Langa

When most people think of South Africa, they think of impoverished communities, desert, safaris, and African tribes. These are some of the first thoughts that come to my mind when I think of Africa. Most people are a little surprised (and probably disappointed) to hear that Cape Town is very westernized and that there aren’t lions and giraffes outside my window (but that would be pretty awesome though).

I pictured Cape Town to be a booming city center with these impoverished communities that surround it on all sides. Driving into Cape Town from the airport, I would say that my expectations were not far off. The highways were lined with communities of tin shacks that had no running water. You could see all the port-a-potties used as bathrooms for the entire community. And it was obvious that the ratio of bathrooms to people was very off.

This past week, I had the opportunity to go through a township called Langa with a local named Michael who was born, raised, and currently lives in this township. Langa is one of the oldest townships outside of Cape Town. (In case you don’t know the history, townships are communities that were created by the Nationalist Party who came to power in 1948 to create separate living spaces for black and colored people from the white population. Even after South Africa became a democracy 23 years ago, many people still live in these overcrowded and underprivileged communities.)

Some brief history of some things that happened during Apartheid

  • Between 1950-1956 many Apartheid laws were passed – Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act, Mixed Marriages Act, Suppression of Communist Act, Bantu Education Act, Separation Amenities…and many more…
  • Black and colored people had to carry a “Dom pass” (pronounced like dumb with a British accent). Police could ask for them at any time and these passes severely limited black and colored Africans
  • 1976 there was a student uprising because the government made it a law that schools would have to teach in Afrikaans instead of English (there are over 12 official languages in South Africa and many more tribal languages)

The township was nothing like what I expected.

We started our visit by the Catholic church that was built when the township began. The church brought education to the community and provides a preschool and adult schooling that are still used today. It was also interesting to hear from our guide Michael how Africans often will attend a church and also adhere to traditional cultural customs. For example, at 18 or so, they have a whole ceremonial process where a boy becomes a man.

Next, we visited their sports fields. This was one of the first shocking moments to me. This township is actually a well established community and not just a bunch of tin shacks. They had a swimming pool (like what???) and four or five fields that are used on a regular basis. Michael told us sports have become an integral part of African township culture. It keeps the kids out of trouble and teaches them to work for a goal as a team. Sports even brought the nation together after Apartheid. Michael said one of the coolest experiences he has had since Apartheid ended was when South Africa was in the World Rubgy Championship. It did not matter what your skin color was, people came together all over South Africa to watch and support their home team.

This township even had cafes, a community center that holds little concerts, and pretty much everything a normal town would have. This was shocking to me. From the road, all you see are the tin shacks, and you don’t realize the whole community that does live there and how well established they really are. And surprisingly enough, at least it was to me, people choose to stay in the townships. That is their home and community. To them, they would rather be surrounded by the people they know and love than up and move out for a little more luxury.

We also got to visit one of the government built housings in the township. Originally these rooms, which could barely fit three wooden beds the size of a twin bed (probably smaller), held 9 people in three sets of bunk beds. I have no idea how people lived in these conditions. They had to be deplorable. And where would they have put their stuff? It was just amazing. Then, to make matter worse, there were 6 of these rooms (so 54 people) that shared a small common cooking space and a bathroom. ONE BATHROOM FOR 54 PEOPLE!

As we were walking around though, one of the more surprising things to me was that the townships were not all these tin shacks. There were more established concrete and brick houses. Actually, a lot of the houses were nicer than I thought they were going to be. There was even a “Beverly Hills” part of the township. Though, sadly enough, right across the road from these was the worst of the worst of the township with overcrowded tin shacks without running water. The sharp contrast in wealth just from which side of the street you live on was sad.

