My apologies for not blogging for so long! We’ve been in Zwelethemba, a black African township about two hours outside of Cape Town, where we stayed with our first South African homestay families. My homestay family and the Zwelethemban community was incredible! Two classmates and I stayed with my homestay mother, her daughter, and her granddaughter. My family was very lively and kind, with the warmest hearts. My host mom reminded me so much of my own mom, which made staying there feel even more like home. I got very close to her and we had long conversations about anything and everything almost every night. She taught me so much in just a small amount of time sharing her experiences with me, her beliefs, and her life. Sometimes our conversations ended in tears, sometimes laughter, sometimes South African soap operas, but I always went back to my room having learned from her and I’ll never forget her or the Zwelethemba community for that.
One of the most troubling issues in South Africa that disproportionately affects the communities in townships is HIV/AIDS. In Zwelethemba, it seemed that everyone knew someone who either had it presently or died from it. Much of this has to do with the historical denial of the South African government of the presence of AIDS and consequently, a huge delay in needed drugs to treat the illness that came to light in the late 80s. Other issues that contribute to the high prevalence in Zwelethemba have to do with medication adherence issues, sociocultural issues, accessibility, education, and still a sense of government neglect. Being in Zwelethemba, I was really able to see how these issues played out in real life and see how people coped and led their lives in the presence of such overwhelming stress. I developed a huge appreciation and respect for Zwelethemba and it’s people.
We celebrated Thanksgiving in the homestays with our families as an opportunity for good cultural exchange. My classmates and I went to the grocery store and bought whatever reminded us of either Thanksgiving. We made macaroni and cheese, grilled chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and a nice strawberry dessert. Our host family enjoyed it and it was a great dinner. Unfortunately, it was not as successful for others. The night before Thanksgiving, about 2/3 of our class caught a stomach virus that kept them in bed for Thanksgiving day. My roommate and I were among the lucky few, but luckily we were all back to normal (or close to it) by the next day. We were never able to find the source of the virus that everyone had, which was odd and still remains a mystery.
Zwelethemba has been my favorite homestay experience thus far. I really liked the sense of community, the warmth of the homestay mothers and families and alllll the lovable, playful children, who every day after class, brought me back to my childhood, playing games, making silly faces, and just enjoying each other’s company. Thank you, Zwelethemba! You are forever in my heart <3.