US, we see increased health issues among Black people even when class (socioeconomic status) is controlled for. I am interested in seeing if our interviews reflect similar trends. I am also interested in learning more about the community health clinic. As a health psychologist in training, I am excited about learning about this method of health service delivery - how people access it, what they like about it, what they dislike about it, and how (if in any way) it can be improved. We went through the clinic space earlier today and it seemed as if many community members are utilizing clinic services. If services are utilized often and these services are positively impacting the health of this community it is possible that this would be a great health service delivery model for low income communities in South Africa and the United States.
I am excited to learn more about the community, the health clinic, the elders, the young people, and my UKZN peers. This has been a phenomenal experience thus far. I am grateful for this opportunity and eager to learn as much as I can possibly fit into my brain.
In light, love, peace, and progress,