As out guide put it “we are making progress but you can’t expect everything to change overnight once Apartheid was abolished. People are still living with the same feelings and ways of life as if they were under Apartheid. It is going to take a few generations before we are truly a free South Africa.” He then used the example how many young black and colored people still don’t know how to swim even though they grew up after Apartheid. Certain ways of life and feelings are still engraved in their minds. It is going to take a long time to get to a truly free South Africa, but progress is being made slowly.

But I also had one of the happiest moments in this township too. While walking through the township, all of a sudden about 10 kids came out of nowhere running toward us. I had one little girl grab my arm and started hanging on it and jumping around. Then as giggles and laughs began to get louder, kids flooded from around the corners of buildings and from the houses. Then there were probably 50+ African kids running around a group of 18 American students. I had four kids hanging off of me and climbing me like I was a piece of playground equipment. But I don’t know that I have ever felt so much pure joy and happiness in my life. These kids had so much joy and didn’t even know who we were or what we were doing but they just wanted to play with us. They have no idea how sad their living, economic, and social situation is but ignorance is bliss.

This was definitely one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. The fact that people actually made legislation to discrimination against a group of people. Like how does anyone think that is ok? The conditions these people were living in even post-Apartheid. Something about these communities has a special place in my heart. Walking through Langa, I really could see myself in the future living in one of these townships doing who knows what, but immersing myself into their culture and way of life.

-Kaitlyn

*I really wish I had better wifi and could upload more pictures but I will be posting some on facebook when I get the chance. so stay tuned…

Dolphins, Elephants, and Ostriches Oh My

I can’t believe it has already been a week in Cape Town. It has definitely flown by, but it is also that weird feeling that I have been here forever. Cape Town is absolutely beautiful. Mountains and beaches – what else could you ask for? Though, even its beauty can’t hide the very obvious spread in wealth. Driving from the airport to our little house by UCT, townships lined the road. These poor communities we learned don’t have running water, have practically port-a-potties on the outsides to use as bathrooms, and are just completely overcrowded with people. It was sad to see this, and then drive my the million dollar homes along the beaches. With Apartheid, their history is just so recent and it is obvious that there is still so much progress to be made.
On a happier note – I’m living in a cute little house with 17 other students studying abroad. (Normally, this program has like 80 students, but because of everything leading up to this trip there are only 18.) I like that this trip is so much smaller – I already know everyone and we are all living together instead of being spread out all over. The group really meshes well, and I am really to be living with them for the next few months.

This week was filled with orientations from our program IES. It was a rough start for me – fighting off the jetlag and listening tot these lectures that seemed like they were never going to end. (Plus it took most of the week for my body to get used to the time change and I kept waking up at lovely 5:30 am. But at least I got to watch the sunrise on Devil’s peak from my window.)

But the real fun came at the end of the week. We spent one evening on top of one of the mountains in Cape Town and watched the sunset over the water. Literally, one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life (but I may just be a sucker for sunsets).

Then we got to go on the Garden Route – a scenic route in southern South Africa in which you experience many different terrains and ecosystems that South Africa has to offer. Day 1 started with a canoe trip. We canoed down a river and got to chill for a while.

Day 2 we were told we were going for a nice little hike. This was a little of an understatement. It was a beautiful hike in which we saw dolphins jumping in the huge waves off shore, but the hike was also 5 miles and not what I would call easy. We were climbing over boulders, hanging on to the side of rocks, climbing up and down makeshift stairs….Then we only got to sit and rest for 15 minutes at little less than impressive waterfall. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the hike, but man I was not mentally prepared for that.

After the hike we headed off to an Elephant Sanctuary. I was able to pet, walk, and ride these amazing creatures! It was such an amazing experience. I even got to hug the elephant 🙂

Day 3 we headed to the caves and then an ostrich farm. This wasn’t just any cave adventure – we had to crawl through tight spaces, slide on and army crawl on our stomachs, and wiggle our bodies up a two and half foot diameter hole at 45 degrees. It was quite the work out! Such adventures we have already become! Then we got to go to the ostrich farm. We got to meet the only friendly ostrich on the premises and then they told us we could ride the less friendly ostriches….

