Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What If...?

I was tested for HIV today.

I did not realize until this morning that I had in fact never been tested before. How is it possible not to "realize" this? I always "knew" my status. In the US, we are simultaneously privileged and naive, and though HIV/AIDS is still prevalent in our communities, it is in different ways. In different quantities, to start. I bet most people I know would say they have never met anyone who was HIV positive. I also believe they would be wrong, but would instead believe that most people have never met anyone who told them they were HIV positive. So they never knew; the face of a person who is HIV+ is not different from the face of a person who tests negative. I know this first hand, I have been surprised on many occassions to learn colleagues or friends back in the US were HIV+. and I won't lie: its scary to find this out. Fear, though we know better, can overcome you. Fear of getting it. Fear of losing your friend. Fear of stigmas. Fear! Fear. fear. why are we a people who are so afraid?

As I sat in the VCT clinic with my students filling out forms to be tested, I got an unexpected knot in my stomach. The fear was setting in. "What if..." - a powerful question, isn't it? Nearly all of the students (voluntarily) got tested, including some who had never been tested before. I was encouraged and anxious - the "what if" question was not just for me, but also for the 13 students I had with me on this particular day...

I went last. The sight of a needle to pierce my skin made me squirm. I hardly felt the poke through my finger for the blood... but the waiting! oh, the waiting how that 60 seconds can be so difficult - so full of anxiety and fear over something I "knew" only an hour before! "What if..." The question had to be asked... "What if..."

As the clock ticked and I waited for results, I thought of the many who had sat in this chair before me, and the many who would follow after. We share this seat. We share the prick into our finger. We share the fear and anxiety as we watch the blood slowly make its way down the test tube...

We share important questions... "What if..."

It is probably good this test is so quick. All of this emotion, all of these questions, all of this fear - and the entire test from the nurse walking in the door to when I knew my results, probably took about 4 minutes. Tops.

Yet in that 4 minutes, I discovered an abundance of questions that begin with, "what if..."

And as I prepared to leave with the students on to our next visit (home based care visit with HIV+ clients in a neighboring township), I realized that these are questions that need addressed.

If we can ask these questions in the fear, anxiety, or reality of testing positive, then we must also ask ourselves how we would want them answered. As caregivers, it is our responsibility to find the most honest, comforting, helpful answers to these questions for those we are surrounded by every day.

What if I test positive? Then I can still live a healthy life.
What if I get sick? Then my community will care for me.
What if I need ARVs? Then the local clinic or hospital will get them to me at no cost.
What if I am malnourished? Then my community will help teach me to eat better.
What if I feel down or depressed? Then my community will support, visit, and pray with and for me.
What if...
           Then my community will.....

We are the community. What are we doing to help respond to these questions?

HIV has changed all of our lives. We are either infected, affected, or both. What are you choosing to do about it?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everything is Double-Double!

As if I weren’t excited or surprised before, I was REALLY surprised when I got up yesterday morning and checked my email. I had a message waiting for me on Facebook from my good friend Cody. Cody and I were teammates and in the same small group on Ride:Well 09. This is the same small group I call SABR with affection, and whom I still meet with via skype at least once a month. Why let distance or the end of tour keep us from gathering? Now that I live on the other side of the world and Tyler is also considering moving overseas for missions, we find it appropriate to say, “May the sun never set on SABR!”

SABR minutes after reaching the East Coast on the '09 Ride:Well Tour. L-R Lisa, Tyler, Jen, Cody

I emailed SABR a few days ago asking when we were meeting next, so I figured this message was Cody responding with a day/time that would work for him. Was I ever wrong!  Better than a time for a skype date, Cody was emailing with dates to make sure they would work for me - he is coming to visit!!! He has talked about it since June or July of last year… but honestly, it was hard to believe it would really happen. Not because he wouldn’t want to, but because realistically it isn’t cheap, and if I got my hopes up, well, I wouldn’t want to be set up for disappointment.

No disappointment here.

The dates Cody gave me overlapped by one week with my sister’s dates - he would arrive on my birthday! So after talking to my sister to make sure she was still up for a companion for half of her time here, I quickly called Cody to confirm… unfortunately we both have jobs and are several time zones away, so I didn’t catch him. No worries, though, emails are not restricted by time zones… I hit send and went to bed, hoping for more news in the morning.

