The hospital i’m working at in the Cape Flats area is called GF Jooste. Its a 2nd level hospital (the hospitals are either primary, secondary or tertiary levels). Thankfully its like 10 minutes from my home stay so the ride to work isn’t too long.
My first week there i was assigned to the surgery department. I was VERY apprehensive about this because i’d never been in any sort of surgical situation before. That first day was quiet an eye opener. A fellow student (who’s also from northeastern) and i ended up together. We found a wonderful doctor who let us follow her for the day (and eventually the whole week). We followed her during ward rounds, where she stopped by to check on each of the surgical patients and then afterwards we went to the clinic where patients came in for their follow up post surgery.
We saw her draw many patients blood, we also witnessed a small procedure where she took out a cyst from a patient’s back (IT WAS HUGE). But the best part about all this was that she explained everything she did. Each time a patient came in she would tell us what the patient’s problem was, what they did/what they were going to do and if we had any questions she answered them for us.
The next time we came in was surgery day for her and we were allowed to scrub in to watch a surgery!!! It was my first surgery ever and they were taking out a large lump from a woman’s buttocks. We weren’t allowed to touch anything because we weren’t fully scrubbed in but we watched as they cut out the lump and sewed the woman up.
At first i was scared that i wouldn’t be able to handle the doctor cutting into the woman’s skin and the amount of blood coming out but that wasn’t as much of a big deal as i thought. The hardest part of watching that surgery was standing for as long as we did and breathing throught the face masks we had to wear.
After that first week i left knowing that i could handle more things than i had initially thought i could handle prior to starting work at the hospital. I knew that in teh 7 weeks i had left that i would be coming back to surgery.
During our first week of co-op we were given a tour of Cape Town so as to help us understand the history of the area we would be working with, the history of the patients we would be seeing and essentially the history and causes of some of the illnesses that the patients would be presenting. It was a LONG tour but it was very informative and enlightening. I had an inkling of the rich history of South Africa, especially with apartheid and all the other issues the country has faced, but actually hearing the history of how the country came about was more than anything i imagined. The history of South Africa is very complex and fraught with tensions within the different groups that make up the country’s diverse population.But, its also full of many instances of triumph in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. We learned about aparthied and the different racial classification of the people and how as a result of their classification and the law, the groups were forced to live apart. The three main classification were/are white (which are the people of european descent), colored (which are the people of mixed heritage) and black (which are the people of african descent). And now, even though apartheid is over, many people still use the terms as a form of racial identification.
One thing i wasn’t expecting was the diversity of the people of Cape Town but once we learned about South Africa’s slave history, the diversity of the people made sense. A lot of the slave population of South Africa weren’t Africans as many people think but were taken from Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, South East Asia and South Indian. As a result, a large majority of the population of Cape Town is filled with people of mixed heritage and many of them look of South East Asian and Indian desent. In Cape Town some of these people are refered to as Cape Malay. In fact, my host parents are colored and of muslim heritage and look of Indian descent.
So i’ve finally made it to South Africa and so far everything has surpassed my expectations!!!! I’d planned to arrive a few days before the start of my co-op so that i could get over jet lag, get a little acclimated to my new environment and explore the city a little bit.
My first weekend i met up with a few friends from northeastern who are also doing their co-op in capetown and we went to a restaurant called Mama Africa. There i had Ostrich Meat!!! because apparently its a must have here in Cape Town. And i have to say that i really enjoyed it…….It tasted just like beef. In the restuarant there was also live music which i interpreted to be South African Jazz because the musicians used similar instruments to Jazz musicians in the U.S. It was very entertaining!!!! and they even played a song i recognized.
My name is Oyin Kolawole and i’m a 5th year Behavioral Neuroscience major with a minor in ethics. This is sadly my last co-op and my final year in school. I’ve always loved travelling and as a immigrant to the U.S. i guess you could say moving here from Nigeria was my first experience at travelling and experiencing another culture. I’ve done two co-ops already and this isn’t my first international experience.
My first co-op was in Greece where i lived for 4 months and it was an experienced filled with great memories and personal growth…and learning Greek. My second was right in Boston and i wanted to spend my last co-op abroad in a place i’ve always wanted to visit….CAPE TOWN!!! Being in Cape Town would enable me to work with in a health setting that i’ve always wanted to be in (community health) and allow me to live in Cape Town.
I will be working with an NGO called Child Family Health International (CFHI) and living with a host family in Cape Town for 2 months. I can’t wait to see what CFHI and Cape Town have in store for me.
I leave for Cape Town in 2 days and like any other student i’ve managed to leave so many things for the last minute. I’ve yet to finish packing, i haven’t printed out any of the important papers and numbers i’m supposed to have and at this point i’ve started a TO-DO list so that i can make sure that i don’t forget anything. Especially so close to my travel date.
As i spent my last weekend at home, I was finally aware of the fact that i would be leaving for a foreign country soon. It finally hit me that i would be living miles away, in another continent, in a different time zone with different people. I can’t really say i’m nervous about this experience. I’m actually quite excited for all the new things i’m going to experience, all the people i’m going to meet and all the things i’m going to learn.
It also helps that a few friends of mine are also in Cape Town for their own co-ops because i at least know that they can help with the adjustment to the different culture. This isn’t my first international co-op or my first experience abroad so i know a little of what to expect in terms of acclimation. But seeing as this is my first time going to a country where english is predominantly spoken, i’m less worried than i was when i was travelling to Greece (for my co-op) and Brazil (for my dialogue).