Yes, I did ride an ostrich. Yes, I was quite scary. But I survived to tell about it! So you might be asking how does one ride an ostrich? Well first you have to mount it by putting your legs under the wings and grabbing the wings tightly with your hands. Then the ostrich literally takes off and good luck!

Overall, the first week was amazing. I’ve already fallen in love with South Africa. The landscape is beautiful, there is so much going on politically, and so many adventures to be had. This next week holds more orientation sessions by the university, so it will be another long week. But I am kind of ready to get into the swing of things.

I’ll upload some photos to facebook and here later when I get a chance. We have very limited wifi so I need to wait until I am on UCT’s campus to upload pictures.

-Kaitlyn

 

 

Next Stop: Cape Town

Wow, it’s finally here. The day that I never felt like would come is here and I’m sitting in the airport and in less than 48 hours I will be in Cape Town.

This week has been a whirl-wind of emotions. Feelings of excitement as the departure date has finally arrived. Sadness in saying goodbye to such great friends. Anxiousness for not knowing what lies ahead of me. Eagerness to learn about and experience a new culture and people. You name the emotion and I’ve felt in some way this week.

 

So, I’ve decided to write this blog as a way for people to keep up with my adventures and experiences in Cape Town these next four and half months. I want to use this as a place to share the things I am learning and all the crazy experiences I am sure lie ahead of me.
So, I feel like I should address the question that I have been asked so many times

“Why Cape Town?”

 

Yes, Cape Town isn’t a stereotypical study abroad. A year ago, I would have told you I would be in Spain right now. Spain seemed right because I am a Spanish Minor and I could hopefully reach my ultimate goal of being fluent after five months of living there. But God had a different plan for my upcoming semester. Last year, my mom was in South Africa for a short period of time. She showed me pictures of how beautiful South Africa was and told  me about her experiences in the townships. (Townships are the impoverished communities that surround the main city of Cape Town. This is where most the crime is and racial struggle is experienced.)

In that moment, Cape Town captured my heart. I didn’t know much about Cape Town or its history. Honestly, I have no good explanation of why it captured my heart like that; it just did. This is the first time in my life that I can say that I really felt like God was calling me to step out of my comfort zone and this bubble I have been living in and go to Cape Town.

The more I continued to explore the program at the University of Cape Town, the more perfect the idea of studying abroad in Cape Town was. It was the only school that I could find with a physics class that aligned with TCU’s curriculum so I would be able to graduate on time. Then I found a class that offered by UCT  that is community service based. This class will allow me to get out into the community and serve in medical atmosphere – what could be more perfect for me as a pre-med student? All of this was affirmation to me that God wanted me in Cape Town for the semester.

Even though I was so strongly called to Cape Town and everything seemed to be working out perfectly, these months leading up to now have not been easy. I have many days that I’ve sat in my bed debating whether I should go or if I should go somewhere else. I’ve had many people talk to me that kind of discouraged me from going because of safety or it just sounds too crazy. Then on top of it all in October, I received an email from IES that there were riots in Cape Town that were going to delay the start of the semester for a month.

I had to make a decision. I prayed for clarity and was still feeling my heart being tugged toward Cape Town even if it made me kind of uneasy. Then one day when I was talking to my mom about it she said something to the effect of “You won’t have the same experience anywhere else – you will experience so much culture and recent history there and will not come back the same.” That sold it for me.

 

My goal for my semester abroad was not so much to travel the world and as much as I would like to be kind of stuck. I have been blessed with a family that travels a lot so I really want to use this time to really get to know a culture and experience what it is like to live there. I wanted to be a little more stuck and not feel like I needed to travel every weekend. I wanted to be able to give back to the community in some way that I will be living in. And Cape Town had all of this for me.