I woke this morning and was quite pleased to find an email waiting for me from Cody… its finished! The ticket is booked, and in 6 weeks’ time, my sister will be here for 2 weeks… and one week into that visit, Cody will arrive for a 2 week stay! I will have visitors for 3 solid weeks!!!

oh, sweet, sweet excitement, I dont even know how to react! And how perfect the timing! It is absolutely perfect, as these weeks fall just between my two trips to Zambia (one in April, another in May). Then Alicia and Cody will be here to entertain one another as I run Spirituality Week at the Centre - how great is that!? So they can see the centre, spend time there, I’ll probably even put them to work some, ha. They’ll also have time to meet and interact; I love it when my worlds collide! Then I’ll also have one week with each of them to hang out, catch up, etc.

The subject of Cody’s email was, “THIS IS REAL LIFE!” I can’t believe this is my life, that its really happening! I am SO excited!!! Oh, sweet, wonderful joy, this is truly incredible, and perhaps more of what I needed than I may have ever recognized!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A secured visitor!

Last I heard from my sister, it sounded like she wasn’t going to come. One of her best friends was going to come with her to visit next month, but he has since backed out. It sounded like she was going to do her best to come in the fall (Sept-ish) instead. In reality, this was a nightmare because of how difficult it is to schedule visitors around my hectic and changing work schedule, and a complete relief. A relief not because I didn’t want her to visit, but because this is a very busy time of year. Our training center closes in June so if she comes in April/May, I’ll already be planning my final lessons while also trying to coordinate and communicate better with the satellites. Not to mention the dates of the Zambia trip have changed several times, so no one is sure when exactly we’ll be coming or going, and I would hate to miss her!

This morning when we got home from church I checked my email - we have internet at home now! Much to my surprise, I had two emails waiting for me from my sister, Alicia. Contrary to what I thought last week (that she’s not able to come to visit next month), the message waiting said she had booked a ticket! She’s coming to visit!!!

As of today, the ticket she booked brings her to Joburg on the morning of the afternoon I should arrive back from Zambia. This means she’ll only be stranded without me a couple of hours, rather than a couple of days. Not so bad, right? I’ll just find someone to fetch her, and meet her in a few hours time.

I know my words do not express it here, partly because I am still in shock that someone is actually coming, but I am REALLY excited that my sister is coming to visit! We have oh-so-many things to plan for her visit, and only about 6 weeks to do it; and I can’t wait! We’ve made all sorts of tentative plans, and I can’t wait to see what will come. The only thing I have told her she HAS to do, is go to Cape Town. So… this means I have an “excuse” (in case I needed one) to go visit! Oh, the joy and excitement - I can’t wait!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


We got word a couple of weeks ago, but I just realized I haven’t updated this exciting news on here yet!
In January, Hannah and I both put in to get tickets for the World Cup. To get tickets, you have to apply and wait for the random draw - if there are tickets available for the games requested when your name is drawn, you will be alloted the number of tickets requested.

I applied for 2 games and Hannah for 1, neither of us expecting to get everything we applied for. Hannah applied for 4 tickets so Danielle and JT could join us. I applied for 3 tickets to one game so Rachel could join Hannah and I, and 2 for the other since Hannah and I are the most excited about going to games.

Unfortunately, we did not get the tickets to the game we applied for a ticket for Rachel, but...


Both games are being played here in the Johannesburg area. The first game is a first-round game: Brazil vs. Cote d’ Ivoire! I have ALWAYS wanted to see Brazil play, in part due to my friend Naiara who is from Brazil and a soccer fanatic. I am REALLY excited about this game!!!

The second game is even more exciting and has potential to be a really great game. Hannah and I are going to a quarter-final match on July 3!

It is hard to believe how quickly it is approaching! I’m ready to have an excuse to go into the city and get into the World Cup madness, though - we have already reserved spaces on the couch in front of the television at Tembo and David’s house for some of the games. Just because we dont have a television doesn’t mean we wont be watching matches we dont have tickets to!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Upcoming Trips - oh my!

What’s not to love about a 4- or 5-hour long staff meeting? I know I love them! ….

This is what we have many Monday mornings at SHADE. In theory if we actually had them weekly, they would be shorter, but we rarely have two in a row.

This week’s meeting was at least productive. We spent much of the time going through the year plan for the office, highlighting important dates and upcoming trips. Last week I met with Tembo and she gave me a list of dates I would be traveling, so I did not expect to be surprised during the meeting. Boy, was I wrong!

If no trips changed (HIGHLY unlikely), right now the tentative schedule has me traveling out of South Africa 8 times in the next 8 months! I am both really excited about this intense traveling schedule, and a bit intimidated. The trips are to various countries throughout Africa, including satellite visits, our annual satellite leadership training event, and a clergy training event. It is great to get to travel and be a part of leading these trips, and looking at the schedule it is easy to see that this year is going to fly by, and though its early, I’ve already begun to get sad about the idea of leaving.