 

So having said all this, my goal for this semester is to get involved with the community and learn as much as I can about South African history and culture. I want to be 100% present in Cape Town and not missing home. I want to be involved with the people and communities of South Africa. I hope to get involved with a local church that can provide opportunities to get out into the community and townships and serve. I hope to gain friends that will show me the hole in the wall restaurants and help me truly experience Cape Town.

So I’m asking for lots of prayer to prepare my heart for this adventure that I am about to embark on. This is the biggest leap of faith I have taken as I have no idea what lies ahead of me, but I pray for comfort and that I will be ready to receive whatever God has in store for me this upcoming semester. I know he has me in Cape Town for a reason and I cannot wait to see what he will do these next four and half months.

– Kaitlyn

Now I Know What College is Like

Apply to college, I thought I had to go away to get the full college experience. I applied to 13 schools to try to find a school I liked better than TCU and was as far away as possible. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Texas or didn’t want to be close to my family, but I wanted to have the full college experience, and I didn’t think that was possible so close to home.

But, boy was I wrong. And I’m glad I was.

Being so close to home proved to be so valuable for me especially while I have been dealing with all my food allergy stuff. I loved being able to drive home to grab something whenever, and moving in and out has never been too much of pain.

But there was that one thing I knew was missing. Every break, all my friends would be so excited to go home and see their families. I never really got this excitement. The fifteen minute drive was just not the adrenaline rush I felt like my friends were having going home to their families.

 

Well, this summer has been my “college experience”. Not only did I spend 10 weeks away from home, I was over 4,300 miles from home. A call home wasn’t that simple either. 7 hour time difference proved to be really difficult with all our schedules. The first week I found myself making time to call home, but quickly the business of the weeks took over. I struggled to find time to talk to anyone back home.

I quickly started counting down the weeks until I would meet my mom in the airport in London.

Texting my mom as I was on my way to the airport where she had just landed, I could feel the excitement of “going home”. I was going to see my mom so soon and I was so excited.

 

There’s definitely benefits to staying close to home for college, but I yearned for the same excited feeling to go home that my friends had. I had finally experienced it, and understood it. It is amazing what you take for granted when it is right there in front of you.

 

My mom’s hugs never felt so good.

 

Can’t wait to meet up with the rest of my family in the next few weeks.

 

XOXO,

Kaitlyn Callaghan

Barcelona

Every time my doctors I was with for the week asked me where I was going this weekend, they would always chuckle a little when I told them Barcelona. BUT HOW COULD YOU COME TO SPAIN WITHOUT GOING TO BARCELONA? I feel like that is a must if you are in Spain and it’s a possibility – it’s like going to England and not going to London or going to France and not going to Paris. You just can’t do that.

So Friday afternoon, we packed our bags and began the six hour bus ride to Barcelona from Teruel. (Too bad we were traveling cheap and didn’t want to pay for the fast train because this was probably the longest bus ride of my life.)

We arrived there that night and finally ate dinner at 11pm. (I think I’m beating the Europeans at t their own game of late dinners now lol.) Headed to bed after dinner to prepare for our long day of touring Saturday.

 

WOW and were they right – Barcelona is an amazing city. The Sagrada Familia is such an amazing Basilica and I have not see anything like it ever before – (and I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals and basilicas in my life time and just in my time in Spain. It was fun to be true tourists as we hopped on and off the Hop-on-Hop-off bus.

We got the chance to see all the famous Goudi buildings in Spain, drive by the beach, see the Olympic Stadium, and get a wonderful view of the city. I so wish we had more time (and the money, but we could already feel the debt in our futures from med-school lingering over our heads) to tour the incredible Goudi buildings and other sites in Barcelona.

We were all so exhausted and so hungry for dinner but I had one last thing I wanted to do before we left in the morning – see the Montjuic Magical Fountain at night but this didn’t start until 9:30/10 so we were going to play the late dinner game one more time.