My first trip will still be the aforementioned journey to Zambia - but guess what? The dates DID change again! Fortunately, if this trip were to be pushed back, they were pushed back in the kindest way possible. I am to arrive back in South Africa the same weekend as my sister was hoping to arrive for a visit, if she is still able to come. Not sure she will be, its not looking optimistic at this point. Especially if I’m traveling this much. I’d hate to give up any chance at a personal life for work, but that is in fact why I moved here (for work), so I emailed my sister and said if the dates can’t work, we’ll have to sort another time for her to come (which may not be possible). So… we’ll see. With potential traveling every month except June between April and November, and all dates subject to change, it sure makes it difficult to plan anything!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tentative Plans

Everything in life is tentative right now. Even what time I will go to work in the morning, really. By now I’m into a routine and used to the reality of my world that is “hurry up and wait.” This means I must be ready for transport to work to fetch me by 8am: If they show up and I am not ready, no one is pleased with me. The reality is actually that they have only been on time to fetch us right at 8am once in the two months we’ve been here; its usually closer to 10. So I rise each morning, hurry to get ready, then wait, wondering whether I should get work out and be productive at home, or wait with my things packed up so as not to make the driver wait for me to pack up once he arrives. This is my morning. Every day. (except those days when not everyone goes to work so we can all fit in one trip: these days, we leave by 6am).

Really, its a parallel to my life right now, too: everything is tentative. I am hoping to have a few visitors during my stay in South Africa, the first which will hopefully be my sister next month. She is looking into tickets while I sit and wait for my work schedule to change. Now that work is in full swing and I have enough to do to work 15 hours/day, part of my work will soon also include a great deal of international travel. The first of these trips will (potentially) be to Zambia in April. Potential, of course, because these dates have already changed twice and very well may again. My hope is just that they dont end up changing to the dates my sister is planning to be here… I have already made her change dates once to avoid this, so it would be sad to have her come all the way here, only to have me out of the country (or for me to have to skip the trip, as it could go either way).

Perhaps it is selfish, but I’m praying to have my cake and eat it too! I would certainly not want to cancel a work trip to Zambia: both because I wish to go, and also because of the disruption that may cause in the office. However, it would also be great to see at least one person from home (my sister!!!) sometime during this year and a half I am away… it would be very sad to have to cancel on either of these trips! So… Here’s to hoping for the best - and that it can all work out!

Monday, March 1, 2010

We’ve Been on Acid…

Over the past 2 weeks, we have joked about a gremlin that must live on our plot out in Drumblade. It all started with Vixa, as he was the first to rip out a pair of jeans. The following day, Hannah did it. Then, on day 3, you guessed it: my favorite jeans! It was a sad day indeed.

Then came day 4, and if I was sad on day 3, I dont know how to describe my shock on day 4: my other nice pair of jeans were also torn out! I looked closely at the clothing, hoping to repair them, only to discover: the fabric was well worn, and easily tore like paper! So without a large patch to cover the entire effected area, no repairs could take place.

This required an investigation. I started talked about this at the office the next week and discovered shocking news: every staff person living on our plot, as well as a couple of Mama’s girls, have had this problem! What do we have in common? A lightbulb went off in my head late one night, but I wondered if I shared my conclusion if I wouldn’t be laughed at for having a conspiracy theory of sorts? It was worth a try… and I was surprised to be greeted with minimal laughter and lots of surprise. As the theory was passed along, more people came forward: about 20 items of clothing have been ruined.

My conclusion was this: a few weeks ago, a spare battery was placed in the boot of the car we use for transport to work (and the younger girls to school). This battery was tipped over spilling some of the batter acid in the boot. I ask: what if it leaked onto the back seat, and we are sitting on it: battery acid is eating our clothes! Soon we shall have none left…

At first, Vixa and Clifford laughed at me. Then I told Vixa I would ride in the front today, he could ride in the back with the girls. Suddenly, it wasn’t funny anymore! haha. So he got a cushion and covered the back seat, on which stains could be seen making it appear wet… could that be it?

Sure enough, that was it. No more clothes have come up holy as of yet, and the cushion from an outdoor lounge chair is clearly a lot stronger than our mostly-cotton clothing. Now I only wish we could make the car pay for the clothes that have forever been ruined! Oh, well, at least like all stories, there is a moral to this one: stay away from acid. It ruins you… and your clothes.