The girls headed to watch the light and music show at the fountain while the guys headed to watch a soccer game at some bar, typical. We had to break up into two taxis unfortunately so I arrived with the first few of us and we walked over to the fountain. As soon as we arrived, one of the girls realized that her phone was missing. So we quickly moved to retrace our steps with a small hope that it had fallen out a few steps back and had not been pick-pocketed.

Unfortunately, the latter was true. We finally found the other group of girls and two of them ran off to report the lost phone. The three of us left at the fountain stood and enjoyed the fountain thinking they would be back soon. 11:30 finally came and we realized that they had been gone for like 45 minutes so we texted them and met them at the police station.

We were all starting to die of hunger and the three of us headed to go grab food for everyone. We sit down at the first restaurant we find and just let out an exacerbated laugh when we look at our phones and it is midnight and we are just now sitting down for dinner. (See Europe, two can play at the late dinner game.)

We thought things couldn’t get worse until they did. The next morning we were standing in the lobby of our hostel at 7:20 and neither taxi that we had asked the reception to call the night before was there and our bus left the station in 30 minutes. Thankfully, someone just arrived via taxi so we grabbed their taxi and asked him to call another one.

 

We were going to make it.

 

I tell the second taxi driver which station we were going to and he takes off. Perfect I sit back and relax excited to get some sleep on the bus. The taxi driver pulls up to a corner and points at the station down the street then does something to the taxi fair price machine thing in the front and the price of the taxi like doubles. We all look at each other confused but shrug since we are in a rush and just want to make our bus.

 

We walk up to the station and I don’t see any buses.

 

My heart drops. No, no this can’t be happening. I can’t have lead them to the wrong place. We have to get back. I go up to the counter and talk to the attendant tells me we are at the wrong station. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I told him estacion norte and he took us to estacion francia – THEY DON’T EVEN SOUND THE SAME. The one time I don’t follow the driver on my phone of course, my luck.

 

We scramble out and jump in a taxi as fast as we can praying we can make the bus still. We pull up at estacion norte at 7:45 – 5 minutes maybe we can make it. However, we run into the other half of our group and they can’t find the bus. We quickly learn that our bus somehow doesn’t exist and have to just get bus tickets to Zaragoza which is halfway back and figure out the rest of the trip back there.

 

Great, great. They are all going to hate me for this. I felt so bad, but they were all such great sports. We were all so exhausted from the day before but no one really complained about it and we just took a nice little nap in the bus station until our bus left.

 

We finally got back at 5:30 that night and unfortunately missed the hike we were suppose to go on that afternoon. But at least now we have a story to laugh about later.

 

But Barcelona was amazing despite all the minor incidents. I hope that I will be able to go back for a longer time and see everything. It is just so different from the rest of Spain.

 

One week left :/ Don’t want to leave Spain

 

XOXO,

Kaitlyn

 

 

OH How I Love Colons

I didn’t think anyone wanted to see a picture of a colon so I just put a funny picture 🙂

Shadowing orthopedics last week was such an awesome experience. It was something I could see myself doing. Orthopedics set the bar very high for the rest of the trip and I subconsiously knew that my next two weeks shadowing would probably not be as exciting because they would consist of more time in office visits and not blood squirting out everywhere and dislocated joints; however, I kind of refused to accept that fact.

I consider myself a fairly optimistic person that usually can find the positive in any situation and make it an enjoyable time. However, I know so many people are jumping up and down when they are told they need a colonoscopy, but I struggled to find anything exciting about watching colonoscopy.

On top of this, I am also hitting the slump of my travels. I just need a break and some time to myself. Not that I don’t love the people on my trip and hanging out with them, but I have just been gone for such a long time already and need a break from always being in that “on” mode. Before this trip, I was skeptical that there would be a time that I would just want to be at home and sit and do nothing (because if you know me that is almost impossible for me to do). But sometimes you just need a break and even just a weekend to yourself to do exactly what you want to do and not worry about other people.

This slump along with the exciting week of colonoscopies has just been such a wonderful time. My optimistic and upbeat self feels like it is dragging on the floor behind me wherever I walk. Colonoscopy after colonoscopy I tried to find something that would make it a little more exciting to watch for the ummteeth time. (You could probably show me a picture of a part of the colon and I could identify where it is.) I am so tired of watching the little camera navigate through the colon and clean out all the remaining poop in people’s colons. I tried pretending the doctor was playing a video game (honestly, that is what it looks like). Nothing seemed to help and I always found myself starting at the clock thinking it would make 2pm come faster. NEWSFLASH it makes time pass a million times slower.

So I found myself talking to God today when I started to nod off watching the colonoscopies. I sat there talking to him about how boring this was and how I could not imagine what it was like for this doctor to have to do this day in and day out for his life. God thumped me on the back of my head at that comment.

God made us all different and to have different passions. My passion may not be looking at colons, but that does not mean that someone else is not passionate about that. I may not understand it, but I’m not supposed to. That is what makes us all so unique. We have different things that make us excited. Mine might be Orthopedics and his might be colonoscopy, but as long as we are both doing what we are passionate about and trying to be the best that we can be, isn’t it all the same? We are serving others with our work to try to increase the quality of their life by doing something we enjoy.

With on more day in digestion and endoscopies, I cannot say I’m overly excited for it, but I am going to do my best to make the best of the situation. There are still so many things to learn from this experience in digestion – 1) I will never be a gastroenterologist. 2) I can learn from the way the patient and the doctor interact when they have to deliver both good news and bad news to the patient. 3) I can learn how the doctor works with his team of nurses as a unit and not as an authority figure.

Headed to Barcelona for the weekend. Can’t wait!!!

 

XOXO,

Kaitlyn

 

Rock Bottom

I don’t know if you have ever felt like you hit rock bottom, but the operating room floor sure felt like rock bottom for me. My dreams felt crushed; I felt pathetic and embarrassed because they became concerned about me while they had a patient with their internal organs exposed. If you know me, I hate being the center of attention for anything and I hate to be bother or a handful, so this whole situation was just awful for me.

Sitting on the floor in the corner of the operating room, I remember thinking what the heck am I doing? How am I suppose to ever be a doctor or a surgeon? Or more importantly how am I even suppose to survive today in Trauma/Orthopedic Surgery? I just sat there and prayed that I could at least survive today and then ask to switch specialties. I prayed that I would look at this program as a learning opportunity, and if I learned I was not called to be a doctor, I prayed that I would be content and calm about figuring out what my passion is.

Five surgeries and one day later, I think I figured it out. I love surgery, especially orthopedics. I love that each case may appear similar but actually, each case is very specific to itself.  I had the opportunity to see the doctors replace a hip, two knee replacement surgeries (one with a computer to help with the alignment and one manually aligned), a dislocated hip with a fracture in the neck of the femur, and the replacement of screws in a hip replacement.

I will spare you the details of trying to describe how awesome these surgeries were (once I survived the first one). It was so neat to see everything behind the scenes because I only have experience from being the patient. And it is far different than I would have thought.

Some of the doctors still offer me a chair to sit in during the surgery just in case, but I’m good now and no longer worry about when I will have nice little encounter with the floor of the operating room. Not sure I’m ever going to live it down with them. But they are so sweet and take care of me so well and include me in everything. They take time to explain the type of surgery they are doing and exactly why they are doing each step they are doing. They also stop in the middle to show me specifics that you just can’t explain with words. I just can’t put into words what an awesome experience it has been.

It has been a truly amazing experience in the operating room. Unfortunately, I only have two days left before I change departments, but they are like my family now. They invite me to their coffee breaks and we all work on our language skills. I will miss them after this week; they have been so influential in this process for me. Digestion and Oncology have big shoes to fill.

 

XOXO,

(Your next surgeon) Kaitlyn